Special Guest Friday – Danielle Ackley-McPhail!


Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for over fifteen years. She has used her talent and her passion for writing to expand her knowledge of the rich mythology of her Celtic heritage and to make her mark in the world of fantasy. Currently Danielle is the editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries series, and her published works include the urban fantasy, Yesterday’s Dreams, its sequel, Tomorrow’s Memories, and her most recent release, The Halfling’s Court. We’re delighted to have her visiting us today!

What made you decide you wanted a literary life?
There was no decision, really. I have always been a voracious reader and was so caught up in the stories I’d write myself into continuations of them as I fell asleep at night. I love playing with words and ideas and finding the unique spin the combination can lead to. I think if it was just language I wouldn’t be nearly so enamored but there is a magic to words that ensnares. Sometimes it is something someone has said or something I see as I go about my day, but other times concepts and ideas just appear in my thoughts and beg to be played with. Nothing I sit down and write ever turns out the way I envisioned, which is a delight and a frustration both, that other people…well…a few anyway, enjoy the efforts that come from my playing, then who am I to protest? Or…it could just be that masochistic streak I’ve been unable to eradicate…

What authors have inspired you? Have you ever had the opportunity to sit down with any of them for a chat?
I have authors I enjoy and appreciate, but I can’t really say they’ve inspired me. Not because their work isn’t worthy of inspiring, but I’m wired different, I think. I never wanted to “be like” someone else, never did something because of my exposure to their work, at least not consciously. I’ve always been too caught up in my own ideas and was well on the way to this path long before concepts such as favorite authors and inspiration had clear meaning for me. Now, I do have favorite authors and I’ve met a few of them by post or in person. Piers Anthony was kind enough to critique my first novel for me, and given how rough and–as I later found out–unedited it was, he was a saint for it and very generous with his praise. I’ve also had a hit-and-run encounter with Mercedes Lackey. She was doing a marathon run around the dealer’s room at Lunacon this year before she was off to another panel, and sadly it was not my books that caught her eye, but my horns! In fact, I must thank her for the idea of making them with magnets inside. She suggested it in the few moments we spoke and it was a very successful experiment.

So what drove you to become an editor? What are some of the most rewarding aspects of the job?
I love to make things. I love to take raw materials and an idea and make a finished product. That would be why I dabble in so many crafts. With books, I’ve been creating those since I was about twelve. Then it was poetry and the artwork was either clip art, traced, or something my mom drew for me. I probably did about three of these before I graduated high school. Still have some of the original pages, even! In school I always helped with the newspaper or the literary journal of whatever school I was attending and it just went from there.

After my first novel was published I formed a relationship with Lite Circle Books (www.litecircle.org) they were kind enough to publish a chapbook for me, Children of Morpheus. It was meant as a taste test of my work: a combination of poetry, short fiction and art (courtesy of Ruth Lampi) and I was given complete creative control. It turned out nice enough that when I decided I wanted to do an anthology celebrating my on-line writer’s group, Lite Circle again took on the project. The first efforts were flawed and a little crude, learning experiences, really, but the ideas just kept coming and people seemed to enjoy them, so consequently I’ve become more famous for the anthologies I put together than I have for my writing. I enjoy designing and putting together the books, but I also enjoy helping those just getting started.

Our process is different than what most people would experience from other publishers. We provide feedback on every story submitted and the authors have an opportunity to revise the work before final determinations are made. We also insist on proposals first because we hate turning away a story because it is too much like one we’ve already accepted. Most places it is send your story, wait, get an acceptance, or get a rejection with little or no feedback. It is time-consuming, and sometimes frustrating for both parties involved, but I feel most authors appreciate the critque and produce better stories for it. In a way this is my chance to help those just getting started get a leg up. Of course, it means our collections are mostly–but not completely–invitation only, otherwise we would be overwhelmed.

You seem to be most fond of the Celtic mythologies. What other mythologies would you like to explore in your fiction?

Celtic myth is what got me started, so I’ve kind of been locked into that just because I haven’t finished the series yet, but really I love playing with all kinds of mythology and legend. In fact, right now we are working on a dragon anthology Dragon’s Lure, to be published by Dark Quest Books next May. We are taking unusual twists on the existing dragon mythology, adding some of our own, and also exploring some of the little-know myths from world mythology that are something other than the chinese or western dragons we are all overly familiar with. I’m also playing a bit with vampire mythology in the same way, but that is to be a novel. I suspect I’ll touch on them all eventually. I think I would like to look at aboriginal myths at some point, in particular.

If someone wanted to make a movie of one of your books, who would you like to see in the starring roles?

Oh! That is so hard…I have such a clear image of my characters in my mind that imposing someone else’s faces on them is quite difficult. Still…if I don’t have to tell you who they’d play…Hugh Jackman is a favorite, and Jamie Lee Curtis, Bruce Willis, definitely! There is just something about all three of them, they make their characters come alive in a way I hope my words do as well.

What’s on the horizon?

Well, thanks to a whirlwind effort by myself and lots of wonderful people, not the least of which is my friend and illustrator Linda Saboe, my next novel, The Halfling’s Court: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale will be coming out from Dark Quest Books the first week in November in time for Faeriecon. It is based on my biker-faerie stories from the Bad-Ass Faeries Anthologies. Some of my best work yet, thanks for everyone that read and critiqued and kept me in line and focused! Beyond that I have a story I have to finished by the end of the month for a collection called Rum and Runestones, an anthology about pirates and magic being edited by Valerie Ford-Griswold, and published by Dragon Moon Press. I’m also editing the next Bad-Ass Faeries anthology, In All Their Glory. The theme for this one is military faeries and the book is being published by Mundania Press, who is also re-releasing the first two volumes with a new series style. And finally, I’m working on another anthology for Dark Quest Books, In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk. There are a number of novels I’m working on, but as you can see, they’ll have to fight for time 😉 What can I say? It’s better to be busy, than bored!

Thanks for the interview, if anyone would like to learn more about my work they can visit my website at www.sidhenadaire.com, check out my blog at Sidhe na Daire, or look me up on Facebook under Danielle Ackley-McPhail!


11 comments to Special Guest Friday – Danielle Ackley-McPhail!

  • Your brain is full of neat stuff — which is a great compliment, BTW. But I do have to ask for one tiny clarification. You said >>
    …it was not my books that caught her eye, but my horns! In fact, I must thank her for the idea of making them with magnets inside…
    Please don’t offer that and just walk (write) away. Do tell! I’m all agog!

  • Linda Pierce

    You have magnets now???? Darn it, I will have to seriously think about Lunacon JUST to get mine! LOL COngratulations Danielle! Great interview! Love your books!

  • Why, thank you, Faith! Well, I make costume horns to sell along side my books. Not because they particularly have anything to do with them, but because I do costuming as well and horns are very simple and popular. I have made profit in the five-digits (without a decimal 😉 over the last three years. When I was at Lunacon Ms. Lackey…well…was basically accosted by me when I recognized her and realized I hadn’t missed a chance to meet her in person. She was very gracious and spoke with me a few moments even though she didn’t have long to look through the dealer’s room. While I was frantically looking for the book I’d brought her to autograph (which my WONDERful husband had taken up to the room) she was looking at the stuff on my table closest to her…which happened to be my horns. I explained what they were and she looked delighted at the variety and colors and then she said, you know, you’d be really popular with if you made them with magnets inside. Then she went her way and my lovely friend Linda Pierce later stood in line to get the book signed for me 🙂 I wasn’t sure exactly what Ms. Lackey intended, but I considered the idea when I returned home, searched out some rare earth magnets at the craft store, and discovered that by imbedding one magnet inside a horn before I bake them and having a second one loose on the outside I could sandwich my hair or other thin material, such as a bandana, hat, or well, anything, and the attraction of the two magnets will pinch whatever is between them, holding the horns in place. Of course, the more distance between the two magnets the less the pull so you have to use the larger, stronger magnets. The horns also tend to shift if they aren’t close to your head. But still, they work well, don’t give me a pressure headache when I’ve been wearing them a while, and they have that wow-factor that people actually will spend $20 on. I started making them April this year and have probably sold about ten to fifteen sets.

  • Thanks Linda, you’re the best. Oh…looks like MAYBE we will be going to Dragon*Con this year as well…do you already have a room reservation? You have to get one now if you don’t as the main hotels are all booked. We don’t have one yet either but if you do, we’d be glad to share again!

    Oh, Faith, meant to give you a link!

    You can see the horns at http://www.sidhenadaire.com/crafts/horns.htm

    I don’t have the magnetic ones up there, but you can see the color and shape variety of the others and some of the ways I embelish them 🙂

    Best to all!


  • L. Jagi Lamplighter

    Nice interview, Danielle. It’s so much fun to realize that I’ve got to watch a lot of this progress happen.

  • I love the horns! I’ve worked with polyclay in the past, and love the versatility of the medium. Have you ever thought about getting babydoll eyes for them?

  • We use the green floral foam to sculpt horns, coated in liquid latex and painted when we need to make some quick horns. They’re pretty lightweight and we can attach ’em with a bit of prosthetic adhesive, mortician’s wax and liquid latex. We made a pretty good demon for a haunted venue that had pretty big horns. They were so light that they stayed on pretty well the whole night.

  • Jagi,

    Couldn’t have gotten through most of it without you and the group.


    Mike (hubby) keeps suggesting stuff like that, I but I can’t visualize it yet, so it hasn’t happened.


    Wish I could do stuff like that, but mostly I do the polymer clay because I sell them at conventions and most people would not have the patience or interest in using the spirit gum and such to attach. Some day I might play at it though for myself 🙂

  • Great interview, Danielle. Sorry to come to it so late. Thanks for contributing to Magical Words. But why didn’t you plug the Dragon Anthology. That’s out in May 2010, right? Let’s get people talking about it!

  • LOL…thanks David…I’m just lame that way right now. Lucky I remember my name. After the whirlwind finish of the Halfling’s Court (which I’d just received literally before filling this out) I rushed on to finish a story Val Griswold-Ford for Rum and Runestones, the other collection that came out of last Ravencon.

    However, your comment is very timely…I have literally just secured permission to reprint the lyrics to The Dragon Song (better known as Do Virgins Taste Sweeter) in Dragon’s Lure! Actually, I would have mentioned the anthology, but I had forced myself not to think about it so I could finish Halfling, and I guess I did just a little too good of a job. That’s done, though, and yesterday was the deadline for Dragon’s Lure so I spent all afternoon getting caught up on submissions…We have some fantastic stories lined up, including one I just received yesterday from your compatriot, Catie 🙂 In fact, Misty gave me something to, but that was for Bad-Ass Faeries 3: In All Their Glory…which, sick person that I am, is also due out for May 2010!

    Speaking of which, any chance I can talk you guys into going to Balticon this year? We will be holding the book launch for both books there, in addition to a third one coming out the same time that I’m in but not editing…The third in the triumverate is New Blood…so we have faeries, dragons and vampires in one big jumble! hehehehee….yeah…sick…and insane and…but then, isn’t that why everyone loves me 🙂

  • Hey! Wait! You didn’t read so good, David…making me think I’m more nuts than I am! Question number four…go back and look again! I blow raspberries at you, sir!