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Author Dandi Daley Mackall
Dandi Daley Mackall is the author of over 350 books and series, and most commonly known for those aimed toward pre-teen girls. She has been nominated for many awards including the ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the Ohiana Award.
I was recently given the opportunity to interview Ms. Mackall for Teen Ink.
Rachel- Tell us about yourself.
Dandi Daley Mackall- First of all, thanks for asking for the interview! I’ve been staring at this question for ten minutes, trying to decide how to answer this. So, here goes: I love—love God, love my husband, our children, so many people. I love nature and can turn breathless at the sound of birds taking off together, horses’ hooves clopping, leaves falling. I’m thankful that I get to write full-time, all kinds of books, for all kinds of readers…because I love writing and books and readers.
RH- How did you first become interested in writing?
DDM- I have always loved to write. I won my first writing contest when I was 10 years old. I entered a “For Boys Only” contest to write 50 words on “Why I Want to Be Batboy for the Kansas City A’s (now the Royals).” My words won; but when they discovered that “Dan” was actually “Dandi,” they wouldn’t let me be batboy. A couple of years ago, I finally wrote about it—Sleeping Bear Press published A Girl Named Dan. When the Royals say the book, they invited me to K.C. to make it up to me. I got to be batboy! Dreams come true. They just might take a while.
RH- Tell us about the writing of the Horsefeathers series.
DDM- That series was my first horse series, and I had so much fun creating the human and horse characters. Since then, I’ve publishedWinnie the Horse Gentler series, Starlight Animal Rescue series, and Backyard Horses, plus a bunch of I Can Read books about Bob the Horse.
RH- Are you a fan of horses?
DDM- I love horses! I rode my first horse, Sugar, solo when I was three years old (pictures to prove it). In my little Missouri town, nearly all of my friends owned “backyard horses,” the kind of horse nobody would spend money to board. My horses may not have been showy and beautiful on the outside, but they were gorgeous on the inside! Horses were my best friends—got along with them much better than I did with kids in my class, I’m afraid. We still have a couple of horses, and I love to ride.
RH- What is your favorite breed?
DDM- I’ve owned a lot of breeds and loved them all, but now I suppose I’m partial to quarter horses, paints, and appaloosas-Morgans too.
RH- What is the biggest difference is writing picture books vs. YA/Adult books?
DDM- Writing picture books is such a challenge because you have to do everything you do in a longer book—character development, plot, twists, set, etc. And you only get a few words to pull it off. But I love playing with words and making the text lyrical. Listen to the Silent Night just released from Dutton/Penguin, and I had so much fun trying to recreate the sounds Mary and Joseph may have heard on that first Christmas night.
But I love writing YA too. I like having room to develop my main character. I like developing a plot that challenges me. The Silence of Murder , just out from Knopf/Random House, is my first intense, suspenseful, murder mystery, complete with courtroom scenes, romance, and plot twists.
RH- What is your favorite thing to hear from fans?
DDM- I’m so blessed by my readers. I think I’m their fan as much as the other way around. I get the most fan mail from horse-loving readers who can’t get enough of Winnie and Catman in the Winnie the Horse Gentler series. If you want to make me cry, write and tell me that God actually used something I wrote to change your life. Doesn’t get any better than that!
RH- Who are some of your favorite authors and books?
DDM- Okay—this one I have to skip! Too many friends and colleagues to mention. But your wonderful site already has a number of my favorites.
RH- Where do you find inspiration for your stories?
DDM- You know, I don’t think I’ve ever lacked inspiration or ideas because they’re everywhere—nature, family, friends, readers who write me, strangers on a bus, conversations I overhear while I’m doing a school visit, the nicker of a horse, the pant of a dog, on and on. And behind every one of these gifts stands our God.
RH- Please share with us your testimony of Salvation.
DDM- God is so kind! I grew up going to church because everybody did. But I believed that I could get to heaven by being good, or at least better than most of the people. When I went off to college, though, God didn’t seem to fit into my life. Then I met a group of students who were different, calmer, happier. I asked one of them why, and she gave me a Bible and circled verses I should read. That night I understood enough of grace, that Christ was the only way I’d ever get to heaven or find peace on earth, that I gave myself to God. I’ve never regretted it!
RH- What are some new projects you are currently working on?
DDM- Just finished: DREAMS OF A DANCING HORSE, Bloomsbury, a middle-grade novel. And 2 more BACKYARD HORSES books. And a picturebook for Marshall Cavendish: THERE’S A BABY IN THERE!
Working on another mystery, IF I SHOULD DIE…; a novel set in the sixties, a WWII novel, a fantasy, PASTURELAND, and on and on….
RH- What advice do you have for aspiring authors.
DDM- Read like crazy, and write like crazy. Write your heart. Discover your voice so that God can use you to write the things only you could write—no one else. BUT listen to people who try to help you improve your talent. Everybody needs editing and critiquing.
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Ms. Mackall was gracious enough to answer two questions from fans, which have been included below:
Anna- What inspired the Winnie, the Horse Gentler books?
DDM- Anna, about the time I started that book, we’d just bought a fairly wild horse ourselves. As I spent time with our new horse, I realized that over the years I had become kind of a “horse whisperer” simply by spending so much time with horses. I remembered reading every horse book I could when I was a kid. Most of the time, I got frustrated because the books weren’t horsey enough. I determined to make Wild Thing horsey enough!
Jordan- How do you write a horse book?
DDM- Thanks for asking, Jordan. I create my horse character the same way I do my human main character—by giving them a thorough biography, including background, likes, dislikes, secrets. Then I feel I know them well enough to let them take over my story.