In celebration of the launch of To Reap the Spirit, the thrilling third installment of author Sarah Lampkin's Dead Dreamer series, I knew I wanted to sit down with her and talk about the Dead Dreamer series—To Reap the Spirit specifically, and her writing process in general. Ms. Lampkin graciously agreed to share her insight with all of us.
Without further ado...
MALORIE NILSON: Hello, Sarah! Thank you so much for joining me today. To jump right in, your novel, To Reap the Spirit, was just released on October thirteenth. Congratulations! What was your literary journey like while writing it?
SARAH LAMPKIN: The book was originally called Awakening back in 2011 and was a VERY different book. But as I was editing the novel for the official release, I realized...I absolutely HATED IT! It was boring, Brenna became soft, and I just wasn't here for it. So when I only had two months left in my deadline, I deleted the entire thing and started from scratch. It was a lot of late nights and a lot of whiskeys, but I was able to get it done (after an extension request). But it was completely worth it.
MN: Wow! Deleting the entire thing is a huge commitment! Since you already mentioned that you deletion perhaps this does not apply, but did you edit anything out of this novel that you regret nixing?
SL: I literally deleted the entire thing, and I have zero regrets. That's a first to have no regrets. But I can tell I wasn't in the best place when I had originally written the novel. So I was thankful the publisher was willing to give me the opportunity to start over and make something brand new and so much better.
MN: Is there a scene in To Reap the Spirit that made you cry while writing it? How about the scene that made you laugh the hardest?
SL: I'm going to sound heartless here, but...I don't cry over books—even my own. But when writing this book, I cackled a lot. There were so many scenes that I had never even intended on writing, but it just happened. I knew it was going to make some people mad, if not surprise them. I can't wait to see the reactions.
MN: How has your writing process changed since the publication of your first book, To Dream is To Die?
SL: It hasn't changed that much in the last year actually. Just more research involved and more dramatic music while I write in the darkness of my office with a glass of whiskey in hand. As moody as I can get it.
MN: Your writing has changed in some ways as you have matured as a writer through writing this series. Were there things that you noticed or skills that you worked on to grow as a writer?
SL: When I originally wrote the Dead Dreamer series, I noticed I had a tendency to rush through scenes unnecessarily. Sometimes I still do it, but I try to catch myself or hope my editor will catch me. Overall, my writing has improved IMMENSELY since college. I'm not sure how I made it through school without failing since tests aren't my forte either.
MN: What is your favorite fantastical creature or element included in the Dead Dreamer series?
SL: I love the Reapers. They've made appearances before, but readers will finally find out what they are. Or at least who they are...sort of. I've been waiting to properly introduce the Reapers for a while now, so that's one of the most exciting things for me. Not to mention bringing back a special character from the prequel...it's been a hell of a ride.
MN: Part of being a writer is creating a powerful and influential world that your reader gets to inhabit for a time. When did you first learn that language wields power? What did that moment look like for you?
SL: I remember staring at the ceiling fan while lying down on the floor when I was younger. I watched it for a long time, just thinking about the ghosts haunting my home. Something triggered the idea of a Dead Dreamer. That revelation alone hit me hard and snapped everything into place. I had to write it out immediately. The original concept was weak and needed work, but it was something I could never let go.
MN: What inspired the setting and beings in the Dead Dreamer series? Do you draw on any particular influences?
SL: The setting of Nephesburg College is actually that of the University of Lynchburg (originally: Lynchburg College). College life undoubtedly influenced me and helped me grow into the person I am today. My favorite professors make special appearances throughout the series, which was always fun to share with them.
As for the characters, some were initially based on people who influenced my life, but eventually, they became their own people. Each character is their own with only hints of real people.
MN: In your opinion, what is it about fantasy based on contemporary understandings of folklore that has captivated so many readers?
SL: Basing it on contemporary understandings of folklore touches the reality of our own world. There are so many things in popular culture that most people don't realize are pulled from the mythology of cultures past. I did a paper on it back in grad school, and it was fascinating and worth the research.
MN: Your series reminds me a bit of the October Daye series by Seannan McGuire. I am curious, are there any authors in the genre that particularly influence your work?
SL: When I originally wrote the Dead Dreamer series, it was based on the first author who got me into writing, Lynne Ewing. But as I grew older, my writing eventually became my own. I can see some influence from Maggie Stiefvater here and there, but I'd like to say that it's my own voice. At least, for the most part.
MN: Thank you again for taking the time to share your journey with me. Congratulations on the publication of your book!
You can find Sarah Lampkin on:
Brenna Whit has a secret—a deadly one. But when that secret is out, no matter how well she has survived her college years at Nephesburg, or her frequent brushes with the Gatekeepers, she is now being hunted by the living and the dead alike.
Flit through the Fade, rumble through reality, dodge demons, and foil the fae with Brenna and her motley crew—a cast of characters old and new—in...