Bryony “Bryn” Winters can harm people by dreaming. With no control over whom she hurts, a condition called Somnus, Bryn can’t even be sure she won’t kill her own family. Protecting them means running away and trusting a mysterious company that possesses as much authority as amorality. And when Bryn meets Cedar Blackthorne, a Somnus with captivating eyes, she can feel he’s hiding something. So why can’t Bryn help trusting him? And what if she’s making a deadly mistake?
Intriguing, huh? This is the plot of a debut novel by author Molly Fennig, and I’ve been given the pleasure of interviewing Molly about her book, about becoming an author early in life, and about other sundry matters.
But first, a little bit about my guest: Molly Fennig is a Minnesota native. Growing up, Molly was constantly surrounded by books and told herself stories to fall asleep. These stories later inspired her debut novel, INSOMNUS, which she wrote at age 17. When she’s not reading, writing, or blogging, Molly can be found playing volleyball, volunteering, and eating chocolate. Welcome, Molly!
First things first… You eat chocolate. Before we dig into matters concerning books and writing, I have to ask the most important question: milk or dark chocolate, and why?
It’s hard to go wrong, but I’d have to say dark chocolate is better because it’s richer. Of course the best kind of chocolate is whatever I have closest to me.
Now that’s out of the way, on to books and words and the English language and imagination and… stuff…
You wrote INSOMNUS when you were 17. I’m sure I’m not the first person to admit my amazement at how ambitious that is for a teenager. Did you feel like you were walking on a rickety bridge across crocodile infested waters, or were you confident that the path you were on was firm and secure? I guess what I’m after with my leading questions is to hear your thoughts about the journey and the process of writing a novel when you are a high school student.
I think it’s hard to be confident when writing a book. Most people don’t succeed and it takes years for those that do. There’s also a lot of doubt around the validity of young authors’ writing and while I agree that writing can improve over time, I think a debut author at 27 isn’t automatically better than a debut author at 17. The hardest part of writing as a high schooler is setting aside time to write while making time for homework, friends, and other activities. (Although, from what I hear, making time for writing is the hardest part at any age). I’ve been lucky to have teachers, family, and friends to support me throughout the publishing and writing process (and Google to teach me about the writing industry). I was also lucky to live in the same house as my first editor, my mom, since I was in high school so it was easy to talk about my writing and get feedback.
Do you remember which came first – the plot, or the character of Bryn? And do you remember the moment that seed took root? Can you tell us a little bit about how it came about?
The idea for the story came from when I used to tell myself stories to fall asleep. The nights I had trouble sleeping made me fascinated with dreaming and why sleep was so hard for me to obtain. I also wondered why my dreams were so hard to control. Bryn came next and made the story idea into a plot as her relationships with the other characters and her motivations developed. Some of the biggest events in the plot didn’t come until I was writing the story, or when I was editing afterwards.
Many people are fascinated by the process of writing a novel, either because they can’t imagine writing anything more imaginative than a grocery list, or because they are simply innately curious. Did you have a particular method for writing, or did you make it up as you went?
I start with fleshing out my characters in a notebook (the one with all my characters and settings and randomly scribbled notes) with an idea of how I want to start and how I want to end. Then, I usually write out a few major plot points, but only make a more in-depth outline when I get stuck. The hardest part is just to keep writing because it can be frustrating to sit down day after day and feel like you aren’t doing anything. It’s also hard to not go back and try to edit everything as I write because I want it to be perfect, but if I start editing, I stop writing.
Do you have any specific books or authors that have influenced your writing?
The Hunger Games was influential in making me a writer. Suzanne Collins does such a great job of creating the world of Panem, creating believable motivations for Katniss, and balancing description with action (among many other things). I wanted to write a book after I read Katniss’s story because I wanted to create characters and worlds that were that believable and that captivating. Maximum Ride by James Patterson was one of my favorite books in elementary school. The premise of the book’s bird-human hybrids prompted my initial idea for the condition Somnus where people changed into animals while they slept. This morphed into an idea of having powers while one slept and thus created the idea for INSOMNUS.
Who should read INSOMNUS?
I think everyone would find something to enjoy about it— there’s science fiction and fantasy, some romance, plot twists, and a lot more. Also, those who like supporting young, emerging authors and those who enjoy young adult literature (no matter their age) should read INSOMNUS.
You will be starting college in the fall. What’s next for your writing? Do you have another novel in the works?
I am working on a companion novel to INSOMNUS which will be set in the same world but with different characters. I hope college will be an avenue for me to grow as a writer and will allow me to continue publishing.
Where can people find your book?
INSOMNUS will be available on Amazon (in both kindle and paperback). Signed copies will be available through Amazon and/or my website.
Molly will also be holding a reading and book signing event at Eat My Words Books, 1228 2nd St NE in Minneapolis on August 12 from 7-8 p.m. If you are in the area, please stop by and meet her! Doing so will support a new author and a wonderful independent bookstore.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your book. I wish you all the best!