The best parts of being a first-time published novelist? SPU senior Danielle Myers says, “Seeing people reading it. Getting feedback. Holding the book in your hand. That’s all really thrilling. But none of those are the reason that I love writing. I just really like stories.”
The phone rang late on a May afternoon, near the end of Spring Quarter 2011. Seattle Pacific University freshman Danielle Myers was in her dorm room on Fourth East, Ashton Hall, preparing for her “Imaginative Writing” class. She answered the call, and her life changed.
“I knew from the Internet,” she says, “that if publishers call you on the phone, it means that they want you to sign a contract.”
Myers’ student ministry coordinator, Audrey Riddle ’13, was the only person around. So she was the first person to hear the news: RainTown Press, a small press based in Portland, Oregon, had accepted Myers’ science fiction novel, The Last Burning of New London, for publication.
Running off to class, Myers realized that she might want to contain her excitement. “If you walk into a creative writing class full of people who want to be published, and you say ‘Guess what? I’m a freshman, and I’m going to be published!’ they might be a little upset.”
How did her family respond? “They were excited — and eager to show the contract to lawyers, to make sure that I wasn’t going to get scammed. They hadn’t read the book, and they were like, ‘What is it about again?’”
The Last Burning, published in March 2013, is about a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world. In London, which has become a giant slum, a pickpocket named Jacks joins an underground resistance — the Flames. But as the group tries to save the world, their own secrets threaten their unity.
Myers’ ideas were influenced by popular dystopian tales like The Hunger Games, in which heroes oppose oppressive governments. “I wanted a different take on dystopia,” says Myers. “I went to India on a SPRINT trip through SPU. The trouble I saw there — it wasn’t that the government was controlling everything.” It didn’t seem to be doing anything. That sight influenced her revision. “So I made London into a big slum.”
Finishing the book was a challenge. “I had to rewrite a whole bunch of it,” she says. “My roommate, Kelsey, would come home from her catering job at 3 a.m. to find me awake on the couch typing, papers spread out across the floor, notecards everywhere, and notes written on the windows in Expo marker. I didn’t sleep during my sophomore year.”
Her roommate, who pre-ordered the book, received a copy before Myers did. “She wanted me to sign it and write ‘This was the first copy ever signed,’” says the young author. “That way, she can sell it on eBay 50 years from now.”
In high school, controversy over fantasy novels like the Harry Potter books troubled Myers. Would her stories be “Christian enough”? “But when I got to SPU,” she says, “professors like April Middeljans, Luke Reinsma, and Doug Thorpe told me, ‘Whatever you write, if you are a person of faith, the faith is going to come out in it.’”
Middeljans, an assistant professor of English who teaches a course in fantasy and science fiction, praises Myers’ commitment to both “big ideas” and “little words.” “I am greatly looking forward to seeing how Danielle matures in her craft in the coming years,” she says.
Yes, publication is a thrill. But at the end of the day, Myers’ focus is not on book sales. “I just really like stories. I love creating a person who can interact with other characters.”
Meanwhile, Myers, now a senior, is focusing on graduation — with an honors project studying how J.R.R. Tolkien portrays faith in his novels. “Obviously,” she says, “Tolkien is my favorite.”