I’m delighted to focus this month’s Author Spotlight on a wonderful middle grade fantasy author, Laura DiNovis Berry.
Laura’s latest publication, The Nasties of Nastgant Swamp, was released by Indies United Publishing last October and is the 2nd book in her Story of Antyfas series. I love middle grade fantasy books so I wanted to take this opportunity to share this wonderful author, her story and her wisdom with you.
What’s it about?
It’s not every day that a gnome invites you to dinner. When Valentino is invited to a special gnome party deep in the Nastgant Swamp, he can’t wait to go. Unfortunately, he isn’t just the guest of honor — he’s supposed to be the main course! Join Valentino on his fantastic adventure filled with trolls, gnomes, and danger.
The Nasties of Nastgant Swamp is filled with all of the creative escapism you’d want in a fantasy novel – imaginative world-building, all kinds of magical creatures, danger, challenges, and absolutely delightful characters who drive the story forward.
Do you write and read middle grade mystery fiction? Why does this specific genre and age group speak to you?
While I don’t read as much middle grade fiction anymore, I used to! The Magic Tree House was a great series, and I used to drink in the Red Wall series too. When I was a kid, I wanted action, adventure, and magic. Books had that in great supply. I work in this area now because there are many young readers in my family who liked my stories. And so, the world of Antyfas came to be.
Illustration by Lee Thompson
Where do you get your ideas for the setting/locale of your series?
The real world and the writers of Xena Warrior Princess. I adored how their world building didn’t really have rules. They seemed to take inspiration from costume closets, world history, and myths. Putting those together created a wonderfully cohesive atmosphere because they committed. Antyfas is a little like that. It’s an amalgamation of things I like, but it also sometimes shows how I would like our real world to be.
Who has been your biggest inspiration as a writer so far? How did their influence affect your experience as a writer?
That’s a tough question. John Updike has been an inspiration because of how prolific he was. When I don’t feel like writing, I’m reminded that John Updike didn’t become who he is by putting off the craft. Now, Mr. Updike is my inspiration for my work ethic, but creatively I would say J. K. Rowling and Terry Pratchett. Rowling created a very immersive world filled with relatable teen characters, and Pratchett’s incredible humor is phenomenal. I enjoy writing silly books that kids can relate to, so you can see how those two have played a role.
Stephen King makes the list too. (I told you this was a tough question). Carrie was honestly a life-changing read for me when I discovered it as a freshly minted teenager. And his short stories? Come on, those are amazing. His best novels, in my opinion, are Cujo and Carrie. They’re scary, sure, but they’re really tragic, human stories at heart. King’s influence is why I became a horror fan, and why readers will bump shoulders with some mild scares in a few of these books.
What are some of the high and low points on your path to developing your successful series?
Well, a certain nephew needed a birthday gift, and writing that story for him launched the whole thing.The high points were the entire writing process. Death at Dusbar College was the first manuscript I worked from beginning to end. The feeling was exhilarating. Lee Thompson, the illustrator, was such a joy to work with as well. Our collaboration meetings were so much fun. Watching him bring the world of Antyfas to life in real time was real magic.
Illustration by Lee Thompson
What do you know now as a writer that you wish you knew when you first started?
Plan the ending before you even start. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get there. That, and schedule time to write. Without a plan, nothing is going to happen.
You write serial novels and also shorter fiction. Which form is your favorite to write?
Another tough question! I suppose I would have to say the serial novels, but writing shorter fiction and poetry is really what got me started as a writer. I saw that Death at Dusbar College was the first manuscript I finished, but Egg Shaped Ball is really my first cohesive written work. I say cohesive because I actually had a plan with that one. I wanted to write poetry about women’s rugby and implement different poetic forms throughout. Very few, if any, of the poems in that chapbook are free verse.
What are some of your practices as you get started writing a new book?
The first thing I do is pick a protagonist. Then I start to scrape out an idea of how a book will end. There’s a lot of dog walking involved in this process. My dogs probably love this time because we go on constant walks so I can mull over ideas and polish and polish them until they’re ready. Between walks, I’m writing down the ideas I get.
It’s not a strict outline process, but I hack away at one chapter at a time. If I get thought for a chapter down the road, I’ll jot it down and work my way back to it.
What’s one thing you would say to a novice writer as advice on the writing journey?
Start from the ending and get yourself a good editor! My brain is constantly moving faster than my fingers, but you also need someone to field test your work. Was that joke really as funny as you thought it was at 3 a.m.? Your editor will let you know.
This blog series celebrates writers, creativity, and the fantastic writing journey. If you’re a writer with a new book and you’d like to be featured in an author spotlight, reach out.
Thank you for visiting, today, and I hope you enjoyed meeting Laura DiNovis Berry!
4 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: LAURA DiNOVIS BERRY”
Laura, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I especially appreciated what you had to say about new writers and the need for editors. George
It was a pleasure to be a part of Lisa’s Author Spotlight series. And thank you for taking the time to read about my work, George!
Reblogged this on Building a Better Story and commented:
I review Laura’s poetry book, Egg Shaped Ball. Now learn about her YA series.
Laura, I look forward to reading the series! And I look forward to hearing what you have to say at North Bay Poetics in April. (Interested readers, we’ll reposting about this event soon.) Thank you Lisa for a really interesting interview.