We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Harrington and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danielle, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It was daunting, but exciting! I enjoy learning new things and learning from my mistakes. Starting up a website, a newsletter, and an active social media platform was a challenge, but worth the time and effort. I’m having so much fun discovering what kind of content I love to make and what attracts new readers (and friends). The writing community is full of amazing creatives, and it’s been a pleasure diving into that world. The best advice I got when starting this venture was: YOU are your brand, not your book. So while my business is currently geared toward my YA dystopian book series, it’s also geared toward getting to know me and my passions. I’m taking a more holistic approach to my business. And I’ve found I’ve attracted quite an audience just being myself.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m currently working on a 4 book young adult dystopian fiction series. The Diseased Ones (Book 1) and The Unseen Ones (Book 2) are out, and I’m in the process of drafting Book 3. Think Divergent meets X-Men with the fast-paced excitement of The Hunger Games. This process has been a blast, but not easy in the slightest. I have a distinct memory of reading an excerpt from a story I wrote back in middle school. It was ‘show and tell’ day in 7th grade homeroom, so I whipped up a chapter about a poor farm boy who found a magical gemstone, and with it, his destiny. One of the kids asked me: “what do you want to do with this?” And I said, “one day I’m going to get published”. I knew what I wanted to be, even back when I was thirteen. I wanted to be an author. The day after that ‘show and tell’, I started writing like crazy. I was pumping out a chapter a day for a while, pouring my mind onto the page. With each round of schooling, my writing matured. I started new projects in high school and even more in college, and as my writing style developed, the number of unfinished books grew. I was waiting for something big – that one story that would take me from an unfinished, half-baked idea to a completed manuscript. Because in all my years of writing, I had never finished a stinking book. Not one! I got close my freshman year of college. I started a promising story set in Medieval times, which I STILL haven’t finished – something my sister will never forgive me for. (I left her on the biggest cliffhanger. Whoops…) But I knew that one day I’d get my big break, and the summer after my junior year at Biola University was it. A whole cast of characters and an entire world walked into my head one sunny California afternoon, and that was it. The first draft of THE DISEASED ONES was finished four short weeks later. Ah, the messy, messy world of revision! I’d heard about editors and what they could do to a manuscript. I’d heard the phrase “hold it with an open hand” and “I know it’s your baby, but you’re probably going to have to rewrite the whole thing”. And I was like “YIKES, what have I gotten myself into?” Well, I didn’t know much about it, and I didn’t want to dabble with it at that point. My story was still in its infant stages, and on top of that, THE DISEASED ONES was meant to be a stand-alone book. *Cue sister rage again.* She bugged me for MONTHS about writing a second book. She was like “no, I refuse to accept that ending, you need to write another”. So, she wore me down, and the first draft of book 2 was written over the six week Christmas break between semesters my senior year of college. AND THEN, let me tell you, my brain unlocked the four book series. (Honestly, thanks lil sis!) I knew I wanted to wait until I had most of my series done before pursuing publication. I didn’t want to get stuck with a publishing contract for a series that I hadn’t fully thought out. So I wrote the majority of book 3, and planned out book 4. It wasn’t until last year (~2018) that I dug my heels in and got myself an editor for book 1. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the best fit for me. He made my sentences beautiful, and cleaned up the rough edges, but he kinda just said he loved it – and while that was exciting feedback at the time, it didn’t help me improve my story content. (Aspiring authors, do your research!). The one helpful thing he told me was “go to a writer’s conference”. So I did. The Southern California Writers’ Conference in Irvine changed my life. I went there thinking I was a great writer, and I left acknowledging the fact that yes, I would need to rewrite my ENTIRE book. But I attacked the challenge with a new fervor. The conference gave me the tools I needed to succeed, the do’s & don’t’s of the industry, and the encouraging message of “suck less” – and that’s exactly what I was going to do. The full manuscript revision took me four months. When it was done, the book was ~25,000 words longer, and I was ready to sink my teeth in and get myself a literary agent. So I started the daunting task of querying. (That’s when you pitch your book to an agent in the hopes of getting a contract). I was dead-set on traditional publishing. I didn’t want to self-publish. I’d researched into it, and decided it wasn’t for me. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. I took about six months of it, which, in the grand scheme of things isn’t terribly long. I got a few full manuscript requests from agents, but nothing turned up. So I went to The Southern California Writers’ Conference again in San Diego. I learned more, I revised my query letter, and polished my first pages. But it was at this conference that I ended up in the right place at the right time. I thank God for this! I read my first 5 pages in a Read & Critique workshop, and the right set of ears heard it. The next day, one of the co-founders of Acorn Publishing approached me, and the first words out of her mouth were: “I heard your book is the next Hunger Games. I’d love to read your first chapter.” I literally had to pull myself together, pick my jaw up off the floor, and act like a civilized human being. After the brief conversation, I ran to the women’s restroom, checked the stalls for occupancy, and then FREAKED OUT. Post-conference I was still querying agents and receiving rejections, but Acorn’s invitation lingered in the back of my mind. So I sent off my first chapter, and their cordial reply read: “you’ve written something special… If for any reason you decide you would like to give another (publishing) option a try, we’d love to talk.” So after some thought, some more querying, and some more rejection, I decided to try my luck. It was the FASTEST email turn around I’d ever seen! I sent them my book, and the next morning I woke up to a contract. After years of writing, revising, crying, celebrating, and reading my story to any and everyone who would listen to me, I’d finally caught my big break. I had a publishing contract, and after doing some thinking (and some careful research), I SIGNED IT. Truly, one the best days of my life (along with getting married & graduating with a chemistry degree.) *Cue Panic! At The Disco’s “Hey Look Ma, I Made It”.* Since then, I’ve made so many incredible writer friends, published two books, and I’m working on more! My social media platform is dedicated to sharing what I’ve learned on this crazy writing journey, connecting with others, and being my silly self.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There’s a lot to do in LA, but the pandemic has changed my typical itinerary of fun. I’m a big fan of Universal Studios and City Walk, but until that’s a thing again, I’ve gotten used to other forms of fun. The beach is a lovely place to be! The fresh air and sunlight on the water is the perfect place to read and relax. I’ve also gone on a few hikes as well. Kenneth Hahn Park has some great trails and a cute little duck pond.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband is an absolute gem! He has helped me craft my current book series and has read everything I’ve ever written. His feedback and critique has been invaluable. My family have always supported me and my publishing endeavors. Their encouragement kept me (and keeps me) going. The Acorn Publishing team helped me turn my story into a masterpiece! I’ve learned so much from them, and I’m officially published because of them. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to propel me into the publishing industry.
Other: Tiktok: @djharringtonwriter