Indie Support Sunday: Dani McLean
Welcome back to Indie Support Sunday! It’s a brand new year and I’ve got some great new authors featured on the blog.
While not a 2022 debut author, that is the year that I discovered Dani McLean. With a full series to her name, Dani’s now working on a series of novellas inspired by some of her favorite rom-coms and tropes. Besides, who doesn’t love the most famous of rom-coms with all of the swoon and the laughs, and chemistry that bleeds off the screen? And Dani combines all of those things perfectly into her stories.
I’ve only read Midnight, Repeated (the first in the Movie Magic novella series) and I was an instant fan. I loved the Groundhog Day inspired magic of the story combined with Dani’s writing, and I was completely hooked. I’ve also marked her debut series to read this year and cannot wait to read and fall in love with more of Dani’s stories.
The second novella in her Movie Magic series is out now—Not My Love Story—and should definitely be on your TBR!
1. BEING AN AUTHOR
Who or what inspired you to write?
Pure escapism. I fell in love with weird and wonderful stories as a kid—Dr Seuss (thank god I didn’t know how problematic he was as a person) and Roahl Dahl (Ditto). I LOVED Fantastic Mr Fox. I would read it aloud and put on all the voices. Anything that set my imagination on fire. It made me want to create worlds of my own.
What’s the best and worst part about being an indie author?
The short answer to both questions is: Doing everything yourself. When you debut, having that burden land solely on yourself is the scariest part. You don’t have a street team or maybe any contacts at all, and depending on how comfortable you are with reaching out to people you’ve never met (Spoiler Alert: I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to sliding into people’s DMs), this can mean not getting your book out to as many people as you’d hoped. The good part is that it gets easier, and the people you meet (readers and authors alike) are amazing and make it all worth it.
Why did you choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route?
I was impatient haha When I was still deciding, I googled around to see if I could find testimonials from other authors who had gone down either route, because I didn’t know any other authors at that point so I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I ended up watching Lindsey Ellis’ video on her journey to publication and how many years and rounds of submissions and rejections it took, and I pretty much thought “fuck that” and started getting serious about Self Publishing. In hindsight, it was the right decision for me at the time, because it gave me the opportunity to find my feet in a very hands on way, and that’s always been how I learn best.
When you’re not writing, what do you do to get the creative juices flowing?
This is a tough one! Lots of things. I can never tell what will spark an idea. Sometimes it’s reading something else, sometimes it’s going for a walk or a drive, or people watching at a cafe. Sometimes it’s obsessively thinking about the problem and other times it’s forcing myself to not think about writing at all (Great advice here, I’m extremely helpful!). Honestly, I simply try to indulge in anything that makes me happy. Inspiration can come from anywhere, so I always try to stay open to it.
2. ROMANCE AS A GENRE
Why did you choose romance as the genre to write in? What is your favorite thing about the genre?
Easy. I am a hopeless romantic. Blame Disney perhaps, but I love LOVE. I have two favorite things about the romance genre: the stories, and the community. Who else understands what it means when there is Only One Bed, or how good it is when the love interest rolls their sleeves up?
If not romance/subgenres of romance, what genre would you like to write in?
Oooh, great question! I’d love to be able to write a thriller, but I think I’ll leave that to the professionals…
What are your most and least favorite tropes?
Most favorite: Forced proximity, opposites attract, fake dating. Least favorite: This is hard because I don’t like to yuck anyone’s yum! All tropes have their fans, but most dark/taboo tropes aren’t for me. Or dad/nanny, boss/employee dynamics.
What are some tropes you want to write in the future?
I would love to try my hand at a Second Chance romance. With the right characters, the opportunities for pining and tension are so juicy… Also, I have an idea for a marriage of convenience story with a twist that I am absolutely planning on writing in future.
If you write open door romance, why did you choose that and what inspires your sex scenes?
Sex is a healthy part of a strong relationship and I really enjoy exploring the chemistry of the characters in the bedroom. Plus you can get all kinds of creative with it! I’ll be honest, if it gets me hot, I’ll write about it (don’t tell my parents!). Ultimately the characters inspire them - not every scenario is going to work for every character and I like figuring out what makes them hot and running with that.
3. YOUR BOOKS
What inspired your published stories? How and when did you come up with these stories and plots?
My first series (The Cocktail series) started with book one (Love & Rum). I was getting divorced and trying to reconcile being single again and the internal battle I faced between regaining my independence after a long term relationship and wanting to explore my newfound single status. After that, the rest of the series was about giving beloved side characters their HEAs.
My latest novella series (The Movie Magic series) is inspired by my love of movie rom-com tropes and my years growing up on 90s classics like Sleepless in Seattle, Only You, and When Harry Met Sally. One of my favorite things about movie romances are the way we will suspend our disbelief in favor of the romance. Movies like Groundhog Day and 13 Going On 30 use a little bit of magic to bring the love interests together and I wanted to tap into that. It feels hopeful and reminds me of how I felt as a kid watching Belle dance with the Beast or Jasmine on a flying carpet ride. Again, I will point out (rather redundantly) that I am a hopeless romantic!
Do you already have a favorite character from the stories you’ve written?
Don’t ask me to choose! I love them all for very different reasons. But I will say this—I recently finished the final draft of A Missing Connection, novella 3 in the Movie Magic series, and Beau might be my favorite book boyfriend. It’s not enough to tell you he is a billionaire with a heart of gold. This is a man who grew up without ever feeling loved; who wanted to be a vet, and openly tells April he dreams about her. Plus he looks super hot in a suit. I mean… Come ON.
A really close tie for this answer would be Tiff from Sex & Sours, the second in the Cocktail series. Swears like a sailor, oozes sex appeal and sees right through your BS. Gah, she was a blast to write! Just fun, fun, fun.
If you were to cast your book for a movie/television show, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Funnily enough, I usually ‘cast’ my characters before I even start writing. There’s something about being able to capture a character’s personality with the right person that just LOCKS them in for me. And it’s not just about looks. A main character played by Scarlett Johnannson in Vicki Cristina Barcelona is different to Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On or Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached. So I have a headcanon cast for all of my books but they aren’t always the current set of actors working today. For example, Hayley in Not My Love Story was inspired by a 2000’s era Rachel Weisz.
How much of yourself do you put into these characters?
I would say I share slices of myself with every character. Being able to ground them in a common emotion really helps them feel real to me. There are bigger parts of myself I would like to invest in future, because I am constantly inspired by authors who let themselves bleed out onto the page. It is heart wrenching and beautiful, and as a reader, can connect you to the story in a really visceral way.
What is a story/stories that you really want to tell?
Following on from the last question, I know it would be cathartic to me to write a story that features my struggle with body dysmorphia and ED, but I know how triggering that can be and I will need to take care of my own mental health as I do it. It’s something I want to do, but I’m not sure when or how.
What’s next on the bookshelf for you? Anything you can tell us about a future project?
Well, I still have the rest of the Movie Magic series to finish writing and releasing! The current plan is for five novellas (leaving it open for more in future) and I’m especially excited about writing the fifth one, The Forces of Love, which features two imaginary friends competing to see who can get the main characters together first. Basically, what if Drop Dead Fred was a rom-com? It’s weird and wacky and I can’t wait to write it.
After the novellas are finished, I’m excited to write another full length. I have two ideas, one inspired by a conversation Tarah Dewitt and I had when we first met about Barney the Dinosaur (unsurprisingly Chris Evans was involved). I love the idea of writing about a kids presenter, which is a job role I haven’t seen too many times before.
When you write these stories, what are you hoping your readers will feel?
You know the sigh you give out when something is comforting and Oh So Enjoyable? Think slipping into a soothing bath, or a really GOOD hug. Like hope and comfort and joy all rolled into one. That’s what I want to give them.
4. AUTHOR’S CHOICE
Paperbacks, hardbacks, ebooks or audiobooks
Ebooks because I read a lot at night (I say night but it’s more like the hours between 1am and 4am)
Single or Dual POV
Dual!! Nothing makes pining better than when both characters think they are alone in wanting the other person. It’s fantastic.
Standalones, series or standalones in a series
All of the above.
Open door, ajar door or closed door romances
Keep that door WIDE OPEN
Music or silence when writing
Music to write, silence to edit. I don’t make the rules.
Plotter, pantser or plantser
Planster, definitely. I can’t start without a plan, but the plan quickly goes off the rails
Water, tea, coffee or….wine?
All of the above, plus tequila, pink gin, RUM, whiskey (especially in a cocktail or a Japanese neat) and Baileys.
Cold or warm weather
Such a tough question! I live somewhere with really hot summers (think over 100F) which can be pretty harsh, but I prefer sun over rain… So warm weather, but I do love to get cosy when it’s cold!