Diana Peterfreund has no method to her madness.
“Sometimes [writing]comes quickly, and is right – or nearly so – the first time. Sometimes I have to toss the whole thing and start over several times,” said Peterfreund.
Sometimes she nestles into coffee shops or writes longhand in her library. Some of her most outlandish locations included a tent in the Australian outback on a battery-powered typewriter and an ancient Irish castle.
“There’s a truism in book writing that writing a book doesn’t teach you to write books, it teaches you how to write that book. Where I write isn’t really very important to me. I write until the book is finished,” said Peterfreund.
Diana Peterfreund is the author of numerous young adult novels, from a series on killer unicorns to a dystopian futuristic society, where classic stories find new homes. Her most recent set of companions includes For Darkness Shows the Stars and the newly-released Across A Star-Swept Sea, both Jane Austen retellings.
For Darkness Shows the Stars follows a young girl named Elliot struggling to keep her world together as humanity pushes to the brink. She is joined by her childhood sweetheart turned wealthy pirate Kai and his crew as she tries to keep her estate afloat.
“This struggling agrarian society trying desperately to pull humanity back from the brink, it was so real and vivid and essential to me to write about,” said Peterfreund.
Peterfreund has always wanted to create an Austen retelling.
“All artists create the works they wish existed in the world, and for me, a retelling of Persuasion was high on that list. I wanted to write something set in a post-apocalyptic world, and somehow, these two concepts got mixed up in my brain and lit a spark.” And Peterfreund didn’t stop there.
Her contract included a third book – originally the final book in her Killer Unicorn series – and instead she couldn’t stop thinking telling a genderbent version of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
“What if there was somewhere else that responded to the Reduction very differently? The Luddite way is not the only way, and in For Darkness Shows the Stars, you only get one, very specifically religious-based view,” said Peterfreund.
The idea started took over.
“And then I started thinking about how, in the Reign of Terror, they were beheading people, and how the Reduction is sort of a metaphor for ‘losing your head’ — your brain, your seat of intelligence. Once those two ideas got tangled up in my head, I couldn’t stop. All the sexual politics and spycraft and fun, luxurious technology and pretty frocks… well, that was just the icing on the cake,” said Peterfreund.
When asked how the two companion novels relate to each other, Peterfreund admitted that once she’d realizes she could include For Darkness Shows the Stars characters, there was no turning back.
“In Across A Star-Swept Sea, the people of New Pacifica have come through the same storm, the same war and collapse as the people on New Zealand in For Darkness Shows the Stars, but they’re a very different people, and they’ve responded in a different way. They’ve embraced technology, and when “Posts” – or natural-born regulars, as they call them – start being born of Reduced people, they use their technology to engineer a cure to the entire Reduction,” said Peterfreund.
Where For Darkness Shows the Stars had a very rigid and dry setting, Across A Star-Swept Sea opens up a world only Kai could’ve imagined.
“It’s a very rich, lush world, with fabulous inventions, fantastic, genetically engineered animals, and a lot of luxury that isn’t possible in the hardscrabble world of For Darkness Shows the Stars,” said Peterfreund.
Writing each was a very different experience for Peterfreund.
“Persis and Elliot are such remarkably different characters in every way. It was fun to write someone with such a different perspective on the world, but with the same commitment and desire to help people,” said Peterfreund.
Despite music being very essential while writing the Killer Unicorns series, Peterfreund found that she couldn’t listen and write for her most recent books.
“I definitely had songs in mind. I just had to listen to them while NOT at the keyboard,” said Peterfreund. Her playlist for Across A Star-Swept Sea can be found on the Pitch Dark Days website.
When she’s not writing, Peterfreund can usually be found spending time with her family, especially her children.
“Most of my spare time these days is spent chasing my toddler. She just turned three, and she’s awesome! Loves stories and singing and playing outside. She’s definitely my daughter – I love her stories, and I’m so impressed with what she comes up with already,” said Peterfreund.
Despite so many books under her belt, Peterfreund finds each a new and interesting experience.
“Writing a book just teaches me how to write that book, but the more I do, the less scared I am by a new process,” said Peterfreund.