Corinne Duyvis on Capitalizing on What You Know

Today we welcome Corinne Duyvis, Author of Otherbound.

Capitalize On What You Know

Everybody has their own take on the famous adage of Write What You Know. My version is this: Capitalize On What You Know.

That is, if you have a passion, a quirk, knowledge about a particular topic, why not weave it into your writing?

It may not always work. It may not fit the book, or it may feel shoehorned in. That’s completely fair. In some circles, though, authors are often concerned it’ll feel like authorial intrusion.

“Oh, of course that character is a horse fanatic!” readers might say. “Have you ever read the author’s blog? She works with horses herself. So much for originality.”

Sometimes, I feel “originality” gets glamorized to an odd degree. Yes, it’s admirable to fully immerse yourself in a new topic as research for a book. To write something brand-new and wholly separate from yourself. To spend days or weeks researching something you don’t even care about.

You may need to do that level of research to do your book justice. After all, you don’t want to write about your own interests over and over. But why do some people feel the need to avoid those interests at all costs?

The thing is ... it’s your book. It’s your name on the cover. Why should it need to be completely separate from you, as a person? The goal isn’t to stay as anonymous as possible. The goal isn’t to write something that can’t be traced back to you.

The goal is to write a damn good book.

There’s nothing wrong with putting parts of yourself in your stories. Personally, I love discovering something about the author or their passions via their books!

In my debut Otherbound, I needed to build a secondary world, something I’d never done before. I merrily started weaving in parts of Dutch language and landscapes. I’m Dutch, and have lived in the Netherlands all my life; it’s a setting you rarely encounter in American YA, so I figured I’d capitalize on it.

Similarly, I’m bisexual, and so is one of Otherbound’s protagonists. I have novels featuring artists (like me), with autistic protagonists (hi), novels set in Amsterdam (I live here), novels featuring obsessive cat lovers (moi), novels featuring superhero nerds (what’s up), featuring bilingual characters (hoi) ...

I’ve written about a hundred things I’m not familiar with, but in the end, it’s these little bits of me tucked into a corner of the world, sitting on the shoulder of a character, that may help the book come alive. When you’re passionate about a topic, it bleeds through. These are the aspects we can portray with the utmost confidence, with full authenticity.

And in a genre featuring interdimensional travel, murderous vampires, and exploding planets, those aspects can be essential to grounding the story.

A lifelong Amsterdammer, Corinne Duyvis spends her days writing speculative young adult and middle grade novels. She enjoys brutal martial arts and gets her geek on whenever possible. Otherbound, her YA fantasy debut, released from Amulet Books/ABRAMS in the summer of 2014. It has received starred reviews. Kirkus called it "original and compelling; a stunning debut," while the Bulletin praised its "subtle, nuanced examinations of power dynamics and privilege."

Find Corinne at her Twitter or Tumblr. She is a co-founder of Disability in Kidlit and team member of We Need Diverse Books.


Penelope Sanchez said...

This was one of the most intriguing, original stories I have ever read,I loved everything about this book, from the writing style to the characters to the creative premise. This book is a must read for YA FANS! I cannot imagine anyone being able to put it down once they begin reading it. Read this will not be disappointed!

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