The Secret of Dartwood Manor The Witchling Trilogy Book One by N. A. Triptow - Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Mystery - A spellbinding reimagining of Jane Austen’s beloved classic, Sense and Sensibility.
Interview with N. A. Triptow
Welcome to Character Madness and Musings. Tell us about your newest book.
The Secret of Dartwood Manor is a contemporary fantasy retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. It’s a haunting, romantic mystery full of twists and turns that will keep you turning page after page. It’s set in the small New England town of Tarryville, Maine, a place steeped in history, having been settled by the Dartwood and Farris families who fled Salem during the witch trials. After their parents’ murder, the Dartwood sisters, Eden, Mariah, and Melissa, return home. Upon their arrival, they are plagued by dreams in which dark spectral beings haunt them, but these hellish creatures seem to be far more than just nightmares, and all around them another mystery begins to unravel as they discover that the circumstances of the their parents’ murder may be far more menacing than they appear. The book is filled with witches, ghosts, ancient secrets, mythology, and plenty of romance. It’s the perfect introduction to genre fiction for those considering branching out into a different genre because it’s a combination of mystery, romance, and contemporary fantasy.
Writing isn’t easy. What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when writing The Secret of Dartwood Manor?
The hardest part about writing the book was probably doing research. This book is deeply rooted in history and mythology. My main characters’ own a family museum of folklore and mythology that’s been handed down from parent to child for generations. The setting, their family history, even the magic system in this series is based on elements of different folklore and mythology from all over the world. Research played a very important part in the process of writing this book because I wanted to use these myths and histories authentically while still making things accessible and innovative, while not bogging the story down at all. I had a ton of fun in the process, but it took a lot of time and reworking to get it just right. If I’ve done my job right though, readers may find themselves interested in doing some digging into these myths on their own time to find out more.
Tell us a little bit about your writing career.
Well, this is my debut novel, so this is the very first time I’ve gotten to share my stories with the world. Aside from that, my writing career consists of a Bachelor’s Degree in English Teaching, with minors in History, Theatre, and British Studies from the University of Utah, during which time I was the Coordinator of the Writing Center at the U. After graduation, I became a high school English and Film Studies—and, for a time, Theatre—teacher. I’m currently working toward a Masters in Strategic Communication at Purdue University. I’ve written a lot of novels throughout my life—some I’m very excited to share with everyone and others that were more of learning experiences that will never see the light of day—and I continue to write more, hopefully you’ll see lots of them in the near future! You’ll definitely be seeing two very soon as this trilogy continues.
They say Hind-sight is 20/20. If you could give advice to the writer you were the first time you sat down to write, what would it be?
Experiment. Have fun! Your first draft will never be perfect. It will most likely be terrible. It doesn’t matter. Actually, it’s a good thing. The point of the first draft is just to get the story out. You’re simply navigating the story, learning and growing along with your characters. You’ll get to editing later. Just have fun first. That was definitely something I had to learn.
What was your most difficult scene to write?
The last chapter. I rewrote it so many times. I wanted it to be the perfect balance of dealing with loose ends and continuing the mystery and conflict for book two. I wouldn’t say this book has a cliffhanger ending, but it definitely leaves you hungry for more.
Are themes a big part of your stories, or not so much?
Yes, certainly so. There’s the obvious theme of light versus dark, good versus evil, but even that is more complicated than it appears. There are other themes like loyalty, sisterhood, working through grief, and the examination of what a person is willing to do to protect the people they love, and what the consequences of those choices might be. Of course, there’s the theme of logic versus emotion. Some of the themes overlap with the original tale of Sense and Sensibility, while others don’t.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on book two in the series.
Is there a release date planned?
I’m shooting to get it out within the next year, hopefully much sooner, but there aren’t any solid dates planned yet.
Who is your favorite character from your own stories, and why?
I feel like I’m choosing a favorite child here. That’s a very difficult question. I relate the most to Mariah because she’s very passionate about everything she does and puts everything she has into caring and fighting for those she loves. Plus she’s sassy and that’s a lot of fun. On the other hand, I adore Baden because he’s honestly just one of my favorite people ever. He’s loyal, patient, brave, and selfless. And, let’s be honest, the man is very handsome and he even speaks Portuguese, what doesn’t he have going for him?
Most writers were readers as children. What was your favorite book in grade school?
Harry Potter, hands down. In fact, it’s still one of my favorites. I’m a proud Ravenclaw. The series (books, movies, videogames, board games, anything I could get my hands on) was a very formative part of my childhood. We used to read them together as a family. I also loved reading Holes by Louis Sachar and any mythological tales I could find.
What are your plans for future projects?
In addition to the remaining two books in this series, I currently have two other contemporary fantasy series in the works as well as a fractured fairy tale series.
Is there anything you would like to add before we finish?
Thank you so much for this opportunity and for asking me such compelling questions. I’ve really had a lot of fun and hope you enjoy my debut novel!
Thank you, and thanks for being here today. Good luck with The Secret of Dartwood Manor? and thank you for being with us today.
ExcerptMariah found herself staring at the blank screen of her laptop for longer than she intended after the video call ended, hardly even noticing when the tears began to stain her cheeks. When there were no more tears left to shed, she closed her laptop and placed it on her bedside table. Rearranging herself on her bed she crawled under the covers and tried to shut her eyes, but the room around her tugged at her mind, summoning all of the haunted bedroom scenes she’d watched a million times in movies. Suddenly thankful for the old-fashioned four-poster bed, she pulled the curtains tight around her, blocking out the unwanted sights and was finally able to go to sleep.
The stillness of the manor was like a quiet pond just waiting for a fish to upset its equilibrium. The manors beside one another were nearly identical in their architectural design, but now, in the gloom of the night, the Farris manor echoed the dread of the once bright Dartwood manor with such exactness that it seemed as if they were all sleeping in a cemetery. No one stirred in the house, save for the shadows that danced through the windows in the moonlight. The stillness was disturbed, however, as one by one the shadows in the three Dartwood girls’ rooms began to move in purposeful strides. The moonlight no longer directed them in a nightly waltz as they made their way toward the girls.
The shadows, each a ghostly orb of darkness, started their trek from different locations in the rooms. In Eden’s room the mist trickled in from the window, while in Mariah’s it inched between the moth-eaten holes in the cloth ceiling of the four-poster bed, and in Melissa’s it crept in from under the bed itself. Slowly, the haze advanced upon each girl, their forms growing ever more into the silhouette of a person as they neared them. Hovering now only a foot or two above the girls, in unison, as if directed by the moon once more, an ethereal hand reached for each girl, fingers looking more like claws than anything else. A high pitched and yet deep hiss of sound escaped what should have been lips on the silhouettes, darkness protruding and encircling itself around the sleeping forms of the girls below them. Then, without warning, all three silhouettes shrieked a cry of disappointment, an unearthly shrill.
The sound woke each girl as they came to the terrible realization that what had been haunting them in their nightmares was in reality hovering just above them as they slept. Gasping, the silhouettes dissipated into nothing so quickly that none of the girls were quite certain of what they had seen. Nonetheless, each rose out of their beds with such haste that they all opened their doors at the same moment, only to be greeted by the horror-struck faces of their siblings.
About the Author:
N. A. Triptow graduated from The University of Utah with a Bachelor of Arts in English Teaching with minors in History Teaching, Theatre, and British Studies. She teaches high school English and Film Studies. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Strategic Communication and Advertising from Purdue University. In her free time, you can find her reading, watching and analyzing movies and television shows, attending the theatre, going on walks or hikes, and playing board or video games with family and friends. She lives in Utah.