10 Questions with Ciara Duggan
Ciara Duggan is an author and screenwriter, born and raised in a small town in Northwestern Connecticut. She received her MFA from Boston University where she later taught undergraduate writing courses. Alongside placing as a finalist for the 1st Annual Book Pipeline Unpublished Competition, her debut YA Fantasy novel, Awakened, was published in Fall 2021 and was featured on Tor.com.
Ciara has her own business, Ciara Duggan Editorial, where she helps writers through every process of their story, whether they are writing a novel, short story, or screenplay. She also works as an editor for Book Pipeline and Script Pipeline's evaluation services, alongside judging for their writing competitions.
Ciara currently resides in Connecticut with her husband, Australian Shepherd, and an endless pile of books. When she's not writing, reading, or watching movies, she loves to travel, indulge her sweet tooth, go hiking, and daydream.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself! Where do you call home and what do you write?
My name is Ciara Duggan and I live in Connecticut with my husband and my Australian Shepherd, Briar. I am definitely an eclectic writer, but I primarily write young adult fiction. My favorite genres to write in are fantasy/paranormal and thriller/suspense. I'm also a screenwriter! That's actually how I got started. I received my MFA in Screenwriting from Boston University and have taught screenwriting classes both at BU and other institutions.
2. What drew you to that particular genre and/or age group?
I love writing young adult fiction because I think characters in that age bracket are bursting at the seams with emotion, and conflicting emotions at that. Most teenagers are on this quest to discover who they are, what they like, what they don't like, and are often put in situations that could define what kind of person they will become. I was always told that the decisions you make while you're in high school could potentially define the rest of your life, which was just so heavy! While there may be some truth to that, I think that's a bit much to put on a young person, but it makes for good storytelling. I remember being in high school and everything felt so high-stakes. If you can capture that in a story, I think that provides for great tension. And if you put those characters into a thriller/suspense novel, or throw in some paranormal elements, the opportunity for drama, conflict, and high stakes are endless. I also just like to read young adult fiction, and they always say, write what you enjoy reading.
3. What’s your best known work?
My best-known work would have to be the only book I have ever published. My debut novel, Awakened, a YA Paranormal story that involves witches and the origin of the devil, was released in September 2021 by The Parliament House Press. I have another YA historical paranormal that is currently on submission, and that deals with vampires in Victorian Era England. And I'm about halfway through drafting a new YA novel that is different from anything I have written before. It is a contemporary thriller that is a twist on a kidnapping story.
4. What inspired you to write it?
I've always loved storytelling. When I was younger, whenever we watched movies, my family would compete to see who could predict the ending. Not to brag or anything, but I am still the reigning champion. Without knowing it, that was me studying story structure, tension, pacing, misdirection, etc. But it wasn't until I was in undergrad that I actually thought I could pursue writing professionally. I was always involved in musical theater, so when I went to college, that was my minor. I soon learned that they offered a playwriting concentration, so I decided to give it a try. When I was good at it, I realized that this could potentially lead into screenwriting and novel writing. I have always loved how great stories can evoke such strong emotions. Stories allow you to experience things you could never possibly dream of in reality, and that inspires me.
5. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter, pantser or somewhere in between? How do you research?
I am a plotter. Because I come from screenwriting, it was ingrained within me to be strategic with my writing. And to me, that means planning everything in advance to make sure the story as a whole makes sense and hits all those important story beats. However, if I feel inspired while writing a scene or come up with a new idea while drafting, I allow myself to stray from the outline. I do, however, then go back and adjust my outline to make sure everything going forward still makes sense and the impact I want from the book is achieved. I do some research up front, especially if it has to do with the larger concept of the story, however, for minor things that come up in the plot and characters, I google throughout the drafting process, and then some more in the editing process.
6. What’s the strangest or most interesting thing you’ve researched for your writing?
I did a lot of research about Victorian England for the novel that I currently have on submission. While it is a paranormal story that departs from reality, I did want to make sure that the atmosphere, language, etc., felt very grounded in that time and place. And for me, that was a lot of fun. The strangest thing I ever researched for a book I wrote, that I actually then re-wrote as a screenplay, was the lifespan/evolution of a bruise. The story dealt with domestic violence, and I needed to know what bruises would look like on a character's body over the course of time.
7. What’s the most personal story/scene you’ve written and why?
That would have to be in the story I'm currently drafting. It deals a lot with body image, and while it is something I still grapple with, it was a big struggle for me while in high school. The story is written in first person, so I've had to deep dive back into that emotional turmoil I felt when I was younger regarding my weight and eating. This was never something I openly discussed, and while the book is not biographical at all, it's still a vulnerable story for me to write.
8. Who are your literary influences? In what way?
I find this question difficult to answer because there are so many. However, it was after I read the Divergent series by Veronica Roth that I actually thought to myself, maybe I could write books. She writes these massive stories that showcase her depth of imagination, but they never feel too inaccessible, which I often find with some fantasy and sci-fi stories. I never want my stories to feel challenging to get into, or a feat to accomplish. I want my books to be ones that readers can pick up and easily engage in, no matter the genre. I'm also a huge Adrienne Young fan, not only because of her incredible story-telling skills, but because of how transparent she is about her journey as an author. She shares how hard she works and all the success that comes with that, but she has also been very open with her struggles with the industry, creativity, burnout, etc. I think this is so valuable for a writer and reader to see. She taught me that, while there is a lot of pressure to promote yourself, your writing, and to consistently create content, it is also healthy to set boundaries for yourself. And if people aren't okay with those boundaries, then that's their problem. There are so many other incredible writers I consider prominent influences in my life, but those are the first two who come to mind.
9. What books are on your bedside table right now?
I have a stack! From bottom up: The Turnout by Megan Abbott, Namesake by Adrienne Young, The Arrangement by Kiersten Modglin, Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne, Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre, A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, and A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (which I'm currently reading now). I know I'm behind on the ACOTAR series, but I'm excited to finally be getting to them!
10. Last and most important, where can we find your books/stories?
Follow Ciara on these platforms!
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