Wednesday, October 17, 2012

YA Fantasy Author Marva Dasef Let's Her Writing Genie Out of Its Bottle

Today I'm happy to introduce Marva Dasef, a Muse It Up author with a number of books for teens. Her latest is a compilation of fantasy stories about a young girl's adventures with her genie called "Setara's Genie." Welcome, Marva!

When did you discover you had a “sense of fiction?”

I’m still wondering whether I do. I spent many years writing technical documentation, so I’m still learning (even after five years!) how to write fiction. It’s deeper, more complex, but must entertain. It’s harder to do than it looks.

What was your favorite book as a child? As an adult? How did those influence you as a writer?

I loved Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series, so I’ll put that at the top of the Kid-Read list. I was the horse-crazy girl and was owned by my first horse when I was ten. I learned to ride on a 16-hand, black saddlebred. I could easily pretend he was the Black Stallion in the Farley books.

What I got from Farley and other writers of young adult fiction was the ebb and flow of a fictional story. You have to include lots of excitement, but you need quiet pools of introspection to give the reader a chance to think about what’s going on in the story.

I got hooked on science fiction and fantasy as a teenager, and that’s been my go-to genre since. I write fantasy because I can do anything I darn well please in a story without worrying about the changes to the teen experience. I couldn’t tell you what a modern teen does, says, or thinks in a real-life setting, but give me a fantasy world, and I’m all set.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’m really not sure what inspired the original short story titled “Cadida and the Djinn.” I just thought it would be fun to turn a mythology upside down and sideways. I wrote a follow-up story about the girl and her genie, “Cadida and the Cave Demon.” After that, five more stories developed.

To sell it as a whole book, I added the frame story of the old story teller in the bazaar relating tales to a young spice seller. This is conceptually straight out of 1001 Arabian Nights. Scheherazade left her violent husband in mid-story every night so he wouldn’t kill her in the morning. Maybe readers don’t know this, but the stories in 1001 Arabian Nights are from multiple sources. Whoever puts together the 1001 stories (actually less than a hundred) can pick and choose between many traditional tales. The trick is to make all the stories come from a single voice. I hope my storyteller, Abu Nuwas, does this when he relates the seven adventures of Setara (changed the name when I decided to have all the character names to Arabic or Persian names).

How would you describe your writing process? What must you always have while writing?

I’m a plotter and have a fairly complete outline of the story which may be a short description of what will happen or be a fully developed scene. Then I go at it, changing the outline to fit where the story takes me. The end product bears some resemblance to the outline, but I have come up with entirely different endings on more than one occasion.

I couldn’t live without the internet for research. I like to use existing legends, fairy tales, and myths as a basis, then twist them however I please.

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

That’s something I have yet to discover. I rarely market my best selling book. It just seems to sell on it’s own at a steady pace. I’m looking forward to the Christmas sales running through November and December. I always get a big bump in sales. I guess, then, the best marketing tool is to have an appealing book.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received?

The importance of point of view. I learned that lesson from several terrific writers who’ve kindly read my work in draft stages. It’s a common mistake of beginning writers to “head hop” even within a paragraph! Just don’t do that. I’ve even seen some stories written in first person suddenly jump out of the consistent POV into another character’s head. Resist the urge to change POV. If you’re writing in first person, never leave that POV. It’s too personal to suddenly hop to another character. That’s why I write 3rd person. It gives me a little distance from the character, even if I’m using close POV (showing the character’s thoughts).

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

I like this excerpt because it has several of the characters from the book working together in a battle.

* * *

The pirates looked up, pulling out knives and swords. Setara thought maybe she hadn’t planned this out well enough but drew her own small knife and hoped for the best. A scimitar appeared in Basit’s hand. The two demons bared their claws and fangs. Hasib puffed real flames with every leap. Sheik barked furiously as he ran. Setara hoped they looked fearsome as they dashed toward the thieves.

The thieves also had a formidable array of sharp weaponry and did not appear afraid of the strange group attacking them. The two groups met in a clash of swords, knives, howling demons, a diving eagle, a leaping dog, and a flame-throwing horse.

“Let go of those horses!” Setara screamed and leaped at a pirate. She slashed her knife downward, cutting a long rent in the thief’s sleeve. He rounded on her with a sword, and she held her knife up to block. The sword slid off her knife blade, but the man immediately drew back his arm again. She was not ready with her knife, so she ducked her head, hoping to evade the sword slash. She heard a scream and looked up to see the thief flying away from her. “What the...”

A snort that sounded much like a laugh came from her left. She turned to see Hasib with a horsy grin on his long face and his powerful hind legs hitting the ground where the thief had been a mere second before.

All around, her friends were struggling with the thieves. Those confronted by Azizah and Kairav lost their will to fight and went running down the beach as fast as their legs could carry them in the loose sand. Setara thought it was a wonderful thing to have demon friends.

Sheik had bitten down on the arm of one of the thieves and was shaking the man back and forth. Basit laid about with swift strokes of his scimitar, forcing the men back toward the ocean. Unfortunately, another skiff had just come ashore with several more pirates. The thieves now outnumbered them nearly three to one.

“Basit! You must do something,” Setara shouted. Basit didn’t seem to hear her as he beat off the attack of one of the thieves. She wondered why he didn’t use magic but had no time to think about it. She saw a thief slash down on Kairav, sending the pool demon staggering back with a deep cut, blue blood pouring down his brawny arm. Another smacked Azizah on the side of the head, sending her reeling. Sheik yelped in pain, but Setara could not spare a moment to look while she fended off a muscular thief wielding a heavy club.

Things weren’t going very well at all.

* * *

Where can readers find you and your book?

I hang out in Facebook and on Twitter (@Gurina). I keep my website current with what’s new and I blog quite a bit. I’m doing a Halloween is for Witches series of posts about characters from my Witches of Galdorheim series. I’ll be giving away paperbacks (not just ebooks) to people who show up at my blog on Halloween and answer a few simple questions. Cheating is allowed. 

Setara’s Genie
A girl, a genie, a few demons. Would could go wrong?

MuseItUp Bookstore


Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar telling stories to the passersby he can tempt to pay. He relates the adventures of the bored daughter of a rich merchant, Setara, and her genie, Basit, as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who bottled him; and a merboy prince cast out of his undersea kingdom.

I love that you were able to weave a number of short stories into one book, and the concept of a woman and her genie going on fantastical adventures together sounds so entertaining! Thank you for joining me today, Marva!

--KSR Writer


  1. You certainly have the flair for fantasy. But then, I've read your other books also. You do well with them, too.

    I couldn't say which one is my favorite. I enjoyed them all.

    Readers, try them. You won't be disappointed.

  2. Weren't there a bunch of comments here before? Well, I'll just have to leave one for good measure. Thanks for having me on Kathy.

  3. I grew up devouring books about horses, too. I was a rider and loved the idea that I could conquer anything, just like the heroines in the books I loved (including The Black Stallion). A story with a genie? Can you make that come true in real life? Sounds wonderful! I've loved discovering new books, blogs, and writers through the blog hop. Thank you!