“I am here to finish the sequel to a young adult novel, Magonia, which I did and to write an adaption of a classic saga which mainly, in its original, focuses on male heroics.” A full time writer, with five novels to her credit, Maria is disciplined and driven. Knowing the task ahead of her, she searched for a place where she would be productive, and an environment, that in some way, is similar to the setting of her new title.
Maria elaborates, “I was looking for a place where I could be on a mountain because the two heroes of my story live on a mountain with ghosts and wolves. This setting is amazing, and everything I write lately is set on a mountain. I have 3 things I’m writing about set on mountain so this is perfect.”
At Arte Studio Ginestrelle, located in Assisi, Italy, a country that Maria loves, there are only women artists in residence, but Maria is enjoying the time and sharing with the other artists, especially at leisurely breakfasts, during breaks from their respective goals and cooking for dinner. Comfortable in the kitchen, Maria enjoys whipping up a dish to share with her cohorts as she takes a break from fantasy to explore another genre.
“I write fantasy that I make up completely. I though it would be nice to work on something based on historical literature, and also I think it is inspiring to be in this colony, which is located in a beautiful place in the world, but also isolated – and the novel takes place in isolation.”
Maria began this novel in Paris, last year, when she went to visit her sister who had a new baby. She reminisces, “I wrote in the middle of the night, the baby was crying, lots was going on, but I wrote amidst all the travails of domestic life.” However, at the residency she is exploring the wilderness section of the book, and therefore requires a different headspace.
Perhaps some readers do not fully understand the process of writing a book, and the prerequisite research necessary to the plot development. In this case, set in contemporary America, Maria “researched women in the military, in the last fourteen years of conflict, years of furious war, and women coming out of it with a lot of injuries. I also looked at fossil records of New York. I promise, it all makes sense.” While the novel is about ghosts, Maria also wanted to find out what was there first, and this is what she discovered.
“An old forest in upstate New York – a fossilized forest, discovered in the 1920’s when they were building a dam there; they found full fossil trees! It is considered the most ancient forest in the world, and it was under the dam, drowned. I learned that and I just wanted to write a book about it –upstate New York, ghosts, water, marshland and floods…Then it turned out it was all one book, the ancient world saga, combined with present day NY politics.”
“I always write about women,” Headley says. “I also always write about monsters, the definition of what might or might not be monstrous. So that’s what this novel is about too.” The novel is finished, in draft at Ginestrelle, and it couldn’t have been written anywhere else. “The solitude combined with being able to tell fellow artists every morning where I was in the word count – and then get there! – was invaluable.”
To learn more about Maria Dahvana Headley visit her websites: www.mariadahvanaheadley.com