Dante Medema is an author of books for young readers. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband, four daughters, and room full of alien memorabilia—and books, of course. When she’s not writing, she dabbles in baking, decorating, painting, and reading up on enneagram personality types. Her debut novel, The Truth Project is out now with Quill Tree Books / HarperCollins.
Hi, Dante! Can you tell us 3 random things about you?
I’m from Alaska, I love reading about alien abductions, and I don’t eat mushrooms.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing, but it was during a creative writing class in college that I realized I wanted to do this and write a novel. It took me a long time, but eventually I made it happen!
What can you tell us about The Truth Project?
The Truth Project is a mixed media novel-in-verse about a girl named Cordelia who finds out via an online ancestry kit that she is the product of an affair. It follows Cordelia’s journey as she lies to the father who raised her while secretly getting to know the man who never got the chance.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t want to spoil anything, but a scene close to the end where Cordelia realizes something really important on her journey. I still can’t read it without crying—and it’s the same scene everyone tells me made them cry too.
Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?
There’s really only one main character in this book, but I certainly loved writing Sana because she was just so much fun! She’s Cordelia’s best friend and she’s always got something fun and punchy to say.
How did you come up with the title to your book?
Essentially it was just me taking the fact that she had a school project she was working on and realizing that she learned a lot more about herself than she anticipated. Her truth was realized through the process—ultimately, I just used this as a working title, and my agent and editor liked it—so it stayed!
Tell us about the process for coming up with the cover.
I didn’t design the cover, but the amazing Erin Fitzsimmons and the design team HarperTeen did! I love the way the artist (Emma Leonard) captured Cordelia—and the birch trees, leaves, and branches just took my breath away!
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I think going through the editorial process once has really changed the way I do things because I know the things they’ll point out. I’m writing with an audience in mind now, so it’s been an adjustment trying to get through book two! Ultimately, you just have to shut those voices out, and get back to writing for the sake telling story though. It’s been an adjustment for sure.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I think growing up with a grandma who read 2-3 books a day really sticks out to me. She’d sit at the kitchen table with coffee and a book in her hand, read while she was cooking breakfast, and keep it in her hands all day long. Seeing her get lost in words and language really impacted my reading.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have a few before The Truth Project that never saw the light of day, but I’d love to revisit them some day. The first book I ever wrote, I really really want to rewrite.
Interview : YA SH3LF