Darcie Little Badger is a Lipan Apache writer with a PhD in oceanography. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Elatsoe, was featured in Time Magazine as one of the best 100 fantasy books of all time. Elatsoe also won the Locus award for Best First Novel and is a Nebula, Ignyte, and Lodestar finalist. Her second fantasy novel, A Snake Falls to Earth, received the Newbery Honor and is on the National Book Awards longlist.
I had the opportunity to talk with Darcie, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
It’s great to be here!
My name is Darcie, and I’m a Lipan Apache writer with a PhD in oceanography. My scholarly interests include toxin-producing plankton, transcriptomics, and the deep sea, especially its weird stuff. I once worked as a researcher and scientific editor, but I transitioned to full-time writing after my debut book, Elatsoe, was published. Since then, I’ve released A Snake Falls to Earth, another young adult (YA) fantasy.
What else? Oh, yeah, when I was an undergrad, Princeton rejected me from the creative writing program twice. After that, my debut was featured in Time Magazine as one of the best 100 fantasy books of all time, and my second book received the Newbery Honor.
For fun, I take long walks, read, watch horror movies, and play rhythm games like Beat Saber. When my spouse Taran is also free, we go on adventures together.
As a writer, what do you think drew you to young adult fiction, especially speculative fiction?
I’ve always enjoyed reading spec fic; my mom introduced me to science fiction and fantasy (she was an original Trekkie), and growing up, I haunted the SFF shelves in bookstores and libraries. Guess I’m creating what I love!
As for choosing to write YA fiction: the books I read as a teenager made an incredible impact. They provided happiness and solace when I was a shy, bullied kid; they fed my imagination, encouraging me to dream; they shaped the person I was and would become. I hope that my books make a similar difference in the lives of young readers.
What can you tell us about your latest book, A Snake Falls from Earth? Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
A Snake Falls to Earth is told through two perspectives. The first main character, Nina, is a human teenager living in a near-future version of Texas. Her great-great grandmother tells her a story in Lipan, and Nina is initially motivated by the desire to understand this story and its significance to her family.
The second main character, Oli, is a cottonmouth snake person who lives in a land of spirits, monsters, and magic. After he’s unceremoniously cast from home, Oli learns to survive on his own, making lots of friends (and a few enemies) in the process. Unfortunately, his new best friend becomes terribly sick, and the only cure is on Earth.
At that point, the two characters meet, their stories interweaving, and Nina and Oli help each other save their friends and family.
The structure, themes, and characters in this book are heavily inspired by the Lipan stories Mom told me. In particular, several of Oli’s early chapters are self-contained misadventures with larger-than-life characters—similar to my favorite traditional stories—that tie into the greater plot.
In addition, my background as a geoscientist informed the environmental features of near-future Texas. In Nina’s world—that is, her homeland—hurricanes are becoming stronger, temperatures are rising, and the survival of vulnerable plant and animal species is a serious concern. Amidst these difficulties and others, Nina and her family fight to remain on their traditional land.
Where did the inspiration for your first book, Elatsoe, come from? Also note, as a aspec reader, I just really want to thank you for writing more aro-ace characters into the world!
Thank you! It’s my pleasure!
As a teenager, I wrote a short story about a haunted house. Its ghost causes mysterious drafts and screeches “Hello!” in a shrill, inhuman voice. A bunch of meddling kids sneak into the house on a dare and discover that the ghost belongs to a parrot. They free its spirit by opening an old metal cage in the attic.
Since then, I’ve amused myself by thinking about all the cool supernatural powers different creatures—velociraptors, mosquitoes, sharks, etc—would have. This fascination led to Elatsoe’s original story seed: a person who can raise animal ghosts. That person became Ellie, the hero of Elatsoe.
What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or difficult?
Sometimes, writing is so fun, I don’t wanna do anything else. That’s my favorite part: the joy of creation. I let stories sweep me up and take me on adventures.
Unfortunately, the amount of time required to finish a novel is really frustrating. My typical daily word count is 500-700, which means first drafts take at least 6 months, accounting for weekends off. Thing is, the stories are itching to leap out of my head and onto the page. I get impatient—so much to write, so little time!—but that’s life.
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet, but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
If you could master any instrument, what would it be?
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
Oh, gosh, I can share that I’m writing a third YA fantasy book. The contract’s signed, but it hasn’t been announced yet, so I’m unable to say more. Stay tuned!!
What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?
Here are a couple words of advice to aspiring writers:
First, everyone has a different writing journey. What works for me may not work for you; in other words, there’s no one right way to be a writer. But I can make a few general suggestions. When writing, take breaks, if needed. Don’t compare yourself harshly with others. And most of all, write the stories that make you happy and/or are creatively fulfilling.
Above all, persevere.
Finally, what LGBTQ+ and/or indigenous books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Check out Love After the End: An Anthology of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer Speculative Fiction. It’s edited by Joshua Whitehead and has a great TOC of Indigenous writers you should follow.