A PROFILE OF POEt, AUTHOR, & Filmmaker Elayna Mae Darcy
Elayna Mae Darcy, a Philadelphia "writer, artist, (and) dreamer" who graduated from Temple University, has traveled through many destinations in their literary journey. They have produced podcasts, run social media, acted as a liaison for National Novel Writing Month, worked in film and video with a YouTube channel, appeared on panels and at events, and maintains their blog and portfolio at ElaynaMusings.com. In addition to two poetry collections, they have completed a young adult novel called "Still the Stars," and they publish a newsletter called Queery Letters.
We corresponded about their formative years as a reader and what compelled them to enter the writing and fandom worlds, the struggles of advocating for queer representation while also having grown up a Harry Potter fan, the challenges of crowdfunding and publishing, and what they see on the horizon for both the literary community and their own work.
What kind of reader were you as a kid? What were some of your favorites? What do you remember about your first impulse to write?
I fell deeply in love with fantasy as a young kid, and that love has never dimmed. One of my most treasured favorites was INKHEART by Cornelia Funke, which itself is a book about a child who loves books, but the series that really sparked my imagination was THE PENDRAGON ADVENTURES by D.J. MacHale, which I picked up at age 12. That series was my gateway to science-fiction and I’ve been a giant nerd for stories that involve traveling through time and space ever since.
You’ve done a few Kickstarters now, how do you feel they’ve worked out for you? What do you like about the fundraising models? What are you still trying to get the hang of? What advice do you have for someone pursuing that route?
Kickstarting my first two poetry books was such an amazing experience, and the amount of love I received when I ran them was incredible. I think the true beauty of crowdfunding is that as a writer and artist, you spend so much of your time alone at your computer typing or brainstorming on your way to work, that you feel like you’re just screaming into the void. Seeing every new backer on a campaign gave me this great feeling of, “At last, I’m not alone in caring about this.”
My latest experience however was a campaign for my YA novel in verse, and it was the first one I have done where I didn’t reach the goal, so the book currently remains unpublished. It took me a few months to really get over the let down of that one, especially because it is a book I have been working on since I was a teenager. But the community that supported me during that time has been so kind and encouraging. At the moment, I’ve gone back to querying the book to try and get it traditionally published, so I can’t say for sure right now if I will stick with that or decide to self publish it later on, but I’m hopeful it will see the light of day soon.
The biggest piece of advice I can offer for folks considering going that route would be to rally some of your closest family and friends—the ones you just know will be happy to support you—and share it with them before launching it to the public. Doing that with both of my poetry books helped give the projects an early boost, and I think that helped majorly in the long run, because I wasn’t alone in spreading the word about the campaign.
How was your experience at MuggleNet? What did you learn from your work there that has helped in other pursuits? If you feel comfortable discussing it, what is your relationship like now with that fandom, that body of work, and the author (and how perception of her has changed)?
My relationship with Harry Potter is strained to say the least these days. As a queer, genderfluid inividual who was raised, nourished, and inspired to write by those books, the wounds of finding out the author has those views are still way too raw for me to watch the films/read the books/engage with fans about. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that the years I spent working with MuggleNet and being a fandom podcast host & producer weren’t some of the absolute best years of my life.
Working with them really helped me to realize how much I adore engaging with fandom communities beyond the boundaries of the original stories, and so even though I have largely moved on from Potter, I carry that experience into other things I love, most recently by guest hosting on a Supernatural podcast called Driver Picks the Podcast. I think fandoms are a powerful way of finding connection and joy in an increasingly dark and distant world, and I am so grateful for all the wonder they’ve brought into my life.
How would you compare and contrast YA and poetry in terms of your process and your passion with each genre? Or is Still the Stars not a separate thing at all, but an extension and new application of your poetry? Where does Continuum fit in to your journey to STS?
I have been writing YA fiction since I was a teenager myself and it is a medium I’m super passionate about. I write those works so that queer teens can see themselves reflected in their books because that wasn’t something I really had a chance to do when I was younger, even though stories were the thing that got me through some of the hardest times of my life.
Poetry on the other hand has been a like slow burn romance for me—something I always wanted to pursue, but really only began actively chasing in my mid-twenties. Once I did though, there was no going back.
My first attempt at fusing poetry with fiction was during one of the many rewrite drafts of my YA fantasy, STILL THE STARS, which I’ve chronicled pretty extensively on my blog. That book is my oldest story idea, one that goes back to when I was 13 and bored in math class, just daydreaming about other worlds. The story has obviously grown a lot since then, and been through many rewrites and revisions. But honestly? When I started writing it as a novel in verse instead of prose, I felt this searing electricity to it. I feel like I was free to pour more of myself into the narrative when I got to write it in that way. Poetry has this beautiful way of saying so much with so little, and I can’t express enough how much I love playing with it across genres.
As for CONTINUUM, that one holds a special place in my heart, as it was my very first work to be published. It was a short story that I’d written to be part of an anthology that was unceremoniously canceled by the folks who were set to publish it, and so on a whim, I submitted the story to the amazing folks at Wizards in Space Literary Magazine. Seeing my name in print for the first time in their second issue was one of my proudest moments.
With your work and outreach in fandoms and as a speaker at events, as well as your feelings about representation, where do you see your role or how do you define your role in relation to audience/community/etc? Why is literary citizenship important?
I am a staunch believer that stories, once told, belong to their audiences. Of course the author’s intent matters and is relevant as far as canonical conversations may go, but as someone who both writes, enjoys, and studies media, I know that the ways in which a work can be interpreted by the readers/viewers are endless. I think there’s something magical about the way people connect to characters on levels the author could never imagine. All I can do is infuse my stories with as much of my truth as I can, and then rest in the knowledge that once I have put it out there, the work takes on a life beyond me.
That being said, I think both the publishing industry and Hollywood have an immediate obligation to open their doors to more storytellers, and the longer they ignore that demand, the more harm they do. The world becomes so much richer when everyone has a chance for their voices to be heard.
What are your current plans for Hell & Back Again, and Conjure the Night? Or other projects in the works?
CONJURE THE NIGHT is definitely a shelved project at the moment, but I am hoping to try another draft of it sometime later this year. HELL AND BACK AGAIN on the other hand is definitely at the forefront of my mind, as I’m actively revising it. Given how much I’ve re-engaged with the Supernatural fandom in the last year (a series that largely inspired the novel) I am much more focused on polishing that book and getting it into agent’s inboxes to find a traditional publisher willing to take it on.
But another book I am really excited about tackling a first draft of this spring is an untitled YA rom-com about a queer high school stage manager who falls for their best friend who is starring in the school play. I haven’t decided yet if it’s going to be prose or in verse, but I’m really excited to write it. It’s gonna be my love letter to theater kids, which was something I was really involved in during my formative years.
What do you hope to see from the online literary community as we move into 2022?
I think we are in for some really rough waters given all of the attempts to ban diverse books for young readers that are happening across the country, but I know that there’s a resilience there that won’t go quietly amidst all of the attacks from conservative groups. I know I for one feel even more compelled to write books with dynamic queer representation, and I get the sense that many folks in these communities are feeling that too.
And what do you hope for yourself? Besides your writing goals, what are some other areas you’re attending to?
My biggest thing to focus on this year outside my writing is definitely my physical and mental health, which were very much put through the grinder thanks to the painful last two years of the pandemic. But professionally, I am really excited to continue with my newsletter I launched at the end of last year, Queery Letters, where I share original works and write missives about my experiences as a queer author. I am also finalizing plans to launch a series of writing workshops, kicking off with one this spring for fiction writers looking to dive into poetry for the first time.
h. is the Meow Meow Pow Pow blog editor, knows a little about problematic fandoms as a lifelong pro wrestling fan, and loves talking with nice creative folks from Philadelphia. He chronicles his own writing journey over at HubUnofficial.com.
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