You’ve been waiting for it and the second installment in the Secrets of Oscuros series is almost here. The Whisperer’s Warning is a middle-grade adventure-fantasy set in Trinidad and Tobago, and continuing from the first book The Protectors’ Pledge. The author, Danielle Y. C. McClean was great enough to do an interview with us for Caribbean Folklore Month on how the process has been going.
Tell us about your upcoming book, The Whisperer’s Warning, as much as possible without any spoilers.
The Whisperer’s Warning is the second book in the Secrets of Oscuros series and picks up where The Protectors’ Pledge left off. The August vacation has ended, a new school year has begun, and 12-year-old JV is desperately seeking answers about his past as well as the mysterious coin that was left with him as a baby. As he investigates, JV is startled to learn of an obligation he is meant to carry out that places him at the centre of the world’s natural and unnatural realms—an obligation that will have dire consequences if not fulfilled. Simultaneously, however, he and his friends Carol and Riaz are thrust into another high-stakes mission when one of the supernatural inhabitants of the Oscuros Forest gives them a cryptic warning which they must decipher if they’re to save a fellow villager from harm.
How long have you been working on this book?
I wrote a broad outline in 2011 and started writing a first draft (which had a different title) in 2012. I got as far as three pages on that draft. I reworked the outline in 2014 and started writing again from scratch in 2015. In the following five years I wrote bits and pieces off and on but was able to dedicate myself more fully to the manuscript in 2020 and finished it early this year.
Your books feature folklore from the Caribbean. How did you first hear about them and wish to incorporate them into a story?
Like many Trinbagonians my age and older I grew up hearing stories about our folkloric characters, so my fondness for them has always been there. The urge to write adventure stories that incorporated such wonderful characters, however, came after I migrated and when I needed to wrap myself in my Caribbean heritage and create something that could also serve as a cultural link for my children. The Whisperer’s Warning is a sequel so the story and characters flow naturally from its forerunner, The Protectors’ Pledge, building on the action and already-established storyline and including additional folkloric and non-folkloric characters.
How was writing this book different from writing The Protectors’ Pledge?
When I was writing this second book many of the characters already felt like old friends which made it easy to slip back into their personalities and continue their story. Similarly, the foundation was already there for some settings, like the Oscuros Forest and JV’s house, so I didn’t have to start from zero with those. Another difference is that I felt a greater urgency to complete and publish The Whisperer’s Warning because I knew readers wanted to know what happened with JV after The Protectors’ Pledge. There was also a huge self-imposed pressure for it to be, at the very least, as good as the first book.
How long did you spend researching before you started this book?
I did a lot of research on Caribbean folkloric characters, superstitions, and herbal remedies at the start of the series so I was able to draw on that when writing The Whisperer’s Warning. As I wrote, I also did more research whenever additional details were needed—for example, on the symptoms of specific ailments and how they are treated. I see research as an ongoing process.
Are there any real people that you based your characters on?
Some of the characters share similar characteristics with persons I know in real life. For example, my paternal grandmother used to make lots of sweet treats such as fudge, pawpaw balls, sugar cake, and coconut drops—just like Miss Jean. Granny B’s parakeet, Kockot, was inspired by my grandmother’s parrot who had the same name, and my children see themselves in Carol and Pascal and have a similar age difference.
How was the editing process for you, and how do you think it benefited the final manuscript?
Editing is a lengthy process for me. I edit as I write, which may not be the most efficient way to go about things, but it means that I’m happier with the first full draft than otherwise. Whenever I sit down to write I always reread what was written in the previous session, make changes, then move on. If there are long stretches of time between sessions I reread from the start of the manuscript. When I completed the first draft, I printed it out, read it out loud, and edited it. My family also provided feedback. Numerous further rounds of editing occurred after it was submitted to CaribbeanReads Publishing. Carol Mitchell posed questions, made suggestions, and challenged me on some things. Paragraphs were cut, sentences were shortened, the tense was changed in some places, and parts were fleshed out. The final product has benefited greatly from all the attention, love, and effort that was put in.
What reader audience does this book target?
I’d say that The Whisperer’s Warning is for readers ages eight and older who like tales of adventure, action, mystery, and folklore that are set in the Caribbean and have Caribbean characters.
Publishing a book takes a lot of time and has many steps to get to the finished product. Would you like to thank anyone who helped you through this process?
I am so grateful for my family and friends whose support has always been amazing; to Carol Mitchell and the rest of the team at CaribbeanReads for working with my manuscript and elevating The Whisperer’s Warning to the best story that it can be; and to Rachel Moss whose illustrations are such a perfect fit for the book. I’m thankful for organisations such as the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and the Authors Guild that are fantastic communities for authors and whose workshops and webinars keep me learning and improving as a storyteller. I also greatly appreciate the reviewers who took the time to share their opinions of The Whisperer’s Warning, and of course my readers for their enthusiasm for the Secrets of Oscuros series.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
A special thank you to Caribbean Books Foundation for this interview and for all that you and other literary organisations, libraries, bookstores, bloggers, educators, Caribbean book festivals, and literary magazines do to support and promote Caribbean authors, illustrators, and our stories.
And thanks so much to the author for taking this time with us to talk about their upcoming book which sounds like it will be a fun and exciting read.
About The Author
Danielle Y. C. McClean is an author, a translator, and an interpreter. She has degrees in French, Spanish, and law, and is passionate about language, folklore, mythology, and foreign cultures. Originally from the Caribbean republic of Trinidad and Tobago, she currently lives in Tennessee with her husband and two children. The Whisperer’s Warning is McClean’s second novel and the sequel to The Protectors’ Pledge—one of three winning titles of CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. You can visit her online at http://www.daniellemcclean.com
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