Thursday, January 21, 2021

An Interview with Emily Colin and Madeline Dyer, editors of UNBOUND--Stories of Transformation, Love and Monsters
A few years ago I had the great fortune to be invited to contribute to a YA anthology called Wicked South: Secrets and Lies.  Emily Colin was one of the editors of that anthology, and I enjoyed working with her immensely. Luckily, she remembered me several years later and invited me to participate in her newest project, a YA anthology called Unbound, Stories of Transformation, Love, and Monsters, from Five Points Press.

I'm here today with New York Times bestselling author, Emily Colin and her SIBA Award Winning co-editor, Madeline Dyer, to get the details on this forthcoming anthology and find out more about their work on the book. Welcome Emily and Madeline!

When Emily approached me about the anthology, she said the stories should all be based on a theme of "transformation." But before she reached out, there had obviously been a lot of plotting and scheming going on behind the scenes. So, where did the idea to do a group anthology come from, and how did y'all settle on a theme?

 MD: I can’t specifically remember the occasion that we first thought of creating an anthology—it just seemed to be one of those ideas that had been bouncing around our group-chat for a little while—but it was during lockdown in 2020 when we really began to seriously think about it. The five of us in the group-chat (Emily, Lisa Amowitz, Sarah Anderson, Heidi Ayarbe, and I) thought that if we each wrote a novella/long short story, we’d have quite a good-sized anthology between us and also have all the skills we need to bring it to life, as while we’re all authors, between us we also have experience in all the other parts of publication—editing, cover design, interior art, marketing, etc. So, that’s where it started.

 And we settled on the theme of transformation pretty quickly really. We knew right away that we needed a theme that was flexible and could be adapted to a lot of different stories. That was really important as we didn’t want to be too prescriptive or controlling in what we were asking our writers to produce, and so themes that can be interpreted in many different ways (and across different genres too) are great.

Once we had the theme, we drew up a list of authors that we knew who we wanted to personally invite to submit work to our anthology before we put out general calls for submissions too.

EC: I feel like Madeline really said it all! I’ll add that the transformation theme also came from how challenging 2020 (and now, 2021) has been for all of us—that it’s changed every person I know in some ways, both big and small. We wanted to take that transformative energy and direct it into something creative. Our group has been a tremendous safe haven for us—even though between the five of us, we’re located in four different countries (the US, the UK, France, and Colombia), we chat multiple times every day—and we wanted to put some of that positive energy out into the world, during a time that we all need something to look forward to.

For me, there isn't a word better than "transformation" to exemplify the young adult experience, both in life and in literature. Young adulthood is literally the period of transformation between childhood and adulthood. There's so much change during that time, spawning so many experiences, and this anthology seems like a great expression of those various experiences. But having to choose just a few of those myriad stories seems like an overwhelming task! Can you tell me a little about what the process of putting together this anthology has been like from the Editors' point of view?

EC: Oh my gosh. It’s been fun, it’s been challenging, it’s been an adventure. We decided that out of the five of us, Lisa and Sarah would concentrate on design, Heidi would brainstorm marketing ideas, and Madeline and I—since we edit professionally—would take on that side of things. I’m in the US and Madeline’s in the UK, so sometimes coordinating stuff that we had to do in real time—such as having conversations with contributing authors—created a logistical quandary, but we figured it out!

Madeline talks a bit about how the details of the process worked, below, so I won’t go into that too much—but I will say that when you’re working with a diverse group of contributors, in terms of geography, background, styles, interests, experience, etc., it’s important to find a flow with each author. Madeline and I each worked with a select group of the contributors, but sometimes we’d collaborate to figure out the best approach for a given story. I loved this—editing can be a lonely process sometimes. It was lovely to have another editor to bounce ideas and thoughts off, and Madeline is brilliant. I felt spoiled!

MD: It’s been a lot of work! I definitely under-estimated how much work it would be. I write and edit full-time, and I thought at first that this would just be a nice, little side project! How wrong was I! Turns out co-editing an anthology is hard work and so, so time-consuming.

As stories came in, Emily and I read each one and voted on whether to include it (as well as getting Lisa, Heidi, and Sarah to vote too). We marked stories ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and began to think about how we’d work editorially on each story while also preserving individual voices and making the anthology into a cohesive whole. 

When we’d finalised which stories we wanted, Emily and I divided them between us, and we each worked with the authors on developmental, line, and copyedits. And of course Emily and I were each writing our own stories too—we were each other’s editors for those, so that was super fun.

How many stories will the anthology have and what kind of genres can readers expect to see?

MD: We’ve got 12 pieces in this YA anthology, including a thought-provoking contemporary story with an unreliable narrator, a beautifully poignant narrative poem, epic fantasy stories, and some dark and chilling speculative fiction. We’ve also got a number of #ownvoices stories in this collection too.

EC: Well, the anthology’s subtitle is Transformation, Love, and Monsters, so…I feel like that kind of says it all! One of the things I really adored about editing UNBOUND is that the theme ties all the stories together—but within that, there’s so much variety. As Madeline said, there are contemporary stories grounded in our reality, urban fantasy, dystopian fiction, love stories with a twist…the central theme is change, and that’s something that all of the characters in these stories do—for good or for ill! 

Among those 12 stories are the 3 that we've individually contributed as authors. I describe my story, "Of Marshmallows and Monsters", as a slightly fantastical, YA version of Pitbulls and Parolees--a girl seeks redemption for her gruesome past by rehabilitating monsters. Can you both give us a little hint of what your stories will be about?

MD: Sure! So, mine is called “Inside the Night,” and it’s a dark YA fantasy with a contemporary setting. It’s about a mysterious Power in the sky that turns people to stone, and it draws heavily on Greek mythology and the Medusa story, as well as taking a very feminist angle. It’s also #ownvoices for ace rep and chronic illness rep. 

EC: Oooh, yes! Mine is called “Smooth the Descent,” based on the quote, “Smooth the descent, easy is the way.” If you’re familiar with Virgil’s Aeneid, you might recognize that this references the descent into hell. ;) My short story is set in the universe of my YA trilogy, where people live—and die—by the laws of the Seven Deadly Sins. In it, a teenage librarian whose passionate curiosity far exceeds her restrictive society’s limits, and a medic whose desire to heal sends him in pursuit of forbidden knowledge, collide—and, despite the fact that lust is punishable by death, they fall in love. Hijinks ensue.

A little Easter egg—if you’ve read the first book or prequel novella in my Seven Sins series, you’ll recognize that the librarian and the medic in question are none other than my main character Ari’s parents. 

I've read both of the full-length novels in Emily's Seven Sins series (one of which is the soon-to-be-released sequel, Final Siege of the Seven Sins. It's awesome having connections and getting to read advanced copies!) and I'm super thrilled to get to read more set in that world. Along with introducing readers to your writing, what do you hope readers will get from this anthology?

MD: When I was editing the stories in this anthology, my favourite thing was the escapism it offered. These stories are all so different, and we’re covering many different genres while also examining the idea of transformation from so many different angles—the characters are engaging, the stories exciting, the plots surprising. One moment I’m on the moors of Scotland learning about folklore and monsters, the next I’m in an American museum where there’s a mummy on the loose. These stories really just grab you—and so I think (and hope) that escapism will be one of the big things that readers get. Especially in the current climate—escapism is what so many of us need.

EC: I couldn’t agree more! We created this anthology to give ourselves an escape from the crushing reality of recent events—and for me, at least, it delivered! I hope that readers will find that same sense of freedom in its pages—the sense of being transported to a world that exists alongside our own, where each story is a universe unto itself. 

Also, we were intentional, as Madeline mentions, about including a diverse group of authors. The writers in UNBOUND hail from Colombia, the UK, France, Cyprus, and the United States, and their stories represent their perspectives—including LGBTQIA+, chronic illness, and BIPOC representation. I hope that readers see themselves reflected in our characters, and find themselves spending time with kindred spirits as they read.

When, where, and how will the anthology be available to readers?

 Unbound releases on the 15th February, and it’ll be available as a free ebook download on Amazon and other ebook retailers. There will also be hard copies available to purchase from the usual sites and stores too.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me about Unbound and give us a glimpse at the hard behind-the-scenes work the editors have to put into such an undertaking. I'm so proud to be a part of this project, and can't wait to share it with our readers. Find out more about Emily and Madeline here:

Emily Colin's debut novel, The Memory Thief, was a New York Times bestseller and a Target Emerging Authors Pick. She is also the author of The Dream Keeper’s Daughter (Ballantine Books). Her young adult titles include the anthology Wicked South: Secrets and Lies and the Seven Sins series, including the upcoming Shadows of the Seven Sins (June 2021) and Siege of the Seven Sins (August 2021), from Blue Crow Publishing.

Emily's diverse life experience includes organizing a Coney Island tattoo and piercing show, hauling fish at a dolphin research center, roaming New York City as an itinerant teenage violinist, helping launch two small publishing companies, and working to facilitate community engagement in the arts. Originally from Brooklyn, Emily lives in coastal North Carolina with her family. She loves chocolate, is addicted to tiramisu, and dislikes anything containing beans.

Emily is represented by Felicia Eth Literary. You can find her at

Madeline Dyer is a SIBA-award winning author. She lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes dark and twisty young adult books. She is pursuing her MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University, having obtained a BA honors degree in English from the University of Exeter. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian or ghostly, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

 Her books include the Untamed series, the Dangerous Ones series, and Captive: A Poetry Collection on OCD, Psychosis, and Brain Inflammation.

Madeline is represented by Erin Clyburn at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. You can find her at


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

Great interview! I love to see how anthologies come about. I think it's an honor to be asked to submit as well. Writing for Mary's first Brave New Girls anthology was one of my most favorite experiences.

Lisa Amowitz said...

Great interview, ladies! You covered everything (except for mine and Sarah's design madness. :))

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