Interview / Novels

Creating Welcome to Harmony: an interview with Dan O’ Mahony

Dan O’ Mahony has been a lifelong fan of the fantasy genre. It is the home of dreamers and outsiders who do not feel quite at home in the ‘normal world” but know, deep down, that they are heroes at heart destined for epic adventures and great deeds.

He currently resides near Chandler, Arizona but spends much of his time exploring new worlds and associating with unique characters. When not engaging in his routine flights of fancy, he teaches elementary and junior high students, hoping to inspire within them a love of reading and writing.

His book Welcome to Harmony was published in September 2020.

Like all thirteen-year-olds, Dillon just wants to fit in, but being a werewolf makes that an even greater challenge than normal. After almost being discovered by some neighbors in their old neighborhood, Dillon’s parents move all the way to Harmony, in Northern California, hoping to protect their son and keep his condition a secret, no matter how ashamed it might make Dillon feel. However, it turns out Dillon might have caught a break when he learns he is not the only supernatural being in Harmony. Some readily embrace him, while others view him as a threat.

The greatest danger Dillon has to face though is his parents discovering the truth about Harmony. They are already disappointed in having a werewolf for a son. Learning that other supernaturals exist in Harmony could cause them to run again, even though Dillon not only fits in with the folks in Harmony but has been able to flourish there as well.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Could you tell us a little bit about the backstory to this novel? Has Dillion always known he’s a werewolf or is it something he’s discovered recently?

DAN O’ MAHONY: Dillon has only recently discovered he is a werewolf. For my world, I wanted to avoid the tropes that you get turned into a werewolf by being bitten by one, and that werewolves only Change during the full-moon. Dillon, and the other werewolves in this book, don’t go on violent rampages either.

As far as Dillon and his parents can tell, he was born a werewolf, and it manifested itself when he hit adolescence. I’ve done more than my share of research into the folklore, and there are instances of people being born werewolves. I should add that it’s revealed that Dillon was adopted. He was found abandoned as a newborn in a hospital emergency room. That’s a mystery that will be solved in future stories.

Anyway, prior to moving to Harmony, Dillon is seen in his werewolf-form by neighbors, panic sets in, news spreads, and finally police are called in. Dillon returns home, thinking he’s in the clear, only his parents are waiting for him. The commotion had reached their house. They came to check on Dillon and arrived in time to catch the tail-end – no pun intended – of his Change back into human form.

Times passes, and even though no one connects Dillon with the werewolf, his parents don’t want to take any chances and decide to move.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What made you decide to make Dillion a werewolf? Were there other supernatural creatures you were considering?

DAN O’ MAHONY: The werewolf has always been my favorite. Vampires get way too much exposure. I’ve always thought the werewolf was a potent metaphor for adolescence. To me, the werewolf also made for a great outsider. They can be someone who wants to fit in. They look normal enough on the outside, but there’s a part of them they’re trying to keep hidden inside, that they’re afraid to show people.

I’ve also been involved with wolf recovery and education in the past. Wolves are very misunderstood creatures. They’ve been demonized. The violent behavior attributed to wolves is shared by werewolves, and it’s in fact not true. Last I checked, there were only about forty fatal wolf attacks in North America, and that’s going all the way back to the 1700s.

So I wanted to have a different type of werewolf. One that was more misunderstood and whose characteristics were more in-line with wolf characteristics. One is that wolves are actually great parents, and a pack is an extended family. Werewolves share that trait, which becomes an important detail in the book.

I never considered Dillon being anything but a werewolf, and readers will find Welcome to Harmony to be very diverse as far as supernatural beings are concerned.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Interesting. Shifting topics a bit, how does being a teacher influence your writing?

DAN O’ MAHONY: Being a teacher has given me exposure to a wide range of children’s literature. I’ve read the good, the bad, and the ugly. That’s motivated me to want to put out the best stories for middle grade readers that I can with complex characters they can relate to and sympathize with, and I will never dumb-down what I write. I have way too much respect for my audience to do that.

Incidentally, I believe that a good children’s book should be able to be enjoyed by readers of all ages. To that end, I’m proud to say I have heard from teens and adults who have enjoyed my books too.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: That’s great! So have your students read your work as well?

DAN O’ MAHONY: Oh, yeah! At one school where I worked, an eighth-grade class beta-read Welcome to Harmony, and a lot of their input found its way into the final draft. The next year, at that same school, I was invited by the PTA to do a book signing during the school’s book fair. That was a blast.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Sure sounds like it. Do you find it difficult to work writing time into your busy schedule? What are some of your strategies?

DAN O’ MAHONY: Like many teachers, as hard as I try, I often end up taking some work home with me. That and I’m also well-tired when I get home too. Because of that, I have trained myself to wake up at four in the morning to get some writing in before I go to work. I find that if I start typing, something, anything, that I’ll soon get into a rhythm, and everything will start to flow. I often have to force myself to stop, but that’s okay. That motivates me to get back to it as soon as possible.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Last question. What’s your favorite piece of writing advice that someone has given you?

DAN O’ MAHONY: The best piece of writing advice I ever received was that “Authors write horrible stories. Characters write great stories.” To that end, I spend lots of time on character development. I know it’s sort of a cliché, but the characters will start talking to you – but only if you have spent the proper amount of time developing them. I’ve joked about how I used to argue with my characters. I eventually gave up and let them have their way and haven’t regretted it since.

That’s why I’m a “pantser” as opposed to a “plotter.” I’m not one of those authors who has a huge corkboard on their office with everything planned out on notecards, from plot points to character arcs. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that either. But I prefer to keep things looser. I always have an idea about where each story will go, but I’ve learned to leave room for my characters to give me their “input.” I figure they know their minds and the world of the story better than I do.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Thanks for the interview. Readers can find more info on Dan O’ Mahony and his book below. Don’t forget to check out the free giveaway going on now!

Direct links to Welcome to Harmony:
Amazon (Affiliate link)
Barnes & Noble

Author Pages:

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Welcome to Harmony. Three winners will each win a reader’s kit. This reader’s kit contains a signed copy of Welcome to Harmony, a customized bookmark, customized mug, and a customized book light. Open International.

For a chance to win, you can enter the rafflecopter below:
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