Skip to main content

Darcy Marks: On the Afterlife As Setting

Author Darcy Marks discusses the process of writing her new middle grade fantasy novel, Grounded For All Eternity.

Darcy Marks is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kempo-JuJitsu, as well as a Black Belt in Arnis, the Filipino art of stick-fighting. She teaches women’s self-defense and works as a forensic toxicologist. Darcy is a mother of three is and an avid fangirl living in northern Vermont. Visit her online at, and find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Darcy Marks: On the Afterlife As Setting

Darcy Marks

In this post, Darcy discusses the process of writing her new middle grade fantasy novel, Grounded For All Eternity, how the idea came to her, and more!

Name: Darcy Marks
Literary agent: Victoria Wells Arms
Book title: Grounded For All Eternity
Publisher: Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Release date: July 26, 2022
Genre/category: MG Fantasy
Elevator pitch for the book: When Mal and his friends slip through the veil from their neighborhood in Hell into the mortal world, they accidentally release the soul of one of the architects of the Salem Witch Trials into modern day Salem, Massachusetts. Now they must recapture the soul, save the people of Earth, and get home before Salem gets wiped off the map, or worse yet, their parents find out.

Darcy Marks: On the Afterlife As Setting

IndieBound | Bookshop | Amazon

What prompted you to write this book?

This book is basically me in a nutshell. I have loved all things mythological since I was a kid, and the Salem Witch Trials were a bit of an obsession of mine when I was younger, but I can tell you the moment everything coalesced.

I was walking my kids home from school on one of those perfect autumn days, where it was cool and crisp, and the air smelled like fallen leaves. A breeze kicked up and the leaves on the sidewalk made a skittering sound against the concrete, and Mal’s world was born. I could see him walking down his cobblestone streets, but the leaves have legs and there’s fire at the horizon, because Mal lives in Hell … but just the residential part.

The plot and Mal’s voice came later, but that’s when it all started.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

From idea to submission was about three years, with the time to publication adding another two years and some months, so a total of five-plus years. The offer from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster came in February of 2020, and the world changed a lot …

Even over all that time the idea never really changed. What changed was finding the right voice, and fully developing the world. I originally wrote Grounded in third person, but something wasn’t right. I decided to rewrite the book in first person and that was better, but it wasn’t until I really knew who Malachi was, with all the accompanying ego and snark that the voice felt like him.

From there I went back and forth with my fabulous agent, Victoria Wells Arms, on the world-building and incorporating more mythology and depth to make sure the world I was envisioning was clear on the page. When the offer came, and I spoke to Kristin Gilson about Grounded I knew it had found the perfect home with Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. She knew exactly what I was trying to do!

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

This was all new to me, and although I had done my research, and my publisher had help guides in the Author Portal on what to expect, I would say the biggest surprise was when we reached the copy edit stage. My copyeditor was amazing, watching video tours of buildings I used and really getting into the details, so much beyond what I was expecting for that level of edits!

Everyone I’ve worked with at S&S cares so much about the books and it’s honestly humbling to have people working on something you’ve put your all into. And although I knew to expect it, the publishing journey really is very much hurry up and wait.

Darcy Marks: On the Afterlife As Setting

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I’m not sure this counts as a surprise, but I did find that the best way to really develop the world I wanted, as fully as I wanted it, was to keep asking questions. OK, my main character lives in an afterlife, what does that mean? How would you view death if you knew for a fact it was just a transition? If you lived in a world with a variety of species of people, what would you think of Earth with only one? If you’d always had wings, what would you think about heights? All of that impacts not only voice, but how your characters interact with the plot.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I think this idea can definitely be something a lot of adults should internalize as well, but I’m going to focus on my child readers here. I hope first and foremost that they have a lot of fun reading, because I am of the firm belief that reading should be fun.

But I really hope they walk away with the conviction that deciding who they are should be something that is completely up to them. Who cares what other people think? You know yourself better than anyone else. Stay true to that and stay true to your convictions. That’s what matters.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

One piece?! I’m going to cheat a little and blend two bits: Read, read, read in your genre, outside of your genre, but recent! (Not what you read as a kid.) Attending workshops and seminars are fantastic, but part of that continual learning really needs to come from what is being published now.

Don’t just focus on learning about publishing as an industry, focus on craft. It all works together to make you a stronger writer and if traditional publishing is your goal (it doesn’t have to be), reading recent books will expose you to current styles of writing, some of which you may like, and some you may not, but it can help you find your own storytelling style/voice.

Also bonus advice, persistence is key.

Writing the Picture Book

Picture books are one of the most delightful—and important—genres in all of literature. In this course, you'll learn how to write a winning picture book narrative, envision it with illustrations, and put together a picture package that a publisher will really notice.

Click to continue.

9 Pros and Cons of Writing a Newsletter

9 Pros and Cons of Writing a Newsletter

Thinking of starting your own newsletter? Let freelance writer Sian Meades-Williams lay out 9 pros and cons of writing a newsletter.

How to Write a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

How to Create a Compelling Premise for a Thriller

Learn how to create a compelling premise for a thriller or mystery novel by asking a simple question and tying it to a specific circumstance to set the stage for a thrilling read.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Plan

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Make a Plan

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have your characters make a plan.

3 Tips for Writing Dystopian Young Adult Fiction

3 Tips for Writing Dystopian Young Adult Fiction

If you've ever heard it said that there's no new way to write a story, let author Julian R. Vaca tell you otherwise. Here, he shares 3 tips for writing dystopian young adult fiction to help silence our inner critics.

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Rimma Onoseta: On Trusting the Process of Revision

Author Rimma Onoseta discusses how seeing other Black female authors on bookshelves encouraged her to finish writing her contemporary YA novel, How You Grow Wings.

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover

Writer's Digest September/October 2022 Cover Reveal

Writer's Digest is excited to announce our Sept/Oct 2022 issue featuring our Annual Literary Agent Roundup, an interview with NYT-bestselling YA horror novelist Tiffany D. Jackson, and articles about writing sinister stories.

Your Story #120

Your Story #120

Write the opening line to a story based on the photo prompt below. (One sentence only.) You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

5 Tips for Writing as a Parent

Author Sarah Grunder Ruiz shares how she fits writing into her life and offers 5 tips on how to achieve a sustainable writing life as a parent.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 621

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an animal poem.