It is almost impossible not to compare Daniela Sacerdoti’s Dreams trilogy with the hugely successful Twilight series. And great to wave the flag for Scottish writing. Daniela is flattered to be compared with Stephanie Meyer who, she says, “relates so well to her readers and has been so successful.” And I’m sure Daniela doesn’t mind being described as a Scottish writer â€“ she has lived here for 10 years and has very nearly perfected a Glasgow accent.
Italian by birth, Daniela traces her love of writing back to her childhood and the influence of her great uncle Carlo Levi, an anti-fascist intellectual who wrote a book while in exile. Great Uncle Carlo’s book was politically inspired with the aim of shaming the Italian fascist government for the poverty and social conditions of people in southern Italy. He was exiled to France and imprisoned again on his return to Italy. Daniela is unlikely to endure such a fate.
Her work however, does illustrate more than a passing sympathy for people who don’t lead the life they would necessarily choose and whose convictions take them into danger. Inspired by a girl she saw at a bus stop with beautiful but worried eyes and long black hair, Daniela conceived Sarah Midnight six years ago. Meyer’s success with Twilight gave her â€“ and, she believes, other women writers â€“ the confidence to develop the series. But it would be wrong to hold the mirror too close.
Daniela points out, “The Twilight heroine Bella is too submissive for me. I enjoy a bit more action than romance.” (That said, Sarah, like Bella, does appear to be falling in love with and having to choose between two lovers but at least Â she doesn’t agonise about it on every page.) “I know it seems as though every book for young adults has a supernatural hero,” she says, “but my hero Harry (or Sean) has highly developed skills that he has trained. He is quite human.”
Sarah, on the other hand, does have a gift. In Daniela’s alternative history of the earth, there was a time when demons ruled. Human beings evolved Special Families who had particular gifts with which they could fight and overcome the demons. Each family had a dreamer who could see the future in their dreams, while the rest of the family went out to fight. Now demons are making a comeback, Sarah’s parents have both been killed before they trained her and her well meaning aunt knows nothing of the responsibility her niece must bear. Enter long lost cousin Harry, well, sort of.
Daniela is enjoying writing about her characters at such a fascinating time of their lives. “They are growing up but at that age they don’t know their own skills and powers and which ones to train and develop. These are people in the making with such potential but so naive and vulnerable. It’s my privilege to describe their journey of self-discovery.
“I also wanted to write about someone who is growing up with a burden. Nowadays a lot of people are growing up without the support of the nuclear family we used to take for granted.”
The second book is set on Islay, though Daniela hasn’t ever been there. That’s not to say she doesn’t do any research. Her knowledge of the classics stood her in good stead but she felt she needed to know a bit more about Sanskrit, the language of the IndoEuropeans where the first Special Familes evolved. The second book, Tide is almost completed and will hit the shelves next January, with the final book, Spirit, set in Poland, the following year.
Before then, this prolific author will see her third book published which is written for the 7-12 age group. The first was the highly acclaimed novel, Watch Over Me, which was written for adults. And she is also keen to write a picture book because, as a former primary school teacher, she would love to go into nurseries to do events. There’s no pidgeonholing this author.
At the moment, she is a stay at home mum who steals time to write whenever she can. “If I have an hour to write, I write. I’m very disciplined. I summon the muse. I can’t wait for it.”
One can see a complex plot evolving here, to judge by the insights of a considerable number of viewpoint characters, some of whom write in the first person, but Daniela is completely in control. She knows the ending, oh yes and she will doÂ whatever she has to do for the story. It was, for example, originally set in Glasgow but when her publishers Â suggested that Edinburgh would have a greater international appeal it was no problem to shift the action fifty miles east.
Because yes, Sarah Midnight is going to be an international cult figure, that’s a given and both Glasgow and Edinburgh â€“ and probably Italy as well â€“ will be claiming her for their own.