It’s June and that means it’s time for another year of Pride Month spotlights! I’m so excited to spotlight the Roseheart Ballet Academy series by Madeline Dyer and share the interview with the author! This series is written under the name, Elin Dyer.
Welcome Madeline! Thank you for allowing me to interview you! Can you start off by introducing yourself?
Hi! Thanks so much for having me! And sure, I’m a young adult writer, living in England. I write quite a range of genres, from fantasy and dystopian to contemporary and crime. I’m represented by Erin Clyburn at Howland Literary, and I also write as Elin Dyer and Elin Annalise. Most of my books include disability and asexuality representation.
How would you describe Roseheart Ballet Academy in one sentence?
The Roseheart Ballet Academy books are about ace-spec dancers competing against each other for limited places in a prestigious ballet company, all the while trying to do everything they can to make sure their darkest secrets are never discovered.
Can you introduce us to the main character(s) of Roseheart Ballet Academy?
So Taryn Foster is the main character of the Roseheart Ballet Academy books. At the start of The Rhythm of My Soul, book one, she’s seventeen and looking forward to what she believes is a guaranteed place in the Roseheart Romantic Dance Company, but disaster strikes! Her dance partner Teddy Walker is critically injured, and this jeopardizes Taryn’s future too as the company only focuses on pas de deux (dances involving two people). Taryn finds herself having to pair up with new Roseheart Academy transfer Jaidev Ngo, but whether the two can learn to dance well enough together in time to be accepted by the company remains to be seen. If they fail, both their chances of being professional dancers with Roseheart are over. And if that wasn’t enough, Taryn is also haunted by the ghost of her dead twin sister, who was also a dancer, and she’s trying to repair a very strained relationship with her mother, who blames her for her sister’s death. All of this means that Taryn puts immense amounts of pressure on herself and feels like her self-worth is tied up in her dance ability.
Teddy Walker is the second main character and a narrator, alongside Taryn. He’s a troubled boy who receives life-changing news at the start of the novel, after an accident during a performance. He also has been suffering from an eating disorder for a long time, but he refuses help. He’s annoying at times, but he’s relatable too. He sees ballet as his ticket up in the world, but when his career is over due to this accident, he feels like he has nothing and is swept along in a destructive downward spiral. He also struggles a lot with his identity and the expectations others have of him, and particularly how others view him and his masculinity when he is a ballet dancer with an eating disorder (which he sees as a female illness).
The third main character and final narrator of book one is Jaidev Ngo. Jaidev is arguably the kindest of the narrators, as he looks out for others more. But he’s quiet and over-thinks things quite a bit. He moves to Roseheart Academy in order to please his mother, who’s a ballet teacher, but he’s not sure he still wants to dance because the last time he performed, he dropped his partner and she died due to a head and neck injury. He was initially arrested for murder and though his name was cleared, he is still facing the consequences of the murder allegation among fellow dancers. He’s also experienced racism in the ballet industry and isn’t all that trusting of others until he gets to know them.
What representation will readers find in Roseheart Ballet Academy?
The main one is ace-spec representation. Taryn and Teddy are both asexual, and they are aromantic, too. We also have a third ace-spec character in Victoria, who’s Taryn’s nemesis at the ballet company. As an ace-spec writer, it was important to me to include multiple ace-spec characters to show how asexuality is a spectrum.
We’ve also got disability (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), chronic illness, and mental illness (including anorexia and EDNOS) representation, as well as characters of different ethnic backgrounds too.
Do you know from the beginning how your books will end or do you let your characters decide their journey?
My usual answer to this is that I haven’t got a clue when I start writing! I like to discover my characters and learn what their journeys will be as I’m writing the first draft. The Rhythm of My Soul actually changed massively and ended up so different to what I thought it would be–originally it was going to just have Taryn and Jaidev as narrators and it was going to be an ace romance. But pretty early on, Taryn let me know that she was aromantic as well as asexual, and then Teddy just demanded to be a narrator too.
Writing the second book has been a little different as I’ve had to do a bit of planning with this one–and also for the third book too. These books are coming together in a slightly different way, as when I wrote book one, I thought it would be a standalone. It was only when I finished it that I realized I needed to write more with these characters, and thus it became a series!
Do you have a favorite scene, moment, or quote from the book?
Oh, what a question! I have several, but I think my all-time favorite one has to be the scene when Taryn and Jaidev are dancing together in the moonlight at the graveyard, as it’s then when they finally connect together as dance partners. Before that, they were quite wooden in rehearsals as they’d only been dancing together for a few days and each was somewhat resistant to the other (Jaidev didn’t really want to be dancing, and Taryn was still hoping Teddy would recover and be her partner). But at the graveyard is where we see them make the connection, and their platonic and professional relationships really develop from then onward.
What is something readers will find in Roseheart Ballet Academy that they may not realize based on the synopsis?
The eating disorder representation is quite a big part of this series, as we have two characters with these illnesses–Teddy and Ivelisse. There is a content warning for this on the paperback cover, and on ebook sales pages, because of this.
There is also a storyline involving pregnancy and abortion too.
What’s something you hope readers will take away from Roseheart Ballet Academy?
If a reader who isn’t familiar with asexuality picks up these books and discovers the ace-spectrum, then I’m happy. I really wanted to write a contemporary novel that has ace characters in it, but where the plot isn’t actually about asexuality, and this is what really spurred me to write book one.
What are three books you would recommend if someone enjoyed Roseheart Ballet Academy?
Oh, there are so many! If you like the competitive ballet aspects of the Roseheart Ballet Academy books, I’d recommend Tiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. If you want a book that has both asexuality and eating disorder representation, I’d recommend Before We Were Blue by E.J. Schwartz. And if you want a book about how mean and competitive teenage girls can be (also partly set in the ballet world!), I’d suggest The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma.
What’s next for you? Anything you can share?
Yes, I’m currently working on the second book in the Roseheart Ballet Academy series. It’s called Swans in the Dark, and it takes off where The Rhythm of My Soul left off. We see what Taryn, Jaidev, and Teddy are up to next, and we also have a new narrating main character too: Ivelisse Narvaez! Ivelisse is one of the secondary characters in book one, and she had a big storyline at the end of that book, so I am so excited to be writing more of her!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Welcome to Roseheart Ballet Academy, where the best dancers have the biggest secrets…
Taryn Foster has her eyes set on becoming the first aro-ace ballerina in the academy’s company of professional dancers, and all she needs to do is graduate. But she’s haunted by the ghost of her dead sister—and now she’s living for the two of them.
Teddy Walker has a serious illness. But he’s determined to hide how ill he is and continue dancing—even if it kills him.
Jaidev Ngo was arrested the last time he danced. Now, he’s having a new start at Roseheart Academy, but someone here knows about his past—and that person wants revenge.
The Rhythm of My Soul is book one in Elin Dyer’s new YA ballet series, where even the darkest secrets will be discovered. Please note this book contains eating disorder representation which some readers may find triggering.
Roseheart Ballet Academy is back, and this semester, the secrets are darker than ever.
Taryn Foster may have achieved her dream and become the first aro-ace professional ballet dancer in the Roseheart Company—but she made plenty of enemies in getting there. And now they want revenge.
Ivelisse Narvaez is still in recovery for anorexia and dealing with last year’s trauma, but she’s just stumbled across a dark secret: she’s been protecting a murderer for years.
Jaidev Ngo is doing well. The new head ballet master at Roseheart has promoted him within the company’s ranks and he’s never been so happy. But then his biggest fears come true: his brother is presumed dead, and it’s Jaidev’s fault.
Swans in the Dark is the highly anticipated sequel to The Rhythm of My Soul.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elin Dyer 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. Elin 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.
She also writes books as Madeline Dyer and Elin Annalise.