- GUEST AUTHOR
& LYRICIST -
Today, I interview a woman with many talents. Not only is she an author, but also a lyricist with over 240 song collaborations with artists and composers across the world.
Welcome, Dawn ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I was fourth of five siblings and, as a constant smiler, I was sometimes called Miss Sunshine. I was also a curious child and my question “why?” was often heard by family and teachers, probably to their consternation.
Reading books, particularly something that challenged my word capabilities, was like breathing to me - it gave me a reason to get up in the morning and, apart from my family of dolls, was the only company I needed.
I was at once shy and precocious.
In my thirties, I attempted writing a novel but, as always self-critical to a fault, I threw every attempt away as soon as it was finished. I was in my forties before I felt confident enough to try in earnest and, meantime, I also delved into the notebooks and copied some of my poems onto a computer my uncle persuaded my husband and I to buy. The results of that amazed me.
People loved them and wanted more. Well, I had filled dozens of notebooks so that kept me busy when I wasn’t writing the book. Children of Hamelin was the first novel I ever considered satisfactory to show to anyone. It took about two years to get to the publishable stage and by then, I was hooked. I began the next book, The Eternal Question, right away and although it took several years to finish, it has been my proudest moment when it was also published.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
My love affair with my pen began at an early age and by the time I moved to grammar school I had already begun to write short stories for fun. Essays were a doddle for me and I’d happily write them for anyone who struggled with their homework assignments. When there was a poetry contest for the school magazine, I leapt right in and won with my first ever attempt. I guess that was when I began to fill the notebooks that became my constant companions over the next 20 or 30 years.
At times, I would write at night until the small hours, then grab a couple of hours of sleep before going to work. Those poems were never read by anyone but me and I frankly confess that I could barely believe I’d had a hand in their creation. It was as if my pen had a life of its own. To this day, I don’t know from where my ideas or words spring onto the page. But I am grateful they do!
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I have no idea where the ideas for my stories, poems or song-lyrics originate but I am definitely not the kind of writer who makes outlines or in any way plots the entire path from start to end before taking the plunge. I dive right in, start writing and generally let my characters give me the run-around until I can grasp the reins and get them under control, a process which might explain why a novel takes me years rather than months. A song-lyric usually takes hours, comes out pretty much whole and especially so if I have already been given the music to work with. Poems are born with all their fingers and toes intact. I am an introspective person so much of the work is done in my brain before I pick up the pen, I suppose.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I like being called a writer. Or a poet. Or a novelist. I have always found that amazing. The validation of something I used to think was just my imagination playing tricks on me.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Self-doubt. I am rarely satisfied with what I have written and I am convinced it isn’t good enough to show to anyone, much less to ask money from people to do so. It’s why I don’t try to market my books etc. It’s also probably why I do not make much money at it. I have convinced myself that money isn’t as important as self-worth. In other words, as long as I can reach a stage of satisfaction in the finished product, nothing else matters to me.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I do not remember ever NOT being a writer. I have done other things to earn money, however, and most of them revolve around retail, although I began my working career in a library – of course.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
I suppose finishing The Eternal Question felt greater to me than anything else.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I am writing a novel called Exiles.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I am inspired by every book I have ever read - and I read a lot!
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I call it epic fantasy but it could as easily fit the action-adventure genre. I have no great talent for pigeon-holing to be honest.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
Forget about getting everything precise. Forget about the spelling and grammar and syntax – until AFTER the story is done. Get your story on paper and you are ninety-nine per cent there. Now, if I could only follow that advice…
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes. I know my shortcomings and they are responsible for any blocks I suffer. Self-doubt has plagued me all my life.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
I wouldn’t stick to it even if I did have one.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Before I was anything else but a poet I used to go to cafes and write while the world went by. Now I only write when I am sat at my desk. I prefer silence and as I am losing my hearing, that is easy to achieve. My very supportive husband is respectful of the need for quiet when I am “at it”.
15. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I am an avid fan of thrillers and probably read all the current writers in that genre. I love them all. Outside of that genre, my favourite would be Steven Saylor for his wonderful Roman stories.
16. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Someone wrote in a review of The Eternal Question: “This might have been co-authored by Stephen Hawking.”
Doesn’t come better than that, does it?
17. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Someone called my style “over-wrought”. She meant over-wordy and, it’s true, in the version she read, I had a tendency to over-do the adverbs and include too much description. I have since remedied that for the paperback version. So, whilst her comment seemed cruel, it actually helped enormously and I thank her for it.
18. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
In poetry and song-lyrics more than in my books. I want my characters to be unique and try not to put my own spin on their words and actions. But, I guess some people might recognise me or themselves in there somewhere. You cannot help that.
19. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Travelling has been one the passions of my husband and I. Part of that is due to the fact that we love being together in strange new places. We met when we were both very young (I was 16 and he was 18) and have grown closer with every passing year. Mind you, apart from our sense of humour and our great love for one another, we have very little in common.
20. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
In one respect, you could say so because I bought a professional editing application and used that to thoroughly check everything before publishing. In fact, I use it during the writing process too – not such a good idea because it distracts me but I have some bad habits that won’t go away (saying “that” too darned often for one) and I like to think I can train by getting them at an early age. Ha!
21. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Not too hot or cold, blue skies and a gripping thriller in my hand.
22. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My husband. At least I could have a jolly good laugh every day.
23. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
I’d say “why?” and “why not?” I often wonder if they ask themselves that before they make such disastrous decisions.
24. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I want to finish the book and then give my pen a retirement present.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I’ve never seen one. I doubt I would like them. One of the great things about picking up a book is the thrill of discovery. Similarly, I hate film or TV trailers and feel that their creators shoot themselves in the foot for showing them.
26. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
27. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
I think they are old-fashioned and too smug for their own good but after early efforts in my career, I realised that trying to deal with them was too distracting. I prefer to write and dream.
28. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
No. I have always said I write to satisfy something inside of me and if I become disillusioned I will stop. Until now, it has not happened but I do see a time soon when I might retire altogether.
29. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
The easiest was the first one I finished – Children of Hamelin. But The Eternal Question, although much more complex and headache-making, was definitely more satisfying. It’s become my favourite which is why I am writing a follow-up.
30. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Anyone who manages to complete a novel can give themselves a pat on the back. It’s harder than you think! Success is a many-faced creature and for me, is too illusive to look for. I am just proud of what I have written.
31. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
I would great kick out of it, if they said “Wow, I never thought of it that way before!” People have said that to me in the past and it gave me a big thrill.
32. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I have not written a screen play but The Eternal Question would have made a great film, I have always thought. It is rounded with a surprise ending. But then, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
33. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Oh gosh, I agonize over mine, believe me.
34. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
I suppose I’d consider my life a roaring success if I had a song of mine in the music charts or a poem of mine quoted by a famous person or - top of my dream-chart - if Ron Howard or James Cameron decided my story would be great for their next movie.
35. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
I cannot afford to employ someone to do it and I have the wrong nature to do it myself—bragging is anathema to me. Sad really.
36. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
Yes, as a technophobe, I struggled but found loads of useful help online and my husband was amazing too.
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
World-creator. Poet. Optimist. Life-loving. Funny.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
Intolerance. Why can’t people stop being so intolerant of others? We cannot all be the same and if we were, how ghastly would life be then?
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
It was a David Baldacci thriller – the title is unimportant because he never writes a bad one.
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
I think a best-selling book under my belt would do it.
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Wouldn’t it be nice if people left reviews every time they read a book? I wouldn’t mind if they were not always rave-reviews. I don’t expect everyone to like everything I write but it would be nice to know they actually read the books. It’s all any author hopes for, surely.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Dawn. I agree with you about reviews. Good luck with your talented work, and more strength to your arm.