- GUEST AUTHOR
& ILLUSTRATOR -
Today, I interview an author from Canada. Sadly, I don't often have the chance to interview folks from that great country.
Welcome, Dawn ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I started writing when I was a young child. I entered a writing contest that was held by the local newspaper every Christmas and won several years in a row. When I was 13 years old, I wrote my one and only novel. It was called ‘The Miracle Chimp’ and it made my younger sister cry. It remains unpublished in storage in Canada. I loved writing poetry as a child and made cards on a regular basis for people’s birthdays or wrote poems to ease my mind. When my children were young, I wrote them each a book with moveable parts. They loved to sit and have them read to them. One has been published as a picture book, but the original is the only one with moveable parts.
During my career as an audiologist, and while working overseas in Kuwait, I penned ‘And So, Ahmed Hears.’ It was first published as a humanitarian project by Widex Canada in 2008 and was republished by Pen It! Publications in 2018. It is the only one of my books translated into another language and is available in Mongolian. The past couple of years have been a whirlwind for me as I have had seven more books published. Many have been inspired by children I have worked with in two incredibly rewarding careers as an audiologist and teacher of English as an additional language.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I think I covered this in #1 above J I could write more if more is needed!
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
Many of my books have come to me in dreams. I literally get up the next day and write til the whole story is down.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Hearing children say, “Ms. Dawn! You’re a real live author!” I love it when children (and adults!) tell me how much they have enjoyed my stories.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Marketing. Promotion. Getting my books into the hands of children around the globe. I have written many of my books about children and for children. Knowing they have touched the heart of a child somewhere is so incredibly rewarding.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I was an audiologist for 23 years. I helped hearing-impaired infants, children, and adults in Canada, Kuwait, England, and Saudi Arabia. Communication is such an important part of being human. We need to be able to hear and we need to be able to talk (even if it is with our hands). I completed my second master’s degree five years ago and am now a teacher of English as an additional language in an international school.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
‘And So, Ahmed Hears’ will always be very dear to me because it was the first book I had officially published and it was inspired by so many amazing, beautiful children I had the opportunity to help as an audiologist.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
I have written and illustrated a book featuring many of the cartoon characters I created when I was 12 years old. I have to finish colouring the illustrations. I have started another children’s book and am in the initial stages of a memoir.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Where do I begin? The children I work with inspire me every day along with my family, our pets, the countries we have lived in and the people we have met around the globe. Things that make me laugh inspire me, the beauty of the world and the interesting cultures I have experienced inspire me. The challenges people face inspire me.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
Children’s picture books.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
If an idea comes to you, write it down. You may not use it right away, but you may be surprised when it makes its way back into your consciousness and turns into a story.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Generally, no. I usually just sit down and write. I wrote a story about Cameroon and experienced probably what people would refer to as writer’s block for the first time. It was not so much writer’s block as trying to figure out the best way to share the story without offending anyone. I had to think a lot about the characters, how I wanted the story to unfold, and how I wanted it to end.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Nope. Whenever the inspiration hits.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
My bed. I did my homework on my bed throughout school, including university. I am comfortable sitting on the bed with our cats curled up with me.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Seeing others reading my books and expressing emotion as they read them. Smiling through “Kydee” as she romps around the pages or crying along with me as they read ‘Go Away, Shawn!” (I cried the whole time I was writing it).
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I have a few. Dr. Seuss always and forever. I love writing in rhyme, too, and as someone who teaches English to children, I believe it helps children learn to read. Diana Gabaldon for the imagery she elicits from her writing. James Patterson for the suspense. I must add that one of my all-time favourite children’s books is ‘Stellaluna’ by Janell Cannon. The artwork is breathtaking. I think everyone should read ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ by Norton Juster.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
A 5-star rating on Amazon!
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Haven’t had one yet. I think they keep them to themselves or I just haven’t sold enough books yet.
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
Certainly. One of my books coming out next is full of real happenings from my childhood!
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
I love to bake. I love to create yummy things, share them, and watch people enjoy them. I find baking very stress-relieving. I also love to travel. We have lived overseas for years so I have travelled extensively with my husband and our children. I love to visit Disneyland – I’ve been to all of them and they are magical.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Nope. I have three university degrees, including one in Linguistics, so I think I have a fairly good grasp of the English language.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Spending the day baking Christmas goodies. The power doesn’t go out, the water remains more than a drizzle, and the gas canister doesn’t run out of gas til the last pan comes out of the oven.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
My husband. We have been together for 33 years and he is my rock.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Smarten up. Stop fighting over land, who has the biggest guns, who owes who what. Sit down and have a game of Hand and Boot. Winner doesn’t take all, but now start talking about things that really matter and listen to each other. Our world is a mess. People are starving. People are living in unbearable levels of air pollution and it’s killing children. Our oceans are filthy, our deserts are growing plastic water bottles. Stop inventing more things to kill each other and start thinking about ways to help each other.
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Live overseas for now and teach. I would love to have three months to go to Borneo and volunteer at the Orangutan sanctuary. They have a Baby Orangutan School there now. That would be an incredible experience. I am an avid collector of all things monkey.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
For sure. The book I am illustrating right now is celebrating the 12 year old introverted me of yester year.
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Yes! I am bewildered by some of the books the ‘big’ publishers select for publication. That’s not intended to insult anyone, but I seriously do question some of their choices.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Yes indeed. I belong to several Facebook groups and when authors post about how many thousands of books they have sold it gets extremely disheartening. I have eight books out now and our students tell me how much they enjoy them and yet all the energy I expend on spreading the word about them seems so futile. It is so difficult for an unknown author to get discovered.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
Ah – it has not yet been released so I can’t say too much. I read it to my father and he laughed so hard. He said, “That is so well done. Good for you, kid. What a story!” The main character reflects on experiences from my own childhood. It is comical and was a lot of fun to write. “Kydee’ was also a lot of fun to write and this adorable kitty still makes us laugh every day.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER.
First, having your books published. Second, having people buy your books, read them, tell you how much they enjoyed them, then telling others so they also will buy them and read them.
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
My books tap into so many different topics, so it depends on the book. ‘And So, Ahmed Hears’ was written to increase public awareness about childhood hearing loss so I hope it heightens awareness about the importance of early diagnosis. ‘Petra Pencil Pines for Pizza’ is about dysgraphia. A friend of mine whose son has dysgraphia told me she wished I had written the book when he was little so he would know he was not alone. ‘E El Gi Piddr’ celebrates the challenges and successes of learning English as an additional language in a new school in a new land.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
I would love ‘Go Away, Shawn!’ to be a movie, but there is so much about the story that is not in this book. There is a whole history to it. ‘What a Bath’ would make a great video game.
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
I haven’t designed one, but so many have told me that it’s the cover that draws them to the book so I believe a lot of thought has to go into it.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
If I could sell enough books, I would buy the communication device for my brother first and foremost. I have had the GoFundMe for over a year now and it has been a struggle trying to raise the funds. Then I would retire. I would buy a house with an amazing wrap around porch and open a B&B. It wouldn’t be called a B&B, though. It would be Bruce and Dawn’s B&D (Bed and Dessert) and at the end of a long day weary travellers would join us for a cup of coffee or tea or hot chocolate (the only hot drink I like) and a homemade yummy before they retire for the evening. Then I would curl up on the bed with our cats and write another book. I would love to have my cartoon characters made into plush dolls. My father always dreamed he would have my ‘Big Shoe Bears’ all over his yard. That would be awesome!
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
Difficult. I haven’t found the answer to this yet. My ‘Big Shoe Bears’ would be wonderful as plush toys or ornaments. Petra would make a lovely pencil for anyone! Snuggle up with Wadee and feel your anxiety melt away J
37. ARE YOUR BOOKS SELF-PUBLISHED?
I self-published a cookbook on MagCloud (Just Frickin’ Bake It) and a children’s book on Blurb. The rest are published through Pen It! Publications.
38. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
Adventurous, hard-working, Organized, Compassionate, Sensitive
39. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
People who lie or are deceitful and their actions do harm to others.
40. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
‘An Echo in the Bone’ by Diana Gabaldon. Fabulous!
41. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
She never stopped dreaming.
42. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
One of my books becoming a best-seller and earning enough money so I could buy the communication device for my brother. He could try it and my elderly mother could stop wondering if he will ever be able to communicate again.
43. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Be kind and, if you can, help someone in need. The world needs more kindness.
Clancy's comment: Well done, Dawn. Wow, a book translated into Mongolian is some achievement. Best wishes.