- The importance of the technical aspects of writing, beyond putting words on paper.
- How themes can be derived from our own life experiences.
- Creative marketing ideas beyond social media.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, or how you’ve spent the majority of your life, you’re never too old to start a new path.
Welcome to the fortieth episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft.
In this episode, I chat with Women’s Romantic Fiction writer Dana L. Brown.
Arthur: Tell me about your writing journey. How did you start writing and what brought you to where you are today?
Dana: I like to call my writing journey My Fairytale. An avid reader, a book started forming in my mind as my husband and I rode our bicycles on the weekends, and in 2014 I told him I wanted to take early retirement to write a book. Once the “deer in the headlights” look left his face he asked if I could one more year, and I did.
On February 5, 2016 I retired from a thirty-two career in banking, and on February 8, after the celebration was over and out of town guests had gone home, I sat down to write. Maybe because I had been writing the book in my head for two years, or maybe because I was so determined to prove I could do it, Lottie Loser almost wrote itself. In fact, my characters had so much to say that two thirds of the way through Lottie I started planning the sequel and Call Me Charlotte was born. I did say sequel, right? Because it didn’t take long to realize that there was still more that needed written, so Call Me Charlotte will be followed by The Greysons, which will release in 2019. I call the series The Anna Maria Island Series, or AMI Series, because it takes place in Anna Maria island, Florida.
At the urging of a fellow author I submitted Lottie Loser to the Florida Authors and Publishers 2017 Presidential Awards and was humbled when my debut novel was awarded the Silver Medal, a National Award. Lottie Loser was also a Semi-Finalist in the 2018 Florida Writers Association Royal Palms Literary Awards and Call Me Charlotte was the winner of the Gold Medal at this year’s Florida Authors and Publishers 2018 Presidential Awards. Do you see why I call this My Fairytale?
Arthur: What are the most important lessons you learned as a writer? What have you changed about your writing process since then and has it helped you?
Dana: I’m pretty good with words and putting them on paper has never been as issue, but I had no clue that anything existed like The Chicago Manual of Style. Most of the editing I had to do to Lottie revolved around changing OK, to the written Okay, and writing out numbers instead of using their numerical equivalent.
Another learning curve was around POV. I argued unsuccessfully that having more than one characters thoughts on the same page wasn’t a problem as long as you knew who was thinking them, but I’ve come around now. I still have to be careful not to do it, but I’ve learned that adding dialogue around the thoughts is a workable solution.
I make sure I have a good conflict before starting to write.
Arthur: Do you have any techniques you employ to hone your writing and editing craft?
Dana: Really what I’ve learned has come from professional editors, beta readers and other writers. So many amazing people have taken me under their wing and have helped me become a better writer and editor.
Arthur: In several recent interviews, particularly with Rick Hoffman and Matt Williams, they discuss theme and conflict and how they are essential to driving the story ahead. In your writing, do you pick themes to explore before you write the story?
Dana: Because Lottie Loser was a big part of my thought process for two years, I didn’t have to work on a theme for the AMI Series. I am truthful when I say I would start to write, and everything just flowed. My current WIP is around a woman closer to my age who is struggling with aging and becomes involved in an online romance with a younger man. The theme there came with my own insecurities about getting older, but the online romance comes from watching too many editions of Dateline!
Giving a copy of your book to a library at no cost is a nice way to introduce yourself.
Arthur: How do you determine the conflict that will drive the story?
Dana: As for conflict, I didn’t realize how important it is to a storyline until a well celebrated author friend pointed it out to me. I guess I was just fortunate to have added it to my first book without knowing the value. Now as I’m thinking about the story I want to write, I make sure I have a good conflict before starting to write. Like in my new WIP. My protagonist has been married for thirty-five years but falls into serious like with her online suitor. The book isn’t even half way finished, but you can imagine the conflict that will arise.
Arthur: What is your approach to outlining and creating a structure for your next story?
Dana: I’m asked this question at every interview, but the answer is, I don’t have one. I come up with an idea and I sit down and write. Maybe not the professional way to write a novel, but so far it’s worked for me.
I write what appeals to me.
Arthur: What is your approach to marketing and promotion? Do you think the “free” services such as Twitter, Facebook and Reddit are becoming less effective? If so, what else can writers to do promote their work if they have a small budget?
Dana: While I still use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, I agree that they’ve lost their effectiveness to a certain extent. I’m not really a Social Media guru, and to have lots of followers you need to post enough to grab people’s attention. What I have gained from Twitter is meeting other authors who have been willing to read and review my books, and then sharing that information with their followers. I do the same for them and we’ve formed a very fun allegiance.
I never turn down an opportunity for an interview either, and it’s a great way to get your name out to new people. I also enter contests, submit my work to Readers Favorite, and do as many author talks, books signings and participation in events as possible. Giving a copy of your book to a library at no cost is a nice way to introduce yourself to the librarian, and gain opportunities for programs held at the facility.
Arthur: Do you monitor trends in the book market? Do you have a target audience? What kind of experience are you hoping to create for your readers?
Dana: My target audience is women, with no specific age in mind. I’ve had twenty-year old’s fall in love with my books as well as sixty-year old’s, and I’ve found when it comes to love and family, there are no boundaries with women.
I really don’t monitor trends because I know that fantasy’s, alternate universe, and vampires seem to be a big market. I accept that all readers have their own likes and dislikes, but unfortunately I am too much of a realist for those storylines to be something I want to write or read. I write what appeals to me.
I retired from a thirty-two career in banking. After the celebration was over and guests had gone home, I sat down to write.
Arthur: What do you find most engaging about a good book? The prose? The story? Tension? How does a writer improve their ability to create tension in a story?
Dana: For me it depends on the book. Lately I’ve been reading Harlan Coben, and Blaize Clement a lot. They write two totally different styles, but both with suspense and mystery, and with them it’s the words and descriptive adjectives that bring me back. As well as the storyline, of course. As a romantic at heart, and a huge reader of romance, I really like the sexual tension between the protagonist and antagonist. It doesn’t have to involve a big conflict that runs through the entire book, just a nice push and pull between the two main characters.
Arthur: In previous interviews with Joseph Pascale and Rick Hoffman, we discuss notebooks and what we as writers leave behind. In the future, long beyond our time, what would you hope for someone to find or discover in your writing?
Dana: This is one thing I’ve never thought about, but it’s a great question. Since I don’t use notebooks or outlines maybe what future generations will find are the interviews, like this one, that I’ve done.
What I hope people will find, from reading my biography, or the acknowledgements in my books, is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how you’ve spent the majority of your life, you’re never too old to start a new path. I want everyone to follow their dream and if they’re as blessed as I’ve been, their Fairytale might come true.
What a great interview, Dana. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us and your motivating story. Be sure to check out more of her work and her website.