Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Author Interview: Dawn Scovill


Dawn Scovill is the author of Immortal Bonds, to be released in October 2006 by ArcheBooks Publishing.
Immortal Bonds is Dawn's debut novel.

Dawn also has an online presence at MySpace, which includes her blog.

What is the best thing about being a novelist?

Thats easy: Response from readers who say I’ve hit the mark. Writers, in general, are impatient, needy buggers who have a constant jones for feedback and I’m no different.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Waiting. Waiting till the piece is finished. Waiting till someone reads it and says its good. Waiting till the agent/publisher, magazine, contest official, reviewer responds to a submission. Waiting for the book to come out. Waiting till the next opportunity to write. Waiting sucks.

What made you become a writer?

Until three years ago, I thought I’d started writing in fifth grade, which was when I got my first diary with a lock. I still have it. But, when my mom cleaned out my grandparents’ Olympia, Washington, attic in spring of 2003, she found a spiral notebook that I’d used to create a six-page, illustrated collection of mini essays, titled SompThing By Dawn B. Bramer (my actual middle initial is E). There was a table of contents and page numbering and even ‘The End’ at the end. Based on the spelling, content, and baby shower gift wrap that served as some of the illustration, we estimate I was six-years-old when I wrote it. Here is page three, with all spelling, punctuation, and capitalization intact:

“My Self

You Might Not Know
Me. But My Name I
Dawn Bramer. I like
My Self. Do You
like Your Self. I
Live On A Farm. Do
You Live On A Farm.
I hope You Do.
Don’t You. I have

To Go. Good By.”

Growing up in a small town, I was fortunate to have had teachers all through school who challenged me to write better with every assignment. I had other creative interests, but writing was something I loved and was good at both at the same time! So, even when life stepped in to distract me with jobs and marriage and children, I always knew I was meant to write. It was simply tough to find the time. But, when Mom found that notebook, I took it as a hint to stop procrastinating.

Tell us about IMMORTAL BONDS and how it developed.

The idea for the book hit me as I was reading BLOOD LEGACY by Prudence Foster (aka Prudy Taylor Board, a founding member of The Bloody Pens, my writers critique group, www.TheBloodyPens.freewebspace.com). At the time, spring of 2004, I was working on a sinfully autobiographical novel and struggling with the problem of separating myself from the main character. BLOOD LEGACY is a vampire story set in Florida and I remember thinking how cool it would be to write something that was totally fictional like that; a story set in a real place, but with made-up characters that couldn’t sue me. It was the first time it ever occurred to me that I could write actual fiction. The idea of vampires led to immortality, which led me to the question, How would it feel to be an immortal woman forced to leave the man she loves because he’s mortal and doesn’t know her secret? I finished Prudy’s book, put my life story in a drawer, and started writing IMMORTAL BONDS.

Tell me about your journey from unpublished writer to published novelist.

After years of journaling when I couldn’t sleep and writing pieces that could have been submitted somewhere if I’d had the time, I finally got the nerve to admit to my husband that I wanted to write a novel. I had no formal training as a novelist, we both had full-time jobs, our kids were nine and 17, and I thought he’d laugh me out the door. But, instead, he asked, “What took you so long?”

For six months, I wrote evenings, weekends, holidays, and any other time I could find, while Scott took up the slack with the housework, the kids, the cooking, and pretty much everything else. I tried to quit twice, but he wouldn’t let me. Writing that first story was one of the hardest, and most selfish, things I’ve ever done. When the story was finished (at least I thought it was), I asked around and found a writers critique group that let me sit in and, over time, they helped me identify strengths and weaknesses in my writing. With their encouragement, I entered a South Florida short story contest and, with their help, I won first place, which gave me the confidence to start from scratch and create IMMORTAL BONDS.

Throughout 2004 and 2005, amid the chaos of three hurricanes and countless other nasty storms, The Bloody Pens critiqued every chapter of IB until it was declared finished in July of 2005. When I typed ‘The End’ that first time, I could barely make out the letters through tears. Some critiques were more painful than others, but I’m very proud of the end result and the book would not be what it is without the Pens.

The first agent I submitted it to turned it down, but, because she represented one of the Pens, she was kind enough to make a few notes on the manuscript, so I edited a little more. Then, in October of 2005, I attended a writers conference offered by the same small publisher (ArcheBooks) that had produced Prudy’s hardcover of MURDER A LA CARTE. At the close of the two-day conference, the publisher invited us to submit a book proposal. I put one together as soon as I got home. The publisher liked it, asked for the manuscript, referred me to an agent, and offered a contract in January 2006.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter. I wrote by the seat of my pants when attempting my first novel and having an outline for IB (aka attempt number two) made such a difference, especially when it came to organizing historical and present-day scenes in a way that kept the story moving at a consistent pace.

How do you develop your characters?

Aussie author and fellow Pen, Graeme Johns (SITUATION SABOTAGE, Echelon Press), turned me on to a method that begins with cutting and pasting a picture (from a magazine, off the Internet, etc.) onto a sheet of paper, then creating a biography (full name, date/place of birth, hair/eye color, parents names, etc.) for the character in the picture. I start all my characters this way and have only the most basic understanding of who they are when I begin writing. But, as the story unfolds, I learn more about them, and I'm constantly rewriting earlier scenes to incorporate new information. By the time the first draft is complete, the characters are real to me, like dear friends, so its easy to start from the beginning and craft the story from their points-of-view.

As a side note, to illustrate how alive characters can become, my first thought after hearing news that the levees in New Orleans had failed when Katrina blew through was, I hope Oliver's house is okay. Olivers a 100% fictional character in IB.

How often/when do you write?

I give thanks every hour on the hour that I'm able to pursue this full time, so my plan every week is to take the phone off the hook and write on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays while the house is quiet, reserving Mondays and Fridays for housework and evenings and weekends for family stuff. But, in truth, my children (now nearly 13 and 21) and husband, Scott, are still my top priorities. So, I write whenever I can get away with it. But, if I hit 'the zone,' they all know to ignore me, because I can tap away at the keys for 10 hours or more at a stretch.

How do you maintain your discipline for writing?

Given the opportunity, I could be the laziest soul on the planet, so I credit the story, itself, for insisting it be written as my only discipline. That, and the fact that I have to get up with my daughter before school every morning. My usual routine is to nurse my coffee and manage email for the first hour or two every day, then dive into the task du jour. And, because characters and story ideas nag ruthlessly until I give them life, that daily task almost always has something to do with writing.

What's the best writing advice you've ever heard/read?

It's great to be confident, but don't ever think you're above learning more about the craft. I've met writers who truly believe their material is perfect as is, without editing, because its THEIR writing and THEIR creativity and Who's to say what's good and what's bad? Well, agents and editors and publishers say what's good and what's bad every day, not to mention the buying public. I'm hoping to sell a book or two so I can stop feeling guilty for sitting at home all day while Scott works overtime. So, until my likeness is painted on the walls at Barnes & Noble, depicting me at a café table drinking tea with Mark Twain, I figure its wise to keep learning to do it better.

What are you working on now?

I expect to be knee-deep on final edits for IB soon, but, in the meantime, the Pens are putting finishing touches on a short story collection, titled THE BLOODY PENS: AN ANTHOLOGY, which we hope will be available next year through ArcheBooks. Three of the stories in the Anthology are mine, including 'The Pens,' which pokes fun at the real Pens, offers a glimpse at who we are when were together, and attempts to demonstrate the anxiety a writer feels when faced with a barbaric critique.

I'm also finishing an unexpected second novel, CKR, that I started writing last February (2006) after Scott and I drove north for the Daytona 500 and accidentally spent four days on the road with one of our favorite musicians, Kid Rock. But, it's not what you'd think. The story is about radio producer/writer Ted Seever and the dysfunctional relationships he has with his wife, his boss, and his two best friends. It's set in post-hurricane Florida and begins three days after Ted's wife serves divorce papers. He's convinced she'll change her mind if he can get her to go to a rock concert with him, but, before that happens, he has to make it through a vice-filled Daytona 500 weekend with his friends.

Because the development of this book has been an interesting story, in itself, and because I remember how writing felt so lonely before I found other writers, I posted an online journal about CKR to share with aspiring authors who need to know they're not crazy and they're not alone. Ive been working on marketing lately, too, and, about a month ago, I invited people at MySpace to read the story WITHIN the story of CKR and the response has been better than I imagined. (Find The Diary of CKR at www.ChasingKidRock.freewebspace.com or read most recent entries at www.myspace.com/dawnsoffice.)

What advice do you have for aspiring novelists?

Don't quit your day job. (Scott gave me that when I asked what he'd say, so I can't take credit, but I WILL expand...) Give yourself time to learn the industry and the craft before you jump in. Only a small percentage of novelists ever make it and there aren't as many making a good living at it as you might think. Spend some time at the library and on the Internet. Learn what agents, publishers, and readers expect from a novel. Then exceed their expectations. :)

Dawn Scovill grew up in the foothills of western Washington State in the small, unassuming town of Rochester. Although she's made her home elsewhere since late 1990, her memories of the area are dear and she enjoys visiting and writing about the Pacific Northwest. She currently resides with her husband and two children in South Florida and, when not writing, she can likely be found diving, fishing, or boating along Floridas Atlantic coast.

Dawn can be reached through her website, www.dawnscovill.com or at her MySpace site at www.myspace.com/dawnsoffice.

IMMORTAL BONDS, Dawn's debut novel scheduled for release in October, tells the story of Jane Dougharty, an immortal woman forced to abandon everything she loves to pursue the possibility of becoming mortal again. Jane's journey, from mid-1800s Sacramento and Seattle to present-day Palm Beach and the Mediterranean isle of Malta and every stop in between, is destined to appeal to readers who enjoy paranormal fiction, historical fiction, womens fiction, erotica, and travel.


Carolyn Burns Bass said...

I love the term "plotter" or "pantster." Never heard it before. I was a panster while writing my first novel, but after having to cut 50,000 words, I've learned to like plotting. Still, I'm a pantster at heart, but a plotter by choice.

Anonymous said...

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Sayre said...

I think I might have to buy this book! Sounds very much up my alley!

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Nienke, very nice post. Interesting stuff. BTW, how come is it that I am the only Old Soul (neither plotter nor pantser) here??? Is it because it is not only my SOUL that is OLD, but also my back, and my knees, and etc????

Daryl Darko said...

This is a great interview Nienke, thanks so much for sharing it. There are so many poignant little ism's that speak to me just where I am in my progress of "becoming" more and better... :)