This week I’m pleased to be able to welcome Dawn Reno Langley to sit down and answer some questions. She gives us a great deal of insight into her writing and her motivation. I hope you enjoy this edition of A Perfect 10.]
If you want to check out past interviews, you can find them in the following links:
Also, if you are an author and you want to be part of this feature, I still have a few slots open for 2017. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! I’ve woken from a sound sleep too many times to count. A line will run through my head and make me pull out of traffic to jot it into my phone. I’ll cut a shower short to grab the pad of paper and pen that is always nearby. The ideas and the creation energize me completely, and the actual rewriting exhausts me (though I do feel a kind of manic energy during that period, too). Long and short of it, it’s what puts the bunny in my battery!
- Do you ever write under a pseudonym? If not have you considered it? Why or why not?
Yes, I have done so in the past because an editor/publisher wanted to switch gears for my career. It did not work. In fact, I credit it with creating a huge roadblock that made it almost impossible for me to move forward. Not only that, but I’d spent an enormous amount of time and energy establishing my writing name, and when they decided to change it, it meant I needed to start building that new name from the ground level. Never again.
- Does a big ego help or hurt writers? Why or why not?
A big ego doesn’t help ANYbody. If you think you are untouchable, you lose contact with what matters most: finding the story your readers might find engaging. Besides, an egotistical person is a biatch, and who wants to be that person?
- What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Buying my own books and gifting them to special readers. The gift of a novel is something people still cherish, and usually, those readers are invaluable for they will offer an evaluation of the work that comes from the heart. At least that’s been my experience so far.
- What does writing success look like to you? Have you achieved it?
The pinnacle of writing success to me would be to win a major award or make a bestseller list. I would love to experience a solid respect as a writer, to have other writers enjoy my book, and to engage in discussions based upon the issues my novels raise.
And I want to give back. I’ve been involved with social justice issues for years, and now I’d like to celebrate the publication of my novel THE MOURNING PARADE (July, 2017, Amberjack Publishers) by donating a portion of the proceeds of the book to several elephant rights and sanctuary organizations.
No, I haven’t achieved that writing success yet, but I’m getting there!
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What sources do you use?
Okay, the best way to answer this question is to describe exactly what I’m going through with the novel I’m currently polishing up to send off to my publisher. I’ve been working on this one for a while, mainly because the subject matter is a sensitive one. Through the re-workings, the story changed a bit, the point-of-view changed several times, and one character who was minor in the first few drafts ended up being the major storyteller.
From the very first breath of this idea, I was researching. The topic is directly related to my PhD dissertation and became the second half of that dissertation: a complete novel influenced directly from the subject I had chosen to study: the voices of transgender authors, pre- and post-transition. Throughout the writing process (which has now spanned over five years), I return to the research over and over again. One of the major characters is a psychologist, so I need to be certain of terminology. Another is a gamer, so I did extensive research to ascertain the lingo he might use. And, of course, the father of the family in the story is transgender, so I consumed transgender memoirs like they were Godiva brownies.
I’m in the final stages of a polish of this manuscript before it goes to my editor for her comments, and I’m still doing research. Just this afternoon, I read something and wrote a note on a post-it to insert in one of the upcoming chapters.
It never ends.
- How do you select the names of your characters? Have you ever regretted choosing a particular name? Why?
Sometimes I have a very particular idea of what a character should be named, but most of the time I do not believe in the Dickensian names that depict a character’s personality or failing. My characters’ names will tell you more about their family’s origin or heritage, though I often spin that on its ear by calling someone by a name that depicts a totally different type of character. I’ve talked about this every time I teach creative writing and use my own sister’s name as an example. When you give someone a name and ask them to describe the person, you can often predict what they might say, and if it’s predictable, then I’ll do the opposite and provide a bit more interest regarding why the character is unpredictable from the start.
Yes, I’ve regretted using the same personal term for two mothers in two different novels. I never realized a tendency toward using some similar phrases or personal traits. Now that I’m aware of it, I’m hyper sensitive about making sure the names are not at all like any of the characters in other stories I’ve written.
- What is the hardest type of scene to write?
I believe that, for me anyway it’s difficult to write a scene where there’s a group of people talking. Keeping them all distinctive, yet engaged in the general line of discussion is hard to do. People are often confused unless an author slows down and uses some internal dialogue or extensive description to anchor the reader. I have to remind myself to do that and have learned to use tags associated with certain characters from the beginning so they will still stand out as individuals in group scenes.
- If you could have dinner with four people, living or dead, who would they be and what would you want to ask them?
I’ve answered this question several times throughout my life, and thinking back, I realize my answer was different each time because of where I was in my life.
At this point, there are three deceased family members I’d want to have dinner with and one philosophical leader who’s very much alive. My mother, my father, my ex-husband Bobby, and the Dalai Lama.
The question for my mother: did you hear us talking over your bed when you were taking your last breaths?
My father: did you have any regrets?
Bobby: why did you choose to kill yourself?
The Dalai Lama: how can I help those I love heal?
- What platform has brought you the most success in marketing your books?
I’m trying to figure out the answer to that question right now. I’m deep into marketing the new releases of my backlist and doing pre-promotional work for my next novel, coming out in July, so I’m heavily using Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. I am on Google+ and Instagram, too, but I must be honest that I don’t pay as much attention to those sites as I do the latter.
At this point, I think Facebook has helped me drive some conversations about my books and has given me a few sales, while Twitter has opened me up to people I would not have been in contact with otherwise, and Goodreads gets me directly to the readers. The Giveaways have resulted in reviews for me, and I believe adding more reviews will naturally spread the word.
Perhaps by the time my next novel comes out, I’ll have a few new readers. Believe me, I’ve done a lot of work to get them!
Find Dawn’s Books:
Link to all my books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dawn-Reno-Langley/e/B016JF3SY4/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1483214723&sr=8-1
Connect with Dawn:
Link to my Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/713705.Dawn_Reno_Langley