Welcome to the three hundred and seventy-first of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with speculative fiction author, poet and script writer Danika Dinsmore. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Danika. Please tell us something about your writing.
Danika: As far as prose goes, I write almost exclusively speculative fiction. As a matter of fact, the only creative prose works of mine that are non-speculative from the past five years are a few odd flash fiction pieces I’ve written. And even those lean towards the dreamy or surreal.
Oddly enough, I’ve written 9 screenplays and only one of them is fantasy and none are science fiction. All the others are real-world based. The one fantasy I wrote became my first novel. I also write poetry, exclusively non-speculative. Go figure.
Morgen: That is odd. I’ve only written one (well, the first 102 pages of) script and it was lad lit, the same as my first novel. Maybe your brain is telling you that you need a change. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Danika: Aside from my middle grade fantasy series (Book Two just launched), I have three solo books of poetry, one co-written, one co-edited anthology, one spoken-word CD, and my poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines. Most recently HERE.
I’ve had a half-dozen short films produced as well and I wrote and directed 13 episodes of an educational program for television. Alas, none of my feature scripts have been produced, though a few have gotten close. I probably have more of a chance of one of my novels being turned into a movie before any of my spec scripts get made.
I also co-host the annual 3:15 Experiment. Anyone can join in. You just have to be willing to wake every night at 3:15 AM during the month of August and write.
I don’t ever use a pseudonym, even though I write for both kids and adults. Mostly it’s because I like my name, but also because it would just confuse me. I didn’t even change my name when I got married (either time).
Morgen: Wow, you’ve been busy. I have loads under my belt but I’m rubbish at sending things out… it would help, wouldn’t it? Have you had any rejections?
Morgen: OK, moving on… Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Danika: You can get my two middle grade novels on any e-reader platform . . . I think. I had nothing to do with it.
I have an e-reader, and it’s great to keep in my purse for those completely unexpected 30 minute doctor’s office waits, but I have a romantic relationship with physical books. I love the art and craft of books. Flimsy paperbacks don’t do it for me. I love paper with gold edges and hardbacks, even though they are heavy and I’m getting too old to lift boxes of books. That’s why I want to be a successful writer. So I can pay someone to lift my heavy books.
Morgen: Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
Danika: It is said “don’t judge a book by its cover” but we do. We do, we do, we do. I recently attended a seminar by a rep from R. R. Bowker who does a children’s book reading survey every 6 months. She said that book buying is emotional and compulsive. The cover is part of that. I almost didn’t read Robin Hobb’s fabulous Liveship Trader series because the cover looked like a cheesy romance.
If you are self-publishing do yourself a favour and get a pro-looking cover! Pay someone to do it if you don’t know how. Or even if you think you know how, because unless you’re an illustrator or graphic artist, there’s probably someone who can do it better.
I am super lucky that my publisher likes to have the authors involved. Ultimately, he has the final say. He basically told me that my first cover art choice was the opposite of good. He was right. Later we found Julie Fain on a faerie ning and I’m so glad we did.
Danika: I just completed a new YA pop space opera called INTERGALACTIC. I’m shopping it to agents right now. I like the idea of having one foot in the indie book world (Hydra House will probably publish the entire White Forest series) and another foot in the more traditional publishing world. It will be interesting to experience the pros and cons or each first hand.
I was between agents when my series was picked up by Hydra House. Getting an agent once the series was placed with a small press didn’t make sense until I had a new novel to shop around. Unless your small press or self-pubbed book is making tons of money, an agent isn’t going to be that interested. Even if you maintain all the foreign rights. It’s possible, but it’s best to have an arsenal of other manuscripts to shop.
Morgen: It would be great to have you do a guest blog about it a bit further down the line. Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Danika: When I’m immersed in a novel draft, I write every day. Even on weekends. When I finish a draft, I have this little 1-2 week breather before I dive back into something. Sometimes in between drafts I do something else like work on a screenplay or edit some poems or short stories.
I don’t suffer from writer’s block; I suffer from writer’s procrastination. I have plenty of creative writing tools to get rid of any blockage, but my tools are duller when it comes to pulling myself away from a good book to work on my own.
Morgen: I don’t read enough so don’t have that problem but then at the moment I’m writing a story a day for Story a Day May and one a week for Tuesday Tales so with the blog as well there’s not a lot of spare time (that’s usually spent at the cinema). Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Danika: Editing, editing, editing. I’ve never read any book and said to myself, “Gosh, that story was great, but it suffered from too much editing.”
I’ve gotten better at both writing and editing over the years. I can do if more efficiently. And, yes, some ideas are more fully-formed than others. But I know that editing will always be part of the process.
Morgen: And rightly so for any author. I’ve just done the fourth edits on a 2009 novel and the first three were in the first couple of years. So it had been a year since I’d been through it and I still found likes of (fortunately minor) tweaks needed (especially when looking for surplus ‘that’s). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Danika: Probably my first two screenplays. And if I’m honest with myself, my 3rd and 4th ones, too.
Morgen: Oh dear. Whilst I didn’t warm to the script format I enjoyed writing the story so converted it into the beginning of a novel… and there it sits. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Danika: Focus and Perseverance. That’s it, really.
Morgen: Sounds good to me. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Danika: How do you know you’ve done what it takes to get what you want? Because you get what you want. (Paul Lemberg) My favourite word is pamplemousse.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your work?
Danika: My middle grade fantasy adventure series: http://thewhiteforest.com
My blog: http://theaccidentalnovelist.com
GoodReads profile: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/617200.Danika_Dinsmore
Brigitta’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brigitta-of-the-White-Forest/117867624903245
Books on amazon: Amazon.com
Thank you, Danika. I then invited Danika to include an extract of her writing and she said that this is just a funny little exchange from my new novel, Intergalactic. It’s a good example of the tone of the book:
“Get us out of here, Ari,” idoLL calls as she closes the ship’s door. “If I do not come back to this planet ever again it will be too soon.”
“That is an illogical statement,” says Ari from the cockpit.
IdoLL strides into the room. Debop sits in the corner going over the navigational instruments and eating some leftover birthday cake.
“Hmph,” idoLL contemplates the hulk of metal inserting one foot and both hands into the control ports. “You are an old model, aren’t you?”
“I was assembled in the earth year 2120,” says Ari.
“Debop.” Debop whistles out his ears.
“Yeah, an antique,” idoLL agrees. “Perhaps he’ll become a collector’s item and we can sell him and make off with the credits after our tour flops.”
“The credit value of selling my separate parts would be greater than my credit value as an intact AIP,” Ari reports.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
Danika Dinsmore is the author of the children’s fantasy books Brigitta of the White Forest, released in 2011, and The Ruins of Noe, released May 2012. Danika has been working and playing with children of all ages for 20 years. She has been an artist-in-the-schools for Learning Through the Arts and Northwest SPokenword LAB and has taught creative writing courses at Vancouver Film School, Capilano University, and the Creative Writing for Children Society. She currently works in speculative fiction, building imaginary worlds in Vancouver, BC with her husband and their 18 lb. feline, Freddy Hoover.
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