I’m an author from the North East of England. As a kid I read books under the bedclothes by torchlight. Now I dive under the bedclothes, torch in hand, to scribble down conversations between my book characters in case I forget them in the morning.
I’ve written stories since I was about eight years old. I wrote them on a toy typewriter and my dad did the illustrations. When I wasn’t pounding on my typewriter, I was smashing a tennis ball against the brick end of a block of garages beside my home. For hours on end I perfected my lob, backhand and forehand shots – all the time spinning stories in my head.
After dreaming of becoming an astronaut, tennis star, archaeologist, air stewardess or superhero, I plumped for a career in journalism. I worked as a newspaper reporter throughout my career. I retired in 2011 and am now fulfilling my main childhood dream – of becoming an author. My pen name is Dakota Douglas. I have published my debut novel, a children’s fantasy, called ANTics. When not writing, or burning my husband’s dinner, I can be found on the golf course – not hitting like Tiger.
What inspires you to write?
As a kid, I was shy and had trouble mixing. One of my constant companions was my active imagination and the local library was my favourite place to be. Books inspired me to daydream about doing all sorts of adventurous things: I could be Jim Hawkins looking for Treasure Island; one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five; Snow White; Peter Pan; or an indian chief dashing across the Great Plains on a beautiful horse. This active imagination inspires me to write. Ideas pop into my head – at all times of day and night. They come from everywhere; things I’ve read, seen or heard. Also, many ideas for storylines come to me in dreams.
Tell us about your writing process.
When an idea bursts into my head, I write down the outline in a notepad I carry with me at all times or have on my bedside table. I also carry a tape recorder – in case I’m “inspired” while driving. I often scribble under the bedclothes or dive behind a stack of soup cans in the local supermarket to get my ideas down. My notes are erratic, but from them I create an outline, which I put on the computer. The length of my outline varies. It might be hundreds of words or thousands. I may have several outlines for different stories at any one time. Once I’ve chosen the story I plan to tackle, I write my first draft as quickly as time allows. I don’t have a set schedule or a set amount I write each day. I play golf about three times a week. This eats into my writing time, but I enjoy it (though I’ve often missed a putt because my characters are talking to each other in my head). During that first draft, I don’t worry too much about spelling or grammar – that comes later. I start by following my outline. The outline is usually a rough draft of how I see my story starting, progressing and ending – but it’s not set in stone. As I write, I may drift off the outline path; invent new characters or scenes. I go where my imagination takes me. If I don’t like it, I can always go back to the outline later. But drifting off the path is exciting. I don’t know where it’s going to take me or who I might meet on the journey. Although I don’t concentrate on editing the first draft, it’s hard to break old habits. As a journalist, I edited my own work. So each day when I start writing, I read over what I’ve written the day before. If I see glaring mistakes, I correct them, or I might alter, shorten, or lengthen dialogue. I research as I write and sometimes information I’ve gathered will propel me to create new characters, plot twists or scenes. After the first draft is down, I leave the story for a few days or weeks before editing and polishing it until I feel it is ready to go out into the world. This is the hardest part because I could edit forever. But I think it’s important not to edit too much and edit the heart, the emotion and essence out of your story.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to them – they talk to each other. They drive me crazy at times, waking me up in the middle of the night with their chatter. They “talk” in my head from the word go. That’s where my outline comes from, then they chatter among themselves when I’m writing and editing. For instance, I didn’t plan to write a sequel to ANTics. But the conversations of my chattering characters went beyond the end of the story – into a sequel. So in a way, they demanded a sequel.
I don’t interact with them, I’m an observer, who writes down what they say.
What advice would you give other writers?
Everyone is different and writers will have their own ideas and techniques. My advice to other writers is do what is comfortable and right for you. If you want to write every day and write a certain amount, then do it. If a job, family or other commitments get in the way, write when time allows. But write as often as you can. And read as much as you can because other writers will inspire you and you can learn a lot about the craft of writing. Writing newspaper articles in completely different to fiction writing. I learned a lot from “studying” other writer’s techniques and from the tips and advice they give on their blogs. Then I incorporate that into my writing but use my own “voice”. I believe writing is a craft to learn, so the more you do, hopefully the better you will get.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I decided to self-publish. I am retired and didn’t want to spend years trying to get an agent/publisher. I want to get my work out into the world for people to hopefully read and enjoy as quickly as possible. I am currently published on Smashwords, Amazon and CreateSpace and am looking at other sites. New authors should study all aspects of publishing and decide what is right for them. Their decision may be influenced by time or money.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I really don’t know. The world is changing so fast. When I grew up, the only books to read were in print. E-books and self-publishing have mushroomed in recent years. The rise of e-books has spawned a generation of self-published writers. I think demand for e-books will continue as technology evolves. When you go on a trip, it is convenient to carry multiple books on a small device instead of a suitcase full of printed books. Personally, I still like to hold a printed book in my hands, so I like to think that they will also be here. But I have a suspicion their shelf life may be limited as more e-reading devices become available and cheaper.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Children’s so far.
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print