Dana (aka Satin Sheet Diva) and I met over the internet – Facebook and blogs, then discovered we’re practically neighbors. She’s a writer dedicated to her craft and actively seeking writing success. I admire that about her. We have thoughtful dialogs about writing and writer’s life. I find her engaging, smart, creative and inspiring. I hope you will enjoy the interview with Dana.
Linda Joyce (LJ): Dana, one question readers always ask me about my writing is – and I’m wondering the same about you – what drew you to writing?
Dana: I don’t remember there being any “one” thing that drew me to writing. Wait a minute, as soon as I answered, I thought of something. I talked a lot as a kid if the stories are true. You’d think I was destined to become a public speaker of some sort. But alas, by the second grade, I’d learned that talking “too much” was frowned upon, particularly by teachers. Come to think of it, my consistent prattle wasn’t that big a hit with the kids I knew either. Not so sure why, but it contributed to bullying of epic proportions. Being the extreme personality that I was, instead of finding some sort of middle ground, I did a 180 and stopped talking for the most part unless I was with people I trusted. Consequently, writing became my go-to outlet, my way of expressing how I felt. Writing very quickly became my “voice”. And I’ve been at it ever since.
LJ: What genre do you write and what led you in that direction?
Dana: Now this is funny. A little back ground first. I am a tom-boy. Not so much now that I’m older, but man, you couldn’t pay me to enjoy anything I considered “girly”. I was into rough housing with the guys, playing football in the street, and reading all the horror, supernatural stuff I could get my hands on. The scarier, the better. I’ve been a Stephen King fan since the fifth or sixth grade when I read Carrie for the first time. I just knew I’d write action and horror if I ever pursued a writing career. I dabbled with writing though once I got out of college, instead of making an attempt at a writing career. I wrote theater reviews for a community newspaper for a while, then there were the odd writing jobs at work – technical stuff such as training manuals, or SOPs.
I was writing creatively here and there but not paying that much attention to the types of stories I was telling. I wrote an article on the rise of violence in the city at the time, a couple of erotica pieces, and a play about a single mother whose son was involved in a drive-by shooting, as the shooter. Tragic yes, but horrific? Definitely not. Try as I might, when I sat down to write, my muse seemed to shy away from anything he couldn’t tie back to what was going on in the world around me and believe me, there weren’t any non-human monsters to be found.
Finally, in 2008, after realizing that writing was indeed my passion and that yes, it really was okay (and not too late) to live my dream of being a well paid, published author, I finished my first complete manuscript and headed to grad school to learn about writing as a career. I ended up taking a class my first semester all about Chick Lit. I reviewed the creative writing I’d done up to that point and had to admit that was the genre in which my writing best fit. I dabbled with erotica for a minute only to discover that I can do it in bursts (hmmm, that might not sound the way I wanted it to, let me rephrase.) I mean, I can write a 500 word erotic piece but I don’t have the skills to tell a whole story that involves enough sex to make it erotic. It’s the same with horror. I can write scary scenes, but even the novel length drafts I have that involve monsters and mayhem, ultimately, they follow the Chick Lit formula. What can I say, there’s something about have a strong female lead who, through trials and tribulations, finishes the story feeling better about herself. I toss in the strong love interest just to keep things exciting (laughs).
LJ: What is your writing process? Do you write every day? How long?
Dana: I don’t think I have a “process.” Instead, I have voices and multiple personalities and a muse who thinks it’s perfectly okay to wake me from a sound sleep at o’dark-thirty in the morning with the drive to write. I’ll get an idea, bit of dialog, or a scene in my head and it’ll circle in there, driving me crazy, knocking rational thoughts down in its frenzied movements until I finally get it written down. Sometimes it’s an entire story draft, other times it’s just a few lines of dialog. Either way, I have to stop what I’m doing and write. I’ve been on dates, hanging out with friends, stopped in traffic and suddenly, I’m scrambling for something write on. I’ve got a smart phone and will record notes and things in it as well, but I’m truly old fashioned in that I think the best of my ideas are those captured on napkins or other types of scrap paper. I will follow this pattern until the story is told.
I do write every day, but not necessarily on any one specific project. I have no set writing time or schedule I stick to. In fact, my muse seems to abhor schedules and will desert me in a heartbeat no sooner than I attempt to impose one.
LJ: Since you’ve dedicated yourself to writing, what is the best advice you’ve ever received from another writer?
Dana: Each writer’s journey is so individual that while I’ve had other writer’s suggest things, or offer up advice, it’s been based on their personal path and I’ve found little that I can take as is and apply it to my writing life directly. On the other hand, I have learned powerful lessons indirectly from two writers, Renea Winchester and Tonya Kappes. Since I’ve begun reading their work (blogs and books for writers), I’ve come to realize how important it is for me to produce quality fiction and establish my marketing strategy.
Tonya is like Stephen King in that she, so far, is the most prolific writer I’ve heard of in the indie/self-published arena. I follow her blog and I’m telling you, she produces a book a year, at least. I can’t imagine what her production schedule looks like, but she does it and her fans are loyal to her for it. Of course, she wouldn’t have the fan base she has without having produced QUALITY fiction nor if she hadn’t perfected a marketing strategy for each book.
I’ve built my marketing plan utilizing tips and suggestions from both Tonya (Tricked Out Toolbox~Promotion and Marketing Tools Every Writer Needs) and Renea (Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author) have written marketing books and blog about marketing strategies authors may use to get their books in front of readers. I’ve pulled from both and while it’s been slow going for me, each principle has been sound and has given me the necessary tools I need to continue building my writing empire.
LJ: What qualities do you believe a writer must possess to be successful?
Dana: Hmmm, well, first off I believe they have to be passionate about the craft. I’ve met people who say they want to be published but don’t have any real passion for writing. This isn’t a quick process; it takes passion to fuel you through the moments of self-doubt, when the rejection slips are flying fast and furious or when sales have come to a complete stand still. I believe successful writers have just enough ego to convince themselves they’re producing writing that’s worthy of praise and sales, but just enough humility to know there’s always ways to improve and they don’t ever stop striving to get better and better. I also think, particularly as the world of publishing is changing so fast, if you want to make it as a writer these days, you need to be open to possibilities. If you aren’t able to change and adapt, sadly I believe you’re subject to be left behind.
LJ: Is there one or two writing books that you recommend over all others?
Dana: Easy, On Writing by Stephen King and Story by Robert McKee. As I’ve talked to different writers, these two books seem to be the most referenced. I’ve read On Writing and have chunks from Story. I believe all you need to learn about good story writing can be found between those two books.
LJ: What are you working on now?
Dana: I have three irons in the production fires; a short, love story of sorts about a woman who spends a brief time as a vampire and the man who “saves” her from the “curse.” I’m 39-thousand-plus words into a novel that started life as a script for a television series I want to produce online, and there’s a sequel to my first full length novel that I’ve gotten some bits and pieces down on paper. I’m hoping though to finish up the novel and make this a two release year (my third book, Hello Diva, was released in July).
LJ: What are you most proud of when it comes to your writing?
Dana: The fact that I’m doing it and have three books in print. I’ve had the dream of becoming a published author for over twenty years, so to finally be living it, mind you, the dream included traditional publishing and world-wide acclaim (laughs), gives me a huge sense of pride.
LJ: How can readers and other writers reach you?
Dana: I’m all over the web – if you’re on Twitter and or Facebook, you can find me as Satin Sheet Diva. Then There’s the newly remodeled website and blog – Nowatapress.com, and Satinsheet.nowatapress.com, respectively.
LJ: Where do you live?
Dana: Marietta, GA.
LJ: Your favorite comfort food?
Dana: BBQ beef brisket, especially when it’s so tender you don’t need a knife to cut into it.
LJ: Your least favorite activity?
Dana: Used to be scooping the litter box, but I don’t have a cat anymore so I’m going to have to go with moving. Ugh! Despite the fact that I seem to do it every two to three years, lol, it is a royal pain in the back, shoulders, and legs.
LJ: If a movie were made of your life today, who would star as you?
Dana: Either Angela Basset or Eryka Alexander. Angela Basset because I love her tough exterior. I’d like to believe I have that and folks used to say I looked a lot like Ms. Alexander back in her Living Single days.
LJ: What is one thing you would like us to know about you and your writing?
Dana: One thing, eh? Oh, how about, we’re both available. (Laughter) Seriously, all three books are available in paperback and for the Kindle. And I’m readily available to speak with writing groups and book clubs.
Thank you, Dana, for visiting with us today. I wish you every wonderful success in your writing endeavors.