Julie Ann Dawson Interview
1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?
I can’t say there is any one time. I write when I find the time. I’ve been writing since my high school days. When I went to college I was a full-time student and worked full time and participated in extracurricular activities. So I developed the habit of just stealing writing time when I could find it.
I carry a notebook with me, and when a thought or idea strikes I’ll take a moment and jot it down. Then I’ll go back to it during my lunch hour or while eating dinner or whatever and shape it into something I can run with. In truth, I’ve never been someone that can assign time to write and then write. The stories come when they come.
2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
With fiction, usually in my notebook. Once I have the story started, I can move it to the computer. I don’t like starting on the computer, however, because it is too easy to stop writing and start “correcting” myself. You start editing when you should be just getting it all down and completing the thought.
With game supplements, I tend to work mostly from the computer. Those types of projects normally have a clearly defined, pre-determined purpose and I know what the product is supposed to accomplish. I do tend to edit those type of products while I write because they tend to be rules oriented and you have to make sure what you are doing works within the parameters of the game mechanic you are writing for.
3: What do you draw inspiration from?
Inspiration, for me, comes from some rather bizarre places. I might be researching something for an RPG project and come across some obscure fact that grabs my attention. Or I might meet someone that has peculiar mannerisms and start wondering what would happen if I put this type of person in certain paranormal situations. I wish I could say there was a clear line between whatever inspires a story and the actual fruition of the story, but honestly I can rarely pinpoint a particular thing that inspired.
Maybe aliens are just transmitting the signals to me? There are stranger theories out there!
4: Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
I don’t follow artificial goals. My goal is to write a compelling story. If that means I go six months between chapters while a plot development ferments in my twisted little brain, so be it.
That’s not to say I’m not doing something to improve my writing overall when I’m not writing my own stuff. I operate a boutique press, Bards and Sages Publishing, so if I’m not writing my own stuff, I’m reading submissions, editing our journal, interacting with other writers and publishers, and other publishing related silliness. So even when I’m not writing I’m still very much involved in the processes of writing and publication.
5: Being a self published author how do you come up with your cover art?
My situation is probably a bit different from a lot of self-publishers in that I do operate a boutique press. I have a budget for art and a lot of contacts in the industry. The cover art for my book The Doom Guardian was done by a ridiculously talented artist named Sanjana Baijnath, who has actually done quite a bit of work for me over the years.
I’ve also made it a point to learn about design. I studied marketing in college and learned the basics of things like layout, typesetting, etc. I also have had the pleasure of being able to pick the brain, so to speak, of Ron Miller. Ron is a professional illustrator and writer I met online through the old Lulu forums years ago. When someone who has won a Hugo award and done cover art for prestigious publications like Scientific American and Smithsonian Magazine offers free advice, you should listen.
And one of the things he taught me was that you should approach a book cover like a movie poster. You want it to immediately convey the feel of your book and grab the reader’s attention. Another point he said was to make sure that the image in clear at thumbnail size, because the first time most people see your book, it is either going to be from across a room when it is sitting on a shelf or in miniature on a product listing. A lot of authors I think “over design” their book covers so that while it looks good full size and close up, it isn’t clear from a distance or if reduced to a thumbnail.
6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was 13. I had just finished reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and remember having two distinct thoughts. One, it was a great book. Two, well, I can do that. I’m surely not as prolific as King, but he gets the credit for inspiring me to start seriously writing.
7: Do you own an ebook reading devise?
I bought myself a Kindle DX last year for my birthday, and I love it! I’m such a bookworm. I have hundreds of books piled up all over my house. Hell, I haven’t lived with my parents for over 15 years and I still have boxes of books at their house! So the Kindle lets me continue my book buying fetish without choking out my living quarters.
8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?
I just finished reading Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Big fan of King, at least his earlier work. I think a lot of the stuff he has written since Insomnia has just been too bloated. I think the more popular his work became, the less comfortable his editors have been to tell him to pull back. I use to love Laurell Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, until she turned Anita into a sex-addicted whore. I like a lot of R.A. Salvatore’s stuff, particularly the Sellswords trilogy because it was about Artemis Entreri and Jaraxle, who are such great characters. I don’t know if the world needs another Drizzt book, though.
9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?
I’m kind of indifferent to them, to be honest. Most aren’t that well done, and some actually turn me off from the book because it feels like the author is trying too hard to sell me. Maybe I’m just a purist in that I prefer to judge books by their previews, reviews, and presentation.
10: What are you working on now that you can talk about?
Currently, I’m working on a new novel tentatively titled A Game of Blood. A homicide detective accidentally becomes the reluctant nemesis of a bored vampire. The antagonist of the book, Darius Hawthorne, is a three hundred year old vampire with delusions of grandeur you could say. He’s rich, powerful, and jaded, and after the protagonist stumbles into his world while investigating a missing persons case decided that he wants his own Van Helsing. The detective, Mitch Grogan, of course just wants to put a pullet through his eyes, or a stake through his heart, as the case may be.
Hawthorne is a vampire in the Dracula tradition: he can turn to mist, casts no reflection, can dominate others to his will, seductive yet alien in his thought processes. They both are fun characters to write, because they are almost polar opposites of each other but slowly develop a grudging respect of sorts. There are a lot of pop culture jokes and references regarding vampires in modern media, and a lot of the story actually plays off of that.