Archive for the ‘Character Development’ Category


For some writers, research is a necessary evil, something that simply needs to be done to keep from giving  inaccurate information to his or her readers. For me, probably due to the content I write about, research is a guilty pleasure~ a wonderful excuse to explore things I wouldn’t normally dare to.

For writing purposes, I’ve researched topics like mental and behavioral disorders, serial killers, drug withdrawal symptoms, vampire history, the process of death and dying (as well as embalming a body and the other duties of a mortician) and various physical and psychological illnesses, just to name a few. I know more about how a serial killer thinks, and the rate at which a human body decomposes than I ever wanted to know. Nothing, however, was more fascinating than the research I did on BDSM, or as most of us know it, kink.

In 2009, before I’d even heard of Fifty Shades of Grey, I had an idea for a vampire novel I wanted to write that had to do with kink. I imagined what it would be like if vampires treated humans as their personal slaves, trading doses of euphoria-inducing vampire venom for a limitless supply of human blood. In my mind, these vampires owned their humans and kept them like “pets.” Naturally, the customs of good old-fashioned S and M seemed like the perfect place to start, and I began my search for the local underworld of kink.

It wasn’t as easy to find as one might think. Kinksters don’t tend to advertise, apparently. I’d been searching for this community for several months when a friend of mine who knew about my quest for all things kinky, gave me a call and said she’d found the local kink community. I was thrilled.

I was stunned to find out that there were classes you could take, and that before I could attend one of their kink parties, I had to go through orientation. I had no idea it was so formal.  For fear of being exposed as a fraud, the first thing I needed was a “scene name.” A scene name is what you choose to go by among your fellow kinky peers. I chose the name Angel (as it turned out, the kinksters were perfectly okay with people who are just curious, who don’t wish to participate, and who just want to watch and ask questions, but I didn’t know that at the time, and thought I needed to be a believable kinkster.) So I started going to the classes once a week, and learned as much as can be learned  in a classroom setting about bondage, domination, submission, sadism, masochism, and the like.

Once I had familiarized myself with the lingo, the general rules, and had made friends with some of the kinksters, I was ready to start attending the kink parties. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at one of these parties, so I asked a few friends of mine to go with me. They agreed to go to the orientation and attend the party with me afterwards… as my personal pets.

The friends I took as my slaves were two women and another guy. The women I named “Isis” and “Poetic Justice.” The guy I named “Winter” after a character in the book I was working on. I wore a suit and eyeliner. “Isis” was in a bustier with a frilly skirt and high heels. “Poetic Justice” was in piggy tails tied with red silk, a long overcoat, and hooker boots. The male, “Winter,” was in nothing more than a sheer pair of mesh boy-shorts (he had a thong on underneath so he wasn’t showing everything,) and one of those massive, cruel-looking metal dog collars that digs into the pets neck if they stray too far. We’d written various lines of my own poetry all over his body with a marker and I also put him in eyeliner. He wore no shoes.

I had leashes for each of my “pets,” and let me tell you, entering and exiting rooms is a lot harder than it looks when you’ve got three people on leashes… but we made it to the party. We were greeted by some of the folks I’d met at the classes, and I introduced my “pets” to them, though the pets aren’t allowed to speak without their master’s permission, and as pets, no one spoke to them without asking me first.

We went in and sat down. Well, I sat down and my “pets,” as per the custom, kneeled on the floor at my feet. We watched several floggings, saw a woman bound and suspended upside-down from the ceiling, and watched some very fascinating fire play on a nude woman. One of the friends I’d met in the community was there, and she was having the skin on her back punctured with colorful body “pins” to create a design that made it appear that she had wings. Another one of the kinksters I’d previously befriended was also there, and he wanted to give me a beating with a wicked-looking bamboo stick. After much hesitation, I finally agreed, after laying down my ground rules: no clothes come off, no hitting me below the waist, and start out soft!

I quickly tired of the bamboo stick, and realized with no surprise, that such exercises didn’t do much to excite me in the same ways it does some people. Fascinating as it the whole thing was visually, we all grew very tired pretty early on and left the party after just a couple of hours. I attended one more party after that before considering my research complete.

Although the world of kink had little to offer me in a personal way, I made some great friends, and learned many fascinating things that have continued to feed my writing. My few months in the BDSM community gave me years worth of material, and I used every bit of it in The White Room, and in Beautiful Monster, which will be released on September 1st, 2012.

Research is, if nothing else, a mind-opener. As it’s been in all cases, I quickly learned that the truth about kink is about as far from my pre-conceived notions as it can get. I was astounded to realize how few kinksters do this solely for sexually gratifying purposes. I was intrigued by the customs and the very proper protocol. I was relieved by the safety and sanitary measures that were observed in these practices, and I was amazed by the laid-back, welcoming attitude of the group. I gained a certain respect for kink that I never had before, and although I don’t go to the parties anymore, I still have a lot of friends from that time. The psychology and philosophy of these folks has given me many things to muse about, and for me, that’s the whole point. Sometimes, when we’re stuck, we just need something new to stir our creative minds. That’s what research does, and I absolutely love it.

Since Beautiful Monster has been accepted for publication, my publisher has asked to see The White Room, which is the book I did the kink research for that was written previous to Beautiful Monster. The manuscript needs a lot of work and my goal is to have it ready by the end of this year. As I’m revising the book, I’m remembering all the things I learned about kink, and I’m grateful for the research I did on that topic. No, I don’t mind research a bit, and I look forward to doing more of it on more fascinating subjects in the future.

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Last summer, on a road trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I picked up a book I thought looked pretty interesting. This book was meant to simply pass the time; to be something I could read until I got to the beach and was able to see the ocean and all the wonderful things it had to offer my senses. As it turned out, the book I bought, titled Speak Softly, She Can Hear by Pam Lewis, very nearly trumped Myrtle Beach in the way of excitement and sheer awesomeness. Not that the beach wasn’t cool… but this book really just had a profound effect on me. It made me want to be a better writer.

I’ve since read everything else by Pam Lewis that I could get my hands on, and I’ve loved every one of her novels. I was dying to get her on here for an interview, and have since found her to be as kind and fascinating as I imagined she would be. Visit her at: http://www.pamlewisonline.com/

Q: What is your favorite part of the writing process?

A: I’m a visual writer and when things are going well, I see what’s happening as if it’s being played out in a movie. At those times I can barely keep up the pace, writing as I watch and listen to what’s going on with my characters. This always comes in a rush, misspelled, poorly punctuated, but I get the sketch down and then the fun is in going over it, taming it, making it work. I often work with my eyes closed, the better to concentrate on what I’m seeing.

Q: Which of your characters has been the most fun to write?

A: Luther North is a guy in his late fifties, a rangy, outdoor person who is in charge of thirty hikers who have come from the east coast to hike in the Yellowstone wilderness. He’s a wonderful, careful leader, the kind of guy with whom people feel entirely safe. He’s inspired by my late husband who had all these excellent qualities, and the fun is recreating him in a new, perilous situation. There are so many issues around wild places – how to handle wildlife encounters, how to manage many competing interests in national parks, how to sort through all the opinions about all this to come out with a purpose and a plan. This, by the way is happening in the book I’m currently working on.

Q: What inspired Speak Softly She Can Hear?

A: It’s difficult to pick out one inspiring idea for this book as there were so many over a period of years, but one image often came to mind during the writing of the book that I will tell you about.

As sixteen-year-old juniors in high school, my friends and I went to Stowe for a week of skiing. We stayed in a dorm much like the Double Hearth of the novel. My sister and her friends were there as well and at some point during the week, my friends and I decided we didn’t like the supervision that was being provided by the older girls. Full of a sense of freedom to do whatever we wanted, we went up the road to a motel, planning to take a room and be on our own. The motel owner threw open the door to one of the rooms so we could see, apparently thinking it was unoccupied. There on the bed was a girl about our age, drunk and passed out. Beside her on the night table was a half-empty bottle of liquor. I was shocked, as were my friends. We all fled back to the security of the dorm and the supervision, but the image never left me of a girl with too much freedom too young. I’m still haunted by that image and it became the idea behind the novel: how a single wrong choice can completely alter a person’s life.

Q: My favorite character in that novel was Eddie. Do you think he was likable?

A: You did? Wow. Eddie is certainly a charmer, but that’s all he has going for him. I never found him likable; he scared me every time he showed up .In fact, in the first draft he appeared only in the first chapter. Little
by little he insisted on being present for the entire novel. He came back gradually over several revisions and every time he appeared, he scared me more.

Q: Do you do outlines?

A: I worked with a freelance editor for Speak Softly, She Can Hear and she demanded an outline, so I came up with one and found the process extremely difficult. It felt very limiting to lay out all the action in advance. But I was very glad I’d done it, and with subsequent books, yes, I do outline but roughly. I like knowing approximately where I’m headed, but I never produce a step-by-step guide for getting there. Mostly what I have in mind, what the outline consists of, is the arc of the novel, how it starts and how it ends, with a vague sense of what’s in the middle. I like to outline knowing that it can all change considerably.

Q: What is the most fascinating thing you can tell us about your grandmother?

A: My grandmother was fifteen when she left the Netherlands and went to Comodoro Rivadavia Argentina with a 45-year-old man (my grandfather). It was a terrible scandal. They married (I believe) and once in a while they traveled by ship to Buenos Aires. On one of these journeys, the ship caught fire and the crew took off with all the lifeboats. My grandfather fought his way onto one of them and to persuaded the others to allow my grandmother onboard. She was pregnant with my mother at the time. My grandmother described this in detail in a piece she submitted to the Readers Digest who used to solicit stories of true life adventure. She described the way the water was lit from underneath and seeing people she knew plummet through the bright blue water. Not until she was in the lifeboat did she realize a shark had bitten through her calf.

Q: Is your family supportive of your writing career?

A: Oh yes. They’re thrilled. My sons, my sister. Two of my mother’s sisters are living. One of them helped with the background for A Young Wife and accompanied me to The Netherlands to research the story. The other will be one hundred this year, and I have not told her about the book. It’s not so much that she would disapprove; more that she would not understand the concept of fiction, and the inaccuracies, the departures from reality would drive her crazy.

Q: What was the biggest hurdle in your writing career and how did you overcome it?

A: After having some success with short stories I acquired a fairly high-powered agent and sent her an early draft of Speak Softly, She Can Hear. I had the very naïve belief that she would take it and sell it without hesitation. Instead she called and kept me on the phone for about forty-five minutes telling how much she did not like the book. I was devastated. Really destroyed. My late husband (on whom the hike leader in the novel-in-progress is based) was very sympathetic and told me we should get in the car and go to a hike we enjoyed nearby. I said I couldn’t possibly: I was suffering from this rejection too deeply. I really felt almost paralyzed by the rejection. In the end he prevailed and we hiked. Midway through I realized I hadn’t thought about the rejection at all and discovered the immense value of physical activity. I sent it to another agent who had, I have to admit, many of the same complaints as the first one. I had to swallow the fact that there was truth in what they said and use the information to improve the story. These rejections, painful as they were, lit a fire under me, I doubled down. I rewrote that book three times in its entirety, determined to get it right.

Q: How many years of writing did you do before you got a book published?

A: I began writing seriously at the age of 39 and my first book was taken when I was 59, so twenty years. I never counted on publication. I hoped for it, wished for it, but knew better than to expect it, certainly knew better than to expect I might earn a living at it.

Q: Which character was hardest to write?

A: The characters I don’t like are difficult to write because the temptation is to make them one-dimensional.  Eddie Lindbaeck comes to mind. He was a lowlife, but every lowlife is the way he is for a reason and for Eddie, it was coming from a family with a great deal of money who neglected him and ultimately cut him off. Tinker Carteret is another such character. She’s annoying, officious, bossy. But she’s had a lifetime of being the ugly, responsible, overweight sister. I need to feel compassion for the characters I don’t like. It makes them easier to write.

Q: When you first got published, how did you celebrate?

A: I bought something called a body-bridge. It’s a sort of padded table shaped like a half circle. It’s great for relieving stress and stretching my back after I’ve spent time on the computer.

Q: What has been the most rewarding part of writing for you?

A: I made the mistake many years ago of telling people I was working on a novel. This generated persistent questions such as did I have a publisher? What else had I written? I regretted having told people but at the same time, I saw myself not just as a writer of marketing materials for insurance companies, but as someone who also had artistic ambitions. So it was vanity, I know. Nevertheless, over the years, the recurring question was, “so, how’s the novel coming?” And my replay was always, “Oh, it’s coming along.” I had the feeling people felt sorry for me and thought I was banging my head against a wall.

One day I was hiking with my usual group and one of the people asked me that question. How’s the novel coming. I was able to say “Great! Simon and Schuster is publishing it next year.” That was absolutely the most rewarding moment, followed by many others exactly the same.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: As usual the new novel has no title. I call it bearnovel. It’s based on many experiences my late husband and I had leading hikes in faraway places with groups of people who usually didn’t’ know one another and among whom there were always some difficult people.  It will take place in the wilds of Yellowstone and will include a predatory bear and a group of hikers who become isolated from the world by terrible weather conditions.

Q: What does your writing space look like?

A: I’ve recently changed my writing space. I now have a glass-topped desk that looks out a very large picture window over the woods on the east side of the house. I live in the woods and it’s common for deer, owls, hawks, raccoons and other creatures to pass by. I try to keep all the surfaces free of clutter, but am not always successful.

Q: Do you have any pet peeves about your writing style?

A: Yes! I play far too much Scrabble and solitaire online. But I understand that Joan Didion does this too, at least the solitaire part. This is the second piece of comfort I’ve had from reading about her. Years ago, when I was doing some journalism I read that she was capable of spending a full afternoon in a motel room working up the courage to call the person she was supposed to be interviewing. I can relate to that. It can take me days to make necessary phone calls. I should add that I am comparing myself to her in only those two ways.

Q: What is your all-time favorite book?

A: My all-time favorite book is R.W.B Lewis’s Edith Wharton biography. It changed my life many years ago to read of her story so beautifully written. Another of my all-time favorites is Drop City by TC Boyle. Into Thin Air by John Krakauer also comes to mind. For older books, The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler and just about everything by Edgar Allen Poe.

Q: What makes you laugh out loud?

A: I laugh easily and often at all sorts of things. Life’s foibles make me laugh out loud. So does my sister, my sons and my grandsons. It can be about anything. When I’m in their presence I know I’ll laugh, so I do. Very recently I saw a movie called 21 Jump Street by myself and I laughed out loud. The poet Bruce Cohen makes me laugh out loud. So does the short-story writer Leslie Johnson, the novelist Wally Lamb and the short story writer Sari Rosenblatt.. These people can all make me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt.


After spending a year writing a book, another six months revising it, and having somewhere between seven and ten people re-read it, you’d think all the typos, redundant words, and other various errors would pretty much be nonexistent. I’ve learned that this is not at all the case.

After Beautiful Monster was accepted for publication, it underwent a three-round series of editorial revisions… on top of the four, maybe five rounds Mimi and I did ourselves before submitting it. Last night, we finished the final revisions, and the feeling that followed was bittersweet. On one hand, I was relieved. For over a year and a half, my whole life has been this book. Needless to say, I am very tired of reading it, looking at it, and thinking about it. On the other hand, however, there’s a certain sadness. The book is done. Final. There is nothing more to be said on the matter, and whatever becomes of the book from here on out is pretty much out of my hands. That is a surprisingly sad realization.

It’s been a hell of a ride. I’m not sure I’ve ever learned as much about writing, the publishing industry, and  myself, as I have these past several months. In one way, it feels like it took forever to get to this point. In another way, it feels like it has all happened so fast. In just over two weeks, the book will be available in e-book format and in paperback. This feels unreal to me.

Last night, when Mimi and I realized we had completed the final round of revisions, we both just kind of stared at each other for a minute… and then we got giddy. The sadness of it didn’t really hit me for a few hours afterwards, when I realized that this was the end of the line for this book. But there’s still a lot to look forward to.

We’ve already begun the sequel for Beautiful Monster, and we both have several solo projects going on, too. We still have some marketing things to do for this book as well, but still, the story is complete.

So while my life in writing isn’t over, this book has reached its final conclusion. It’s too late to change anything now even if we wanted to, and that’s okay. I think we wrote a good, strong story, and I think lovers of horror, suspense, kinky sex, and various kinds of creepiness will like this book. The only thing left to do now is to decide how I am going to celebrate! I am open to suggestions…

Check out Beautiful Monster on the upcoming releases page at Damnation Books at: http://www.damnationbooks.com/searches.php?category=upcoming


As we get closer to the release of Beautiful Monster (September 1st, 2012!), I begin thinking more and more about the sequel. Mimi A. Williams (Kim Williams-Justesen~ my mentor and co-author), and I decided shortly after the manuscript was accepted for publication, that we’d like to make this a three-part story. Whether or not this will be of any interest to the publisher or not, we don’t yet know, but if the only reason we do it is for ourselves, that’s reason enough for us.

We’ve outlined the second novel, which we are planning to call Beautiful Liar, and I have written the first scene of my first chapter. As I get going again, there’s only one thing I’m not looking forward to: seeing the world through the eyes of my deranged main character, Sterling Bronson. Sterling came into existence as the result of more than a year’s worth of intensive research on serial killers, sociopaths, narcissists and a variety of other psychologically disturbed social deviants. I know Sterling well, and this is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, knowing him makes him easier to write. On the other hand, he disturbs me.

Writing fiction seems to be a lot like acting in many ways. When you’re inside the mind of your characters, you really become these characters, and when you’re writing a true monster of a man, as is the case with Sterling, this is not always a pleasant thing. For one thing, you subject yourself to the possibility of nightmares. I have had many disrupted nights of sleep because of Sterling, and I was glad when we finished Beautiful Monster because of that. Now that we’re going again, I have already dreamed of him twice. In one dream, he was just standing on a bridge looking at me, nothing serious. In the most recent dream, however, he was digging up the floorboards in a house to show me all the bodies he had hidden there. For the sakes of the more sensitive readers, I won’t go in to details, but the point is, Sterling is back to his old self again, and eagerly showing me the worst side of his nature.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I feel truly blessed that someone finally believed in me enough to publish one of my books. And that it didn’t take the statistical seven to nine years of rejection after rejection is something I’m truly grateful for. There’s just a small part of me though, that wishes it had been a different, more pleasant novel of mine that caught the eye of a publisher. I didn’t write Beautiful Monster with any real expectation of it ever being published. I thought it was too graphic and too offensive to ever get picked up… but, go figure, it’s the one that made the cut. Again, I am neither complaining nor apologizing. I’m just not looking forward to seeing life through a maniac’s eyes again. I don’t like wondering what kind of mentality is required to take a human life. I don’t like wondering what someone’s flesh, under the blade of a knife, would look like as it separated from itself. I don’t like thinking about the last words a person might utter as their life is being taken away from them. I don’t like the fact that in order to believably write this character (again), I need to really understand the wicked twists and bizarre kinks of his mind.

But I’ll do it. I’ll do it because I want to tell this story. I’ll do it because, despite the horrors this character is composed of, I’ve somehow come to like him, and I want to see how his story plays itself out. I will do it because I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to prove myself, and if I treat it like a hobby, everyone else will treat it like a hobby, and I don’t have time for another hobby. I’ll do it because it’s my job. And… I’ll do it because if I don’t, I’m afraid of what Sterling might do to me!


With just one month till the release of Beautiful Monster, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, mostly about how all of this came to be. It still feels like a dream to me, and I still expect to wake up any minute. And if it’s real, I’m waiting for something to somehow go wrong. I’ve been anticipating some kind of terrible news for some time now, but so far, things seem to be on track, and the novel is still set to be released on September 1st, one month from now.

There are a lot of things I anticipated when the day came that I finally got a book published… and there are some things I did not anticipate. First on this list of surprises is the speed at which this whole process has moved. I didn’t give much thought to the new age of e-books, and therefore, I figured once I found a publisher, it’d be a good few years before I’d be able to see and hold my own book. As it is now though, the book is set to  be released in both hardcopy and e-book versions in about three months after having been accepted.

I didn’t expect to get a publisher before I got an agent. While I queried just about every agent on (and a few off) the American Continent for The White Room, I did things differently for Beautiful Monster. Because of Monster’s violent and graphic nature, I never expected it to get picked up at all. My co-author and I queried 27 small to mid-sized publishing presses for Monster as opposed to the 157 literary agents I queried for The White Room. My feeling was that The White Room was simply more commercial, and therefore would have a much easier time selling. That hasn’t turned out to be the case at all.

I didn’t expect to be so worried about who might read this book. As I mentioned before, Beautiful Monster is laden with violence, sex, and drug use. And I didn’t skimp on any of the details… nor did I use gentle language to convey these acts. I suppose that because I never expected the novel to find a home, I was much more liberal with my own twisted-ness, but now that it’s going to be a real book, I’m a little bit mortified. Not ashamed… but I do cringe a little whenever someone in my family or someone I know (who isn’t a lover of horror stories) asks me about the book.

I didn’t expect so much support, and the person who surprised me the most was my mother. Not because she isn’t supportive, but because I know that if my own son had written this book, I’d probably be a bit concerned about what the neighbors might think. When the contract was signed, I called my mom (who had read – and actually somehow enjoyed the book) and had a little talk with her in hopes of preparing her for the possible negative side-effects of the situation. I told her that people whom we may not necessarily want to read this book might read it, and there’s nothing I or anyone else can do to stop them. I told her I would very likely be harshly criticized and that a lot of people, even people we love, may not exactly appreciate the wicked and vulgar nature of this story. After prattling off my list of possible unpleasant scenarios, she said, “So what? If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it. I’m proud of you anyway.” That made my day.

I didn’t expect to make so many new and wonderful friends. Since this book has been picked up, I’ve made the acquaintances of so many other writers, many of whom were my heroes back in the days when I used to read for the sheer enjoyment of it while dreaming that I could one day do this thing. These other writers know exactly where I’m at, and they have all been absolutely wonderful about talking to me, giving me good advice, and letting me know what it was like for them.

Most of all, I didn’t expect that I’d so quickly feel that it was time for the next step. As beginning writers, we all live our lives in terms of, “one day, when I finally get published…” and I didn’t expect that when I finally did, I’d be worried about the next book just a week or two after. The sparkle fades fast, and soon you’re left with the feeling of “So… now what?” … So now, as best as I can guess, I just keep writing the next one. I knew I’d never be content having written only one book (or even just two or three for that matter), but I guess I thought I’d at least take some time off mentally to figuratively roll around nude in my newfound glory. But I never really did. I just started worrying about the next story.

One month to blast off… and here’s what I know: there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow… but as soon as you find it, you just see another rainbow to chase.

 


For the past couple weeks, I have been reading Tamara Thorne’s novel, Candle Bay, and absolutely loving it. The story is great, to be sure… but the best part is that I’m not just reading the book… I get to use my editorial eyes in search of formatting issues that sometimes occur when a novel is scanned  to be converted into its digital form. When Tamara told me about the edits she was doing and the frustrations she was having, I was more than happy to offer my help. Under usual circumstances, looking for strangely placed periods and extra spaces between words doesn’t sound like the kind of thing most people would be thrilled about doing… but the thing is, well… it’s Tamara Thorne! I loved her books before the concept of being a novelist myself was anywhere on the horizon, so to not only meet one of the greats, but to get a close-up look at his or her process is really a very rare and incredible opportunity.

Over the past months, Tamara and I have become what I consider to be pretty good friends. Finding that you connect with a person you’ve admired from afar for so many years is one of those nearly-eerie things that makes you stop and wonder why you’re drawn to certain people in the first place, and what it all means. Many such events have happened for me since I began on this writing journey, and those events are what has inspired my new “Rockstar Moments” blogs. These “Rockstar Moments” are the ones that suddenly make me aware of how lucky I am, how amazing some of my recent experiences have been, and how awesome it is to get to know the people I’m getting to know.

That being said, my most recent “Rockstar Moment” came when, as I was reading Candle Bay, I got a message from Tamara asking me what color my wife Heather’s hair is. “Brown,” I told her, because it is. When I asked her why she’d asked, Tamara told me she was going to put Heather and I in Candle Bay. I was thrilled, and sure enough, a few chapters later, I came across Jared and Heather Anders, a pair of the Candle Bay Hotel’s “best customers.” I am returning this gesture, of course, by murdering off a maid who’s based off of Tamara in my current project, Tyranny Hall. I don’t know exactly how I will kill her yet, but I do know it will be gruesome. This may sound macabre… insulting even, but it’s not. It’s good times… for us, anyway.

Candle Bay will be available soon in e-book format, and I’m honored to be able to get a look at it before its release. I am only half through the novel, and I’m itching for more. Given my past experiences with Tamara’s books, I have no doubt that the rest of Candle Bay will only continue getting more and more strange and fascinating! This is where it’s very tempting for me to give out spoilers… but I am going to refrain. I’ll simply say it’s an awesome story, told by one of my personal favorite storytellers, and as soon as it gets released, I will be posting the links where the book can be purchased.


As well as being a multi-published author, Dawne Dominique is also a cover art designer. In fact, Dawne is responsible for the cover art for Beautiful Monster (scheduled for release September 1st, 2012 by Damnation Books LLC) written by myself and Mimi A. Williams~ and neither of us could be happier with the work Dawne did for us!

As I’ve been getting to know her, I’ve been struck by Dawne’s kindness, her passion for her work, her flexibility with the authors she works with, and of course, her talent. When Mimi and I saw the draft of the cover art design for Beautiful Monster we were absolutely thrilled. So thrilled in fact, that we overlooked Sterling’s eye color in the picture. When I realized we’d made a rather big deal of Sterling’s piercing blue eyes throughout the novel, I thought I’d probably better see if it wasn’t too late to ask Dawne if we could make the alteration. I was a bit nervous about doing this because first of all, I was worried it was going to be too late, and second, I didn’t want to seem persnickety about the very good work Dawne had done for us. I realized I’d be happy with the cover either way, but finally decided it was worth asking about on the off-chance it wasn’t to late to make changes.

As it turned out, it wasn’t too late. Within a few hours of talking to Dawne about the cover, I received an updated draft of the cover on which Sterling looked back at me with a pair of the brightest, bluest eyes I’d ever seen. I still can’t stop staring at it!

Dawne Dominque will always be a very special person to me. I liken her to a kind of magician. She made my fictional character real. She gave corporeal life to the man I plucked from somewhere in my own twisted mind. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what else is.

Interviewing Dawne was a ton of fun and I look forward to working with her more in the future. For more about her, her novels, and her cover art, visit her at: http://www.dawnedominique.com/

Thank you so much for having me here today, Jared.

Q: Why did you decide to get into cover art design?

A: It was quite by accident. I was designing signs and banners for authors in my writing forum. When I was approached by a publisher to submit a novella for an erotic cowboy anthology, she suggested I do the covers for each eBook submission, and then the print format. It was the first time I became a published author and a cover artist.

Q: Over the course of your career, about how many novels have you done the cover art for?

A: *chuckles* You know, I was just thinking about that the other day. I’d guesstimate well over a 1,000 covers, with the majority of them eBooks. I began as an artist at the start of the eBook emergence. Let’s see:  I do about 30 covers minimum a month (sometimes more), as I work for several publishers: two of them release quarterly, and the majority release monthly. So, let’s multiple that by seven years. I wasn’t doing as many in the earlier days, but now it’s crazy nuts…and I love it.

Q: Are there any covers that you are especially proud of? Why?

A: Geeze!  There’s too many to count. The first one that made me realize I actually had some talent was a book cover called Hard Winter. Each cover is a personal experience for me. I know that sounds bizarre, but I try walking in an author’s shoes, getting inside their heads, so to speak. One of my recent favorites  is a Steampunk cover I did for an Indie author called The Hands of Tarot. Some of my horror favorites (and I’m not saying this because it’s you) is Beautiful Monster and Grim. I like some more than others. It’s way too difficult to pinpoint only one.

Q: What is the best part of being a cover art designer?

A: Hands down…an author’s reaction.

Q: What are the most significant ways technology has changed your career?

A: Well, to be honest, I self-taught myself everything I know. I prefer certain programs for certain formats. I began with a free drawing program called Serif. Then I upgraded to Photoshop. Every couple of years, I purchase an upgrade, which can do more magic. The old days of hand-drawn artwork is gone, and I’m thankful for it, as changes/revisions can be easily done with photo-manipulation.

Q: Along with the artwork, you are also the author of several novels. Which do you prefer: designing, or writing, and why?

A: That’s a tough question. Both are an integral part of me. I’ve always been a writer and artist ever since I could hold a crayon.

Q: What do you think is the most important quality a good writer must possess?

A: Their imagination.

Q: Which of your own novels are you most proud of, and why?

 A: My vampire series called The First. I began writing it well before the Twilights and True Bloods of the world. Hell, I’m still writing it. Unfortunately, the first novel was picked up and released by another publisher, who held it hostage for three years. An absolute horrid experience, which made me shelve the entire project, which was heartbreaking as I’d already had three novels written for it. Although it was a bad experience, it was one I learned a lot from, so in the end, it wasn’t so bad after all. It’s the reason why I work with the authors as I do—getting input with respect to their cover art.

Q: Are you writing anything now, and what can you tell us about it?

A: I’m editing Crimson Cries, which is about a chapter short of being finished. It’s the fourth novel to The First series. Then, there’s Surrender: Sins of the Father, the final novel. These aren’t your usual romance/paranormal novels. They call them “erotica” because there’s sex in them, but it’s not your fluffy, romancing stuff that dreams are made of. I’m a “say like it is” gal, and my writing is an extension of myself. No purple prose for me, thank you very much. With this series, I’ve blended biblical and mythology facts into fiction. The gist is why, where, and how the first vampires came to be. There’s several significant characters and a few “aha” moments.  It may surprise people to learn who was actually nailed to the cross that faithful day.  *grins*

I’ve also started another novel called Hellhound Bound. It’s only in its infancy stages, at about 13k being written, but it’s about a paralegal who gets caught up in a murder trial she’s working on. Of course, it’s speculative fiction, so there’s magic and paranormal aspects involved.

Then there’s several novels I  must get back to. I began as a classic fantasy writer, like Lord of the  Rings, but with kick-ass women heroines. I have an almost 200k fantasy novel that needs major edits. Finding the time is the main obstacle. Once The First series is completed, I plan to do some serious editing on them. My publisher has been itching to release them, but in my eyes, they’re not ready to venture into the world yet.

Q: What is the hardest part of being a writer for you?

A: Right now…finding the time to set my muse in motion. I work three days a week as a contracted paralegal (Thursdays being a ten-hour day). Every night I come home and do cover art. I try my best to use the late night to write. That’s my time. It’s not uncommon for me to look at the clock and realize it’s four in the morning.

Q: Who is the most difficult character you have written? Why was he or she so difficult, and how did you make it work?

A: Sam Ethbert. He’s an inmate on death row who dies by lethal injection and wakes to find himself being interviewed by two very strange men. Sadly, while he’s in prison, he’s convicted of anther crime he didn’t do—murder of another inmate.  It was the first story I posted in my writing forum in order to receive critiques. First, I had to think like man, and not just any man, but a career criminal. A few people who reviewed it were surprised to learn I was a woman.  *snickers* The story is written in first person, and for me, that’s always a challenge to write.

Q: Do you do the cover art for your own books?

A: Remember the horrid publisher experience I suffered? It all began with the cover they designed for me…with my name spelled incorrectly on front. Yes, I design every cover for myself…and man, oh, man, am I anal! I’m never satisfied.  hahahaha

Q: You did the cover art for Beautiful Monster, the novel written my me and Mimi A. Williams. What was your favorite part about doing that cover?

A: The finished product. When I’m nearing the end of the creative process, I always ask myself one question:  Would I be proud to have this as my own cover?

Q: In your e-mail you said that after reading our Author Information Forms you wanted to do the cover art for Beautiful Monster yourself. What made you interested in doing the artwork on this book?

A: It was the complexity of Sterling Bronson’s character that tugged at me, I wanted to show the two dimensions of him at first glance. Taking descriptions and creating the artwork is a challenge I strive on. And yours was certainly a challenge I wanted to delve into. ☺

Q: What was the most difficult part about Beautiful Monster’s cover art?

A: When I finally managed to get both features to blend realistically. *whew*

Q: Have I told you how much I LOVE the cover?!?

A: *blushes*  Yes. And because you love it, I keep smiling. My job is done.

Q: When you aren’t writing or designing, what do you like to do?

A: That’s not too often, let me tell you. I enjoy having a few beers on the deck. I’m a simple Canadian girl. Our winters are long—and damn cold. When summer arrives, that’s where you’ll usually find me…if I’m not chained to my computer in the dungeon.  If a good Blues band comes to the city, you’ll find me there dancing and partying. I really don’t go out much.

Q: Have you ever been stumped and not had any idea what kind of cover you were going to give a book? If so, how did you overcome it?

A: No, I’ve never been stumped, but I will confess that I’ve scratched my head at some ideas authors have given me. I always try to work with it as opposed to against it. If I know it won’t sell, then I design something of my own, trying my best to incorporate a few of those details. 99% of time, authors are stunned at what I’ve come up with. More times than not, we usually never have any changes. When an author tells me to “run with it”, those are best!  I allow my imagination to go wild. It’s why I adore doing horror cover art. I find little restrictions in that genre.

Q: What is the most challenging thing about being a cover art designer?

A: I’m a stickler for details, so I like to get it right the first time, with minor tweaks. More importantly, the artwork has to look realistic. There’s some covers out there that I’ve done that I don’t like, but the authors were adamant about certain aspects they wanted. It’s their cover, right? If they’re happy, so be it. But if it’s right off the wall, I’ll refuse, especially if I know it’s not going to sell. I’ve been in this business a long time, so I’ve learned a few things. Authors trust me, and that is by far the greatest compliment I could ever receive.

Q: What is the most rewarding?

A: As I mentioned earlier, it’s an author’s reaction. Knowing they’re proud to display their covers and boast about it, then I’ve done my job, and I’ve done it well.

Q: Do you find most authors to be easy to work with when it comes to their book covers?

A: In all the years that I’ve been designing cover art, only two have driven me almost over the edge. Needless to say, I survived, but barely. I’m adamant about allowing an author three drafts only. If we can’t get right in three, there’s something radically wrong. I’ve done up to 18 drafts before I pulled the plug. There was just no pleasing this author. There are times when they have this conception in their head about how their covers should look like, and nothing will deter them. No matter how close I came, it wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, I refuse to work with that author again.

I’ve been absolutely blessed with the authors I’ve worked for and continue to work with. True, some are more pickier than others, but I’m an author, too. I understand where they’re coming from, and that gives me a distinctive edge. They keep coming back, so I must be doing something right.

Q: Were you an author or a cover artist first?

A: An author first and foremost. Without words, a cover can never be accomplished.

Q: What is the one question you wish people would ask you more often, and how would you answer it?

A: Well, you have me stumped there. I’m rather shy and modest, and would prefer talking about anything other than myself.