For today’s Coffin Hop Horror Web Tour interview, I have another author from the upcoming Monsters! anthology. Dana sharpened her chops writing fanfic from popular shows like Stargate SG-1 and Firefly, and her novel Winter Awakening is a product six years in the making, with five short stories in various anthologies supplementing the same post apocalyptic world. You can find more about Dana on her website, or scope out her novel’s page.
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My story is titled ‘More Lives’. It’s what I would call a crossover of Post Apocalyptic, Christian Speculative and Horror. In it the fate of Mandy, although she is never named, is discovered. She’s mentioned in my book ‘Winter Awakening’. It also ties in with ‘God’s Gift’, a prequel novel pending at my publisher and an unusual cat series.
‘More Lives’ is the fourth I’ve sold this year although it’s actually the fifth in the series. What ties these cat tales together is the mythos, so the reader can read anyone of them and not feel like they’re missing something.
They others are: ‘Chosen One’. FTST#4: Space Horrors.
‘Bast’s Christmas Presents’. The Undead that Saved Christmas.
‘Shadow’. 31 More Nights of Halloween.
‘Oasis’. Strange Halloween 2012.
As to why I wanted to submit to ‘A Flame in the Dark’, I liked the challenge of writing an upbeat monster story. It stretches my abilities and shows me what I can do so I’m not afraid to try something new.
And honestly, I’m working at getting my name in front of as many editors as possible. It’s great when they accept the story. It’s also okay when they reject it. I just turn around and send the piece out again to someone else.
That’s why I currently have more stories in anthologies than I can keep track of. Although I am tracking them on my Linked In page. That way I’ve got a bibliography if I’m ever asked.
I am intrigued by the world you have set up for your novel (winter something… sorry typing on kindle provides limited searching). My first novel pitted a skateboarding mouse against a mansion ruled by cats. Your cover shows a wolf and a cat in a post apocalyptic winter against what? Is this an epic tale? What do you love about the heroes and villain(s)? Why animals as main characters (if they are)?
I am also intrigued by your vast experience writing fanfic. How did you get started with that? How have you been so successful?
‘Winter Awakening’ was born during my last semester in college. My professor had us do an exercise based on the theory of second Little Ice Age. I liked the concept so much I used it as my project and developed the characters, basic world and other elements.
The first version is a short story but I knew it was a novel. I spent the next six years writing a first draft, doing research including field work, I had to go meet some wolves, getting feed back and marketing the book around. It was rejected once, submitted to a second publisher who lost it because a third offered me a contract.
As for why I chose animals as main characters, most everyone writes Post Apocalyptic novels from a human perspective. I thought it would be fun to develop a culture that rose after the humans vanished. What would it be like and what if it were feline in nature?
I used my own cats, in various guises, as my inspiration for the characters. Word Warrior is a cross between my two males. Tomura had the nature of my oldest female. Sasha and Starlight were both variations on my gray girl. Lara is the female version of one of the males. Mitzy came from a cat who haunted our back yard and hunted birds. Mute, I discovered much later, is in memory of a male cat I lost to feline leukemia.
The other characters came as I wrote the story. First the wolves who seem to be in the instigators, they’re the ones who left a wolf cub with one of the cats for reasons the reader discovers later. Then the Spotted Ghosts who are mysterious and little is known about them, which is true even today.
Their tale is more about overcoming their culture with its strict rules, surviving the long winter, learning other languages, and growing into a more evolved species than it is about a battle between good and evil. There’s tons of conflict among themselves and a rival male, but if the reader is looking for a villain, I’d say its the environment. It plays a major role in their day to day lives. Although, there is the hovering threat of the possible return of the two legs.
I really enjoyed my characters because I kept them true to their natures. They weren’t ‘people in animal suits’. I worked at keeping them cats or wolves, viewing their world through their eyes and senses.
Also, I broke a lot of traditional rules in writing it. My sister-in-law paid me the compliment of saying , “I can’t tell where your story is going.” That was my intent. I use so many different methods. First person. Third person. Newspaper or magazine articles. Journal entries. Computer records.
I unfold bits of the past without telling the whole story. The mystery of the cold and snow is still intact at the end of the book. The only character who knows the full truth won’t appear until the third book, ‘Winter Moon’.
The second book, ‘Winter Emergence’ is currently being written and all I’ll say about it is that it tells about the human survivors.
What I will say about Fanfiction, where I did much of my practice writing, is that it’s still somewhat frowned upon. Doesn’t stop anyone from doing it any way. In fact. many of the studios overlook the writers because it keeps the franchises going and as long as there’s money to made, and FanFic writers make none, it’s okay.
I’ve been writing fanfiction since third grade. I wrote a ‘Lost in Space’ play my teacher allowed me to cast and perform for the class. I didn’t discover the official FF until the two ‘Star Trek’ books were released with fan written stories. I don’t recall the titles.
I kept writing my tales, practicing, submitting to fanzines, many of which were rejected, until 1996. I sent a story to a local editor and she took the piece. I wrote two more, she took them as well for two of her other zines she was printing.
I worked with Cathy for thirteen years. She’s an excellent editor and taught me many ‘tricks of the trade’. One of my ‘Firefly’ stories, ‘New Hope’ was nominated for the Fan Quality award. Didn’t win but it was an honor just to be nominated.
Plus, I nailed the characters. The real trick was keeping River partly sane while also still slightly not quite right. It’s post ‘Serenity’. The other two stories in the trilogy are ‘Family Matters’ and ‘Kissing the Dirt’.
The real trick in writing Fanfiction is knowing the show, making the characters ring true, making past references when necessary without boring the reader who is already familiar with what happened, and writing a good story.
I learned a lot about world building, creating and using characters, putting together plot lines, speculating, and fast writing from my years as a fanfiction writer. It was fun, still is when I have the time, and someplace where my readers can still read my work while they’re waiting for my next novel to come out.
Fanfiction, at least on the web, seems to have a life of its own. My stories are being widely read and I get notifications from Fanfiction.net on a regular basis. Not to mention readers who are asking for certain unfinished stories to be completed. (They will be I promise. Pro deadlines come first.)
My success comes from ‘I want to be a writer’ and this has been my goal for as long as I can remember. I take risks. I try things. If it works – keep doing it. If it doesn’t – drop it. Practice writing. Write. Write. Write. Revise. Edit. Submit. It it’s rejected. Send it out again. If it’s accepted. Celebrate. Write the next story. Learn your craft. Learn from the best. Network. Pick mentors. Be a mentor. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Be persistent! Write because you love it, not because you want to be an overnight success.
Most importantly, at least for me, this has all been on God’s time table, not mine. I’ve waited many, many years to reach where I am today. Every dedication, whether I write the book or edit it, credits God first. He warned me when I started publishing things would happen quickly. I have been very thankful for the warning because there are times I feel overwhelmed.
When I sit down to write, I invite God to come play. I think that speaks much to the quality and the open doors.
Thanks for stopping by to share your experience, Dana. I enjoy Dana’s testament to the value of patience on one’s writing stamina, and I’m glad to see you getting so many publishing credits. I look forward to reading your stories!
Upcoming Coffin Hop Schedule:
I will have 4 podcast interviews at the Holy Worlds Podcast, a couple written ones (Kat Heckenbach, Pauline Creeden, and Dana Bell) here on my website (timothycward.com), and another written one with Greg Mitchell in my Tuesday slot at the New Authors Fellowship.
Here’s the podcast schedule:
Wed. 24th: Teric Darken
Fri. 26: Ellen C. Maze
Mon. 29th: Thomas Smith