Please welcome, the inspiring and amazing author Danika Stone. I've been lucky enough to read two of her books this year, and it's fair to say I've already become a fan for life. It's rare you connect with someones writing, especially an author who lives not far from where you call home. I was beyond thrilled when she agreed to take part in the "Meet The Author" interview series.
So, let's dive in and get to know Danika a bit more.
1. What inspired you to write your debut novel?
My first traditional novel, All the Feels (Macmillan 2016), has a uniquely fandom-focused origin story. *spoiler alert* When the first Avengers movie came out, the story had Agent Coulson die at the end. My friend E was distraught! In fact, she was so upset, E created the username and online hashtag @CoulsonLives and spearheaded an online revolution to bring Agent Coulson back from the dead. (If you enjoy the TV series Agents of Shield, you have her to thank!) Although All the Feels isn’t about @CoulsonLives or E’s experience, it tells the story of a superfan, Liv Walden, who is dedicated to bringing her favorite character back to life. I had so much fun writing it!
2. Why did you choose the path of Traditional Publishing?
I actually am a hybrid author. I’ve self-published a couple books, I’ve also published with a small press, with a university press, and, most lately, with one of the “Big Five” publishers: Macmillan. All of those routes are viable ways to share your work with others. I’ve learned so much from each! Traditional publishing has the benefit of a tremendously large promotional and distributing force behind it. You can get your book into major bookstores, and much of the publicity is done for you. That’s not to say you don’t have to assist with the promotions. (Every author must do this.) But you don’t have to go at it alone. That alone is a huge benefit!
3. Do you have any advice for other writers looking to pursue Traditional Publishing?
My biggest piece of advice would be to grow a thick skin and to keep going. Everyone who has ever published a book has been rejected. (Yes, even J.K. Rowling and Stephen King… many, many times.) That’s the way publishing goes. My philosophy has always been that success has more to do with chiseling handholds rather than an innate ability to climb.
4. What inspired you to become an author & has it always been your dream?
I’ve always wanted to make things. Writing has often been part of that, but other creative activities have been too. I’ve worked as a painter and an illustrator, a freelance journalist and muralist. For me, it’s about sharing a piece of myself with the world, and for the last ten years or so, writing has been the way that I’ve done that.
5. Where’s your favorite space to write?
I almost always write at my kitchen table. It lets me be part of the life of my family while pushing forward with my writing.
6. What are your top 5 must haves for a writing space?
2) Musical playlist related to my book.
3) Social media for distraction
4) A plot plan
7. How many hours a day do you write?
It really depends on what I’m writing. Sometimes it’s just an hour and it flies by and I’m up to a thousand or more words before I know it. Other days, it’s like slogging through mud, every word caught under my feet. On those days it might take eight hours of fighting, and I end up cutting most of what I’ve created. What matters most is that I never stop.
8. In terms of Outlining are you - a Plotter (You Outline), a Pantser (You Barely Outline) or a Plantser (A Mixture of Outlining & Just Going With The Flow As You Write)?
Again, it depends on the book. I am definitely a plotter with my thrillers and that’s more to do with the genre. A badly plotted mystery is easy to unravel and hard to edit, so a good plan is key. For my YA and contemporary fiction, I tend toward plantsing (a word I’ve never used before today.) I plot out three acts, then let my brain do whatever it wants within those confines. I like both approaches equally!
9. Because I have a pretty Type-A personality, I’m always curious about other peoples’ scheduling methods. Do you use a schedule to plan out your life / writing & if so, do you use paper or electronic planning?
I am busy enough that I must plan out my life. For writing, I use Scrivener (which makes substantive editing a dream). For life in general, I use my iphone’s calendar for my writing events and signings. I also use the tried-and-true method of MANY checklists. I have my weekly one next to my laptop, and my long-term one beside my bed. I also have a life goal list on my fridge. Nothing like a constant reminder of where you want to eventually be to keep you writing!
10. What is your favorite part about the writing process?
I love the early stages of writing when I’m getting to know the characters and figuring out where they’re going in the story. If I could write a perfect first draft, I’d be in heaven. Of course, that’s completely unrealistic. Ha ha! But I keep trying.
11. What is your least favorite part about the writing process?
I do not like editing. I can do it, certainly, but it exhausts me. Fortunately for me, the lists I use are perfect for breaking it into chunks and getting it done. It also helps that the final book is infinitely better than the original. That fact keeps me going.
12. How long on average does it take you to write a book?
The first, very rough draft takes me about two months for a YA novel, and about six for a mystery. That’s only the beginning. When it comes to edits, add another year or so. Include copyedits, cover design etc. and you’re looking toward two years.
13. What’s your biggest internal obstacle in getting your writing done?
Like everyone else, I compare myself to other authors. This is not helpful! What I see with another writer’s book is the final draft, and with myself, all I see are the terrible first attempts. If I let myself slow down when I’m writing, I tend to lose momentum. For this reason, I never go back during the first draft at all. If something needs changing, I leave a note to deal with it later. That pushes me past the obstacle.
14. What’s your biggest external obstacle in getting your writing done?
I have a full time (non-writerly) job. That’s… difficult.
15. Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
I think it’s possible to reach a point where there is no energy left for your craft. In that case, you need to do something else entirely. Take a vacation if you can. Read a good book. Go to the movies. Sit and chill. If, on the other hand, the writer’s block is just a difficult plot point that you’re not sure how to address, I’d advise ignoring it. Yes, really! When I’m writing my first draft, I leave myself little notes like: “Something happens that solves blah, blah, blah…” and I jump to the next scene. Solved!
16. Does writing energize you or exhaust you?
It depends on the day. Sometimes it’s awful and sometimes it’s amazing. If I’m completely honest, my favorite part of writing is having already written. I love sharing the stories I’ve envisioned with readers and having them respond to me. But I understand that I need to do the hard work to get there.
17. Best piece of advice for other writers?
Finished is better than perfect.
18. What is your favorite quote about writing?
I couldn’t choose just one, (so I didn’t). Here are four that I think of many times a day…
“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King
“The first draft of anything is shit.” Ernest Hemingway
“Finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” Truman Capote
“It is perfectly okay to write garbage--as long as you edit brilliantly.” C.J. Cherryh
19. Which authors are your biggest inspirations?
I’m most inspired by the up and coming authors shaping the literary world. For poetry, it’s Amanda Lovelace (The Princess Saves Herself in this One) and Cyrus Parker (DROPKICKromance). For YA it’s Sophia Elaine Hanson (Vinyl) and Kerri Maniscalco (Stalking Jack the Ripper). And for fiction, it’s Gabriel Tallent (My Absolute Darling) and Lisa Ko (The Leavers).
20. What are you currently working on now?
I’m working on two new books. Switchback (Macmillan, 2019), is a YA that tells the story of a geek and a gamer who are trapped in the Canadian Wilderness and must survive long enough to find their way back to civilization. I’m also polishing the final installment of my Waterton mystery trilogy: Fall of Night. In it, a murder just outside the park puts all the residents of the town in the crosshairs as Lou and Rich must confront a dark part of Rich’s past.
21. What is your Favourite Season (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer)? Do the seasons impact your writing life / creativity?
Creativity is a steady flow for me, though it’s definitely lower when I’m exhausted. In a general sense, I love the summer because I have the time and energy to write. If I didn’t have a second full-time job, then autumn would be my favorite. I love the changing colors and the bite in the air!
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this, Edward! It was great talking to you!
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