Interview with Dakota Douglas

Dakota Douglas

Interview Date: 7/30/2012


I'm a retired newspaper reporter from the North East of England, following my childhood dream of being a novelist. As a kid I read books under the bedclothes by torchlight. Now I dive under the bedclothes, torch in hand, to scribble down conversations between my nutty book characters in case I forget them in the morning.
I've written stories since I was about eight years old. I had a toy typewriter (there weren't home computers in those prehistoric days) and there I would sit, just like a real author, writing novels. I was a huge fan of British children's writer Enid Blyton, but I invented my own characters, settings and storylines. My dad created me a book cover, on which I proudly put my name and the title of the book.
When I wasn't hunched over my toy typewriter, you could see me smashing a tennis ball again the brick end of a block of garages beside my home. For hours on end I perfected my lob, backhand and forehand shots - all the time spinning stories in my head.
The love of writing led me down a career path as a journalist. So when I retired in 2011, it wasn't a surprise that I returned to novel writing.
My first novel is a children's fantasy story called ANTics. I get a lot of inspiration for my stories from dreams. And ANTics came from a dream after watching a group of ants carry a potato crisp back to their nest.
I believe you're never too old to try something new or challenge yourself. In other words Reach For The Stars.

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

My superhero doesn’t have two legs. Lassie, the lovable Collie dog, was run over by trucks, hit by buses, but still bounced back to save the day with a friendly woof.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

I get my inspiration from everywhere; from books, newspapers, magazines, the internet, watching TV, listening to people. I hear a snippet that ignites a spark of an idea. But mostly from my dreams. I get some weird and wonderful ideas in my dreams. We all dream but the knack is remembering the dream before it slips away like smoke on the wind. Jotting it down or drawing an image from the dream as soon as you get up is one good way.

Kev's response: I've heard that we forget something like 90% of our dreams within 10 minutes of waking up, so it sounds like you've got the approach down pat!

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

Both. I plan an outline of my story, mapping out roughly where it starts, goes to and finishes, then I start writing. But as I’m writing, I’m researching my subject and that may lead to a new plot twist or character development. Also my characters talk to me - a lot - and to each other and many times what they say dictates the shape of the story. So the story can change quite a lot as I write. This may seem chaotic to writers who pre-plan everything, but I find it exciting.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I wish I was more organised and had a schedule but I’m not. I’m a bit erratic. I write every day. I wrote for a living as a print journalist so I am used to the discipline of writing at any time and anywhere; in my car, crouched being a wall or tree, huddled in a doorway out of the rain or snow. With a deadline to meet you could not be choosy or spend time looking for a comfortable bolt hole. I’m retired now and pursue lots of hobbies, so I write whenever I can, but it could be any hour of the day - inspired or not. I carry pen and pencil and a tape recorder with me at all times, so I always have a backlog to catch up on.

Kev's response: I haven't found the knack for writing while away from my PC at home. I can take notes elsewhere on my phone, but just can't seem to write. You've got a great ability there!

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

When I was young I loved reading historical fiction, now I read most anything. But generally it’s about the subject/genre I’m writing about for research purposes or to get a feel for the market. I’ve just published my first novel, a children’s novel, and I have outlines jotted down for other genres, including young adult and historical romance.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Writing takes you to great places to met interesting folk without the hassle of long car journeys or hanging around airport lounges. Yeah, it’ s great to visit real places but you can do it any time you like by plucking something from your imagination. Also you can invent cool new places that don’t exist in the real world. And I love research, learning new stuff.

Kev's response: Good point. I hadn't anticipated the amount of research I sometimes have to do to ensure I'm speaking accurately enough about something, or to make it at least mostly realistic in a fictional world.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

Starting. Putting those first words down on a new story. So I try not to worry about it because I can always go back and change it –20 times if I like.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

The only thing I will confess to is collecting elephants. I have herds of them, all shapes and sizes. Ornaments, clothes, jewellery, cuddly toys, mugs, glasses. You name it I’ve got it. People buy me elis all the time. I could open a shop.

Kev's response: If I ever inherit or acquire an elephant item as a gift, now I know who to call to sell it to... :) I'd love to talk to a few psychologists about if our collections say anything in particular about us. (I collect medieval weapons and shields, dragons, and fantasy prints.)

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

I write one at a time but I jot down new ideas all the time.

For my evil plot to take over the world, do you think I should go for a grand, take-all-at-once type scheme, or spread my evil influence like mad, ravenous butterflies?

I like grand entrances. So I would say do it one fell swoop.

Kev's response: I suppose. Plus, butterflies don't seem very orderly. I'd never be able to ensure they wouldn't leave a city to go hang out in a field nearby...

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I love paper books. I grew up with them and would love to see them last forever. But I’m not sure what the future holds. E-books are more eco- friendly and take up less space. I personally prefer paper books because I often backtrack, flip back a few papes to re-read something or check on something and it’s so much easier to do so with a book in your hand.

What are your current projects?

I’m promoting my debut novel ANTics. I am a very small needle in a very big haystack. If you put the name of my story and my name in a search engine, it will bring up dozens of pages. But how does someone, who hasn’t heard of me and is looking for a cool children’s book, find me. That’s what I’m working on and it’s a battle. I wasn’t planning on writing a sequel to ANTics but my characters demand it. They never gave me a break while writing and editing the story, they chattered on constantly in my head and more or less wrote a sequel themselves. I also love history and learning about different cultures. I have a couple of ideas for historical romances I am toying with.

Kev's response: Most of us (indie authors) have this problem. It's the one area that KDP Select shines, by using the free days a few times. Apart from that, I still haven't figured out how to properly "spread the word" either.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

It’s tough. It’s easy to publish a book but to get it noticed and get folk to buy it , is a whole different ball game. I suggest reading as much as you can on the subject, especially from other self published authors and learn from their advice/experience. But if anyone has the answer, please contact me.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

My website:

Kev's response: Dakota, thank you so much for joining me. Good luck with ANTics, and the sequel!

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