Virginia born and raised indie author Dana Fraedrich was just thirteen when she began writing. She published her first novel, Skateboards, Magic, and Shamrocks, at the age of 27 and went on to release a sequel, Heroes, Legends and Villains. She fills us on how she handles the editing process, researching explosives and the importance of connecting with fellow writers.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
I grew up in Virginia and moved to Nashville after graduating from Roanoke College with a BFA in technical design for the theatre and a concentration in creative writing. I self-published my first novel, Skateboards, Magic, and Shamrocks, when I was 27. Since then I’ve also released a sequel, Heroes, Legends, and Villains, and just recently released the first in a new series called Out of the Shadows.
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
I've always written down stories and things that floated around in my head. I never really thought about it; it was just something I did. I enjoyed writing assignments in school. The first one I can remember doing was in second grade. We had to write a story based on this picture of a haunted house. I remember being so excited to share what I'd written and asked my mum if she would listen to it. When I was thirteen I started writing for myself. I had this long adventure tale written out. There was no end for a long time. I would just add new ideas whenever they came to me. I eventually started on a sequel, which then went through the same treatment. I wrote a lot of fan fiction during high school too, and in very early college I started playing around with writing proper separate stories.
What inspires you to write?
Everything! I have a very active imagination, and I'm always asking "what if." Like, what if you got met that video game character in real life? How would you react? What if moths and butterflies were actually fairies in real life? I also had a crazy dream one night while on vacation a few years back, and I wrote down what I could remember as soon as I woke up. That dream was the beginning of my latest book, Out of the Shadows. Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head – "I want to write a story with an assassin!" And ideas usually buzz around inside my brain until I write them down, almost like a release.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I was researching how to make gunpowder and explosives for my latest book, Out of the Shadows, and I suddenly had this realization – "Oh no. I'm going to be on government watch list or something now." Writers have to look up the most random, obscure stuff. Our browser histories must look absolutely nuts! I was just recently looking up plants that can be used as soap. And I've started learning about electromagnetism for an idea I've had. Also, for the record, I was looking up how to make gunpowder and explosives so that I could make sure I got it wrong, as I needed my characters to fail at making it...just in case anyone needs to know *wink*.
You just released your book Out of the Shadows, a little over a month ago. How are you feeling at this point?
It was exhausting but totally worth it. I feel really good about it. As an independent author, all the work is on me. I am my own marketing person, social media manager, inventory control person, final editor, etc. Once I was close to being done with writing the book, I spoke to my friend who edited my second book, Heroes, Legends, and Villains, to see if he'd be interested in editing another one. He agreed and we set a deadline. While he had the book, I focused on designing the cover. I asked another friend of mine, an artist, if she would create some maps for the front of the book. Once I got the edited version back, I went through and decided what to keep and what to change. Then I started doing all the setup on KDP and CreateSpace, Amazon's ebook and print-on-demand self-publishing platforms. Once that was done, I ordered a printed copy of the book, read through the whole thing again, and made one last round of edits. And during all of that was preorder promotions, a giveaway, social media announcements, all that good stuff. And then the day came, and I was so excited to share my new book with the world!
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
You have to constantly remind yourself that rejection is a part of life. Not everyone is going to like what you create. Even if it's the best thing ever written, it's just not going to appeal to a lot of folks. And it's hard not to take rejection personally because, as any sort of creator, you pour your heart into your creations. They're your babies, so rejection hurts a lot. When I experience that, I remind myself that I won't get anywhere unless I put one foot in front of the other and push forward. I try to take what lessons I can from rejection and then push past it. Don't let it paralyze you.
How do you deal with isolation?
I consider myself fortunate to have the kind of personality where I have to talk to other people to process things, and by "talk" I mean "release a tsunami of words and thoughts." My husband is usually the victim in these situations. If he's not around, my next targets are either members of my family or my best friend. Even though I have this circle, I think it's important for writers to have a writing community, whether it's online or in real life. I also meet with a writing group once a month to discuss projects we're working on.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Read, write, repeat. Both reading and writing help make you a better writer. And get feedback from people. I know that's really scary because you might hear criticism, but don't take it personally. You can learn from it to improve. And keep writing, even when you don't feel like it. Just write something, get those juices flowing. Sometimes when I'm stuck, I'll write about why I'm stuck, lay out the problems I'm facing, what I would like to happen once I get over this hump. I find that's really helpful for me. It keeps me from just stagnating in one place and usually results in new ideas to try.
Any advice specific to your genre?
Two things. One, when writing for young adults, think about the emotions your characters are experiencing. It's a very transformative time, and emotions are a huge part of character motivation. Secondly, if you're writing fantasy and you have magic, you can set it up however you like, but once your rules of magic are established (think laws of physics), stick to them! Nothing makes me crazier than when I'm watching a TV show or reading a book and magic isn't treated consistently.
Which writers do you admire?
Oh my goodness, there are so many. And I think it changes a little with every new book I read. I'm a huge fan of Robin McKinley. She's such a legend, and she writes such beautiful scenes with her words. I also really enjoy Gail Carriger and Marie Brennan. And I really enjoyed Chris Wooding's Ketty Jay series, so much that I named my car Ketty Jay. And, of course, there are the classics like Tolkien and Lewis and now Rowling, too. All of these folks are masters of world-building. I love their different senses of humor and characterizations.
How will you go about marketing your upcoming book?
Social media is a constant source of marketing. I think it's important that people see me as both a writer and just as me, so I'm always posting stuff from my everyday life as well as writing samples and little wonderings I dream up. I'm trying to engage more on forums and those sorts of platforms as well, trying to become more connected with other writers. The writing community is great for feedback, encouragement, and marketing.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Visibility, 100%. After three book releases, I feel like I've started to get the first half of this whole process down. Getting my books in front of lots and lots of eyeballs in multiple places, followed closely by getting them interested, is a proper challenge. There are so many authors and books out there, too, and that number is growing every day, which creates a lot of competition. Getting your books to stand out in that huge crowd is probably the hardest thing about marketing, even harder when you're independent and trying to do it all yourself.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Write for yourself. Write what you love. You may never make money off your books even if you write what everyone else wants, so write what makes you feel fulfilled.
Dana’s books can be purchased on her Amazon author page, or individually: Out of the Shadows, Skateboards, Magic and Shamrocks, Heroes, Legends and Villains. You can find about more about Dana and her upcoming work on her website or via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.