It’s my great honor to welcome E.B. Dawson to this month’s Indie Author Interview. Beth has been a friend of mine since the early days of my career as a writer, roughly nine years ago.
(Wait, what? It was only nine months ago? WOW, this has been a busy year.)
I’ve just finished reading Beth’s soon-to-be-released novel, The Traveler (available September 15). Here’s the synopsis:
Anissa Robson is becoming an adult in a society she never really identified with. Forced to choose her career path, she becomes an apprentice to a young, headstrong politician who seems to stand for everything she disagrees with. The dreams she has refused to report grow more alluring to her as she becomes disillusioned with her job. But the lines between reality and her dreamland begin to blur and cross over, launching her onto a path she would never have chosen for herself. Is the government medicating dreamers to protect them? Or to hide something from them?
I’ll be posting a full review on the blog a bit later this week, but for now I’ll just say that it was a truly epic read and well worth adding to your TBR. The book is a fascinating mixture of fantasy and sci-fi concepts, set in a rich and intriguing universe. I’m not exactly sure what genre to put it in–it’s almost a genre of its own. “Contemporary fantasy thriller” would be my choice.
And now, we’ll hear from Beth. Please hold your applause until the end of the interview.
E.B. Dawson was born out of time. Raised in the remote regions of a developing nation, traveling to America was as good as traveling thirty years into the future. So, it’s really no wonder that she writes science fiction and fantasy. She writes stories that acknowledge darkness, but empower and encourage people to keep on fighting, no matter how difficult their circumstances may be. And as an avid philosopher, she infuses her work with Socratic questions. When not writing, she tries to make a difference in the world by showing love and compassion to those most broken.
Tell us how you started out as a writer.
I’ve been acutely aware of the power of stories my entire life. In the tribes I grew up around, stories had stopped wars and saved lives. I was utterly addicted to imagination as a kid. I enjoyed my creative writing assignments in school. I started writing outside of school when I was eleven. I started with raccoons, went on to World War II, and then a story about a lighthouse before I attempted my first fantasy. Seems like a natural progression, right? Clearly, I have very diverse interests. In college, I started working on my first novel. It was still just a hobby, low on my list of priorities. I would even go six to eight months without writing at all. I began writing more consistently again about three years ago. Then I started absorbing all the information I could about self-publishing, author platforms, and writers’ craft all while working a full time job and trying to finish my degree. But it wasn’t until January of this year that I really launched myself into social media and the indie author community, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
Pretend my readers and I are Hollywood producers and pitch The Traveler to us. What’s the concept in a nutshell, and what sets it apart?
The Traveler explores questions of international responsibility and philosophical truth in the context of a fantasy world. (Please don’t break the internet as you all rush to buy it…)
How did the premise of The Traveler come to you? What inspired it?
I grew up between two worlds and it was confusing, incredible, and magical. But I’ve always been trying to figure out what my role is in the world and where I belong. My experiences cause me to see the world differently than other people. Do you have a dream so real that you wake up wondering which was the dream and which was reality? Sometimes my entire life feels like that. And I wonder why nobody else can see what I see and it makes me feel a little bit crazy. But I am also incredibly grateful for my unique perspectives. And I hope they make people think.
What are some of the predominant themes you explore in The Traveler?
My work tends to be very thematic, but because this book is the first of a trilogy, I have to admit I probably ask more questions than I give answers (sorry, not sorry). Questions like: Is there more to this world than what we see and hear? Do the ends justify the means? Is justice ever unbiased? And then of course there are the political questions: do we realize the impact we have on other people? Other societies?
Tell us about your writing process. How do you develop your ideas, and what’s your balance between plotting and “trailblazing”? (We won’t call it “pantsing.”) 😀
(You are a good friend) Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: my stories are philosophical hypotheticals played out by compelling characters. My first book, Out of Darkness was based around the premise of a girl who had every reason to be a victim, but chose to rise above. The sequel Into the Void, addresses whether we can escape our past and whether fear can make us stronger. My stories always start with questions like that, which come out of the lessons I am learning in life. Then I build the plot around the question, and what the character needs in order to process the question.
How do you cope with creative blocks as you write?
I stimulate my senses (physical activity, music, hot beverages, fine art, nature) and I think very deeply. Creative blocks are almost always a sign that I am missing a piece to the puzzle or I haven’t thought things through as much as I should. Gathering new ideas (books, movies, conversation), having new experiences, and being patient always does the trick.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting The Traveler written and published, and how did you overcome it?
After I committed to a publication date, my life became a giant question mark. My schedule was all over the place, I completed a major move, I started a new job, and I had to work through one of the bigger emotional upheavals of my adult life. I could have moved my deadline and I don’t think anyone would have judged me. But it somehow became very important to me. One of the only reasons I got through it all was because I had a few amazing friends who believed in me (you know who you are!).
What’s your favorite music to listen to while writing?
I really do switch it up quite a bit: soundtracks, indie, alternative, classical…I tend to land on an artist or playlist for a certain manuscript, or particular scene. And I will loop a particular song for an hour if it helps my brain process. Some favorites in the last six months include: Anberlin, the Glitch Mob, Erik Satie, and Of Monsters and Men.
Who are your three favorite fiction writers?
Lois Lowry, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. There’s just no getting around it.
What are a few of your favorite writing craft resources?
I feel like I should have a list of stellar resources ready for you, but I don’t. Honestly, I think the best way to learn story craft is to study the work of authors you love.
K.M. Weiland (www.kmweiland.com) often makes me think about character and plot from new angles. I also like how she breaks down popular films and explains what’s going on behind the scenes. That kind of “reverse engineering” is super helpful to learn as a writer.
What advice would you give aspiring authors working toward publishing their own books?
- Figure out exactly what you are trying to accomplish with your writing (Are you trying to get a message across? Are you trying to entertain? Are you just trying to challenge yourself and grow?)
- Find the people who can hear the beating heart beneath your story.
- When you get feedback, question absolutely everything about your story, but then go with your gut.
What are your future fiction-writing plans? Any teasers for your next project?
Well, there are two more books coming after The Traveler. But after September 15th, I will be dedicating a lot more time to the third book in my SciFi series. I also have vision for a contemporary fiction piece, set in the mountains of rural Idaho, and a SciFi adaptation of a classic novel. So clearly, I will be writing for the next ten years at least.
Thanks so much, Beth! Don’t forget, readers, you can buy your own copy of The Traveler staring September 15! If you want to connect with E.B. Dawson, you can look her up on her website, and on Twitter and Facebook. And watch this blog for a full review of The Traveler on Thursday, September 7.