Monday, December 13, 2010
The more I write, the less I end up in my stories. I started my first book, In Honor Bound, when I was nineteen, and it has a lot of youthful angst in it. But people who know me well still probably couldn’t pick out which bits of which of those characters are really me and which are other people who were in my life at the time and which I created just to make the story work. I think that’s because there isn’t a specific character who completely represents me, but several of them reflect something about me. As time has gone on and I continue to explore different themes, there are fewer and fewer of my own personal issues involved in my stories. I think as a writer and as a wannabe actress, it’s my job to imagine how people who aren’t me would feel and react to situations I’ve never had to deal with personally.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I guess I get craziest when hockey is involved. I’m a huge fan of the Dallas Stars, and their divisional rivals are the Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Phoenix Coyotes and the San Jose Sharks. So I keep a rubber duck, a toy Burger King king and a stuffed shark on the shelf in my office, all with their eyes X-ed out because, obviously, they’re dead. I still haven’t found a plush Wyle E. Coyote to deface.
My grandson is one of the official bloggers for the Stars. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I wrote a long time before I ever considered myself to be an author. I’ve always loved books and dramas, so I started writing when I was in high school and college to amuse myself when I was bored. The habit got to be more and more of an intense interest after college, but I still didn’t even consider the idea of trying to get published. Finally a friend of mine suggested that I should take all my writings and make them into a chronological story and then try to get it published. That’s how I got In Honor Bound and some of its sequel, By Love Redeemed.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I enjoy a good story, no matter what it’s about or where it’s set, but I gravitate toward historicals, especially if they have a romantic side to them. I especially love medieval, regency, and American Civil War stories, but my current passion is the classic mysteries of the 1920s and 1930s. I want to write like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham when I grow up.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Mostly I make a conscious decision that I just won’t run. Yes, there’s a certain amount of hecticness inherent in merely making a living, but I refuse to needlessly add to that. I choose not to be constantly on the phone or texting or Twittering or instant messaging. I don’t have to watch every new reality show. I don’t care who is or isn’t voted off in Survivor or what the Smoke Monster in Lost is supposed to be. Yes, that makes me hopelessly outdated regarding pop culture, but that’s why I write historicals.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Names for main characters are extremely important to me. They need to fit the time period without being off-putting to modern readers. Ideally they ought to indicate something about the character as well. For minor characters, I tend to glance around my office and swipe authors’ names off of books, though not the same first and last name together. That keeps things fresh.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
In my writing career, I’d have to say getting my first book published is my proudest moment. That was when I felt I was a real author.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I would definitely be a cat. A house cat in a loving home has the greatest life ever. As they say, dogs have family, cats have staff. Dogs come when you call, cats take a message and consider getting back to you later.
What is your favorite food?
Just one? I guess my ultra-favorite, only-on-special-occasions treat is grilled lobster tail. Dessert wise, give me German chocolate cake or banana pudding.
Prioritizing seems to be a big one with me. It’s easy to let family concerns or the day job or other interests push writing onto the back burner of the day. There’s no cure for it except self discipline. Sit in your chair and write. Set yourself some achievable, measurable goals and don’t get up until you’ve met them.
Tell us about the featured book.
Letters in the Attic is my frist book for DRG, though it is Book Four in the Annie’s Attic Mystery series. Annie is a fairly young widow who moves from Texas to Maine in order to empty out and sell her deceased grandmother’s old Victorian house. Up in the attic, she finds various items related to the local mysteries she solves. In my book, she finds a packet of letters from a childhood friend and decides to find out where she is now. The problem is that nobody knows what happened to the friend, or at least they’re not saying.
Letters is my very first contemporary novel, though it’s not my first mystery. I’m working on the second book in my series of Drew Farthering Mysteries set in 1930s England. All my Christie and Sayers and Allingham reading has certainly come in handy for this kind of writing.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Annie Dawson stood on the front porch of Grey Gables, forgetting for the moment the bags of groceries she carried in each arm. The light dusting of early-October snow had melted, and now the day was crisp and clear, the brilliant reds and yellows of the maple trees and the rich green of the white pines vibrant against the aqua sky. Maybe these were exactly the colors she needed for her next crochet project.
The colors of Maine in autumn.
The ladies at the Hook and Needle Club had told her weeks ago that she ought to make herself a nice sweater for the cool weather to come.
“Maine’s not like Texas where it stays hot until November sometimes,” Mary Beth had told her.
Annie smiled to think of that now. Just yesterday, her daughter, LeeAnn, had mentioned that the temperature was up to eighty-five in Dallas. But a few weeks ago, back when Mary Beth had made her comment, Annie hadn’t decided if she would still be here in Stony Point when the cold weather came, if she would even need a sweater warm enough for a chilly fall evening in Maine. Now it was October, and she still hadn’t really decided. But she hadn’t left either.
There was too much yet to be done here at Grey Gables. Gram had left her the old house and an attic full of memories and mysteries, too, treasured handwork and precious remembrances from a long life well and thoroughly lived. Having those things properly cared for, seeing them sold or given to those who would truly appreciate them, was a task Gram had entrusted to Annie. As much as she missed her daughter and her twin grandchildren, Annie couldn’t go back to Texas quite yet.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Mine’s easy: http://www.deannajuliedodson.com/. Besides information on my published and upcoming books, the site has features on my four spoiled cats, my favorite hockey team, my quilting and cross-stitch projects and more.
Thank you, DeAnna, for spending this time with us.
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