Danielle DeVor is one of my favorite writers. I’ve read two of her books so far: ‘Dancing With A Dead Horse’ and ‘Constructing Marcus’. Both prove she is a master storyteller who writes with flair and a narrative flow so well constructed that the pages fly. I particularly admire her skill with dialogue. When guys speak, they don’t sound as if their words came out of a woman’s mouth – a pet peeve of mine.
Thanks for agreeing to be interrogated, Danielle. I’ll start off with my favorite series of opening questions. They may sound familiar. First, who are you really?
I am an android from the planet Zotz. No, actually, I’m just a semi-normal American girl who loves creatures and animals.
I buy you being an android from Zotz, but being semi-normal, not so much. Next question, what were you before?
At one time, I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer. I still help people with fitting of pointe shoes and moderate on a ballet message board.
What did you do?
I have also worked as a make-up artist, costume designer, and have directed and written plays.
Ah, a fellow playwright! I kinda guessed that after reading your dialogue. And finally, what did you think?
I enjoyed writing and directing plays, and hope one day, that one of my books will get picked up to be made into a film.
I think they’d make a terrific TV or cable series aimed at the teen market. I’ve never read anyone who can get into a teen’s mind as convincingly as you do – the way they think, act, and speak. Having raised a couple of teens (boys) and having been one myself (long ago in a galaxy far, far away) the ring of truth is loud and clear in your work. Talk to us a little about this special ability you have.
My favorite film of all time is The Breakfast Club. Hughes was a master at getting into the teenage mind, and I have really tried to do what he did. With boy voice, it helped that at one time, our house was the go-to house for all the teen boys in the neighborhood. Mostly, I think, because I tell ghost stories and we let them be themselves without being judgmental. For girl voice, I just try to tap into my younger self.
I love your author picture. How did you come up with that?
I wanted something striking, and since I love all things vampiric, and I used to be goth, I dug through my closet, my friend Tabby’s closet and went out into the woods. Tabby took several pictures, and that was the one that turned out best.
Although your latest book ‘Dancing With A Dead Horse’ is a straight-out whodunnit, and one of the best I’ve read in a while, your other books delve into vampires and the paranormal. Why do you think there is such a great interest today in stories about vampires, zombies, and the otherworld?
I think the interest has always been there. Look at history, the Witch-burnings, the Vampire craze in Europe. In fact, legends about vampires date back to the early days of Christianity and in other ancient religions. I think it happens in flux. There was a huge jump when Stoker’s book first came out, then less than a hundred years later the first film of his book was made. 1922’s Nosferatu. Then, Universal Studios had their monsters all come out. A lull occurred until the 1960’s and then Hammer Studios took over in England with Christopher Lee. Then, Frank Langella reprised his role of Dracula where he’d been performing on Broadway in the 1970’s. The 1980’s had a lot of vampire comedy films like Vamp with Grace Jones. In literature, the 80’s spawned the juggernaut Anne Rice. So, I suppose you can say that vampires rear their heads roughly once per decade. People are saying that vampires are dead in literature, but they aren’t. They will never be dead. MWahahahaha.
Some say our business has always been full of bloodsuckers, but we won’t go there. Your books are so intense, I wonder if you do anything special to prepare yourself for a writing session.
Being a confirmed horror film addict, I have a lot of weird thoughts going on in my head all the time. So, that part isn’t too unusual for me. When I sit down to write, I just pull out the steno pad and pens and get started. Though, I always know the main character before I sit down. And, a situation I want them to be in. The rest just comes on its own.
I especially admire your ability to write convincing dialogue, regardless of the character’s gender. Guys speak like guys and gals speak like gals. There are so few writers who can do this believably. Do you have a secret?
I think it helped that I started out writing plays. Plays are all dialogue, so I got used to making it believable as to how people talk. Also, when I question something male-related, I ask my father. He’s was a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps during Vietnam, so he’s a really good sounding board for that.
Agreed. I’ve suggested here on my blog that novelists who want to improve their dialogue skills should try writing a play. If you gave yourself a pen name that none of your friends or associates knew you by, what kind of book would you like to write?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. Maybe a western? That would be something different. Though, I’d have to have a male sounding pen name for that I think.
If money was no object, what would you do with your life besides, or in addition to, writing?
I would hire a helicopter, go to Romania, and visit the REAL Dracula’s castle. The one currently for sale is one they fixed up because it was easy to get to. He only stayed like one night there. Whereas the real castle, it is in ruins up on the side of a mountain. I would probably try to spend the night to see if something was really there. Guess if I met Dracula, I’d probably not be here anymore. LOL.
Why must you write and what would happen if you didn’t?
I can go times without writing. In fact, I didn’t write for about ten years after I stopped writing plays. Though, now that I’ve gotten used to cranking out several books per year, I’d drive myself crazy because I would know I should be doing something.
What writers have influenced you most and why?
Richard Matheson definitely. His book, I am Legend, is a masterpiece. Also, Anne Rice because Lestat is probably the most awesome vampire ever. (I know. I so sound like a kid there. LOL.) And, of course, Stephen King. Well, because who can ignore the awesomeness of The Shining. Though, contrary to what King thinks, I love Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance.
What were your adolescent years like? Are any of your books drawn from that time in your life?
I had a very angst filled adolescence. I am a severe asthmatic, and spent a lot of my junior high and high school years at home because I was so sick. This also is what stopped me from being able to be a dancer professionally. So, I tended to hang out with people older than me and learned to people-watch. That might be why dialog is easier for me to write as well.
Yes, I wonder if some writers ever listen to how people really speak. How do you go about formulating your plots?
I never have a full idea as to how a plot will go. I just know when I start that I want my characters to react in a certain situation. In Dancing With a Dead Horse, I wanted Jason to react to the murder and the subsequent accusation. In Constructing Marcus, I wanted Emma to fall in love with a spirit who isn’t a ghost.
How long does it usually take you to write a book?
I can do NANOWRIMO. But, I try not to be that hard on myself. I usually get the rough draft done in roughly 1.5 months. Then, I have to go back and add all the description. I still write mostly dialogue and not much else when I first start. That is one detriment to beginning writing plays instead of prose.
‘Dancing With A Dead Horse’ is approx. 67,000 words. Is that the length you shoot for? If so, why?
I tend to start out with wanting to hit about 70k. But, I also take market ideals into account. YA, you can get by with smaller word counts. But, I also write adult fiction, so for those, I shoot for about 70k. I’m about to start a science fiction project, so that one will need to be above 80k.
Why did you decide to become an indie writer/publisher?
Big publishers are so out of reach for most people. Literary agents tend to go with trends instead of taking chances on new authors. So, I went with smaller publishers that will take chances on new stories. And, I also have self-published a short story of mine. There is freedom with self-publishing, but it is hard too.
Tell us your thoughts on the world of indie publishing as it stand today. What’s good about it? What’s not so good?
I think it is good that with indie publishing, readers don’t have to wait for a small amount of books to come out every year. At the same time, though, because there are now so many people publishing, it is hard to stand out.
What changes would you like to see take place?
I think there needs to be a better way to market books to people. Most people still browse. They may buy ebooks, but they like to browse too. So, I think it would be awesome if someone would make a bookstore of a different type with placards that have the cover art and description. Maybe a few sample pages. Then, they could take a card under that piece and go to the front desk to either have their selection printed, or downloaded onto their ebook. Think about how many books that people could see if a large book store only put book space for one copy? So many more books for people to see.
Writing is a job that often involves isolation for hours, sometimes days, at a time. How do you deal with that?
I’m not really an isolated person. I get up before everyone else in the house and usually have my word count and promo done before noon. Then, I have the rest of the day to do what I need or want to do. The bad part about that is that I am a night bird and getting up early kind of sucks. But, it is the routine that works for me.
What advice, or tips, would you give a writer who is about to write their first young adult novel?
Get to know some young adults. Pay attention to their mannerisms. Pay attention to what is important to them. Ask them questions about it. Really get to know them.
How supportive are your family and friends about your chosen vocation?
My folks sell my books more than I do, I think. I have to give them bookmarks to keep with them because they will go to a store and start talking about their daughter, the writer. Inevitably, they leave a bookmark behind. And, my friends and family all buy my books, so that’s nice too.
If you could travel to any time period and any place, what and where would they be and why?
I think I would like to go to what my father calls, “The Old Country”. His side of the family is from what is currently Herzegovina, but at the time that his family came to America, it was still part of Austria. It was prior to World War II, so I think it would have been interesting to see where my grandfather grew up.
What are your favorite non-writing activities?
I love to read, watch movies, go to Indian restaurants. Sometimes, I like to bake.
What else have you got to say for yourself, Danielle?
It was great being interviewed by you, Bob. Thanks!
My pleasure, Danielle. My 5-star review of Constructing Marcus can be read here, and my 5-star review of Dancing With A Dead Horse can be read here. For those of you looking for a great weekend read, I highly recommend both of these.