And yes, I did jump around the room from excitement when she agreed. My husband did look at me a little weirdly, but to get inside an authors head just for a few minutes is an amazing opportunity, especially a writer like Dani.
I would like to thank Dani for taking the time to answer my questions. I very much appreciate it as a writer myself and I hope this interview will inspire my readers to. So here is my interview with Dani Atkins. Enjoy!
- What inspired you to become a writer?
I actually can’t think of a time when I haven’t wanted to be a writer. It just took me a little longer to achieve than I had anticipated. Even as a child I would always be scribbling away at short stories and poems.
My biggest inspiration was definitely my father, who spent most of his life saying that “one day” he would write a book. He was a great raconteur, had a wicked sense of humour and led an extremely interesting life. If he had ever written a novel, I am sure it would have been a success. It was from him I inherited a love of reading and stories, which eventually became a desire to write.
- Describe a typical day in the life of author Dani Atkins?
I had a very idealistic image of how it would be to work as a full time author. I thought I would sit down at my desk at nine o’clock each morning and then work continually until around five each afternoon (with an indulgent hour off for lunch, of course). It didn’t take long for me to discover that I’m nowhere near disciplined enough for that! I have a tendency to get horribly side-tracked and it can sometimes take me ages to finally “get going”. I do begin each day by walking my dog (Dusty, a four year old border collie) and I find this gives me an excellent opportunity to think about what I want to write that day (which is about as much forward planning as I ever manage to accomplish). I particularly enjoy planning dialogue whilst on these walks, and will often be found saying my characters’ words out loud to the open fields as we go. I’m sure that anyone I happen to meet must think I’m totally crazy – I know my dog does!
For some reason I seem to be much more productive during the afternoon and early evening. This means my poor long-suffering husband is normally on dinner cooking duties each night. Thankfully he doesn’t seem to mind, and this has saved us from a life of takeaways.
- Do you have a favourite place to write?
I have an office at home where I choose to write and I use an old-fashioned desktop computer (I have tried writing on my laptop, but I don’t get on with it nearly as well for some reason). My desk is beside a window which looks out onto my back garden, which is another source of distraction (although very useful to know when it has started to rain and the washing needs to come in off the line).
Our Siamese kitten Elsa has a bed in the office, although frequently decides to sit on my lap while I work, until the continual jostling as I type annoys her so much that she retreats to her bed.
Dusty the border collie usually joins us in the office, which means that there is very little actual floor space left when he is sprawled out beside me. Getting in and out of the room is a bit like tackling an obstacle course.
Writing is very much a team effort: the cat, the dog and me!
- What is your writing process?
I set myself a daily target of between 1000 and 1500 words a day (some days this just doesn’t happen, on others I end up surprising myself). I get a little grumpy if I don’t manage to reach this target, probably because I know that if I’d turned off the internet and been more disciplined, my day could have been a lot more productive. I begin each writing session by reading back everything I wrote the day before, so that I have a feeling of continuity and rhythm to my work.
I always have music playing quietly in the background when I write, but it has to be something I have listened to many times before, rather than something new. I need it to be background wallpaper and not so distracting that I stop and “tune in” to it.
- How do you come up with you ideas?
I wish I could tell you how and where ideas materialise, because that would take away a great deal of the angst of worrying about what my next novel will be about. Ideas pop up like mysterious gremlins and often from the strangest of places. Most of them lead to nothing, but there’s something about the good ones that stick like a barb and stay with you. They might hang around in your head in a vague half-formed way for a very long time (years in the case of my first novel Fractured), before finally making it to words on a computer screen.
- From your novels Fractured and The Story of Us, do you have a favourite character?
I have to really like my main protagonist on a personal level, because all of my books to date have been written in the first person, so when I’m writing I have to actually feel as though I have become them, and that wouldn’t be uncomfortable if I didn’t actually like them. Also, if I don’t like a character, or find them engaging, then the reader probably won’t either!
Out of Jimmy and Matt (from Fractured) and Richard and Jack (from The Story of Us), the man I would choose to sweep me off my feet would be Jack (winning over Jimmy by just a whisker!).
Strangely some of my favourite characters are often the incidental ones, rather than the major players. In The Story of Us I absolutely adored Monique (Emma’s French boss at the book shop). I found her totally hilarious, and I really adored writing any of the scenes which included her.
- Writers block, how do you cope with this when and if it happens?
There are days, every writer has them, when the words just won’t come – or they come out halting and stilted. I always know when this happens because I keep stopping and changing a word or a phrase here or there, instead of just letting the story unfold. I normally battle on, hoping that out of the pile of drivel I am producing, there might be something – anything – that could be salvaged. Invariably, when I go back and read it all again the following day, much of it gets to magically disappear with a press of the Delete key.
That’s the strange thing about writing, you just never know when you’re going to have a brilliant day, or a totally rubbish one. But if you walked away and chose not to write anything at all when you think you’ve hit a wall, well, then you’d never know if that was the day when something absolutely amazing would have materialised.
- Finally, what are your top 3 tips to anyone who wants to become a published writer?
Firstly – and I’ve seen this advice from a great many authors – read. A lot. Most of us are fairly discerning when we read, you know when something is working and also when it isn’t. The more you read, the more you absorb about what makes an engaging story, and more importantly, what doesn’t.
The second thing is to just write. Don’t tell yourself that “one day I am going to write a book”. Do it. Do it now. It’s all too easy to allow yourself to think that you don’t have time to write, but you just need to be disciplined and determined. I am in awe of authors who manage to produce books when they have small children running around to look after, but it can be done. When my own children were younger I wrote in notepads in the car while they were having music or swimming lessons. When they were babies I wrote when they napped. I know of several authors who write on the commute to work, or during their one-hour lunch break at their desk. Don’t set yourself impossible goals, start with just 1000 words a day (it takes a surprisingly short amount of time to achieve that). If you do that for just one hundred days, that’s only three months, you’ll have a novel.
The third piece of advice is simple. Don’t give up. Keep writing and when you’re happy with it, start sending it out to literary agents. Persistence pays off… as does hard work and a whole lot of luck.
Images above show the covers of Dani Atkins novels.
Here is a link to my review on Fractured. It is a must read for everyone.
Here also is a link to my review on The Story of Us.
Here you can find a link to amazon where you can purchase her books.
For more information and updates on Dani Atkins check out her Facebook page here.
Dani Atkins has a third book coming out January 2016 called Our Song. So look out for it, I know I will be!