Author Interview: Rebekah Dodson

A word weaver, a crafter of worlds, and a deviser of plots, are terms that can describe Author Rebekah Dodson, but she prefers the title of writer. Why? Writers craft the symbols of the alphabet into a communication of beauty and ideas.  Please welcome Rebekah to No Wasted Ink.

author-rebekah-dodsonHello, my name is Rebekah Dodson, and I hail from the very Southern tip of Oregon, in the wild, wild west. I moved to a small town here because I needed out of the big city. I love living in Oregon, especially out where everyone knows my name. My husband of 16 years is a disabled veteran and stay at home dad to two teenagers, who often require more work than toddlers. I have three dogs: a German Shepherd named Max, a heeler named Coulson, and a Chihuahua named Princess. She’s kinda the boss of the whole troop and gets her brothers into trouble all the time. I am a professor at a local college, teaching writing, English, and college survival strategies. In my spare time, I play the piano, read fantasy novels, play Dungeons and Dragons, and of course, write!

When and why did you begin writing?

I originally started writing when I was 12. I was homeschooled and my co-op teacher gave me the option of writing a short story instead of an essay for a history assignment. She told me to write 5,000 words and I did it in a day! My short story, a romance based in the Civil War time period. Lilly Love and Billy Dove, was eventually published with the 4H Clubs of America and went on to win several awards. I put that aside for a long time to pursue my college education in psychology. My true writing career, however, didn’t happen until 2014. I met a man in college who was also a “secret writer” and we started swapping fantasy stories. He really inspired me to keep weaving stories and telling tall tales. It’s been 8 years since we meet, and we are now both teachers and writers.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The first day I considered myself a writer was when I published my novel series, Postcards from Paris, with Deckard Publishing, on March 3rd, 2014. A friend in my graduate program encouraged me to keep writing no matter what and raved over my work. He designed my covers, edited, and published me. But more importantly, he never stopped encouraging me to share my work with the world. When I saw my first book go live, that was the day I knew I could do this forever.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

Although most of my novels are romance, I’ve finally released a sci-fi fantasy novel, Mirrors: The Curse of Lanval Book 1. This time-travel story is reach in medieval scenery, and features a main character who is a snarky, witty paramedic and college student. He’s full of himself and thinks he’s God’s gift to women – until he meets his match in a medieval queen.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always been obsessed with history since a young age. I started this story about a year ago, when I began to wonder what would happen if a college student – with their often lofty, preconceived notions about how the world works – would fare in the past. Most of the inspiration came from observing my students. The story truly came to life when I met my teaching assistant in Sept 2016, a paramedic and college student himself. He started feeding me ideas and specific medical information. In frenzy, the story was finished and polished in about three months.

Do you have a specific writing style?

My specific writing style involves scenery and dialogue. In grad school, Hemingway’s abstract dialogue inspired me to craft characters that share witty conversations that tend to “dance” around issues. Like the hidden agenda in “Hills like White Elephants” my dialogue usually doesn’t address issues specifically, but plays more of a word game. I’m also very into describing weather, scenes, rooms, and buildings. I want to immerse my readers in locale as much as possible.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

My main characters, Gill and his sister Jules, touch a magic mirror they find in a chapel in France, when they travel there for their dear Uncle’s funeral. Much more than an artifact, it’s a running theme throughout the series: Gill looks in the mirror often, because of his prideful nature. A spell caster in the series uses Mirror Image to confuse their foes. Finally, Gill realizes that the mirror is turned on him, when he sees himself for who he truly is.

The series is also called The Curse of Lanval, based on the medieval author, Marie de France, who wrote a lais (poem) in the 12th century called Lanval. This story is about a knight that King Arthur forgot, and even though he seems cursed and bad things happen to him, he is eventually rewarded for being honest, true, and devoted. For this reason I gave Gill the surname of Lanval, because he’s a lot like this knight: not what he seems, but good of heart in the end.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Absolutely! Don’t ever judge a person by how they act. They might seem arrogant and foolish, but underneath they are usually insecure and frightened to show the world their weaknesses. All the characters in this series are a bit two-faced at times, but they don’t mean to. In the real world, we all have our public face and the one we show those close to us. Just because you see someone’s public face in the mirror, doesn’t mean that’s who they really are.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Some of Gill’s college experiences are based on mine, and observations from where I teach. For example, when Gill trips in the hallway and meets a girl he’s attracted to, this actually happened to me in college. I married the man 18 months later.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The main author to inspire me is the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series from a young age, and I always wanted to create a world like he did. I’m still working on it, but I do enjoy the adventures that he painted that will stick with me for a lifetime. I also enjoy Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. The dynamics of adventure, fantasy, and romance between Richard and Khalan kept me reading the entire series on the edge of my seat. I love his writing style!

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Not really a mentor, but my writer friend (mentioned above from college days) is who I refer to as my muse. It doesn’t matter if I need help with romance or fantasy or even horror, I can call him and say “Help me!” and he will always answer. His answer is usually, “Did you add dragons?” He is the greatest assistant to my work and I wouldn’t be here today without him.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

C.L. Cannon at Fiction Atlas Author Services designed my cover. I actually selected her in the beginning because she had affordable services. She also edited Mirrors as well and is working on a book trailer for the series. I was so impressed with her enthusiasm to find what Gill really looked like, and she was great at seeing my vision. She also captured Marie, the character in book 2, perfectly. I’ve hired her permanently for the rest of the books in the series.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Everyone always says keep writing, but really, the key is to keep publishing. Go with a publishing house or self-publish, but don’t wait around! Get it out there! Even if you have to design your own cover and edit yourself, because you can’t afford either. DO NOT WAIT. I waited 2 years for my publisher to put out more of my books, thinking I couldn’t do it by myself, and in the meantime I wrote 25 novels (yes, you read that right!). I started self-publishing in October of 2016 and currently have 10 on the market and a huge fan base. Don’t ever wait around to take control of your destiny. Do it NOW.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Whether it’s my book or someone else’s, please value your indie/self-publish community by reading our books and leaving reviews. We work hard to give you best novel we can, and a little bit of our heart and soul is poured into each book. Show the love back whenever you can and pay it forward.

book-cover-mirrorsRebekah Dodson
Oregon

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MIRRORS: The Curse of Lanval Book I

Cover Design: C.L. Cannon

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No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Welcome back to another Monday of writer’s links.  This week there is the usual mix of general writing tips, but I have also included a few about handwriting and language that are a bit off the beaten path, but still interesting.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

When I Fell in Love with Reading

Sherlock Holmes and Mastery of the Craft of Writing

HANDWRITING RESOURCES

Revenge of the copy editors: Grammar pros find internet stardom

Why I’ve ditched the Kindle for print books

THE WRITER AS PUBLIC FIGURE VS. THE WRITER WHO ACTUALLY WRITES

Why I’m Turning Trad-Pub Deals Down

DOWN THE RESEARCH RABBIT HOLE

Self-publishing, in an instant

Remembering Nüshu, the 19th-Century Chinese Script Only Women Could Write

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

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Welcome back, readers!  This week’s writer’s links is a grab bag of general writing tips, help in writing science fiction, and a little about handwriting itself.  Pour yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and dig in.  I hope you like ’em.

How to Fill Plot Holes in Your Novel

Strengthening Your Fiction The Ben Franklin Way

Rogue Viruses in Science Fiction

An Author’s Guide to Book Subtitles

7 Essentials for Your Book Launch

Resilience: The Key to Reaching Your Writing Goals in 2017

10 Ridiculously Simple Steps for Writing a Book

Cursive Handwriting

Is My Novel Offensive?

The 1000 Day MFA

Author Interview: Joshua Grasso

Joshua Grasso is a professor of English at East Central University and the author of three books on Amazon: The Winged Turban, The Astrologer’s Portrait, and The Count of the Living Death. He is also a fellow member of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Network.  Please welcome him here on No Wasted Ink.

author-joshua-grassoHello—my name is Joshua Grasso, and I’m currently an Associate Professor of English at East Central University, a small university in Oklahoma. My day job consists of teaching all those wonderful classes that are the genesis of every science fiction and fantasy book out there—British Literature, World Literature, Shakespeare, Gothic Literature, and every once in a while, a class on Superheroes as Lit. As a teacher, I try to do the same thing I do in my books: introduce students to a new, exciting world that has (seemingly) always existed, and invite them to start exploring themselves, using language, art, and logic as their guide. I think some of the greatest adventures in history actually started in the classroom, by a writer, or an explorer, or simply a dreamer who caught wind of something unique from a lecture, or a discussion, or a reading assignment. That’s where my journey began, anyway—as a first-year college student in a drafty classroom.

When and why did you begin writing?

As an English major in college, I was inspired by all the works I read, particularly the works set in ancient worlds and languages: Homer, Shakespeare, Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc. These works seemed vitally alive to me, yet also quite incomplete; there were ‘holes’ and gaps in the narratives that seemed to invite a future writer to fill in. They provided the perfect introduction to my own world and ideas.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

In 1995, I entered a one-act play writing contest at my college and surprisingly won (I had never won anything writing-wise, and I haven’t won much since!). The grand prize was a full production of my little play, but as luck would have it, this occurred just weeks before the Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995). Since we were in Oklahoma, that became the focus of everyone’s life and the production became largely forgotten—and was finally just half-performed for one evening. Still, it was a starting point, though I quickly realized my talent did not lie in writing plays (I typically just stuck my characters in a room and set them arguing at each other; I learned that you should probably change scenes once in a while).

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My most recent book, The Winged Turban (2015), is a fantasy novel with a slight Gothic influence set in a Europe-that-never-was. A young woman is married into a strange family and packed away into an ancient estate, where she uncovers a strange old portrait that was never there before, and at least one person is fairly certain is a portrait of her (though it’s well over 200 years old).
What inspired you to write this book?

The cover of the book features a famous 15th century painting by Rogier Van der Weyden, The Woman with a Winged Turban. This is a painting I often use in my classes when teaching the late medieval period, and I’ve always been captivated by it: the painting and the woman. One day, while teaching, I began having a conversation with myself, wondering who she really was, and how I could build a story around it. Those rough ideas slowly blossomed into a full-fledged novel about a year later. The painting—slightly changed—is actually described in the book, so if you know it (or have memorized the cover) you’ll realize immediately what I’m talking about.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I think so, but that’s a dangerous thing to try to nail down. I used to be very verbose, flowery, and full of asides. I’ve tried to cut that down, but even today, I like sentences that flow from specific word use and sentence structures. I love long sentences, too, and I’m not afraid of using semicolons, colons, ellipses, or parenthesis (even though an agent once warned me that writers stopped using them ages ago!). I don’t like writing that is too obvious or clipped. I think writing should be like a ball of yarn: the more you read, the more tangled up you get in the narrative, and just when you think you’ve gotten loose—ah, another tangle! The writing should be clear and readable, but not easy or obvious. It should make you read, re-read, and think a little. That’s what I hope my style does—makes you re-read, not out of confusion (well, once or twice) but for the sheer enjoyment of a sentence or idea.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Ha, this one was easy: I just stole it from the title of the painting. I loved the phrase “winged turban.” It’s just a style of medieval fashion, but it sounds so mysterious, and most people have no ideas what a winged turban is, anyway. You have to read to find out. And then you’re like, “oh, it’s just her headgear.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Messages are tricky: a good novel has more than one, and none of them are just bobbing on the surface. Though I would hate to spell any of them out (and there are probably some I’m not even aware of), I did want to stress the idea that the “villain” is rarely a true villain in the sense that we find in movies and old novels. A villain is often just the person who has different goals and desires than you, and is more driven in achieving them. The ‘villain’ in this book is not very evil at all, just desperate to do what she thinks is the ultimate right thing, even if some sacrifices need to be made. And most of the ‘heroes’ agree with her…up to a point.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

No, this is all from my own imagination, books I’ve read, and themes I enjoy reading about. That’s the beauty of writing for me: nothing is autobiographical (other than the ideas/aesthetics), and I can completely immerse myself in characters, worlds, and journeys that are a complete expansion or negation of my own. I don’t want to see myself anywhere in the book if I can help it!

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

The biggest influences on my writing are typically (with a few exceptions) British, very old, and usually mentioned as “classics”: Austen, Coleridge, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Wilde, Mary Shelley, Voltaire, Tolkein, White, and the extensive works of “Anonymous” (particularly Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, etc). For me, a great story has to be coupled with powerful and beautiful language, and the pre-20th century world seemed more at peace with this. After WWI, beauty in writing seemed somewhat naive or improper, so writers adopted a more clipped, terse style of writing which gets to the point but (often) without flair or beauty. I think writing should be beautiful, so that you can fall in love with a single sentence, and only later understand how that sentence fits into the puzzle of the entire piece. I also like works where the narrator is him/herself a character, and writers like Chaucer, Austen, and Wilde were masters at this. After all, if someone is talking, why make him/her anonymous? Give him/her life and a voice, even if the ultimate identity remains mysterious.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Since I’m also a professor, I learned the most from the writers I wrote about and ended up teaching, figures like Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, and Jane Austen. Analyzing their works as a scholar, and then figuring out how to teach them to (largely) bored undergraduates, really makes you appreciate how they work as writers and as books. That has to rub off on you as a writer yourself, and I picked up a lot of Austenisms in my writing, some of which I edited out, but others I kept as a badge of pride. No shame in sounding like one of the greatest masters of prose in the English language!

Do you have any advice for other writers?

The only thing I’ve truly learned about writing is to be devoted to it. Don’t do it by halves. By that I mean make writing (not being a writer, or acting like a writer, but actually writing) your entire life. Write every day until it becomes second nature. Read every day without fail. Find the connections between different authors and try out their techniques. Set goals and come as close as you can to accomplishing them. But most of all, write. If you don’t like writing, there’s no reason to become a writer. And if you do, then get to it!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Remember that I’m poor and I can’t afford to pay fancy editors to go over my work. It’s just me and some friends and students. So if you find a typo, tell me about it before you post a 1-star review! I promise to fix it! You can’t believe how hard it is to find every single typo or missing word in a 90 thousand-word manuscript even after reading it five or six times in several different mediums. But other than that, I hope you enjoy the book!

book-cover-the-winged-turbanJoshua Grasso
Ada, OK

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The Winged Turban

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