Dawn Rae Miller is a fellow client of Kathleen Ortiz’s, which is how we met. She’s a super nice, crazy busy mom of three who’s still able to write awesome books. Her debut novel, Larkstorm, just came out on December 6th. It’s a fantastic story, so check it out here, and enjoy the interview!
First, tell us a little about yourself. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Most of my free time is spent writing or working on writing related things like marketing and public relations. However, when I’m not doing any of that, I like to run and wake up before 6 every morning to squeeze in a run or some time at the gym. I also have three boys under the age of ten. I home school my oldest son in the morning and spend afternoons driving everyone around to lacrosse, basketball, soccer and drama. I also love fashion and in my former life, I was a stylist, so I play with clothes a lot.
Wow, you have a very busy life. When did you start writing? Do you have formal training in writing?
When I was in high school, my dream was to be the editor of Vogue. In college, I was a lead columnist for my school paper. However, until two years ago, I never wrote anything longer than a short story.
Do you write free-hand or on the computer?
Both – mainly computer, but I use notebooks when sketching scenes or I have writers’ block. Because I have dyslexia, writing on a computer is easier for me. My notebooks are indecipherable to anyone else because my brain doesn’t see blank paper like most people. I write non-linearly on paper.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or writing influences?
John Green and Melina Marchetta are my two favorite authors. I adore how Marchetta can write so beautifully across genres. It’s a goal I aspire to. I also love Gayle Forman – her characters have immense depth. And Veronica Roth – her prose is gorgeous and her thoughts deep.
What’s your favorite genre to read?
Six months ago, I would have said fantasy and dystopian without hesitation. But lately, I’ve discovered some amazing contemporaries.
You’re also a ghostwriter. What are some ways that differs from your own stories?
The main difference is that my ghostwritten series is contemporary, where as Larkstorm is fantasy. I also tend to prefer first person present tense in my own writing, but write in third person past for my ghost writing jobs. These jobs have pushed me to expand what I felt I knew absolutely about my writing.
How did you get involved in that?
My agent, Kathleen Ortiz, asked me if I’d be interested in writing sample pages for a project. She felt the project would be a good fit for based on some spec stuff I’d been working on.
Where did the idea for Larkstorm come from?
I have no idea! I wish I could say something about it being a dream or an idea that stewed in my brain for years. The reality is I woke up one day and decided to see if I could write a book. I spent a few hours coming up with an idea (which was very different than the final book) and sat down that night and began writing. I had a complete draft four weeks later.
What made you choose dystopian as opposed to a contemporary setting?
I’d just finished the Hunger Games. I couldn’t think of anything else – LOL.
Fair enough. I think it works great. I really enjoyed the whole “Sensitive” aspect. Without giving anything away, how did you come up with that?
Blushes ummm…I tease my kids and tell them I have special powers – that’s why they can’t trick me. I also say that the freckles on their noses are pixie dust and they’ll grow into their powers someday.
Which character did you enjoy writing the most? Who was the hardest?
I loved writing Kyra and Eloise. And Maz. They all have theme songs that I’d listen to while writing their scenes. The hardest was probably Malin and Annalise. I wanted them to frighten Lark, but not be full-out mustache twisting villains. I needed Malin to care for Lark – love her, actually – but still be scary and threatening.
The cover for Larkstorm is gorgeous. What was the process and how much involvement did you have?
Thank you! I couldn’t ask for a better cover and Sarah Marino delivered on everything I asked for.
Initially, Kathleen and I tossed ideas back and forth. During this time, I came across an image of a thousand Japanese cranes suspended from wires and sent it to KO. We both loved the idea of have Lark surrounded by a storm of birds, but we didn’t have a designer.
Kathleen did some asking around and came across Sarah. I viewed her online portfolio and loved what I saw. We scheduled a phone call with Sarah and I knew right away I wanted to work with her.
Sarah was able to take our idea and turn it into six or seven variations. Once we selected the direction, we had to choose faces, color scheme, typography, clothes, etc. We had a few phone calls and tons of emails discussing seemingly minor things, which in hindsight really contributed to the overall feel.
Larkstorm is the first in a series. How many books are you planning?
It’s a triology.
Have you started on the sequel? How it the process going?
I have the rough draft of book two completed. I won’t lie, it’s been difficult because the story becomes darker in this book and I’m questioning every single word I put on the page.
I’m sure it’ll turn out well. How does it feel to have your debut novel out there for everyone to read?
Thrilling. I never, ever expected this to happen and feel so blessed to be able to share this story with others. After I finished writing Larkstorm, I told myself I’d be happy just to get an agent. I met that goal – everything else is icing on the cake for me.
Do you have a certain writing routine?
Because of my ghost writing obligations and my own books, I have to be a full-time writer. This means I’m very strict about writing for 4-6 hours EVERY day. I typically write from 7pm – 11pm and a few hours in the afternoon. When I’m on deadline, my husband blocks out daytime writing hours for me and I’ll easily write eight-ten hours a day.
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, who?
I can’t listen to music when I ghost write. I have no idea why, but it clouds my mind. When I write my own stuff, I have playlists for the different characters and the book overall. My playlists are all on Spotify (AliceAndIsa). They tend to be a bit eclectic.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
The only person who can stop you is yourself. Don’t worry what anyone else thinks – if you want to write, write.
And finally, and probably most importantly, your favorite superhero?
He’s not a “superhero” but I love Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Aang totally counts! Thank you so much to Dawn for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview. Larkstorm is an awesome read, and I highly recommend you check it out!