Author Interview with Debra Daugherty
Why did you become a writer…was it a dream of yours since you were younger or did the desire to write happen later in your life?
From an early age, I loved to write. Fortunately, my family and teachers encouraged me. When my grade school newspaper published stories and poems I’ve written, I remember the feeling of joy and accomplishment. No matter what else I did in my life, I knew I wanted to keep writing.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
The answer to this is a little of both, but mostly from my imagination. One thing I try to do in each story is give at least one character a family name. In THE DRAGON’S RING, Princess Isadora’s maid was named Anna, after my nephew’s daughter. The YA series I’m working on has a character with the initials D.J., the nickname of one of my nephews.
What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?
In the fourth book of my YA series, my main characters are searching for the Holy Grail. Their quest leads them to Rosslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s a remarkable building, with intricate carvings and designs done by master craftsmen during medieval times. My biggest regret is I didn’t visit this chapel when I was in Edinburgh. Also, I needed information on personal belongings of Mary, Queen of Scots, and I emailed the librarian in Edinburgh for help. She sent a reply the next day with links to the articles I needed.
How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
Whew! Where do I begin? Many of my ideas come to me when I’m in bed. I’m nearing that dream stage when a thought enters my mind, and I’m thinking and plotting as I fall asleep. This happened just recently. A cute Picture Book idea popped in my head, and before I was asleep I had the story written out in my mind. I know I should have gotten up and written it down, but luckily, the next morning I remembered everything.
Other times I sit at my keyboard and start typing, and a story is born. The first time I did NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, where one tries to write an entire novel in November, I began with no idea what I wanted to write about. My YA series was born that month, with my writing the first three novels in 30 days. But I’ve been revising and changing the plot, etc., for the last 3 ½ years.
I wrote THE DRAGON’S RING in three days, lost it on my computer and had to rewrite it all over again. Then it sat in a drawer for 20 years. I decided to revise it, giving the princess a more active role in the story, and found a publisher.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers on how to write a book? Do you have any advice for them regarding promoting that book once published?
My advice for beginning writers is to learn all you can about writing. Attend conferences, join a writers/critique group, read the “How to” books on writing. And while doing all this, write every day, if only a few sentences.
Aspiring authors need to start promoting their book before it is even written. This sounds odd, but one needs to start building a platform – and two good places to begin are on twitter and Facebook. Another good way to start is with a blog or author’s website. It’s also important to connect with other writers. This can be done by following writers on twitter and on their blog sites. Social media is highly important, and will help authors sell themselves and their books once they are published.
For THE DRAGON’S RING, I had bookmarks made with my book cover on it, along with where the book could be purchased. On each bookmark, I slipped a colorful ribbon through a punch hole and placed a gold ring inside the ribbon. My hope is these eye-catching and memorable bookmarks will lead to sales. I’ve given them out at libraries, schools, and as swag for book conventions.
I love that idea! Very creative. How did you find your publisher? What was your journey to publication like?
I love pitching to agents and publishers on twitter pitch days, and that is how I found my publisher for THE DRAGON’S RING. It was #Pit2Pub day, and I pitched this story, as well as some of my PBs. Two publishers liked my pitch, and I submitted my Query letter and sample pages to both. Stephanie Taylor of Clean Reads offered me a contract.
This was in February, 2016, and immediately I began the process of editing, revising, and final edits. What my publisher didn’t know was at the same time I was working on my novel, I was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer and had to have surgery. I never missed a deadline, and my book was released July 28, 2016.
I’m also happy to report that the cancer was removed, and I didn’t even need chemo or radiation, just quarterly checkups. I guess my path to complication was one of ups and downs, highs and lows, but the end result was amazing. I’m healthy, and my book, with its beautiful unicorn cover, is heading toward its one year anniversary.
I'm happy to hear that you're well. What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you? – POV issues; using too much passive voice and not enough active-voice; trouble creating active and engaging dialogue; using too many similar words in starting sentences; or something else?
I’m guilty of doing all of the above, but thankfully, my writers group help me find the problems and correct my mistakes. POV troubled me a lot. In fact, my YA series was originally written in 3rd person POV. In the last year, I’ve revised the first three out of four novels, changing the POV to 1st person. The difference is amazing. With the reader now in my protagonist’s head, they are drawn in to the story, feeling her emotions, be it happy or fearful. I still have one more novel that needs the POV changed, but I’m looking forward to doing it as it’s the one set in Edinburgh.
Passive and active voice are also something I need to keep an eye on. When revising, I revisit all the sentences with the word was in them, and then make changes, using active verbs instead.
I’m thankful for all the great editors I had for THE DRAGON’S RING. They worked with me, pointed out the problems, and gave suggestions on how to fix them.
I would like to add that if writing is your passion, don’t give up or get discouraged. I have a drawer full of rejections, but the moment a publisher says, “I love your book,” and offers a contract, the rejections are forgotten. The road to publication is not an easy one, but it’s a road worth taking.
Thank you, Joanne Troppello, for this opportunity to share my story, and my book, with your readers.
I'm so glad you could guest today. I enjoyed chatting with you. I completely agree with your sentiments on never giving up if writing is your passion.
About THE DRAGON’S RING by Debra Daugherty
Sir James Trueblood is determined to capture a unicorn so he can marry Princess Isadora. The knight begins his quest, not realizing the Princess is following him in disguise. On his journey, Sir James encounters a witch and a dragon. With the dragon’s ring his mission is a success, but then he learns the unicorn will die if not set free. Now he has a dilemma; marry the Princess or free the unicorn.
About the Author
Debra Daugherty is from Central Illinois and is a member of SCBWI, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She enjoys living in the country with her two dogs, a Chihuahua named CeCe, and Honey, a rescued American Stratford Terrier. Besides writing children stories, Debra loves to spend time with her family, travel, and browse through antique shops. Publishing credits include CALAMITY CAT, MeeGenius/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and THE DRAGON’S RING, Astraea Press/Clean Reads. She’s also had two short stories published in Guardian Angel Kids’e-zine
Connect with her online
A special thank you to Debra Daugherty for guesting at Pandora's Box Gazette today.
She is giving away an ecopy of her book, The Dragon's Ring. The winner can pick a PDF copy or Amazon code. Please comment below to enter to win and include your email address in the comment.
Congratulations to Emerald Barnes, winner of Debra's book!