In this author interview, Danae L. Samms will bless us with writing tips and help inspire writers to start their story, get published, or get out of their writing jam!
Hi! My name is Evangeline, and I'm hosting authors and book influencers on my blog to discuss the writing process, writing tips, and to inspire writers to create their best work.
In this series, authors will discuss beginning the writing process, tips for finishing your book, editing, publishing, and other general topics. You will also get the chance to hear from book influencers/reviewers to get a fresh take from the perspective of the audience. You'll get to meet authors like Ryan Krol, J. McSpadden, Anna Fox, and Chloe Hodge. The last author interview features Angela Anne and her best practices for starting your book. Click here to read.
Let's Meet Our Author
Danae L. Samms has always been a creator. Her writing began when she was four with her first play, and continued to grow to a degree in journalism. Eventually, her creativity produced a novel and a thousand ideas waiting to become novels. Regularly, she keeps up with a blog of Unqualified Advice on Writing and Everything Else.
Author Interview Questions
1. Every reader is left with an emotion, a purpose, or a belief once a story is finished. What feeling do you want readers to have after reading your work?
So many stories have stuck with me because they made me feel better when times were hard. I always find myself remembering the funny moments more often than I remember the inspiring speeches.
While I certainly hope readers appreciate the work and meaning behind the words I’ve labored over, ultimately I want my stories to be the ones that lift their spirits. I strive to make things that people return to again and again after a hard day or when they’re sick; simply because it’s something that makes them feel better.
2. When writing, do you find inspiration by drawing from your past, strictly from imagination, or from experiences of other people, perhaps from the past of strangers?
I like to think that there’s a healthy mix of my own imagination and stories that I’ve consumed myself. Personally, I think it’s a little impossible not to put some of ourselves into at least one character. If not our true selves, a version that we hope to be.
In my book September Christmas, there is a moment when a character gets groped by a strange man. So she punches him in the face and has a smart remark. Moments like that are ones that I wish I could have been quick witted enough to come up with in my own life.
3. What tips do you have for combatting Writer's Block?
With my latest book, Queen of Hell, the world and characters were in my head. In the start, I just struggled to put them into words--or at least worthy enough words. One thing that really helped me was making aesthetic boards for the main characters and important locations. I spent a lot time going through the internet to find the right images, cropping them, and printing them out before I physically glued them to a poster. It turned out that being able to see something so close to what had been in my head was exactly what I needed to get the words out.
Other times, reading good books makes a difference. More than once I’ve had to step away from my desk and watch a movie from a genre that’s completely opposite to what I’m trying to write. But I think what helps me the most when I’m struggling to write is handwriting a letter to a close friend. I just tell them about my day and some of my frustrations. That can really get the rust off the gears.
4. Do you have any writing tips or tricks? Are there any tools you use while writing, outlining, or editing? What might be helpful to other authors?
Anytime I’m writing a scene with more than one person, I begin with dialogue. I use a pen and a legal pad to write just the dialogue. The only thing I add are initials so that I know who is speaking. Then I take the page or two to my word doc and add in descriptions and action to piece the scene together.
Also, I cannot write a story without an outline. New ideas might become add-ins later on, but they’re woven into the established, organized plan.
I usually write a scene at a time. When I’m done with that section, I change the word color in the outline. Scenes get stitched together to make chapters; chapters are stitched together to make the book. When the whole outline is a new color, my first draft is done.
To me, writing a book is a lot like sewing a quilt.
5. What has been the greatest blessing since being published?
One thing I never realized I would enjoy was being in mixed company and having someone else bring up that I’m an author. There’s something rewarding about the impressed look on the face of a new acquaintance when they hear you’ve written a book. It’s rewarding that hard work (that you did for the joy of it) is an impressive accomplishment to someone else.
Additionally, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to set up a table at events. I never get a huge turnout, but there’s little I love more than signing one of my books.
6. There are titles of books which take your breath away and make you pause, some that make you laugh, and some where you just . . . well, they could be better. Getting the perfect title for your book can be a struggle and, for many traditionally published authors, you may not get the final say; irregardless, we want to hear your two cents. What do you think makes a great title, and why did you choose the title of your book(s)?
A title should be compelling without being odd. It needs to hint at the story without giving too much away. It needs to be fun without being weird.
In college I took a writing for the stage class, and the professor told us that lines in a play need descriptive words that an actor would enjoy saying. Don’t say, “the shiny brown table.” Say, “the mahogany coffee table.” I believe this rule especially applies to titles.
My favorite book of all time is The Scarlet Pimpernel. Emma Orczy absolutely nailed it coming up with the title. Can you imagine if she called the masked vigilante something like The Paris Hero, or titled her book Marguerite’s Mystery? Those titles don’t have inherent problems themselves, but they don’t roll off your tongue the same way. There is a pleasure to saying the words The Scarlet Pimpernel.
That’s part of the reason I absolutely slave over my titles and the names of my characters. I’ll dig into root words and old meanings until I can put together something that’s colorful without being striking and memorable but not bizarre.
In fact, my first book September Christmas emerged because I came up with the title first. Which is absolutely insane to me! I was going through the cabinet one day in September looking for a specific cup and found a plethora of Christmas mugs.
Queen of Hell I stumbled on thanks to a friend of mine. It wasn’t until after the story came to me and I’d been making notes about the idea that I realized the parallels to the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. I ended up leaning into the allusions a bit more and titling the heroine (who had been pacing around my imagination for months) Persephone. Calling the book Persephone or Queen of the Underworld wasn’t working for me.
Luckily, my friend runs a tumblr blog called Queen of Heck. So I asked her if I could use it, and she said yes.
7. Do you have a favorite quote you've written?
One of the quotes I was most proud of came to me when I was really in a writing stream for September Christmas. The story is told from the point of view of Matilda’s best friend. She’s describing the elaborate Christmas parties Matilda’s parents threw that she grew up attending.
Matilda would say any wish you made on the patio would come true. At five we believed it. By eleven we still played along. As adults we were smart enough to believe it again.
But in my next project, I have a line from an important character that I’m so excited for people to read:
"Anything is a poison if you use it right."
-Queen of Hell
Dear Aspiring Authors,
One thing that’s helped me is finding and reaching out to authors of books I love. If you like and respect their work, do your best to follow them on Instagram, Facebook, or whatever social media platform they’re on. Sign up for their newsletters and writing help. Watch any of their live videos and read through their posts. Often they’ll do a question and answer time. Take advantage of it.
Sometimes in their newsletters they’ll tell you to reply. I’ve done it and had authors that I adore respond to me. It was AMAZING.
Secondly, read all the books you can, but don’t feel obligated to finish a book if you don’t like it. Life is too short to read bad books.
My next book is coming out this year! I’ve mentioned it a few times, but I’m just going to say again that it is called Queen of Hell. It will be the first book in the four part series Persephone. This story is a retelling of the myth of Persephone and Hades but set in 18th century America.
Right now, it is in the final editing stages. Just last week, I finally settled on a cover design. I’ll be sharing it on all of my social media platforms soon, and I am so excited about it.
Writing is a beautiful, yet intense craft. If you're nervous to take the leap and start, don't doubt yourself! Ask for support and guidance from your writing community, practice, and read books and articles like this.
Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments and say hello to Danae L. Samms.
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