I’m working on three books right now. It’s something I’ve never done before—work on multiple manuscripts. One is the third book in the Dark Series for my publisher, Momentum. Another is the fifth book in my first self-published series, the Half Blood series, and the third is a secret project I’m working on.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
I think it’s a combination of all of them really. Sometimes, characters come to me, and tell me who they are and what they want. Others evolve as I write them. For example, in my book “Dark Desire”, I had a character who, in my mind, had a minor role, but in the end, he ended up being a pivotal character and a catalyst for events.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
A lot of my characters from my early books are based on people I know. How I perceive them and their personalities definitely defined them (the characters). I don’t think my personality traits are in my characters, but perhaps I write how I want to be into them instead; it’s a weird form of therapy, in a way…it’s a lot cheaper too!
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
I use a variety of methods. Sometimes I’ll do a mind map with my characters goals, fears, desires etc… then I’ll write their physical description down also. I find this is helpful when writing (especially if you have a long running series with lots of characters) so you don’t get their descriptions wrong. Sometimes if I have a new character, I try to visualize them in my head, then just let them ‘grow’; eventually I find out everything I need to know about them.
Definitely a planner. My first book, “Half Blood”, was written without a plan…it took me 3 and a half years to complete because I couldn’t decide what should happen and I ended up having eight different versions of the story. I like to plan on a white board, with butcher’s paper and in notebooks, depending on the scope of the plot and characters.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
In my office, I have LOADS of little scraps of paper strewn around the desk. Each piece has something small written on it like the colour of a character’s hair, or a line I’d like them to use when interacting with another character. Sometimes I’ll write a specific event that I want to include in the plot, too.
I often write out the entire book in short form according to chapter, so when I’m writing I know what I have to include in that chapter. Often, my books develop according to the plan (if I’ve spent a good amount of time considering everything first), but sometimes (as is the case with my secret project) my plan and what I write in each chapter are completely different.
Has your technique changed over time?
No, it’s pretty much stayed the same.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
It finds me most of the time. I could be doing a really mundane task like cleaning the bathroom when the old lightbulb goes off. I have to rush off to find a piece of paper before the idea vanishes as quickly as it came. Inspiration for me usually comes from inside me. I don’t look for anything external.
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc
Any environment, I just have to want to write. I have an 8-month-old daughter, so my writing often revolves around her naps during the day, but when she goes to bed and I’m done with cooking dinner, all gloves are off. My husband just leaves me alone in my ‘writing cave’ until I emerge looking like I’ve done twelve rounds with Mike Tyson.
I have an office where I write. There’s a lot of natural light. I’m surrounded by my books and favourite authors. I listen to music and the style of music depends on the scene I’m writing, or what mood I’m in. More often than not I’m listening to Taylor Swift because that girl can do no wrong. I almost always use a desktop computer.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
My advice would be to write everything down so that you can always refer back to it later, and take your time. Writing is not a competition, although I think a lot of authors would disagree with me on that one. I would also say don’t finish the first draft and think that’s the best you can do. Edit, edit, edit.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I have a Kindle, but I’d still pick a physical book over an e-book, but I don’t believe people are losing their passion for reading—they’re simply doing it in a different way. I do, however, believe that give it another fifty years, and people would have lost a lot of their literacy due to their reliance on tech and gadgets.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
What authors write and what people read changes with their society. I think 50 Shades is just a taste of what’s happening to ours.
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?
Anything by Jane Austen
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
I’ve been lucky enough to go down both the traditional and self-published route. Each has their own positives and negatives. I always wanted to get traditionally published as there was a stigma attached to vanity publishing when I got started. I don’t think this is true anymore, but I do think that self-published authors can leave a bad taste in the mouth of readers. There are so many books out there that are poorly written, edited and proofread that readers will often get turned off from reading self-pubbed authors altogether. My advice would be to pay the money to get your manuscript edited professionally and get it proofread. You’ll save your reputation if you do.
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
How long it is. Traditional publishing is a long process with edits, copy edits, proofs and final read-throughs. I published 2 books through Momentum in the weeks leading up to my daughter being born, and then for the first 3 months of her life. It was a stressful time trying to be a mum, trying to get sleep and trying to work to a deadline.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
Just keep writing. If it’s what you love, then do it. Try to meet other people who have the same passion by joining a writers group. They can also help you with critiques and you’ll have an invaluable source of support since you’re all going through the same thing.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
I honestly have no opinion of fanfic at all.
I like to do a bit of graphic design. I like designing covers and promo material for my books.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
An English teacher.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I didn’t have a defining moment. I suppose you’d call me a late bloomer. I just decided to write one day and I haven’t looked back.
What authors do you admire, and why?
When I was younger, it was Anne Rice. She is the mother of the vampire genre. Now, it’s J.R. Ward. I love her imagination and her characters. She has an amazing ability to build complex characters that sometimes you love and sometimes you hate. Sometimes she even makes you wish they were real people.
To find out more about Lauren, read her author bio below:
Born in South Africa and raised in Sydney, Lauren Dawes is an urban fantasy/paranormal romance writer and the author of the Dark Series.
In 2009, she quit her full-time job teaching English as a Second Language to finally begin writing “that book”, letting her over-active imagination pour out onto the digital pages, much to everyone’s horror. The catch phrase “I didn’t know you had such a dark imagination” only fueled her to write more, where her love for Norse mythology and gods finally got the spotlight.
She currently lives with her husband and daughter in whatever city they happen to be posted to, and her cat, Oscar, who has inspired more than one character quirk or scene in her books.