That’s an interesting question! And the answer is both everything and nothing... everything because I believe in the universality of human experience and every emotion I have ever had (pain, love, anger, happiness, etc.) is a starting point for what I want my characters to portray to readers. On the other hand, I have never morphed into a dragon or spoken with anyone telepathically. Which means the events I write about are all imaginary, even if some of my characters feel very real to me.
How much of a story did you have in mind before you started writing?
Actually, almost all of it. Dragon Fire is a bit unusual in that it is a subplot from the second book in a planned 4 book series that hasn’t been published yet. This made Dragon Fire both easier and harder to write. It was easier because I knew exactly where I wanted the story to go. But it was also harder because there were certain things I had to respect for the series to still make sense - I had less leeway to change events than in other manuscripts.
Can you tell us what genre you write?
I write both YA fantasy and YA science-fiction.
How do you cope with writer's block?
My writer’s block comes when I have written too much and have inserted way too many threads into my story and I no longer know how to unravel it all. At that point, I go make another cup of tea. And have a cookie. And stare at my screen until finally I get one last cup of coffee, or cake, or both, or wash the floor or put away the laundry. But eventually, I will write down what the threads are and try to figure out why each scene is, or isn’t, important for the character/the story/the world I have created. And then I take a deep breath and go for it. And promise myself I’ll keep it simpler the next time. Until I discover yet another really important thread/idea/sub-plot/turning point/development that absolutely needs to be told... and it starts all over again.
How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
They come to me very organically - or maybe I just have a lot of imaginary friends! But once I have gotten to know them each a bit, they are quite clear in my mind. I think this is part of the reason I get too many threads - I can see each character as their own main character, with their own story and their own set of personal issues. Even some characters that are barely even mentioned have a whole book waiting to be written. My creative impulse is to develop complex worlds that have long, convoluted histories, and there is always a wide range of characters that inhabit them.
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
I didn’t at first, and wrote a 160 thousand word YA novel that no one was interested in. After that I began trying to structure my plots, but it still took me a few manuscripts before I figured out how to balance having a structured outline with the creative freedom I needed to write my scenes freely. I think everyone needs to find their own balance of the two - and whatever works for you is what you have to go with!
How (or when) do you decide that you are finished writing a story?
Do you mean the first draft, or the revisions? The first draft is always very clear to me. There is a feeling of completeness to that final paragraph, that final sentence. Sometimes I will hover, wanting to write more, but that last sentence will keep its own, and I know I can’t add anything to it. As for knowing when the revisions are done, really done... well - I still don’t know that! I guess I’d say revisions are never really done, but once it’s in print there isn’t much you can do to change it.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
No. There are themes I love to write about (figuring out who you are and what you believe in, issues of prejudice, power and the abuse of power, etc.), but never a message per se, even if the themes that interest me do say a lot about me as a person and what I believe in.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on two projects right now. One is the revision of the first book in the original series that I created the world of Dragon Fire for (Dragon Fire is a subplot of Book 2). The other is the revision of a YA sci-fi set in the distant future.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. Unlike many writers I know, that urge came later. But I have always wanted to do something creative, and have done many different art forms ranging from dance to music to painting. I have had a wide range of experiences, including living on 4 different continents, getting a black belt and an MBA, working as a graphic artist in television and as a business consultant in the fashion industry. And all of those experiences have helped me become the writer I am today.
At what age did you discover your love of writing?
I actually discovered it in 8th grade when I had my first experience creating a world and feeling that rush of adrenaline that comes with knowing what was going to happen - all I had to do was write out the scenes I could see happening in my mind. But after that one experience, that I still recall very clearly, it took me quite a few years before I decided to come back to it seriously. In the mean time, I tried a lot of things and enjoyed life tremendously.
What was the first story that you wrote?
The first story I wrote, the one I wrote in 8th grade, was about a girl stranded on a deserted island. It was her diary and explored her emotional evolution over the course of the year she was stranded, before being rescued.
When were you first published? How were you discovered?
Dragon Fire is my debut novel and it was pre-released by Twilight Times Books as an e-book in August 2013 and then in print in December 2013. I went through the query process, and had the tremendous good fortune of getting several offers at the same time. But there were other manuscripts that never got any requests before I arrived at that point. After my first round of disappointments, I started writing a different novel while querying the completed one - it helped keep my mind of the process, and the rejections didn’t feel so bad when I was in the creative excitement of writing something new.
What is the most difficult part of the whole writing process?
Besides finding an agent and/or a publisher.? Probably knowing you can’t change anything once your book is in print.
What do you like to read?
YA. Lots of YA. All genres of YA. And anything else that strikes me as looking like fun. Classics, romance, history... my taste outside of YA is rather eclectic. I also read a lot of pre-published manuscripts for friends - I love discussing their worlds and exploring their characters with them.
What writer influences you the most?
Oddly enough, someone who isn’t a ‘writer’ - Joseph Campbell. His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was an eye-opener for me when I was 16, and I still love his ideas on the universality of the human experience.
If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, which actors would you like to see playing your characters?
Hmm... know any shapeshifting dragons? they would probably have to be CGI... but for my sci-f main character, I’d love, love, love to have Anne Hathaway.
Where can people learn more about you?
Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7123641.Dina_von_Lowenkraft/
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?
I love to hear from readers, so please send in your comments or questions!
Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit. About the Book Some choices are hard to live with. But some choices will kill you. When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to the pulsing energy that surrounds him. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June. Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, that could cost them both their lives, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.
About the Book
Some choices are hard to live with. But some choices will kill you. When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to the pulsing energy that surrounds him. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June. Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, that could cost them both their lives, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.