I usually spend days doing research on the authors I present here in Lexi’s Author Alcove, however today’s author did all the foot work for me. Her bio below is so complete nothing I could add would have made it any better. I hope you enjoy meeting Lara Dunning as much as I have. If you have any comments or questions for her please leave them below.
Lara Adrienne Dunning currently lives on Fidalgo Island in the Pacific Northwest where she devotes her time to her family, her work as a Project and Administrative Manager for GEMS, LLC and her passion for writing. Lara grew up in the Mid-West and spent her childhood and teen years writing short stories and poetry. As a young adult she moved to Alaska where she lived for three years on a small island on the Aleutian chain and seven years in Anchorage. In Anchorage she earned her BA in Anthropology at the University of Alaska Anchorage as well as delving into photography and journalism. Lara continued her studies in the Indigenous Studies Graduate Program at SUNY Buffalo.
Lara interests are children’s picture books, fantasy and fiction. After living near the ocean for over over half her life she often finds inspiration and ideas from the intercostal areas, people and creatures either mythical or real. Currently she is working on a fantasy book about Selkies. She is currently seeking representation.
1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Throughout my life I have always written poetry and dappled in writing short stories here and there, but had never taken on a larger writing project. When I was 20 I moved to Alaska to work in a fish cannery on a small island in the Aleutian chain. At that time my dream was to write children’s books. I attempted a couple, but I was not satisfied with them and set them aside. I think what the problem really was, was that I did not have enough life experience and relationship experience to convey what I wanted to. A few years ago I had a dream for the characters in the story arc I am currently writing. This dream resulted in an early thirties moment of reflection where I said to myself I want to write this, I want be a writer. From that point forward I have been writing.
2. What inspires you to write?
A lot of my inspiration comes from nature and my own dreams. My dreams have always been very vivid and often my short stories are born from these dreams. I live in the Pacific Northwest near the water, the woods and the mountains. All of which are literally right outside my doorstep. I have lived next to the ocean for the larger part of my life and have found great comfort in it. Water is a wonderful element as it is always in flux, angry or calm, ever changing, but the same.
3. Can you describe your daily writing process?
I am a working writer so I do most of my writing on the weekends. During the week I either write in the morning or at night after work and dinner. With social media sometimes it is just a matter of spending time managing that.
4. How do you combat writers block?
For me the cure for writers block is to read. I pick up my latest book and read for 30 minutes or an hour and that helps gets my mind refocused. If I have a complicated scene to work out I let it sit in my head for a few days working out different scenarios until one falls into place.
5. Do you consider yourself a pantster or a plotter?
I’m a little bit of both. I work out the logistics of the story out in my head and leave areas where the story comes alive and the characters grow as the story comes along.
6. What lessons have you learned on your journey to publication that you can pass on to other aspiring authors?
I’m not a published author yet. What I would suggest is that once your story is written take a break from it. Have others review it and then look at it with fresh eyes. Before you start your blog take the time to understand how they work and how writing for a blog is based on SEO. Also make sure that when you jump into social space to use the name you will be using as an author.
7. Can you tell us about your first novel The Vanishing Island?
My first novel was born of a dream I had about a Selkie maid destined to marry an Asian Emperor. Before this dream I had been reading lot of books about Asian culture. Anchee Min, who is my favorite author, Sijie Dai, Conn Iggulden, Pearl Buck. I find complexity of Asian culture and the rituals of pre-revolution China very captivating. Part of my ancestry comes from Ireland and Scotland . The Orkney Island in Scotland many consider to be the birthplace of the Selkie myth. I could not stop thinking about the woman in my dream and so for the next several days I worked out the story line in my head.
The novel is about an overthrown Chinese Emperor who lifts a curse off a magical vanished island. When he lifts the curse he discovers there is another world within his world that keeps itself hidden. This is the world of Larithria, a world that holds the creatures of myths and fables. He soon finds out that to stay on the island he must marry a woman from this world. That is where Aine the Selkie comes into the story. She is determined to stop the raids on her clans and has an adventurous heart. As she travels to meet him she has encounters with other Selkie clans and other mythical and unusual creatures, such as sea witches, a Seer, leyshie, narwhals and sea dragons. As her journey towards the Emperor progresses she learns of a prophecy about a union between the human world and her world that will ultimately bring upon death and destruction. Believing in the good nature of man she dismisses the prophecy and marries the Emperor.
8. On your blog you provide podcast of your novel, The Vanishing Island. Do you think allowing the public free access to your work will hinder or help your chances of publication?
This is a subject hotly debated in the writing community. Everyday I read blogs that say no and others that say yes. After hearing four reputable agents suggest posting work I decided to take the plunge. It has worked for other writers. Overall, I think it is a good way to connect with your reader. I rarely post full chapters of my story. I only do full chapters in podcast. In most cases your agent or editor are going to make revisions so what has been posted will change. If one is hesitant to post their work-in-progress I would strongly suggest at least being involved in #flashfriday. With a cap of 1500 words it gives the reader a taste of your style. Plus, it could be the basis for a longer work later.
9. What inspired you to write The Vanishing Island- Emperor Wei Shu and Aine the Selkie ?
My inspiration was a dream I had of a red-haired Selkie maid holding onto the furry and scaly neck of a Sea Dragon as they plunged through the cold ocean. Arriving at her destination she walked down a long hall very proud of who she was. Long draperies billowed around her as the breeze traveled through the windows. Entering a room she took a seat at a long table and respectfully put her head down. At the other end were several Asian men who began questioning her about being a Selkie. A comment was made about her being half human and therefore having to hide her true Selkie nature if the Emperor chose her as his Empress. Angered she stood up to defy them saying she would not hide from anyone and if the Emperor did not like her as she was then she was not the right wife for him.
For the rest of my work day I could not stop thinking about the woman in the dream. For the next several days I worked out the plot line and began writing.
10. What exactly is a selkie?
A Selkie is a shape shifter that can change from a seal to a human. In their mythology there are restrictions on when they can shift and for how long. My story aims to give a base reason for these rules and restrictions.
11. Did your book require a lot of research into Chinese culture and folklore?
I would not say this is a research oriented piece, but the books I read gave me a good sense of creating my world and setting the stage.
12. What one piece of writing advice have you received that has helped you the most thus far?
After you have written your novel and re-edited it a couple of times set it down for a few months and then review your work with fresh eyes. Also, read your chapters out loud as flaws in sentence structure will be very apparent.
13. What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
Start your social media platform as soon as you begin your journey to become a writer and attend writer’s conferences.
14. In addition to writing fantasy and YA fiction you are a freelance journalist for www.Suite101.com. How do you juggle school, work, family life and writing?
It is definitely a balancing act to maintain writing, working, home life and personal time. I’m a person that works well with schedules so I have certain days that I work on my blog posts, my Suite 101 articles, my writing and maintaining Twitter and Facebook.
15. What brings you the most joy fiction or non-fiction writing?
What I love about fantasy writing is the world you can create. The possibilities are limitless.
16. I, like many other aspiring authors, am nervous about putting my work out there for all to see and judge. How do you get past that fear to submission and reach the goal of publication?
I have seen a lot of writer’s blog about fear of exposing their work and fear of failure. I am of the philosophy that there is no ‘and if’s’ you have to put yourself and your work out there if you are serious about becoming a writer. Expect to get rejected, its part of the process. In the end you want an agent that is excited to represent you and your work. Bounce ideas or obstacles off the writing community. It is so helpful and supportive. I have yet to see a non-constructive comment. As Frank Herbert said in Dune “fear is the mind killer.”
17. What are you working on now?
Currently I am working on the subsequent stories of The Vanishing Island where the prophecy comes to fruition and Emperor Wei Shu turns on everyone for his lust for immortally. I am also working on the third book about Aine and Wei Shu’s grandson who after battling with a very altered and dark Wei Shu wakes up in a beach in Ireland . He cannot remember who or what he is. On the side I am writing a series of vampire short stories, some of which I will be posting on #flashfriday.
18. On you writing blog you often write about Vampire Diaries. What is our fascination with Vampires and do you see this trend in writing, television and movies ending soon?
I think our fascination with vampires will never end. But, I do think subject matters trend, much like fashion, it comes in surges. In my teen years Anne Rice was the vampire novelist to read and movies of her books soon followed. Now 15 or so years later Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight, Sookie Stackhouse, and The Vampire Diaries series are having the same effect.
Lexi’s note :Oh yeah I forgot about Ann Rice Interview with a Vampire et al.
I want to thank Lara for allowing me to be her first interview. I wish her much success with her writing. Please let us know when your novel is published.
Thanks for thinking of me, Lara Dunning