Dana Swift Interview
How did you become a writer?
When I was eleven, I have the vivid memory of swimming in my backyard pool and talking to myself. Alone, my daydreams became words and I began creating magical creatures. Later I can say I wasn’t so much telling myself a story as building another world. But this was the first moment I thought of story as not something to only consume, but create. I was never much of a journaler of my own life story, but by age 13 I started writing down my plans. Eventually, it became my first finished manuscript. It will also probably never see the light of day. But I knew early on, writing was my thing. In fourth grade we were supposed to dress up as what we wanted to be when we grew up and I stabbed a pencil through my hair and said writer. But to get down to the bones of it – how did I become a writer exactly? I did what anyone has to do to become a writer. I started writing.
What inspires you to write?
The quick answer would be story – other stories really inspire me. And this goes beyond books. Movies, music, television, a picture, a joke, listening to a friend tell me how their day went. Even thinking about which tropes I love and which ones I hate can generate creativity. But that answers more what inspires my ideas. What inspires me to write is the potential that one day someone will read my words and it will mean something to them. That they will feel as I have felt being inspired by the artistry that has come before me.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I’m a total pantser. So while some elements of my story are planned out and I’m always thinking about scenes, many of the details, dialogue and diction come out as I’m writing. Characters come first and with more ease. Plot is a slow trail that I must whack away at and renavigate often. While I might not love the allegory that books are babies (mostly because all the rewrites I have done doesn’t sound like good parenting) there is something to be said about finding the balance in writing between letting your characters do what they want and tugging them in the right direction so the plot can make sense and be as entertaining as possible. You know you are reading a good book when an author can master the balance.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
Like most writers I have my doubts. Am I good enough? Is my story good enough? Since I’ve spent many of my formative years writing, I’ve done a lot of introspection and can tell you what writing aspects I struggle with most. Pacing for one. Transitioning scenes for another. The list goes on. But I’ve had a good group of trusted friends tell me they like my worldbuilding, that they like my voice. And, I can write a pretty good sentence every now and again. This is how the doubt gets beaten down.
Another challenge for me personally is living and striving for my dream of being published while also figuring out what my day job should be as I trudge forward. Everyone talks about finding yourself, discovering what you are passionate about and then living to the fullest to conquer said dream. Well I’ve known I’ve wanted to be a writer since fourth grade. But in this field it’s almost impossible to know when getting published or any success might happen for you. Family and friends always wanted me to have an escape route, an alternate career mapped out in case I failed. So I have had two main challenges. One: Finding a good day job. And second: Finding the courage to not only go after my dream, but silence my inner doubts and external well-meaning advice. The fight still goes on, as any creative will tell you.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I think younger me would have just wanted a timeline of when and how exactly everything happened for me. It would be hard to get her to stop nagging about the details. But if I did manage that, I’d probably tell her to stop editing her first novel and get started on something new. But that was my journey. Who knows where I would be if I hadn’t rewrote the thing ten times. That first novel taught me how to write a book and how to persevere through the query process. Those lessons were invaluable and worth every minute I spent.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Always. When I was younger I’d scourge the Internet for famous authors to answer this question. From experience I can say most articulate the importance of reading and writing a lot. So I won’t be repetitive. Here are some of my additional tips off the top of my head:
Finishing a book is the most important thing you can do in learning how this thing called book writing is done.
Be nice to yourself and others in the field of writing. Other writers are the most wonderful of people and they aren’t your competition. If you can find a group/online community/any tribe of friends that do some sort of art I say jump in, learn and build each other up.
Writing is hard. Getting published is hard. Everything about this process is difficult. So have fun, be kind to yourself and keep going. Humans live off stories. We truly can’t have too many and yours needs to be told too.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
Warning though: I might be a little excited to have anyone actually reach out to me (and by little I mean a lot).
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