Interview with Dawn Rasmussen
How did you become a writer?
I never thought of myself as a writer, but the more I reflect on the subject, the more I realize that I have always been one. There came a time in my life when I felt the need for a creative outlet, and after testing my hand at a few different things, I recognized a natural affinity with the written word. I love to read, but after my graduate courses, I couldn’t force myself to read another book for a year, solid. This is when I began to write in true earnest, and I’ve never stopped.
What inspires you to write?
I write stories that please and calm my soul. It is the Litmus test I use for everything in life. I feel that if it pleases me, it will likely do the same for my target audience. There is such satisfaction in articulating the exact thing you want to say, wrested from your deepest reserves. There is also immense pleasure in writing absurdly, in enjoying the foibles of human nature. I write because I can’t help myself. I write because it would be impossible for me to do otherwise.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
My plot and character developments occur through many stages involving various plot boards, criss-crossed motivational charts for all of my characters, timelines detailing the plots and subplots. My process requires many big foam boards. I also believe in the magic of discovery writing, because characters evolve as they go through developmental arcs, and often times they want to do something entirely unplanned. These are magical moments that must be heeded with awe and respect.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
I have come to find that my challenges as a writer are mostly overcome by work. Doing more research, or participating in critique groups, or workshopping at a writers’ conference, whenever I am able. I have two writer groups that I attend regularly. One is a critique group through a local league, and another is an informal group that gets together to work, strategize, brainstorm, etc. The mantra of Goethe readily applies: Only engage, and then the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
My protagonist, Camden Slade, was so much fun to write! She is clever, bold, and a touch crazy. The logic of her high intelligence is shaded through the not-so-rosy lens of the brokenhearted. She makes wild plans and follows through, with the mistaken assumption that she has carefully evaluated all consequences. My favorite aspect of Camden’s personality is her use of math/quantum physics/etc. to perform deep introspective analysis. A good deal of her character arc occurs here. I love characters that make a big mess while figuring themselves out, and Camden delivers a hefty dose of it!
How does your antagonist create conflict?
My primary antagonist, Jack Sutton, doesn’t really know he’s under attack. His disappearance, followed by a sighting of him, is the underlying plot driver. Camden doesn’t know why he disappeared, and in fear of spooking him again, she arranges things in such a way as to put Jack in dire need of Camden’s help, thus enabling her to discover what went wrong. Jack creates conflict without being aware of it, which adds a layer of interest to what he might do when he finally twigs the situation.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
I write every day, even if it only means sitting and thinking for an hour to produce a single paragraph, or writing an entire scene. I try to follow the advice of the great Ernest Hemingway, when he advises us to “Write one true thing, everyday.” This keeps my work grounded, and imbues a touch of reality into what could easily become rather outrageous fiction.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
I would believe in myself at a level bordering on the ridiculous. I would not be afraid to break the rules, so long as I did it well. I would not be afraid to ask for what I really wanted, and I would also tell myself to plot, plot, plot! Good writing can never cover for a weak plotline.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Never stop improving your craft. Don’t wait for inspiration; it comes while you’re working. Read anything and everything that feeds your soul, and forget about everything else. Those are the things that will hone your voice. And most importantly, don’t forget to live. Get outside, get some fresh air, get the blood pumping, and your spark of inspiration will bloom.