Author Interview: Danielle A. Vann
How did you become a writer?
I like to say writing chose me. It’s been my understood purpose for as long as I’ve been able to wield a pencil. Truth be told, I was the child who continually daydreamed in class—creating characters and formulating plots long before I understood what was occurring. In serendipitous alignment, my first high school English class was with a teacher who saw something in me and my writing. Without my knowledge, she submitted my work to a national writing contest. Much to my surprise, I won state and placed top in the nation. My piece on Freedom in America hung in the Halls of Congress and inside the White House in the early nineties. (Excuse me while I date myself). That nod was the validation I needed to follow writing as my lifelong career. I entered the journalism program at my University and became the youngest full-time news writer at the leading news channel in Oklahoma City. After I graduated with my first BA, I landed an anchor chair in Louisiana. I spent years telling other people’s stories. Writing picture books and novels was a natural progression. I like to think that if writing could be placed in DNA, you would easily find it within mine.
What inspires you to write?
This is a big question. The answer is even bigger. Everything inspires me to write, thus how I know it is related to purpose. I never close my mind to anything, nor do I attach myself to how things should or will be, especially with writing. Instead, I let things come to life—a birthing process, if you will. Thoughts and imagination are the currency for creation. I believe stories come to be through me because I simply allow them too. We are only limited to “I can” or “I cannot.” Whatever we think, we are right. Our minds are that powerful.
The truth is, each of us has a story, or a great many, in us. Some are simply better at tapping into the rhythm of words and into the every day flow of inspiration. To be inspired means you are aligned with creativity. The great American playwright Arthur Miller gave an interview to the New York Times many years ago. In it he was asked, “Are you working on another book?” His answer is the most authentic source of creation and inspiration I’ve heard yet. His response: “I don’t know, but I probably am.” Meaning, I never know how or when an everyday experience may turn into a moving plot, but I’m open to being inspired. That is how I find my inspiration to write. I am open to everything, closed to nothing, and willingly chose to align with creativity every single day.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
Perhaps it comes from my years of news writing, but I develop characters much as some would full storyboards or series in the news. I take my trusted yellow legal pad and start with the basics: name, age, date of birth, eye color, height, weight, you get it, the rudimentary ins and outs. Once those are settled, I develop mannerisms, create the character’s mantras and dharma, and from there, I weave together what I would tell someone about the person if I was introducing them to a friend. This practice has allowed me to create real characters who are flawed, have strengths and weaknesses, and transcend flat one-dimensional behaviors. As I tell young writers in my workshops, if you cannot see, feel, sometimes taste or smell, the character’s actions and reactions, neither can the reader. This is how I write each and every sentence I construct.
Plot development is a different process. I write a framework of single sentences per chapter. However, I do not hold myself to these sentences as I develop the body of work. I simply use them as a structure and am open to how they may change along the way. Plus, I’m old-school. I still write chapters by hand. When I’m finished, I use those pages as my outline to create deeper pages. This process has not failed me yet!
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
I used to believe that writing was nothing but challenging. Now, I believe writing is only challenging if you refuse to get out of your own way. Isn’t that true with everything, though? Honing in on challenges is not a practice I subscribe to any longer. In fact, I find it to be one of our greatest detriments in all areas of life.
I come to the writing-table with the mindset that what I put on the paper is precisely what is meant to be. Just like a thought changes, so too can your words. Writers are, by nature, critics. Much like life, confidence, purpose, and reason to do what you are purposed to do is more important than the work itself oftentimes. IF you do not believe your writing is worthy, it’s not. If you do not have the confidence and belief in what you are putting out for the world to read, it’s going to be ridiculously difficult for others to have confidence in the work. Challenges only exist if you believe they do. I live by, write from, and creative with a different mindset. A mindset that is non-judgmental, is confident in my skill and craft, and with the understanding that if I align with positive thought, positive action follows.
What are your current/future projects?
How much time do we have?! I’m so excited to bring Get Your Life Together, Girl, my nonfiction women’s motivational/self-help book to life! This project has been a labor of love, healing, and inspiration. My goal is to shake women from the negative thought patterns we so easily live within and help them find growth, purpose, and their fullest expression of themselves.
While this is not my first nonfiction book, I do believe it is my most important to date. I am currently in the development of a podcast under the same title where I will dig deeper into topics of self-worth, confidence, body image, purpose, owning your life, and dealing with your emotional intelligence, to name a few. This is only the beginning of this platform, and I am excited to expand the body of work over the coming years! (Is it wrong that I want to end that sentence with twenty-five exclamation points?)
I’m best known from my Young Adult series, The Whizbang Machine. I’m looking forward to books 1 and 2 getting a reboot. I’m currently editing book 3 and will soon begin writing book 4. I love this series, and I love writing YA.
Beyond that, I have a stack of manuscripts that need polishing. I’ll be writing up to the day I take my last breath—at least, that is the hope.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
Yes and no. I do not stick to a writing schedule, per se. I’m lucky that writing is my full-time job. I do not say, “Okay, today, I’m writing for eight hours.” I go with the flow. I tend to write entire books in quick blocks of time. I let the work develop. If I’m writing well that day, I stick with it until I can’t any longer. If I’m not writing well, there are a number of other projects I have my hands in. I work on those instead. The best writing occurs when it is not forced.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
To settle down, sister! Everything works out exactly when and how it is supposed to. That goes back to being open to everything and closed to nothing. I spent far too long trying to force success. Little did I know the secret was to let go and allow it to chase you. I wish I would have known that many years ago.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I’m so fortunate to be able to work with aspiring writers through my workshops and through a live program called Storyrocket Live, in which I am the co-host. My advice is simple: Practice makes progress—never perfection. Continue to show up to the table; write poorly until you learn to write well. Do not give in to self-doubt and criticism. Your voice, your story, has the ability to shape someone’s experience and existence. What could be more potent than that? Pick up the pen, ya’ll! (I live in Texas, a girl can’t help herself!)
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?
Yes! I love hearing from readers and writers. Visit my website at www.danielleavann.com. There you will find information about events, my work, and learn about what’s happening in the world of literacy. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube @AuthorDanielleV and @getyourlifetogethergirl. Lastly, as I mentioned, I am the co-host of Storyrocket Live. Storyrocket is a site for writers to place their work before agents and producers. I, alongside, two-time Emmy-award winning Producer and Co-Founder of Storyrocket, Ana Benitez go live twice a month to teach authors how to best bring their work and talents to life for film, TV, and readers. Storyrocket Live can be found on Facebook @StoryrocketLive and on YouTube under the same name