Monday, August 12, 2013

Meet Me Monday's with Dakota Byrd

Please welcome a second appearance from Dakota Byrd. We're doing a double Meet Me Monday today because I didn't get to post his last week. Enjoy all!:

Here's the interview with him again just in case you missed it:

1. How has your journey in publishing been? Anything you would or wouldn’t do again?

First off, thank you for having me! I greatly appreciate it and look forward to hearing from everybody. Also, I apologize in advance for how long this is! J

I am not a published novelist yet, but I am working toward that. I have had two or three short stories published, about ten poems, a photograph and then of course the articles I have had published with The Dallas Voice. I am working on getting my first novel agented and published.

As for things which I would do again, I would most definitely take the Creative Writing course I took with author Yvonne Jocks, who is an amazing mentor and a wonderful friend. I learned so much in her course and it is because of her that I joined RWA, my home Chapter of North Texas Romance Writers and YARWA. It’s also due to her influence that I decided to enter my work into a contest and ended up being a top five finalist in the first ever writing contest I entered.

Another thing I would do again is to take Laurie McLean’s “Agent Secrets” course through WANA. A few weeks after the course I sent her an email requesting the PDF of her presentation and also congratulated her on the first of two seven-figure deals she closed for her client Julie Kagawa. In that same email, I politely inquired if she would be interested in a piece like my novel, stating that I was asking so as to not waste her time with a query if she wasn’t interested in it and also informed her that I was polishing it. She responded thanking me for my congratulations and requested the first three chapters and synopsis of my manuscript as attachments when it was ready. ATTACHMENTS! We know how magical that word is. Due to that two hour course I took from her, I got a request from one of my dream agents! And she represents one of my favorite authors to boot too!

A third thing I would do again, no questions asked is apply for the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. I found out about the program in January when I decided to do a search for journals and such that were open to LGBT works as I’m a gay male and most of my work includes a character from the Queer community. I clicked on a link and was led to the Lambda Literary website and while there noticed that they had a tab titled, “Writers Retreat.” Knowing that I couldn’t afford the RWA conference—or any conference around me, really—I decided to give this a gander and see what it was about.

I discovered that the application acceptance period started in March and ended on April 1st and that they were hosting a Genre and YA Workshop this year. The workshop was being taught by Malinda Lo and I decided to look into her work as well. I fell in love with her writing immediately because my original writing style was so similar to hers. With fear filling me, I got my application together—the first three chapters of my ms and my two page synopsis, an essay written directly to Malinda Lo, my scholarship essay and of course the actual application with all my information in it. (My chapters are short, by the way. The first three chapters were, at the time, only 23 pages. We could submit a total of 25 pages for the writing sample.) I sent it out on May 31st, as the postmarked deadline was April 1st. From then, I waited and tried not to think too much about the retreat, not to give it too much thought either way. I knew I sucked at writing essays and had gotten them read over, edited them myself and was given the affirmation by the Writing Center on campus at the University of North Texas that my essays were strong, and my submission piece was too. I had done my best and that was all I could do.

On May 14th I got an email, but I was already in bed that night. May 15th I got up and checked my email. With fear once again filling me, I opened the email from them and discovered that I had been accepted! I was the first person in my workshop to receive my acceptance letter! So this summer, July 28th to August 4th, I will be in Los Angeles work shopping my ms and learning from Malinda Lo, whom stated in a twitter conversation that she really liked my entry and couldn’t wait to meet me and work with me to make it even better!

The last thing I would definitely do again is send a fan mail letter to Holly Black. She is my number one favorite author. In the letter I sent her, I also sent the first three chapters of my manuscript, The Black Night Rave. A year later, I got a response from her. She sent me a HANDWRITTEN letter. And she critiqued my first chapter too! So I would definitely do that as well.

2. What are you working on right now? Can you tell us about it?

I’m working on a Young Adult Urban Fantasy series. I’m calling it The Chosen Saga. It’s about four teens who discover that they are the Chosen, the mages who are supposed to protect and save the universe from darkness. In the first novel entitled, The Black Night Rave they discover this and meet each other. They don’t want to be the Chosen though and face the dilemma of even being them since the Realms hate the Chosen due to the fact that the original Chosen and their actions are the reason Avalon was lost and magic is now sparse and beginning to run out completely after millennia. The four teens are Keil Ravencraft the “escaped freak experiment,” Skyeler Anders the “gay exiled mage,” Nicky Battle the “secretive indie hacker,” and Rachel Delancy the “seemingly oblivious teen actress.”

3. What/Who inspired you to start writing?

I have always written things. The first story I can remember writing was written when I was in the first grade. It was about a chick named Lakota who was lost and couldn’t find his mother. So he searched for her and then found her and went home and ate cornbread ice cream. Haha! I didn’t know that Lakota was a Sioux Indian tribe; I simply wanted to be in the story without having it be obvious that it was me. I also thought that chickens would eat cornbread ice cream if it existed. Thus was the beginning of my life as a writer, but I was a poet first and it is my poetry for which my elementary school teachers still remember me by.

J.K. Rowling and Rachel Roberts inspired me to start writing as a novelist though. I read their works and thought I could write something so much better than that and decided to go for it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I was born to write.

4. How long have you been writing?

I started my first novel in 2002 although the original concept came to me in 2001. I wanted to write a story about four kids who went to a party and discovered that they were magical. That was the original idea. I knew I wanted to tell the story from all their perspectives though, four first person tales that became one. In 2008 I realized that I couldn’t write the story as I wanted to, one four part story. I weighed the idea of breaking my novel up into four novels for three weeks in February of 2008 and when I finally did, I cried a bit every day in March after doing so. It was one of the best decisions of my life though!

5. What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?
Write the story that you want to read. Do not write a damn word to please anybody outside of yourself. There will be critics galore and there will be people who will treat you like shit because you claim that you are a writer and others who will scoff and whatever you write. Don’t let them get to you. Don’t let the industry—which is fiercer than Hollywood and more dream-dashing than the fashion industry or any singular episode of Project Runway—destroy your dreams of getting published.

Also, don’t listen to the saying, “Show, don’t tell!” We’ve been saying it wrong for SOOO many years. What that old adage means is show us the story by engaging our senses. So, it more correctly should be, “Feel, don’t tell.” Get in there and feel out each and every scene with your five senses. Then go back and add in the extra sense of emotion. Seriously, make a check list and when you add in a sense, check it off. That way you know you’ve got the five senses and it will be easy to go back and add in the sixth sense of emotion based on what you’ve already given us.

Lastly, don’t you ever try to please everybody. You won’t be able to, NOBODY has EVER been able to please everybody and nobody will. Write to please yourself and those you know will appreciate your work. If you do this, you’ll go somewhere. Also, don’t start a piece and then start another one in the middle of it. Finish one work at a time and then work on another after you’ve finished the first.

6. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I’m a definite pantser. I write the first chapter of each character, where I think their story starts, and then I write what I think is a chapter toward the end of their story and I go from there. I am a sporadic pantser and I love it! In fact, that has been the one thing every agent who read the previous versions of my ms loved—that I am “able to weave multiple plot threads and stories together so creatively and naturally that the reader is hardly ever bored.” I have ideas of what may happen and of course I try to make sure some events happen, but I don’t ever plot out anything. I have an idea of my beginning, middle and end, but I never know for sure.

7. Who is your favorite author?
Holly Black of course! I love her work and am looking forward to the day I get published because I already have gotten permission to send her an ARC (an Advance Readers Copy) of my novel!

8. When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I honestly don’t remember... I know I started introducing myself to people as a writer in 2004 when I started the seventh grade, but I truly don’t remember when I first considered myself a writer because I’ve been doing this for so long. It took me 8 years to finish the first draft of my first manuscript, but I love the process. I’m glad that it took me that long.

9. What is the hardest part about writing for you?
Um, getting my family to leave me alone so I can effing write and edit. They don’t know when to do so... I’m tempted to make a door hanger that tells them to leave me alone, but I know they’ll just ignore it anyways. I need my own apartment...

10. Do you have a favorite character from your books? If so, why and who?
Yes! My favorite character from my novels is actually Nicky, which shocks most of my readers simply because I’m always going on about Skyeler, but he’s the focal character in my first novel. Anyways, I love Nicky because she is so strong and she also doesn’t really give a fuck. Like, she cares about others, but she’s trying so hard to not get too close to people due to an event in her past. She’s also a teen hacker who harbors secrets of her own and has great respect for her Cherokee ancestors. Additionally, she has a total change of heart toward her Hero. She starts off not really caring and then ends up realizing that she does like him and works toward trying to gain his trust and then be with him. If I had to choose any character to be, it would be her.

I love Skyeler because he’s gay, lives on a magical island and has a wonderful boyfriend, but Nicky she’s got a ton of shit that’s just been dropped on her in the past three months and is doing her best to ignore all of it instead of dealing with it and I’m like her in that respect.

11. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written one novel this far but am busily working on the sequel to it. So right now, my first novel is my favorite by default!

12. Do you do research for your books or does it all come from your head?
I do some research but for the most part this novel has come from my head. Now the sequel novel I’m working on I have to do a ton of research for since a huge portion of it is set in Paris and I’ve never been there...YET! Even now though I’m basically writing the entire thing from my head; after all, I can always change things later after I’m done with the first draft.

13. What is your favorite colour?
My favorite color is purple!
14. What is your favorite food?
Oh favorite food... That’s a toughie. I’m going to say Orange Chicken. I love Mexican and Chinese food. I miss California though because they have the best Mexican and Chinese food you could ever ask for, except, I imagine, the countries themselves.

15. What is your favorite smell?
I love the smell of pineapple, but my favorite smell would probably be pumpkin and Fall or Autumn.

16. Do you have any strange habits?
Yes! I burn cinnamon leaf oil when I’m writing, studying or cleaning. I also have to sit on my bed with my back pillow behind me in order to edit quickly. Oh! And I read my chapters aloud and record them on my phone after I’ve made all the edits I think I need to so I can hear what it really sounds like. Then I make more edits! Haha

17. Where are you from? Do you still live there? If not, what do you miss about it?
I’m originally from Dallas Texas and I don’t live there, although I do work there due to my internship that I have with the Dallas Voice this summer. I consider myself a Beach Baby though, and I miss California dearly. I miss waking up to a fog covering everything, the anticipation that builds as the dawn begins and the fog slowly fades away, revealing the day and all it holds. I miss the sun shining just warmly enough, the salty brine in the air, sea gulls calling to each other and the rush of the ocean lulling me to sleep. California is probably where I’m going to move after I finish my BA in Creative Writing and am published.

18. Ebook or print? And why?
I want to be in both! I was told by Susan Grimshaw, Senior Editor of Romance at Random (Random House) that I needed both to reach all my potential readers. She said that due to my story being told in four first person accounts and the characters being so different from one another that I have a huge audience potential already. So having both would be amazing. I also got my series name from her too when she told me, “This sounds like it’s going to be amazing and the next big saga.”

I read both too! I like print better, but have the Kindle app on my phone and read on the go from there. Plus some things are only on e-books.

19. How do you keep your writing different from all the others that write in this particular genre?
Well my novel is the first I have ever encountered which told the story of a teen who is openly gay and past the coming out stage, has a steady non-abusive relationship and is aspiring to become a mage. Additionally, the fact that my novel is written in the first person and has four different points of view helps as well. Urban fantasy for YA is a huge market, but I rarely see authors taking advantage of the first person to tell their stories in my genre. It brings the characters to life more, I believe. Additionally, I make cultural references and intersperse humor, grief and truly try to leave a lot of mystery in there. Oh! I also write really short chapters, only because I can’t write long ones. My chapters usually average 5 pages. Of my 38 chapters, only 7 of them are over 6 pages long.

20. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

My readers would probably be shocked to find out that I don’t smoke, don’t have any tattoos and am utterly hopeless when it comes to love. I have been single for over three and a half years now. Also, I think my readers would be shocked to find out that I’m only twenty-two years of age.

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