Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB
Utah author, Dene Low—a well-educated woman and writer of both fiction and non-fiction—has participated in panel discussions, taught classes, and led workshops on a variety of writerly subjects. In January, I was privileged to attend her new workshop on using neuroscience in the writing process—which really gave us all something to “think” about!
Welcome, Dene. How long have you been writing? The first time I intentionally wrote a story, I was in the fourth grade—so, several decades. My story was about a mermaid and I even made my own little book for my story. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I got published.
What areas are you most interested in writing about now? My first love is fantasy, but I work on whatever idea I come up with. Right now, I am working on manuscripts for fantasy, paranormal, mystery/romance, historical, and instructional books. Some of my ideas are for young adult/middle grade and some are for grown-ups. This fall a non-fiction book I wrote about grandparenting in blended families is coming out. Another book, a humorous mystery, is also coming out either this year or next. My agent is currently selling three of my fantasy manuscripts.
You have some interesting ideas on how the mind works, and how that relates to writing. How have these theories informed your writing, especially your fiction writing? Absolutely! I have developed a writing system based on using neuroscience to explain why some innovative writing strategies work and how to choose various strategies in different writing situations. Last fall I decided to test it. I was 16,000 words into a manuscript and I wanted to get it done before Christmas, so I took a week off work and used the system. I had scheduled eight days of writing, but I got the first draft of the book done in six days—an additional 32,000 words. Then I used the revision part of my system to revise the book. Pretty slick.
Tell us about your first publication of a book? The first book I had published was Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It’s a young adult fantasy/mystery set in an alternative 1903 London. I was actually working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. at the time when I got the idea for this book. I think I was so bogged down with academic language that I needed something just plain fun to write and the book is definitely fun. I finished it at the same time I finished my dissertation. My friend, the wonderful Rick Walton, encouraged me to write it and encouraged me to send it out to several publishers. Editor Kate O’Sullivan called me one day just as I was going to teach a class to tell me they wanted to publish my book. I was excited—and even more excited to realize I’d just sold a book to a major publisher from the slush pile. The original idea was to write a series, so I’d have the second one done, but the economic downturn caused those plans to be shelved.
I understand the need for the “fun” break. Working on my Master’s thesis, I used acting, directing, and rehearsals for “fun”. What books do you have out now and where can they be purchased? Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone (originally from the series The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Grandparenting in Blended Families (coming out October 1; now available for pre-order, Familius)
RScue (coming out sometime soon, Covenant)
Maddie, Maddie, Flying High (Kindle)
Not the Worst that Could Happen (Kindle)
Crimson Blues (Kindle)
Write Like Your Brain Works (coming soon to Kindle)
The Wildest Waste (coming soon to Kindle)
How did your non-fiction book, available in October, come about? The next book coming out from a publisher is Grandparenting for the Blended Family. I started it because our family became a blended family when my son married a marvelous woman with two darling daughters. Since I was not an expert, I did a lot of research and then interviewed over thirty people who are grandparents and grandchildren in blended families. Their wisdom and experiences are what make this book special. I never would have come up with such marvelous stuff by myself.
May I promote some others? I just put a book on Kindle, Crimson Blues, a mystery/romance. I have another almost ready to put up, The Wildest Waste, a historical romance. AND I will have my writing-system book, Write Like Your Brain Works, ready to put on Kindle in the next month.
Would you tell us about any exciting reviews or awards you’ve had for your writing? My first book got several awards, but the one I enjoyed the most was being a finalist for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Petronella. It was tons of fun going to the Hilton Grand Hotel in New York City for the awards ceremony. Others for Petronella and Maddie and Not the Worst… include awards from the Historical Novel Society, Junior Library Guild, Utah Arts Council, and the Mormon Arts Foundation.
What can you say to budding authors about persistence? One of the first short stories I ever sold, I submitted to the same editors several times. They kept telling me things to change and I’d change them and send the story back. Then I got a letter saying I’d changed it so much I’d changed the parts they actually liked and they didn’t think I could fix it. I was crushed. I decided they couldn’t tell me I couldn’t fix my own story, so I revised it and sent it again. I got a letter back with a check and a note with only two words on it: “Persistence pays.” That story was also acquired by a textbook publisher. When I sold my first novel, I sent it out to nearly twenty publishers. Never give up. Never surrender.
Any final ideas you’d like to leave with us? The writing journey is never completed. It is continuous. The only things you should not do? Never give up and never think you can’t learn more.
Thanks, Dene. Your prodigious writing output is inspiring, and we’re loving the idea of “Persistence Pays”! Thanks for sharing.
See you day-after-tomorrow for Sunday’s Snippets!