Today’s author interview is with Dr Dawn Barker. Dawn’s debut novel Fractured is in stores now. I started reading it last night and couldn’t put it down.
Fractured is the compelling and emotional story of Tony, Anna and their newborn so, Jack. Beautifully written, it’s a story about how even the most perfect of families can fall apart.
Thanks for visiting Flying Pony Dawn.
1. What activities (other than writing) get your creative juices flowing?
I have three young children so don’t have much time for other activities! In saying that, I do like exercise, and if I find myself stuck in my writing, I like to go for a run. Often the answers to my creative problems come to me when the endorphins start flowing!
- What sort of writing routine do you have – disciplined or undisciplined, regular or erratic, focused or easily distracted?
I have to be quite disciplined because of the children, so I write a minimum of 500 words a day, Monday to Friday. As the momentum builds, I increase my target to 750 words. The only time I have to work is when the children nap after lunch, so as soon as they’re in bed, I make a coffee and sit at my writing desk for an hour or two. If I’m working to a deadline, I get up at 4.30 am to write before my ‘job’ as a mum starts.
- Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so what do you do about it?
Oh yes! But I still make myself write something: 500 words isn’t much and anything is better than nothing. I don’t tend to write a book in order – I write scenes or different viewpoints and then move them around later and fill in the blanks, so I can always just throw a character into a situation and see what happens! That scene may not make the final cut but it might help me to see the character in a different way, or give me one sentence I can use.
- Which aspects of the writing life do you most love?
I love those moments when my hands seem to fly across the keyboard and I can barely keep up with my thoughts. It feels fantastic when I re-read something and just know that it works. Those are the scenes that survive from the first draft to the last with little editing.
- Which aspects do least love (or detest!)?
I must say I’ve been thrilled with almost every stage of my publication journey! But the most stressful for me was the structural edit – I could no longer avoid the problems that I knew were there from the beginning, but had hoped would go unnoticed! I remember long, frustrating, nights with index cards, multi-coloured highlighters and pens, blu-tac and a big wall, as I tried to shape the scenes into some kind of cohesive narrative.
- What books and writers have most influenced your own writing?
So many! Like most writers, I read a lot. My favourite writers are people like Margaret Atwood, JM Coetzee, Kate Grenville, Jeffrey Eugenides, Tim Winton, Chris Cleave, David Vann… Too many!
In terms of influencing the writing of Fractured, I loved Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin and Kate Grenville’s Dark Places for showing me that fiction can tackle difficult issues.
- Can you describe for us your writing process, from getting the original idea to completed manuscript?
I’m lucky in that I have no shortage of ideas; narrowing them down is the problem! I like to write about real life issues – all I have to do is open a newspaper.
For Fractured, I knew what the central event had to be, and what would lead up to it, but had no idea what would happen to the family afterwards. I wrote it in temporal order from the Anna’s point of view, then Tony’s, and only later added in other viewpoint characters. Then I wrote index cards for each scene, spread them out on my office floor and tried to find a way of telling the story that would work! Once I had a first draft, I read it through and made pages of notes of things to add and delete, then repeated this process again and again until I felt able to start tidying it up at the level of sentences and words.
- Describe your path to publication.
I’ve been really lucky and have had a bit of a dream run to publication! In 2010, the manuscript for Fractured was chosen for the Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme. As part of the process, I attended a retreat in Brisbane along with six other writers where we learned about the publishing industry and received fabulous feedback on our work. Hachette asked to see the manuscript once I’d make some changes, and then offered to publish it!
- What advice would you give to writers who are working towards publication?
My advice is nothing new, but you must make your manuscript as good as you can before submitting it, as you only get one chance. Make sure you’ve let it ‘rest’ between readings, and make those first 50 pages amazing so the agent or publisher has no excuse to stop reading. Obviously, I’m now a big fan of manuscript development programmes, which lots of publishers run.
Connect with Dawn:
Read a review of Fractured here : http://thehoopla.com.au/fiction-fever/