While at BookExpo America a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to meet with author Danny Fisher. She was kind enough to participate in an interview about how she started her writing career, the challenges she’s faced, and some features about her various works. Enjoy!
1. You began your writing career after a failed job interview. The interviewing panel was so impressed with your personal statement that they suggested you write a book. Had you done any writing before that time in the manner of short stories or drafts of novels?
In all honesty, I did not do any significant amount of writing prior to that day. I had penned the occasional bad poem, but nothing more. I went home that day and purchased a mini pink Acer laptop and began writing immediately. I started with my autobiography. Soon, ideas for other stories started developing and I went with it.
At this point, I was still approaching this as a hobby. It wasn’t until I read an article in an Oprah magazine about finding your calling that I looked at it differently. In the article, Joy Behar told the story of how she had been an English teacher, and miserable. One day, she heard that if she wanted to be happy she should do what made her happy when she was ten. She remembered entertaining her family with jokes so she walked away from teaching and became a stand-up comedian. I took the same advice. I recalled that when I was ten I was an avid reader. I carried around a book by Harold Robbins called, A Stone for Danny Fisher. I kept that book for years, and realized as I pondered what to do next with my life that I liked seeing my name on the cover of a book. It was then that I made the decision to turn my hobby into my profession.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced when taking those first steps to become a professional author?
When I began writing the biggest challenge was being taken seriously. I first published back in 2011 when self-publishing was still a dirty word. It was viewed as though anyone can publish a book now so books published that way must all be awful. In reality, while there are a lot of bad books out there (both self and traditionally published), what self-publishing managed to do was to make a lot of good books (that would have spent years in a slush pile or ignored altogether) available to readers. Now that the industry is recognizing self-publishing as the next big thing, the challenge is to set yourself and your work apart from the pack. The way to do that is to focus on branding yourself as a writer instead of promoting just one or two books.
3. Based on the novels you have written so far, it looks like you are comfortable writing in a variety of genres, from young adult to paranormal. However, is there a particular genre which you think is more fun to write?
When I sit down at my computer to begin a new book, I do not focus on writing in any certain genre. Instead, I start with a what if question and go from there. The genre will become apparent when the book is done. I like to think that I could write in any genre with enough research behind me. I found the paranormal genre really fun to write because it stretches the realm of believability even farther than normal. You can make up a lot more stuff, and who can really argue with you? If I want my vampires to be able to exist in the daylight without burning to ash, that is my choice. It’s fiction, and that in itself enables the writer to push the envelope when creating the worlds their characters will inhabit. Add a paranormal element, exotic locales, a little bit of sex, and some great action scenes and you’ve written a book that is downright naughty fun.
4. Do you like to share your work with family and friends before it’s finished, or do you prefer to wait when you have a final product?
I follow Stephen King’s advice on this one so I’ll paraphrase: Write with the door closed because what you are writing is just for you. Rewrite with the door open. I get the first draft of my book as finished and as good as I think I can, then I turn it over to my niece and/or my mom. They are both avid readers, and they are good critics. They let me know if the story has any major holes in it, or if something didn’t make sense. After that, I do revisions and then I’m good with letting anyone read it. I’ve always said I don’t write for my desk drawer. I decided early on that I wouldn’t be afraid to share my stuff, and even more so, the journey it took to get there.
5. Your book Lucky seems to revolve around some difficult subject matter, including child kidnapping. Was there a particular reason you chose to focus on such an intense subject, or did it just come to you? Also related to Lucky, the novel features a biker gang. How did you research biker culture? Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?
As I said, I write from the what if question. I wanted to write a story about a child that was put in a situation that was the exact opposite of an environment a child could thrive in, and explore the question of whether or not one stable adult in her life would be enough to save her from falling through the cracks. I grew up in a home wrought with domestic violence, and I began to think, what if my aunts had not been around to spend time with me? What if I hadn’t had anyone to help me through it? I gave Lucky one very ill-equipped adult to watch over her to make it even more interesting. Is his love for her enough to help her heal from everything she endures? I researched the biker culture in college while pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. I became enthralled with the outlaw biker culture, and organized crime in general. I have ridden a motorcycle as a passenger a few times. I am by no means a biker, haha.
6. Your novel Burnt Stones tells the tale of a man suffering from unrequited love, and one night with his dream girl proves disastrous. Have you ever experienced unrequited love for yourself? Did the person ever find out your true feelings?
I know I have experienced unrequited love numerous times in the form of crushes, but one time in particular comes to mind. I was in ninth grade. I was extremely unpopular (I moved several times as a kid and was always the dreaded new girl), and he was very popular. I was also very shy. One day, I got the nerve to let him know how I felt. I chose to send him one of those carnations I bought at school for fifty cents that they delivered during homeroom for your sweetheart on the day of the dance (so pathetic, I know). The brilliance of this strategy is that I didn’t have to be present when he got it because we didn’t share a homeroom. Of course, the downfall of this strategy is that if he never responded I’d always have to wonder if he really got it, or if it got lost, and I’m back to square one.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have to wonder long. The bell rang, I exited homeroom and promptly ran into him with his group of friends as he showed them all the flower I had sent him. When I showed up, they laughed hysterically at how funny it was that I thought he would actually want to date me. I know this because they laughed, pointed and said as much loud enough for all to hear. Humiliated, I made a quick retreat. There is a scene in Burnt Stones where Allison humiliates Casey when he asks her out for the first time. Although the details are different, I can certainly relate to the emotions he felt afterwards. That’s the beauty of writing, if you’re brave enough to explore all the things that ever hurt you or challenged you, you can usually channel any residual emotions into a scene or a character.
7. I know this is a fairly common question, but considering my blog revolves around books and you are an author, it would be blasphemous if I didn’t at least ask you what is your favorite book?
To Kill a Mockingbird, no question.
8. Lastly, what would you suggest to all of the readers out there who are considering writing a book of their own?
Before you so much as type one word, be honest with why you are doing this, what you hope to achieve and most importantly, how far are you willing to put yourself out there for your work? Decide if you are writing for your own pleasure/creative outlet, or if you desire to be recognized as a professional writer. Like me, you may need to write something and receive some validation before you can even imagine that answer, but that’s okay. If you decide to write professionally, be honest as to why. Do you want money and fame? If that’s all you desire, click on your webcam and make a sex tape, it’s easier.
Or, are you writing to share your truth? Are you writing because you can’t NOT write? Are you an artist? If yes, then how much are you willing to share? How vulnerable are you to criticism? Are you open to always learning and perfecting your craft, or do you think you already know it all? Can you stand tall for your voice as a writer when people tell you that you need to change everything about yourself/your book if you want success? Remember, authenticity trumps everything (as told to me by Josh Shipp, motivational speaker guru). In short, no one will believe in you or your work if you don’t decide now how you feel and how far you’re willing to go to share your story. Then write, write and write some more.
Check out More of Danny’s Work on Amazon
The Exit Strategy
Off the Beating Path