For a great many members here on Renderosity, Dee-Marie is a very familiar name. In fact, Dee-Marie has been around in various capacities almost since the very beginnings of Renderosity, from Forum Moderator to Managing Editor of the various formats of what is now the Renderosity Front Page News. It is on the occaision of the completion of her first novel, Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy, that I get to talk "knight" with the fair lady herself, and find out a bit of what it takes to write a novel.
Nick C. Sorbin: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and any events in your lifetime that significantly shaped who you are?
Dee Marie: Well, I suppose the actual process of birth shaped who I am [quirky grin]. Relating to the writing of the book...when I was born, my father, a career navy man, was stationed overseas. Upon my birth, my mother took me home to live with my grandparents in the Avalon apartments, atop Queen Ann hill. So, I suppose it was my destiny to write the Sons of Avalon series.
NS: Now with your first novel completed, how do you feel looking forward to the next?
DM: Last November, with the encouragement of my good friend and Renderosity member, dialyn, I joined the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge...a test of a writer's creative sanity…requiring a month long commitment to write 50,000 words in thirty days. I though it would be an excellent way to get a jumpstart on the second book in the series, which it was. The only problem that I encountered during the challenge, was that once I started writing, I could not stop.
It was great for the sequel...but there were many days that the dogs did not get a morning walk, and my husband complained about late dinners and the potential of going to work "commando," as I had no time for cooking, nor laundry. Yet, Thanks to the challenge, the first draft of the second book is near completion.
NS: With undoubtedly it's many frustrations, how has the experience of pouring so much into the creation of Merlin's Prophecy been?
The actual writing of the first novel was an adventure. The only frustrating moments were with the revisions. I had three major restarts. The original draft opened with an encounter between Merlin and Uther. The storyline changed drastically thanks to one of my early readers, who asked, "What about Vortigern and the dragons?"
About halfway through the second draft, I had a haunting realization that something or someone was missing. One night Merlin's mother came to me in a lucid dream, and the story took another drastic turn.
Finally, I finished the book, or I thought I had finished, when a group of knights invaded my now sleepless nights. The infamous, Young Royal Guard, led by Sir Lot, insisted that I tell their side of the story. At first, I resisted, but after several nights of Lot's persistent pestering, I gave in and restarted the novel for the third and final time.
NS: What valuable lessons have you learned from the process?
DM: Over the years, I learned to regard writing as a job—a career rather than a hobby. Writing takes dedication, and I do my best to write every day. Another valuable lesson I learned was that writing the last chapter was not the end of my writing journey, but only the beginning of a new destination. It was also a shock to learn that editing and rewrites can take longer than the actual writing.
Finishing the novel was a major life achievement. When I received the first galley copy of the book, I nearly wept with joy. Then came promotion and marketing...and the realization that the journey was "never ending"...hit hard.
NS: You did extensive research into your novel, including travel...what was that experience like?
DM: I loved the research and can easily get sidetracked in a reference book or on the Internet. Reminding myself that, I needed to stop researching and get back to writing, was a daily occurrence, as I would often spend hours and sometimes days, hunting down a specific detail pertinent to the storyline.
My favorite research was a trip to the England to visit the Arthurian countryside. Two sites in particular were influential to the first novel's storyline: Stonehenge and Tintagel. It was an honor to be granted permission to enter the inner circle of Stonehenge, and it was a life changing experience to walk among, and touch, the Dancing Stones.
Upon stepping on the shores of Tintagel, in Cornwall, I felt an immediate sense of déjà vu. What a wonderful encounter to be hugged by so many warm, friendly people...it was as if I had arrived home after a long absence. When I first viewed the castle ruins surrounded by an angry sea, the experience was both breathtaking and mystical.
NS: Are there any tips you would want to share with other writers, especially concerning research? What types of things do you feel are most important when researching a novel?
DM: That is a loaded question, as the research is dependant upon the story you are writing. Obviously, a novel set in modern time would generally be less research intensive than a story steeped in a historical timeline.
It is important to be as accurate as possible (historical and/or technically), while staying within the storyline, yet allowing for reasonable "artistic license." My advice to novice writers...include the following in your novel: write what you know, include what you research, and allow your imagination to soar. Most important, do not get lost within your research and forget to write (which is easy to do, and I am very guilty of).
NS: As Merlin's Prophecy is the first in a trilogy, do you already have the rest of the story planned out? Are you following a general outline?
Yes and no (long pause). Oh, you want me to expound on that reply?
I write with a combination of outline and wild abandonment—the downside of being a Libra, my scales are always unbalanced. I try as hard as I can to be organized, and actually have outlined all three novels, and have a detailed list of timelines.
Yet, I have found that in the end, the story writes itself. The characters come to life and make suggestions, which results in interesting plot twists and turns. Over the writing of both books, I have discovered the fun and frustration of having a cast of knights, ladies and adversaries, clattering around the inside of my creative psyche.
As to the progression of each of the books…the first novel delved into Merlin's growth from boy prophet to a king's sage. The upcoming book in the series continues Merlin's saga, as he guides Arthur through the transition from boyhood to manhood, and finally to Britain's High King. The third book revolves around the decline of both Merlin's and Arthur's dreams.
NS: As I found all the characters in your novel very interesting, is there any one character that is your favorite?
DM: The "politically correct" answer...Giving birth to a novel is not unlike giving birth to multitude of children, all at one time (ouch!). Like any good mother, I have an equal love for all the characters.
The reality is, that yes, I do have my favorites. Merlin of course is my muse, but he can also be a real pain. It is his story after all, which he constantly reminded me. My other favorite character was, Sir Lot. I really liked exploring Lot's "psychic being," and I felt that he was the most complicated of all the characters.
NS: How long have you been writing, and when was it that you first realized this was your calling?
DM: There are nine years between my younger sister and myself, so I spent my youth in creative solitude, drenched in a world of make-believe. I wrote for my Junior High newspaper, and freelanced throughout a wild and crazy youth. However, it wasn't until I entered college that I realized the full potential of my words...where others dreaded the little blue essay book, I would delight in the chance to write my answers in a storyline format.
NS: Are there any tips you could offer to budding writers on the actual writing process? Further, is there any suggestions you might have on working through "writer's block"?
As I stated earlier, treat writing as a job. Although you may not feel like going to work, you do...because it is how you make your living. It is no different if you are an author or an artist. You have to set aside a specific time each day for your writing or your art.
I know so many brilliant writers who use the excuse of, "I just can't find the time," or "I just do not feel like writing." The process of writing should not be an excuse. If you really want to write, if writing is your passion, you can find the time and the inspiration.
I always take a notebook with me, and have been known to write several chapters in a car (as a passenger), or waiting in a doctor's office. If you are serious about what you are writing, it only takes a moment to slip into a storyline.
As to writer's block...if you feel that your story is not going where you want it to go...start free-flow writing. Just let the story ramble and edit after. If you are really "stuck," turn on some music, watch a movie, take a long walk...but in the end, the best thing to unblock your writing, is to write!
NS: There are plenty of resources for writers on the web. Are there any sites you might suggest?
DM: The online resources for writers are limitless. I would suggest that all novice writers subscribe to Writer's Digest and to The Writer Magazine. Both are outstanding magazines with excellent supporting online communities.
Pay special attention to grammar, structure and dialog. Know the rules inside out, and then (and only then) you can bend them, but know the rules first! My favorite reference site is Reference.com, which features an in depth thesaurus and a dictionary that includes audio pronunciation files.
NS: Also being a digital artist, have you had experience in traditional art?
DM: My "cheeky" answer to that question is...I went to college to learn to fence and along the way; I earned a BA degree in Art. The down to earth answer…I was trained in the traditional art media of acrylics, oils, watercolor, pen and ink, pencils, and oils. However, my first love was, and still is, photography, which was my emphasis.
It wasn't until I graduated from college that I delved into computer graphics. In the early 90s, I fell in love with Adobe Photoshop and I was able to bring my formal traditional art training to the new world of computer graphics.
NS: Aside from your love of Arthurian legend, what other types of literature (authors/genres) are you interested in?
DM: I have an extensive library, by a variety of authors, in various genres. Some of my favorite non-Arthurian authors are: Michael Crichton, Anne Rice, Stephen King, John Grisham, and the Bronte sisters. My all time favorite author is Martin Millar, who wrote the every popular, The Good Fairies of New York, and his newest best seller, Lonely Werewolf Girl.
NS: Tell us a bit about Conceptual Images Publishing. From the website, I see there is a fall launch of a publication called "Dragons and Dragonflies," that sounds really exciting. What can you tell us about it?
DM: Everyone at Conceptual Images Publishing, is very excited about our newest publishing adventure, Dragons and Dragonflies. The magazine will delve into the lives of artists and authors. Please do not be confused by the magazine's name, it will be a literary magazine, not specifically a fantasy publication, and will feature all genres. Dragons stand for established artists and authors...while the Dragonflies are artists and authors who are on the cusp of greatness.
SB; You've been a very active member of Renderosity from just about its beginnings. What can you tell us about your many contributions along the way, from your work as a Moderator on through the various forms of Renderosity publications (Printed Magazine, Interactive Magazine, and the Front Page News)?
DM: In the spring of 2001, I stumbled into the Renderosity community while surfing for free "Poser stuff," and I never left. In 2002, Renderosity premiered the first issue of the printed version of the Renderosity Magazine. The magazine's original Managing Editor held a writer's workshop, which I joined. Shortly after, I was assigned to the writing team as a contributing columnist...conducting interviews for the Renderosity website's front page. Shortly after, I fell into Renderosity Magazine's Managing Editor's position.
Around the time that I joined the magazine team, I also became a member of the Mod-Squad, and later had the honor to be a member of the Renderosity administration team.
When Audre, the magazine's fonder and Editor-in-Chief, stepped down from the magazine in 2003, she appointed me the new Sr. Editor-in-Chief. Working with the magazine team, in all its formats (printed, digital, and online) was the highlight of my writing career. As well as working with the amazing artists of the Renderosity community. I am very grateful that I was allowed to stay on the writing staff, as a Contributing Columnist, while pursing the completion of the Sons of Avalon series.
I invite the Renderosity community to visit:
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Nick C. Sorbin is a digital artist, sculptor, writer, and Managing Editor for Renderosity's Front Page News.
August 8, 2008
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