Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children and three horses.
Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth… after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.
When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.
Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.
PURCHASE ON AMAZON.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, Dragon Fire. What was your inspiration for it?
A: That’s a bit complicated since Dragon Fire is the second book in that particular world since the first never got published. Originally, I wanted to write a book about two lovers who couldn’t be together because of their families, which then turned into two separate communities. From the desire to push the two groups far enough apart, and raise the stakes for the characters, I began developing two species, one became the Draak, a group of shapeshifting dragons who can manipulate matter and are very emotional, the other became the Elythia, angle-like beings who have gone the other way and can turn into light and are highly intellectual. Being a lover of series, I had imagined this story over the course of 4 books. When my first manuscript garnered no interest, even after several re-writes, I knew there was no point in writing the second book. Yet I wanted to stay in the world that I had come to love. So I pulled out a subplot from my vision of the second book and wrote that – and that subplot, the story of the shapeshifting dragon Rakan and the human Anna, became Dragon Fire.
Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.
A: Rakan was forced to grow up on his own, which is a highly unusual situation for a Draak, a shapeshifting dragon. Because of this, Rakan’s first morph was particularly difficult – he had no way of knowing which of the three dragon forms (air, water or fire) he was going to turn into and he didn’t have the benefit of being mind-linked to a more experienced dragon who could help him. Although Rakan managed to morph without killing himself, it could have ended otherwise. Unable to control his rök, his dragon heart, completely, Rakan had to learn to keep it under tight control by repressing his emotions. This led to the explosive situation he finds himself in when he meets Anna who unleashes his emotions in a way he can’t control. And doesn’t really want to, even though it could kill them both.
A: Since this wasn’t my first manuscript, I wanted to make sure to avoid some of the problems that had made the previous one unsellable – such as keeping the length within market norms and making sure there was enough tension to keep readers going. In order to do that, I decided to plot my manuscript first. I spent the summer of 2010 plotting and getting each character’s motivation and inner landscape mapped out. Once I had a clear idea of where I was going, I wrote from the beginning up through the middle in a couple of months. At that point I realized I was missing a secondary antagonist. After quite a bit of hesitation, I went back and added T’eng Sten. The funny thing is that I can’t imagine Dragon Fire without him now – but he wasn’t in it at first! This was actually a rather challenging experience and it was hard to get the right balance for T’eng Sten’s overwhelming alpha male personality. Not wanting to re-write another character either in or out again, I took my time writing and re-writing Dragon Fire chapter by chapter. So it wasn’t until January 2012 that I felt like my manuscript was ready to be submitted, approximately 18 months after I had first started plotting it. Of course, once I signed with Twilight Times Books I also had several rounds of revisions and edits. So Dragon Fire wasn’t in its final form until 2013.
Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?
A: You mean for me? I actually don’t think about that – my world is very much alive for me and I feel everything that happens. All the ups, all the downs. When I write I am on a permanent roller-coaster with my characters. The real challenge is trying to write what I see and feel in a way that brings it alive for the reader too.
Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?
A: I have to admit my writing style is a bit different from most. I write too much and all my problems are in cutting back and keeping things tight, making sure I don’t put in too many characters or subplots etc. All my characters have complete backgrounds and could get their own books, it’s just how my mind works. So I don’t get anxious, just excited. I do, however, get anxiety about marketing my book – so I certainly know how uncomfortable that is! And yet you have to push through it and do it. So I imagine it’s the same feeling, just in a different spot.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: My best writing days are during the school year when I can do e-mail and social networking early in the morning, then write from say 8:30 – 12:30, have a quick lunch, ride my horse, pick up the kids, make dinner and have family time before doing some social networking and writing from 9:00 – midnight. In reality, I rarely get to have so much time writing since I am the Regional Advisor for SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Belgium and that takes a fair amount of time. Juggling writing my next manuscript, marketing Dragon Fire, setting up events for SCBWI, taking care of family and social networking isn’t easy and I often have to block set amounts of time for each – which means I always feel like I don’t have enough time. Summers are also harder since schedules are so varied and I want to spend time with family and friends – so I write when I can, often early mornings. But no matter what else is going on, I read for at least half an hour before going to bed.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Success can’t be defined without first defining success in terms of what. As a person, success for me means being happy, sharing things with friends and family, having – and enjoying – the freedom to do what I want. As a writer, success for me means feeling that creative surge and completing a project – whether published or not. As a business person looking at the profit a book will bring, then it will be financial. I personally am happy with the first two – being able to do what I want, enjoying my life with my family and friends, and having the freedom to write about the worlds that I create.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?
A: Persevere. If writing is important to you, don’t let it go. If you try to cut out a part of who you are to please someone else, it will never work. Sooner or later, you will be unhappy. Try to explain to your partner why writing is important to you, and try to understand why he/she has a hard time understanding it. All long term relationships are based on mutual support and understanding – but that doesn’t mean that just because it doesn’t come automatically, it won’t come. If you are partnered with someone there is a reason why you chose to be together, and it may just take some time to work through it. So keep writing. And keep communication with your partner open.
Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?
A: No. I am very happy with my life. I grew up with supportive parents, have a loving husband and kids, great friends and a roof over my head. I am free to do what I want to do. I don’t write because of a demon inside or to escape reality, I write because I love the creative process and am unhappy when I can’t. So, unless that creative urge (which I in no way see as a demon) is what Orwell meant, then I don’t agree. Writing is hard, I won’t deny that, but it isn’t a horrible, exhausting struggle either!
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?
A: I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you for this interview, Dina!