Interview with DAWN KRAVAGNA

When did you first start writing?
When I was in first grade we were given desk-sized sheets of lined paper to learn how to draw the alphabet. The top of the page had a large, empty block so I began to draw cartoons to go with my writing to fill the space. In fifth grade a friend and I wrote and illustrated our own alien stories based upon the Kosmic Kiddle dolls we loved to play with; I called them Astros. I guess it was an early version of Fan Fiction. Classmates could check out stories from our library of little paper books. I still have the books I wrote and drew. Two other girls offered a competing library to our classmates, but I don't recall the content.

Money was tight when I was young, so my mother gave me a typewriter rental for several months as a birthday gift (I don't recall if it was 5th or 6th grade). I hadn't had any typing lessons yet but was very excited for the opportunity to type my stories for the first time. I wrote a novel about an alien invasion called, "It Came", likely due to the aged, black-and-white Sci-Fi and horror movies my brother and I watched on weekends. We'd turn on the TV and then hide under the cover together as we watched. He'd probably rather forget that.

For years as a grade schooler I'd draw underground mouse tunnel cities, similar to ant farms, and inhabit them with mice. Like most little kids, I was fascinated with mice. Might be because I was one of the smallest kids in my class.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Originally Cattle Capers(tm) was intended to be a comic strip, but in 1990 adventure/continuing story strips were losing audience share and editors were no longer purchasing them, so I abandoned the concept after the initial drawing. Then I planned to do a comic book but to have a successful series, you have to publish a new comic book every two months, and working full-time, I knew I could not keep that commitment. The only other option was to write it as a novel (ebook version is not yet available), titled: "Cattle Capers(tm), Caper#1: Search For The MooMoo Pearl".

I queried the completed manuscript to agents and publishers in 2003 but it was considered too niche, surprising since animal stories have always been very popular as animated movies. Basically, Cattle Capers(tm) is an animated cartoon in novel form.

Some initial characters designs were altered or dropped. The appearance of Adam Steer changed from 2004 to 2005. I didn't think his original face was cute enough. I dropped the karate mouse detective, Lt. Chops, because he wasn't necessary to the initial plot line.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I can feel isolated, sometimes discouraged, working alone at my drawing table and laptop. The Smashwords experience is invaluable: having the opportunity to distribute my work through multiple channels as an ebook is extremely encouraging. One thing I've learned the last few years is that everyone needs a helping hand and Smashwords has been that hand reaching out to lead my career forward.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Making someone laugh or smile. Comedy, and my drawings, gives someone an opportunity to relax and forget the real world for a time. I also believe in the Japanese concept of kaizen, or continuous improvement. I am always striving to make my writing funnier and more exciting. The second Cattle Capers(tm) novel will be more intense, but I think it's also much funnier as I know my characters better and am more relaxed in my relationship with them. I love my characters, the good and the not so good.
What do your fans mean to you?
Absolutely everything. Without them I would get totally discouraged and give up. When someone tells me who their favorite character is, I know I've succeeded in making the cartoon animal characters feel real to them. I'm amazed, sometimes, who people choose as their favorite, which means I'm creating rounded characters, even the secondary ones.
What are you working on next?
The second Cattle Capers(tm) novel, "The Cheep Brigade Terror", is nearly completed. The final copy edit is pending on the manuscript and I'm working on the cartoon pictures that accompany each chapter. Fans can view some of my drawings on my Facebook Fan Page. I like to let the manuscript cool because it makes it easier to make edits or revisions when I'm not as emotionally close to the writing.

In the second novel, the characters are forced to deal with their fears--and failings. Lt. Cluck's nephew runs away from home and he must deal with the fact that he's neglected his family for his career. Adam is forced to confront his feelings for Betsy Moo (with some goading from Crazy Cal), and Chief of Police Pork must deal with the fact that his main officer is a sloth who feels discriminated against because he's slow-moving. But the bad guys never rest; they aren't slowed down by relationship problems.

I'll complete the ebook version of the first novel after #2 is published. The "Murderous Critters" short story collection was published to give my fans something to read in the interim between novels.

I'm also working on a short cozy mystery as an introduction to my dog series. It takes place in the future before the events of the first few novels.
Who are your favorite authors?
I lean toward female mystery authors because their work tends not to be so graphic, ie. intense violence, language and sexuality. I love Anne Perry's Victorian mysteries, Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen mysteries, Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey and Nicolas Brisbane Victorian mysteries, Victoria Thompson's NYC Gaslight mysteries, and, of course, who doesn't love Sue Grafton's A-Z series and Tess Gerritsen. I'm trying out two other Victorian mystery writers: Robin Paige and Emily Brightwell.

I also am a big fan of authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. They're classified as thrillers but I call them "Gothic Thrillers" because there is usually a supernatural element to the novels that have a scientific explanation. I'd love to do a monster book series. Plots are in the works. Not all my novels are about cartoon animals.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Knowing that God loves me and will be with me throughout the day. Not everyone believes in the Lord, but I cannot imagine facing life courageously without knowing my life has a purpose which can be accomplished. I can relax and focus on what I need to do because He's watching over my family and beloved dog, too. If I can do anything to encourage or help somebody else, or make them to laugh or smile, then I feel my day was worth living.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm drawing cartoons, walking my dog, visiting the elderly, reading, attending my writing critique meeting or--the bane of most women--housework. I watch some TV, but don't have much time.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Most of my ebooks are nonfiction for research purposes or Christian/spiritual books, so I'm looking for material on a particular topic or favorite author. The fiction I purchase are usually books to complete a series that I cannot get at the library or a special ebook only version by a favorite fiction author. Most fiction I read is in paperback so I can take it anywhere, including the bathtub. I love ebooks because you can carry an entire library in your palm, which is an amazing space saver, but very inconvenient to drop into a body of water.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Absolutely not as I was 6 years old. However, I do recall the first novel I wrote and illustrated in the fifth grade called, "Shermy, the Mouse's Choice" about an African American male kid who turns into a mouse and enters a magical world through a root beer bottle when running away from animal experimenters. I've always had a great love for animals. I think I was probably inspired by fanciful books that were very popular at the time, like "Flight To The Mushroom Planet" and "the Phantom Tollbooth". I still have that handwritten novel.
What is your writing process?
I have a notebook assigned to each writing idea that I think is good enough to become a novel. When I have research notes or ideas relating to that idea, I write them in the notebook. When I have enough plot points or bits of dialogue, then I diagram the novel on several pieces of paper. I keep it loose for those accidental plot points. I've tried dry erase boards, but they're big and I keep accidentally erasing them. Really irritating when you had a great idea and it gets wiped out of existence!

What's absolutely critical is to get your timeline down, because writing a novel is a lengthy process, usually, and you can lose track of what day it is or when a particular event occurred. It also helps to note or do a stick drawing of what your characters are wearing in each scene, so you don't accidentally change what they are wearing when they change locations the same day.
Published 2016-01-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Murderous Critters, Cattle Capers(tm) #1
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 33,950. Language: English. Published: February 25, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Murderous Critters is a trio of outrageously funny mystery short stories, the first collection in a series featuring the zany comic animal characters from the world of Cattle Capers(tm). A killer magician, rogue dinosaur skeletons, and roaming gunslingers are no match for bovine Master Detective Adam Steer and his goofy sidekick Crazy Cal. Appropriate for teens and adults. Not for young children.