Interview with Olivia Joy Dawson

What's the story behind your latest book?
'Eunuch's Daughter' is a historical novel based on the Biblical account of Queen Esther of Persia. I first read it years ago, enjoyed it, and then was newly inspired when a friend referred to her story. The original narrative has so many great dramatic elements: betrayal, irony, sexual tension, extravagant risks, assassination plots and other dangerous secrets. So I decided to tell Esther's story for a secular audience who would never encounter it otherwise.

The original account contains 10 brief chapters brimming with facts, but it's a little sketchy on specific details, as history often is. I had a blast filling in the gaps with delicious possibilities, while preserving the integrity of what I had to work with. I thoroughly enjoyed choosing which of the minor characters to highlight. One of my favorites is Carcas, a eunuch from the original text. I made him elegant, brilliant, hilarious, gay, and also portrayed him as a secret hero. He assigns nicknames to everyone, most of them food related, which is ironic because he is rail thin. After Esther is imprisoned in the harem, Carcas is the first person able to restore laughter to her heart. Because of his sarcastic bent, I think of him as Carcas McSnarkus. If I could be friends in real life with anyone from this book, it would be him.
Who are your favorite authors?
I don't really have favorites anymore per se. That's like asking me which of my kids is my favorite (Answer: their dad).
I used to gravitate to certain authors in my 20's and 30's, but now I read much more widely.
I had the Susan Kay historical novel PHANTOM in my bookshelf for years, which I enjoyed reading annually. Even though I knew what was going to happen, her language skills, historical savvy and characterization never failed to delight me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
There are other things besides writing? Did my husband put you up to this?
I enjoy doing things that "feed" me, body, soul and spirit.
I have a number of creative outlets besides writing, so I spend time each week either doing them or dreaming about them.
Nature refreshes me and fills me with awe.
Reading relaxes me.
Exercise invigorates me, although recently I've had little more than a nodding acquaintance with anything resembling an actual workout.
Music inspires me.
The very best thing in my world is to spend time with those who value my company as much as I value theirs.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
As an adult, I wrote a short story for a national contest and won a prize. I forget the title.
As a child, I banged out a one pager on my mom's typewriter. It was called "Die Monster Die." Thank you, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price.
I must have written stories in school, but I don't remember them. I did, however, tell some whoppers to my family.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No. My mother taught me to read before I was in school. I remember the old Dick and Jane reading primers.
I loved Dr. Seuss for his rhymes and whimsy.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
My favorite device is my Android phone, because it goes everywhere with me, has adjustable illumination, and is great for reading in bed.
My second favorite is my iMac. Mac is less portable and not good in bed, either.
I've never tried a device that is specifically meant for reading, but I'd like to.
Describe your desk
I rarely write at a desk.
I write in bed on my laptop when I can't sleep.
I write on the couch, wrapped in a fleece throw, when it's chilly.
I write on my deck or in the back yard when it's warm but not too bright.
I write at a concession table at the sportsplex, waiting for my friend to finish her fitness class.
I write at my kitchen table where the view of our back garden refreshes me.
I write on road trips while my husband drives and we listen to music/audio books.
I have written at the tiny old desk I've had since childhood.
When we only had one vehicle between us, I dropped my husband at work and then went to the coffee shop to write until my laptop needed charging.
I pretty much write everywhere.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I'm so relieved you think I'm grown up!
I spent most of my childhood in a small Canadian town of which you've probably never heard. We occasionally went to a secondhand book store in the city, which was always a treat.
We moved when I was nine years old, so I began writing letters to the best friend I'd left behind. That was probably when I became comfortable with writing as a means of expression. I often stopped at the post office on my way home from school to check for letters.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!
Because personal connection is one of the most important things to me, I love writing as a vehicle for that connection between my soul and yours.
I'm an outliner, so I love planning the plots.
I LOVE editing and polishing my work.
I love that spark of inspiration when a better way to craft a phrase/story event occurs to me.
What do your fans mean to you?
If a tree fell in the forest but there was no one to hear it, would it still make a sound?
If a writer transmits an idea but there is no one on the receiving end, has she actually communicated?

Art has to first satisfy the artist, so you could technically create it for your own enjoyment, which I do. But (I know, I know, never start a sentence with that word. Oy.) greater joy happens for most of us when we share our gifts. It's not that I need you to affirm me, but that I delight in entertaining you. It tickles me when something I've written resonates in another person's mind and heart. I value feedback from my fans because it helps me know how well I've succeeded at giving you an enjoyable emotional experience. Also, I love to discover who exactly reads and appreciates my work. It's that essential, personal connection element again.
What are you working on next?
Now that I've just published my first eBook novel, I need to work on the laundry that's been piling up. Also, the dust bunnies under the couch have been complaining of being neglected. Just kidding. I rarely look under there.

My next work in progress (WIP) is a fantasy series of 6 or 7 books. It might even fall under the YA umbrella since it doesn't have that typically grimdark ambience. Neither is it overrun with ogres, elves or dragons. It's more like a Princess Bride/False Prince (Jennifer A. Nielsen ) hybrid with enough otherworldliness to elevate it above fairy tale status. The basic premise for the series goes like this: What if a race of multidimensional beings creates havoc in an isolated populace, then feeds off their emotional turbulence while deluding their hosts that they are better off?

What are YOU working on next?
Published 2017-05-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.