Interview with Dakota Douglas

What do you read for pleasure?
I love history - particularly the English Regency period and the American west - so anything in those genres grabs my interest. I also like a crime novel that keeps me guessing 'who dunnit' until the end.
Describe your desk
Organised chaos. Like my handbag in which can be found the kitchen sink...even the odd forgotten banana, squashed and leaky. Urrrghhh!. My desk is a huge monstrosity with numerous shelves. There's everything I need at my fingertips from elastic bands to erasers, sellotape to scissors, pens, pencils, post its, screen wipes, stapler, shredder, notebooks, nibbles and elephants etc. Did I say elephants. That's because I'm potty on elephants and there's always one or two within arm's reach either on my ears, on my wrist or holding a stack of pencils.
When did you first start writing?
As long ago as I could read, I suppose. I've always scribbled things down. I remember writing little poems and messages, putting them in a tin and burying them in the ground like a time capsule. The garden where I grew up is probably littered with old rusty tea or sweet tins holding scraps of papers with my ideas, thoughts, hopes and dreams. Then when I was about eight, I was bought a toy typewriter and that opened up a whole new world for me. I wrote little novels inspired by one of my favourite authors at the time - Enid Blyton.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Sharing my work and having someone say they enjoyed a book I've written. I love to read and to read a book that I don't want to end is magic. I would love readers to feel the same about my work.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I go to the movies a lot, I play bridge and play golf. I also enjoy doing research.
What is your writing process?
I don't have a regular writing routine. I write at all different times of day and for different lengths of time. Though, I wish I was more organized.

I write on scraps of paper and in notebooks whenever an idea for a story, word, phrase, piece of dialogue, new scene or plot twist pops into my head - even in the middle of the night. When I am writing at any length, I prefer to sit at my computer and slog away. I don't worry about spelling or grammar; I just try and type as quickly as the words mysteriously appear in my head. At the next writing session, I read what I wrote the time before. Sometimes, I start from the beginning of the story and read. It settles me into the action and gives me a better sense of the characters. If I spot mistakes, I correct them. This cuts down on the time spent editing later. I think this also helps sharpen up my writing. Then I go on to writing the next part of the story. Everyone is different but this system seems to suit me.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can't remember the title but it was a large fat book of fairytales and Disney stories like Snow White and Cinderella with lots of pictures. It inspired me to make up similar stories where I was the heroine and I got involved in all kinds of exciting adventures. I was shy with low self-esteem and my made-up characters accepted me unconditionally and thought I was "cool". This was the first time, I realised the places my imagination could take me.
What's the story behind your latest book?
It's a series of short stories about Native American children who live in a village on the Great Plains of North America in the mid nineteenth century. I'm fascinated with that era of history so it's a labour of love. To give a flavour of the culture, I have sprinkled the story with a few Sioux words and to help the reader, I put in brackets an easy way of saying them together with their English meaning.
Has your background as a newspaper reporter helped with your fiction writing?
Definitely. The training and discipline I learned through my job helps enormously with structuring a story, proofreading and editing. Often, a reporter has to do a lot of research for information to accompany a story. Some people think research is boring and they just want to get on with the writing. I love research. I also love to hear people's stories. They are so inspirational. But long before I became a journalist, I had a vivid imagination and would weave stories all the time, probably when I should have been giving other things my 100% attention. My imagination, as a child, was fuelled by all the great stories I read. I loved to go to the local library and second hand bookstores with my mother. We would spend hours reading book covers and thumbing through pages
Can you share any hints about the ANTics sequel?
It follows on from where ANTics finished and is called MutANTs. It’s about a tribe of super strong ants who like to attack and steal ants from other nests. Our heroes are thrust into an adventure to rescue their friends who’ve been ant-napped by the Mutant slaveraiders. The task is way too big for them but they get help from some unlikely sources.
Published 2014-03-14.
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