Leave a comment. Win a signed copy of the genre bending RABBIT IN THE ROAD. I’m delighted to interview two fabulous authors, Danika D. Potts and Oliver Campbell, the rad authors who have collaborated on an exciting new book published earlier this year, RABBIT IN THE ROAD. And in conjunction with this special event, Danika and Oliver are giving away three paperback copies of their book. Each one is signed by the authors and the illustrator. Be sure to add a comment at the end of this post to enter your name in the contest.
Welcome, Danika and Oliver! Thanks to both of you for this opportunity.
Your writing is so seamless and fluid, all of a piece with a tremendously strong and consistent voice. How in the world do you achieve it?
Danika: Collaboration with Oliver is incredibly challenging and also immensely rewarding. He’s the big-picture operator, designing the scope and plot of whatever we write. He is the architect. He draws up a plan, and then leaves it to me to execute it. I get an incredible amount of freedom when it comes to implementing his vision, but he’s also very quick to correct me when I wander off-track. He designs the what, and I design the how. Nobody plots like Oliver does, that’s for sure. I’ve never met a writer with such a clear course for his story. He knows EXACTLY what he wants to get across, and he knows what it will take to get there. I feel like our strengths and weaknesses are very complimentary.
Oliver: If I am the architect, she is the carpenter. Just because I can draw up a plan doesn’t mean I know how to handle a hammer or a saw. I know what can and will be accomplished with the usage of those tools. With Danika, I set a tone, I set a feeling that I want achieved through a sequence, and she is the one who executes it. The tagline for our blog is “Narrative from both sides of the gender fence”. Rather than shy away from gender stereotypes, we embrace them, as far as Danika and I go. Instead of complaining about what the other person can’t do, we spend more time focusing on what each of us CAN do.
What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing?
Danika: Eighth grade, my English teacher Wendy Sanchez tells me that it’s okay to write things that arent pretty. She said “Never stop writing from your dark side.” I didn’t know what exactly she meant, but it felt like permission; I didn’t have to try to make people happy with what I wrote. I felt like I was allowed to write things that were about danger or unpleasantness or just bad people in general. The truth is, I don’t know how to write sweet stories. Sweet moments, maybe, but I have to write stories about people forced to change, and change is rarely easy or pleasant.
Oliver: That’s a funny question. I’ve never actually been given any advice about writing, but it makes me think about a quote from Stephen King, where he says he writes about what scares him. I always found this to be an interesting view on storytelling, so I make it a point to plot about things that would cause me to react emotionally.
Do you have a constant theme or overarching concern?
Danika: I feel like there are certain things that call to us, that we want to explore, but I don’t want to give people key things to look for in our stories. If we manage to get that across over time, then that’s great, but I don’t necessarily want to take you on a tour and point out the highlights. I’d much rather you discovered those things for yourself. That being said, I can easily say that the stories that appeal to us the most are those about defying expectations or challenging destiny. I know there’s a lot we have to say about that, yet.
Oliver: Our overarching theme is people; the stories aren’t so much about the stories themselves, but how people will react to any particular stimuli you give them. All stories are written for people to enjoy, so the content needs to reflect circumstances that almost everyone can identify with.
When did you discover your passion for writing?
Danika: I’ve always written, since I could hold a crayon or pencil. It’s always been something I did. I just figured that was who I was, but passion? I don’t think I even acknowledged that as a feeling until just a few years ago. I kept starting stories, and I kept claiming I wanted to be a writer. Finally, Oliver sat me down and broke it to me, not gently. The only thing keeping me from being a writer was me. The excuses had to go. If you want it, truly want it, you have to want it more than anything else. My list of time-wasters and pick-up projects went out the window. I wasn’t passionate at first, mostly I was just learning to be disciplined and committed, but now? Everything I do is weighed against our passion, writing. I honestly like nothing better than the time we spend writing or analyzing content and learning about story, but I had a hard road getting there.
Oliver: I’ve always had a passion for creativity and problem-solving, so in my case it’s not so much a passion for writing. I see it as reverse engineering a problem. My first experience where I really applied myself creatively was RPGMaker, on the Playstation when I was 14. It took me eight hours to program a five minute sequence. It was at that point that my world view changed, as far as creating content went. I’ve dabbled in other creative media before, such as game development and music, but I lacked the access or the other team members required to succeed on the level I wanted. The common thread between all those other creative fields is that they are almost universally about telling story, they just develop them in different ways. Writing works out really well for me because story has been huge for me, even when I was very young. The earliest book I can remember my mom reading to me was “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” Because my mother made such a point to really get us to read, I don’t think it’s any surprise that I would come back to fundamental storytelling as something I enjoy.
What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book?
Danika: We’re suffering from too many great ideas, too little time at the moment, but The Dusk Harbinger, Part 1 of the Twisted World is nearly complete. It’s in wrap-up stages and should be ready to roll very soon. It’s getting amazing feedback from our testers, and I’m excited to bring it out and show everyone the world we’ve made. It’s the first in a trilogy, set in a universe that will hold at least three more stand alone novels after the core trilogy. We’re laying the groundwork for another book connected very loosely to Rabbit in the Road, set in the same world. It is already some of the creepiest research I’ve ever had to do, and I’m loving it. I think people are going to enjoy this one even more.
Oliver: It’s interesting; the next thing we’re working on isn’t so much a sequel to Rabbit in the Road as it is another story told within the same universe. Fans have been clamoring for more, and what we’re working on is a ghost story that takes place during the Midwest floods of ‘93. If Rabbit in the Road was about creating a villain the audience could empathize with, this story is about creating her moral foil.
If there is one thing you could change in the writing or publishing process of RABBIT IN THE ROAD, what would it be?
Danika: Gosh, I would have done everything differently. We started The Twisted World about two years ago, and we realized pretty quickly that we were going to be living in that universe for a long, long time. There’s the trilogy we’re on right now, and three more stand-alone novels for that universe just waiting to be put together. I found the first two chapters of Rabbit in a notebook when I was going through some boxes and showed it to Oliver- I had started it alone ages ago and just let it lie fallow. I didn’t know what to do with it, had no idea about the plot except the start and the finish, and I lost interest. Once Oliver got in there and saw what could happen with it, we dropped everything and finished Rabbit in about two months’ time. We knew it would be a great opportunity to find out about self-publishing, test the waters and make some mistakes. The learning curve for self-publishing was steep, at least for me. I thought writing was the hard part. I was wrong. If I could do anything differently, I’d already know all the things I learned the hard way. That’s part of why I’m so excited about getting this new series out and sharing it with people; I already know what not to do.
Oliver: Yeah, writing the story is the easy part. It’s everything AFTER that that is the hard part; learning about who you have to connect with, who you have to network with, and why. You have to be prepared to do things that, under normal circumstances would be very uncomfortable for you to do. And you have to do them anyway. If you were raised to believe that pride was a sin and modesty was a virtue, you’re going to have to throw all that out. You have two jobs; not only are you a writer or a content creator, but you’re a salesman. Not only are you the ringmaster for this particular circus, but you’re also the carnival barker. If people don’t know there’s an amazing show in town, it’s because you didn’t tell them. It’s important to learn that early on, so you can mentally prepare yourself for when you have to do it.
Danika: I love writing still, even though it’s a second job for me. It’s still just about the best way to spend my time. I love to draw, and I’ve been applying myself to focused practice whenever we aren’t in WIP stage on a novel. As soon as we get out of test reading and into edits, I intend to get back to sewing, too. I read a lot, so whenever I get a few minutes, my nose is in a book. I’m into films and animation like a maniac, not a fan but a fanatic. Don’t even get me started about them, I bore people to tears arguing about animation styles and obscure old Hollywood trivia. Other than that, planning, talking about story, and writing with Oliver are the things I like best to do, so I’m very fortunate.
Oliver: Video gaming is my biggest and most obvious hobby if you were to ask anyone who knows me. I read quite a bit, obviously, but I wouldn’t say as much as Danika does. I’m incredibly picky when it comes to exactly what books I will read and why. I’m quite a big movie buff, as my mother was deeply into film as well. But most importantly, it was very broad categories of film that she was into, so it definitely gave me a rich world view. Even to this day I’ll still pick up the phone and we’ll gab back and forth about the method of story in any particular film that’s just come out.
Who are your favorite authors?
Danika: This is a hard one, only because there are so many greats. You know, writers are like ice cream at Baskin Robbins. They’re all sweet, they’re all cold, they’re all ice cream, but how they ice cream is radically different. No one is going to put mint chip and rum raisin in the same bowl and tell you it’s the same. There are just so many flavors. For sheer economy and elegance, I go to Elmore Leonard. So much work goes into writing with such amazingly crafted simplicity. For pure pleasure: Clive Barker, every time. There are so many things I can write about that I can’t talk about, and reading him is why I can. He marries desire and disgust in a way that is horrifying and delicious at the same time.
Oliver: Most of my favorite authors are incredibly old school. My number one favorite would have to be H.G. Wells. Following that, Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, and Philip K. Dick would round that out quite nicely. It’s a very strange list to be sure, but I enjoy them because they each offer a unique experience and view that you just aren’t going to be able to find anywhere else.
Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose?
Danika: If you want it, you have to be willing to sacrifice to get it. It doesn’t matter if it’s writing, or anything else that isn’t going to be handed to you in this world. If you want to change your life, you’re going to suffer for it. Sometimes that’s just losing free time, sometimes it’s going to be far more costly. You have to be willing to risk and pay if you want to win. Expect it to be hard. All the worthwhile things are.
Oliver: This one is cake, and I cannot stress it enough: Broaden. Your. Horizons. What I mean by that is don’t let yourself get tunnel visioned into just the things that YOU like; The world is made up of all kinds of different people who like different things. When you sit down to tell a story, you need to be able to think about how other people might perceive and take in the same information. Not to get biblical at all, but if you’re looking at advice purely from a storytelling standpoint, the bible presents an interesting take on that very idea, particularly the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The reason this is relevant is that those four separate books are a telling of the same sequence of events, merely from different points of view.
Following that, consume content! And I don’t mean just the things that you personally like. Listen to all kinds of different music, read all kinds of different books from different genres, do the same with film, and if you’re into gaming, do the same there. What this accomplishes is opening your mind up to different trains of thought; I cannot tell you how many times I have been stuck on a story problem and rather than getting frustrated, I sit down and watch a movie or play something outside of my interest range. Almost every time the answer to my problem comes to me instantly, simply because it made me shift my brain in a different direction.
Danika: Danika D. Potts is originally from the Pacific Northwest, and now lives in Des Moines, Iowa. Her journalism work has been featured on EOGamer.com as well as Kotaku and The Escapist. She loves writing, drawing, sewing, and cartoons. She’s currently at work on the Twisted World Series of novels, as well as a stand alone book that is a follow up to Rabbit in the Road.
Oliver: Oliver Campbell (1981- ) is a native of Iowa. He has worked in video games for 3 years, including work as a game journalist, reviewer, and editorialist for sites such as Hard4Games.com and EOGamer.com. His work has been featured on both The Escapist as well as Kotaku.
When not working on fiction, Oliver enjoys video gaming as his primary hobby, notably those with deep and rich story content.
Facebook page for RABBIT IN THE ROAD: http://www.facebook.com/RabbitintheRoad
betweenhimandher at gmail.com
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