This week I interviewed Dana Taylor, author of several books. Her writing will be of special interest to those reading this blog because she writes stories to uplift the spirit. Her work as an energy healer influences her tales of flawed humans seeking spiritual and emotional healing.
CB: I’ve noticed that those who become authors often are highly imaginative as children. Some want to create their own stories shortly after they learn to read. Some enjoy solitude. Others have imaginary playmates. Are there events and patterns in your childhood that you can look at and realize that they helped to propel you into your writing journey?
DT: Definitely! I was an only child and enjoyed the company of my many imaginary friends. I also had an old black and white TV in my room for company. I loved to sing and perform the catchy theme songs of the day—“Gilligan’s Island,” “Beverly Hillbillies,” and “I Dream of Jeanne” come to mind. I remember jumping on my bed and pretending I was the “Swamp Fox.” When I was writing the campy Royal Rebel, I channeled a lot of my power-girl fantasies.
My latest release, Hope for the Holidays, is a collection of short stories. This summer I enjoyed writing Patty’s Angels, which is inspired by my childhood in Los Angeles of 1960. My mother drove into downtown LA to work as a choir director. A woman with a checkered past named Geri became my “Sunday mother.” It was fun to imagine how a couple of angels might have influenced people’s lives.
Last week I was with my 3 year old grandson, Will. All week long we made up stories about a turtle named Mack and his dinosaur friend, Ned. I told him his imagination is his best toy! Maybe he’ll be a writer someday like his “Nina.”
CB: Telling him his imagination is his best toy is the best gift you could ever give him.
That brings me to the subject of elements that can short-circuit imagination.You and I share the desire to express what we believe in our fiction. In my first book, Big Dragons Don’t Cry, that meant working with the idea that a large percentage of human problems come from their alienation from and disrespect for other life forms.
That’s potentially a heavy theme, and I found that I had to take great care not to get pedantic and, frankly, boring. I had several priorities in this regard: not to allow the natural flow of the character development and story line to get derailed by what I thought “should” happen, to make extra efforts to “show,” not “tell,” and to reread the so-called “spiritual” sections of the story with special care.
As a writer who has a a well-developed belief system, how do you balance these beliefs with the desire to entertain?
DT: Lovin’ this discussion, Connie! There was once a Movie Mogul, Samuel Goldwyn, who was urged to make “messages movies.” He replied something to the effect, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” He knew audiences balk at getting a “message” shoved down their throats.
On the other hand, the pen is mightier than the sword. It was the invention of the printing press and the essays of Martin Luther that split Christendom, and ultimately inspired Puritans to settle a New World in pursuit of freedom of thought. Today, the so-called “Arab Spring” is being fueled by social media in a modern pursuit of freedom of thought.
But, I am aware that the average Kindle owner is looking for entertainment for their 99 cents. Compelling characters, good writing, a plot that keeps must be the key ingredients. Any “message” has to be a delicate spice added for flavor. (How’s that for a metaphor?)
CB: Fantastic metaphor. You’ve given us some ideas about ideas and/or experiences that inspire you to write. Since my blog is about creativity and inspiration, I’d love to hear more, so I’ll throw out a few questions.
When you’re writing a novel, do you have the plot line down before you begin, or do you discover it as you write (or any variant of these choices)?
DT: I am in awe of people who can plot before the get-go. Alas, there is often a point in my writing process when I feel the story should be subtitled: “Characters in Search of A Plot.” Which leads to your next question.
CB: Which comes first, the plot or the characters?
DT: The characters always come first, even when I’d like a bit of peace. A few years back, I’d finished a long project and was ready for a break, Christmas was coming. But no. Maddie and Phil and that Devil Moon showed up. The opening scene began as a dream—two lonely people, the lake, and the huge, compelling moon bringing them together. I remember stumbling to my computer and pounding out the first draft in the pre-dawn hours.
CB: When/if you come to an impasse, do you use meditation or energy work to get the creative inspiration flowing again?
DT: When I get to “what happens next,” I like to go for a pounding walk. I also open my top chakra and just watch my feet, trying to break through the top level of mundane consciousness to the creative consciousness. If you put stock in the left brain/right brain theory, there’s a knack for stimulating the right brain, which is where all the good stuff comes through.
A little aside—people ask me where I got the idea for “Shiny Green Shoes,” which is part of “Hope for the Holidays.” SGS features an 8 year old black child and an aging actress during the Depression in a small Oklahoma town. I feel like that story was a strange sort of collaboration.
A few weeks before I was trying to come up with a new kind of holiday story, I had gone to receive a Reiki treatment. The treatments really changed my life, as my book Ever-Flowing StreamsEver Flowing Streams relates. On this particular visit, the image of a black woman dressed in a satin, purple dress and hair band came into my mind. I had the impression she was a blues singer from the 1950’s. She seemed very friendly. I left the appointment thinking, “That was interesting.”
When it came time to write the story, I saw a row of fancy theatrical shoes and “heard” the opening lines. A black actress named Mazie June MacDonald reflects back on her life and I think the inspiration came from the woman I met during the Reiki session. It’s my most popular piece—so far!
CB: Your stories about how inspiration arrives truly demonstrate the power of receptivity. So often, people try to stalk creative ideas in a kind of predator-prey relationship, but the prey is always faster.
That brings me to the post-writing phase of a novel: promotion, publicity, etc. It can be very tempting to link sales to external conditions: the economy, people are busy getting their kids back to school, people don’t read, and so on.
I try to walk on by when these excuses lure me and look inside. What am I doing, what am I feeling? From that, what am I attracting? Since I launched my first book, I have learned so much about my subconscious thoughts and programming. Being responsible for my book is both confrontational and enlightening.
How has this experience been for you?
DT: The publishing industry as we knew it is dying and then being re-born. There is certainly pain in the process. It’s a challenge to do things that are actually productive and not just big time suckers. Following intuition is essential. Being willing to learn and move on is also important. Consistency is also key. Get the word out every day, somewhere, to a new group of readers. Make the rounds.
One thing I have I enjoyed more about Indie publishing than I did in the Traditional publishing world is the authentic sense of support from other authors. Traditional publishing was more competitive—there were only so many contracts, so many 1st places in contests. The digital world is infinite. Everybody can publish, everybody gets a shot—even if they are terrible writers!
The cream rises to the top. I love finding a new Indie author who is a real gem. It’s like digging through a pile of rocks and finding a diamond. With the free sampling available, it’s great fun to jump from sample to sample on a Sunday afternoon, searching for the diamonds.
As far as finding my audience, a phrase came through in a meditation session yesterday—“As Within, So Without.” If I write competently from the heart, the readers will come. I find it quite stunning, actually, to see that now somewhere, pretty much every day people are downloading one or more of my books.
It’s a great time to be a writer.
BIO: Dana Taylor writes uplifting stories filled with inspiration and humor. Born and raised in California, she graduated from the University of Redlands. She has been published in various magazines, including the Ladies Home Journal. She hosted the Internet radio program Definitely Dana! at HealthyLife.net. and won various contests with the Romance Writers of America, including Best First Book from the Desert Quill Awards. Her published works include ROYAL REBEL, AIN’T LOVE GRAND?, HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS, and DEVIL MOON: A MYSTIC ROMANCE. Her non-fiction book is EVER-FLOWING STREAMS OF HEALING ENERGY. Visit her blog site Supernal Living with Dana Taylor at www. DefinitelyDana.wordpress.com. She is a founding member of the on-line community SupernalFriends.com and can be reached at email@example.com.