An Interview with Autumn Dawn

Conducted by Jennifer Booth
December, 2002

By delving into her inspiration, stamina and twists of humor we take a look into the fantasy world from Autumn Dawn, filled with tough willed characters and raunchy romance. The author of “Teasing Danger” and “Ride the Stars” has given us female leads that shake the foundations of traditional romance writing, together with a breed of powerful masculinity that makes the blood boil. All the time powered by believable and enticing story lines. We asked an author inspired by love, strength and cheeky humor what it takes to write with both honesty and self belief, whilst staving off the critics.

FF: What attracted you to the fantasy genre, as opposed to that of real world romance?

Autumn: I read a little bit of everything, and have since I was a kid. Romance suits me because of the happy endings and warm glow. Fantasy in particular grew out of C.S. Lewis, comic books and a host of others since. I’ve always been drawn to exploring new worlds, and I love pleasant surprises. Fantasy offers both, and para-rom has the best of both worlds. Plus it’s just the way my quirky brain works 🙂

FF: Having read a lot as a child, are there any particular literary inspirations who you thank for your success?

Autumn: C.S. Lewis, Marvel comic books, A Wrinkle in Time, Anne McCaffery’s dragons of Pern, the Blue Sword and Hero’s crown by what’s her name, Black Beauty and all the Black Stallion books (I like horses, could you tell?) As I got older I collected Piers Anthony and snuck some of my mom’s romance novels. I liked the love story, but the ones she favored were dark gothics, depressing stuff. I wanted something brighter, more humorous, faster. My dad’s sense of humor and excellent verbal storytelling skills influenced me a lot. I never touched his westerns or Vietnam books, though. Ugh! Not my bag.

FF: So do you think your excellent sense of imagination is something you were born with or something you have developed?

Autumn: Definitely born with. When I turned seventeen (I wasn’t in a hurry to get my license, unlike most teens) I had to use a map to navigate our small town of Fairbanks, Alaska. Why? Because I’d spent so many years in the car daydreaming about other worlds and making up stories in my head. I thought everyone was that way. The only time I wasn’t dreaming was when I was going 90 mph on my snowmachine, or trapped in gym. Shudder.

FF: What inspired you to tackle the archetypal bonneted Jane Austin figurine?

Autumn: Jane Austin, Jane Eyre-ew. Ucky. Those were some of the only assigned books I skipped over in English. (Come to think of it, I disliked most of the assigned books. Too dull). Mark Twain was more my style. If a woman’s got something to say, she should speak up. If a guy’s not working for you, don’t stick around and mope. Go do something with your life, baby. Be a woman, not a mop.

FF: Absolutely. Yet far from being brutish ‘ramboettes’, your female leads in fact seem torn between inner fire and outer sensibility. Do you see this as being a dilemma that today’s woman actually faces?

Autumn: Hm. I see it as a growing up process, of overcoming fears. You take a strong woman who’s learned to be strong by walking through the fire, and then you show her how to trust, how to tell the good men from the bad. I’m not interested in limp wristed, fainting heroines, and I don’t think today’s woman is, either. We need good role models, strength. There are so many opportunities for us to take the wrong path, choose the wrong man. Half of the time, when we do, we don’t have the courage to hit reverse and do what it takes to extract ourselves from the fire. I want a strong, sensible woman who becomes balanced by a caring, strong man, preferably someone she can’t run roughshod over to her own harm. Not all the choices a woman makes are positive. Sometimes we need a good friend and a lover to point that out. Love is the key.

FF: You do have an excellent grasp of the male characters, as they too ride through their unexplored emotions. Is this knowledge inspired by real life men?

Autumn: I like men. My dad was my best friend growing up, and we could always talk.

Sometimes we chatted to one a.m. over a chessboard at my parent’s cabin. My Grandpa Buck was a gruff, but loving influence in my life, and I adored my uncle John–he was like a second father to me. My parents never separated male and female labor. If my brother Sean was hauling firewood, so was I. If the dishes needed doing, we took turns. As we got older he gravitated to the garage to tinker and I preferred housework, but the roles weren’t forced on us. My parents were very careful who came around the house when I was a kid, too. I also have a host of cousins, uncles, and a great set of brother in laws. I think it made me a better woman to have so many positive influences, and I relate very well to guys, view them as friends. The only downside is that I can’t tell when a guy is flirting, since I just don’t interact that way. For a happily married woman, this can be a hazard.

FF: Is the sense of primitive danger that you invoke in your novels intended to complement the emerging instinctual passion of your characters?

Autumn: I just like spice. I want the reader turning pages. Anything that inspires curiosity or adrenaline is what captivates me, and that’s what I put into my stories. Danger is sexy. It’s motivating. It’s also a lot more interesting than having the characters shake hands over tea.

FF: Definitely, yet as a fellow believer in being loved for what’s inside and not the gift-wrap, I do feel an empathic sympathy for these women who are being ‘awoken’ from the inside. Is this a reaction you hoped to invoke?

Autumn: Absolutely. I’m not the most gorgeous woman myself, but my husband loves me and constantly says I’m beautiful. What I appear to be in his eyes is what matters to me. Hence, I feel beautiful. I want readers to know that’s possible for them, too.

FF: Although your novels do display these deep passions, at times they have an addictive cheeky humor to them. Is this a fine balance to achieve?

Autumn: Chuckle. Not really. I grew up on cheeky humor, for my dad was quite the teaser and we learned by example. I intentionally lighten the moment by relaxing and letting my humor out. I love to make someone smile. As far as making the stories deep, I simply consider how I would feel about things. I put my passions on the page and give real feelings to the characters. They might not always do what I do–often they are bolder than I–but they often feel as I would about things.

FF: Do you ever get the balance or atmosphere of a novel wrong and feel the need to restart whole sections?

Autumn: I do write by feel, and there is a fine balance that I instinctively go for. I ccasionally feel a section isn’t working, but that’s usually in the first three chapters. Maybe it’s a character that’s too strong for a part and needs to become a secondary character while a secondary moves up to lead. Once corrected, I rarely rewrite. I’m a seat of the pants writer, and happiest when I make the story flow from the backstory, without rewriting it.

FF: Is it hard to spontaneously produce the more passionate material on a day where its raining, you have a headache and are clad in jogging pants?

Autumn: Grin. Usually it’s jeans and a T-shirt. Sunny summer days are hard, because they’re rare in Alaska and I like to garden. Days when I’m struck by a horrible flu are usually spent on the couch, in between taking care of three sick little kids. Rarely, I’ll watch a movie if I’m really dead, usually something that will inspire me. As I lie there, I daydream, which is an integral part of writing. I can walk away from the computer, but I don’t know if it’s possible to really turn the wetware “off”. I don’t attempt any kind of creative writing when I’m down. It comes out in the story, and we don’t need that.

FF: I definitely have an image of you in an oversized chair surrounded by Twining’s cartons when writing your material. Is there anything specific you need around you to write?

Autumn: A computer. A consistently mowed desk would be nice. I don’t usually see what’s around me when I’m writing, though there’s a perennial awareness of objects lobbed by two year olds wanting to play. Actually, it would be nice to have a chair to fit my small frame, but then how would I slouch and type?

FF: You do say thinking up names is a bit of a chore, I know our readers would be happy with your idea of a competition to invent them! Is it an especially hard task for fantasy writing, as ordinary names are too reminiscent of normal life?

Autumn: Yikes! Not names! I really need to get that contest going (shaking head). My mom had enough imagination to name me Autumn Dawn (my dad strongly objected to Emily. He couldn’t imagine my mom screeching that name in a fit of temper. Eeeemilleee!). Yet here I am, writing stories but annoyed at stopping long enough to pick a name. Sometimes I hange the name several times. It’s the character that captures me. What they’re called is incidental. Sticky note to self–start contest on website.

As for fantasy names–it’s tricky. You want something unusual, yet not so bizarre that the reader is yanked out of dreamland. T’bitzit d’Rubisq just wouldn’t cut it, for example.

FF: If you were interrupted in a serious writing phase would you find it easy to return to the book at a later time?

Autumn: Yes. I’ve trained myself well to cope with interruptions and stay in the zone, unless someone is constantly asking me questions–husband has learned not to do this. What’s harder is when the next story is calling you. It takes discipline to ignore temptation and wander off to start that book.

FF: Sounds like you have good focus. It’s also refreshing to meet a writer so realistic about critics. Would you say self belief is invaluable to a writer?

Autumn: If you don’t believe in yourself, you will fail. I wrote what I did about critics as a warning to myself not to get hung up on the negative. It’s too easy to do. And I do believe I have a talent for writing, because I just *know*. It’s the only thing in my life I’ve ever had this kind of unshakable faith in. I often pray for inspiration and success at it, and there’s no question that it helps.

FF: How was your own experience of locating and communicating with publishers?

Autumn: Ugh. Waiting. More waiting. Rejections, mostly to query letters. You get philosophical about it. Leisure called my writing, “Not as strong as what we are currently considering”, whatever that means. Shrug. New Concepts is excited about it, hallelujah. My editor gives me the freedom to explore, and she’s passionate about my writing. As Gambit would say, “Life don’ get bettah than this.”

FF: And are we right to think this exploration is culminating in your pet project, the sequel to “woman inside”?

Autumn: Big smile. I’m pleased by The Other Woman. It came to me as a contemporary, but I looked at the plot and knew it would do better as the sequel to The Woman Inside. Blurb:

Allyson wants passion and adventure. She’s ready to seek a lover. There’s just one obstacle–her husband.

Roland had little use for his bride—-until he saw her again after ten years at war. Her tongue cut like a sword’s edge, but her body promised nights of raw passion. If only he could overcome her hatred.

But it’s not hatred that has her on the run. A far different emotion drives her to flee his touch. Once an unwanted wife was bad enough. This time she won’t wait around to become The Other Woman. As soon as I get the thing finished, I’ll submit it to my editor and throw something up on my site about it. Learning Dreamweaver had been a challenge,
but I like having control of my site. It’s probably the least painful of all the publicity things for me.

So avid fans keep an eye on Autumns web site: for the arrival of The Other Woman on the consumer scene. There’s also plenty to indulge up and coming fans of Autumn, such as gripping excerpts and summations of her latest literary creations which are currently available to buy.

Many thanks to Autumn Dawn for a giving us fans an honest and witty look into her writing experience. And remember readers, for a tasty mix of passion and power get your eyes feasting on the world of the Darklands.End

Copyright © 2002 by Jennifer Booth

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