Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dakota Douglas, ANTics

AUTHOR: Dakota Douglas
GENRE: Children
PUBLISHER: Self published

Please tell us about yourself.

I’m like a butterfly flitting from one thing to another. I’d love to be more organised and productive. Sadly, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to share my time between family, friends, writing, reading, playing golf, playing bridge, keeping fit, learning Lakota Sioux and dabbling in jewellery making. I’m retired after a 30+ year career as a full-time journalist – how I ever found the time to work, I don’t know.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Part-time. I’m afraid my writing is very haphazard in between all my other interests. I play golf around three times a week. I enjoy it but it’s like a monster that munches away a huge chunk of my day. On the days I play golf, I use the few hours left to play catch up with my emails, readers and social media connections. On the days I don’t play golf, I write, edit, research and read. But, in a way, I’m always writing – mostly in my head and scribbling down notes on the many notebooks I carry around with me. Even on my bedside table – because you never know when inspiration will strike. It has no respect for where you are or what time of the day it is. Isn’t that great!

When and why did you begin writing?

So far back, I can’t remember. My imagination has always been vivid. I had lots of imaginary friends when I was small and I would gaze out of the classroom window day dreaming a lot. One of my earliest memories is being bought a toy typewriter for Christmas when I was eight and writing my own “novels” inspired by my favourite authors.

What inspired you to write your first book?

A dream. Since a child, I’d always wanted to be a writer: I suppose that’s what drew me to journalism. But I never got around to sitting down and doing it – apart from those early childhood efforts. Then one day, I caught sight of a group of ants carrying a potato crisp. The crisp was 20 times bigger than a single ant but that didn’t stop them. They all worked as a team to take it back to their nest, including hauling it up a six-inch kerb. One big guy ran around directing operations and several others dashed off and came back with reinforcements. That night, I dreamt about ants. They were like little kids and were involved in a big adventure. The dream was very clear in my mind when I woke and as I lay snuggled under the covers, the idea for ANTics blossomed.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

As a journalist, I’ve been used to editing my own work. But editing a book is an entirely different ball game. I’ve learned a lot of new skills from a variety of sources that hopefully will help me grow as a fiction writer. I find I now read books differently: I analyse them as I read studying characters, plot, grammar and layout. I’ve also picked up invaluable tips from fellow authors from around the world I’m linked to through social media.
How can we find you? Website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc.?

Any other news you’d like to share?
Someone, who has just read ANTics, said they loved it and thought it would make a great animated movie. They urge me to contact Disney or Steven Spielberg. Wouldn’t that be wonderful. I expect they get thousands, perhaps millions of requests. If you snooze – you loose. So perhaps I better get in touch. If anyone has a hotline number either, I’d appreciate it.

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

My second children’s book is called WOOF. I’ve just turned the ebook into a paperback. I’ve very excited about this. It looks great. The story is about a shy schoolboy who struggles to fit in. When he befriends a stray dog, things happen and change his life. Reviewers have told me they would like to see more WOOF stories, so that’s on my writing agenda.

What influences your writing?

I’m influenced by the world around me. I’m a sponge that soaks up ideas from everywhere. My job as a newshound on a busy daily newspaper trained me to sniff out interesting story ideas. I get inspiration from lots of sources for book ideas and jot them down. Ideas leap out from a word or phrase I overhear, something I read in a newspaper, on a leaflet or see on TV. Sometimes, I’m daydreaming while out walking when an idea drifts into my head or slams into me like hitting a wall. Whatever the source, I’m grateful.

What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

I hope they had fun reading the story because I had fun writing it. My research gave me a greater understanding of life from a tiny ant’s point of view. I would like to think it encourages young readers to think about the natural world around them.

Do you outline before you write? If not, what’s your initial process?

I find fiction writing to be an evolving process. I’m not a big outliner, I prefer to go with the flow. When the initial idea pops into my head, I jot it down in my ideas' book and on my computer. I may be busy doing something else and don’t dare rely on my memory. So I get it down in as much detail as possible and squirrel it away until I’m ready to start writing the first draft. When that time comes, I begin my research. That often gives me ideas for story lines. As I write, my characters are buzzing in my head, talking to each other. They give me ideas for characters and plot twists further on in the book. I get this all down. When I get to that part, I make a decision to use it or not. Sometimes, they’ve given me another idea by then. It’s a meandering road. I know where I’m heading but the excitement of the journey is which route to take. I get to a crossroads and make the decision to turn right or left. It’s thrilling to see where that choice takes me on the way to my final destination.

What comes first: the plot or characters?

That’s a tough one. After a bit of thought, I would say a bit of both. When an idea hits, it’s like an animated movie in my head. I see images, characters and a storyline all rolled into one. As I write, I develop the plot and characters. Neither is set in stone. Some authors know everything about their character before they start, from their shoe size to what their favourite meal is. My characters take shape and deepen as I write. It’s almost as if they develop themselves.


What do you look for in a book when you sit down to read for fun?

I want to be entertained, surprised and to learn something new.

What books have most influenced your life?

The books I read as a child helped fuel my imagination. By authors including Enid Blyton, C S Lewis, J M Barrie, Lewis Carroll.


Three young ants are chased by the world’s craziest, smelliest spider - an evil monster with magic powers who has vowed to turn them into ant soup.

One is a fun-loving scamp, one is clever and the third is
scared of his own shadow. Can they outwit the beast and save themselves, their families and friends? An exciting fantasy adventure that builds to a dramatic end. ANTics is for ages 7+ in ebook and print. It’s a fun way for children to learn about ants with some interactive suggestions at the end. It’s a story of courage with lessons about the
importance of friendship and teamwork. As well as lots of
funny moments, the story is a good way for young readers to learn new words, as all the characters have names that
describe their personalities and end in ANT.

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