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Frequently Asked Questions

How long have you be writing for?

Forever. I’ve been writing down stories since I was a child. I still have some of little books I wrote and illustrated myself. I was always reading, drawing or writing as a child. I was always making little towers out of toilet rolls or houses out of shoeboxes. I loved it.

Why do you write?

Without wanting to sound corny, it’s because I have to. I have this absolute compulsion to do it. I have so many ideas mulling about my head, that I have to get them down and tell the stories. The only way I can describe it (and this might sound a bit mad) is that it’s like breathing to me…an absolute necessity.

Are you rich?

No. Unfortunately not. Like most writers, I have another job to do. I work for the Health Service in Glasgow as a PR officer, which means I produce a public newspaper, work on the website and intranet, and produce things like leaflets and fliers as and when needed. It’s a busy old job, but I make sure I make time to write.

You work, you’re a mum and you’ve got a house to run…when do you find time to write?

It’s not a question of finding time, it’s a question of making time. I’ve joined the Mitchell Library and used their computers at lunchtime. I actually wrote a large part of DarkIsle at the Mitchell in 2006…writing down ideas and chapter plans in longhand during my lunch break as the excellent catering staff kept me filled up in tea and biscuits.

I’ve moved job since then and don’t have the same amount of time during the middle of the day, but I still jot down ideas and dialogue etc. I still make time at night to write.

I’m lucky enough that I don’t work Thursdays and Fridays, so I try and write at least 1000 words on those days and over the weekend. I’m not a magical person who finds it easy to sit down at the computer and write every day – some days are easier than others. I have a lovely husband who continually encourages me to write and I know that, once I start writing, that’s me off.

Where do you write?

We’re lucky enough to have a room in our house, which we call the ‘study’. It was originally a dining room, but when we moved in, we made it a place for books and writing. The study has my old oak desk that I bought from an antiques dealer at the Barras market in Glasgow.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

My getting published has not happened overnight. I have been writing and sending away books to agents and publishers for about 15 years. I have had more rejection letters than I care to remember.

My advice is:

  • Practice your craft – write every day if you can.
  • Keep an ideas book handy at all times – I have been jotting down ideas for years in my little books. It’s a great way of getting inspiration.
  • Read everything – it’s one way of improving your writing plus you might just find yourself coming up with new ideas for stories from it.
  • Be observant – I recently came up with the idea for a new story just from driving past an old gateway every day. You can get a story from any object, any person or any mad idea.
  • Keep going – it’s important you don’t get downhearted. If you have been sending chapters away to agents or publishers, don’t let every rejection letter get you down, although it’s hard not to! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given up writing “for good”, but then had to go back to it because I have this mad desire to do it.
  • If you can, attend creative writing classes to improve your writing. A few years ago, I signed up for two sessions of creative writing classes (evening) with Glasgow University and loved it! Ask at your local library if there are classes near you. There are courses for both children and adults available.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, we have two lovely guinea pigs called Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy (after the Pride & Prejudice character) and Sam (after no-one).

The  major love of my life when I was a teenager was the family dog. He was a miniature Yorkshire terrier and a lovely wee thing. He died a few years ago. We all still miss him terribly.

As a child, I also had a guinea-pig, various goldfish and a budgie.

What’s your favourite colour?

Um…that’s a hard one. I love all colours. I think if I had to choose two it would be yellow and red because they are so cheerful. My favourite used to be purple, but it’s not now.

Who’s your favourite author?

You’ll find a full list in the ‘my favourite children’s books and authors’ section. For authors of adult books, I love Joanne Harris, Terry Pratchett, Daphne Du Maurier, Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, the Brontes, Jane Austen and Janet Evanovich…to name a few.

Do you plan to write more children’s books?

Yes, I’ve got loads of ideas…I just haven’t had the time to write them all down yet!

 

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10 comments

  1. Dear Dawn,

    Hello! We are P7 pupils from Duncan Forbes Primary School in Inverness. We have read ‘Dark Isle’ and ‘Dark Isle Ressurection’ in class and we are your number one fans! We all really enjoyed the books and can’t wait to find out what happens next.

    Can you please tell us if you have finished writing the third novel? We really want to find out how Morag gets on with her parents and what happens when Mesphista finds out that her Dad is actually Kang.

    Thank you for writing such great books,

    From,
    Your biggest fans,
    The Blue Reading Group!
    P7

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    • Hello Primary 7 Blue Reading Group from Duncan Forbes Primary School in Inverness and thank you so much for your lovely words. Have only just opened my blog for the first time this week and what a nice surprise to hear from you. Am so pleased to hear you enjoyed the books.

      I am hoping my third book is finished. Have sent it back to my publisher following a wee edit and am hoping I won’t have to do any more work on it. If that’s the case, it should be out some time this year.

      I like the idea that Kang is Mephista’s dad…that made me laugh!! You lot have really mad imaginations!!

      Thanks again for getting in touch. It’s so nice to hear from readers.

      Dawn xxx

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  2. Dear, Ms Nelson

    My name is Erin Fitzsimmons and I am 12 years old. My Granda, Roy Fitzsimmons, made the dragon on Irvine beach. I live in Houston, Texas and at my school we are having an International Festival. My brother, one of my friends and I are representing Scotland. Each year you have to get a teacher to sponsor you, this year I asked my language arts and social studies teacher because I’m talking about the dragon and the book you wrote and how they were connected.

    I have a few questions to ask you about the book and the dragon and would be grateful if you could answer them for me:
    1.How old were you when you saw the dragon?
    2.What made you write the book?
    3.How did the dragon help you write the book?

    My mum read “DarkIsle” to me when I was little and I really enjoyed it. My Granda gave my brother and I copies and you had signed them. Thanks.

    I can’t wait to hear from you.

    Yours truly,
    Erin Fitzsimmons

    Like


    • Hi Erin
      I met your granda when he came to the book launch of DarkIsle. He’s a lovely man. Your gran was with him. It was really nice to meet them both and to tell them how inspiring the dragon was to me.

      I first saw the dragon when I was about 14 or 15, I think, I can’t remember exactly. We weren’t sure if it was a dragonn or a crocodile at first, but we – me and my two sisters – decided it was a dragon because that’s more magical. My family and I lived in Neilston at the time which is just about an half hour drive from Irvine. My dad’s family are from Ayrshire so we went there a lot and Irvine beach was a family favourite. We used to take our dog there and he loved to run up and down the beach. We would always visit the dragon when we went…it became a family tradition and when we go down to Irvine, we still make sure we visit her. I think of her as a ‘her’ because that’s what she is in my book, your granda may have thought of it as a boy…I don’t know.

      The dragon made me write the book. I have always loved it. It’s so quirky and unusual and great to climb on. I hope that if you visit Scotland you’ll go and see her. The story came about when I was daydreaming one day when I was about 20 or 21 and I remembered the dragon and I thought to myself: “I wonder what would happen if the dragon came alive. Who would the dragon be? What would he or she do? What adventures would he or she have? Who would he or she meet?” And that’s how DarkIsle started. My first thought was: is it a boy or girl? What’s her name? Who does she meet? What’s her story?

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the book. The second book is out now in the UK and the US and I am working on the third one. It should be out in the UK this year and the US probably next year…I hope. If your teacher wanted to do something with the book in class, I would be happy to answer any questions your classmates had, although there are lots of answers on the Frequently Asked Questions bit of this blog. I’ve also created a teacher’s pack for the book, if that interests her.

      Anyway, I must go. It’s been really lovely to hear from you. Please pass on my regards to your lovely grandparents. Without the inspiration of your granda’s dragon there would have been no DarkIsle!! Regards also to your family.

      Dawn xxxx

      Like


  3. Hello Dawn,

    My name is Laura and I am a teacher in North Lanarkshire, I couldn’t help but notice in your above comment that you have a teacher pack that you have created to go along with this book. I would love to see what you have came up with as I am just about to start this book with my class. They are very excited about starting it as we discussed it quite a bit before the holidays. I have tried to find some stuff online but not getting much results. Would just be great to see you own ideas and perspective.

    Many thanks,

    Laura.

    Like


    • Hi Laura
      Lovely to hear from you. Did you get the teacher pack? It was on Strident Publishing’s website. I’ve just been on but can’t find it myself. Leave it with me and I’ll see if I can get it for you…I must have a copy somewhere!
      Dawn

      Like


      • Laura, did you ever get a copy? I would love to see this resource!

        Like


  4. Hi, I am reading Dark Isle with my P7 class, who are enthralled! I have just seen you have a teachers pack from the above comments…this would make my year if I could get a copy! Is it online again?!

    Like


    • Hi. Sorry for not getting back to you. I’ll dig it out and send it to you. Dawnx

      Like


      • Lisa

        I have hunted high and low for this, but can’t find it. I’ll keep looking. I have another computer it may be on.
        Dawn

        Like



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