by Dawn Alexander
Tell us what you write and about your latest release.
I write about things you need a note from your mother to read. Kidding!
Currently I write Contemporary Romance, of the spicy variety. I started out wanting to be a swords, sorcery and horses kind of epic fantasy writer, but after my friends challenged me to write a romance, and it didn’t, ya know, suck in a bad way, I’ve kept with it. My debut release was in January, with Ellora’s Cave. It’s called Flirting with Rescue. I used the adage, “Write what you know,” and wrote about a former rodeo brat. My heroine meets her hero while rescuing two horses that were being used to traffic drugs and stolen goods, and steamy times and danger ensues.
How do you go from being a missionary to writing for Ellora's Cave?
This is one of those questions I could write pages about. The shortest way to answer? Serendipity.
I liked being a missionary, but in the long run, it wasn’t what I wanted to do for the long term. I finished school. I went back to school. The economy tanked. I got a job, and fell back into writing. I got picked up by EC because of my friends, really. They are the ones who threw the gauntlet down and dared me to write romance. They’re the ones who read what I wrote and said it wasn’t half bad. They’re the ones who got me into the right place so that when the opportunity to pitch to my current editor came about, I was there.
How did you get involved with NTRWA? What do you remember about your first meeting?
I visited sometime in 2011 with another friend of mine. I remember Rosemary was talking about queries, and it was nice to see familiar faces. At the time I still didn’t know what I wanted when it came to writing, so I didn’t join. Since selling Flirting with Rescue, and getting two additional contracts, I decided that I needed to learn more and network. So I visited RWA chapter meetings and took the plunge.
You talk about being a rodeo brat, tell us more about that experience.
I think that this is one of those things that, to everyone else, my life growing up was this crazy, on the road adventure. To me, it was just how we lived.
My parents have always been the kind of people who would rather do what they loved than something they had to do. My dad was a world champion calf roper turned team roper by the time I was born, and my mom was a roman rider and trick rider, one-third of the All American Trick Riders. We had property in Grandview, Texas, and my dad owned a livestock auction in El Paso, Texas, but we only stopped in either location long enough to fill the tanks and keep going. We traveled most of the year, in separate rigs, because my mom would be at a rodeo for the full run of performance dates, and my dad would need to hit as many rodeos or jack pots as he could. When we stopped traveling and all lived under one roof, it was a big adjustment period.
It wasn’t an easy way to grow up, but I saw almost all of the United States from the passenger seat of a motor home or the back of a horse. I’ve been in Presidential Inaugural parades, I’ve performed as a trick rider for crowds of thousands, and until I was in jr high, I never completed a whole school year at one school. There are tons of things like cartoons, movies and music that I missed out on because if it wasn’t at a rodeo, I didn’t know about it. But on the flip side, there are a lot of things I was exposed to and learned that you can’t in four walls.
I can say that growing up that way taught me a lot about responsibility and people. I had to learn how to put our animal’s wellbeing above my own, how to clean and prepare my equipment and costumes. Each week there were new kids to play with, and I had to learn how to make friends quickly. It was a unique experience, and a way of life that’s sadly dying out.
You played roller derby for a while. What was that like?
I wish I could tell you, but the concussions have ruined my memory. Kidding! Roller derby was a blast. I started out being a referee for a season, working on my skating skills and general understanding of the game. Most people don’t get their toes wet this way, but for me it was perfect. I got to referee in the conference championship, state bouts and a ton of local games. I played for a season, but unfortunately spent half the season on the injured roster because of a broken hand and concussions.
Derby these days is a very strategic game, played by women who aren’t afraid to get hurt. I wasn’t the best player, but my goal was to be willing to put my body where it needed to go so that I impeded the progress of my opponent. Which is a really nice way of saying I liked to knock people over, and my butt was big enough to be a weapon. To date, I had one broken hand and eight concussions playing derby, and those are the injuries I acknowledge.
You have a lot of tattoos. Do any of them have a special meaning? Or story?
All of my tattoos tell a story or have a meaning!!
My first tattoo was my backpiece. It goes from my hips to my shoulders. It’s unfinished because the artist who was working on it retired and moved away, but as it is now, it’s still very nice. The general idea of the tattoo was that I can bounce back from the bad things that happen in life.
My second and third tattoos I got at the same time. I have shalom in Hebrew across both shoulders. It’s the only writing I’ll ever tattoo on myself. I got it because I was graduating Bible college and I’d been tasked with a research project that included a detailed accounting of what the word means. It was my graduation present to myself. The third is a split claddagh, half of either design is on the front of either shoulder. I’ve always loved the stories behind the claddagh, and I wanted to incorporate some of my heritage into a tattoo, so I decided that was it for me.
My fourth tattoo is identical to my best friend’s, something I never suggest people do, and I broke my rule. This friend and I have resorted to telling people we’re brother and sister because it’s just easier that way, and the tattoo was a way of showing that. It is three flowers, a lotus bud, a tulip in full bloom and a wilting rose, held together by a ribbon and a noose. The symbolism was that everything has a beginning, middle and end, and things could end or begin beautifully or badly. I do think it’s really funny that I sat through the entire tattoo, and my brother had to take two breaks. He’ll tell you he drank too much before the tattoo.
My latest tattoo is my half sleeve. It’s a stained glass window that depicts the prophet Hosea with his wife Gomer. In the Bible Hosea takes Gomer as his wife, despite her background as a prostitute. They had two children, which I have depicted by the presence of two tulips. While he was off traveling, she had an affair and got in trouble and was sold into slavery. Hosea had to travel to a foreign country to find her, buy her out of slavery and offered her the choice to either return home with him or go her own way. We never learn what her choice was, or how their story ends, but I chose to believe that Gomer took the chance at redemption and had her own happily ever after. People often think this tattoo is a piece of clothing, or part of a sleeve, but no. I’ve even been at a Halloween party where a guy tried to wipe my tattoo off, thinking it was paint. But no, it’s my skin.
Rumor is you have a lot of degrees in your pocket. What are they?
I do! Ready for the list? I have a degree in Biblical Studies, Youth Ministry, General Media, and Audio Engineering. And I probably graduated with less debt than a moderate car loan. I got lucky, I started college while I was in high school and started going to a private university because of my scholarships, and I began as a junior.
What is your writing process like? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
On occasion I’m a pantser, but that results in a mess I hate to edit. I’m more of a plotser. Yes, I will sometimes start projects with a completely filled out Novel Notebook, and then there are times I sketch out the idea floating around in my headspace and I write it. Generally I will stop once I know what I’m doing and figure out a plot. I’m not one of those who gets bored if I know what’s going on. More like, if I know what’s coming, I can hide it better and hopefully surprise you.
I like to write my drafts all the way to the end, from start to end, skipping as little as possible, and then go back to edit. I’ve tried editing as I go, but it slows me down and frustrates me. When I’m ready to edit, I generally do two to three passes. The first is a labor intensive, week long torture session of rewording and shaving words and peppering in clues. The second validates those changes I made, and I tweak a little more. The third pass is a verbal read through where I hopefully make few to no changes, unless I’m smoothing out the way a sentence flows. On a particularly difficult project I’ll do a fourth read through where I begin at the very end and read the book backwards and out loud, but it’s more time consuming and I’m not that patient.
Who is your favorite character you have created and why?
This is hard. I’m going to discount the pets in the books, who are easy to love. The character who might be my favorite is Gus. He is a talking Pegasus in a cyberpunk fantasy book that is waiting around to be edited. He is a secondary character, but he’s quirky and a lot of fun to write.
What is the best book you have read recently?
Can I name a book that isn’t out yet? Because I am. Dirty Interludes by Jodie Becker. She is one of my critique partners has a series about porn stars. When I heard what her books were about, I didn’t think there was any way I was going to like them. Who could love a porn star? But her first book was amazing, and the second one surpassed that. She really humanizes these men, and shows the different reasons they get sucked into that industry. And she did that with a huge dose of humor and charm. The first book is Dirty Beautiful, and the series is Dirty Deeds.
I’m thinking about taking kick-boxing. It seems like it might be fun.
If we were doing this interview five years ago, what would be different ? How about if we fast forward five years into the future?
In 2007, I was working at a store manager for Domino’s Pizza. I was barely writing, if at all, because I was working 70+ hour weeks. I’d just started getting into online writing forums. At this point, I was just learning about the business. I think I might have googled “literary agents” for the first time. I also started my first blog, which I barely updated, because I didn’t know how to blog (I’m a little addicted now…) or how amazing a tool it was. AND... I self-pubbed a fantasy romance on Amazon but took it down a year after that because I got scared that agents wouldn’t look at me because I’d self-pubbed.
In five years, I’ll still be plugging away, having a grand ol’ time. I know exactly where I want to be, because I have my handy dandy Serious Writing Career Plan that details exactly what my goals for the five year mark is. I think the most important part is that I’ll still be writing.