Spotlight On...

Dakota Shain Byrd

by Regina Richards

Dakota, thanks you so much for agreeing to be the NTRWA Spotlight for February 2014!

Sharing about yourself and your writing journey gives all the members of NTRWA a chance to get to know you better and deepens our sense of community. We truly appreciate your willingness to step into the Spotlight and we can’t wait to hear all about you!

So Dakota, do you write under a pen name?

Shain Liddell

What genres do you write in?

YA, Urban Fantasy, Sci-fi, Contemporary, and, of course, romance. I’ve had more success with poetry than anything else, surprisingly.

How long have you been writing?

Unofficially since I was seven, I think. I have been writing officially since 2002, when I began writing my first novel... that took eight years to finish the first draft of.

When did you join NTRWA?

October 2011. I joined RWA earlier that week. It was the first (and only) time I pitched my novel to an editor. Sue Grimshaw I owe thanks to for saying, “Wow. This sounds like the next big thing, the next big saga. I would sign you, but we don’t do print and your story needs and deserves both print and e-book format.” That meeting was how I knew was in the right place, a wonderful home to learn, grow and discover myself as a writer.

Any domestic stuff you care to share (spouse, kids, pets, etc.)?

Well, I’m sure most of you remember my mom attended that first meeting with me.

I don’t have any pets—my apartment complex makes you pay a $500 deposit even for a GOLDFISH, so I sadly don’t have the shiba inu I’m dying to buy.

Who do you believe had the greatest influence on your decision to be a writer?

Well, I would have to say Clover Autrey, Yvonne Jocks and Malinda Lo as teachers, friends and mentors. Teachers from high school would include my senior year Technical Writing teacher, Mrs. Fort.

An absolute person who has helped me so much her name should go on the spine next to mine (when I do get published) is my best friend/”sister” Rachael Little, the only friend I’ve kept in touch with from before my senior year. She and I have kept in touch for over eight years, seven moves and more drama than has been recorded in all written history. When I wanted to give up, she wouldn’t let me. When I say she’s a bitty, she knows it’s out of respect and love.

If you could go on vacation with one of your characters, who would you choose? Why? Where would you go and what would you do?

I would probably choose Skyeler. He is the focal protagonist in my novel, although it does alternate (at a set pattern) between he and the three other protagonists. Why? Because he has his life together and he has this attitude about love and relationships that I find so interesting and I would also adore hanging out with him because he’s something of a spitfire. I would probably go to Darkaria, the island he is from because um, hello, who wouldn’t want to go to a magical island hidden in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle? Seriously, I would love that. And as for what we would do, probably just surf, hang out at Club Hex, and unravel the mysterious history of that island nation.

How has being a writer changed the way you experience the world?

Well I’m also an actor and dancer, so it has made me more aware of what it takes to make a character and be true to who the character is. I am more aware, I think, of cataloging experiences and sensations, smells and tastes, the way a melody can move me, the way I can move to a melody and being a writer has just made me more aware.

When you aren’t writing, what is your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Dance! No, seriously, I LOVE to dance. I’m planning on double majoring in English and Dance and getting teaching certifications for both. I am also a HUGE fan of yoga and Tai chi. Mind, body and breath meditations/exercises are something I do every morning when I wake up.

Plotter or Pantser?

I’d say I’m a pantser, but that’s not entirely true. I like to make my table of contents after I write the first four chapters. That way I get a visual representation that—to me, at least—shows the arc of the story and gives me a way to understand my story that I wouldn’t if I straight out pantsed it. Although, I didn’t start this until I was in the fifth revision of my novel. I pantsed writing AND revision every time before that… Which is probably why it took me eight years to write the first draft.

What is your go-to solution for writer’s block or that surefire thing that takes you from stuck to full steam ahead in your writing?

I listen to my characters. To me, writers block doesn’t exist. It is something you are doing wrong and that is not true to the story so your characters shut up.

Please share a favorite mantra or quote you feel helps inspire you.

“There is no such thing as failure, only a different approach to peak the mountain.” It’s something my dad used to say when I lived with him.

What would the other members of NT be surprised to know about your past or present life?

I lived in California on a wild life preserve. Camp Pendleton is a military base and wild life preserve. My dad was a Marine and I have lived in many places.

If we popped in on you during your writing time where would you be and what would we see?

You’d most likely see me in pajama pants or sweat pants—or a pair of holey jeans—with my bright blue headphones on. You’d hear my music, see the table of contents on the floor by my bed, with me sitting on my bed, my laptop in my lap. You’d find all my inspirational paintings on the walls and my mess. Also, my Lego house and figurines on the floor by my bedroom door from blocking a scene using them.

Thanks so much, Dakota, for sharing your writing journey with us!

NT, let’s support Dakota by following him on the web!


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