Nov 15 2011
My superb guest this week is author Dellani Oakes, is a former A.P. English teacher and photo journalist. Now working as a substitute teacher and Mary Kay consultant, Dellani can give skin care & makeup advice, correct grammar, take pictures and write an article while controlling a classroom full of rowdy children.
There’s a rumor that you were born on a dark and stormy night. Any truth to that?
Well, Molly, it would make such a nice, dramatic moment to say that I was, but it’s actually a rumor. (I know, I started it) According to my mom, it was a lovely fall day and she was miffed because she went into labor and missed Sunday dinner.
You lived all over the west growing up, but consider yourself a Floridian and a Southerner. Sounds like you get around, girlfriend. Tell us more.
I was born in eastern Tennessee. A couple years later, we moved to Ohio. From there, we went to Massachusetts for another 2 or 3 years. After that, out to west Texas and finally to Nebraska. After high school, I moved to Mississippi, where I went to college and met my husband. We moved to Florida in the spring of 1988. That Christmas, they had the coldest winter on record. That should probably have told us something.
You’ve been telling stories since you were a child. Please share your humble beginnings with us.
I can’t remember not telling stories of some kind. My dolls always had conversations. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for my eating utensils to have a debate at meal time. When I got old enough to write, I started with poetry, moving on to song parodies and then to short stories. In college, I wrote plays and short stories.
You began writing full time when your youngest son began kindergarten. Tell us about your novel Indian Summer. What was the inspiration for it? Why did you flounder the first time you tried to write it? How did you finally succeed?
After college, I was married with two children. I started teaching full time. Keeping up with gifted teenagers and two toddlers, I wasn’t able to write anything but tests and quizzes for about three years. I left teaching when we moved to Florida. I started a novel (still not finished) but that got set aside when the kids both started school. I was busy then as a Girl Scout leader, school volunteer, PTA member, etc.
It wasn’t until my youngest son started kindergarten that I really had the chance to take up writing full time. I’d started my historical novel, Indian Summer, when my eldest son was in the 4th grade. Inspired by a field trip to St. Augustine, I had to get the story down. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong approach and got disgusted with the story before I got very far.
Years later, I found the abortive effort stashed in a drawer and pulled it out. Most of it was crap, but there were a few pages I was able to salvage. I re-examined the novel, figured out where I went wrong and began again. After extensive research, I was able to finish it about a year later.
Lone Wolf was inspired by a role playing game my husband and I played in college. The character of Matilda Dulac (aka Romance) was mine. Wilhelm VanLipsig and Marc Slatterly were inspired by characters created by friends of ours.
I began with the idea of writing our adventures, but that soon changed as the characters developed minds of their own. It soon became apparent that I couldn’t tell their entire story in one book, so I ended Lone Wolf on a cliff hanger and began book two, Shakazhan. This book is currently in the editing phase. There are now five books completed in the series with a sixth under construction. I’ve also written a companion novel and several short stories and have started on a second prequel.
From sci-fi, you branched out to writing romance. That’s a long branch! Can you tell us more?
Not quite as long a branch as you might think. All my stories have romantic elements. Lone Wolf is as much a love story as it is an adventure. I like a combination of romance and crime. I feel like that makes for a juicy conflict and the opportunity for there to be a really classic villain. I do love a good villain, or at least an interesting obstacle for my characters to overcome.
You’ve written HOW many novels, HOW many short stories, and HOW many unfinished works?
Shocked you there, huh? (Breathe, Molly) I once jokingly told my publisher, Mike Simpson of Second Wind Publishing, that I could single handedly keep him in novels for the next ten years. I don’t think he believed me. Besides Indian Summer and the Lone Wolf series, I have a sequel for Indian Summer in the works. I also have 29 finished novels, 9 complete short stories and 51 unfinished novels or short stories (this final number grows daily.)
How do you write your books? Are you a meticulous plotter, a brief outliner, or do you let the story write itself?
I love that you asked this question. I have a very off the cuff sort of cavalier style. Some would say chaotic. I don’t outline anything. I begin with a sentence or idea that gets stuck in my head and I write until the characters are done telling their story. Sometimes, I have an idea where the story is going, but mostly I haven’t a clue until it’s told.
With Indian Summer, I intended for Gabriella to end up with the Indian fellow, Sailfish. I intended for Manuel to be abusive to the point of driving her away. I intended another character to be minor and a possible secondary love interest.
As it turned out, Gabriella refused to fall in love with anyone but Manuel. She became dear friends with Sailfish, who fell deeply in love with her. The minor character became the villain. I didn’t intend any of that.
In addition to writing, you host two Blog Talk Radio shows each month. Please, tell us more.
Every second Monday at 4:00 PM Eastern, I host “Dellani’s Tea Time”. I talk to authors and illustrators of children’s books. Then every fourth Wednesday at 1:00 PM, I host “What’s Write for Me”. On this show, I talk to authors of adult books.
We talk about their approach to writing, their current books, backgrounds and whatever else comes to mind. I also have them read excerpts of their books on the air. The show is a lot of fun (some would say it was chaotic too – but in a very upbeat way).
What else do you do in your very interesting life that I haven’t yet asked you about?
Someone asked me once what I would be doing if I weren’t writing. I had to think hard about that. I’d probably be reading. I love to read. I’m always looking for new books. I’ve begun doing reviews for other authors. I figure if I’m going to read the books, I should share my opinion with others.
I belong to a small writer’s group at the local Council on Aging. I treasure this group. I’ve met some amazingly creative and interesting people through them.
Somewhere in all this, I’m a wife, mother and grandmother. I still get the cooking, grocery shopping and errands done. I substitute teach at local elementary schools and try to keep up with two blogs and Facebook. I also sell Mary Kay cosmetics. Need any skincare advice?
The world of publishing is changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up. Any thoughts about the ever-evolving landscape? Predictions?
I think we’re going to see more and more companies go to e-books. Despite how much I love to hold a book in my hands, I love my Nook. It’s convenient and easy to keep track of. Unfortunately, without a paper book to hold, I fear many authors won’t get the same satisfaction from being published. I have a friend whose book was published as an e-book and she got so discouraged when she found out she had to promote it herself, she gave up. I think if she’d had the experience of holding her book in her hands, she might have felt differently about it.
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
I’m incredibly picky about grammar and editing. I freak when I find errors in books that aren’t obviously typos. Those happen. I mean glaring mistakes like using “lay” for “lie” and vice versa. That one really bugs me. Using contrived verb tenses simply to avoid using “was” – it’s a perfectly good verb, people!
I could go on, but we don’t need to give the folks a grammar lesson. I used to be an English teacher. Needless to say, I’m a stickler.
Where can people find you in cyberspace?
Molly, I’m all over the place. Probably the best place to find me is on Facebook. I also have a couple of blogs that I update weekly. I’m too disorganized to write something every day. Unlike writing my books, eventually, I run out of things to say.
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs?
Hmm, parting words…. Remember, everyone can write. NOT everyone can write well. Don’t let that discourage you. If you have a story to tell, tell it. If you need to learn to tell it better, ask. At some point, every author was at the beginning of their careers. The only dumb questions are the ones you don’t ask.
Shameless plugs? Read my books, they’re great! (Is that shameless enough?)
Thanks for the interview, Molly! I need to get you on my show so we can chat!