A Chat with Anne K. Edwards, Children's Author of 'Dominick and the Dragon'

Anne K. Edwards enjoyed her first attempt at writing for children. Dominick and the Dragon, her first children’s book, was based on a question beginning with “What if... .“ She has written in many other genres and has several books published by a small online press. However, this press doesn’t publish children’s tales so Anne chose to go the indie route and was guided by a very talented dear friend and author, Mayra Calvani, in doing so. Anne enjoyed every minute spent in writing this story and is happy to say that the second in the series has been written and is now in the editing and artwork stage. She hopes readers will enjoy it too.

Q:  Congratulations on the release of your book, Dominick and the Dragon. What was your inspiration for it?
A:  Thank you for the good wishes. The inspiration for this tale came about when I got to wondering if a young child just school age or a year beyond could figure out how to handle a problem without an adult telling them what to do. So the problem came to be a hungry dragon and Dominick had to outsmart him to get back home.

Q: When did your passion for children’s books begin? Did you have a favorite book when you were a child?
A:  My love of books began when I learned to read which led me into wanting to write by age nine. From that time to the present, I have been in love with the written word and read everything I could get my hands on, from cereal boxes and advertisements to my stepfather’s National Geographics and as many library books as I was permitted to take home on my library card. Those varied readings were the basis for the western adventures my younger brother and I lived until we outgrew them.  At that time, his interests took a different turn and my adventures were lived in my imagination until I began to write them out.  Most of them were about horses, an influence from the Black Stallion Series by Walter Farley that I loved. I still have the copies of those books my Mother gave me for Christmas each time a new one came out. She was the one person who encouraged my early efforts as a child and shared my dream of becoming an author. In addition to those books, I loved every book I read from children’s books to the present. I never preferred one subject over another as they are all part of the whole for me.  Some have remained in my mental storage bin like the first sci-fi I read. I found I had a love for history books, mysteries, and various others, but no one special book ever became my permanent favorite.  There were just too many great stories to read, some more than once.

Q: Did you take any workshops or courses before you started writing?
A:  I did attend some workshops and took a few college courses, but as to teaching me to write, they had little influence on what or how I wrote because the instructors were so bogged down in analyzing stories for what they thought the author meant to say instead of saying it. They also repeated rules of craftsmanship I’d already heard several times.  I mostly studied the authors I read and how they used words.  There was a period in the fifties when I tried to write like those best-selling authors and imitated their word usage. I soon found people I knew didn’t know what most of those long words meant and didn’t like thick books as size dictates what they read. The language was a distraction to the reader and only served my ego in showing off how many big words I knew.  Experience has been my best teacher when combined with common sense.  This was where I learned the true meaning of K.I.S.S. If you write for your ego those big words and long, twisting sentences are fine, but if you write for the reader of your market niche, don’t be pretentious, use the ordinary language out of respect for that reader and remember many readers don’t read overly thick books.

Q: What was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any difficulties along the way?
A:  The creative process is something I deal with as I write.  Some authors outline and write proposals for books to submit to publishers. I start with an ending and begin writing, the characters developing and guiding the story as it happens. Writing it that way, it takes a month generally to get the story told, and perhaps another few weeks for edits and any rewrites needed. On the whole, the writing doesn’t take long, but if I include the mental work in developing the focus of the story with some idea of the characters needed, perhaps another month should be added to the time. Sometimes the difficulty arises when one or more of my cats takes a turn at the computer and lose parts of a story or adds unnecessary spacing and gibberish.  Beware letting your cat “help” you. 

Q.  What do you find most challenging about writing for children?
A.  Finding a story that will appeal to them as readers. We should encourage them to try all sorts of subjects, fiction or nonfiction. Sometimes that can lead them into a career choice. I found a love of archaeology that way. It competed for years with my love of writing.  In the end writing won as a career, but like most wannabe writers, I had to keep my day job until I retired. Now, I can write the fun stories for children when I find them and that is the real challenge.

Q.: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A:  I don’t keep a writing schedule due to other commitments I enjoy.  Like cats or reading or talking about writing to friends and new acquaintances. I can envy from a distance people who are organized enough to keep to a schedule, but after I tried it a few times, I found it wasn’t for me. There are probably other time slobs like me who work at one thing or another as the mood strikes them and their progress is like mine—slow.  Thus, my writing has no real effect on my family or critters as they do come first.  They demand that their wants come first.  Could it be they are spoiled?

Q: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.
A:  The small press, Twilight Times Books, has published most of my books, but those I write and indie publish don’t fit into the genres they are interested in.  I hope to soon finish a new mystery novel to submit to them. I found TTB on the Internet when I was looking for a publisher for the first mystery I’d written. Fortunately, my query to TTB brought permission to send the manuscript and it was accepted. My other work was also considered by this small press and guided through more than one edit by talented editors and turned into books, some available in print and others as ebooks.

Q: What was it like working with an illustrator and how much control did you have over the artwork?
A:  Though my two books have pictures in them, due to the age group they’re intended for, I don’t consider them to be picture books. But working with the two different artists was great. They brought a creativity to the books I hadn’t considered possible. The artist for the dragon book was pure accidental and a lucky break for my book. Lewie Francisco has a real feel for dragons and children. Any contribution I made to the artwork was very minimal verbal comments or questions.  I came away with the feeling that it pays to trust an artist’s instincts most of the time.

Q   Do you think that becoming an author entails sacrifices?
A:  Absolutely.  There is no way around it. Any wannabe author must be willing to be a part time hermit, spending hours of each working day in solitude. They must forego socializing when they’re writing, ignore the telephone calls, and not gad about or their story will never be finished.  Sacrifice is another word for discipline, entailing study, rewrites, reading, research, self-editing, learning all the while the craftsmanship of writing, no matter whether fiction or nonfiction.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers? Do you know of any helpful resources you’d like to share?
A:  My answer is the same to any author just starting out. Be prepared to spend hours of every day learning as much as you can about the art of writing. Study other writers’ work, ask questions, listen to the answers and don’t ignore things you don’t want to hear when people respond to your request for a review or preview and the response is not a glowing report on your wonderful talent.  Don’t allow family and friends’ compliments to give you a swelled head so that when a professional reviewer or another author tell you there is still work to be done or things to be learned before you can be considered a serious writer.  Don’t let negative comments or reviews derail your dream, stick with it and keep learning.  All authors keep learning as the craft changes with time so be prepared for a lifetime of continuing education. And lastly, rejections can hurt, but they are part of our education also as they can contain comments to help us go forward. Resources are anything that contains information a writer can use, dictionary, encyclopedias, a good book on English language and proper punctuation for fiction and nonfiction. I don’t remember any particular names but they can be found on the Internet. Also, take at least one course in writing fiction so you will learn how to handle the language for building scenes, dialogue, characters, back story, endings and beginnings and all the little parts between. Learn to construct phrases, sentences, paragraphs and chapters that connect the flow of your story. Learn which tense you want to write in. While this sounds like basic advice it is the most helpful resources I can suggest, in addition, to learn to self-critique as well.  Lastly, keep up with the ever-changing technology, markets, and what sells if you are aiming at the big time as an author. Learn the arts of marketing, promotion and salesmanship. These three things will prove every bit as important to any author as writing the book which is only the first step to success.

Q:  What’s on the horizon for you?
A:  There is a second dragon tale undergoing edits and getting ready for submission to the artist who I hope will undertake its artwork.  A mystery is nearly complete, the second in a series and a ‘long’ short story about two characters in a series called Death and the Detective.  I’ve had fun writing each of them, and my muse, Swamp Thingy, has several more ideas he’s pushing at me. We squabble a lot over what to work on. He is very critical of me, claiming he ought to have the credit for the finished product.  So I guess, mostly, my continuing arguments with him is the biggest thing looming on my horizon.