Caitlin: Could you describe the moment you discovered you wanted to be an author?
Dal: I wouldn’t say there was a moment of discovery as such. I’ve always written for a living, but my training and experience weren’t been in creative writing. That crept up on me as a ‘why not give this a go to see if I can do it?’ moment when I tried fan fiction for the first time. It’s a totally different animal from factual writing though. I suppose it involves the same basic skills but a very different part of the brain. Not being formally taught how to do it, I just went with the flow and wrote on instinct. I had no idea why I wrote the way I did; I just blindly did it.
The thing is though, creative writing is so much more personal than factual, and it can be incredibly difficult to put that out there for other people to judge. Like performing in public I suppose.
Caitlin: How did you come up with the idea for Bitter Legacy’s protagonist, Detective Sergeant James Henderson?
Dal: I suppose James came from some of the stoic British public-school educated guys I’ve met. It’s easy to take them at surface value — superb manners, a highly developed sense of duty and honor, trained to appear 100% confident, even arrogant. But beneath the carapace of privilege, as full of repressed uncertainty and shyness and insecurity as anyone else.
Caitlin: What is your process of putting your ideas for your books onto paper?
Dal: To be honest, process rather glamorizes it. Generally I get an idea, research around it (occasionally to an abnormally finicky degree), and then comes verbal diarrhoea. I basically write what pops up in my head trying not to second guess myself too much, or spend time going back and editing. Then I start hacking it about and trying to finesse while closing holes in plot or character logic.
I’m compulsive about having answers to the ‘but why would he do that?’ thing. I need to have good, believable reasons, even if I have to agonize for weeks to make sure it works, because lack of character logic is one thing that really gets to me as a reader.
I would say though, that this is the first time I’ve worked with a professional editor and that has taught me a massive amount. My next attempt should be a bit more organized. Maybe. Hopefully.
Caitlin: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Dal: I think it might be a bit too soon to be giving out advice, given I’m still very much an aspiring author myself. But I suppose if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the process of getting Bitter Legacy to print, it’s to try to take advice.
It can be hard, because creative writing is such a baring of the underbelly, and writers are so immersed in the worlds and characters we’ve created. They’re very personal to us, and I think we all want to present them to readers as we visualized them. It’s a tightrope, and sometimes a writer does have to hold out for something they see as vital. But on the whole, I’ve discovered these editing chaps do know quite a lot. Usually they’re right. So, I suppose my advice in a nutshell (I’m not very good at nutshells ) is, if you’re lucky enough to work with a professional editor, try to trust them, and hope that they, in turn, will trust you.
Bitter Legacy will be available this October.