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Saturday, 14 August 2010

Stacey Danson Author Interview

Stacey DansonImage by stuartaken via Flickr
Suzannah Burke began her writing career at the age of fifty-four. Her confidence in her ability to put something on paper that others would enjoy reading was not at an all time high. Encouraged by her daughter and friends she began to write short stories and poetry for a USA based on line writing community. After winning  excess of ten competitions for her shorts and poetry, she finally attempted her first novel. Dudes Down Under. A comedy/romance.

She has recently signed a publishing contract for her Biography “Empty Chairs.” Written Under the pen name Stacey Danson. “Empty Chairs” is a personal, raw and often brutal look at Child Abuse in all its forms. Be warned it is a no holds barred, raw and honest account. First Chapter, available on Night Reading.com.

As a rule, I interview only published authors and Stacey has not yet published Empty Chairs, however, it will be published very soon. She is such a special lady, with such a compelling story, that I felt I had to give her some backing here. And, under her own name, she has published, on her blog.

SA: Tell us about Empty Chairs in a few sentences.

SD: Empty Chairs is my story. It begins with the child abuse that began when I was around three years old. Abuse in all its forms, it was extremely violent, physical and sexual abuse. Depravity of a kind that sadly is still being acted out on young ones who accept it in terrified silence.  Because for them the alternatives are too dreadful to contemplate. Many of them die at the hands of their abusers.

SA: An autobiography is always a difficult undertaking. In your case, it must have been particularly hard. What made you decide to commit your experiences to paper?

SD:  Several people have asked me that particular question, Stuart, I have thought more deeply about my response each time. The day I made the actual decision was in September 2009. I attended the funeral of a dear friend who I had known since my years on the streets back in the sixties. Jenny was eight-years-old when we met, I was eleven. She and I shared a history, albeit a violent one, for over 40 years we supported each other and kept the secret of our pasts.

Some of us survived those days. Most of us did not.

Of the original group of 15 kids that came together back then and remained tight friends, only two of us now remain. Two died of natural causes. Eleven wonderful, damaged, and loving human beings including Jenny, committed suicide, or died in questionable  circumstances. That is totally unacceptable to me. I had promised Jenny that I would write it one day. I never kept that promise...fear of exposing my jugular, fear of retaliation, but in honest reflection the fear of needing to relive it in order to write it was the demon. I had let Jenny down and the others that died. I am keeping my promise, late...very very late.

SA: What qualities do you think make a successful writer?

SD:  Successful?  I’ll let you know. No, seriously, the word successful has many connotations . I will for the benefit of an answer that is printable assume we are not just talking about the $ signs version of successful.

If you are referring to a writer that loves what they do, and works at their craft, constantly aiming higher; a writer who after a decade or so of slogging their hearts out finds themselves suddenly published and hailed as an overnight success; then I would have to put ‘Resilience’ up there in the top 10 qualities. You have to roll with the punches, and learn when to resume your fighting stance.

Empathy: Yeah ... that’s a biggie. Even if you are to spend your writing life inside the heads of characters like Hannibal Lectre, you still need Empathy in order to understand the fear of the victims and the frustrations of those trying to capture a monster.

Passion: I believe that a writers love of the written word is like having a mistress, one that perpetually tantalises, and teases ...hovering close and then distant. Your passion for this mistress/muse...whatever must show in your work.

Determination: I believe that you need to set yourself goals, and move toward that end result allowing nothing to prevent the final achievement. For some that may be a paragraph that has never worked, that has needed brutal editing, until it’s sits gleaming on the page. A chapter... a line ... a mood. If you know in your guts how it must sound, then determination will achieve that end.

Humour: Probably the greatest necessity to any writer is the ability to laugh at themselves, the planet, and everything on it. For without humour the sensitivity would die. There are other qualities, but these are the ones that strike me as being important in the overall texture of a successful writer.
           
SA: What is your working method?
SD:  Method? You mean I’m supposed to have a method? Who knew?
Sorry Stuart, every so often I hear Barbra Streisand in my head with the thick ‘Funny  Girl” Brooklyn accent...I adore Streisand. So where were we ... method, uh-huh in other things that I have written I have sat down looked at the page or the screen and started to type. If it’s a contest and a prompt has been given, thats a luxury, the characters write the story and I find out how it ends when they do.

SA: What is the single biggest mistake made by beginners to writing?
In my opinion, the biggest mistake new writers make is believing they will not make mistakes. That and not being prepared for the rejections, and hard knocks that may come.       

SA: To what extent are grammar and spelling important to a writer?
SD:  Hugely important, and the bane of my existence. Punctuation is a nightmare for me as well. No matter how many times I try to retain what goes where, it just doesn’t take. I think my brain fused shut on anything to do with grammar, spelling and punctuation.
I came into the writing part of my life at age 50, the learning just doesn’t compute.

SA: What were or are your writing habits?
SD: I write every day, sometimes up to 3000 words or more, depending on a number of factors. With fiction work, I try and write a short story or flash fiction piece every two days or so. I have to use that as a stress release from the biography. I live alone, so apart from tending to my critters needs, my time is my own. I often stay up for 36 to 48 hours at a stretch until I’m too exhausted to write another word. I sleep only around 4 hours at a time, so I’m often up at dawn, write till midnight and then start all over again. I lose track of dates and days. I hope to regulate my habits a little more once the biography is done.

SA: What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?
SD: Displacement activities...wow, I like that terminology. Excuse me I’m attending to my ‘displacement activities’ much more professional than asking “so what sidetracks you?”
The one thing that causes a halt of any duration to my writing is my health, it’s dodgy at best. It can lay me low for a couple of days at a time. Then I just go at the writing like a demented chicken to try and make up the lost time. Sadly that is the one thing we really cannot do. Have you ever seen a Demented Chicken? Not a good look.

SA:  Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?
SD:  Support comes in many guises, I have unfailing support from my daughter. We live a long distance apart, however I know she is available to talk to if needs be. The content of the book is what halts me from asking friends for support. Those close to me show their encouragement by not placing any social demands on me at this time. They stay in touch by email, or an occasional phone call. Although I switch that off when I’m writing. I have had the most amazing support from people just like you, friends I have never met, that ask “what can I do to help get this message out there?” Fellow authors that have interviewed me on their sites, such as ‘Poppet Author’ and ‘TLTyson’ the marvellous people at Night Reading who have said, ‘we are here if you should need us’ and of course Tim Roux, Bruce Essar, and Genevieve Sawchyn the operators of Night Publishing, who have signed me to a contract.

SA:    Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?
SD: I’ll respond to that question with a question of my own if I may. “When you receive a gift, what impresses you the most initially? The gift that is hastily bought and carelessly wrapped? Or the gift that begs you to open it because it has been meticulously wrapped, and inside is a wonder, a treasure of delightful craftsmanship, something that the giver has laboured long and hard to create?

SA:   How long did it take you to write the book?
SD:  So far? Four months. I anticipate around two weeks till completion. Then the edits.

SA:     If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?
SD:  The answer to that differs depending on what I am currently working on. With “Empty Chairs’ the frustration has been the panic attacks, nausea and flashbacks. I have to stop and physically detach myself and go outside in order to be able to get myself under control and continue writing.

With my fiction writing, it’s the characters that tend to take on a life of their own and steer me in directions I had never anticipated going.

SA:  Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?
SD: I believe that you must have a natural flair for moulding the written word into visual art. However without acquiring the necessary tools {Skills} the art may just remain a blob of indistinguishable colour on a page. Like forever remaining on a learners permit, when you want to join in Grand Prix racing.

SA: Are you writing anything now, or was the autobiography a one-off for you?
SD: Good heavens no. I hope to always be writing. I have two books I am waiting to jump into, one already has 40,000 words up and running, in Fiction, horror/paranormal genre.
The other is a selection of comedic shorts all involving Anthropomorphic characters. Plus I have two more books yet to write in the biography, “Empty Chairs” will be a three book series.

SA: Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?
SD:  In fiction writing I love discovering my characters in all their guises. In non fiction the words ‘The End” are currently something I will enjoy and celebrate soon.

SA:  Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?
SD: Oh a lovely free plug, thanks Stuart...lets see I have three sites.
The Biography “Empty Chairs” on http://staceydansonemptychairs.blogspot.com
The fiction comedy “Dudes Down Under” on http://dudesdownunder.weebly.com
The site on all things writing on http://sooozsaysstuff.blogspot.com

SA: Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?
SD:   Unlimited resources, ohh for me that’s easy. I would be on a huge yacht out in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

SA: Where did you actually write Empty Chairs?
SD:  On a huge yacht out in the mi...no. I am so lucky to live on a very narrow peninsular, I rent an apartment with a view of the Pacific Ocean on one side and a marvellous system of lakes on the other. So it’s a wonderful location to be certain. Although I haven’t been outside to enjoy it much these past months, winter is almost over and Spring here is an absolute delight.

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