An Interview with Julie Ann Dawson

As you know, I’ve been interviewing as many artists and parents and artists/parents as I can get my hands on.
There are equally as many challenges as moments of joy in making a living as an artist and I believe the same can be said of parenting. I’ve been curious to know how other artists and parents manage. So naturally, I found a bunch of them and asked a ton of questions! Since I’m a giver, I thought I’d share them with you.
I post the interviews each Friday. Did you miss a few? Catch up!

R. M. Webb – former ballerina turned teacher turned choreographer turned author and host of this blog. She wrote these books. And this post about raising kids. And this short story.

Greg Tremblay – voice actor and homesteader.

ML Larson – the awesome uncle who uses British spellings despite living his whole life in the States.

Christine Tate – the Navy wife and homeschool mom who’s published her own bible study series.

Jane Danger – an author with the crazy cool name!

Julia Keanini – a newly self-published author and mother.

Horst Christian – the 84 year old man who moved here from Germany during the war and had my history buff of a step-dad going absolutely gaga over what he must have lived through.

And now, without further ado, here’s Julie Ann Dawson!

R. M. Webb:  Tell me about yourself.

I’m a writer. I’m an editor. I’m a publisher. I’m a gamer girl. I have an unhealthy obsession these days with Dragon Age: Inquisition (on my fourth playthrough). I’m a geek with a serious case of Alt-itis in regards to Star Wars the Old Republic. I’m the type of person who reads books like Rome’s Revolution: The Death of the Republic and the Birth of the Empire for recreation and then will spend an hour watching silly cat videos on YouTube. I’ll go weeks without watching TV then binge watch an entire season of a show over a weekend.

R. M. Webb: Does being a writer, editor, and publish create a kind of symbiosis in your work life? Do you learn from one endeavor and apply it to another?
It is a bit weird. I’ve been told I have a very compartmentalized brain. I have this weird ability to keep things in their designated mental compartments, so to speak. So when I am writing, I’m only writingand not thinking of sales or promotion and all that. Then when I am editing, I am only editing. Then when I am publishing, I am just thinking like a publisher. And sometimes Publisher Julie will make decisions Writer Julie doesn’t like, but Writer Julie has learned to deal with it. And sometimes Writer Julie gets on Editor Julie’s nerves because she makes the same mistakes over and over. But at the same time, being able to compartmentalize allows me to focus my energy on the specific task at hand without getting sidetracked with a thousand other concerns.
R. M Webb: Why do you create?

 

Because I have to. I have stories that want to be told so I tell them. I don’t really get a say in

the matter. Some characters crawls his or her way into my brain and stars yelling, “Write me!” and the only way to get them to shut up is to do what they say. So yes, I guess you can say I listen to the voices in my head.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Chocolate or chips?

Both.

R. M. Webb: Is your art your business? Do you make money (or try to!) for the things you create? Do you have a day job?

I started Bards and Sages with the intention of breaking even, not getting rich. I have eclectic interests, and I like the freedom of just going off in a direction and damn the commercial value. So sometimes I take on projects that I know won’t make money, but it doesn’t matter because those projects are of interest to me. I’m profitable, but not making a full time living from publishing. But I’m fine with that because that was never the intention.

R. M. Webb: If you still have a day job, would you like to get to the point where you could give it up?

I actually worry about this. I think that if I had to rely solely on publishing to maintain my standard of living, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I would probably end up having to walk away from projects that wouldn’t be profitable and focus on what sells the most. I have one series that, if I could churn out a new issue every couple of weeks, could probably get to a point where I could replace my day job income. But that would mean not working on the other stuff that I also enjoy. I don’t think I want that.

R. M. Webb: Before I was a writer, I ran a dance school with my mother. Before that I was a professional ballerina. I often found in my teaching days that I had to sacrifice my art for my business. You mention that you don’t think you could write solely to make money for what I take to be much the same reason. Do you have a day job to help maintain your standard of living or is Bards and Sages you publishing house? Is that your source of income that allows you to write the books that interest you most at the time rather than having to focus on the books that are selling the best?
Yes, I have a day job. I work in contract packaging. You know those big displays you trip over when you go to the supermarket? I work for a company that designs and builds those. But Bards and Sages is also my business, and I do run it as such. It just needs to be profitable enough to pay for itself, however. I don’t worry about it paying my mortgage. 

R. M. Webb:  What caused you to want to market your art?

I started submitting poetry and short stories to various markets when I was in college. Back then, I wanted to write the ‘Great American Novel,’ whatever I thought that meant. Insofar as actually starting my business, I actually started publishing roleplaying games, because I was doing so much work creating material for my own homebrew games that I figured I should at least try to make some money on it. I always get stuck being the Game Master for our gaming group, mostly because I’m a good storyteller. So I figured if I am going to be spending all of these hours creating worlds, characters, and plot devices, I should at least share them and see if others out there like them as well.

R. M. Webb: Where/when does inspiration strike?

The weirdest places. Sometimes I’ll be in a meeting and someone will make a random statement and my brain will run with it. Sometimes I’ll be playing a video game and something in the game will trigger an idea. Or I’ll be at the supermarket and overhear a conversation and those people will end up characters in a story. My muse has ADHD.

R. M. Webb: How do you react to negative feedback?

I’m very open to criticism from people that I respect, because all joking aside I care about my work and want it to be the best it can be. I still remember when I first submitted my campaign setting to a publisher. He sent me a three page email that began “I’m not going to tell you what you are doing right. You already know that. I’m going to tell you everything you are doing wrong.” He then proceeded to rip the book apart. I’m very glad Facebook and Twitter weren’t a thing back then, because I would have humiliated myself by being an idiot and complaining in public. But after I calmed down (and ate a bowl of ice cream) I went back and re-read his comments and realized I agreed with most of them. Sometimes we creative live in a vacuum. We need to get fresh eyes looking at our work because we know what we meant to write and don’t always “see” what we actually wrote. So if I get criticism from someone I respect, I pay attention and try to determine if there is something in it I should work on.

But if we’re talking about some random troll, well, I just Force Lightning them.

R. M. Webb: What’s your greatest obstacle as an artist?

I’m pretty much my own biggest obstacle because I put pressure on myself that I shouldn’t. I’ve gotten better over the years about spreading myself too thin and not delegating things that I should to others. I’m a project junkie with a side of control freak, and it gets in the way of creating. I’ve gotten better as I’ve learned to let go of certain tasks. But I’m still my own worst enemy.

R. M. Webb: I so relate to being a project junkie with a side of control freak! I’ve always felt like I’m equally as creative as I am analytical and while my projects benefit from those two sides of me warring away, I don’t always feel like I’m going to survive the process. Do you have ways to help manage that duality in your nature? 

I’ve had to learn to let things go and not micro-manage. My biggest problem in the past was trying to do everything myself because I didn’t trust others to care as much about the project as I do. My early attempts at cover design, for example, were horrid. I tried to proofread my own stories, with dismal results. I had to learn to trust people to do their jobs so that I could free myself up to do mine.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Red or blue?

Purple

R. M. Webb:  What advice would you give someone dreaming of making it in your field?

I think the most important thing is to clearly know what “making it” means to you. It is very easy to get caught up in other people’s ideas of success. You can sell 5000 books, and one person will tell you that is incredible and another will tell you that you are underperforming. Don’t internalize the expectations of other people. Be clear what success means to you, and then develop a plan based on that.

R. M. Webb:  If you could pass one thing on to the next generation in general, what would it be?

Write what you love, not what someone tells you the market wants. The market changes constantly and it varies or things like the time of the year or which party is in office or what corner of the world you live. Write what you love and then worry about finding an audience. Because the truth is if you love something, you probably aren’t alone in that and you’ll find others that love it, too.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Eat out or cook at home?

I enjoy cooking, so I cook most nights.

R. M. Webb:  What’s the hardest thing about your craft?

I suck at proofreading my own work. I swear if people read some of my stuff before my proofreader went through it, they would think I was illiterate.

R. M. Webb: What’s the best thing about your craft?

I love the whole creative process; taking an idea from a seed and watching It grow into a finished story.

R. M. Webb: What’s the hardest thing about the business side of your craft?

I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I LOVE Amazon as a customer. I have a Prime account. I own three Kindles. I have an affiliate account, I’m a Vine Reviewer, I publish through KDP and Createspace and ACX. But I don’t always think they have the best interest of writers at heart. They are often heavy-handed and unilateral in how they treat authors, and they don’t really do much to protect the integrity of their own ecosystem. Between companies selling book reviews to people downloading then returning books to plagiarism to the adult dungeon, Amazon doesn’t treat authors like partners, but commodities.

R. M. Webb:  What’s the best thing about the business side of your craft?

The community. In particular, the indie community. People come together very quickly to help each other and get things done. Folks are generally very supportive and ready to offer help or advice.

R. M. Webb: Quick! Your peanut butter’s on your banana. What do you do?

Who put peanut butter on my banana?

Want to learn more about Julie? Follow the links below!

Website

Blog

Twitter: @bardsandsages

Facebook

Tsu

Feel free to leave a question for Julie in the comments section below!

**Standard disclaimer: The views expressed in this interview don’t necessarily reflect the views of R. M. Webb.

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