An Author interview with Robert Dahlen

It’s Friday!

Have I mentioned I love Friday? Especially Fridays in the summer, when the weekend is filled with shorts and sandals and sitting outside watching the wind in the trees and the sun glint in the kiddos’ hair.
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.
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.

Julie Ann Dawson – author/editor/publisher/gamer girl

Alex King – the author in love with exclamation points raising a little girl she describes as the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland

Heather Hamilton-Senter – An author, cover designer, singer, very talented lady

Nirina Stone – A newly published author with a beautiful name

Claire Frank – The indie author who got snatched up by a traditional publisher just a few short weeks after publishing her first book

And now, let’s add Robert Dahlen – author of the Monkey Queen Series – to our list!

Robert Dahlen - Author of the Monkey Queen Series
Robert Dahlen – Author of the Monkey Queen Series

R. M. Webb: Hi Robert, tell me about yourself.

Hi, I’m Robert Dahlen, and I tell stories.

All my life, I’ve been coming up with stories. I had made some efforts many years ago to break in, but without any luck. Even when I tried to get away from it, they would come to me. But many of my ideas just wound up as notes, scribbled things that went nowhere.

Finally, a few years ago, I decided that it was time to change that. I didn’t want to look back at the end of life and regret not having taken a chance, never having tried to get my stories in front of readers. And this was around the time I first learned of the indie publishing revolution and what it meant to writers who didn’t fit the corporate mold. Then, I found a synopsis for a comic series I had created many years before, and I realized it could make a great book series instead. The next day – St. Patrick’s Day 2013 – I sat on my bed and typed on my trusty tablet, “It was another crappy Friday for Beth McGill.” And I haven’t stopped since.

R. M. Webb: Why do you create?

Because I love telling stories and letting people read them.

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

Chocolate for eating, chips for baking. Oops, wrong chips…

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?

Considering what I pay to get my books out (I have many skills, but drawing and design are not among them), I am definitely not making money. Yet. I do have a day job.

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

Yes! I’d also like ten million dollars. And a pony with rainbow wings.

R. M. Webb: Oh! Yes, please! I want those things too! What caused you to want to market your art?

The desire to share my stories with others.

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

I can find it at any time or place – in the shower, while I’m trying to sleep, at my desk at work (don’t tell the boss!) But oddly enough, it seems to come the most when I’m actually writing. That’s when I find the funny dialogue, the nice turn of phrase, the character moment I didn’t know was there, the tie-in to an earlier scene.

R. M. Webb: That’s funny. I find that my inspiration for the story I’m writing strikes when I’m deeply immersed in actually writing the story. I’ve found outlining particularly hard because I’m at my most creative when I’m working ‘off-script’ so to speak. I think I’ve found a happy medium between outlining and shooting from the hip though. Now, enough about me. Let’s hear more about you! How do you react to negative feedback?

Eat whatever unhealthy food is at hand or that I can get at a drive-thru. Eat some more. Sleep the pain away. Then get back on the pony with rainbow wings.

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

I can get distracted easily, either by exterior forces (what’s on TV?) or interior ones (I’m having a bad day and I’m tired, so I’ll just slack off). Thank goodness for two things: My work ethic, and coffee.

R. M. Webb: Who’s your biggest champion?

Anyone who likes my writing.

R. M. Webb: Elaborate on that a little, please. Are you saying you feel spurred on to continue writing knowing there are people out there who enjoy what you’ve written?

Well, there are several reasons why I keep writing, but that would be one of them. I don’t exactly have stellar sales, mind you, but I’m hoping that someday I’ll have a fan base, and knowing that there are people who like (or will like) what I read and want to read more is a big motivator

R. M. Webb: Quick! Red or blue?

Red! No, blue! (gets flung off rope bridge)

R. M. Webb: Do you have kids? If not, do you want to have kids?

No kids. And no comment on that second part…

R. M. Webb: How do you structure your day as an artist/entrepreneur/person/parent? How do you get it all done?

I try to write and edit on my commute (I use public transit) and on weekends. Nights are for marketing, social media, and catching up on my webcomic reading.

R. M. Webb: You’ve been maintaining a pretty quick publishing schedule. How many hours a day do you write? How long is your current series going to run? Do you have plans after this series is done?

Usually 1-2 hours a day, but that includes editing and rewriting. I have been putting out a lot of books, but I had been working on the series for over a year before I released the first book, so I had and still have a backlog. I plan on releasing the fifth book in September (five in a year, not bad), then settle down to a three a year pace, time and finances permitting. But I could pick up the pace if sales catch fire. Hint hint.

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

I’m going to be practical. First, if you’re working with anyone else, especially if you haven’t worked with them before, get things in writing. Second, back up your files early, often, and in several places.

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

Creativity comes in many forms. I hope you find yours.

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

At this point in time…being able to write, to fulfill a lifelong dream.

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

On my budget? Cook at home, though it’s more like “throw together a sandwich at home” for me.

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

Fight scenes. It can be tough to coordinate the action, keep it plausible and not repeat myself.

R. M. Webb: Oh ya, fight scenes are so complex! I try to get a really good picture in my head of where everyone is located in the scene, then I’ll let them move forward one action. Then, I pause the scene, and kind of pan my mental camera around, looking for who’s where and what’s near them. Do you have a technique to help coordinate the action?

Not really. I try to plot things out in my head before I start, figure out who’s doing what, and it’s usually based around a strong image or three, or a high point I want to work in. I rewrite as needed, I try to keep the characters in character even when all Hell breaks loose, and I try to remember that sometimes you don’t need to see every punch or sword swing.

Also, I find that sometimes the right bit of music helps to get the scene moving in my head (and that applies for non-combat scenes as well). For example, A Tiding Of Magpies takes place in a setting inspired by medieval China, so naturally the music that I used to help set a big fight scene in Chapter Three is Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody #2”.

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

When a scene comes together, when the dialogue is just right, when I find the perfect word or phrase. It’s a rush that nothing else can match.

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

Getting reviews.

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

That my work lives and dies on its own merits, not on the whims of a publishing house. Indie all the way.

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

Mourn the loss of some perfectly good peanut butter.

R. M. Webb: Ok, now the fun part! Show off what you can do!

Hi! I’m Robert, and I write the Monkey Queen series, contemporary adventure fantasy with a comic streak. The main characters are Michiko, the Monkey Queen, a teenage hero with a magic staff, and Beth, a geek girl who can see through illusion spells. They team up to rescue a kidnapped friend, and become partners and roommates. The stores are the opposite of grimdark; there are jokes, memorable supporting characters, action, fannish references, and more jokes. And a snarky guinea pig.

There are three books in the series so far – Of Introductions And Abductions, The Brigadoon Boondoggle, and Under The Stars Of Faerie.

 

The best place to find out more and keep up with news on Michiko and Beth is the Monkey Queen Books blog at http://monkeyqueenbooks.blogspot.com . Head over there for sneak previews, short stories, behind the scenes stuff and penguin videos. We’re also on Twitter as @MonkeyQueenBks, and on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/monkeyqueenbooks ) and DeviantArt ( http://robbrain.deviantart.com/ ).

And I really want to mention Willow, who does the covers for my books. Her art is awesome, and so is she. Check out her work at http://willow-san.deviantart.com .

 

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