Friday, May 30, 2014

Feature Friday: Sasha Dawn

Sasha Dawn teaches writing at community colleges and holds writing workshops for local elementary and middle schools. She collects tap shoes, fabric swatches, and stories of survival. She resides in her native northern Illinois, where she spends her days with her daughters, her puppies, and her fiance.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Sasha: 
Write every day, even after the pains of rejection stab you. We live in a pessimistic society, where people unfortunately take pleasure in ripping others to shreds. It's easy to believe in negative comments, and as a result, to stop believing in ourselves and our abilities. But if we continue to write, despite the forces attempting to silence us, eventually we will be heard.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Sasha: 
I have always loved Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Lee tells a tale wrought with truth and very adult subject matter…from the point of view of a child. I love that Scout Finch is unconventional, and I absolutely adore that her father encourages her to be true to herself, despite the conventions of the society in which she lives. Lee melds the magical world of childhood, where an imagined man breathes life into "babies, just waiting to wake up", with the brutal truths of racism and ignorance. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Oblivion?

Sasha: 
Most of my plot lines come to me in dreams, and the buds of this one came to me decades ago. I have long been fascinated with the premise, and I put this character (and her dilemma) in many genres until I found one that worked.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Oblivion?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Sasha: 
Once I decided Callie's story should be put on a young adult canvas, the biggest obstacles involved managing difficult subject matter aimed at readers as young as fourteen. I fixed this by appealing to the audience's sense of logic and emotion. Ergo, not everything that happens in the plot line is explicitly detailed on-page, but the characters' emotional reactions to memories and possible recollections drive home ghastly occurrences.

Another snag involved writing antiheroes, all the while providing reasons for the audience to accept their flaws. In the end, I opted to present characters as they were, regardless of their unlikeable issues, period. I decided it was all right for readers to disagree with the characters, to detest some of their actions or motives, or even hold a grudge against them for a few pages. We spend the length of the story in Callie's mind. As she's flawed, her perception of others might be flawed, too. She maybe isn't focused on things a reader might find essential, and maybe she doesn't see her fellow characters as plainly as the readers might hope. Readers have to let go of their own control in order to ride out the tale. It's a psychological book for that reason. Furthermore, just as disagreeable people cross our paths in everyday life, I feel they ought to cross our paths in literature, as well. While these people are often touted as antagonists in storytelling, I prefer to prove there are varying levels of protagonist and antagonist. No one is all good, or all bad; no character ought to be all protagonist or all antagonist, either.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Oblivion is your favorite and why?

Sasha: 
This is a very difficult question because I love them all. However, I'll discuss my fascination with Elijah for the sake of providing an answer: Within the first few scenes in which Elijah appears, his actions prove he's alluring, despised, trustworthy, and unreliable all at once. Elijah has a complex past, and he's a complex character. I wanted to write him true to life: flawed, but well-intentioned and seeded in ideals. My hope was to prove there's good in every character, even if he makes bad decisions. All of the characters in OBLIVION are flawed, and while that has some bloggers in a snit (especially those who have yet to finish the book and review mid-page), I endeavor to write well-rounded characters--characters readers may not fully understand, but hopefully will respect, by the last page. Why? Because that's representative of the people we meet every day.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Sasha: 
I have been writing since my seventh birthday, if not before: short stories, nonfiction, poetry, flash fiction, novels. I continued to learn, and I continued to write. Eventually, an editor purchased my Master's thesis, a romance novel written under another pen name. Six others followed. But while I was finally experiencing some success, and while my writing was finally fitting into a genre niche, I wasn't writing the words of my heart. I took some time off to center myself, and the result? OBLIVION.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Sasha: 
I have already written nearly three YA novels, all of which are unrelated to OBLIVION. Let's keep our fingers crossed in hopes that Egmont will wish to work with me again. They've been an absolute dream!

A.L.:
How did you get into the mindset for writing someone with graphomania?

Sasha: 
There is simply no substitute for research. Graphomania is pop-culturally identified with those who constantly blog, post, pin, etc. However, its seeds are deep and planted in dark soil. Spontaneous writing is historically viewed as a possible sign of demonic possession, mental disruption, and an extra-sensory gift. I read case study after case study of spontaneous writing (and drawing!) and found that a lack of control held firm in each case. Each of these case studies helped put me in the mind of someone coming to grips with impulses and urges.

A.L.:
What's your favorite style of art and your favorite time period in history?  Why?

Sasha: 
My favorite style of art is the clay relief. I studied clay sculpture as early as my high school years, and I love the versatility of the relief, which we often see in architecture.

My favorite time period in history is American Colonialism to 1787, because of the vast approach to independent and critical thought involved in establishing a new form of government. One of my favorite pieces of persuasive writing of all time was published in this era--The Declaration of Independence.

A.L.:
What's the coolest restoration project you've ever worked on?

Sasha:
I have worked on many restorations and renovations over the years. The most interesting entailed the replication of a 1906 Victorian house. I moved interior walls, which had been erected during a 1960s renovation, and redesigned everything from floor inlays to custom-milled moldings. It was an invigorating experience to make a difference for a building throughout all stages--from inception to demolition to completion.

The Giveaway:
Sasha is giving a hardcover copy of OBLIVION away to one lucky winner! (Continental US only)

Oblivion:  Lisa McMann's Dead to You meets Kate Ellison's The Butterfly Clues in a psychological thriller full of romance, intrigue, and mystery.

One year ago, Callie was found in an abandoned apartment, scrawling words on the wall: "I KILLED HIM. His blood is on my hands. His heart is in my soul. I KILLED HIM." But she remembers nothing of that night or of the previous thirty-six hours. All she knows is that her father, the reverend at the Church of the Holy Promise, is missing, as is Hannah, a young girl from the parish. Their disappearances have to be connected and Callie knows that her father was not a righteous man.

Since that fateful night, she's been plagued by graphomania -- an unending and debilitating compulsion to write. The words that flow from Callie's mind and through her pen don't seem to make sense -- until now.

As the anniversary of Hannah's vanishing approaches, more words and memories bubble to the surface and a new guy in school might be the key to Callie putting together the puzzle. But digging up the secrets she's buried for so long might be her biggest mistake.


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How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter).  Continental US.  I will contact the winner via email.

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