In this column I’m asking subscribers to share their knowledge about writing, publishing, and marketing their books. I’m calling it “Ten Questions.” Thank you, Dan Lawton, for allowing us to learn about how a busy writer manages to keep finding new subjects to write about! – Marylee MacDonald
Author Tip: “I’ve learned not to stress when I have writing time but no inspiration; it’ll get there, no need to rush it.”
If you’re on Goodreads, here’s where you can join Dan and learn more about his books.
Dan Lawton is an award-winning literary suspense, mystery, and thriller author from New Hampshire. He’s an active member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) Organization. When he’s not writing novels, he’s writing ads.
MM: A book begins as an idea in the writer’s imagination. Eventually, this grain of sand turns into a pearl. What was the grain of sand that fired your imagination?
DL: When I’m looking to start a new project, nearly everything can be a grain of sand. The key is sifting through that sand and finding a real story. For That Was Before, it came during a walk through a windstorm. I imagined the wind being a person and the storm was a confrontation. That’s how it began.
MM: How did you approach turning this idea into a manuscript, and eventually a book? Did you take classes, read books, or just plunge in?
DL: With this being my sixth go around writing a novel, I dove right into writing. I know what I need to do to write a novel these days. Piece by piece, page by page, scene by scene.
MM: Authors today have many options when it comes to publication. Did you work with an agent, find a publisher through other means, or self-publish your book?
DL: I’ve done it all—self-published my first two novels; got published by an indie press for my third; had an agent for my fourth, which was then published by a different indie press; and my fifth was a different indie press. For That Was Before, I returned to my most recent publisher, which I was happy with.
MM: What is the biggest single lesson you learned during the writing process?
DL: My process has evolved. The first few years, I wrote every day. Now, I can write in spurts. The lesson I’ve learned is to not stress when I have writing time but no inspiration; it’ll get there, no need to rush it.
MM: What would you advise others who are still at the idea stage?
DL: What works for me is as long as I know one or two scenes ahead, I can write. I don’t need to know the ending, though I’m not sure I’d recommend writing that way. It makes it more difficult for you later, but it works for me. My advice is to put pen to paper and see what happens. Writing will bring you to strange places sometimes. Why not see where it goes? If you get stuck, you get stuck. You wouldn’t be the first writer to scrap a project partway through—me included (although I did know the ending that time!).
MM: Were there any writing tools you’d recommend? Did you use apps like Grammarly, Scrivener, or another outliner to help you structure your book?
DL: I’m a basic Microsoft Word guy. I do have a Grammarly plug-in that helps for proofing errors I miss, though the software often offers up false suggestions.
MM: Was it hard to decide on a cover, or did you or your publisher hire a professional designer?
DL: I did struggle with the cover for That Was Before. How the process works with my publisher is to send them ideas, and the internal creative team designs something. So I let them have creative control, really. But coming up with initial ideas was tough for this one.
MM: Who is your ideal reader? Who would particularly enjoy your book/s?
DL: My typical audience is 45+. I think that’s because I write mature, often damaged, characters with real life experiences—characters like the people reading about them. I’d like to bring younger readers in with more action and excitement, which I’ve tried to do with That Was Before.
MM: How do you connect with readers? Do you like to do live events, such as book fairs or library talks, or have you found readers through social media, Goodreads, or Amazon?
DL: All of the above. I’ve done lots of live events—from book signings and readings to speeches to farmers’ markets to television, newspaper, and podcast interviews. I’ve certainly connected with lots of readers on Goodreads and on social media. I think there’s the right time and place for all of them.
MM: What has been your greatest reward in undertaking this publishing journey?
DL: While winning awards has been gratifying and helps to validate my career a bit, what’s been most rewarding is helping other writers. I offer query letter critique, synopsis critique, and editing services on my website, and a handful of the writers I’ve worked with (at least those I know of) have received publishing contracts and had their books published. The thank-you notes and return business is amazing and tells me I must be doing something right.
In case you’d like to learn more about Dan’s books or his critique service, here’s where you can find him.
The Amazon buy links, titles, ISBN or ASIN numbers for your books, and their cost
Titles (prices vary by format; all books available as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook):
That Was Before (e-book and audiobook TBD; book publication date is June 3, 2021) – mybook.to/That_Was_Before
The Green House – mybook.to/The_Green_House_Kindle
Plum Springs – getbook.at/PlumSprings
Amber Alert – mybook.to/Amber_Alert
Operation Salazar – mybook.to/OperationSalazar
Deception – mybook.to/Deception_Dan_Lawton
Marylee MacDonald is the author of MONTPELIER TOMORROW, a novel, BONDS OF LOVE & BLOOD, a short story collection, and THE RUG BAZAAR, a chapbook. Her books and stories have won the Barry Hannah Prize, the Jeanne M. Leiby Memorial Chapbook Award, a Readers’ Favorites Gold Medal for Drama, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and many others. She holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State, and when not reading or writing books, she loves to walk on the beach and explore National Parks.