The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Dara England, author of Brought to Life, which gave her the tag line she's adopted: Contemporary Fairytales.
"That's how I think of this book," she explained, "because it combines a modern setting with magic and romance. It’s basically a time travel love story but with a twist. The hero doesn’t have only time to contend with in his pursuit of the heroine—reality is against him too. You see, he’s a fictional character from a novel. Or is he? The real truth is only for the heroine to discover." She added with a wink, "And the readers."
Dara shared with me that she started writing because of a very basic human emotion: envy. "When I was about six years old, my big brother started writing a story. I got so envious of his little book I decided to write my own." She laughed and continued, "Sometimes my motivation to write is still envy. When I read something great, some little voice in the back of my head is always groaning, 'Man, I wish I’d thought of that idea.' It keeps me going."
Obviously at six, Dara was too young to write many words. Her first books were picture books. "I usually traced the pictures from coloring books since I couldn’t draw very well at that age either," she confessed.
"When did you first consider yourself a writer?" I asked.
"When I started writing." She laughed. "Sorry, maybe that’s too simple. I guess the image I had of myself as a writer just developed over the years. I knew since childhood that I wanted to write books someday, so it seemed natural to think of myself by that name. When did I consider myself an author? That’s a whole different question. I started thinking of myself by that term when I signed my first contract."
Even though she always knew writing would be in the picture somehow, Dara had different ideas at various times of what she wanted to be when she grew up. "I wanted to dance, to act, to sing, to paint, etc.," she told me. "For a long time I wanted to be a veterinarian."
One of her earliest influences in her writing was Tolkien. "A guy I was dating took me to The Fellowship of the Ring and, once I saw that—well, it was all over for me," she said. "I married my date and started writing fantasy. Later my love of fantasy led me to discover a new area: paranormal romance. I like to think of my paranormal romances as being something like modern fantasies or contemporary fairytales."
When her writing projects are still just a germ of an idea, Dara told me that she lets her imagination do most of the work. "It's like a movie rolling in my head," she said, "one I can direct any way I like. Once I sit down to write, I start straining my brain, of course."
Sometimes in this process, Dara develops a situation first and then invents characters to act them out.
"On the other hand I’ve also been known to invent whole worlds and societies just to fit my ideas for one character. I think of myself as very much a character writer," she explained.
On a personal note, all Dara's writing seems to slant downward. "I can't write a straight line unless I'm writing on lined paper," she said. "I also have hideous penmanship that could pass as a sort of code since no one besides me can make it out."
She also has discovered that apparently she says "my gosh" and "my goodness" a lot. The reason she thinks this? "My four-year-old and my three-year-old have started repeating it," she told me.
"Have you ever eaten a crayon?" I asked.
"I don’t recall a definite occasion," she said, "but I’m sure I have. It’s one of those remembered tastes, like the taste of a coin. You don’t know when you put one in your mouth but you have a very clear memory of what it was like."
Dara's not sure she wants to know the future, even though it might be nice to know something about her writing career. She told me, "I’m convinced that most of the time it’s best to be surprised by life. If the news is good, it’s a happy surprise and if it’s bad you don’t have to worry about it in advance."
Unlike a lot of romance writers, Dara has only cried once during a movie. "During Castaway, I cried when the soccer ball, 'Wilson,' floated away. Tom Hanks was sobbing and screaming for Wilson to come back. I got a bit choked up then but I'm not embarrassed about it. I suspect everyone who saw that movie wept for Wilson."
Dara told me that her husband describes her as "melancholy." "I don’t know exactly what all that entails," she said, "but I’m shy, withdrawn, and very quiet. I avoid confrontation at all costs and tend to lurk in the shadows if I can get away with it. Strangely enough the internet has brought out a different side of me. I’m comfortable chatting in forums, chat rooms, etc. online. I like having all the time I need to consider what I want to say. Then too, taking on a pen name has freed me up a bit. Dara England is like a whole different personality from the real me. She dares to go where I wouldn’t."
She's not fond of thunderstorms at all... in fact, she admits to hating them, and with good reason. "Living in Oklahoma," she told me, "I always have the fear of tornados in the back of my mind. We had one come pretty close to the house when I was a kid and I’ve never forgotten it. It made me realize these things don’t just happen to other people."
Also, when her husband is out, she sleeps with the light on. "I can’t stand to sleep alone in the dark," she confessed. "It’s been a big fear of mine since I was a kid. Maybe that’s why I’m lenient about letting my own kids keep a light on at night. I also avoid dangling a leg over the side of the bed—just in case."
Finally, I asked Dana what advice she would give a new writer just starting out.
"In my opinion, perseverance is the most important part of being a writer. You can train yourself to develop a certain amount of talent and you can make your own opportunities. But if you quit after the first couple years of rejection you’ll probably never get far enough to build up your skills or to grab those chances and run with them."
You can keep up with Dara on her website, http://www.daraenglandauthor.com/