The Writing Life of: Dawn Knox
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Dawn Knox. Dawn will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘The Macaroon Chronicles‘, which was released on 13th October 2020, and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Dawn Knox’s latest book is The Macaroon Chronicles published by Chapeltown Publishing (2020), the second in The Chronicles Chronicles, after The Basilwade Chronicles, (2019)
Her single author anthology of speculative fiction stories Extraordinary was published by Bridge House Publishing, and she has also had nine historical romances published, mainly set during and between the two world wars.
She has written two plays about the First World War, both of which have been performed in England, France and Germany.
Using her World War One research, she has also written a book entitled The Great War – One Hundred Stories of One Hundred Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died One Hundred Years Ago which has been shortlisted for three awards.
She enjoys writing in different genres and has had short horror, sci-fi and speculative fiction stories published.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
No, not in the slightest! I’m an only child and I used to spend a lot of time reading and making up stories in my head, but my ability to write lagged so far behind my idea of a good story, I assumed I simply lacked any talent at all. It wasn’t until my son was a teenager and I was trying to encourage him with his writing homework I started to think up stories again and I began to write them down.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
Looking back, I can identify three stages to my childhood. When I was very young, I loved Enid Blyton – Noddy, The Secret Seven, The Famous Five and my favourite – The Magic Faraway Tree. And then as a young tomboy, I found Arthur Ransome and his Swallows and Amazons whose sailing holidays were far removed from my suburban upbringing.
Later, I discovered Elinor M. Brent Dyer and the many books in her Chalet School series. I suppose each author fed my imagination with mystery and adventure which was appropriate to me during each stage.
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
I’d become intrigued with the history of a thirteenth century church and I thought it would be interesting to set a story there. It wasn’t so much the church which interested me, it was more the Tudor annexe which had been attached to one end. The strange building has three storeys and a winding staircase leading to a room at the top which is much smaller than the downstairs.
Initially it was used as the Priest House and then in the Victorian times, as a school. It’s such an interesting and quirky place, I thought it deserved its own story, so I wrote a middle grade story entitled Daffodil and the Thin Place which was published by Muse it Up Publishing.
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
I’m a plotter. Definitely. I like to have an idea of how a story will end and a few details about how I might get there. But I’m not so rigid that I plan each chapter and then have to stick to it. Sometimes I come up with something unexpected and then if I like that better than the original, I’ll use that. But one day, I’m going to sit in front of my computer, start typing and see where that leads… One day…
5) What is your average writing day?
Since the first lockdown, I’ve been getting up at about 5.30am while my husband and son are still asleep, and going for a walk, either in the garden when it’s light enough or just walking around the downstairs of our house! While I walk, I plan the next part of whatever I’m writing and use the speech-to-text tool on my phone to actually ‘write’ it. Then I send myself the email when I’ve finished my walk.
Later, I copy and paste that into a Word document and then sort out the punctuation and any strange words the tool has inserted instead of what I actually said! I try not to sit at the computer for too long or I get a headache, so I set a timer, write and then stop when the timer goes off and do something different. I usually write during the evenings too. So, instead of keeping office hours and sitting at my desk and writing all day, I’m actually back and forth all day and evening, trying to be sensible and rest my eyes, get some exercise and do household tasks as well as plenty of writing.
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
During a difficult period of my life, a few years ago, I discovered the only way I could take my mind off things, was to write. It absorbed me completely and there was no space for thoughts other than those involved with my writing. From that time on, I started to write in earnest every day, and now, my current story is the last thing I think about at night and the first in the morning. So, writing is good for my mental wellbeing. But the cherry on the cake, is if someone seeks me out and takes the time to tell me they’ve enjoyed something I’ve written.
Publisher – Chapeltown Books
Pages – 222
Released – 13th October 2020
ISBN-13 – 978-1910542606
Format – ebook, paperback
Take a tour of the exotic Isle of Macaroon with Eddie and his zany friends who will be pleased to show you the cheese mines, Meringue Mountains and the Custard River while they flee unscrupulous promoters, bandit badgers and low-flying seagulls. But a word of advice – don’t refer to Eddie as a chicken, he thinks he’s a bald eagle. And don’t mention Brian’s small stature, he’s rather sensitive about his size. Oh, and don’t call Brian a monkey, he’s actually a lemur. And finally, if Gideon takes a pen out of his pocket and you value your life – duck.
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7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
Most of the content for The Macaroon Chronicles came from my imagination, so I didn’t have to do a great deal of research. However, I did investigate walking on custard because although I know custard is thixotropic, it seems so unlikely that anyone could walk on it. And to be fair, if it couldn’t be done, I’d have bent the rules and made it possible on the Isle of Macaroon!
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
It took four years. Not because I’m particularly slow at writing! Honest! I wrote the first chapter in 2016, in response to one of my writing group’s monthly writing prompts. After I’d read the short story out at the group’s meeting, I submitted it to publisher, Gill James, for her CafeLit site (www.cafelitmagazine.uk) where she publishes a new short story each day. Thankfully, she accepted it. And that would have been that, except I loved the characters so much, I decided to carry on with them and see what happened to them next.
The following month, I wrote another story and after reading it out at my writing group, I sent it off to Gill again and it was published. I kept this up for months and after a while, Gill suggested we could put all the stories together and publish as a book. I was thrilled and decided to write a final chapter to wrap all the stories up but kept getting distracted with different characters and in the end, it took three chapters to finish! Each story was published on CafeLit and after the final one appeared, Gill compiled them into a book and The Macaroon Chronicles was published in October 2020.
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
For The Macaroon Chronicles, the writing prompt I mentioned above consisted of a list of unrelated items from which we had to include at least five in a story. I chose fishing waders, a biro, a billboard, a Hawaiian shirt and an electric guitar. With such a bizarre array of objects, I found myself moving towards humour. However, I also write historical romance and I often become interested in a particular era and/or setting and want to write a story to fit.
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
I’d been watching an old video of Eddie the Eagle, the ski jumper who won people’s hearts and took the British Ski Jumping record during the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, and the name stuck in my mind. I hadn’t intended to write about animals but somehow, Eddie the Bald Eagle (who’s really a chicken) was born.
I recently contacted the real Eddie the Eagle (Mike Edwards) and sent him a copy of the book. I explained I’d borrowed his name for my main character although I made it clear that my very conceited Eddie the Bald Eagle was nothing like him! Mike very kindly emailed back and has exchanged a few emails with me since then.
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Eddie the Bald Eagle (who’s really a chicken) is rather self-centred and overbearing and he invariably leads his friends into trouble, then to save himself, he’ll desert them. Brian, a monkey, is the most sensible and grounded of the friends and he plays the electric guitar in the band. The other member of the band, The Three Wise Monkeys (yes, there are only two members and only Brian is a monkey), is Colin, the lemur who plays the bongos. He’s a gentle soul, although he doesn’t take kindly to being called a monkey.
Gideon Guttle is a pig and he joins the friends after failing his exams to become a spy although he still dresses the part with a smart suit and bow tie. He also carries assorted gadgets such as pens which fire darts although he often muddles them up. Finally, there are two rabbits, Babs and Deirdre who are addicted to social media and often speak using hashtags #GoBunnies!
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
Pleased but slightly disappointed not to be carrying on with their adventures! Still, I could always do The Macaroon Chronicles Part II…
1) Do you have a favourite quote you live by?
My mum always said the saddest phrase was “You’re too late.” It’s so final. I try not to give anyone cause to say that to me.
2) Do you have any pets?
No, not now. Before the pandemic, my husband and I used to travel a lot and we didn’t think it would be fair to have a pet. However, I love dogs and used to have a West Highland White Terrier called Bunty who was a funny, little character.
3) What’s on your current reading list?
I’m currently reading London in the 18th Century by Jerry White and revisiting The Commonwealth of Thieves by Tom Keneally because I’m writing a romance about a girl who is transported from London to New South Wales in 1790 on a convict ship. I’m just about to start For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke which is set during that time, too.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what would you be doing?
I’d like to play Miss Havisham, the short-sighted, absent-minded mouse. She’s fiery and brave – and completely oblivious to everything going on around her.
5) If you could travel to the fictional world of any book for the day, which would you choose?
I’d love to go to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. For anyone not familiar with the books, it’s a flat, circular world which sits on the back of four elephants, which stand on the back of a giant star turtle and it’s populated by some amazing and humorous characters. A trip to Ankh-Morpork, to the Unseen University and its wizards would be top of my list of must-see sights.
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your writing chair, what is the first thing he says to you?
“In The Macaroon Chronicles Part II, I want you to write me a bigger part. I don’t want to be one of the film crew any longer, I want to be on the other side of the camera…”
I would like to say a big thank you to Dawn Knox for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.