- a longtime journalist who writes about the world of showbiz during the day, and about the fantastic convergence of pop culture and fantasy creatures by night.
Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
Maryland-born Randee Dawn is now a Brooklyn-based entertainment journalist who scribbles about the glam world of entertainment by day, then spends her nights crafting wild worlds of fiction. She’s a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter and Soap Opera Digest, and these days covers the wacky world of show business for Variety, The Los Angeles Times, Emmy Magazine, and Today.com.
Dawn’s obsessive love of all things Law & Order led her to appear in one episode of the show and later co-author The Law & Order SVU: Unofficial Companion. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and online publications; she also dreams up trivia questions for BigBrain Games.
Once a month she can be found hosting Rooftop Readings at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn, New York. When not writing she’s focused on her next travel destination, and hangs out with her wonderful, funny husband and fluffy Westie. She admits she reads way too many books and consumes far too many mangoes.
Randee Dawn, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
Oh, I’d have to have a Pegasus. I mean (drop into Russell’s voice from Up when he says “it’s a talking dog”) – it’s a flying horse! That said I’d also have to be wildly successful in this book thing to afford the upkeep on such a beast. Then again, I could charge admission…
Most people I know would think I’d pick a red fox, and they are beautiful, magical creatures but having held one and hung out with several I now know what it’s like to be around an actual wild beast. These are not adorable domesticated catdogs – which videos on YouTube would lead you to believe. These are squiggly, eternally hungry wild animals who are not interested in you unless you have food. But they are so adorable to look at and they laugh.
Pegasus is an excellent selection. What if the foxes were actually were fantasy cat-dogs, though?
What do you write? And how did you get started?
I write whatever I feel like! I get paid for writing entertainment journalism, which means I get to talk to famous people (and not-so-famous creators) about TV and film, sometimes music and sometimes books. It seriously has perks – I’ve gotten to meet so many amazing, talented people – but in my heart, I’ve always wanted to get paid for publishing my fiction. In that line, I write everything from humorous fantasy (like Tune in Tomorrow) to really dark horror (I’ve had several stories published that I wouldn’t show my mom). I write poetry I don’t really show to anyone and serious dramatic urban fantasy, too.
I got started because I was the only one I knew at the age of 8 who could write stories I wanted to read about my stuffed animals. They were my first muses. I used to go to sleep at night with music playing in my head and make up music videos – not of the stuffed animals, but of characters I’d invent – that eventually wove themselves into really complicated stories. In time, I took some of those ideas to paper.
What an amazing career! And maybe someday you’ll write poetry you want to share.
What do you like to read?
A good story. Which sounds reductive, but it’s harder than you’d think: Many authors are so interested in being craftspeople that they forget the basic message of taking up anyone’s time with your words – tell them something interesting. If you can be clever and innovative with your style, great, but watch out for style over substance. I tend not to read much literary fiction for that reason. What I want is a meaty hook, interesting people who have unique solutions to the problems they face, and an ending that feels satisfying.
Always a good set of requirements! I keep hearing that as the editor/writer brain gets stronger, it’s harder to enjoy mediocre stories. So far, I’m doing okay at compartmentalizing, but I have noticed me getting judgier.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you
Outlining is critical!
I’m not saying it isn’t – Tune in Tomorrow is the first book I had any kind of outline for and, well, it is getting published. But I don’t believe in starting out with an outline. I like to get into a situation with a few characters and start driving down the road to see where we go. Sometimes, there’s a sharp turn into the undergrowth. Sometimes we continue on course. Occasionally, the car totally flips over. Deeper into the process a synopsis or some kind of general road map does help, but it is not important to me to adhere to an outline.
I have to know where I’m going, but I usually write my outline, then ignore it unless I get stuck.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that works for you
The story is never finished, only abandoned.
You can abandon your story with a beautiful dress on and pretty shoes with its nails done up and present it to the public that way, but an author will never 100 percent feel “done” with a story. It can only be “done enough” and then moved along. I’m delighted with Tune in Tomorrow, but I would still change things if I could! Perhaps this is why so many authors end up doing sequels and series.
Always! I’ve heard it said that once you’re changing less than 10% per pass, especially if it’s not structural stuff, you’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic — just send it out!
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
Starr Weatherby is a struggling actress in New York City who can’t catch her big break – until some very strange people show up at the diner where she works. She ends up being hired at a reality show made for mythical creatures, by mythical creatures – but starring humans.
All well and good, but once she gets to the other side of the “Veil,” reality takes on a whole new turn: her predecessor might have been killed, there’s a diva who loathes her on sight, and what’s up with that dragon behind the desk at security? Oh, and at any moment the show could be canceled. How will Starr save the show – and her life?
A deep dive into the creation of SVU, covering the first 10 seasons of episodes, with exclusive interviews from the cast, crew and creator Dick Wolf (writing the foreword).
We were allowed on the set and had incredible access. Who knew the show would still be on the air all these years later?
A self-pubbed collection of short stories, some previously published, some original, along with some poetry (yikes). This was an experiment in self-pubbing, to take myself through the process.
I’m proud of all of the stories, but specifically the title one – a dark tale with a twist ending about a different kind of Christmas spirit.