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Oct 30 2016

Writing Superheroes: Connie Dowell

Every good superhero has boots, not the silly, strappy, stiletto things people keep giving female superheroes, proper cowgirl/cowboy boots for kicking things. In purple. Read on and find out more…

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According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!

Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.

 

If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?

I’ve been writing literally since I could first hold a pencil and knew how to make enough letters. The most important scenes would be of me making my first “books,” which were actually several sheets of dot matrix paper folded in half and stapled together. If I was particularly proud of what I’d written and drawn, I’d carefully peel the dot strips away. Once, my dad made me a hardcover using foam board and duct tape. I have no idea if any of these messes have survived. My mom may have the “hardcover” in a box somewhere.


c-dowell-author-photoAll superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

My secret identity is a stay-at-home mom chasing after a very active toddler, a husband working full time and doing grad school, and three (how did it become three?) naughty cats. There are a few clues to my super status, however, and clever observers can spot them, things like the steady stream of research related reading that arrives in the mail, the notebooks and pens always in my purse, and a penchant for speculating on hypothetical situations like “What if a TSA agent was in love with an airline employee and trying to get their attention and that’s what all the marks on your boarding pass are actually about?”

 

Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

My partners in crime are my husband (with awesome taco-making, manuscript reading, and idea discussing powers) and my son (with powers of intense cuteness).

 

Where do you get your superpowers from?

To produce words you must consume them. Paper is not particularly tasty, so I recommend alphabet soup. Carefully construct each spoonful so as to form real words, not nonsense. And don’t misspell or you’ll curse yourself to typos. Either that or eat an ink pen to absorb its soul.*

*Do not actually do the ink pen thing. You might die or something.

 

Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

My secret lair is obviously a multi-level treehouse that also somehow has an underwater room with tropical fish. It is definitely not a blue couch with cat scratches on it. Why would you think that?

 

What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?

I like to play what-if and speculation games, like when watching T.V. commercials, imagining the scene that comes next, that they didn’t show (and in my head is usually something to contradict everything else so far). That and read-read-read and write-write-write.

As to ensuring they are only used for good, I was supposed to do that? Whoops.

 

Granted, you probably don’t get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

My costume is color, color, and more color. And patterns. Who says you can’t combine them? Also boots. Every good superhero has boots, not the silly, strappy, stiletto things people keep giving female superheroes, proper cowgirl/cowboy boots for kicking things. In purple.

But no capes. Anyone who’s seen The Incredibles knows why.

 

What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced in your writing?

Scene description is an area I really have to work on, usually in the second draft. I tend to get so caught up in the action that I forget that other people need to have a clue what the place looks like. It’s a challenge, but I wouldn’t call it my kryptonite. It’s not something that shuts me down as a writer. That would be keeping it all too serious. I love to read darker books, but I can’t write them for the life of me. I try to be sad or spooky and in the end just wind up with a fart joke. Not that there aren’t serious moments in my books, but the tone is light overall… and always will be.

 

What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

For the project I’m currently working on, the supervillain was the belief that the idea was just silly, a throwaway gag short story, and that was it. My writers’ group kept asking to hear the next chapter, and eventually I listened to them.

 

What important lessons have you learned along the way?

Don’t let other people make you think your style isn’t “serious enough.” There’s a place for serious, but who wants to be serious all the time?

 

What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

The best moment was the first time a box of shiny books with my name on them arrived at my door. It was Christmas, birthday, and Halloween (you know, treats) all rolled into one.

 

If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?

I would start getting serious (about being a writer, I mean, not about plot!) earlier, and just get off my butt and do it. I would never change all the fantastic plotting, planning moments when I bounced ideas off my husband or let him read pages. He reacts to fiction so viscerally, if we go to the movies I spend half the time watching him.

What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

Forget perfection. You’ll never achieve it. Just try for 80 percent of perfection and you’ve done far more than most people. That sounds really cynical on the surface, but it’s actually quite freeing. You don’t have to achieve the ideal in your head, just 80 percent of it. And the result will be pretty darn good.

 

Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

The Poison in All of Us: In 1918 Georgia, sixteen-year-old Emmie McAllister and her best frenemy Dessa investigate the murder of their town’s most prominent suffragist.

There’s dead people, suffragists, antisuffragists (boo), a motorcycle, and poison, of course. And let’s not forget it’s set in a post-war Christmastime. Why was this woman murdered? Because of suffrage, her past, or something else?

This novella is about power, the people who have it and the people who want it. And it’s about two girls who are trying to figure out what that means in their lives and if they have any real control at all.

 

What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

While I research and plot the next Emmie and Dessa book, somewhat on the backburner, I’m cleansing my palate with a contemporary setting, the same book my critique group kept asking to see more of. Hopefully releasing by New Year’s, the next book is The Orchid Caper: A down-on-her-luck young burglar lands a contract to steal a rare strain of vanilla orchid. And yes, there are fart jokes.

As for Emmie and Dessa, they’ll be coming back in The Dead Man’s Song in Savannah during the summer of 1919, and jazz musicians will be disappearing. Hopefully this will be coming out in the summer of 2017.

 

 You can find this superhero online at:

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