Dawn Vogel has been published as a short fiction author and an editor of both fiction and non-fiction. Her academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, helps edit Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats. Find her online at http://historythatneverwas.com, or on Twitter @historyneverwas.
What was the inspiration for “Donning the Helm”? How did the story develop/change from conception to completion?
The original inspiration was an Eddie Izzard bit where he talks about archaeologists always finding a series of small walls while excavating. (This is much more of a European perspective on archaeology; the American archaeologists I work with rarely find a series of small walls.) I liked the idea of the walls being in place for some purpose other than a residence, so I ran with that idea.
The story’s does an excellent job of building suspense with each additional journal entry. Did you find it easier or challenging to write in the epistolary form for this story?
I love writing epistolary stories, because they force a structure on the story that might not otherwise exist. In a story like this, where the plot needs to take place over an extended period of time, the epistolary format works wonderfully, and made it a lot easier to write all of the pieces.
How would you describe your writing and revision process? What have you found to be most helpful for you when dealing with writer’s block?
Once I’ve got an idea for a story, the next thing I have to do is name the characters. Without that aspect, I can’t get my head around the rest of it. Then I try to sketch out a rough outline of the scenes that the story will need, and then I can start writing. I try not to revise as I go, but to get the entire first draft complete. Then I let the story sit for a couple of weeks before I tackle revisions, which gives me enough distance from my writing to evaluate it constructively.
I find writer’s block to be fairly rare for me, but when it hits, it usually hits in the form of me getting stuck on a story. Oftentimes, this is because whatever outline I’ve sketched out is just a little too vague. So I try poking at that a bit to see what interesting thing I could add in. Once I’ve done that, it usually helps. Other things that sometimes help with the poking process include going for a walk or working on food preparation (particularly cutting vegetables or putting together pieces of an elaborate recipe). Both of those things let my mind wander and find new ideas.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve received as a writer and what advice would you give new writers?
Perfect is the opposite of done. This is both the most valuable thing I’ve learned and the advice I’d give new writers. Put another way, I take this to mean: finish what you’ve started, and worry about how bad it is later. If you never finish what you’re writing because you’ve decided it sucks, you’ll never know if it could actually be quite good.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently trying to get caught up on long-neglected comic books that have been stacking up on my to-read shelf. My favorites at the moment are Ms. Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve just published the final book in my steampunk action/adventure trilogy, Brass and Glass 3: The Boiling Sea. The books follow a crew of airship pirates as they search for lost whiskey, a treasure map, and the treasure itself, all of which are linked to each other. I’m already on to my next project, which is a middle reader urban fantasy book with witches and mystery, a little bit Harry Potter meets Nancy Drew.