When did you first have the thought you’d like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I always wrote and read but never thought about writing a book until I took a college class on dramatic screenplay writing. For this class I wrote a ninety-minute play and about two years later I’d written three books. Two will never see the light of day and aren’t even on a computer, though I do have printed copies and the third was a very, very rough draft of Pearl Passing, my African-American historical. I didn’t think of romance in particular when I started writing, I just wanted to write stories. But since I was exposed to romance because my mom reads it heavily and I used to steal her books and read them, I knew my books would have romance, too.
What are you working on now?
Most often, I’m simultaneously working on multiple projects. So on any given day or week, I could be working on something different. The switching keeps my mind active and engaged. I’m currently working on editing projects I just got back from two different editors. One novel is Pearl Passing which is about three generations of African American woman who bond over shared life experiences and a passed down pearl necklace. The other novel is about a witch, alien, and an orphaned girl who are apart of intertwined prophecies. So as you can see, the stories are very different.
Where did the idea for your story come from?
The idea for Pearl Passing came around 2012 or 2013. I thought of one of my favorite movies as a kid, Polly: Coming Home, which was adapted from Eleanor H. Porter’s book Pollyanna. In the story an orphaned eleven-year old girl with a great spirit moves in with her spinster aunt and ends up changing a small town’s way of thinking. So originally, not finding my voice yet, I made up a story about practically the same thing not knowing it. I had two readers and was at a lost for what to do once I received their feedback. During the time they read (about a year), I kept writing, researched the business, read a lot, met other writers and participated in NaNoWriMo.
The story stayed in the back of my mind and while going over the reader’s notes, I outlined a new story and began writing pieces over the years as I became a better writer and found my voice. I probably kept 15-20% of the original story, I think but most of it I trashed. One of the readers suggested I bond the women with something. I bonded them with this pearl necklace and got the idea to make a three part family saga where each woman’s story could stand alone but together was a braided narrative.
In the following years, I had a co-worker who wanted to read my stuff but wasn’t interested in the YA I normally wrote so I told her about my story on the backburner and she said that was the story she wanted to read. When I told others who weren’t interested in YA either, I had the same reaction—hurry up and finish it already! But I had to come back to the story naturally. That’s when I thought, what if I could tell a story that not only encompassed the past but also merged the past with experiences from the elders in my family? So when it comes down to it, I wrote Pearl Passing with the knowledge of the past and the present as my guide, and many people in my family as inspiration and fuel. Pearl Passing became a story that at the heart was about the bonds in an African American family and their struggles for a quality life.
How do you do research?
I did tons of internet research. For this book I read and referenced a few books and found articles, newspapers, time period paraphernalia (such as images and trinkets my parents own). I also relied on personal written accounts of events. I had a few real life sources for this novel too since I based some incidents on stories my parents and family told me growing up, I was able to ask those people questions.
Why did you pick the setting you did?
My father was born in Catchings, Mississippi, and migrated to Oakland, California, around 1948-1949 on the California Zephyr train. His family was a part of the Great Migration, in which more than six million African Americans moved from the rural South to the North, Midwest, and West (during a fifty-four year period) in search of better opportunities and less racism, including the unequal treatment and murdering of blacks. I felt both places—Oakland and Mississippi—provided the perfect backdrop for the kinds of situations my characters would be involved in. Since the heart of the story deals with family ties, racism, fighting against the norms in society, and finding out who you are, I wanted places that fostered this storyline.
Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
Pieces of my main characters were drawn from real people. Bethal and Mrs. Abel were drawn from my grandparent’s era, while Sherie and the teens (Grace, Elsie, and Cooper) were drawn from my parents, aunts, and uncles. When I write, there’s never one character I can definitively say is a true representation of someone real. They’re all patchworks of people I’ve known, know, read about, watched, heard about, or dreamed of. I believe all artist/creatives are inspired by the world around us.
What do you consider your greatest writing strengths? What gets in your way of writing?
My greatest writing strength is that I am a learner, watcher, and listener. I place writing at the top of my priority list. I have done my research on the industry and have a plan for my career. I take advice, go to workshops and conferences, and am always looking to improve. Because of these reasons, I have become a quick writer and editor.
Nothing gets in my way of writing because I truly enjoy it. Writing is my therapy. I always say if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be crazy, and I mean that in every sense. It’s how I’ve amassed fifteen books in the last six years. Sometimes I get in hermit mode and have to pull myself away from writing. Usually I try to plan things with friends and family and write among other writers when I can, so that I stay social and sane. Currently, I don’t have kids or a husband so it’s easy to write whenever and for however long I want. The hard part will be adjusting and balancing a future that does lend well to this sort of writing routine.
Do you have a favorite playlist for when you write? Classic, rock, pop, none of the above?
I don’t have a favorite playlist when I write. Sometimes I’m stuck on certain songs and have them on repeat in the car and in my ear buds when I’m writing in public places. But I don’t create song lists for books. I am, however, inspired to write songs, which I’ve found is a way to incorporate my creativity in a different way. Once I am published, I’ll work on releasing songs.
What is your likely choice for publication, a publisher or self-pubbed?
I want to be a hybrid author. So I’d love to be published by a traditional press, a successful indie (small press) publisher. I’d also self-publish, as well, but I want to brave these waters once I establish my author platform. For Pearl Passing I’d like to traditionally publish so it has the best chance of getting to the masses. I think this is the kind of story that could continue and start worthwhile conversations about race relations.
Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I write mostly in my bed lying on my side or sitting up, though I have a small computer table I also use, and a desk in my guest room I rarely use. Lying down works for me because I have injuries to my back, so sitting up all day isn’t the best.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
Any book that takes me to another place and I can connect with makes me happy. Growing up, I read anything by Roald Dahl, Beverly Clearly, and Maya Angelou. I loved Aesop’s Fables, The Coldest Winter Ever (Sister Souljah), Zane and Omar Tyree’s books. As an adult, I came to adore the Harry Potter books, Twilight, Hunger Games, Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, Ann Aguirre’s Razorland trilogy. Nowadays I devour tons of YA books. All these books at whatever times I read them made me excited about other worlds and concepts and made me think.
Who is your favorite book boyfriend? Why?
I have two that I can think of right now. Bones (Crispin) from Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. I like Bones because he’s an Alpha male who loves his woman to death. He’s loyal, funny, sexy, a gentleman, powerful, and unapologetic. Also Daniel Best from Beverly Jenkins’ Belle because he is an all-around sweetheart: well-mannered, considerate and caring.
Who are your greatest support people for writing?
My family because they listen to me drone on about writing and continue to read some of my stuff even though I’m not published yet. I’ve also found many supportive writers from the two groups I joined, To Live and Write in Alameda, and Romance Writers of America San Francisco chapter. Participating in NaNoWriMo by going to write-ins has also allowed me to meet many great writers as well.
If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
A (successful) singer/songwriter or lawyer. Lawyer because my parents always said I’d be a good one. And singer because I write songs, though I can’t sing to save my life. But this is a dream right? So I’d be a mix between Beyoncé, IndiaArie, and Alanis Morsette—something unique.
What line from a book left an impression on you and/or your writing?
Not a line from a book but something a great writer said, “If there’s a book you want to read that doesn’t exist then write it.” It is what started me writing again. There has always been a lack of diversity in the market and I’ve had to search to find books about people of color. Today this lack of diversity is just starting to be addressed with campaigns like We Need Diverse Books (#WNDB) and Writing from Color and Native Voices (#WCNV), and I felt like my voice needed to be heard among many others. I was also tired of writers publishing stories of the other (marginalized voices) who weren’t a part of those groups nor did they have similar experiences. So that’s what prompted me to start writing diverse stories—stories I wanted to read and I wanted to write.
What is the quirkiest thing you’ve done to your character/s?
I can’t tell you because that book isn’t out and it’s a surprise, but let’s just say it involved a new way to kiss someone.
In 1929, as a country girl living in Mississippi, Bethal Gramm has a lot to learn about life and love. When a chance meeting in the woods threatens to change her version of normal, she must make tough decisions to discover who she wants to be.
When Sherie Parker moves to the South to escape the expectations of who she should be, she never pictured being wooed by a White man, yet finds herself falling in love. Can she endure the ridicule of being in an interracial relationship in the 1950s?
In 1964, Grace Jiles has seen more death than most teenagers. Forced to move across country to live with her aunt due to uncontrollable circumstances, she’s thrown into rising race relations activity and must learn to adapt to a different world—and a whole different way of doing things.
D.K. Dailey has a problem: kind of like I see dead people but for writers. She often says, if she wasn’t a writer, she’d be crazy. Dailey’s writing journey started as a child when she began writing sci-fi short stories, a result of watching countless hours of Star Trek on a shared TV with her parents. With an inborn passion for telling stories, writing songs and poems, her hobbies erupted into a career path after she penned a play in college in 2009 and a book in 2010. Although she isn’t published yet, for the last 6 years she has been honing the craft by writing, reading, revising, entering contests, working with editors, beta readers and writing groups.
Visit http://dkdailey.com/ for more information on author.