When did you first start writing?
This is always a difficult question to answer since I feel like I’ve been writing my whole life. I’ve always been penning down stories. Back in 1999, my dad brought home a planner that he didn’t intend to use as a diary for me and I have kept a personal journal ever since. Circa 2000, I wrote and distributed a “newspaper” to my family. And it was probably in 2001 that I wrote my first completely finished short story as a fourth-grader. I currently run the Sincerely, Spain blog with a friend of mine. We publish two to three articles every week, so I write a lot. All that said, I would say I didn’t start seriously writing with the intention of becoming a published author until this year!
When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I think I’ve always known…but Western society looks at creative work as something different from a career. Despite knowing at a young age that I was passionate about writing and that I someday wanted to be an author, I also always felt pressured to find another “real” career in the meantime. I, therefore, studied different subjects at university and worked as an English teacher for six years. I used to think of being an author as a “someday” dream. It wasn’t until my husband encouraged me to quit my day job and just go for it that I really feel I took the plunge.
Was there any author or book in particular that inspired you to write? Or a teacher/mentor?
Oh, so many! The one author I always think back on is Ann M. Martin. I used to love her books when I was a girl. I can distinctly remember where I was, sat on my bed, with tears streaming down my face when I finished her book A Corner of the Universe. I’m pretty sure it was the first book that made me cry. The ability of an author to convey emotions like that merely through words is something I have since been very inspired by. My fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Lewis, also really believed in my writing — encouraging me to get that short story published — and her faith in me served as inspiration early on in my life, too.
What genre do you write?
Currently, I would consider my writing to be either contemporary fiction or literary fiction. However, I have lots of ideas for writing suspense, thriller, and mystery novels in the future. I really dislike the limitations traditionally put on writers to stick to only one genre. I’m excited to push those boundaries during my writing career.
What inspires you to write the most?
For me, it’s all about the opportunity to make readers feel something, the way Ann M. Martin made me feel all those years ago. I am inspired by the hope that evoking those feelings will allow others to feel more connected — to me, to themselves, and to humanity as a whole.
Being a writer comes with the unique privilege to reach people in a moment of intimacy — when it’s just them and your book — while simultaneously fostering a sense of connection, perhaps putting into words the exact feelings readers have had themselves in their own lives, but didn’t have the language or the courage to say.
I’m inspired by the chance to support and remind readers that they are not alone in their experiences or feelings. If I can make just one person feel seen or understood with each book I publish, then all of the work will have been worth it.
What is your favorite thing about writing?
This kind of goes hand in hand with what I said about inspiration, but it’s the dichotomy of writing being such a solo endeavor while, at the same time, being something that can bring people closer. I think it really fits my personality in that way. I love connecting with people. But, I’m also a serious introvert so writing is the perfect blend for me. I get to work through all the feelings, doubts, and uncertainty on my own but then I get to share a final product with the world that I hope will allow them to do the same.
How many books have you written? What are they called? Where can they be found/bought?
So far, I have one book published. It’s called Fairly Familiar and it’s a collection of short stories about family. It’s available as a paperback or ebook on Amazon (link here). I’m currently working on my second collection of short stories, which is centered on the theme of expat life in Spain, something I have plenty of personal experience with!
What do you write — short stories, poems, novels, novellas, blog posts etc. — and which do you enjoy writing the most?
At this point, my published work is all short stories and blog posts. I keep an author blog on my website about the craft. But I also have a lot of experience with blog posts as the co-creator of Sincerely, Spain (a blog dedicated to expat life, Spain’s culture, language, and related topics). I enjoy writing short stories as they give me the opportunity to play with different writing styles and themes in a shorter format. I must admit that short-form writing is quite challenging for me. I’m looking forward to tackling a novel for my following project.
Have you tried to go the traditional route with publishing? How did it go?
So far, no. I am by no means against the traditional route and it would be wonderful to get published in this way. However, for my current situation, it was more important to just get my work out there and into the hands of readers than to have a traditional publishing deal. I knew that short stories are very unpopular for traditional publishing and so going it on my own felt like the right choice for these first two projects.
Are you self-published? How did that go and what route did you take? What advice would you give to others who want to self-publish?
I’m self-published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Once I was certain that I could get paperback through this program as well, I was sold. Personally, KDP offers everything I need, and going through just one self-publishing platform streamlined the process for me as a newbie.
My advice for others looking to self-publish is simply to recognize it involves a lot of work! I spent approximately three months doing little more than researching self-publishing and doing the work required. Definitely I recommend other newbie authors start researching earlier than they think they need to. I wanted to have my book almost ready to go before I deeply got into the research. But this created a lot of stress around the decisions, marketing, etc.
If I could go back and do it again, I would have chosen an author name, started my website and social media accounts, and other things like that way before I got into the nitty-gritty of pricing, dimensions, and stylistic choices for KDP. At the same time, one thing I did well that I believe was really important and I always recommend was choosing carefully what it was I wanted to do and what I didn’t want to do. There’s so much good advice out there, but you can’t do all of the things all of the time. Decide what it is YOU really want to do and stay true to your decisions.
Who is your favorite author now? What is it you like about them?
This is so hard to answer. I feel like I’m someone who really “reads books” more than I “read authors”. So I don’t always read multiple books by the same author to know that they’re my favorite. I do love Steven King, though, and I feel his ability to evoke terror merely through his words is phenomenal. His non-fiction book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft was super useful to me as well.
Suzanne Collins is another author who consistently builds beautiful worlds that feel so real! I will never forget seeing Mockingjay in theaters and having the eerie feeling that I’d already seen the movie. Obviously, I couldn’t have (it was opening weekend!), but the scenes were so clear in my mind from reading Suzanne Collin’s book years before. It takes powerful writing to be able to create that!
Do you have any favorite books you recommend right now?
I appreciate that you say “right now” because otherwise, I’d have a list of like a hundred books! Thinking over what I’ve read this year I realize that the books that have had the most lasting effect on me are the ones that also had a journaling component and therefore really required my involvement with the topic. Rachael Lynn’s debut self-help book At Home Anywhere is fantastic for anyone moving, living abroad, or just looking for a deeper sense of home within themselves. Layla F Saad’s book Me and White Supremacy is poignant in a different way and particularly relevant after the year that we’ve had.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Other than what I’ve already shared above, I’ll just give the advice that I know I need to hear and take myself. Resist the urge to compare yourself to other authors. It’s helpful to get ideas and advice about how to write books, how to market your work, and how often you should publish a new book, but you have to keep in mind that that’s all general advice and you should follow your intuition on what works right for YOU above all else. If you try to do absolutely everything “right” you may never actually finish your manuscript or publish your first book and, believe me, it’s an amazing feeling once you do.
Are you on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or do you have an author website we should check out as readers?
I’m on Instagram and Goodreads as well as my own author website, which you can find at www.danijnorwell.com. The links to all my accounts and a contact form to get in touch directly are on there as well.
Is there anything else you want to share about your writing or that you want your readers to know?
I would just like to add that there’s an amazing and supportive community on Instagram (and I’m sure other social media platforms too) — in fact, that’s how I found Holly and got this interview! Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or reach out to authors — whether you’re a writer yourself or a reader, we appreciate it. My DMs and email inbox are open to anyone who wants to connect to talk writing, reading…or dogs — I love dogs!
End Author Interview with Dani J. Norwell
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