My next interview is with the owner of these gorgeous eyes, Dakota Franklin. And quite frankl(in)y I was exhausted just reading it. Dakota has a new book just out "Requiem at Monza" which is a cracking good read.
How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?
I make no compromises. My day job — high performance engineering
development — is making things other people designed better; it is not primarily
creative. I write to express a creative urge. I spend the money on hiring the
finest teacher of creative writing in the world, André Jute, because I like
doing things well. But the only people whose opinions matter to me are Ferry
and Giselle, my husband and daughter, and André. I wouldn't even publish my
books except that André takes such a hard line on a writer not being a writer
until she submits herself to the test of publication that he threatened to drop
me if I continued to stack up the books in the proverbial bottom drawer.
What excites, attracts or appeals to you
about the genre(s) you write in?
I don’t see myself as a genre writer. I write novels about
characters who must find a solution to their problems. That the novels I write
are novels of suspense, or thrillers if you prefer, is merely a matter of how I
structure them for the most efficient use of space with the maximum impact. But
I don’t set out to write thrillers, or any other specific genre. All my stories
so far are romances too…
I’ll tell you a secret. At first I wrote crime stories, simply
because they were set in a different world to mine. I found that exciting for a
while. But Andre, when he eventually took me on, made me throw out the three
complete novels I had. I could see they were derivative. Their lack of
originality didn’t bother me, as I didn’t think about publication at all. But
Andre worked with me until I grasped that seeking my stories in a crime
environment, while exciting for its novelty, wasn’t liberating me, but instead
restricting me because I had to research everything. The ratio was shocking,
eight hours of research for an hour of writing. I was wasting my time.
He persuaded me instead to write about the world that I do know,
in which I work. At first I was resentful, but then, as I started to grasp his
central message that to be a first class writer one must in the first instance
concentrate on the characters, not the environment or the situation (the plot),
I found I was liberated and the books started to flow, at the rate of about one
big novel a year. For a writer whose time is as tightly scheduled as mine, and
whose family must always come first, that is quite an exceptional output.
Once I came to be at ease with my new teacher (I worked with a
couple of others before and they were useless) and my new mental world, half
imaginary, half real, I found it made my day job so much more enjoyable,
because I was looking at it through new eyes. It worked both ways, because I
started seeing, really seeing, the people I worked with as human beings and not
just number crunchers (they’re mostly engineers) of greater or lesser numerical
ability. Of course, it helped my work tremendously that they started responding
to me as a person, because I saw them as persons. Then I started seeing that
there were fascinating characters all about me, like cherries on a tree,
waiting to be picked, and I knew I wasn’t ever returning to the hard slog of
So, yes, I find my subject material intensely exciting and hugely
liberating. Unlike other writers, I never have to reach for a subject for my
next book. I just choose from among the characters, and with the character
comes his or her problem, and that’s the beginning of an involving story.
Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc
where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have
come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea
when you might use them?
Rather than a big commonplace book, I keep a folder on my computer
and when a character occurs to me, he or she comes accompanied by a book title,
so I write down the title and perhaps an opening paragraph. This is very
helpful, because when I’ve finished one book, after a short break I start
writing a chapter or two of each of these ideas, until the right one announces
itself to me because I just keep going with it until I come to the end of the
How much of you is in your characters?
Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ?
Ha! Most people would probably consider me a bit dull. I work a 12
to 14-hour day, and have since I finished high school. My work is mostly
meetings with men in white coats in workshops or labs, everybody standing, or
in offices with men in suits. My closest friends, outside my family, are the
lawyer, stenographer and personal assistant who travel with me in my car and on
the plane; I’m with them five days a week, and they’re the first critics of
everything I write, because I dictate my stories in the car. I buy my plain black
suits and plain white blouses two dozen sets at a time so that I don’t waste
time choosing clothes at 4.45am when I roll out of bed and need to hit the
autobahn in fifteen minutes to make my first appointment of the morning in a
motor city possibly deep into Germany (I live in Switzerland). In that respect
I’m like Lydia Simpresi, and like hers, my manner is a good deal more modest
than my achievements entitle me to, because as a woman in a man’s profession
I’ve learned that confrontation wastes time. (If you want to know what I wear
over weekends, I wear my daughter’s castoffs. I’m the trendiest mum for three
hundred klicks in any direction! Ferry says it is disgusting how young men hardly
out of their teens look at me with puppy eyes.)
So I suppose I’m a bit like Mallory too, in LE MANS a novel, and
like her, German engineers like me.
But I know that, given the opportunity, I could be an extrovert like
some of my characters, Flicka Revere for instance, the lesbian racer in NASCAR
FIRST, or Thrill Morgan in TRIPLE THREAT THRILL, who tells a competitor on a
racetrack, “Kiss my ass, kiss my ass again, then kiss my ass goodbye.” Or some
of the male lead characters, the talented sculptor Raf Ferenghetti, in QUEEN OF
INDY, for instance. Or I’d like to be not just another blond bimbo but to have
exciting Nefertiti looks like his girlfriend the fast-rising racing operations
manager Sally Samson.
Do you become so
wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you
or one of your characters?
Ferry, my husband, is an inventor. He can sit for months looking
out of the window at the mountain. Then, after he has an idea, he can be in his
workshops for more months. Our daughter, Giselle, and her best friend have
desks in Ferry’s study and in each of his workshops, where they sit to do their
homework. (Ferry is forbidden to help them. Those two girls can twist him
around their little fingers to do their whole projects for them.) The best
friend is the daughter of teachers at Giselle’s school; they live in a house in
our compound and take the girls to and from school. Our housekeeper sees that
Ferry and the girls don’t eat junk food rather than proper meals. Between the
families in the compound they speak 21 languages, so Giselle and her friend are
linguists who commune in a patois they think nobody else can understand.
They’re going to be UN translators and travel free around the world, they say.
So you can see, the entire family is a bit flaky. In fact, since I
do all my writing in the car or on the plane, I’m the most “normal” one. I’m
home most evenings by 7pm and we eat at 8pm, then watch a movie or listen to
music or just talk. I learned to sew from my granny, so currently the two girls
and I are making dresses for them to wear to a ball for well-bred young ladies.
(Well, not to tell a lie: young ladies who swear only in obscure languages.)
Ferry has this dark vision of our sewing not being up to energetic dancing and
the girls standing there blushing in their underclothes with our sewing in a
puddle about their feet. So now they have a project in a workshop to test
seams. If I put any of that in a novel, people would think me weird…
What type of book do
you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?
I like well-written novels of suspense. I like children’s and
teenagers’ classics. I was delighted at the opportunity having a child brought
with it of reading all my favourites again with Giselle as she reached an
What lengths do you go to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?
None. My publisher may care about readers for turnover, and Andre,
who is also my editor, may care about readers as a score-keeping exercise, but
I don’t care about the number of readers, or sales, at all. I’m delighted when
I attract nice readers, of course, and meet them in the fora, but I won’t
change anything to attract or keep readers. I just tune out talk you run into
on the fora about the “right commercial thing for a writer to do”. To give you
an idea of how silly the conceit is that a writer can tailor how many readers
she has, when the price of LE MANS a novel was increased from $2.99 to $9.99 —
the sales went up! According to Gemma Coole, my publisher, there are over 5000
copies of LE MANS a novel out there. That’s more than enough for me. My books
will get the number of readers they deserve, and we will be happy together.
How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?
They should speak to my stenographer, to the programmers of my
dictation program (Dragon), to my publishers at info at coolmainpress dot com,
and to my editors (bless them) at Andre’s Editorial Menagerie (where I’m not
permitted to enter) http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/57773.Andre_s_Editorial_Menagerie
I wish them luck in finding the responsible party!
What do you like most about visiting
That the people here are so much nicer than on the wretched Amazon
What is on your near
More of the same. I’m fulfilled in my two careers and with my
family. There is nothing I want to change, nothing I want that I don’t have
already. At the moment I’m idling, enjoying the excitement of launching REQUIEM
AT MONZA. Next I’ll probably be writing about Henry, who gives his jacket to
Mallory at Monza, as he becomes an English duke and steps up a class as a
racer; it is ostensibly a book about a libel suit, and a baddie who beats
Where can we find you
for more information?
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=ntt_athr_dp_sr_1?_encoding=UTF8&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Dakota%20Franklin