Monday, October 02, 2006

Make-Believe Mondays With Deidre Knight

Today on Make-believe Mondays, I'm pleased to introduce Deidre Knight, one of my friends from RWAonline. Many of you know Deidre as a literary agent, but she also writes for NAL and her book hits the bookstores tomorrow!

Deidre, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Deidre: Without spoiling anything about PARALLEL HEAT, I’ll just be coy and say that PARALLEL SEDUCTION—the one I’m knee-deep in at the moment—completely continues the Parallel world. The great thing about this series is that there is a wealth of stories to tell, so much to explore. I think the first book may have been a little frustrating for some readers who wanted all the loose ends tied up, but what they will discover as they plow farther and farther into the overall series, is that they will get their answers. It’s like I’m an evil executive in charge of “Lost,” telling fans, “You’ll get to know! The hatch does lead somewhere.”

Debra: So, like all good books, we'll have to read on to get those answers. I'm looking forward to reading it!

Mark Twain said, “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” How do you fill your creative well to keep your imagination in focus?

Deidre: Honestly, it’s a lot about making time for myself. As a mother and literary agent, I don’t have as much “mental play time” as I might want or crave as a creative individual. So I make sure to carve that time out, doing things that fill my well back up. Whether I get a massage, or take a few days at a hotel alone, I just work in that “alone” time—sometimes it might even just be in the shower.

These are the places where I’m refreshed and I re-tank. Driving time used to be serious “head time,” but once I had children, that ceased to be the font of creativity it had once been. Now, I carve out the solitary moments that are necessary to build my writing world, even if it means taking a long walk alone. Still, I balance all of those creative impulses with my driving needs as a mother—and as a literary agent. It’s all a great high-wire act!

It is tough to be juggling all those roles, but you handle it so well. It's so important for women to take that time for themselves. So I ask all you readers and authors reading this - how long has it been since you took time for yourselves? Doesn't a massage sound wonderful? Deidre, you've inspired me. I'm calling today to schedule one.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Deidre: I used to disdain the idea that characters assumed a life of their own. To me, it seemed a bit pretentious. Well, that was long, long ago! The more I’ve spent time writing, the more I’ve simply come to accept that sometimes characters put themselves in the drivers’ seat. I have definitely found myself writing, feeling relatively assured of a certain direction, only to hear my characters chattering, making their own paths known. To me, that’s become the beauty of writing. I’m not one to do big character sketches ahead of time: I find that the most important moments between me and my characters happen on the fly. They simply assert themselves, and I hear what’s happening, become a translator of sorts. Characterization is probably my favorite element of writing.

Birthing “people” and letting them be heard.

Debra: I love this idea so much that I'm jotting this one down right now to add to my list of quotes and inspirational messages.

Deidre: There’s no easy method, I find; it’s more a matter of listening and translating what’s being whispered inside my head.

Some very famous authors have played with language, creating words for people or places that no one has ever heard of. Have you ever played with words in that way and if so how?

Deidre: It’s amazing that you ask this because I just posted on my Amazon blog about a word we have in our family, a made up one called “secloistered.” It’s a joking malapropism that grew out of a combo of sequestered and cloistered. In my books, I do have a whole dictionary because, in fact, I’m writing about aliens. They have extremely “foreign” names, as well, but they use their human aliases. I think in writing this genre it’s important to keep the characters accessible while still being realistic that, hey, back on Refaria nobody was going to name S’Skautsa, “Scott Dillon.” So he’s got his home name, and his Earth name.

Similarly, I think it adds authenticity to the world to occasionally have them stray from English and use a word from their native language. I would say that the Refarian language I am using is a kind of Eastern European blend with a tad of French. For instances, “meshdki” is basically what the French call “merde.” (stinky stuff that we have a basic cuss word: s**t. Well, hey, I don’t have to use the real word, can have them call it meshdki and the reader gets it in context. Plus, let’s face, cursing is pretty darn universal.

Deidre: Fascinating! As a reader I tend to read through those words I don't know, letting the context allow me to guess at their meaning. But I do like the idea of a dictionary for checking those words later, just to be sure.

And you're right. If a man hits his thumb with a hammer, some kind of curse is going to come out, whatever his language or world.

For some writers, dreams play a role in creating fiction. Has this been true for you? Have you ever dreamed a scene or an image that later wound up in one of your books?

Deidre: This is absolutely true for me. My dreams tend to be particularly vivid, and often a bit frightening. For instance, in the past five years I often have nightmares about terrorist attacks (ever since 9/11). In the book I’m writing now (PARALLEL SEDUCTION) I even drew on that fact, creating a dreamscape for my characters that was riddled by alien terrorist imagery.

Debra: Deidre, I hope your nightmares fade away soon and your dreams become more of a comfort. I'm convinced that our dreams are where our subconscious works out problems and plans for the future. They also provide a vivid canvas for our creativity to flourish. Perhaps it is those very dreams that allowed you to create such a vivid world in your fiction.

As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Deidre: I was a “latch-key” kid, back in the 1970’s when the term was quite in currency. I had much older siblings, a mother who worked, and spent a great deal of time alone. Looking back, it was no accident that I connected strongly with Scott O’Dell’s ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, about a young girl who is marooned alone on an island. I passed many hours alone in the woods around my home, pretending that I was the marooned one, and had to find a way to survive. I guess you could call it a truly literary game: I had recast myself in the lead role of that novel, and spent many a day playing alone figuring out my own way of the proverbial island.

Debra: Oh, how that book remains vivid in my mind. It's been years since I read it, but I can still close my eyes and picture the setting.

If there were no categories for books, no reader expectations to meet, and you could create the wildest work of imagination that you could think of what kind of story would that be?

Deidre: I am so grateful because I’m writing that series now with NAL. They have given me a ton of freedom to push the envelope, take a ton of chances, and truly write outside the usual bounds. My series is about parallel worlds, and that’s not necessarily the most mainstream of romance novel subjects. I feel incredibly thankful that my publisher has allowed me to explore the outer-edges of my creative landscape.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Deidre: Recently my seven-year-old completed a questionnaire at school. One of the items was, “What do you enjoy the most?” Her answer was sleeping because dreaming was like watching a movie. Her reply embodied my own take on dreams… I may not always mine them for my books, but that wealth of imagination is such a wellspring that we harken back to as writers. For many years I kept a dream journal because I was fascinated with what my subconscious might do without me. To this day, I find that there are book concepts, or small story ideas in my own dreams. It’s like watching a movie, as my daughter so succinctly said. The trick as becoming a translator to that fact.

Debra: A dream journal is an excellent idea for authors. Sometimes we have just minutes to capture those images after waking.

Deidre, thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

You can visit Deidre at or or or

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