Born in the US, Dina has lived on 4 continents, worked as a graphic artist for television and as a consultant in the fashion industry. Somewhere between New York and Paris she picked up an MBA and a black belt. Dina is currently the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Belgium, where she lives with her husband, two children and three horses.
Dina loves to create intricate worlds filled with conflict and passion. She builds her own myths while exploring issues of belonging, racism and the search for truth… after all, how can you find true love if you don’t know who you are and what you believe in? Dina’s key to developing characters is to figure out what they would be willing to die for. And then pushing them to that limit.
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ABOUT THE BOOK
Some choices are hard to live with.
But some choices will kill you.
When seventeen-year-old Anna first meets Rakan in her hometown north of the Arctic Circle, she is attracted to his pulsing energy. Unaware that he is a shapeshifting dragon, Anna is drawn into a murderous cycle of revenge that pits Rakan and his clan against her best friend June.
Torn between his forbidden relationship with Anna, punishable by death, and restoring his family’s honor by killing June, Rakan must decide what is right. And what is worth living – or dying – for.
PURCHASE ON AMAZON.
1. When did you decide you wanted to become an author?
I started writing in 8th grade and one of my first stories was about a girl stranded on a deserted island. It was the first time I felt an imagined world take shape – I wrote it in one night, scribbling away. And I felt the whole thing happen. It was an intense experience and I guess the jury must’ve felt it too, because it won a state contest. The funny thing was that when I found out I had won, it didn’t move me nearly as much as the experience of writing the story had. Since then, I have always loved creating worlds and feeling them come alive.
But even with that experience, I didn’t always know I wanted to write and I explored many other art forms first. One of my long time passions is painting, and people say it shows in my writing which is very visual. I have, however, always written on the side – but it wasn’t until 2007 that I decided I wanted to commit myself to writing. My first serious effort was a middle grade novel, but I quickly came to understand that the issues I like to write about, such as figuring out who you are, your place in society, falling in love, finding your own voice etc. are actually all YA themes. And since I have always been an avid reader, with a penchant for fantasy and series, writing fantasy was what came naturally. In fact, I never even questioned it.
2. Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
As a child I read all the time – from the classic horse stories like My Friend Flicka to Ray Bradbury and the Dragon Riders of Pern. In high school I fell in love with Virginia Wolfe, Jane Austen, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name just a few. And I’m still an avid reader, even if I can no longer curl up on the couch all weekend and do nothing but read, I still read every night before going to sleep. Frankly, I can’t imagine not having a stack of books and my kindle next to my bed!
3. Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
Dragon Fire is the second book in that particular world (the first never got published). In the beginning, I wanted to write a book about two lovers who couldn’t be together because of their families, which then turned into two separate communities. From the desire to push the two groups far enough apart, and raise the stakes for the characters, I began developing two species, one became the Draak, a group of shapeshifting dragons who can manipulate matter and are very emotional, the other became the Elythia, angle-like beings who have gone the other way and can turn into light and are highly intellectual. Being a lover of series, I had imagined this story over the course of 4 books. When my first manuscript garnered no interest, even after several re-writes, I knew there was no point in writing the second book, but yet I wanted to stay in the world that I had come to love. So I pulled out a subplot from my vision of the second book and wrote that – and that subplot, the story of the shapeshifting dragon Rakan and the human Anna, became Dragon Fire.
4. From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?
That’s a great question, because so much of the process isn’t actually writing the book but querying and re-writing. From the time I had the idea, during the summer of 2010 to when Dragon Fire was pre-released as an e-book it took just over 3 years. If you include up to the point Dragon Fire will come out in print (December 2013) that makes it about 3 and a half years.
5. When writing, what themes do you feel passionate about?
I love writing for young adults because it’s one of those periods in life when anything can happen. As you figure out who you are, you question everything you have known – your parents, the society you are living in, the way the world is, and so on. When you are a teenager, you are constantly re-making the world, destroying one and creating another. I loved that feeling of power, of questioning, of endless possibility, of freedom. And still do.
6. Do you have any unusual writing quirks?
Well, I didn’t think so until I started speaking with other authors! So I guess that yes, I do. My biggest quirk seems to be finding music for each character. I know many authors have playlists that give the mood(s) of their manuscript, but I actually go out and search for music that each character would listen to, or in the case of my angel-like Elythia, that they would sing – and no, they don’t sound in any way angelic! If any of you know the group Tool, you’ll know what I mean.
I listen to each of my character’s favorite songs in the car when I am driving from one place to an other, it helps me figure out who they are and what they are feeling in the scene I am writng. And when I’ve been unsure, I’ve even gone into a music store and described a ‘friend’ I was buying music for. After one such session, I came out with a couple of Angels & Airwaves CDs that turned into Erling’s voice for me. Although Erling is one of the main characters in the first manuscript that I mentioned earlier, and that I am currently re-writing, he is only a secondary character in Dragon Fire.
As a side, but truly amazing story, when I went back to Tromso in Northern Norway where both manuscripts are set, I went to the restaurant that I had imagined Erling and June going to for their first date (an event that happens prior to the story in Dragon Fire), the CD that greeted me when I walked in was by Angels & Airwaves. Needless to say, I sat down, ordered June’s vegetarian burger and wrote the rest of the scene.
The only character I never found any music for was Rakan, the main character of Dragon Fire. It took me several months of searching to realize that as a shapeshifting dragon who had grown up in an isolated part of Western Tibet, Rakan didn’t listen to music.
7. What is your opinion about critique groups? What words of advice would you offer a novice writer who is joining one? Do you think the wrong critique group can ‘crush’ a fledgling writer?
I love them. I have a wonderful group of crit partners that I met through SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). They have been a tremendous source of support, inspiration and guidance. I wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without them!
When I first started writing I was on a permanent high. But when I started looking into how to get published, I realized just how much craft I was lacking. So that was a bit of a jolt, but I persevered and took classes. It was a fellow online class member who told me about SCBWI and that was a major turning point for me as a writer. Writing is a solitary process and a lot of hard work, so having a group of writing friends who can support each other and give constructive criticism is essential.
My experiences have all been positive – but I do remember how nervous I was when I submitted my first set of pages to an unknown group. Perhaps I was just lucky (although all of the SCBWI groups I have heard of are this way), but I would definitely say that if you are only getting feedback that isn’t helpful (it might hurt, but are they right? that’s the real question) – then don’t stay in that group. But do find another one. I can’t stress enough how helpful and supportive my crit partners are. I truly wouldn’t be where I am today as a writer without their continued input – and reading their submissions and analyzing them makes me a better writer too.
8. As an author, what is your greatest reward?
There are two things that are equally rewarding. One, feeling the world I am creating come alive as I am writing the book. Two, and most importantly, when a reader tells me ‘I love, love, loved your book!’
Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!
Thank you for having me – it was great being here!