Monday, January 16, 2012

An Interview with Dawn Rae Miller, Author of Larkstorm

I am so excited to have Dawn here today to talk a little about her book, LARKSTORM, which she released in December. The paperback version is now available at Amazon, and the e-version is available at Amazon and B&N, among other places. Before I launch into my conversation with Dawn, here's the back cover copy of her book:

In the years following the destructive Long Winter, when half the world’s population perished, the State remains locked in battle against the Sensitives: humans born with extra abilities.

As one of the last descendants of the State’s Founders, seventeen-year-old Lark Greene knows her place: study hard and be a model citizen so she can follow in her family’s footsteps. Her life’s been set since birth, and she’s looking forward to graduating and settling down with Beck, the boy she’s loved longer than she can remember. 

However, after Beck is accused of being Sensitive and organizing an attack against Lark, he disappears. Heartbroken and convinced the State made a mistake, Lark sets out to find him and clear his name.

But what she discovers is more dangerous and frightening than Sensitives: She must kill the boy she loves, unless he kills her first.

Pretty compelling, no? I read Larkstorm about a year ago, and I'm still thinking about it. So I was eager to have the opportunity to ask Dawn a few psychologisty (and non-psychologisty) questions about it. Here we go:

At the beginning of Larkstorm, Lark is very confident and secure about her future and her place in State society. Can you talk a little about how you decided to portray her upbringing, and how that connects to her worldview?

I think when we’re young, most of us tend to believe the way we’re brought up is the “right” way. We don’t know any different.

I wanted Lark to have a seemingly normal life - a parental figure (Bethina) as well as siblings (her housemates). She needed to feel connected to something and grounded. At the beginning of the book, she has no reason to doubt everything she’s been taught. Life for her is good, things are orderly, and the State takes good care of everyone. But she also believes in her relationship with Beck. She’s conflicted because on one hand, the State said he was the perfect person for her (which she believes), but then they said he’s a Sensitive and dangerous. She’s been taught the State doesn’t make mistakes, but clearly these two things can’t both be true.

The State has set up Lark’s life so that her housemates, housemother and Beck are the most important people to her. One of Lark’s truest character traits is that she believes in friendship - that’s what causes her to go after Beck, and it’s what cause problems for her later on.

So, when one important aspect of her life (Beck) comes into conflict with another aspect of her life (her belief in the State), it looks like that causes cognitive dissonance
, the discomfort each of us feels when we simultaneously hold two strong beliefs that conflict with one another. Tell us a little about her thought process as she tries to resolve that dissonance.

At first, Lark is confused, but she briefly accepts the State’s accusations. Still, she doesn’t understand how a mistake could happen. This is when she becomes angry. She feels lied to, but at this point, she’s not sure if she’s been lied to about Beck being perfect for her, or Beck being Sensitive. It doesn’t make sense for the State to lie about Beck being Sensitive. It’s a huge risk for them to say they’ve made a mistake - Beck’s a well-loved public figure.

But the more she thinks about what she’s learned, she begins to to believe the seemingly infallible State made a mistake in accusing Beck. She’s been taught Sensitives are vile, filthy monsters and all the evidence she’s seen points to the exact opposite of what the State is accusing Beck of being. Once Lark accepts that premise, it’s easy for her to move on to accepting other things.

Ah, but it doesn’t look easy at all! One thing I really liked about Larkstorm is how realistic Lark’s struggle is, and how frustrated she becomes as the story progresses. As a reader, I felt that very intensely. As you were writing it, did you feel any of that frustration yourself? If so, how did you tolerate it? And how did you avoid giving in to the temptation of making things easier for her emotionally?

I never wanted things to be easy for Lark. I kept thinking about my interactions with adults and authority as a teen, and there was always this underlying sense of “you will only be told what you need to know.” I didn’t know much about the lives of adults around me or, to be honest, the world beyond what was in my immediate realm. I never visited my dad’s work, hung out with my parents, or dared to question my parents’ authority. My kid world was very separate from their adult world.

When I finally did question them - at sixteen - I ended up leaving home and moving across the country. So, I guess, in a way, I’d already experienced that frustration. As for the emotional aspect, it wouldn’t be a very good story if Lark wasn’t tortured a little :D

That makes so much sense, because the tension between Lark and the adults around her is so real, only her struggles involve magic rather than college major choices. Beck, on the other hand, seems to struggle less with these issues. Tell us a little about the differences between Lark and Beck.

The big difference is that Beck is comfortable with who he is. He has a much more laid back attitude toward life than Lark and rolls with the punches easier. That doesn’t mean he accepts everything, but he’s generally an optimist and tries to see the good in situations.

Lark, on the other hand, has pessimistic tendencies. She’s more uptight and worries constantly about how other people view her - is she smart enough, are her clothes right, is she doing the correct thing. She likes rules and order. A small change in routine can rattle her.

Which brings me to my final question: on which side of that optimist-pessimist continuum do you fall? And how have those tendencies influenced your writing career, including what kind of stories you’ve chosen to write?

I’m an eternal optimist. Maybe too much so - I tend to find the silver lining in just about everything. Like every writer, I’ve had a fair share of rejections, but I don’t let that get me down because I believe everything happens for a reason. Does this influence my stories? Absolutely. All my stories have one common element: Hope. If I didn’t have hope in my life, I’d be miserable and if my stories didn’t have hope, they’d be...well, they’d probably suck.

I know I said I was asking one final question, but the fact that you're so optimistic really makes me want to ask how that tendency influenced your decision to self-publish, as well as your strategy for going about it and your hopes for what would come of it.

Self-publishing is a weird beast. You have to be entrepreneurial to do well - willing to self-promote and to understand the business side. It’s hugely rewarding, but also incredibly frustrating (much like traditional publishing). I think you have to have optimistic leanings to succeed in that type of environment.

For me, the decision to self-publish was easy. I tried the traditional route and it didn’t work out, but my team didn’t want to give up on Larkstorm. I’m fortunate to have a great group of professionals who believe in my book as much as I do.

Do I hope Larkstorm will become one of those ‘self-published” success stories? Absolutely. But at the same time, I keep my expectations in check. Every sale, every note from fans, every tweet, makes me smile. Yes, I have benchmarks I want to hit, but mainly, I’m just enjoying the process. Above all else, it’s fun.

So there you have it! Now--Dawn has agreed to exclusively reveal one of her LARKSTORM deleted scenes to one of my commenters today. Your choices:

In The Beginning ...
Tattling Kyra
Little Bird

Tell us which one you'd like to read! We'll randomly select one commenter today to receive the deleted scene! I'll announce the winner on Wednesday.

And remember to check out Lydia's Medical Monday post and Laura's Mental Health Monday post!


  1. Excellent review. It's always interesting to read about a character who's a stickler for routine and whose life gets disrupted.

    As for the deleted scene, I'd love to read any of them. :-)

  2. I love this psychological based interview. Not only was it very cool, it made me curious to read the book. I hadn't been so inclined before. :)

    Good luck, Dawn, with the book!

  3. Great interview! Good luck with your book, Dawn! I did the self-publishing route in 2007, and it has changed quite a bit even in those few years. Sarah -- love your psychological approach to an interview! ;)

  4. There is nothing quite as compelling as the struggle for control between youth and authority. I think that's why I write books about young people. Excellent interview, sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks Dawn and Sarah!

  5. What a great and compelling interview! Hi Dawn! Hi Sarah *waving* I wish you much success, Dawn!

  6. wow, this book sounds awesome! I love the setup and then what sounds like the twist at the end. Very cool! I don't really want to get a scene because I haven't read the book yet, but it's totally on my TBR pile now. Thanks, Sarah! And best of luck to Dawn! :o) <3

  7. This book is high on my TBR list. Thanks for the great interview. I loved how you wove your psychological threads through this!

  8. The blurb had me at the last line. Totally. Good luck on the self-publishing Dawn!


  9. And I just realized that I, JD, am not listed on your blog list. *cries*

  10. Very cool! I downloaded this a couple days ago and now I'm excited to read it. :)

  11. I love the cover. Sounds like a fab story. =D

  12. This is on my TBR list. Little Bird sounds interesting. :)

  13. Interesting! I think I'd like to know more about Little Bird.

  14. That is compelling! I love the name, the Sensitives.

    Good luck with the book, Dawn Rae Miller!

  15. Excellent and good luck Dawn - this sounds wonderful:)

  16. What a provocative interview! Thank you, both! This book sounds fascinating.

    Tattling Kyra sounds interesting to me. I have a lot of tattling little kids in my house - maybe that's why! lol.