Dawn Atkins

Welcome to A Romance Review Dawn and thank you for taking the time to stop by and chat with me. I am sure our readers will welcome the chance to learn more about you and your writing career.

Dawn I guess a good place to start is by asking you to tell our readers a bit more about yourself.

Where to start? Hmm. I'm an energetic person. That's one of the first things people seem to notice about me. I'm a former elementary teacher--second and third grades--and the kid in me is very alive. Besides writing novels--and I write both short romantic comedy and more serious women's fiction--I work full-time as a writer/editor for the Arizona Education Association. I have a 12-year-old son, who's the light of my life, along with my husband, David.

How did you catch the writing bug and why did you decide on romance as the type of book you wanted to write?

I always wanted to write--I pasted together page after page of brown lined paper as an elementary-school kid, starting with stories that included assigned spelling words and moving on from there. I attempted fiction now and then in my adult life, but lacked enough confidence in my skill to pursue it seriously until the early 80s, when I sold a couple of short love stories to TRUE LOVE magazine. My first romance novel was soundly-- and deservedly rejected shortly after that. Heartbroken, I gave up the effort until a good friend of mine, in the midst of working on a nonfiction book--which subsequently became an amazing bestseller, by the way--urged me to start writing again.

I chose romance because love is a vital theme in my life and thoughts. I also write stories of women changing their lives, though this part of my writing is still in the development stage.

How long did it take you to get your first acceptance letter and can you describe for our readers the feelings of that moment?

When I started writing again, 13 years after my first book was rejected, I took out that rejected book and read it. It was AWFUL, but I thought I knew how to fix it. So I started writing, vowing, because my life was already full with a husband and young son, that I would only continue working on the book as long as it remained fun. I rewrote that first book and submitted it to a couple of agents who rejected it. Then I discovered RWA and decided I had more to learn. The first book is under the bed and will remain there, no doubt, but my next book was better and the third one sold to Kensington's Precious Gems in July of 1998.

The call was amazing--it was Hilary Sares, a sweet, wonderfully supportive editor. The only problem was it came to me on voicemail. I kept the message for months and replayed it over and over--that cheerful voice saying, "This is Hilary Sares at Kensington and I'd like to buy this!"

Who was the first person you told that you sold a book? What did you do to celebrate?

The first person I told was my husband, David, and we went to dinner with my son at the rotating restaurant at the Hyatt and had champagne and a fabulous dessert.

Your first published work was a Precious Gems release called GETTING ZACK BACK in December 1998 followed a year and a half later by another Precious Gems, BABY MAKES THREE. First of all why the seemingly long period of time between releases?

In between the first and second sale, I wrote and submitted another book to Harlequin DUETS.

The Precious Gems books were also published under the name Daphne Atkeson so why the name change when you went on to Harlequin?

My name for short romantic comedy is now Dawn Atkins. Dawn is my middle name.

I discovered your writing with ANCHOR THAT MAN, your first Harlequin Duets published in June of 2002. Can you tell us a bit about this title and how you came up with the idea for this book?

ANCHOR THAT MAN was NOT my choice for a title. The working title for that book was THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER PART, which I still love. The idea came from my then-single sister, who complained about how easy it was to start a relationship, but how hard it was to keep it up. The idea for the talk show for the purpose of "making it to marriage" popped into my head and stayed there waiting for the characters to make it live.

Your first publication for Harlequin was actually a Temptation called THE COWBOY FLING, in March of 2002. I loved Lacey and Max's story. This was a story of things not being what they seemed and had your trademark humor as well as some steamy scenes. How did this book come into being?

The COWBOY FLING came to me because of the fact I grew up in Idaho and Arizona, where cowboys were not the romantic idols they are in romance novels, so my cowboy couldn't be a real one.

Do you find writing for Temptation or the Duets line easier? If you had to choose one or the other which would you choose and why?

I find writing comedy to be tough. For that reason, TEMPTATIONS seem to be easier for me to conceptualize. TEMPTATIONS can contain humor, but it isn't required, so that takes the pressure off. Which do I prefer? Depends on the story. I love being funny, so I'm particularly proud of stories that have humor along with emotional depth. The truth is, some stories flow like water, some drag like molasses. I never know which until I'm in the middle of it.

Is there any one particular person who has helped you in your writing career? If so who and what sort have things have they provided to encourage you in your quest to be an author?

Two things account for my writing success. Connecting with our RWA chapter and the mentor program, which hooked me up with fabulous critique partners. Secondly, I took a romance- writing class from a wonderful author who belongs to the chapter--Connie Flynn--and that class and her help pushed me to a greater level of excellence.

Is writing a full time job for you at this point or do you have a "day" job?

I work full-time or the Arizona Education Association in addition to my fiction writing.

When you are writing can you describe the setting? Do you like music playing? Do you need complete silence? Do you have a certain number of hours you work or a certain number of pages you write each day?

I used to write on my laptop at the kitchen table in the middle of chaos between the kitchen and the family room, using a music stand to hold the pages I was editing. I recently transformed a guest room into my office, which I love. Concentration is easier, I believe and, though it's a little lonely, both my "boys" hang out with me there from time to time. I watch the hummingbirds outside my window as I work. I don't do well with music playing--too distracting for me--though I love music and wish I could handle it for the mood enhancing affect. I track my hours pretty closely and spent 20 to 30 hours a week writing, 10-12 of them on the weekend, more when I have vacation or holiday time.

I have often wondered how much of an input does the publisher have on what you write? By this I mean do they say we want a cowboy book and that's what you write or do they leave the setting up to the writer?

The story ideas I come up with are completely my own, though I've been fortunate to have an editor to bounce ideas off of. She's helped me enhance a couple of stories and work through plot snags. I love her--Wanda Ottewell is her name.

Your latest release is a double Harlequin Duets called WEDDING FOR ONE/TATTOO FOR TWO. Can you tell us a bit about these books and how their story line came into being?

The stories are on the theme "bad girls go home" and it focuses on two best friends who take off--running from the wedding of one--to head to the big city to make their fortunes. Each returns to fall in love. What I love about this story is the bond between friends and the transition to adulthood and self-acceptance they both make. These two books were so much fun to write!!

There seems to be a trend with the Duets line. More and more authors are writing the double format with the connecting stories. Is this the direction that the line is going in the future? I for one enjoy the connecting stories and prefer that both stories be done by the same author.

I think it's safe to say, you'll see a change in Harlequin's humor line. Until something official is announced, I think that's all I should say.

Do you read romance as well as write it and if so who are some of your favorite authors?

I read romance--too many authors to name--as well as women's fiction and literary fiction.

Is there an author you would like to pattern your writing career after? If so who and why that person?

I don't know the details of many authors' careers, so that's a hard one to answer. What I hope to do is build my short contemporary romance career and launch a single-title women's fiction career as well.

When you began writing were you given any advice that kept you going when you felt like quitting? Who gave you the advice and what was it?

When I've been down about a rejection or a project that's stalled, I find comfort and support in the writer's community. I have friends I connect with online and in person, who understand the struggle I'm engaged in and know how to boost my spirits. They also know my work, so their comments mean something to me. I also keep a file of "encouragement"--letters and fan e-mails and other writing compliments--and lately have discovered CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE WRITER'S SOUL, which has some thoughtful essays on the joys and pains of writing. Author Pat Warren gave me a quote that means a ton to me. It's about the critical nature of discipline and writing success. Then, there's the quote from Rabbi Hillel… "I get up; I fall down; meanwhile, I keep dancing."

What is your favorite thing about being a writer? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing about being a writer is the joy of creating a world and bringing characters through a journey of growth and discovery to the happily ever after they make for themselves. NOTHING beats that experience!

My least favorite thing is the vagaries of publishing business--how difficult it is to sell, how tight the market is. Worse than that, though, is when what I write doesn't quite meet my vision for the story. That's a struggle I face every day. The joy of writing, though, always rises above.

Is there anything about the process of writing or the business of writing that took you totally by surprise?

Not really. It's been a gradual learning process and I did a lot of reading and studying as I went along.

How do you handle the evil writer's block that all authors experience? What do you do to help you work through it?

I don't think I've ever actually had a "block" as some writers describe it. I've stalled out before or really dragged my feet at certain points on certain projects and had to grit my teeth to keep going. I try to work around problem areas--do another part of the story or step back and reread what I've done or do some more thinking about the project. If I can, I move to something else for a while to get a fresh start. Writing on deadline-- either a publisher deadline or a self-imposed one--is very motivating to me. I just push on through.

How does your husband, David feel about having his wife write romance? What about the rest of your family?

My husband is thrilled for my success. He applauds improvement in my writing and he likes to tell others that he's the model for all my heroes, to which some friends respond, "It's fiction, pal." My family is also very pleased and proud of me, promoting me to their friends, which brings tears to my eyes.

Dawn, can you tell our readers how they might get in touch with you?

Yes. I'm delighted to get reader email at daphnedawn@cox.net. My Web site, modest though it is, is at www.dawnatkins.com

Can you give us a sneak peek at your upcoming books?

My next book is FRIENDLY PERSUASION, my first BLAZE. and it will be out in July. I got a real kick writing this book. It's got humor in it, and some fun sexual fantasies. It tells the story of two best friends who start sleeping together to teach the woman how to have sex for sex's sake (she falls in love too fast), except they know each other too well, so they have to pretend to be strangers in a series of fantasy sexual encounters. Of course, they both fall in love and fight it all the way.

After that, I have two TEMPTATIONS coming out--BEACH BABY (working title) is due out in October, and it's about a businesswoman with an unwelcome beach bum roommate who's supposed to be fixing up her house.

After that is TEMPTING TEACHER, about a principal whose tempted by a firebrand of a new teacher on his campus. The release date for that book has yet to be determined.

Since this interview will be published in February I thought it might be fun to get your answers to the next couple of questions. First candy, flowers and perfume are the three top valentine gifts according to many sources so could you tell us your favorite candy, flower and perfume? Hey David you might want to write this down (BG)

My favorite candy is chocolate-based and expensive, with toffee being probably my favorite version. Favorite flower? That's a tough one. I like exotic bouquets, but any flower is a delight. Of course you can't beat roses for romance. Perfume? I'm currently wearing Amarige by Givenchy.

Can you share with us the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for you?

I don't know about "most" romantic. My husband is a very sentimental guy, so he's always doing romantic things. We recently began having regular Saturday night dates--just the two of us--and my husband brags to everyone that he gets to "date up" his wife with pride and pleasure in his voice. Keep in mind we've been seeing each other for 23 years, married for 18, so that says something. My husband often surprises me with little thoughtful gifts for no special reason. I think what makes something romantic is its personal nature and thoughtfulness. For Valentine's Day, my husband DOES NOT give me candy and that's VERY romantic--he knows how tempting chocolate is to me and I'm trying to watch my weight. So he buys me jewelry or flowers or the perfect card.

When it comes to the subject of men, what is sexy to you? Although you can include looks I am looking for more than that. What gestures, words, looks or whatever make you melt?

What's sexy? A sense of humor--critical to me--wittiness, intelligence….a knowing smile…. body heat, the back of a man's hand (my husband has incredibly warm hands), that cool, James Bond style. Also, my husband has this gesture, a kind of a half-dance move with his arm--done to be funny--that used to just make me dissolve. I can't even describe the motion, but 23 years later, it has the same effect…it makes me melt.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you much success with your upcoming projects. I look forward to many laughs and happy endings in your future books.

Thanks for asking me, Barb. Good luck to you, too.

Interviewed by Barbara

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