It’s All in the Packaging: Interview with Writer, Poet and Cover Designer, Dawn Leslie MullanPosted: July 3, 2017
They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but we do all the time. So, when sales for Delilah was faltering, I decided to change it up. Actually, I ran into an awesome cover designer, who came up with a great cover for not only Delilah, but one for Last Call, too. Subsequently, the sales for Delilah went up some. The new cover just came out for Last Call, so it remains to be seen if it will have the same effect, but I’m anticipating some positive results. It all goes to show just how important it is to find the right cover designer for your work. If you don’t believe a book cover can make a difference, take a look at the original cover for Last Call, below and compare with the new one, above:
Today I am fortunate to be able to interview my awesome cover designer, DL Mullen of Sonoran Dawn Studios, so I can share with my readers just what a talented cover designer this lady really is. And she’s so much more. Also a writer and poet, Dawn Leslie Mullan spends a lot of time getting creative.
Kaye: In addition to being an accomplished poet, you have your own design company, Sonoran Dawn Studios. How did you get into cover art design?
Dawn: I got into cover design because I knew that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. People are attracted to book covers as well as read tag lines and brief synopses to make their decisions about purchases. Since I have had my digital art shown across the country in various exhibits and at conventions, the creation of my own cover art was a natural fit. Sonoran Dawn Studios is the intuitive progression from an artist and writer to designer and publisher.
Kaye: You’ve self-published two books of nature poetry, Effloresce, and Rain: Monsoon in the Desert and two books of dark poetry, Memoirs of a Psychotic Painting Elephant, and The Descent. Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?
Dawn: My publishing journey is much like many other writers’ careers. I have been writing since my formative years, but the confidence to write for publication did not happen until higher education. When I was exposed to literature and professors who understood the dynamics in literary context, my world expanded a thousand-fold. I was no longer in this cocoon of sensory deprivation. The experience allowed me to dream.
As I grew older my dreams also grew, but some obstacles were thrown in my way. I became disabled by Environmental Illness, so the future book tour I had envisioned for myself was replaced by severe reactions to an array of chemicals and molds. A collapsed immune system does not a national book tour make. With the help of natural doctors, nutrition, and lots of bed rest, I have been able to balance my disabilities with my goals. I began my website, Undawnted, to feature my writing. Later, I created Sonoran Dawn Studios to publish what I produced with the dream of helping other writers accomplish their goals of publications in the future.
Just because life happened while I was making other plans does not mean I still cannot fulfill my life’s purpose. Creativity is more than a hobby; creativity also brings about choices through true authentic problem-solving. As a testament to my originality and perseverance, my publishing journey has become a triumph over adversity.
Kaye: Would you publish through Lulu again? Why or why not?
Dawn: Yes, I love publishing through Lulu. The ebooks I can disseminate are endless. I am researching beyond Lulu for other Print on Demand services to see what the best modality for my print books may be. I want to make sure my readers are taken care of, while not being intrusive or creating confusion. I do foresee my ebooks finding their way into print sometime in 2019.
Kaye: What is the single most important quality in a poem for you?
Dawn: The most important quality in a poem is based in the five W’s of journalism. What, where, why, when, and how. What image is the reader left with at the end? Where has the poem taken the reader? Why would this poem be important to the reader later on in life? When will the poem reoccur in the memory of the reader long after the poem is read? How does the poem leave an indelible mark in the emotions of its audience?
Anyone can write a poem. The best poems are the ones that linger in the recesses of a reader’s mind. To stir there, be forgotten until an emotion brings up images of the poem that can only be satisfied by reading the poem again. Poetry is more than words and rhymes; poetry is the exercise in conveying emotions through imagery.
So, what do you see when you write?
Kaye: Where do your poetic inspirations come from?
Dawn: Everywhere. That is where my inspiration comes from. I am in awe of this world and our universe. I keep a child’s naïveté and wonderment lurking around every corner of my imagination. I view circumstances with that innocence as if I am seeing lightning, touching a cat, hearing a siren, or feeling the sun for the first time. Every time.
That juxtaposition allows me to combine youthful honesty, integrity, and virtue with the aged heartbreak, candor, and wisdom. No emotion is off limits to experience inside my soul. Every creative dimension is then available to express whether that would be in the forms of poetry or prose.
Inspiration is everywhere… you just have to feel it.
Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?
Dawn: None of them really are my favorites for any kind of promotion but I go where my audience travels. Social media is the ghetto harbors of the internet. Our creativity and objectivity are trapped in programmed cages that reverberate and sometimes crescendo our own confirmation bias. Social ghettos like their city namesakes limit opportunities for those individuals seeking advancement and relegate people into an inferior stasis with poor resources and tyrannical mismanagement.
I’d rather own my own website away from social media, but finances impede that dream at this moment. So I am stuck in the ghettos of Facebook, Google plus, and Blogger. I hope someday people realize how confining social media is so we can return to a time of free expression.
Won’t you join me?
Kaye: You are a creative person, writing award winning poetry and designing some pretty awesome cover art, etc… Were you creative as a child?
Dawn: Thank you. I have always had an active imagination. My formative years began in solitude, but after my family moved to the west coast, we ran a daycare, and so there was no shortage of company.
The lack of companionship, however, is a different matter. I knew I was atypical from other children of my age. I observed. I understood far beyond my years. I intellectualized, but I also empathized.
Creative maturity has given me the ability to recognize those evocative reactions and morph the feelings into a seasoned response. Empathy is a strong connection to other people and their plight, the trick is to find a positive way to express myself through art, writing, and problem-solving to avoid the pitfalls of negativity.
That is why so many creative people are depressed and feel rejected by society: improper context of sensory stimuli. Creative people need to step outside of a given situation and see all the moving parts. The ability to walk in another’s shoes is a gift, but when that gift creates blinders to the other parts of life, that is where creativity can destroy instead of uplift.
I had to find that balance. I had to find my own wisdom. Meditation and energy work are beneficial. A balanced perspective is everything. I had to learn that being a creative child did not mean I had to be an explosive, renegade adult… that is what my characters are for!
Let your imagination work for you. Be calm, cool, and collected with your interactions with the world. Allow your creativity be the solution.
Make your characters say and do what society frowns upon. In creativity, you are free. In living imagination, you are the creator.
So design a better reality to inspire change: one person can make a difference.
Kaye: How would you describe yourself in three words?
Dawn: Innovative. Dynamic. Trendsetter.
Kaye: What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?
Dawn: I really have no idea. Maybe it was: don’t play in traffic? Or, don’t stick your fingers in the light socket? I do not believe I have ever been given a lot of advice.
I have always been a self-starter. I am a person who walks forward in life. There have been some obvious setbacks, but I set short- and long- term goals. Whatever is attainable, I achieve. Whatever does not work for me, I change to fit my new timeline.
So I do not believe my life has been about being advised as much as it has been about who can keep up with me.
Kaye: You’ve had many poems published and won awards for quite a few. What is the biggest challenge in being a poet?
Dawn: The biggest challenge in being a poet, or an artist in general, is discovering new ways to compete with myself. How can I outdo my last creation? Achieve a better response? Create something thought-provoking or truly distinctive?
As a writer, I challenge my own status quo. I am in competition with no other person but myself. So the creative balance I endeavor to maintain has helped me restructure my point of view. I strive for self-betterment to take my writing to the next level.
This fresh perspective allows me to mature as a writer as well as be a cheerleader for other authors. When I removed the ego-driven, quantity over quality focus from my writing career, I discovered how the release from those negative aspects took my creativity to new heights.
I spent more time creating than worry about the industry, agents, publishing houses, and other writers. I could then help others without feeling jealous or anxious or petty. I could be happy for other writer’s successes because those writers were never in direct competition with me. That is an illusion I had to shed.
Once I realized that each person has their own goals and life path to fulfill, then I understood the dynamics with which creativity really springs: inside my own internal genesis.
People on a parallel career path weave branches from the same tree on which my creativity sprouts. Each branch is different from the others and reflects the health of the common root. If we do not tend to our roots, fertilize the soil, and water regularly, then the tree will falter in a coming storm. Angst ruins everyone’s creative efforts. So why bother with it?
That is a summation of the writing craft and our individual responsibility within our community. We must become the best writer we can be and also give a helping hand to another writer regardless of his or her success. Wisdom is in the balance.
Of course that also frees me from the cookie cutter manufactured industry standards I see dominating the writing craft. So watch out world! I don’t have a compass. I don’t have a quota system. I am following my own branch that is reaching for the stars.
And, everyone can change their stars.
Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring writers and poets?
Dawn: Writers need about ten years to season well, marinate in their own juices. Raw writers tend to give their hearts but when constructively critiqued, lose their minds. So I advise aspiring writers to go in search of criticism, negative criticism. Take courses for a community college certificate or degree in creative writing. Go out and join your local Professional Writer’s Group. Seek out people who will guide and help you without sparing your feelings. Those people are gems.
When you receive constructive advice, use it. Correct your writing and erode your ego. Writing is not about dissecting words and mincing phrases, but about dismantling your hubris.
Once a writer can get out of their own way, their writing takes on a profound quality. Stillness. Wisdom. Maturity.
One should always know and understand their craft through hard work and education. One should also write from the heart. Writing from the ego only speaks to other egos. When a writer writes from the heart, their story resonates at varying degrees within their audience and their writing is called: literature. Then a writer can build a loyal readership and just not simply have hapless followers.
On that same note: never believe your own press. I have had forum critique comments like: that was the best poem I have ever read! Only to look a few comments down and read: I really didn’t think your poem was all that great.
You just have to laugh.
When a writer has been through the crucible of their own development, then a writer can discover their weaknesses and strengths. Until that level of discernment is achieved, a writer is not ready to meet the world. The world is full of wolves ready to take your money and tell you whatever you want to hear.
An educated, informed, and mature writer can espy the wolves, escape the traps, and only do what is right for their needs.
So become the writer you have always wanted to become. No one else can do it but you. What are you waiting for?
Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
Dawn: Any time is fine. I write during the day or night. I do like night though when I really have to concentrate and do not want to be disturbed. No phones. No television. No distractions.
I do write when the muse descends. When I first began writing as a hobby, I would wake up from a dead sleep to jot down notes or a poem. My mind was active during my dream state. Now with my own creative structure, I find myself less inclined to be so impulsive. I write until I am done with that scene and I move on to another activity.
I also rotate from art to poetry to nonfiction, and then fiction writing. It is very noticeable trend on my personal social media status. Those breaks help avoid creative lulls and downright boredom. Writing for me is a metamorphosis of the psyche more than it is a time and place.
Kaye: You’ve had to face some huge obstacles to get to where you are now. Would you like to talk about them?
Dawn: Which obstacles? Chronic illness, abandonment, or near death experiences? My life has run the gambit, but direct participation in life events is what writing is all about. When I go through a challenge, I meet the impediment head on. There is no sense in hiding from life.
Do whatever you have to do short of hurting yourself or others; I do not abide by those types of negative expressions, but if you must throw your shoes or scream out the window, then do it. Then learn from your interaction with the world so you can check your emotions to respond with a healthy regard to life instead of having meltdown reactions to it.
The more you deal with life’s ills; the more those issues become underwhelming. Oh, the car broke down in triple digit heat… that problem interfered with my day but not unexpected given the circumstances. If you structure your life with good planning, sensible organization, and attainable goals, then you can respond to the world from a point of important but not urgent. So when the car breaks down, everything else takes care of itself, and you do not feel overwhelmed… just slightly irked.
With my brain inflammation and neurological issues, I have had some unflattering behavioral repercussions. In a short amount of time, I have learned what my body needs to combat this inflammation so I can deal with life as it comes. For my emotions, I write to express my discontent with research, citations, and good ole-fashioned sarcasm. My awareness blog for my neighborhood news can be incendiary at times, educational and informative at others, but entertaining to thousands of people a month.
So huge obstacles are what you make out of them. I find that I must navigate in a sea of challenges that most people would just give up and let a shark eat them. I am not like most people. I will take your shark, fry him up for dinner, and raise you: writing and publishing careers!
It comes down to simplicity: you can spend your life saying: oh crap, not again. Or, looking at challenges from a different point of view: at least my toaster oven still works.
Well what did you expect? I react to microwaves.
Kaye: Which poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with? Why?
Dawn: Just one? I kind of do this exercise with my poetry. I call my brand of talking with the creative masters as response poetry. I take a poem from Poe, Dickinson, and then write a response. Upon Reading Edgar Allan Poe is a literary take on many of his works. Death Responds to Emily Dickinson is the Grim Reaper’s rebuttal to her I Could Not Stop for Death.
If I had to pick between the two, I would like to sit down with Poe. Not because it’s “Poe,” but because Edgar was a literary critic in his time and quite combative with his contemporaries, which I find entertaining as well as educational.
What were Edgar’s pet peeves in writing? How did his critics respond to his opinions? Did his critics give constructive criticism to Edgar’s work or did they just attack out of ego-driven defensiveness?
As writers and critics, we can learn from the advice, mistakes, and behaviors from our forefathers, and foremothers. If you do not know the past, you are doomed to repeat it. Art and writing, much like society, cannot go forward always repaving the roads of the past. We must create new exits onto the roads less traveled by. The best way is to learn from the master artists, poets, and writers from their works to their own personal views of the craft itself.
On your journey, is your road already built or are you walking in a forest that has no name?
Kaye: What’s something most readers would never guess about you?
Dawn: I am overeducated.
Seriously, I have never met a topic I did not like or want to know more about. I do have six college degrees including a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology. I have degrees ranging from general studies, foci in biology and geology, emphasis and focus in history and biology, and organizational management. I was also working on creative writing, marketing, computer science, and publication creation before I became disabled.
I was an active community member. I have lectured and had speaking engagements about technology, art, and the role of girls in our technotronic era. I have paneled at science fiction conventions. I have exhibited and won awards for my digital art. I have ghost hunted as a history major and aspiring medium. I have experience in film and stage. In addition, I have a background in medicine for about a decade as a family member’s caretaker.
My greatest achievements have not been the cords, ribbons, or degrees. Although I am grateful for the honors I have earned in their formation of my character as well as giving me the skills to navigate our ever-changing, technological world, I am interested in more intangible achievements at present. I am on a spiritual path to investigate the human condition. I seek to answer the mysteries of our universe and impart that wisdom onto others.
With that said, I feel my greatest achievement is leaving a creative and educational legacy. My illness precludes me from having offspring, but with management of my health, I have endeavored to become the person I have always wanted to be. I am a work in progress. I can be grumpy and irritable at times, but I am more patient and charitable than anything else.
I guess that comes from living a life less traveled by. I have shrugged off convention for a spiritual road on the superhighway of life. I may be in the slow lane, but I am not obsessed with the destination. The journey is my classroom and I am an enthusiastic student.
Will you like to hitch a ride?
Kaye: What is the one thing that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?
Dawn: Strange is what I do. I combine real life scenarios in my creative works to give the contrived a reality check. When a reader experiences my characters and their challenges some of those obstacles may be rooted in my own life. I will not tell which is which, what fun is that?, but I will say that creative writing allows me the indulgence to work out some past issues in a positive and productive manner.
So the most unusual or unique quality to my writing is that I use creative fiction and nonfiction as my camp counselors.
Have a problem? Fantasy about justice? Do not have the energy to bury a body in a remote location? Then you need to become a writer. You have innovative ideas, a spark of madness, and a tinge of laziness that comes with sitting down at a computer to let your fingers do the trash talking.
Thank you Dawn, for joining us today and sharing your unique take on life, and writing, and shoveling. And thank you for allowing me to use you for the purposes of illustrating the important role cover art is in the sale of your book. You could write a masterpiece, but no one will ever know it if they never crack the cover to read the words inside.
We Need Your Help!
This post came at a good time, because today Dawn and I have some exciting news to share. The cover art for Delilah has made it to round two in the Joandisalovebooks Summer Loving Book Cover EVENT 2017. This is great news because it is a really great cover, but we can’t do it alone. The winner in each genre category will receive a great marketing package, which would be great for the promotion of Delilah.
We need your votes, so we can win first prize in the western genre category. You can find more information on how to place your vote at Sonoran Dawn Studios, where Dawn has been kind enough to lay out step by step instructions for you. So, if you are a follower of Writing to be Read, a fan of Delilah, or someone who has just discovered Kaye Lynne Booth author, please take a few moments to clink on the link and cast your votes for us. It will be greatly appreciated.
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