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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Interview: S.L. Dwyer

How did you come up with the title?
It wasn’t all that hard with this one. Dirt takes place during the
Dust Bowl in Oklahoma and dirt encompassed your whole existence. It
was everywhere, plus it is the name one character gave to the dog.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. Actually there are two messages. You never know what is in someone’s heart
until you let them into your life. And, once a lie is uttered and lived, it
grows, and grows, and grows, until it becomes your life.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I am working on a new YA book that’s a little different- no vampires,
werewolves, orlove story. When two reluctant city children, ages 15 and 11,
are sent to theirgreat-grandmother for the summer, they discover a valley
full of magic and danger. It takes place in the Appalachian Mountains.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Ideas are everywhere if you take the time to look. My latest book, Dirt,
came about from listening to my elderly father talk about growing up during
the Great Depression.

Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer?
If so, what are they? We all strive to become better writers. I believe the
best way to learn the craft is to read books in the genre you like to write.
Read the book straight through then go back and study how the words are put
together, how the story unfolds, and how the characters are developed.
Take notes and compare it to how your own book is written and look for the
differences. I still do that when I read. I may read a paragraph and stop
just to understand how it pulled a portion of the story together and made
me want to read more.

What do you think makes a good story? Good characters.
You can have the best plot going, but if your characters are doing their own
thing and not helping to move the story forward you may have a problem. The
character has to stay the course, not go doing crazy things that are contrary
to how you haveportrayed them in the first place – unless, of course, that is
the crux of the story. Characters, through actions and dialog make the story.
They have to –well - stay in character.

How much of the book is realistic?
I hope all of it. Obviously,the characters are fiction and the town, but the
conditions, landscape, dialog, cost of items, and transportation are all real.
Besides having my father for the small details, the rest was obtained by research.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you love to write. Don’t be pigeonholed into a specific genre because
its is popular. Spread your wings and let your imagination take flight. Soar with
clouds and never come back down. Write because you have a good story to tell.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and
logistical) in bringing it to life?
If you took a 13 year old boy today and forced the same situation on him, I don’t
believe he could cope. A child growing up in rural Oklahoma in the 1930’s learned
early on in life to take responsibility and grow up fast. The biggest challenge was
making sure the reader understood the differences and accepted the actions of the main
character, Sammy. I also had to make sure my facts were correct, i.e. food costs,
farm life, work programs, and the hardships people faced during that tumultuous
time in our country’s history.

Do you write an outline before every book you write?
No. I use 3x5 cards and try to plot out each chapter on a seperate card, it’s more
like writing scenes. As I’m writing, if I decide I want to add or change in some way a
certain chapter, I make notes on the back of the card for that chapter. This way when
I do my editing and revisions, I can refer back to the cards and not have lost the
information I needed.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
My first book, If Truth Be Known, my editor was an international best seller. He
would send back the manuscript totally bloodied. His best criticism - not to use
the word “was”. Every time he saw it he would write “I can’t read any more. Rewrite
the sentence without the word “was”. It really makes you work for the perfect sentence.
I still have a hard time usingthe word in my writing.

What has been the best compliment?

That my chapters always end with the reader wanting to read more.

In 1933 the Great Depression and Dust Bowl brought devastation to thousands
of people. For thirteen-year-old Sammy Larkin, it made him an orphan. Refusing
to allow the state to take his seven-year-old sister, Birdie and himself from
their farm, he decides to do the impossible—live as if his parents were still alive.

Learning to lie and steal, he embarks on an eye-opening fight for survival in the
Oklahoma panhandle, finding help in the most unexpected places. The fear of failure
overshadows his every decision. Along with a mangy stray dog and new-found friends,
he struggles to adapt to the world of adults, discovering the ugly side of life, all
the while questioning why his parents left them.

Battling constant dust storms, known as black blizzards, a menacing drifter, and
hunger, he fights to get through each day, hoping for a miracle. When circumstances
dictate a change in his plans, he has to make a life altering decision.

SL Dwyer

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