Dawn lives in Brentwood, Essex, England with her husband, Jamie, and son, James. She was originally a senior medical laboratory scientific officer, working in a Microbiology lab in the Royal London Hospital, London. After several years, she specialised in Virology but once James was born, she remained at home until he started school. Volunteering to listen to children read, led her to get a job in a local junior school working with special needs children. She progressed to a senior school where she worked in the Information, Communication Technology department.
Once Jamie took early retirement, Dawn also retired and they now travel the world, mainly to good diving sites so Jamie can indulge his passion for underwater diving. Dawn used to dive but finds it now makes her sick while she’s underwater, so she either writes or takes hundreds of photos of anything that takes her fancy. She’s very much into photography although she also loves drawing and painting.
In 2005, a publisher friend who knew she was interested in writing, asked if she wanted to write a short horror story. The intention was for it to be included in a horror anthology to be sold for the charity, DebRA, a national charity working on behalf of people with the genetic skin blistering condition, Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). Her first instinct was to refuse because she doesn’t like the genre and therefore didn’t believe she could write a horror story but on a whim, she decided to try, expecting it to be rejected. To her enormous surprise and delight, it was accepted and included in Shrouded by Darkness: Tales of Terror, along with a short story by Neil Gaiman and an illustration by Clive Barker.
This gave her confidence to submit more stories for publication and she now has short speculative fiction stories in the following anthologies, Body-Smith 401, Things You Can Create and The Least He Could Do. She has a sci-fi story in Otherwhere and Elsewhen and various romantic stories in women’s magazines. Recently, she started writing flash fiction, especially stories of exactly one hundred words and has had several published. One has just been included in the Best of CaféLit 2013.
Dawn’s first book was published by Muse It Up Publishing in June 2014 as a Young Adult ebook, Daffodil and the Thin Place.
Excerpt from Daffodil and the Thin Place
Boring, boring, boring, I thought grumpily. This wedding and in fact, the whole day, promised to be as exciting as watching ice cubes melt. I yawned, and looking back on it, that was the beginning of the whole thing. As I breathed in, I was aware of something slipping down my throat. My first thought was that I’d swallowed a fly, but I couldn’t feel anything solid. There was a fluttering feeling, which seemed to move down into my stomach where it stuck, trembling gently.
Trapped wind, I told myself. What else could it be, throbbing softly in my stomach?
And then my attention had wandered when tiny cousin George had started screaming and Auntie Gayle had grabbed him and rushed out of the church as he wailed loudly.
But trapped wind just gurgled; it couldn’t, as far as I knew, ever hold a conversation—not like the voice that had momentarily stopped the wedding.
At last, the service was finishing.
“Let us pray,” said the vicar.
I buried my head in my hands and prayed. It wasn’t something I’d had much practice at, but if there was a God, I was sure He’d recognise that I desperately needed help, especially when He saw the tears squeezing through my fingers.
“Why are you crying? I’m the one in trouble,” wailed my stomach.
I was a social nobody in fancy dress with a talking stomach. Could life get any worse?
Apparently, it could.
The voice continued to insist I let it go, although by the end of the prayer, its cries had faded to a quiet grumble. I attempted to hold the noise in by wrapping my arms tightly round my middle. Rosetta had stopped finding it funny. She had jabbed me painfully in the ribs with her elbow, demanding I stop showing her up. Now, she was ignoring me completely. That was fine by me.
Mum mistook my efforts to hold the noise in and, thinking I was cold, had placed her pashmina over my shoulders. I pulled it tightly round me. Anything to smother the gut-grumbles.
Once the bride and groom had crammed rings on to each other’s chubby fingers, I felt sure the service had finished, but no. There were more prayers, another hymn, and a talk. Would we ever get out of here?
Finally, the couple sat at the table to sign the register. It must all be over now. But no! Again we waited…and waited. How long does it take to sign a piece of paper, for goodness sake? They’d only been asked to put their names, not write a book.
I fidgeted irritably, earning another jab in the ribs from Rosetta. Pinned between the Sister from Hell and a cold wall, I looked longingly at the ancient wooden door, aching to be on the other side of it in the open air.
At long last, the bride and groom left the church to pose for the photographer. Making the excuse that I needed the toilet, I slipped away to the graveyard at the back of the church.
The yew trees were so tall and thick in the churchyard that it seemed as if someone had drawn heavy curtains, blocking out the sun and muffling the noise of the traffic on the road below to a gentle zub-zub-zub.
This would be a perfect setting for a horror film. All it needed was mysterious mist and a gruesome ghost rising up to float amongst the tombstones, wailing loudly. Perhaps even a bloodless corpse, clawing its way up from a grave with bony hands. I stood nervously with my back against the knobbly stones of the church wall—imagination in overdrive, heart thumping, and eyes swivelling back and forth, searching the silent graveyard for… Well, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but if I saw it, I was ready to run.
“Calm yourself. There’s nothing to fear, you know,” the voice said rather scornfully.
The shock of sound coming from so close made me gasp.
“Who are you?” I whispered. “What d’you want?”
Now we are at the fun part of the interview. I get to ask questions you may not expect. How long have you been writing? I started writing about 20 years ago, so I’m a relative newcomer and there were often long periods of time during which I didn’t write at all. Writing wasn’t my life’s ambition – I wanted to be a scientist and although I’ve always loved reading, I was more interested in Science than English at school. The first story I wrote was as a result of trying to get my son interested in his creative writing homework. We played a game where I gave him the first line of a story and he had to give me the second, then we alternated. Unfortunately, it didn’t really inspire him but I found that I was leapfrogging ahead and a story was forming in my mind. I finally finished the story several years later but have never had it published. However, I’d caught the writing bug and a chance comment about my church being a ‘thin place’ started me writing Daffodil and the Thin Place. It took quite a while before it was accepted by a publisher and since then, I’ve been writing every day and I am half way through what I hope will be my new book. Other than for about a term at school, when my son wrote several brilliant, surreal, short stories, he’s never shown any interest in writing but I live in hope he’ll return to it one day.
Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both? Not having had any formal training in creative writing, my strategy has been rather trial and error. I think I often start as a pantser, write madly and then logic takes over and I need to decide how the story will end, even if I don’t know how I’m going to get there. My nerves won’t stand just writing until I arrive at a satisfactory ending!
My current work in progress started accidentally, so there wasn’t much plotting or pantsing involved. I joined a writers’ group about a year ago and one of the first writing prompts was a list of unrelated objects from which we had to choose ten and include them in a story of 2,000 words or fewer. I started writing about some garden gnomes, elves and other garden ornaments, including a flatulent, stone toad. I so enjoyed the setting and characters, I used the next writing prompt to incorporate them in another story. So far, I’ve used four of the writing prompts to write stories. I loaded the stories on my blog and you can see them on dawnknox.wordpress.com/category/stories. Someone in my writers’ group suggested I ought to put the stories together as a book and try to get it published. So far, I’ve written an introductory chapter and have ten other chapters. Although it’s a story about garden gnomes, it takes place in an absurd, tongue-in-cheek world and is probably more of an adult book than children’s. It will probably be called Her Ladyship’s Private Parts.
Where do you go for inspiration?When I was writing Daffodil and the Thin Place, it was helpful to go to St. Nicholas Church, Laindon with Dunton, Essex, where the story is set. At one end of the 13th century church, there is a wooden annexe, dating from the 1400’s. It consists of three rooms, one over the other which are linked by the craziest staircase I’ve ever seen. A door opens onto the staircase which turns sharply as it climbs with steps of uneven sizes and depths – it looks just like a stairway in a cupboard! I often go up the stairs to the room on the second and third floors and imagine how it must have been during the Victorian times when the annexe housed a charity school and the last school master, his wife and several school children lived in the three rooms.
For my work in progress, Her Ladyship’s Private Parts, I always pay attention whenever I visit a garden or a garden centre, I’m always on the look out for new garden ornaments to give me inspiration for new characters for the story.
Tell us about Her Ladyship’s Private PartsThe story takes place in the extensive grounds of the Old Priory, a mansion belonging to her Ladyship. Periodically, she brings back garden ornaments from her travels which she gives her gardener, Mr. Po Lin, who places them in the ‘Garden’ on her behalf. An eclectic collection of garden gnomes, elves, angels, statues and a flatulent stone toad live together ruled over by the self-appointed and very pompous gnome, Bartrum. Crispin, the marble elf is the voice of reason in a community which includes a gnome with an identity crisis, an adolescent elf, a colour blind wooden robin, an over amorous gnome who attains superpowers, a large, little girl and a Cockney leprechaun, amongst others.
I think I’m about half way through, so there are still other characters to be added and more adventures for them to experience.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?When I’m not writing, I like to travel. Since Jamie and I took early retirement in 2013, we’ve been to Indonesia, Australia, Tasmania, Spain, Turkey, Italy and various parts of England. Holidays are usually organised to include some diving for Jamie and in the past, we’ve been to Egypt, Jordan and the Maldives. It’s definitely a good way to meet other people and we’ve made some wonderful friends on diving holidays.
What is something we’ll never catch you doing? You’ll never catch me forgetting to photograph our retirement mascot, Reg whenever we go anywhere different. He’s been on all our holidays since we retired as well as days out. He’s now a well travelled dog and often takes over my blog (dawnknox.wordpress.com) to put his point of view. Here are a few photos of him on his travels.
Website and blog – dawnknox.wordpress.com
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Buy links –YA Fiction
‘Daffodil and the Thin Place’ – YA novel ebook, published by Muse It Up Publishing. http://tinyurl.com/ou6ke2q
‘An Appropriate Pen’ – short story in anthology ‘Shrouded by Darkness’, published by Telos Publishing. This story was nominated for The British Fantasy Society’s Best Short Fiction Award.http://www.telos.co.uk/product/shrouded-by-darkness-pb/
‘The Game’ – short story in e-book anthology ‘Body-Smith 401’ published by Stonethread Publishing https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/234378
‘The Way of the Obtectus’ and ‘The Four Riders of the Apopalycse Apocalypse’ – short story in e-book anthology ‘Things You Can Create’ published by Stonethread Publishing https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/273281
‘To Sleep – Perchance to Live’ – short story published in e-book anthology ‘The Least He Could Do’ published by Stonethread Publishing https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/342983
‘Earthrights’ – short story in ‘Otherwhere and Elsewhen’ published by Bridgehouse Publishing. http://tinyurl.com/oa64av5
Romance and Women’s Fiction
‘Popcast’ and ‘A Bridge to my Heart’ published by The People’s Friend magazine
‘The Devoted Gardener’ and ‘Clear Your Mind’, published in My Weekly magazine and ‘Meet me in the Maldives’ to be published shortly in My Weekly magazine.
‘Three Little Words’ http://www.cafelit.co.uk/100WorderThreeLittleWords.html
‘The Seasoned Traveller’ http://www.cafelit.co.uk/100WorderTheSeasonedTraveller.html
‘The Betrayal’ http://www.cafelit.co.uk/100WorderTheBetrayal.html
‘The Last Tango’ http://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/scary-story-100-worder-last-tango.html
published by CafeLit Creative Cafe Project
One entry in the ‘Best of CafeLit 2013’ http://www.cafelit.co.uk/TheBestofCafeLit2013.html
It’s been great fun visiting with you, Dawn. I really envy you your travels. I can imagine how exciting it is to find yourself in the perfect setting for a scene in a future book and allow your imagination to begin weaving a story.