Erica Dakin has been writing for as long as she can remember. “I've always had characters in my head, and thought up stories for them. It's not something I consciously started doing, it was just something to pass the time." Although writing just started out as something for her to do for fun, she soon realized that her hobby might actually be something people want to read when her friend ended up really liking her very first story, A Shire Romance. This was her first effort as a writer, and the story is still near and dear to her heart. She still has it available for free on her blog- you can read it here.
However, fantasy has always been her favorite genre. She would write stories for her characters in her play-by-mail role-playing game, and her current trilogy even started from a Dungeons and Dragon's campaign.
“I've never been a fan of heavy, gloomy literature - I prefer stories of magic and heroism, of dragons, elves and the triumph of good over evil. Some of the earliest things I read as a teenager, aside from The Lord of the Rings, were books like The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams, and The Deathgate Cycle by Weiss and Hickman.”
Considering all this, she believes that it would be impossible for her to write anything but fantasy.
Speaking of Fantasy and Dungeons and Dragons, half-elves are often the main characters. The reason for this comes from her DnD background as well, although she admits that part of is has is because she likes pretty people “Because romance is as important in my books as the fantasy part, I want my protagonists to be good-looking. I could have chosen for them to simply be elves, but that's where my tabletop role playing background kicks in: elves are too fragile. In Dungeons and Dragons I always played half-elves, because they were prettier than humans, but sturdier than elves.”
In addition to that, she is also a big fan of the graphic novel series Elfquest, and she says that her half-elves have been heavily influenced by the author Wendy Pini's artwork.
When it comes to writing, she doesn’t have a standard writing process. For her, the key is to go with the flow, and not try to force anything. - In general, she can spend anywhere from zero to several hours writing at a time. She typically writes in the afternoon or evening, and isn’t much of a morning writer.
However, it all depends on how much the story itself prompts her to get it down on to paper. Even at her full-time job, she sometimes secretly has a word document up on her computer and will stealthy write some of her book in-between assignments. “I'd print it out without saving (no evidence!) and then work it out when I got home.” and then once she’s home, she barely has time to do anything else like cooking or cleaning to devote every spare moment to writing.
Nowadays, she’s slowed down her writing, but her favorite part about being a writer is the writing process itself.
“It's immensely satisfying when you've had a scene or a plot in your head for a long time to finally see it written down, even if that version has ended up quite different from how you had it in your head. It's also really great when your characters start leading their own lives and start dictating their actions to you. You know your characters are alive and working when you try to write down a scene and have to stop halfway through because one of your protagonists is shouting in your head that they'd never do something like that.”
Unfortunately, her least favorite part is everything else that comes along with that, especially the amount of effort it takes to try and get your story out there and make it stand out from everything else that’s being published. “So far I've not been very successful at it. It's also hard to see negative reviews, even if I understand their value and (if they're constructively written) I can take advice away from them. In the end it's someone bashing your baby, and you can't stop yourself from shouting 'but you don't understand!' while you're reading a bad review.”
But despite all that, she has this advice to give to aspiring authors:
First, understand the value of second, third and maybe even fourth drafts. “The first draft of your story should never be the one you put out to publish. Sit down and manually rewrite your first draft rather than tinkering with it, because often even if you end up writing the same scene, you'll find a better way of wording it.
“Secondly, get good beta-readers and a good editor. They will point out the plot holes you missed, the spelling errors you never saw, and they'll tell you the bits that worked and didn't work for them. You don't always have to listen to them, but always get those other opinions.”
Lastly, she recommends that you take the time to really correct and polish your work if you decided to self-publish: “If you know your own spelling is mediocre, invest in a good proof-reader. Don't let your book be of a lesser standard than those from established publishers. Also, don't use words unless you know exactly what they mean. I once read a book where the author clearly really liked the word 'moue', and knew it had something to do with mouths, but never bothered checking exactly what it meant, so kept misusing it.
Of all her books, her third was the hardest to right. She suspects that this is because she had the least idea of what was going to happen in it, just the beginning, end, and a few events in the middle. She ended up making up most of it as she went along, which is what made it so difficult. Despite that, most people consider her third book to be the best.
One essential element she see reoccurring in her books is Dark-haired, dark-eyed men. “Can't live without them. You'll never see me have a male protagonist who's blond.”
As for the covers of her books, she says that she’ll be the first to admit that they don’t quite reflect the content. She was inspired by the Game of Thrones book covers, and was reading A Song of Ice and Fire when she was about to self-publish and admired the simple design of one main color and one main symbol. For her protagonists, she chose a dagger for her thief, a rose for her courtier and a set of flaming torches for her juggler.
An advantage of this to her was that she didn’t have to find an artist to draw the art for the cover because she has a very clear idea of what her characters look like, and wouldn’t have been happy with any artist’s rendition. The only disadvantage of this is that the book covers look more plain and don’t reflect that the story inside is just as much about romance as they are about fantasy.
All in all, her books are a success and are definitely worth a read! Here is her website where you can check out her books: