Bonnie Dobkin talks about “Dream Spinner” and takes us into a whole new magical world! Doors are closing, get ready!
Hi Bonnie! Welcome on “Veronika asks”! If you could describe yourself with three words…
Brain never stops. (I’m always thinking, worrying, planning, worrying, dreaming, worrying…)
Now let’s talk a bit about “Dream Spinner”…Such an amazing idea! How did it strike you?
For those who haven’t yet read the book, Dream Spinner tells the story of kids who become trapped in a tapestry woven from their dreams. And believe it or not, the idea actually DID come from a dream, one I had many years ago. In the dream, some friends and I met a strange man. He showed us several vials, each filled with a colored, glowing liquid that sparkled like melted jewels. He tried to persuade us to drink the liquids, but something about him was a little frightening. He seemed emotionless, like his soul was dead, and he never smiled. I kept thinking that something wasn’t quite right, and that it would be dangerous to do what he said. And then he got angry.That was it. The whole dream. But it never left me, and eventually it morphed into an old man and a living tapestry.
Is it your first novel? If it is, how did you make your way through the publishing world? (even if it’s not, tell us!)
Yes, it’s my first novel. And it has a long, tortured history. I actually started it before my oldest son was born—and he’s twenty-two! I wrote a story I thought was good, and sent it out a few times. I got mostly form rejections, but then Margaret K. McElderry, a legendary children’s book editor, send me a personal note and two single-spaced pages of advice, saying that the story had a lot of potential if I was willing to work on it. Well, then my son was born, followed by two more, and between raising them and holding down a full-time job, the manuscript stayed in a drawer for twenty years. But I never forgot Ms. McElderry’s encouraging words. So a few years ago, I dragged the pages out of the drawer, rewrote the book entirely—about twenty times, I think!– and tried to get myself an agent. This meant more submissions, more rejections, and one agent who didn’t quite work out. Finally, I found Erin Murphy, a fantastic agent, advisor, and friend. She took me on, gave me great advice on how to improve the book, and then went and sold the thing!
I heard you’re planning a sequel…so, what will happen?
I do have a sequel in mind, and it will involve other trips into the dream tapestry to rescue more lost souls. Right now, though, I’m working on other projects: a collection of twisted tales about a very strange girl, and another YA fantasy that takes place in a world where adults have disappeared.
How do you picture your reader? You know, when you say that “there is somebody reading my book right now…”
Although I like to imagine both sexes, and all ages, reading the book, I have to admit I picture my reader as a clone of me at 14—intelligent, a dreamer, and lost in books and fantasy worlds.
You were in “Mad Mad House”, a reality TV show, a few years ago. That’s amazing! Tell us more about it? Why did you apply? You had really, really special roommates. How did you spend all this time with such special people? All stories are welcome
Where do I begin? Mad Mad House was a reality show on the Sci-Fi channel in which ten “normals” lived in an Addams family-type mansion with five unusual “hosts”—a Wiccan, a vampire, a modern primitive (a man who was tattooed and pierced from head to toe, and who hung from hooks threaded through his back), an African priestess, and a naturist—that is, a nudist and raw food expert. The idea was to see who would be most open to the alternative lifestyles of our hosts.I got on the show totally by accident. I’d seen the audition notice in the Chicago Tribune, and called the phone number to sign up my oldest son. At 19, he was too young. So they suggested I come down instead. I laughed, because I was about to turn 50—not your typical reality show contestant. And then I figured, why not? I’d played it safe most of my life—why not do something totally out of character and really, really stupid?Well, I got cast. And it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. I’d always considered myself open minded, but now I know that I can share a spiritual sisterhood with an African priestess, enjoy the company of a vampire, and consider a tattooed, pierced individual one of the sweetest, dearest men on earth. I’m still quite close with them and several of my other housemates.No, I didn’t win. But I was eliminated because, in a weird way, I was TOO accepting of the alts. They told me that I’d grown all I needed to, and that it was time to see if my younger housemates could “fly” without me. Dang.(I did have a winning moment, though. The alts staged a bizarre competition where the normals were seated in deep pits, covered with mud, feathers, honey, animal organs, dead fish, and rotten vegetables, and told to find five “sacred objects” buried in the muck. I won that contest! And as I strode from the pit, I uttered a now famous “to Mad Mad House fans” cry: “I AM a goddess, dammit!”
How do you usually work (when, where…)?
Since I have a full-time job in educational publishing, and a family, I work late at night, usually curled up in a chair with my laptop. But I also work whenever I can find a free hour and a quiet place: on planes, on beaches, or in my back yard on a lounge chair.
What about the writer’s block?
I have it constantly. I get to a certain point in a story and the story just stops flowing. My agent advised me to just move on to something else, and something else again if I have to. So I have several chapters written for several books. But I finally had a breakthrough on one, and it’s going very well.
Do you have some piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Read a lot of the genre you’d like to write yourself, and then write as much as possible. Just as important–develop a thick skin and be willing to take and learn from criticism. The first drafts of Dream Spinner were full of terrible bits of writing, and I didn’t even know it. Luckily, others did and showed me the error of my ways.
And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found $100 in your pocket, how will you use that money?
I’d squirrel it away until I saw something that I normally wouldn’t buy. Then I’d buy it.
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ?Dinner and a movie. I love movies.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?BEACH!! Pounding surf, a strawberry daiquiri, and a book equal heaven, as far as I’m concerned!
Country or City ?I love the life force of a city. Though I’ve been to Italy and could definitely live Under the Tuscan Sun in a charming old house near a town full of quaint and eccentric people.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Almost anything—comedy, drama, animation, sci-fi, horror. (One of the reasons my husband fell in love with me was because I was the only girlfriend in his group of friends who’d go to see Alien when it came out.)
Shy or Easy-going ?Shy and insecure. But few people know that because I’ve gotten good at pretending to be otherwise.
Serious or Funny ?Both, depending on the circumstance. But not hysterical-funny. More amusing-funny.
Traveler or not ?YES. I’ve been all around this country, and I’ve worked on a kibbutz in Israel, gone to England, Italy, Mexico, the Bahamas, and Hawaii, and I’m planning a trip to Greece. And I want to do more and more and more.
Sporty or not ?Your basic klutz. Though I just learned to scuba so I’m feeling quite proud of myself!
The leader in the group or not ?I manage 40 people at work. But in my personal life, I’d rather someone else took charge. Trouble is, if they don’t take charge well, I start opening my mouth…
TV show : LOST, Grey’s Anatomy
Movie : Feel-good movies, like American President or When Harry Met Sally
Book : My favorite one growing up was The Secret Garden, followed by Jane Eyre. Today, I have too many favorites to list.
Music : Broadway. In my next life, I’m going to be a musical theatre star.
Food : Chocolate anything
City : Chicago (my home town…)
Favorite place to write : the comfy chair in my living room
Quote or motto : stolen, I think, from Disney World—“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Thank you, Bonnie!
You can visit Bonnie’s website http://www.bonniedobkin.com