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Dana on Dana

I interview me. It’s not as weird as it sounds. I promise.

Q: Dana, you’re an awesome writer with very few followers. What keeps you going in the face of such unrelenting failure?

A: Basically, I can’t not write. If only my mother reads my writing, well, at least I have one reader.

Q: How did you get your start as a writer?

A: I started like most writers, by being a voracious reader first. Highlights magazine was the, well, highlight of my life as a kid. Goofus and Gallant were my friends. Actually, Goofus was my friend. In my opinion, he never deserved his bad rep. Gallant was boring as hell. Readers don’t want boring.

Q: Was Goofus the first character to inspire your writing?

A: No. Goofus was my first crush. He didn’t inspire me to write. He inspired me to always fall for the wrong guy.

Q: Who inspired you to write?

A: Not a who, a what. It was the letters published in the “Penthouse Forum.”

Q: Seriously?

A: Damn straight.

Q: How old were you?

A: I was a sophomore in high school, so 15-years-old. I would babysit for spending money. As soon as I put the booger eater to bed, I’d snoop around the house until I found Daddy’s porn stash. Everyone had Playboy, but that didn’t interest me. Penthouse was what got me going, so to speak. The “Penthouse Forum” was a gold mine for would-be writers.

Q: Did you ever write a “Penthouse Forum” letter?

A: Of course, and it was magnificent if I do say so myself. I mean, at that age you don’t know what you don’t know. There’s a certain sense of freedom in that, you know?

Q: Did you mail the letter?

A: I had every intention of mailing it. Unfortunately, my mother (the lady I inherited the snooping gene from) found the unfinished letter under my bed. Let me tell you; there was hell to pay. She’s still a bit traumatized by it to this day. She tore up my masterpiece and grounded me for three weeks. I’d give anything to read that letter now.

Q: Did that incident derail your writing career?

A: In an odd way, it propelled my writing career.

Q: What do you mean?

A: When the three weeks was up, I told myself I needed to get at least partially out from under my mother’s thumb (a thing I’ve still not accomplished). I started looking for a real job that didn’t involve wiping boogers or changing diapers. I applied for an on-air position at the local radio station. It was the first place I applied. I got the job due to my obvious brilliance, talent, and brains. It certainly had nothing to do with the fact my stepdad was friends with the program director. Little did I know a somewhat snap decision at 15 would seal my fate as a writer and attention seeker. At a young age, I was given an opportunity to do things I never dreamed I’d do.

Q: What things?

A: I had my own radio show which taught me how to interview people, how to think on my feet, how to write commercials, how to write news stories, how to be entertaining, resourceful, and (hopefully) funny. Also, how to accidentally curse on air. Not many people get to do those things before they even have a driver’s license.

Q: You mentioned being an attention seeker. What do you mean by that?

A: Seriously, you aren’t even interested in my cursing story?

Q: No, not really, unless it has something to do with seeking attention. Does it?

A: Well, I never thought of it that way but maybe.

Q: Let’s move on. What’s the attention thing all about?

A: Believe it or not, I was a shy kid. I didn’t seek or want attention. As a matter of fact, starting my freshman year of high school, I never took my coat off--even in the Texas heat. I thought I could just disappear inside the coat, and this was way before the world fell in love with the Allison Reynolds character in The Breakfast Club. It never occurred to me I was calling attention to myself by looking like a freak in a heavy coat with sweat pouring off me.

Q: Speaking of that, are you still trying to disappear in that oversize jacket you’re wearing?

A: Well, I never thought of it that way but maybe.

Q: So, you want attention, or you don’t want attention?

A: Both. That’s why radio was so perfect. It was mostly a solitary endeavor. I sat alone in a room only slightly larger than the average master bedroom closet and talked to myself for hours and hours a day. I was physically alone, but tens of people were listening.

Q: Tens of people?

A: It was a small town.

Q: Would you say working in radio is a lot like working as a writer?

A: Absolutely. I still sit alone in a room for hours and hours a day communicating with people through words. I have tens of followers.

Q: You seem to have an issue with that. True?

A: Well, I never thought of it that way but maybe.

Q: Why don’t you do something about it?

A: Why don’t you kiss my ass?

Q: There’s no need to be vulgar.

A: There’s no need to be an obnoxious know-it-all.

Q: Why don’t we just agree to disagree?

A: Okay. I’m sorry. You really hit a nerve. I want followers, readers, adulation, awards, fame, money, and most of all a three-book deal with a major publisher. I want it all, but the thought of working to grow my brand makes me kind of nauseous and very tired. Just using grow my brand terminology makes me hate myself as much as I did when I wore a heavy winter coat 24/7 all year.

Q: Why? What’s wrong with wanting and working to get what you want?

A: What’s wrong with just writing a bestseller which will turn into a movie starring Meryl Streep and then she’ll become my best friend and attend the ceremony with me when I receive a National Book Award?

Q: Can we get back to reality?

A: Can you take me to the Sonic? I’m thirsty.

Q: Don’t you see what you’re doing?

A: No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me.

Q: You’re self-sabotaging, deflecting, and being super passive/aggressive. Why don’t you just stop all that nonsense? Are you afraid of success?

A: I’m afraid of dying of thirst. I want a cherry limeade with extra crushed ice and as much success as Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé combined.

Q: Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. What’s your plan to make that happen?

A: Well, first I’m going to the Sonic.

Q: You’re doing it again. Why can’t you stop?

A: Okay, I’ll stop. I’m aware I’m acting like Goofus. It’s what I do.

Q: Finally, we’re getting to the good stuff. Can you get out of your own way and stop behaving like Goofus?

A: Well, I never thought of it that way but maybe.

Q: Will you give yourself a chance and really try for success?

A: Sure, if you promise I’ll never have to deal with rejection and failure again.

Q: Rejection and failure go hand-in-hand with writing. Do I really need to remind you of that basic fact?

A: Of course not. I’ve heard NO more times than I can count. I’m sick to death of NO.

Q: Is it necessary for me to tell you how many times Stephen King heard no?

A: Is it necessary for me to roll my eyes at you one more time?

Q: Are we having a pity party right now?

A: No. I can’t afford to throw a party. I spent my last twenty bucks entering a writing contest. I’ll be eating mac and cheese for the foreseeable future.

Q: So, you’re not throwing in the writing towel?

A: No. I’ll continue to stare unrelenting failure in its ugly face until I starve to death.

Q: Good for you but take it easy on the mac and cheese. Carbs aren’t your friend. What’s your next project?

A: I’m going to finish a short story I’ve been working on for too long.

Q: Why has it taken so long?

A: I think it wants to be a novel.

Q: Oh, you mean the novel that will win you the National Book Award for Fiction, right?

A: Well, I never thought of it that way but maybe.

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