My friend and book coach, Dawn Ius, joins us today. Her latest release, Lizzie, is available now everywhere.
Name: Dawn Ius
Book Title: Lizzie
Genre: Young Adult
How would you describe your latest book in a couple of sentences?
LIZZIE is a contemporary young adult re-telling of the Lizzie Borden hatchet murders of 1892. Told from 17-year-old Lizzie Borden’s point of view, it’s a dark story of heartache, love and loss. Oh, and murder.
How did you settle on the idea for Lizzie? What inspired you?
I love history and I’m fascinated by true crime—which made the story of Lizzie Borden a bit of a slam dunk. But to be honest, the seed of this particular book was planted by a good friend, who knew I was struggling to come up with the concept for my next novel after Anne & Henry and OVERDRIVE. We were having coffee and he said, “What about Lizzie Borden?” At first I couldn’t wrap my head around the story, but we were in a bookstore, so I did some research, and by that evening, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to write.
What have you learned in your journey from fledgling writer to published author? And how do you feel you’ve grown or changed as a writer from your first published title to your latest?
Patience. I’ve learned that nothing about this industry is fast, and that slow and steady doesn’t guarantee that you will win the race, but it does provide more opportunity for it. A mentor and friend, Steve Berry, once said, “Don’t get caught writing in public. Hone your craft.” And while that’s REALLY hard to hear sometimes, when you are just itching to get that book into people’s hands, it’s sage advice. I’ve grown not only in terms of craft—which you should always be working on—but also in expectations. That doesn’t mean I don’t get excited about every step—I do! But I know that every step is just that…movement towards the goal. Inch by inch.
The other really important thing I’ve learned is that it pays to be diverse and flexible—it’s tough to make money in this industry, and so the more willing you are to step outside of your comfort zone, the better. I started as a Journalist working for international magazine and newspapers (I was published in Cosmopolitan and my first REAL interview was with Mikhail Gorbachev—through a translator—followed by a story on Brad Pitt when he was filming Legends of the Fall. I rode around with him for an entire day on set.) I’ve also published 16 educational graphic novels for a private contract, which has allowed me to tour schools across the province of Alberta and attend events where sometimes I’m signing upwards of 5,000 books. I’ve ghostwritten four romance novels, written a script for the forthcoming Nickolodeon TV show, Rainbow Rangers, and published three short stories under the name Dawn Dalton. That’s an eclectic mix!
And finally, I’ve learned that it’s important to give back. I was fortunate to receive mentorship and friendship with big name authors who took me under their wing, and when I asked how I could “pay that back” they all advised me to “pay it forward” by helping aspiring writers. I’m a Pitch Wars mentor, teach young adult creative writing lessons, and am a book coach with Author Accelerator, which is one of the most rewarding “jobs” I’ve ever had. I love working with writers, helping them hone their voice and carve out a niche for themselves.
How did you celebrate when you learned Lizzie was going to be published by Simon & Schuster?
My husband often jokes that we drink a lot of cheap champagne—and it’s kind of true. As far back as when I landed my amazing agent, Mandy Hubbard, I started a tradition of “toasting” every milestone. And I mean, EVERY. MILESTONE. Finish a book? Grab champagne. Sell a book? Grab two bottles. See a draft of the cover? Champagne! It’s true this industry is slow, but even more so, it requires a thick skin. You are faced with so many obstacles—a dwindling market, publishers going out of business, shrinking distribution, agent rejections, editor rejections, reader rejections. There’s a lot that can bring you down, even after you’ve scored an agent, or landed your dream publisher. And those obstacles can make you forget why you got into this crazy business in the first place. I never want to forget…so I celebrate everything. When I got the news that S&S had picked up LIZZIE, I was sitting at my kitchen table waiting for my niece and nephew to change into their swimsuits so we could go to the water park. It was St. Patrick’s Day and they were visiting for Spring Break. I remember screaming, then crying, and then later, after the kids were exhausted and sleeping, my sister-in-law and I went out for green beer…and champagne.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should Lizzie be added to their “to be read” pile?
There are so many great books out there, that singling out mine is somewhat daunting. But if I’m allowed to be immodest for a brief moment, I’d say that I bring a fun (and dark!) perspective to the Lizzie Borden story. It’s one of America’s most famous historic true crime stories, and by making it contemporary and young adult, I’ve put a fresh spin on it. Plus, in my humble opinion, it represents some of my best writing.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer a writer who feels discouraged?
It sounds cliche, but don’t give up. Steve Berry—now the author of more than a dozen bestselling thrillers—received 67 agent rejections, and didn’t sell his first book for almost seven years after signing with his agent. Stephen King received as many (or more!) rejections, with one editor saying, “This type of fiction simply doesn’t sell.” The truth is, it takes one—one agent, one editor, one publisher to believe in your project as much as you do. And with that cheerleader behind you, you will be unstoppable. Don’t settle for just any cheerleader…no matter how tempting. Find the one that believes in you…even if it takes longer than you’d like.
Finally, where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)?
I have a newly revised website here: www.dawnius.com, a somewhat active Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.
Thanks again, Dawn! Lizzie is available everywhere books are sold.
Seventeen-year-old Lizzie Borden has never been kissed. Polite but painfully shy, Lizzie prefers to stay in the kitchen, where she can dream of becoming a chef and escape her reality. With tyrannical parents who force her to work at the family’s B&B and her blackout episodes—a medical condition that has plagued her since her first menstrual cycle—Lizzie longs for a life of freedom, the time and space to just figure out who she is and what she wants.
Enter the effervescent, unpredictable Bridget Sullivan. Bridget has joined the B&B’s staff as the new maid, and Lizzie is instantly drawn to her artistic style and free spirit—even her Star Wars obsession is kind of cute. The two of them forge bonds that quickly turn into something that’s maybe more than friendship.
But when her parents try to restrain Lizzie from living the life she wants, it sparks something in her that she can’t quite figure out. Her blackout episodes start getting worse, her instincts less and less reliable. Lizzie is angry, certainly, but she also feels like she’s going mad…