Tell us something about yourself.
Hi, I’m Robert Dahlen, and I love telling stories. Always have. After a few failed attempts to break in traditionally, I stopped trying for a while, but then a series of events led to me dusting off a proposal I had written for a comic book series and revamping it into a prose series. I’ve published three books so far, with a fourth almost finished and a fifth in progress.
Aside from that: I live in northern California. I have a very nice hat. I have a lot of fannish interests and very little spare time to indulge in them. I bake an awesome chocolate chip cookie. And I have a fondness for penguins.
Tell us more about your books.
The Monkey Queen is a contemporary fantasy adventure series about Michiko, a teenage hero who’s out to save the world (she’s starting small) and Beth, a college student and geek girl who joins up with Michiko when a mutual friend is kidnapped. They encounter hobgoblins, ogres, Lords of Faerie, gremlin craftsmen of varying degrees of sanity, nosy landladies, ravenous monsters, airship pirates, a dark sorceress, a troll with a taste for babies, and a snarky guinea pig…and that’s just in the first three books! It’s fantasy with heroines, humor and heart.
What’s your favorite thing about spring?
The sense of renewal, of new possibilities, of reborn hopes and dreams.
What’s your least favorite thing about spring?
Daylight savings time. Took me a week to adjust this year.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
When someone takes a moment to tell you how much they enjoyed what you’ve written. When you’ve finished a story and that feeling of accomplishment sets in. When you find the right word, come up with the great line of dialogue, figure out how to get the plot rolling.
What’s the worst thing about being a writer?
When things get stuck, when the words and ideas don’t come or won’t go on paper.
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee! I have a day job, but I leave home very early every Friday morning, stop at a coffee place, and get the weekend started right with caffeine and writing before heading in to work.
Plotter or Pantser?
(For those who are wondering what that means: “Plotters” work out a great part of the story before they start writing; “Pantsers” make things up as they write.) Plotter for the overall story, pantser as I go. I like having the basic plot in place when I start, so I can work details into each scene that’ll lead into later scenes, but I also like having the freedom to improvise as I go. I always seem find all sorts of things I never expected to find, sometimes while typing. And nothing’s set in stone, so I can always go back and rewrite or edit as needed.
Why do you write YA?
By accident, I guess. I didn’t have an age group in mind when I started telling Michiko and Beth’s stories; I just wanted to tell the best stories I could, for all audiences. As it turns out, their stories were a great fit for YA.
What are your top tips for surviving a bad review?
Rejection sucks. Believe me, I know. In the long term, you have to remember that you have a lot going for you, that people like you and what you write, and that for every bad review you get, you still have many good ones, even if they haven’t been written yet. In the short term? Lots of unhealthy comfort food and a nap. Then, write some more.
What are your top tips for surviving a zombie apocalypse?
What makes you think I’d survive? My fate in a zombie apocalypse is almost certainly to be zombie bait, tied to a chair and left in the road with a sign reading “FREE LUNCH!”
What inspires you?
All sorts of things! I listen to music, on an iPod set on shuffle, and sometimes the right melody or riff or lyric comes up and jumpstarts my creativity. The books and comics I’ve read, the movies and TV I’ve seen, all stir in my subconscious. I get some of my best lines and ideas just thinking, while doing chores or taking a walk or at my office (don’t tell my boss!). And as I mentioned above, sometimes just writing does the trick. Basically, I can find it almost everywhere.
Heck, even my cover artist, Willow, can inspire me! When we were working out character designs for the cover for the first book, she surprised me by drawing Michiko with her red scarf. I loved it, and I reworked some scenes to add the scarf to Michiko’s description, and that led to me rewriting this bit from the first book that I’m now quite fond of:
The Monkey Queen smiled. “I need you, Beth. How would you like to help me save the world?”
Beth had not expected to hear that. “M-m-me?” she said.
Beth stared at Michiko. She saw the scarf drifting in the evening breeze, Michiko’s smile, the excitement and joy in the Monkey Queen’s eyes. The geek girl part of Beth stirred, the part that wanted to chase Golden Snitches, stand with the Browncoats, ride on the Catbus, the part that wanted to take the wheel of an airship and set a course for the second star to the right. And that part almost said, When do we start? But the realistic side of her spoke up first.
“Michiko, I don’t know,” Beth said. “I’m no hero. I’m not a fighter or a wizard. I’m just a college student. Okay, maybe I’m a college student who’s read every Discworld book and watches way too much Doctor Who, but I’m nothing special. The only things I’m good at are sewing cosplay outfits, diagramming sentences and finding plot holes in bad movies.”
“Seems like you’re qualified to me,” Michiko said.
“But it sounds dangerous…it sounds crazy…oh, this is all too much.” Beth shook her head.
“Maybe it is, but do you know something, Beth?”
“You haven’t said ‘no’ yet.” Michiko grinned and winked.
Where can readers find your books?