A Q&A with Rita Dragonette
Written by
She Writes
August 2018
Written by
She Writes
August 2018

Rita Dragonette is the author of The Fourteenth of SeptemberShe Writes recently chatted with the author about her writing style and more before the release of her debut novel.  

SW: Share your writing routine.

RD: Although my aspiration is to establish an intractable minimum three hours of writing first thing each morning, I go through an initial hour or two of what I call the “concentric circles of procrastination” wherein newspapers are read, dishes and other obvious pick-up household chores are performed, and other one-off tasks (bills, email responses) are completed until there is nothing to keep me from my home office and the task at hand. It puts me in the zone as if I were going to work.

SW: Describe your writing style in three words.

RD: Hemingway with flesh.

SW: What is the first thing you can remember writing?

RD: In junior high I wrote a pastiche (though I didn’t know that’s what it was called) of “The Telltale Heart,” where the narrator goes crazy at the end when he sees what he thinks are his victim’s eyes looking out of the face of a cat—which turns out to be the reflection from a traffic light.  It was tremendous fun. I used it later as a monologue for a speech class in college.

I’ve never written anything remotely similar since. My next story was historical fiction about the Revolutionary War. I experimented.

SW: When did you start to feel like a writer?

Although my avocation was always to someday write books like the ones I’d been reading from a very early age, I was consistently praised and encouraged for my talent, had a writing-based profession and knew the written word was my go-to form of expression, I felt like I couldn’t call myself a writer until I’d finished a novel.

Once I began my blog, as part of pre-publication marketing, the response to my writing was overwhelming. I realized that “writer” was now my profession and I embraced it. I was very excited the day I called myself a writer on my website—even more so when I changed it to author.

SW: Was there something about the publishing experience that surprised you?

RD: I’ve been very surprised at how much falls on an author, over and beyond the actual writing of the book. I certainly expected to have to learn many industry specifics. However, despite the decades of experience I have in editing and promotion, I’m still astounded at what an author—the “talent”—is responsible for, on both the marketing and “finished” editorial sides.

SW: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

RD: Get involved in the writing community in your area. Pick an academic institution or a reputable program to become involved with and participate in their curriculum. Meet as many writers as possible, go to their readings, frequent bookstores and make friends, go to conferences, go—per the advice I was given by a best-selling author—EVERYWHERE. This is a familial community that helps each other—to learn how to be a great writer as well as how to get published and earn a living as a writer. There is no reason to go it alone.

SW: What do you do to help develop your craft?

RD: Some time ago, I had a marvelous instructor who led a class about reading as a writer. Now that’s the only way I can read. I sometimes miss the pure enjoyment of reading, but it deepens the experience to understand and be able to be awed by not only what happens but how the writer pulled it off. 

I’m also an article junkie. I’ll read most of what I come across by writers about technique, building a scene, pacing, process . . . anything. It’s rare that I don’t pick up at least one new nugget I can apply. Now, it’s become a source of fascination, and I’m writing articles on my own to share.

SW: What methods are you using to market your book?

RD: As a former public relations professional, I’m going all out. Almost a year ago I set up a website, established a blog and began a robust social media program.

Once I had a publication date I hired a literary publicity firm, coordinated activities with all the entities I’ve worked with in writing the book—from academic institutions to residency programs-- and set up a  series of events—some hosted by me and others by friends and associates in my network (from business as well as the literary salons I’ve hosted for a decade), both where I live and in other cities where I have a constituencies (my former employees and colleagues are really rallying behind me).

Of special note, I’m working with my alma mater to fund a scholarship to encourage activism that incorporates my novel’s tagline “A Coming of Conscience,” to be fueled from book proceeds tied to a social media campaign.

About Rita Dragonette

Rita Dragonette is a former award-winning public relations executive turned author. Her debut novel, The Fourteenth of September, is a woman’s story of Vietnam which will be published by She Writes Press on September 18 and has already been designated a finalist in two 2018 American Fiction Awards by American Book Fest, and received an honorable mention in the Hollywood Book Festival.  She is currently working on two other novels and a memoir in essays, all of which are based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, as well as on her transformative generation. She also regularly hosts literary salons to introduce new works to avid readers. www.ritadragonette.com

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