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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, spicy romance author Dawn Dugle talks about the inspiration behind her latest release, The Birds and The Beekeper.

the best creativity magazine in the UK, the best book magazine in the UK, the best arts magazine in the UK, the best entertainment magazine in the UK, the best celebrity magazine in the UK, book marketing UK, book promotion UK, music marketing UK, music promotion UK, film marketing UK, film promotion UK, arts and entertainment magazine, online magazine uk, creativity magazine

Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed romance author Dawn Dugle about her life and career, what inspries her writing, and the story of her new book, The Birds And The Beekeeper.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

My name is Dawn Dugle. I write spicy romantic comedies with couples over 35. I love reading, and romance novels are my jam, but one thing I wanted to see more of was spicy romance books with heroines over 35 who weren’t bitter. And I wanted to read about women who could save themselves in a crisis. 

Dawn Dugle on The Table Read
Dawn Dugle

(Reese Witherspoon said it best during the 2015 Glamour Women of the Year awards: “Inevitably, I get to that part where the girl turns to the guy, and she says, ‘What do we do now?’ Do you know any woman in any crisis situation who has absolutely no idea what to do? I mean, don’t they tell people in crisis, even children, ‘If you’re in trouble, talk to a woman.’)

So – I decided to write the romance books I wanted to read.

When did you first WANT to write a book?

I’ve always wanted to write novels. Since I could write. I started plenty of them in spiral notebooks, journals, and random scraps of paper when I was inspired.

In December 2017, I had a dream about a book. It was so vivid! I saw the cover, my name on the cover, the title, all of it. When I woke up, I said, “I’m going to publish a book within a year.”

When did you take a step to start writing?

I had that idea in 2017 for the first (non-fiction) book about two restauranteurs who bucked the trends and crowdfunded a restaurant in 1994 when that wasn’t even a thing. I knew these guys and asked them if they’d let me embed with their business, follow them around, get unfettered access to everything, and – oh, by the way, they’ll have no editorial control.

(It’s funny, you can laugh.)

They agreed to it!

How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?

I embedded with the restauranteurs for five months. I dug into the business files, interviewing longtime employees and the owners. Then, I wrote the book in a month while working a full-time job. The book came out on November 1, 2018, less than a year from the day I woke up from the dream about my first book. The restauranteurs threw a big release party that is a blur – so many people, great food, music. It was a blast, from what I can remember. 

It would be almost three years before I wrote a second book because non-fiction wasn’t for me. I balked at the idea of doing it again. I spent 23 years working in the news, telling non-fiction stories daily. I didn’t want to keep doing that. I wanted to write love stories – romance novels. 

That’s the pivot I made in 2021.

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How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?

Late last year (2021), I was in rapid release for my second series – the Saber Sisters. They’re romantic comedies with murder mysteries in them. (A lot of suspense.) I loved these characters, but my heart wanted to write romantic comedies – no body count/murders. 

I had this idea for a series set in a former nudist colony. The library would have smutty romance novels front-and-center. You’d be celebrated for your wackiness. And maybe there were matchmaking senior citizens who traded their relatives like baseball cards. (I have a sunshiny woman billionaire. Oh, I have a grumpy newsman. They’re perfect!)

After the release of Saber Fool’s Day (book 4 in Saber Sisters & my 9th romance novel), I sat down to create the world of Pleasure Point. 

It took me a month to create the island, the “rules,” and the backstory. I made maps. I developed a cast of characters from the original seven families who founded the island. Their names, quirks, their friends, and “enemies.” I wrote the woman pirate legend. I made a family tree to see where the younger generation fell (“younger” as in 35 and older). I put together a grid creating the upcoming couples (referencing the family tree chart, so no brothers and sisters were dating.) I worked on the tropes – specifically which ones I could flip on their ear. Example: I have a woman billionaire in book one.

After that initial plan, I had 12 novels outlined. I committed to three because if readers didn’t like the series, I didn’t want to waste time writing books that no one wanted. Doing all that work on the front end allowed me to write three novels within three months. I rapid-released One in a Billionaire, Hard as a Rock Star, and soon The Birds and the Beekeeper.

And in writing these books, I’m now at 14/15 novel ideas. HA!

Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Birds And The Beekeeper?

In The Birds and the Beekeeper, the question is – what if you met the love of your life when you were 18?  He is the best thing to ever happen to you, but you blame him for the worst moment of your life. (Even though it’s not his fault.)Could you get over that, and what would it take to move forward?

Spencer & Vi’s story wasn’t supposed to be book three in the series. It was supposed to come later, but these two wouldn’t shut up about their love story, so I moved it up.

What were your biggest challenges with writing The Birds And The Beekeeper?

Dr. Violetear (Vi) Keck is very rigid. She doesn’t cuss. She uses clinical terms in the middle of sexy time, which is pretty funny. She gets suspended early in the book because she refuses to perform an unethical exam that no one recognizes as a medical procedure. (There was the research that went into that, and the terminology Vi would use in a clinic or hospital. Thankfully, my mom is a former nurse.)

Spencer Strickland is a beekeeper and a heck of a lot smarter than anyone gives him credit for. I had to learn enough about beekeeping to make the book interesting. The funny thing was, right around the time I decided to make Spencer a beekeeper, I met a real-life beekeeper. He was more than happy to share background info with me. (Spencer is not based on him.)

Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?

We met Dr. Vi Keck in A Crazy Midlife Miracle, Flamingo Cove book 3. She’s the no-nonsense doctor who delivers life-changing news to the Flamingo Cove protagonist Wysdom Ward. 

The Birds And The Beekeeper on The Table Read
The Birds And The Beekeeper

I knew last year when I created Vi Keck that she would get her own book eventually. When I was putting together Pleasure Point, I thought – what if she was in one of the families? What if she left because of this incident with her first-ever boyfriend and hasn’t been back in 27 years?

Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?

The Birds and the Beekeeper is a romantic comedy and, as such, lower angst, but the antagonists in this are history and time.

Both characters fight internally and externally against their romantic history. One wants to live in the past. The other wants to avoid it because the past is attached to a horrible moment.

What is the inciting incident of The Birds And The Beekeeper?

A doctor escaping a swarm of bees accidentally runs into her first love, taking him to the ground and bruising his groin. Now, he needs someone to nurse him back to health.

It’s a meet messy that stings.

What is the main conflict of The Birds And The Beekeeper?

Spencer Strickland never stopped loving Vi Keck. She blames him for her dad’s death and leaves Pleasure Point right after high school. Spencer is mad at Vi for leaving. Vi is mad at Spencer for not fighting harder for them. They have a lot of history and baggage to get over before they can get back together.

Did you plot The Birds And The Beekeeper in advance or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?

I have a loose outline and a beat board where the action/reaction chapters need to be in the story, but I get into the writing and let the characters tell me how to handle the scenes.

99% of the time, what happens when I’m in the zone is much better than I planned.

Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Birds And The Beekeeper need?

I write and edit as I go.

Something funny happens when I’m about 60% through a book or right after the midpoint. My procrastination gene kicks in, and I don’t want to work on it. I dig in my heels and stop. (This has happened with every one of my books.)

Why does it happen?

1. I love these characters so much. I don’t want to put them through the bad stuff that’s coming. 

2. I don’t want to say goodbye. Even though they’ll be with me on other books, it’s not the same.

3. Imposter Syndrome is a bitch. There’s that little voice in my head saying, “this is a terrible book,” or “nobody will read this.”

So, I give it a break. I step away for 2-3 days and let the story breathe. Then, I print the whole thing out, double-spaced on paper. I grab a red pen and read/edit from the beginning.

Every time, I find the plot thread I was missing to make this a better book.  I also get sucked into the story and remember why I loved it in the first place. I laugh and think, “This is much better than I thought it was.” It helps to get me back in the zone, and I typically power write through to the end because the mid-book edit re-lit my creative fire for the story.

After it’s written, it goes through two more rounds of heavy edits and proofreading. And I have a fantastic beta reader/friend who has been with me from the first book and knows all of these characters almost as well as I do.  She is a blessing.

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What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?

Do what works for you. If you feel the need to outline stuff and have a spreadsheet of character names and a map of the island you’re writing about, do it. If you want to sit down and let the words flow – do it.

You’ll learn a lot of this by doing it. Sometimes you’ll fall on your face. Sometimes you’ll hit a home run. Sometimes it will be in the middle. But that’s how you learn and get better.

By the way: if someone tells you there is only one way to write or market a book, run far away. That’s a red flag to me. 

Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?

The Saber Sisters will get a box set (in November, if everything goes to plan), and in that box set will be the bonus novella – a love story of everyone’s favorite character. A character who has shown up in every single one of my romance novels. 

There are more love stories in Pleasure Point to tell.

And – readers love Wysdom Ward (from the Flamingo Cove series). They’d love to see her get more books.

And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Hell yeah!

I’ve written three non-fiction books, two screenplays, and 12 romance novels. That doesn’t include the bonus stories, prequels, and other content I share with my Fab Flock (my VIP group of readers.)

Those 12 romance novels?  That’s since March 2021. I can hardly believe it sometimes. 

There are abso-freaking-lutely days that I wonder why in the world I chose the most challenging path possible for a job.

And whenever I doubt, the universe sends someone to tell me how much they loved a book. They want to know when the next books are coming out. They sign up for my email newsletter. They ask me to sign a book.

And my personal favorite – I absolutely love when someone tells me they want to move to Pleasure Point.

That is the biggest compliment and nearly brings me to tears every time. 

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