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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author E.F. Dodd shares the inspiration behind her new romance book, A Higher Standard, and her creative writing process.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed E. F. Dodd about her life and career, her creative writing process, and the inspiration behind the characters in her new romance novel, A Higher Standard.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Halloween and Thanksgiving are my two favorite holidays, because both give me a great excuse to decorate my house with more pumpkins than should be legal. I love Christmas, too, but Thanksgiving means family to me, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Entertaining is one of my favorite things to do, whether it’s friends or family, and nothing makes me happier than a house full of people having fun. Napa is my favorite vacation spot, but I would never turn down a trip to Boston. Well, except for maybe in February, but otherwise, I’m in!
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, even when I was a kid. The idea of writing a book seemed daunting for so long, but then I just decided, why not at least try! If it turned out to be garbage, at least I could say I’d done it. Turns out, while I’m not in the running for a Pulitzer or anything, my writing is not garbage and is (according to Kirkus, so you can take it as fact) actually good. I’m constantly working to get better, and I love the interaction with readers, because it really helps to hone the craft of writing.
When did you take a step to start writing?
As I said, I’ve always enjoyed writing, but the first step towards writing a novel probably happened in 2018 or 2019 when I started writing my first book, Risky Restoration. It flowed so well, I leapt immediately into the second book in that series, Earning It.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
That’s a tricky question, because the idea floated around in my brain for a long time before I ever started writing. Best guesstimate though? I’d say at least three years. The good news is that broke the dam and I’ve been writing ever since!
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
A Higher Standard is my latest book, which just released on May 16th! Get yours now at Amazon, lol! That one took roughly a year from first idea to release. First idea to first draft was only about three months, though. Publishing books, I’ve learned, is a PROCESS.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write A Higher Standard?
We adopted a bulldog from the rescue Bullies2TheResuce in August of 2021. I saw the hard work the volunteers put into that organization all for the good of the dogs and I knew I had to write a story about it in some way. I grew up with horses, so the equine rescue sprang from my background with them and the desire to highlight the need to rescue all creatures great and small.
What were your biggest challenges with writing A Higher Standard?
I HATE the conflict that is necessary in a romance, lol! I just want them to be in love the whole time, so the third act breakup is always tough for me. I try to give them legitimate reasons for being apart, while still making it believable they’d find their way back to each other. That is HARD for me.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
We’ll call Everest the protagonist, since she’s the female MC and the one closest to my heart. I knew she needed to be tough-minded and focused to be a believable character in the field of rescue. These folks are truly dedicated to their work, and I tried to make that shine through in Everest.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
For Gideon, I wanted to take a character who is normally the real bad guy – big bad developer coming into a small town – and make him the hero of the story. He needed to be swoon-worthy enough to overcome the stereotype, but not cross the line into being a cheesy caricature. Hopefully, it worked!
What is the inciting incident of A Higher Standard?
Gideon’s arrival in Mimosa from Boston with plans to develop the land located next to Everest’s equine rescue.
What is the main conflict of A Higher Standard?
Everest’s reluctance to believe anything she has with Gideon will survive when he leaves Mimosa to return to Boston.
Did you plot A Higher Standard in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I would say I had the broad strokes worked out, but most of it is free-write followed by round after round of re-writes!
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did A Higher Standard need?
Yes! I had a wonderful editor, Karli Jackson, who also worked with me on my first two books. She did a great job working with me through the developmental edit. I like to say that there are maybe four or five paragraphs – AT MOST – from the first draft that survive all the way into the final. The ideas are the same, but the way they are written changes with each turn of the draft.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
The hardest part of writing is sitting down in front of that blank page/screen. It’s scary to think you need to fill that page and hundreds more with words. But, once you start, the words will come. Don’t let it intimidate you to the point where you never start.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Sure! The first series I wrote is the (Not) Looking for Love series, which starts with Risky Restoration and then Earning It. The third book in that series will be coming out this fall.
There will also be more to the Standard of Love Series after A Higher Standard. Right now, I’ve slated it for a trilogy, so there should be at least two more books!
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Yes, I am proud of all my books. It’s absolutely worth the effort to do it, because I’ve never enjoyed anything quite as much as I do writing romance. Even the hard days of staring at a cursor waiting on the words to come are better than the best days doing anything else.
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