Saturday, August 27, 2022

Randee Dawn

Randee Dawn writes about entertainment glam by day and fantastical fiction worlds by night. A former Soap Opera Digest editor, she now scribbles about the wacky universe of showbiz for Variety, The Los Angeles Times and The co-author of The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion, Dawn appeared on L&O once! In the courtroom! Her short fiction has been published in multiple anthologies, and in her spare time she’s a trivia writer for BigBrain Games. Based in Brooklyn, New York she lives with a brilliant spouse, a fluffy Westie, many books and never enough mangoes.

Dawn's first novel is Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The full title of Tune in Tomorrow is actually Tune in Tomorrow: The Curious, Calamitous, Cockamamie Story Of Starr Weatherby And The Greatest Mythic Reality Show Ever. Since I don't want people walking away in the middle of my giving that full title, I stick with Tune in Tomorrow. I think it tells you exactly what you need to know: "Tune in tomorrow" is a classic cliffhanger entertainment phrase and the rest of it is both explanatory and suggests that humor lies ahead. And that's perfect: This is a story about a reality TV show run by mythical creatures, for mythical creatures, but starring humans – particularly, a new hire called Starr Weatherby, who's about to have a whole lot of adventures. To my surprise, the publisher was perfectly happy with including all of the title – though the longer version just did not fit on the front cover of the book.

What's in a name?

Names are sometimes well-researched and mean things in my stories; in this case, an aspiring actor with grand designs on her career would of course want to be called "Starr." We learn later that her real name is far less glamorous – apologies to all the Samantha Wornickers of the world – and that she picked "Starr Weatherby" because it sounded refined and glamorous, at least to her inexperienced mind. Other characters' names just seemed to fit their personalities: a delightful, enthusiastic faun who calls himself "Jason Valentine" felt right in my mind; Emma Crawley, our British werepanther, is a nod to the Crawleys of Downton Abbey. Some of the locations – Shadow Oak, Dorsey's Regard – are pulled from where I grew up: They're names of streets and developments in my suburban Maryland neighborhood.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

Very surprised. I did not think of myself as a "funny" writer. I both wanted to write about genre but also take it very seriously. It's so easy to make fun of fantasy or science fiction, and I didn't want to laugh at it. With this book I hope to both honor the genre and laugh with it. When I was in college, an editor at our newspaper read one of my monthly columns and said I should write funny more often. I didn't think I could do funny on demand, and when I kept trying to be serious, I lost my position on the paper. So maybe he saw something I didn't. In any case, my teenage self would be horrified that it took this long to get a book published, but she is thrilled that it finally happened – and astonished that it's a humorous book.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I tend to have the general story in mind before I ever put the words on paper. (Outlines are a rarity for me; Tune in Tomorrow was outlined, but that made it an outlier.) But figuring out when to start the story has been a challenge – I often need to write the first draft, then discard the first chapter or so before things really get going and start with that instead. In this case, I'd initially framed the book as a memoir Starr was telling her biographer, with an opening and closing chapter that eased us into things. Both of those things vanished as I re-wrote – they were the equivalent of throat-clearing. Having developmental editors and a good agent who could point out that they weren't necessary was really important to getting the book in its proper shape. That said, I love writing beginnings and endings! Starts and ends are the most emotional times for me. The soft middle of the book is where I find things are most challenging.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

There's a little of me in all of my characters, but by the time they're fully developed on the page, that "me-ness" has faded into the background. I empathize with all of my characters, including the wicked ones, because I tend to believe in what Sheldon Kopp wrote in The Eschatological Laundry List: "All evil is potential vitality in need of transformation."

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Because Tune in Tomorrow takes place in the world of television, absolutely TV and show business – which I have covered as an entertainment journalist for years – influenced the making of this story. As for it influencing my writing, I do have the "movie" of every story in my head when I'm writing it, like a storyboard come to life. So the story is incredibly visual to me and I sometimes have to focus on the other senses to give it more dimensions.
Visit Randee Dawn's website.

The Page 69 Test: Tune in Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue