Hi there! My name is Dana Fraedrich, and I am a YA steampunk and fantasy author, puppy mommy, presenter and educator, and all-around crafter of many things. As of this interview (early 2022), I have released six books–two fantasy adventure, three steampunk fantasy, and one dark fantasy. And I have plans to release a seventh later this year–a queer smooshy romance/cozy mystery set in my steampunk world. It’s gonna be really fun, y’all.
You’ve worked on a lot of stories! Are there any that stand above the rest as your favorite?
Gosh, that’s a tough question. It’s hard to compare my novels to my short stories since those are such different formats, so I’m gonna focus on my short stories here. Any stories wherein I get to write a lot of character conflict is really fun. So Surprise Party Planning and A Modest Proposal (both available in the Exclusive Content section of my website) are some of my favorites. I also really enjoyed writing I Could Not Stop for Death (available on my website here) since it gave me the opportunity to world-build the afterlife in a very compressed amount of time.
Would you say that writing is a hobby, a passion or something else? What does it mean to you?
Writing is both my profession and my passion. For one thing, I don’t know how to not write. From a young age, I started writing down all the stories banging around inside my head. Writing can be very therapeutic. On more than one occasion, during the course of writing, I’ve discovered something about myself and/or realized something I was struggling with. But, as most writers will probably tell you, it can also be really stressful. So like any profession, you have to be able to identify when it’s time to step away from your work and take a breath.
Pro-tip, writing friends, always hire a professional editor.On editing
Tell me about your favorite part of the writing process?
Rough drafts are definitely my happy place. Possibilities are infinite with a rough draft. I’m very good at telling my inner editor to wait for her turn while I throw all kinds of stuff at the proverbial wall. And I enjoy sending the book away too, haha. When I send a book (after several rounds of doing my own edits) to my editor, I know it’s gonna get worked over well. Pro-tip, writing friends, always hire a professional editor. Not your mom or your sibling. We pay professionals for their expertise and to do a difficult and demanding job so that our books can be the best they can be.
…the hardest part? Of course, after the rough draft, comes editing. I often say I hate editing, which isn’t exactly true, but I definitely don’t love it. Editing is where I have to start making hard decisions. Sometimes those decisions involve cutting out big chunks of the story or changing a whole subplot or getting rid of characters. It helps after a book has been to my editor, though, because then I can start collaborating with her on those especially troublesome spots.
This one’s gonna be a long answer, so strap in, friends.
What does the process of working with an editor look like?
First of all, I want to make it totally clear that an editor isn’t working to kill your joy or take over your story or anything else like that. They’re there as a partner to make your story better. We’re so close to our own work that we can’t (no, we really can’t) see a lot of the problems with it. Your editor can look at your book with a more objective eye and help make it stronger.
Secondly, there should be a good bit of communication on the front end with your editor, especially if you’re just starting out with them. Obviously, you’ll want to know how much the editing work will cost you. But also, you and your editor should discuss expectations. What will the editing work entail? A lot of editors offer multiple services depending on what your needs are. Developmental editing is generally the most in-depth type of editing, looking at everything from plot structure to character development and world-building. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s proofreading, which is basically looking for small errors like typos and punctuation issues. How long will the editing take/when can you expect to receive your manuscript back?
It’s also important for your editor to know where you are in your writing journey. Is this your first book or your sixth? What are the areas in which you struggle? And where do your strengths lie?
You should also always have a contract of some sort. An email might suffice, but I always feel better with a written agreement that outlines the costs and timelines for the project, signed by both parties (you and the editor). If nothing else, it’s nice to be able to reference costs and dates in one place because I have absolutely no memory for numbers.
When you do receive your manuscript back, seriously consider your editor’s suggestions. You hired them to tell you how to make the book better, after all. Not all their change suggestions may work for you, or you may need to discuss other options with them. On the book I’m currently working on, I had intentionally remained light on some details referencing the previous books for reasons, and my editor picked me up on it. I told her my reasons and we discussed how I could fix the issues without messing with said reasons. I’ve had to rewrite entire chapters before, cut chapters, and yes, it’s hard. But these changes all made my books better than they would have otherwise been.
As with any partnership, communication is key.
How much do you spend on editing services?
Without getting too specifically into my own personal finances, I can tell you you’ll probably pay between $1500 and $3000 for an editor depending on your book’s word count, how in demand that editor is, how much education and/or experience they’ve had, and a variety of other factors. And do always keep in mind that editors are professionals working a difficult and demanding job and they should be paid fairly.
What does your writing process look like from conception to publication?
An idea usually lives in my head a good long while before I start writing it. I need to know how it ends when I start so I know what I’m aiming for. I tend to bang out rough drafts really quickly (NaNoWriMo is a great time for this), and then I’ll let them percolate for a while and work on something else in the meantime. I don’t tend to edit something else during that percolation time, though, because editing takes me a very long time. So I might write another first draft or focus for a while on short stories or, if I need it, I’ll have a bit of a break. Then editing, which… yeah, it usually takes me a couple of months because I’ll usually go through about two more drafts before I send the book off to my editor. Then more editing. And more.
After that, the book can go to beta readers. Finally I can start looking at publication dates. I used to set my publishing dates much earlier, but that always left me rushing and panicking toward my deadline. Nothing ever went catastrophically bad that way, but I’m happier not doing that. While the book is with beta readers and once I’ve set my pub dates, I’ll also start looking at audiobook narrators and doing cover reveals and all that fun stuff. I’ll apply beta reader changes while marketing for preorders. And once the book is really and truly finished, I can book the audiobook narrator and ARC readers and really ramp up to the release day. There a lot of things that happen for releases. Social media and maybe a book release event and more social media and newsletters and did I mention social media. It’s a lot, so I live and die by my checklists and planner. Months and months before I even set my pub dates, I start writing things down that I’ll need to do and things I want to try because goodness knows I’m not gonna remember half of that stuff when the time comes.
Do you have any snippets you would like to share from any of your books?
I feel like I never know what to include for stuff like this, but I really love the initial meeting between Lenore, the main character in three of my books, and Rook, a fan favorite and crime lord in that world. So here’s that!
Lenore turned only to see her path blocked by someone she hadn’t heard approach, a young man that was eyeing her all too intently.
He was tall and lanky, the perfect build for a thief. His hair was longish and very dark and hung messily around his face. His slender fingers were probably perfect for picking pockets, but his dress said he made a far more lucrative career than that. He had dark outlines painted around his eyes, a trick Lenore had seen before, both to aid concealment and intimidate. His posture was relaxed, but Lenore recognized the forced
casualness for what it was. It was a ruse and, like a snake, he’d be able to strike fast and accurately any time he wanted to.
Lenore stared off against the man, ready to fight. Nevermind that she didn’t actually know how to fight, not really. Men had sensitive parts, though, and she fully intended on attacking those viciously if it came to it.
“You are a prickly one, aren’t you?” the man said.
“What do you want?” Lenore snapped, covering her fear thickly with anger and venom.
“And direct as well. I like that. I’ve been trying to catch up with you for a while.”
“I repeat, what do you want? You’re wasting my time and blocking my way.”
“Too true, too true. You can call me Rook, and I represent certain interested parties.”
“Interested in what?”
“In you, darling. Your father was a good friend of ours.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My father is alive and—”
“Save it,” Rook said, cutting her off.
He approached slowly, dangerously, and lowered his voice. Lenore didn’t retreat.
She knew she couldn’t show fear to this man, whoever he was, but she stood ready to defend herself.
“We know your father was Edgar Crowley. He, along with your mother, was arrested over a year ago. And you…” Rook chuckled, “you have done very well for yourself. I don’t know how you did it, but you really landed well.”
“Very well, if you think you know who I am—and you don’t—why is this the first time we’ve met?”
“Because we didn’t know where you were until recently. Edgar spoke little of you, and you disappeared so completely after the arrest. We only recently put the pieces together. Then there was the issue of catching you alone.”
“This is ridiculous,” Lenore said, shaking her head and marching past Rook. “I hope you know you sound mad. Best of luck finding whoever it is that you’re looking for, though.”
She felt confident and strong and was sure she was getting away with it when Rook grabbed her and spun her towards the wall of the building. He pushed her shoulders back against the stone and hissed in her ear.
“Be careful, little bird. I am taking a lot of care to make sure you stay safe. Don’t make me have to protect you from yourself.”
What is something you learned with your most recent writing project?
This latest project definitely taught me to trust myself more. For my most recent book, I had to switch editors. My old one made the decision to start focusing on her own writing (completely understandable), and I quickly found a new one thanks to multiple author-friends’ recommendations. I was nervous that new-editor and I wouldn’t jive, but we had a lovely preliminary meeting, wherein she asked me where I thought problem spots with the book would lie. Long story short, everything I said would be an issue was and everything I felt confident in was pretty strong. Take time to get to know your strengths and weaknesses as a writer–we all have both in equal measure–and then learn to trust yourself.
If there was one thing you could go back and tell yourself before you wrote your first book, what would it be?
Gosh, there’s a lot I’d tell my previous self. First would be to not be afraid to own being an author. I spent the first two years of my author life hiding that fact about me. I’ve also since learned that the author community is a priceless gift that every author needs to give to themself. Say hi to people online. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for recommendations. And always, always be learning.
Why do you think you wanted to hide that you were a writer from people?
Imposter syndrome, for sure. I was just some wee baby indie author in a sea of people with more experience, more connections and writer friends, bigger social media presences, more books out, more everything. So I didn’t feel like I could really say I was a writer. I felt like a child dressing in adult clothes and trying to pretend to be one of them. And, of course, everyone would see right through me for the fraud I was. But, thankfully, as I made more author friends and gained encouragement from the community, I started to accept that, yes, I am a writer. Because I’ve bloody well done the work! And no one gets to tell me or anyone else otherwise.
What book are you currently working on?
As mentioned above, I’m currently working on a queer smooshy romance/cozy mystery set in my steampunk world. I don’t have a release date yet (though my Patreon subscribers have already gotten to see the title and first chapter), but I’m planning for it to come out autumn of 2022.
I know you visit a lot of conventions and things, what is your experience with those?
I absolutely love doing conventions! I’m very much a people person, though. I love meeting with people and chatting with them about books and life and their interests. But I realize conventions aren’t for everyone. If you vend like I do, the days are very long and there’s a lot of manual labor, between traveling and setting up and tearing down. I’m a really active person, though, so there are even parts of that I enjoy. And I can chew through some audiobooks while I’m driving. It’s a lot of people-ing, though. And if you’re doing an outdoor event, whew! Weather is a thing! I’ve done my fair share of events in the rain, in the wind, and in heat so humid it was like walking through soup. My advice is to always over-prepare, dress in layers, and just forgo the high heels.
What’s your experience with using Patreon as a way to connect with your audience?
I really love having a Patreon. Not everyone is in a position to support you financially, or not everyone can donate much (I have a KoFi for that reason as well), but it’s nice to have a place where people can do that if they are able to and want to. We live in an incredible age wherein we can support creators all over the globe and I think that’s fantastic.
Tell me about a couple of books that have been impactful for your writing life.
Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird was such a helpful book for me, from her chapter about $h!tty first drafts to her story about having to work and rework the book that just wasn’t coming together. That book is an even-handed and honest look into the writing life and how to be kind to both yourself and others through it.
What are you currently reading?
I just finished Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett and now I’m currently reading Fuzz by Mary Roach. Once in a while, I like to switch things up and lean into some nonfiction. I find it provides nice, fresh fields for my brain to rest in after chewing on some good fiction for a while.
Have anything in the pipeline for your next project?
I’m not 100% settled on it, but I’m thinking of working on a collection of interconnected modern fantasy short stories for traditional publishing querying. I’m currently querying a fun and silly sci-fi YA book, and you know what they say to do while you’re waiting to hear back on your queries–write the next book!
What decisions do you make to choose between traditional publication and independent publication?
This is always a hard decision because there are no guarantees in either direction. None. And neither path is easier than the other; they’re just different. Indie publishing gives you the freedom to choose what gets published and, generally speaking, when. Along with all the other decisions. You’re in control of making it happen, and that’s amazing. It’s also really, really hard because now you’re suddenly not just the author, but the hiring manager for the cover designer and the editor, the finance department, the marketing department, and the social media manager. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to take on, that’s okay, but in that case, indie publishing may not be for you.
As far as traditional goes, a lot of those other responsibilities are taken off of you. Though even a lot of trad authors are expected to promote themselves via social media, and there’s talk now that since Amazon ads has opened up to traditional publishers, even traditionally published authors will be expected to run ad campaigns through that platform, though it’s too soon yet to tell with that. But the publishing company is the one who hires the editor and cover designer and all that. The downside of that, of course, is that someone has to let you into that world. That usually starts with an agent, but that requires querying dozens if not hundreds to find one who will represent you. And even then, the book may not sell. But you have a much larger team behind you if you do manage to get through those doors.
There’s a trade-off to both paths, and every author has to carefully consider which one suits them and their strengths and weaknesses best.
What would you say the biggest challenges to querying are?
Figuring out what to write has never been an issue for me. I hear people at conferences ask agents what they should be writing/what’s selling right now, and I don’t think those are the right questions. For one thing, what’s selling now won’t be The Big Thing in six months. Instead, I’m a huge believer in writing the books that make you excited, the books you want to see exist in the world.
Rather, the hardest part of querying for me is the waiting. You spend all this time working on your book, working on your query, possibly on a synopsis as well. Then you meticulously trawl the books on your shelf and QueryTracker and MSWL for agents’ names, internet-stalk them to see what they’re looking for and who might be a good fit. You carefully read the directions for how to query that one agent and follow them to the letter. And then… you wait. And wait. Weeks or even months. And some won’t ever get back to you unless they’re interested. For others, you’ll just receive a polite but short form rejection response. It’s not an easy road, but it’s how the process works. So be sure to gird yourself with friends who will encourage you. Join communities and get to know others going through the same journey. Believe me, those people will be your sunshine when the road gets tough. And while you’re waiting, work on your next book!
What are you doing for fun (not including work and writing?)
TTRPGs (tabletop role playing games) such as Dungeons and Dragons are my sacred times. I GM one and am a player in a few more. I don’t try to monetize those or anything; they’re just my fun space to hang with my friends and have a good time.
In conclusion, what do the next few years look like for you regarding writing?
I’ve got some really fun stuff happening in the next few years. Autumn of 2022, I’ll be releasing the next book in the Broken Gears universe–a queer, smooshy cozy mystery romance. For 2023, I have plans for another book release in that universe, but I’m not ready to talk about it yet. And this year/next year I’ll be working on my next trad-publishing hopeful. I’ll continue querying the silly sci-fi one I’m working on until, well, probably until I run out of agents, so here’s hoping something happens with that. For 2024… well, I haven’t quite planned that far ahead, but hopefully another Broken Gears book. We’ll just have to wait and see how things shake out.
Thank you to Dana Fradrich for taking the time to answer these questions. You can find her works on Amazon, Patreon, and TikTok. Clicking on any of the pictures of her books above will take you to Dana’s website!