Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dina Sleiman's at The Alley! Interview & Book Giveaway

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Sherrinda here - I am thrilled to have Dina Sleiman at The Alley today! Dina is a debut fiction author, who is celebrating the release of her medieval novel, Dance of the Dandelion. She is an award winning writer, who loves to dance and spin stories in honor of her Lord God. Enjoy the interview, and don't forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Dina's book.

How long did you write before you sold your first book?

That’s always a tricky question to answer. I’ve loved writing since elementary school. By high school I knew I would someday write at least one novel. In grad school I majored in writing. I had the idea for this book in 2001. However, it wasn’t until 2006 that I really got serious about becoming an author and wrote the first draft. So I think it’s fair to say five years from starting the book to publication.

How many manuscripts have you written, and which is your favorite?

I have three completed manuscripts right now, in three different genres (yeah, my agents love that. LOL.) Dance of the Dandelion is a medieval love story, Dance from Deep Within is a contemporary novel with romantic elements, and Dancing after the Wind is actually a work of creative nonfiction.  But as you might guess from the titles, the themes are all similar. If hard pressed, I might say Dandelion is my favorite. First, I spent years on that book as opposed to less than a year on each of the other two. Also, because I love the rich language the medieval setting allowed me to use. If I hadn’t discovered that medieval books were not popular in the Christian market, I probably would have stuck with that genre.

I understand that you are represented by Tamela Hancock Murray.  How long did you write before you sought representation?

Tamela is actually my second agent.. After writing for about a year, I sent my novel to a few agents. The only one who got back to me was Steve Laube. He complimented my style but said I still had a lot of craft issues to work out. In fact, he gave me a B-, which was unacceptable to this straight A student. Then he recommended a list of editors and writing coaches. I recognized Donna Fleisher, so I worked with her for nearly a year, then submitted again. That time Steve and one other agent actually requested the full manuscript, but both ended up turning it down based primarily on the medieval setting. Steve also said, “Something is missing.” So I dug in and figured out the problem in the pacing.

At that point I landed my first agent through the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. So that would have been three years after I started writing. And I actually started getting requests from publishers. Again, they all ended up saying no based on the setting. In the meantime WhiteFire showed an interest, but my first agent also started talking like she might not stay in the business much longer. So I ended up switching to Tamela, who I had met several times through a mutual friend. Now Tamela has moved to the Steve Laube agency. So it’s kind of fun that things have come around full circle.

How long does it take you to write a book?

I write in spurts when the energy hits. If I were to just write straight through, it would probably be about 4 to 6 months. But I tend to leave time in between when I let things simmer. Then I can go back and look at what I’ve done so far with fresh eyes and really perfect it. I don’t believe in writers block. I don’t even go there. If I have nothing to write, I’ll work on critiquing, editing, or marketing instead. My preference is to have words bursting out of me, and I’m just longing for that moment when I can sit down and capture them on paper.

Now my creative nonfiction book is a whole different crazy story. I actually wrote that in six days. It was like my brain was just waiting to discover the format so it could download all those thoughts. I had been reading a wonderful book in the same style. I found myself studying it and enthralled with the structure and the way the author incorporated stories and poems. Then I sat down and said, “Hmm…I wonder if I could do that.” And six days later I had a book. Mind you I did very little sleeping, eating, or even bathing that week. It was a very surreal and supernatural experience for me. That book is tentatively scheduled to release with WhiteFire next year.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love reading, dancing, biking, going to the beach, and generally being outdoors. Taking long walks really refreshes me and refuels my creative process. I also enjoy just sitting quietly in God’s presence and listening. My kids are probably my closest friends, and I spend a lot of time with them.

Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?

Well, as you may have picked up, I’m kind of weird and spiritual about my writing. So my very best tip is to spend time listening to God, and even journaling, before you start writing. To me, if his hand is not in a project, then it’s a waste of time.

I actually have a full writing class series on my website if anyone wants to check it out. It starts with how to better hear God’s voice, but then moves through all the steps of the writing process. http://dinasleiman.com

Dance of the Dandelion has recently released.  Tell us a little about the book.

Dandelion is a medieval love story about a peasant girl who nearly starved during a famine as a small child. Because of this, she is determined to find a better life for herself. Her ambition drives her to leave her childhood sweetheart behind and begin a looping journey that leads to the nearby castle, to London, to the seas, and finally to an Italian convent. Along the way she meets men who offer aspects of love, but never quite the real thing. It’s only when she discovers God’s true love that she will be set free to find earthly love as well.

If you could only share one line from Dance of the Dandelion, which one would you choose and why?

I think this paragraph really captures the essence of the book and gives you a glimpse into Dandelion’s journey. And if I had to pick only one line, it would be the first sentence here.

In time, though, just as my passion for Lucio once eclipsed my love for Giovanni, my passion for God overwhelmed every human encounter I ever knew. He showed me new heights, new pinnacles of ecstasy, pure and holy ecstasy, and left me tingling and glowing for days to come. It was as if God was inside of me, and then expanded until He was all around me, until, in fact, I was inside of Him.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

Well, as I mentioned, my creative nonfiction, Dancing after the Wind, should release sometime next year. If readers enjoy the themes and poetry in Dandelion, I’m sure they’ll love hearing me expand upon them in my own voice.

And my agent is currently shopping my contemporary novel, Dance from Deep Within. This is the story of a veiled Muslim woman, a blonde ballerina, and a bi-racial hippie chick who meet over a group project on diversity and search together for meaning and truth. While it is in many ways an issue driven book, each woman also has her own romance thread, and their interactions are often comic, so it’s a lot of fun too.

Now for a little fun…tell us 3 FUN facts about yourself that you don't think anyone knows. It doesn't have to be writing related, but a funny writing quirk would be FABULOUS!

Oh my. I’m a open person so it’s hard to think of things that people don’t know, but I’ll try to at least share random, little known facts.

1) My pet peeve is tailgaters, and I’ve been known to slam the brakes on them.
2) I have two cute little malti-poo type dogs, and I’m not above dressing them in adorable matching outfits.
3) Writing quirk: maybe the fact that I sometimes count out the poetic meters of my sentences. That’s pretty nuts, and I know it.

You can purchase Dance of the Dandelions HERE. (And the Kindle edition is only $3.03!)

Dina, thanks for letting us get to know you better. I can't wait to dig into Dance of the Dandelion, because I am a lover of all things medieval! To celebrate the release of a CBA Medieval, I am giving away a copy of Dina's book, Dance of the Dandelion. Please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy! Winner will be picked by random.org and announced in the Weekend Edition.

*Contest is only open in the U.S. and void where prohibited. Chances of winning are based on the number of entries and winner is draw from a non-biased third party- Random.org. I am not responsible for any lost or damaged items for said prize.


Joanne Sher said...

I LOVE posts like this. Loved getting to know Dina AND her writing. Please enter me!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

This was a wonderful post. I, too, enjoyed learning more about Dina, how she writes and how God plays a major role in every aspect of her process.

Seeing how she weaves in her spiritual thread is wonderful. I'm still figuring this out. :) Thanks for the interview, ladies!

lgm52 said...

Really enjoyed reading about this book. It sounds soooo good!
Thanks for the giveaway!

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks everyone for the lovely compliments. Let me also mention that the ebook version of Dandelion is only $3-$4 for whoever doesn't end up winning. Hint, hint.

Did anyone else notice my overuse of the word "so" in this interview? LOL.

Dina Sleiman said...

Joanne, glad you enjoyed it. I'm always afraid I'll be boring in interviews :)

Dina Sleiman said...

Jeanne, part of my strategy for weaving the spiritual thread is to have people reacting against Biblical truth and offering other reasonable arguments and ideas. Definitely keeps things from getting "preachy," and it's all the more powerful when the character comes to the right conclusion.

Dina Sleiman said...

Igm 52, according to my amazon reviews it must be pretty good ;)

Beth K. Vogt said...

Wow ... this is one of the most intriguing author interviews I've read: Dina's author journey, her writing process, the variety of books she's written ... so diverse!!

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Beth. Diverse or messed up, you decide. Ha ha! Glad you chose the positive spin.

Keli Gwyn said...

Congratulations on your release, Dina! I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I love your cover!

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Keli. I don't know if everyone here is aware of it, so I'll repeat the story. That's my daughter on the cover. And the neat thing is that she was my inspiration for the childhood version of Dandelion.

Pepper said...

YAY, it's Dina!!!
So glad to have you here on The Alley. What a wonderful intro to your writing life (and your weirdness...but I knew that already ;-)

Love the premise behind your story and totally get the dilemma of mult-genre writing. As with your writing, do you just go where you feel inspiration as far as genre too?

Wyn said...

I love medieval stories. I just finished a monk mystery. This sounds like a great book. I am Canadian so don't enter me in the draw :)


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Whew! Just got to my lunch break and made it here! Sorry I'm late. Dina, I am just so excited for your release! Thanks so much for the great interview! You are soooo cool! :)

Dina Sleiman said...

Yes, Pepper's well acquainted with my weirdness. In answer to you question, at the end of the day I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in all my writing. I just don't know how to do otherwise. When I found that medieval was a hard sell I really prayed about another historical time, and what ended up coming to me was a contemporary idea instead.

I have, however, promised my agents that I will behave and write something specifically to market if this one doesn't work out. I'll still have to wait and see exactly what God lays on my heart. I'm open to historicals or contemporaries, but I have to feel passionate about the story in order to write it. Although my novels are set in all different times, the style and themes are similar.

The nonfiction was sort of a fluke. If it happens again, then I'll write it down again. I didn't even try to pitch that one. I just kind of said to my publisher, "Hey, I have this crazy nonfiction book too. Any interest in seeing it?" And they loved it.

Dina Sleiman said...

Sherrinda, I'll tell my teenagers you said so. They like me and will even hang out with me, but evidently by their standards I'm kind of a dork.

Dina Sleiman said...

Wyn, yay!!!! Another medieval lover. Surely there are a few of us out there. I will say though, that I think my book has a lot of universal appeal even if you don't generally love the setting.

Pepper said...

I'm a big fan of dorks.
Not that I am one or anything.

Mary Vee Writer said...

Dina and Sherrinda, Great interview. I'm so glad a medieval book has been published. I don't think that category will every truly fade. Wish more would be published.

Faith said...

Wonderful interview :) I can totally relate to writing in spurts! Especially when there are so many commitments in life. I would love read this book!

crazi.swans at gmail dot com

Joy Hannabass said...

Thank you ladies for the interview. Dina is a new author for me and so is her book new for me. I love finding new authors!

Dina Sleiman said...

Hi Mary. I agree. While some settings may be more popular than others, there are always readers who enjoy them.

Dina Sleiman said...

Hi, Faye. I get tired of the people who insist everyone must write everyday. If I tried to do that, it would probably ruin me as a writer.

Dina Sleiman said...

Glad to hear it, Joy. The hardest thing about publishing with a small press is how to spread the word. There are something like 10,000 books published a year, but I just have to trust God that he'll somehow get mine into the right hands.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Welcome to the Alley, Dina! Congratulations on your book--which has both a beautiful title AND cover! :)

Dina Sleiman said...

:) Thanks.

Jackie S. said...

Love hearing about new writers and their books. Thanks for the giveaway....would love to read this book.

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Jackie. I hope someone is really blessed by the book :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Thanks for doing the interview, Dina. I love learning more about new writers, and I love your tip about listening to God--I know I don't do enough of it but when I do, it always helps :)

Dina Sleiman said...

I'm sure I don't do enough of it either, Cindy, but it's always a blessing when I do.

misskallie2000 said...

Hi Dina, Great interview. I enjoy learning about the why's, how's, etc that authors must face before writing their books. I am adding you as a new author and can't wait to read "Dance of the Dandelion".
Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.
I love the cover Dina and I would guess your daughter loves to dance.
Thanks for the opportunity to enter giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Dina Sleiman said...

Thanks, Miss Kallie. That makes my day. And for anyone who didn't read through all the comments, let me mention again that the ebook version is only $3-$4.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

Dina is a doll and a great writer. Thanks for the post.