Australian-born writer Jacky Dahlhaus is the author of the ‘Suckers’ series, starting with her first book, ‘Living Like a Vampire’.
When did you first become interested in writing and publishing your own work?
I only began writing one-and-a-half years ago and never thought about publishing until I finished my first novel. It was completely new to me as I have a scientific background, not a literary one. There are also no writers in my family, my sisters don’t even read (novels), so I had no example or guidance.
‘Suckers – Book 1: Living Like a Vampire’ was your first novel – what prompted you to write about vampires?
It must sound cliché, but I dreamed about a girl running and bumping into a vampire she instantly fell in love with. Why it had to be a vampire, I don’t know. Could have been a werewolf, an alien, or any Dick, Tom, or Harry. I am a Twilight and Underworld fan though, but hadn’t read the books/watched the movies in years. As I’m a veterinarian, I guess I’m intrigued by the animal aspect of vampires. The fangs, the blood thirst, the passion; it all makes humans stand closer to nature.
Your hero, Kate, is a science teacher. Is she based on, or inspired by, your own experiences in teaching?
I didn’t teach for very long, so unfortunately I don’t have much experience to write about. I had written some scenes that described some of my own experiences, but I had to take them out when I revamped the story. I may bring them back in a prequel though.
Growing up in The Netherlands, how much do you think your early years influenced your writing?
Having spent my upbringing in The Netherlands gave me the advantage that English became a second language to me. We had a lot of UK, US, and AUS programs on television. They were subtitled, so we grew up hearing the English language. I do struggle with tenses though.
It may have been because of my pick of books for my exams, but I found Dutch writers rather boring compared to the English ones and I hope nobody will ever find my writing boring. I avoid long passages of descriptions as intros of chapters and like to keep the pace going throughout the story.
You’ve written several short stories – do you have any plans to publish these?
Yes, certainly! When I have twelve (or so) stories that I think are worthy of printing, I hope to put them in a bundle. Some of them are being filmed with the film club I started earlier this year. It gives an enormous boost to see your mind’s creation on screen.
Who is your favourite author and how have they impacted on your own writing?
Two of my favourite authors are Terry Pratchett (Disc World novels) and Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern series). I love their easy style which is open to readers of all abilities. I didn’t realise it when I read her books, but I admire how modern McCaffrey’s thinking was at the time (1967). Pratchett’s insight into human nature is amazing and I love it how he makes you see the ridiculousness of some of it.
In the coming year I will be reading some movie scripts to learn how the author put the emotion seen on screen in words. I guess I should read books for that, but I’m a very slow reader and as I know ten movie titles for every book title I can think of, this seems the more logical way to me. If the movies are based on books I may read the passages I’m interested in.
Did you carry out any research before embarking on ‘Living Like a Vampire’, such as dressing up as a vampire, biting people etc?
LOL! Although I love to dress-up during Halloween, I’ve never walked around like a vampire in broad daylight until my first book fair last week (and the filming of my short ‘Busted!’ in which I was the vampire). I like alien stories as much as werewolf ones, etc. I did do some research into the virus that caused the pandemic in my book as people who read my first version commented that they wanted more information on it. With the help of the internet I could give them a plausible explanation.
Where do your characters and stories come from – for example, are they inspired by real people or events?
Kate, the protagonist in my book, has two sisters. I have two sisters. The names of the sisters start with an M and a J. My sisters’ names start with an M and a J. But that’s where the similarities end. The other characters vary. Some characters have names of people I know, but the characters themselves are completely different. Some are based on movie characters, some are completely made up. Sometimes they are a mix of character traits of multiple people. The events are mostly made up. I’ve had a string of boyfriends before meeting my husband, so I do have some experience in that department, but there are no particular personal events described in my books. I’ve never bumped into a vampire for example.
Did you specifically choose to go down the route of becoming an indie author, or have you pursued traditional methods too?
To be honest, at first I didn’t know there were two different routes to publish. Only when I had written my first novel and everybody told me to publish it did I found out about Amazon KDP. I did try to get a publisher at first, but I’m not very good at promoting myself (apart from the fact that my first edition wasn’t very good!)
With book 2 in your ‘Suckers’ series out now, are we going to see a third book?
Yes, I have decided it’s going to be a trilogy. I have the third book in my head already and only need to sit down and write it. Before that happens I need to work on the revamp of book two though, which I hope I will finish within the next three months.
Knowing what you now know about self-publishing, what has been the greatest challenge, or difficulty, in publishing your own books?
The greatest obstacle for me at the moment is time. I don’t know if that is more a promotion thing and not publishing though. I didn’t realise that promoting takes such a lot of time. I still haven’t got the hang of it. The actual publishing, getting your book on Amazon, I found relatively easy, especially if you stick to eBooks.
How do you approach cover design?
I love Photoshop, but I realised that I’m not as good with it as I thought I was. And to do something really well takes time. So I had the cover for my second edition designed by a cover artist. He did a magnificent job. I found it very hard to hand over though, but he was very patient and didn’t run away screaming ;-). The next book/series I will design myself again though. I just need to take more time for it.
Should we expect to see a wider variety of writing from you in future, or d’you intend sticking with the paranormal/vampire genre?
I do have some stories waiting in a notebook to get written. Most of them involve otherworldly creatures/planets, but there are some ‘normal’ ones too. As yet no more vampires though…