Writing isn’t so much what Dara does. It’s who she is. At five-years-old Dara knew she wanted to tell stories for a living. She has a tendency to fall in love with characters and a somewhat (extremely) fanatical need to put their lives down on paper.
Dara writes Young Adult fiction because she's still seventeen at heart and because she remembers what it felt like to pick up a book and see herself in its characters.
Represented by: Veronica Park
Q: The peacock feather seems to mean a lot to you. Where does that love stem from?
Dara: My love for the peacock feather is kind of ironic because most of my stories are about girls, but it’s the male peacock who has the brilliant/bold feathers. That said, I’ve always loved peacock feathers because they are each beautiful and different. I really try to celebrate diversity and being proud of our own uniqueness. When I was a little girl – biracial and the only child of a single mom – there was a lot about me that was unique. At times, I’ve viewed that uniqueness as a bad thing, but I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn to be okay with looking different than the people around me. Spreading one’s feathers is an essential part of learning to fly and I’ve always found it really cool/symbolic that peacocks fly in these beautiful, but short-lived bursts. Each flight is breathtaking but none of them is especially long. For me, that’s like life. It’s not about soaring through the air, but about taking small risks that yield wonderful results. I’ve actually started to amass peacock stationary and journals as a constant reminder to spread my wings while writing and to take a million little leaps…
Q: You have a tendency to fall in love with your characters. How does that process evolve?
Dara: As sappy as this sounds, I don’t create my characters. I discover them. I start with an idea or a concept, but as I begin to write, the characters reveal themselves to me. Each one is different. Some represent qualities in myself or in others. Some protagonists have traits I wish I had, but don’t. Most of the time, my characters are these kick-ass people and I kind of wish they would materialize in real life and I could hang out with them and be friends.
Q: You are a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. How do you fulfill this need?
Dara: Oh wow! I’ve gone skydiving, parasailing, jet skiing… I never say no to a rollercoaster and I try to run a few times a week. I feel like that stomach-plummeting sensation of being alive is the best antidote to death that there is. Most of the time, my life is fairly routine, but I absolutely need to live on the edge from time to time. It keeps me young and shakes up the status quo.
Q: Comedy improv is something you go out and do once a week. What does this do for you personally?
Dara: Who wouldn’t want to laugh for two hours straight? As an improviser, I have the chance to be completely foolish and to embrace every moment. One of the first rules they teach you in improv is to say yes to everything that happens on stage. It’s like a giant game of make believe and, as a writer, this helps me to throw away my inner critic. Improv has helped me in each and every area of my life. I can’t get enough. And it absolutely bleeds over into my writing.
Q: What is one of your favorite quotes?
Dara: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.”
Q: What chore do you absolutely hate doing?
Dara: Cleaning and cooking. I’m not domestic in the least, so I eat out a lot or get take-out (luckily, I live in an area with a lot of healthy, organic options) and I pay someone to clean the house. Life is too short to do the things you hate.
Q: If you could paint a picture of any scenery you’ve seen before, what would you paint?
Dara: I’ve been to some incredible beaches. In Puerto Rico, Mexico, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos… I would paint one of these beautiful beaches and then, ideally, climb into the painting and soak up the sun.
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