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.
Ken Bagnis is an accomplished musician and practicing psychotherapist. He has been crafting stories and singing for rock-n roll bands since his early youth in Cleveland, Ohio. Musical success took the form of tens of records sold, supported by a North American tour in a filthy Econoline van which lasted several years. Ken shares at least four eerie connections with Hawaiian entertainer, Don Ho including a number one record on the island of Oahu for two straight weeks. When the tour ended on super sunny Christmas in Los Angeles, Ken vowed he would never drive in the snow again. Wandering down a side street lit by the Gazzarri’s parking lot, he contemplated starting a new life as close as possible to the Sunset Strip. With the fortuitousness which always surprises one in retrospect, he collided with the girl of his dreams. The marriage survives but Gazzarri’s has not.
Represented by: Marisa Corvisiero and Veronica Park
Q: Tell us about your early youth in Cleveland, Ohio.
Ken: How early are we talkin’? I remember a lot of snow and singing for a few rock bands. We came up with bitchin’ names for the groups like SAVAGE FEW, DECEIVER and THE BLACK PANTHERS. My mother suggested we might want
to change that last one. I wasn’t a very politically aware twelve year old. I was a huge fan of my brother’s black light panther poster. We had jackets made.
Q: You are a practicing psychotherapist, what does that entail?
Ken: Now I’ll get all serious…I am the director of a private psychiatric facility in Los Angeles. We treat adults with psychotic disorders. Our continuum of care supports each client throughout his or her journey from mental illness to
wellness. Our guiding principle is that with proper support, each individual has the potential for recovery and improved quality of life. I love my work. I recycle the same creative energy I used as a musician and everyday is a new
adventure. I have a guitar in my office and I’m not afraid to use it.
Q: What can you tell us about your upcoming Young Adult novel, Sidewalk Rockets?
Ken: Sidewalk Rockets is such a fun adventure. It’s my first novel and I’m deeply in love with it. My favorite description is The Goonies meets The Hardy Boys, if the Hardy Boys were a rock band. I was listening to a ton of 70’s rock when I wrote it, so you can feel its groovy influence. At its heart, it a coming of age tale that explores deeper themes of courage, friendship, and mending a broken family (I totally borrowed that from my synopsis). If you’re an editor, buy it immediately.
Q: You have two kids and two cats. Which pair is more mischievous and why?
Ken: Just this morning my kids got into my wife’s makeup case. Their faces were COVERED in black mascara. Ears included. “Look how pretty, Daddy.” Very glam, just like their daddy in the 80’s. I laughed until I tried to wipe it off. Who
knew makeup was so greasy? After an unscheduled shower, they were late for pre-school. I have pictures. BTW, the cats slept through the whole ordeal.
Q: What's your favorite type of foreign food and why?
Ken: I can eat obscene amounts of sushi. It’s consistently delicious, healthy and light. Even if I get it at a grocery store, it’s still pretty damn good.
Q: Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without?
Ken: The correct authorial answer would be coffee. I hate to be a conformist but… I kicked the habit for several months. I was a tea guy. I was content and insisted it was all I needed. “It does the job without making me crazy.” I must be a fan of
crazy because coffee is, once again, central to my existence (Takes a sip). I could have worse addictions.
Q: If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and why?
Ken: June of 1987. The Front Row Theater. My high school graduation. After shocking my younger self with my salon quality hair and how well I have aged, I would insist that I dump all of my tens of dollars into Apple stock. $1.25/share. Buy the ’78 Grand Prix in twenty years when you’re a kazillionaire. Oh! Before I disappear in my time machine…skip the “root perm” young Kenny. BAD idea.
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