Warren Dotson is an Emerson College graduate. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, raised in Greenville, Mississippi and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Warren always had a spirit for being creative.
Warren wrote New Light to create a new narrative in magic, one that includes POC Mages. He wanted to give POCs a chance to see themselves as something other than the background characters in magical narratives.
We spoke with Emerson’s own Warren Dotson about his upcoming science-fiction novel, New Light (New Degree Press, April 2021). He shared with us about the book that changed his life, the best advice he’s ever received, and his experiences in the world of hybrid publishing. –Katsumi Sterling
What is the first book that changed your life?
I want to say The Giver, but that isn’t true. That one will always be my favorite for multiple reasons, but it’s not the one that changed my life. I think the first book that changed everything for me was The Tale of Despereaux. First, because I took it from the third grade library of my elementary school, and they never asked for it back. Second, because that book proved to me one thing: a movie of a book will never match what the book can do. I loved reading the book and actually found myself spending hours at a time just sitting down to read it. To be a bit more precise, I was sitting down to read this book and actively avoiding playing video games at about eight years old. So, for a book to pull me away from it finally got me to go, “Hey, this reading stuff, it’s pretty fun.”
If you’ve ever hit a point in writing your story where you can tell the plot point or idea just isn’t working, how did you overcome that? Is there an example that you can share from your own work?
Whenever I find that an idea or a story element isn’t working, I try to examine what’s wrong with the story point. Why isn’t this working? What can make this work? Am I forcing this? Where would it be better suited in the story? For example—and quite perfectly—when I was writing my novel I wanted to focus on Cyset, a Black Wind Wizard. The only problem was when I looked at him as the protagonist, he didn’t fit. So I went back and asked,“How can Cyset still be in focus?” I came to realize Cyset was a huge part of the story, but he wasn’t the best character to make the focus of the story. So, I gave him a co-star with my second favorite character, Med, and found that the dynamic worked perfectly.
Why did you decide to hybrid-publish? What’s your top tip for people looking to do the same?
The decision to hybrid-publish came from the opportunities it gave me. It was easier to access and work with. I don’t have an agent at the moment, so to work with someone whose focus is more on letting me publish as is, is very helpful. I have more freedom with how I want to write and market myself. I also find that it’s a lot more time manageable with school and life. If someone does want to do the same, I would recommend that they do a background check on who they’re working with. I actually got this info from a professor of mine who informed me of the problems that can occur. I’m glad he did, and I think I’m quite lucky I didn’t fall into the problem[s] he mentioned. So, if you do want to hybrid-publish, don’t just take the first option given—try your best to find a sure publisher and work from there.
What was the most encouraging piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
After having such a long list of mentors who have each given me a piece of advice, that question is hard to answer. However, when I think of the piece of advice that has been the most encouraging, it was a tweet from an account @KA_Doore simply repeating, “Somebody needs your book.” Thinking like this has been the most helpful thing while writing. It becomes a lot easier to write, when instead of thinking about how the world will receive your novel, all you have to worry about is what one person will do with your novel. This tweet has stuck with me throughout the whole process as I keep remembering it’s not about getting the whole world reading the book. I just gotta find that one person who needs to see these characters for themselves.
What is your favorite page-turner?
A book I can’t put down? I’ve got more of those than I can probably count. I’ll say a book I’ve binged all the way through since picking up was actually Of Mice and Men. Old school and very classic, yes, but the book was just too captivating to let go of. I believe that was the first book I ever got truly upset or emotional about after reading the ending. I spent a lot of time thinking about that book, and I actively avoid movies based off it for those reasons.
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