Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Doreen Spicer-Dannelly's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly

1- How did working on "Jump In!" help you write Love Double Dutch!?

“Jump In!” was such a joy to write and I’m so pleased at the success and impact the film had the audience. However it wasn’t the original idea initially I had. Love Double Dutch! is actually the very initial idea. But I held onto the hope that original story would see the light of day one day. And, gladly, here we are.

2- What five words represent your most notable characteristic or values? #In5Words

Determined, passionate, strong-willed, competitive, spiritual.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I honestly think my passion for writing was ignited through my love for the arts. When I was a student at the High School for the Performing Arts now, LaGuardia High School, I studied lots of plays and instead of my interest in the characters I was portraying. I was more intrigued by the genesis of the story and the world within the character existed. But even before that, I loved journaling because it just found it so cathartic. It gave me a sense of relief to express my inner most feelings without being judged and I think I fell in love with that felling of release. So couple my love of the arts with the joy journaling, came this idea to merge the two world and creatively weave stories of my life into writing for entertainment.

4- You have quite a few awards and nominations under your belt. Is there a "big fish" you're hoping to achieve one day?

When I think about all the shows and films that are produced, it’s such an honor to be recognized at anytime in the entertainment industry. But because middle grade books are so important for the impact on the tender ages of “tweens”, I think being recognized for this art form takes on much more meaning. My hope has always been for Love Double Dutch! to be appreciated for it’s tale about an African American girl who turns to double-Dutch, a street sport popularized by African American girls, in order to deal with her very American life, including divorce, self-esteem, and racial disposition. For this reason, my fingers are crossed for a Coretta Scott King Award.

5- Would you share a picture with us of your book with Tiger?

Absolutely. I’ll share a photo of Tiger. He’d love that. He’s a ham. ☺
Tiger with the book Love Double Dutch! ~ Doreen Spicer-Dannelly's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book Tiger, the author's dog, with the book Love Double Dutch! ~ Doreen Spicer-Dannelly's Operation Awesome Debut Author Spotlight and Emerging First Book

6- What are some of your short and long term writing goals?

One of my short time goals is to write the screenplay to Love Double Dutch! And my long-term goal is to write the “to be continued” version of the novel. I didn’t dare say “sequel” because it seems publishers aren’t as excited about sequels. But I’ve already been asked by quite a few fans for a follow up. So maybe to make everyone happy, I’ll call it something different.

7- Is there a story behind the name "Spicerack Productions Inc."?

The funny thing about the name SpiceRack is that almost everyone in my family who bares the name Spicer has been called by the sir name or some variation and Spicer Rack was one of them. So I thought it would be cool to use it as the name for my production company because when spices are added to food it not only adds taste but color as well. Our agenda is diversify children’s entertainment by unearthing stories that might considered unapologetically cultural in origin while making them universally appealing. Jump In! is a good example of that. Stories just become more interesting, informing and palatable for large viewing audience. Imagine if you had to eat the same food with the same flavors every night knowing there are other dishes out in the world? It would be maddening and frustrating. And that’s where the movement for “diversity” comes in. People want to see themselves and their culture explored. With that, we’re trying to keep project diverse with a fresh perspective. I love mixing up casting just the way I like adding different flavoring in my food. For instance I love eggs and avocado for breakfast but I spice it up with 21 Seasonings (Trader Joe’s), turmeric, cayenne (Yup, I like it hot!) with a little turkey patty and small red potato on the side. This meal has everything you need to rev up your metabolism and give you plenty of protein and carbs to keep you satiated for almost half the day. It might sound weird but it’s interesting with a variety of flavors just like our programming options should be.

8- What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book?

What is your favorite book (by someone else), and what do you love most about that book? I don’t have one favorite book but a few and for several different reasons. As an adolescent I loved Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. It was quintessential tween book of its time for girls in my opinion, which is why it’s a classic. I also love Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl which spoke to my specific demographic—young woman of color, coming of age, relationships and neighborhood social status. Another classic, which so many love as well, is The Alchemist. I consider myself a connoisseur of spiritually driven stories and books on spirituality, and although I don’t like reading books twice I will probably pick that one up again.

9- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

Actually, there are a few fans who come to mind and for different reasons. But there is a group on Instagram called The Sweetpea Girls and they have reviewed the book, talked about it, promoted it and continue to promote it. I had no idea who they were but I do now and I’m so grateful for their love for Love Double Dutch. There are also little girls who’ve sent me messages telling me how much they loved it, couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for the sequel. That’s really exciting. I also have a mom who tells me her daughter carries it everywhere she goes. That’s just awesome to me. One mom told me how thrilled she was to see her young son totally into it. It’s all so great to hear. The consensus is that kids love that the story isn’t just about double Dutch but about the protagonist, Kayla, who puts her own concerns aside to help her cousin with a bullying issue. They also like that there are other things going on like a first crush, first kiss and how to stay positive through an ominous situation. The thing I’ve learned is that we really don’t know how things effect kids and what they’ll hold onto. I just wanted to make sure they really see there is a lesson on the other side to strengthen them, if they’ll just keep going.

10- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

I hope the reader will have a sense of courage and self-empowerment, that they hold the power of their dreams within them and they shouldn’t let any person, situation or obstacle get in their way. Two scenes come to mind. There’s a scene where Kayla was hoping her parents would be in the audience for the biggest competition of her life but they’re not, at least unbeknownst to they aren’t there. And just when she seems so disappointed her cousin, Sally, encourages her to go out there and do it for herself and not for anyone else, even her parents. And, she does. I want kids to realize they have a choice at every turn to take control of their destiny, no matter who’s there to support them or not. Another scene is where Sally, confronts her frenemies that I hope will resonate with readers. Whether the reader is a victim of bullying or they are the bully, an opportunity will always present itself to change the course of the relationship. And to realize there is someone there to have your back if they’ll allow someone to support them. In this moment, Kayla had Sally’s back and that’s what I think we need more of—kids supporting one another in times of hardship.

11- What most helped you to improve your writing craft?

Already having a career in writing tv and film industry, I was used to writing to the visual of every scenes and not for the details of back story and what’s in the head of characters. But thanks to, Joquelle S. Caiby, Serendipty Lit, prepared me to pay more attention to detail so when I worked with my editor at Random House, Diane Landolfe, it was on! Diane really made me dig deeper and fine-tune my intention for each concept that made up the entire story. Also reading other people’s works with a scrupulous eye to the emotional tapestry that happens in a novel to tell a compelling story. So thank goodness for great, patient people who helped along the way.

12- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

The only odd thing I’ll say is that there’s the story that’s being told from Kayla’s point of view but then there are her inner thoughts, which are in italics. I guess the way to explain it is that she has her initial thought, which she expresses and then she has the further inner thoughts that she keeps to herself. We all have those moments when we bite our tongues to protect others and our own integrity so to speak—or not. ☺

13- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

First, I am super excited that this movement has take place because it really lifts the self-esteem of children of color and gender diversity amongst others. I just remember all of the school books ever assigned for class reading was all from the perspective of a white male and written by white men. They were great stories but there was no deviation from this trend even through high school. That was really frustrating. No women authors, no women’s pov, and when black people were mentioned in books it was always in a negative light. So it’s no wonder young kids are really making a splash with a demand for change.

In Love Double Dutch, a rendition of Makayla is right on the cover for a reason. My hope was to make little black girls feel proud that their likeness is worthy of the front of a book. Also, I consider the story multi-racial because it involves Kayla and her cousin Sally interacting with girls of other races including a Latina and Caucasians, which Kayla is not used to. So I consider Love Double Dutch to be truly a diverse book for more reasons than it being a story about a 13 yr. old African American girl.

14- Which character has your favorite Personality Contradiction?

Kayla has a couple of my favorite contradictions whereas I can be super positive at times and preach like I wrote the book on positivity but there are times when I can fall into the negative-outlook hole. Something I’m constantly working on. Also there’s the fact that I’m a little bossy but compassionate—hey, at least I can admit it.

15- Does your book hold a mirror up to society, and in what way?

The book can hold a mirror to society in the way the kids are experiencing painful things that sometime their parents are oblivious to. I believe that’s due impart to shame or fear on behalf of the children or they don’t want to be a burden so they don’t talk about it. And parents are sometimes simply oblivious to what’s going on because they are either very busy or simply don’t have enough time to pry problems out of their kids. No one is to blame, it’s just that’s the way things have been for as long as I can remember. But don’t take my word for it because I don’t have kids, however, I do know kids will discuss things with others that they would never tell their parents for fear they would be knocked them off the pedestal their parents put on. I’ve been that kid and I know some of those kids today. Kayla is one of those kids but luckily she finds double Dutch as her coping mechanism as so did I among other sports.

16- Can you think of any small change in the world you could make to benefit hundreds of other authors or readers potentially?

If I could make one small change that could benefit authors and readers, I would make it mandatory that publishers hold a meet and greet for debut authors before the book drops. This could be sort of what a trailer is to a movie so that the writer can tell the readers what to expect and the readers can have a chance to ask questions and tell the author what they’re hoping their children might get from the book. This is completely a wild idea but I would’ve loved to talk with the reading audience so that I can get a chance to hear their expectations. It might’ve encouraged me to strengthen certain principles. We have to remember, although writing is an art form, we’re still having to sell books that resonate with a large audience in order to validate for the business of publishing.

17- As a reader, what most motivates you to buy a new book to read?

What motivates me most to buy a new books is that it has to have something that interests me i.e. a good journey, a spiritual journey. Or if I just heard the book was a really good read, a captivating story, I’d pick it up. I love to dive into a novel that simply holds my interest.

18- How will you measure your publishing performance?

I’ll measure the success of my book by the great things that the kids who’ve read it rave about it. Numbers of book sold can definitely mean sale success but how many kids will actually read it from cover to cover and be so excited they did. Of course every author wants it to sell in large numbers but I also want the other important reason for writing the book to be dominant as well.

19- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

I actually wasn’t planning on publishing the story because my original dream for Love Double Dutch was to be a feature film. However, when the opportunity knocked from Regina Brooks, Serendipity Literary Agency, I jumped and was so excited that she thought the story was book worthy. I also realized many books are being made into films so the idea was win-win.

20- What's the best book marketing strategy you've come across?

The best book marketing strategy I’m finding is first actually writing a book and being super excited about the story. Everything stems from that excitement. After that, social media has been simply awesome to translate that excitement into sales. Then when parents are happy their kids love the novel, they’ll post about it, which encourages other kids to read it. So I would say anyway you can, promote your book via social media with excitement and true testimonies and you’ll find success.

21- If you could inspire every child to pick up one value, what would it be?

If I could inspire a child to pick up one value from the Love Double Dutch it would be to stay positive especially when things don’t go your way, because there’s a better more fulfilling journey ahead. You just don’t know it yet but whether you’ll enjoy the outcome or not will depend on your perspective and what you’ll make of it. Simply put—Dreams come true when you go with the flow.

22- What is one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I wondered what people thought of Makayla’s character. Oftentimes, protagonists are meek, shy, introverts, insecure, nerdy, or misfit, but my protagonist, Makayla, aka Kayla isn’t. She starts off as over-confident, strong-willed and bossy which can honestly be a turn-off but it’s also the character trait of many young girls these days. My intention was to reveal the flaws of a girl like Kayla to reflect how the boisterous attitude of an alpha female type is toned down to a more likable character. Although, Kayla is a natural born leader, she’s suffering from a lack of attention from her parents and her leadership skills begin to lean toward selfishness and self-centered. So when her vulnerabilities and flaws are exposed it allows opportunities for her to implore and strengthen her more selfless and compassionate traits. I guess I just didn’t want to stick to the norm and portray the opposite of the spectrum that girls are used to reading. I thought it could provide helpful take-aways for girls who are either this personality type or who are friends with a girl like Kayla. I’d be interested to hear what the audience has to say about Makayla’s personality, attitude and adjustments she makes by the end of the story.

23- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

I’d like to share that I’ve been asked about the film rights by two different producers. I am super excited about that. Again— Dreams come true when you go with the flow. ☺

Writer/Producer/Director, Doreen Spicer is best known for Disney Channel’s critically acclaimed animated series, The Proud Family and for the Disney Channel, Spicer developed and wrote the musically driven film, Jump In! Spicer also created the international tween hit sitcom, The Wannabes Starring Savvy. Doreen Spicer continues to develop multi-cultural projects under the auspices of her own company, Spicerack Productions Inc.

Socials: Instagram @doreenspicer @lovedoubledutch

Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly

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