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Mandy Dawson, author of "Elemental Awakening"

The Open Book

Mandy Dawson, author of "Elemental Awakening"

Stephen H. Provost

Mandy Dawson is the author of Elemental Awakening, the first in her series, Elementals, just released in December. Its intriguing premise: An ancient being, imprisoned in statue form for thousands of years, is reawakened in the present. Mandy graciously agreed to sit down and answer some questions for The Open Book. 

The Author

Name, age and occupation: Mandy Dawson, 41, executive assistant/author

Where and with whom do you live? I live in Atascadero with my two children – Joseph and Elizabeth, their two hamsters, a survivalist fish, three chickens, and a stray cat who likes to be fed, but not pet.

If you could co-write a book with any author, living or dead, whom would you choose? I’d want to write a book with Julia Quinn. While my list of favorite authors, both living and dead, is almost as long as my list of favorite books, co-writing would require someone with a sense of humor and a similar writing style. Our subgenres differ, but I think we’d both approach the project with tongues firmly in cheek and a healthy dose of fun.

Why do you write? I’m not quite certain I’d know what to do if I didn’t write. I’ve always told stories in an effort to give life to the people in my head.  Some of my earliest memories are of lying in the dark and whispering the tales of two foolish little girls and their accidental adventures to my sisters when my parents thought we were asleep. As I got older, I began to write them down and never stopped.            

Where do you write? Because I work full time, I try to fit in writing wherever and whenever I can. I write at my desk or kitchen table after I put the kids to bed. I take my laptop with me on my lunch break and lock myself into a conference room to tap away at my keyboard for an hour. I even take my laptop or notebook with me while camping and zip myself in my tent or plant myself at the picnic table for an hour or so. I’ve found getting away from the house prevents me from being distracted by the never-ending pile of laundry, so the bulk of my drafting is done at Bru (Coffeehouse) in Atascadero, sitting at a little table in front of the window with my headphones on and a pot of Earl Grey steaming nearby.

What animal, real or imaginary, would you choose as your constant companion? If I were to have a constant animal companion, it would be a dog. One that knew how to use and flush a toilet, didn’t chew on the corner of the wooden coffee table, and was able to refill my glass of wine. A dog may seem like an ordinary animal when the options are as varied as reality and imagination allows, but while a dragon would be amazing, a nice, slightly overweight, midsized dog prone to napping between long rambling walks would be a kindred spirit.

What do you collect? I collect sea glass. My kids and I spend hours roaming the beaches looking for shards of trash turned to treasure. We have piles of it all over our house filling jars and bowls and frames. Sometimes we craft something from it, but we mostly enjoy studying it, looking for the bubbles and imperfections, the clues as to what it originally was, where it might have come from. We make up stories about the people who owned it before it was shattered and pounded against the surf to wash up at our feet.

Favorite board, card or video game: I’m a game fanatic with almost as many favorite board games as I have moods. Right now, I’m addicted to Settlers of Catan, though last year it was Sequence and before that I couldn’t get enough of Five Crowns. My sister just bought me Pandemic, and I have a feeling it might boot Catan from the top ranking.

This is the first book in a series, and although it doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger, it makes you want to find out what’s going to happen next. An overall win for Ms. Dawson’s debut novel.
— Jennie Goutet, Amazon review

The Book

Genre and length? Elemental Awakening is a romance novel with a strong thread of paranormal running through it. It’s a bit over 65,000 words long.

When and where does it take place? It’s a contemporary novel with locations moving from L.A. to the Central Coast to the Andes and the Bay Area.

How did you come up with the title? My editor wasn’t thrilled with my working title, Someday I’ll Figure Out a Witty Title for This Book, and I wasn’t thrilled with the only other option I’d come up with, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. She suggested Elemental Awakening after reviewing my three-story arc, and I loved the way it fit.

What inspired you to write it? Four years ago, I was part of an online writing group. One of the picture prompts was of a stone statue half buried in the ground. It sparked an idea of what would happen if that statue was a cursed man frozen for all time and then, what would happen if someone happened to wake him up. Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop.

Is there a sequel in the works? The sequel, Elemental Escape, is drafted, and I’m starting my first round of revisions.

Where, how can you get it? You can currently purchase Elemental Awakening in paperback or ebook versions on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What would you select as your book’s theme song? Who would you choose to write the musical score? A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. Since I spent most of my writing time plugged into Ingrid Michaelson, I’d select her to write the musical score.

Who would want to ban it? People who don’t believe in magic. I’d forgive them, though, for wanting to ban it. Not believing in magic must make life rather sad.

To whom did you dedicate it and why? I dedicated my book to my parents who taught me a love of reading. Family legend has it that my dad used to travel the rodeo circuit with two hard-backed suitcases. One was filled with clothes, the other with books. My mom was never without a book nearby. Even with four children, she still found time to read. Usually while standing up because she rarely had time to sit. I also dedicated it to my three younger sisters who have always listened to my stories. And finally, to my children, because without them I wouldn’t have dared to embark on this adventure. When my son told me that he knew he could do anything he set his mind to because I had taught him that by finishing my book, it made all the late nights and long hours of editing worth it.

Most novels tend to be plot based or character based, but I felt that this one was a seamless merger of the two. Immediately engaged by the first page, the story continues to delight. It was one of those books that caused me to let the kids make their own dinner so I could finish.
— K.A.Z. Kahler, Amazon review

The Heroes

Name, age and occupation: Helen Browning, early 30s, midwife and secret key to unleashing an elemental battle for power. Lukos, early 3000s, Light.

Where and with whom does he/she live? She lives alone in a small cottage in a place roughly based on Cambria. He lived in an area known today as the Andes until he was turned to stone, during which time he lived deep in a cave until discovery and then on display in museums around the world.

Who would play your protagonist in a movie? Jaimie Alexander for Helen and Chris Hemsworth for Luke.

What real-life person would be your protagonist’s hero, mentor or role model? Helen would be fascinated by the work of Jennifer Worth and the idea of caring for a population in the East End of London post WWII. I have no doubt, she’d devour her memoir and likely binge watch the show on PBS while eating Cherry Garcia ice cream. Luke has a lot of catching up to do. (Being a statue for thousands of years puts a dent in one’s knowledge of world events.) As someone who is facing a battle of epic size, bringing about a civil war, he’d study the great generals in history, especially those who brought peace to their people.

What’s his or her celebrity crush? Helen has a soft spot for hunky nerds. She probably has a huge crush on David Tennant. Luke isn’t certain what celebrities are and is slightly taken aback by Helen’s over-the-top swooning when David is on screen.

What’s her biggest fear/phobia? Helen is afraid of losing the people she loves. Luke is afraid of becoming stone once again.

At the beginning of the book, our hero is … At the beginning of the book, Helen has spent her life trying to rediscover the stability she lost. She’s strong and capable, confident in her skills as a midwife and secure in her life path, but she also knows something is missing. There’s been a hole in her life nothing has been able to fill. Luke was literally turned to stone, his fate sealed. When he first awakes, the emotions and sensations threaten to overwhelm him so he clings to the one thing he knows and is certain of: his love for the woman who woke him.

Worst habit? Helen is stubborn. When presented with a situation in which she feels horribly out of her depth, she clings to what she knows with a tenacity that becomes not just dangerous, but deadly. Luke is impatient. He’s spent thousands of years frozen in stillness with nothing but time to plot and plan his revenge, yet when he’s finally able to put some of those plans in action, he discovers the world has changed drastically and the answers he seeks are not easily found.

Best feature? Helen is a quiet warrior who has always championed the most innocent. Luke has somehow retained his sense of humor, no matter how dark his life became.

This imaginative romance takes the reader out of her own element into a completely different world that exists layered on top of our own.
— Kim Tracy Prince, Amazon review