An Interview With Dawn Lanuza
Dawn Lanuza writes contemporary romance, young adult fiction, and poetry. Lanuza is known for her ability to connect with readers on a personal level. In 2016, her first poetry collection, The Last Time I’ll Write About You, debuted #1 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases and remained on its Bestsellers chart for over a year. Readers can expect her newest romance novel, Stay A Little Longer, in May 2019.
Lanuza believes that writing should be accessible to all. “I prefer using simple language and being more conversational in the tone when I write because, for me, reading is about connecting,” she says. “I think it’s all a matter of preference – but of course I still consider myself a beginner in poetry. I’d like to think that I am still exploring the world. There are so many poets — dead or alive — that I feel like I am bound to discover and some of them are blunt and goes straight to point, while some are a little bit more crafty and secretive in their meanings. It all depends on the mood I guess. But what brought me into this world are the ones who are honest and raw with their words.”
Growing up in the Philippines and speaking English as her second language (though she’d been studying English since the time she could speak), she found an easier connection to young adult books. “When I started out reading, I had to find ‘my’ books or the kind of work that spoke to me, and they are usually books that are geared towards young readers.” Today, she receives a lot of comments that her work is suited for a younger audience—something she takes pride in. “Young readers are the future—they are smart, open-minded and willing. And if I could encourage or help a young person through any of my works, then that’s already a good thing for me.”
When she’s reading on her own time, Lanuza likes to mix things up. “I tend to open books at the same time and try to read them in portions until I finish one first, or until one stands out more than the rest,” she explains. She enjoys a wide array of genres—from historical romance to poetry to manga. “The recent ones I loved were Lorie Langdon’s Olivia Twist, Rudy Francisco’s Helium, and Rei Toma’s Dawn of the Arcana series,” she says.
In her own work, Lanuza draws inspiration from the world around her through books, movies, television, music, and personal experiences. “…I always say that writing fiction is just amping up things and emotions that you’ve witnessed and/or experienced in real life.” When inspiration strikes, Dawn keeps pens, notebooks, and her phone at the ready. “I make sure I always have a pen and notebook in my bedside table, or I can always just take my phone and write it down on my notes,” she says. “When ideas spring up, even when sleeping, I just reach for whatever’s near and try to write it down and just make sense of it in the morning.”
With seven titles under her belt and one on the way, Lanuza puts in extra effort to stay inspired. “I find that surrounding myself with art keeps me inspired. I think it’s important to read a lot, to make yourself someone’s willing audience,” she says. During a bout of writer’s block, Lanuza began a creative solution which eventually became her first poetry collection. “Poetry seemed to be the right fit for me then. I was having a hard time getting ideas out of my head, and that’s how poetry saved me.” But she didn’t expect this exercise to result in a bestselling collection. “Releasing The Last Time I’ll Write About You was a huge surprise and a blessing for me, and it was all because I allowed myself to wander in between,” she says. “If I hesitated then, I wouldn’t be where I am now.”
When writing fiction, she likes to keep things organized before she dives in. “…before I start, I already have the gist of the whole story in my head. The details I can deal with as I write the novel, but I have the specific points down: sometimes the climax, sometimes the ending.” However, writing poetry is a completely different animal. “I never know when I’m writing a collection… when I write poetry, usually [poems] are just written randomly on notebooks, phone notes, sometimes tweets.” When she’s ready to create a collection, Lanuza pulls all the pieces into one document, chooses the strongest, then edits them. Then she sends it to her editor for another round of choosing and editing. “Usually, a theme emerges once collated…and we just shape it (the illustrations, the title, the cover) after that.”
Lanuza admits that publishing her first book has changed her writing process. “When I self-published, I had to learn the business, and it became so much more than just writing a book. When I was traditionally published, the reach was greater, so there were a lot of distractions.” When it comes to reviews, Lanuza sees them as a double-edged sword. “Good reviews are great to keep you at it, to give you the encouragement to better your next book,” she says. “But not all reviews would be glowing, and some could be very destructive… so I’m teaching myself to limit the time spent with it.”
Despite those distractions, Lanuza does her best to stay focused on her work. “The other things—the deals, the bestseller lists, the shiny things—they are a plus, cherries on top of my cake,” she says. Her top priority is simply sharing her work. “As long as the work that I do is being read, shared, discussed and regarded by people, then that’s already a success for me. Doesn’t matter if it’s a group of four or ten or hundreds, I think as long as I have an audience, that’s winning, and I have to show up for the people who show up for me.”