Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
Hey guys, my name is Derra or D. I was born and raised in SoCal, love spending time with my family and friends, going to the beach, movies, concerts and traveling in general. I also enjoy staying in and watching movies, cooking, listening to music, reading, video games and just sitting on the patio while enjoying the outside world. I became a writer in my early twenties, although I had began writing in Jr. High. Writing was an escape from certain aspects of life and somehow became my career. Writing allows me to speak up about certain topics and it also allows me to let my creative side spill out.
What is something unique/quirky about you?
Ok, so I don’t know about you, but when I walk into a bookstore I will always take a deep breath and just take in the moment. There is something nostalgic and optimistic about actual books. The smell of the paper and ink, the feel of a physical book in your hands. A bookstore is a gateway to every writer; past, present and future.
Tell us something really interesting that’s happened to you!
One day I was in LA with my parents as we were walking around The Broad Museum, seeing all of the amazing exhibits including the Room of Infinite Mirrors. After we walked over to The Grand Central Market to have dinner. This place is awesome, so many different vendors for fresh produce and meats, spices and baked goods as well as restaurants. We were eating at Bel Campos Burgers when I happened to notice the gentleman who sat down next to me. Bel Campos has a bar you sit at to order and eat, so it’s just a single line of barstools at the counter. I had to take a quick doubletake as I was shocked to see that I was sitting next to Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami, Magic Mike and Criminal Minds). Turns out that they were shooting in that area of LA that day. He is the nicest guy. My Ma’ started talking to him about museums and food not even realizing who he was. He even gave a bit of inside scoop on what it was like now being on Criminal Minds (a show that I had been watching since episode one). He even took a picture with us, the young kid he was with offered to take it and he took an awesome shot. It was a great day that ended with an awesome experience.
What are some of your pet peeves?
I can’t stand a messy toothpaste cap. You know how it can get all gunked up, makes it hard to close all of the way….no ma’am! My toothpaste cap is always clean, ain’t no body got time for that nonsense, lol.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born and raised in California. Though my family and I moved around a bit, we always stayed in So Cal. I love Cali, although, I’m also a NY girl too.
If you knew you’d die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Easy, at the beach with all of my family and friends. Cool ocean, warm sands, gorgeous sunset, bonfire, s’mores, music and fun. That is exactly the last day I would have before kissing the world goodnight one last time.
Who is your hero and why?
My Ma’ is one of my biggest heroes. Never once in my entire existence has she ever given up on me, never discouraged me from conquering any of my dreams or allowed me to think that I wasn’t a good person. She has always been that momma bear, always protecting her cubs and giving them the best life possible. The one lesson that is imprinted in my mind is one that she taught my siblings and I when we were young; “You are no better than anyone in this world. A CEO of a major company is no better than the janitor who cleans his building at night. A celebrity is no better than the homeless man on the street. We are all living, breathing humans who deserve the same levels of love and respect. A title doesn’t make you a better person, a kind heart makes you a good person.” Ma’ taught us a few other life lessons that have stuck, but this was the most impactful. My Ma’ is kind, sweet and so generous. She is my best friend.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Honestly, I know that I would be a kind and fair ruler, but that is never a title that I would want to bare. This world, while beautiful, is equally screwed up. I don’t know that I would be able to handle the injustices that this world still carries. While I have always been told that I am a rare kinda human, it takes a certain rarity to rule the world that I just don’t believe I posses. I’d be like Tina Fey in Date Night, declaring that this shit ends now as I count to three. Not sure anyone would listen to me, lol.
What are you passionate about these days?
Simplicity, as strange as that sounds. My life has been a link of chaos in a busy way. The last few years have been simpler as my health has been amazing, my mental health has been on point and I’ve mastered a more organized schedule that allows me to get what I need done without feeling like all my ducks are running a muck throughout town, lol. I think that sometimes we have a tendency to make life harder than it needs to be. Life will always throw you curveballs when you least expect it, make the remaining parts of life simple and less stressful. You don’t need to add on chaos, life will hand you enough of it on it’s own.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Cooking and watching movies…yep, food and entertainment are how I like to wind down from a busy day. I’ll put on a movie and then start cooking in the kitchen. I’m not sure why, but that combo has always been relaxing for me.
Nothing says calm like a bowl of Spaghetti and watching Iron Man 3. Last night I made a steak salad and watched John Wick.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Witty, smart, sarcastic, humorous and adorable 😉
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Actually, to this day I don’t think I consider myself a writer. To make myself sound like even more of a nerd, I don’t think that anyone reads my blog or my books until a comment or review is submitted or someone tags me in a post. Then I’m like; “Oh yeah, people actually see my writing after I hit the publish button or a book is up on Amazon, lol”. Writing is just something that I enjoy, it is what I do.
Do you have a favorite movie?
These “favorites” questions are easy yet the most difficult to answer for some odd reason. Maybe because I am someone who has more than just one favorite. However, since I was a kid, The Nightmare Before Christmas has always been a favorite of mine. I can relate to Jack in many ways. To this day I watch it at least once during October through December, usually around my bday in November.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Hi Hollywood? Can you please connect me with Mr. M. Night Shyamalan and let him know that my book Slumberland should be brought to life by his creative brilliance. Thank you. 😉
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
My spirit animal is definitely Iron Man. When Tony explains how his Iron Man suits are like his security blankets in a way, how he feels protected when he’s wearing one…I totaly get that. Now, I don’t have any awesome Iron Man suits, however, I have a few (or more than a few) hoodies. I can’t begin to explain the mental schematics behind this, but anytime I am wearing a hoodie, I feel protected and in a way powerful. It’s strange, I know, but whatever works right?.
What inspired you to write this book?
Flat out, I was nervous having Slumberland published. These books that I continue to write still have a deeply personal connection embedded into them. These twisted dreams and nightmares of mine have become a part of me in a weirdly realistic way. When writing anything, non fiction or fiction, the second it is out into the world it is open to criticism from every negative troll that crawls out from under their bridge. Even though the knowledge of this is lit up in my brain, I still write and share my personal experience because more times than not someone out there reads my books and feels less alone or weird. No, you are not the only one who has felt certain ways or been through those storms. We are more connected in our own personal experiences than we think. But, we don’t know that until someone shares something for the world to read. Art, in all forms, brings out the connections that are buried. Slumberland is a partial collection of my insane dreams, an entertaining read as readers have called it. Turns out, others out there have had some pretty weird dreams as well.
What can we expect from you in the future?
As many of you who know of me already know, I
was born with a rare disorder, Epidermolysis Bullosa, and what a life I live, However, the spotlight tends to always land on those of us with the malfunction, when honestly, it should be put on those who are in our lives. I am not the only one that my EB affects, I know that affects my family and friends. So, I am turning the tables and getting their scoops on what it’s like for them to have someone in their life who has a rare disorder.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Mystikx, who starts out as the masked hooded creature who taunts me in my nightmares, the underground villain of Slumberland in a way, turns out to be an actual person. However, I haven’t revealed who Mystikx turns out to be just yet, Stay tuned…
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Slumberland?
So, besides Mystikx who is a masked hooded shadow that haunts the woods of Slumberland, there are also wolves that prowl the grounds and crows that patrol the dark skies. Because these are dreams, certain family members have made appearances as well, such as my Dad and Ma’. Some dreams I am fighting myself and others feature a handsome stranger that I simply refer to as “You”. I never know who will make appearances in my twisted subconscious thoughts, it’s always a surprise as to who the characters will be.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
I suppose in a way the concept for Slumberland had created itself. In fact, it’s been a concept growing for the latter part of 14 years and continues to morph. I think it’s somewhat cool and inspiring to know that there’s an idea brewing in the middle of your mind, percolating in strength each day until you have this full story.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
I am a fan of theme parks and while most of my nightmares happen in the woods, I wanted to combine the two. Sleep or slumber is one aspect in life that i have struggled with due to these dreams and nightmares. Land, well that just seems to be the word attached onto any awesome park, i.e. Disneyland. So, Slumberland was born and unleashed.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Traveling down subconscious lane was an interesting experience, as well as overwhelming. I enjoyed recalling dreams where my Popee and I have coffee together or the dreams that leave me with a spark of hope for the future. Certain nightmares I left out, trying to write them out became too frustrating. Perhaps they’ll land themselves in a Slumberland sequel. You never know.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
The main character is really myself. I struggle in finding myself, who I am and who I aim to be. While I have found a sweet contentment within myself, I do struggle in finding happiness. In a way, I think I’m afriad of experiencing happiness and then somehow losing it. I also have this fear of losing those I care most about in my life as well as a fear that I won’t ever find love in my life. So, after I do doze off, my mind brings to life these fears and struggles as I fight myself, as I fight others. It’s a wild ride to say the least.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
My first novel is a series of letters written to my family, friends and anyone or event that had a major impact in my life, a major impact in shaping the woman that I am today. Letters always begin with Dear… therefore, Dear You just fit like a puzzle piece.
Who designed your book covers?
My editor/ publisher, Rebecca Benston, created the covers for Dear You and Slumberland. The cover for Anomaly came from this crazy vision I had in my head. A concept of what you see on the outside is much different from what is going on in the inside. For Slumberland, Rebecca ended up creating quite a few covers (as we all have a little extra time due to quarentine) and asked me to select which one I liked best. The second I saw the cover that is Slumberland, I knew. When you see the book, you’ll get it as well.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, I believe that the second you go back to change one thing, the entire structure needs changing. If I were to go back and take out or even add to, then I’d have to change the order in which I placed each piece. After that I’d just fall down the rabbit hole of editing which will eventually turn into a mess. Slumberland turned out to be perfectly twisted and I wouldn’t change a thing.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes…I learned that I have one creative yet twisted brain. I am not sure whether I should be inspired by that or a bit concerned, lol.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Any talented actress would be great. Although, I wouldn’t be mad at the idea of Blake Lively taking a crack at slaying my monsters. As long as it’s not me, lol.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Should you happen to read Slumberland or any of my books, just keep this thought in the forefront of your mind…Have an open mind and enjoy.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
My favorite part about Slumberland is the fact that it created itself. More times than not writing a book involves plotting, creating from a blank page and analyzing every inch of the story. I basically just typed out past dreams and nightmares and placed them into a bit of storyline sequence. I allowed Slumberland to unfold on its own really.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I’d kill for one more day with my Popee. Those may not be the best selected words, but one more day with him would mean everything to me. Honestly, I’d love to cook with him in the kitchen and just talk about everything, soak up his wisdom.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
They are all actual people, including Mystikx (his identity is kept secret).
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
I definitely have the reigns of the story, maybe not the dreams and nightmares themselves, but definitely the story.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
I’m not sure how to convince anyone to read my books, but as for Slumberland…well, we all have weird dreams, so if you’re interested in reading about someone else’s twisted dreams and nightmares then Slumberland definitely is a read to check out.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
It would definitely be a spiced candle, scents of cinnamon..nutmeg..ginger and clove. Calming with a bite.
What did you edit out of this book?
A few nightmares that just stressed me out when trying to write them. I figured it was just a sign to leave them out, I wasn’t ready to unleash them.
Is there a writer whose brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Stephen King…He’s a legendary storyteller and one person who I’m sure has some wise inspirations to share.
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?’-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
The writing process consists of a fully charged laptop…a piping hot or icy cold caramel macchiato…full charged wireless headphones…a fully stocked playlist and glasses to see what the heck I’m typing.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
Gosh…well I’m a fan of Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Harper Lee, Gillian Flynn, Caleb Carr, Jomny Sun, C. S. Lewis, JoJo Moyers, John Green…just to name a few.
What book do you think everyone should read?
I feel like this question has an attached answer to it as most will say that The Alchemist is a life changing book and it is. I am a fan of that book all the way and it definitely changes your mindset on certain aspects of life. However, as a music lover, Gray by Pete Wentz is a jaw dropping, pull at the heart strings Behind the Scenes book about what life on the road for a band is really like. It is his On the Road memoir and I have read it a few times. This book will leave any fan with a whole new appreciation for bands and the art they create.
How long have you been writing?
I actually began writing in Jr. High as a outlet from being teased and bullied in school. However, when I lost my vision in High School, frustration consumed me and I ended up throwing away all of my notebooks one day. I stopped writing for a few years, but after finding a surgeon who knew of an experimental procedure that could restore my eye sight, I felt as though I was seeing the world in a whole new spectrum. I started writing again when I was 22 and have never looked back.