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Dorothy Compton

Reading was a big part of Dorothy Compton's life as a child. In the winter she curled up with a book at every opportunity. In the summer, when she wasn't hiking to the swimming hole with her best friend, along with her brothers, she was hiking to the small Carnegie Library in Collinsville, Oklahoma, to gather an arm full of books. Music also played a big role in her life as a child and it was a toss-up to decide which she liked most: music or reading.

She often wrote book reports for her friends and honestly didn't realize she was helping them cheat. She simply liked to read the books and the book reports weren't difficult. It also made her quite popular.

She won second place in a statewide short story contest when a senior in high school and felt she was destined to be a writer. Alas! An insensitive high school principal made some very negative remarks about her writing. No one bothered to tell her it was only one person's opinion so she simply dropped the idea.

After a few years of marriage and raising three daughters she felt the need for something more. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Oklahoma with a minor in English.

She taught Vocal Music and English in the public schools of Oklahoma and Kansas. She also taught music privately. She still had an itch to write so when her husband retired they moved to Oklahoma City where she took two correspondence courses in writing. After her husband died she turned to writing as an outlet for her feelings. She loved writing and was quite surprised when she found a market for some of her short stories. Two of her five novels won honorable mention at the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc.,) contests. She'd love to sell everything she writes, but is firmly convinced the process of writing is a reward in itself.

She is the editor of PenTales, the newsletter for CORA (Central Oklahoma Roundtable of Authors) and has contributed articles to it and several other small publications. She belongs to three other writers clubs.

Dorothy shares a home in Oklahoma City with her daughter Donna and is still involved in music as well as gardening, sewing, swimming and basking in the achievements of her children and grandchildren. She taps these rich resources as material for writing. Her hope is to continue writing better and better books in the future.



Interview

Q: What made you start writing and when did you start?
A:
I've been writing one way or the other nearly all of my life. As a child I was a voracious reader and loved to write book reports. I often wrote them for my friends who didn't share my love for reading. Writing a book report was an enormous chore for them. I liked doing it and saw no reason to refuse. Of course it was helping them cheat but I didn't think of that. When a senior in high school I wrote a short story and entered it in a state contest and took second place. I thought I was destined to become a great author. However, I had a very insensitive principal who made fun of a misspelled word. So I thought I couldn't write. I'm grateful for spell checkers because I never did become a very good speller.

My life was filled with raising a family and later teaching Music and English in small schools in Oklahoma and Kansas. When my husband retired, we moved to Oklahoma City and I found myself with the itch to write again. That was about sixteen years ago. I took two correspondence courses in writing from the Writer's Digest and gained the confidence to start writing in earnest again. I soon sold some short stories and with the encouragement and confidence that gave me I tackled my first novel. It was awful but I did find out I could put together a full book with some degree of success. My first complete, successful book is a Regency HONORABLE INTENTIONS, which Awe-Struck published and I'm pleased that it has sold very well. I have written five others, three of them being published by Awe-Struck and a fourth will be published by Awe-Struck next year. The fifth languishes in a drawer and may never see the light of day because it needs a lot of work.

Q: What type of books do you write? Is there a reason you write (for instance) historical romance rather than science fiction?
A:
I write romances because that's what I like to read. I used to read biographies and a lot of science fiction. I still like some science fiction but I know I could never write a science fiction book. My knowledge of the subject is so limited that it would take an enormous amount of research to write one that makes sense. I enjoy reading and writing Regency romances even though they require a lot of research also. It's a bit of a toss up as to which I like to write best, Regencies or contemporary romances.

I find romances one of the most intriguing genres. Within a good romance you can find mysteries, science fiction, adventure, suspense in endless variety. Many people have the idea that a romance is just one person chasing another and don't realize the depth that can be reached in writing a good romance whether it's an historical or contemporary. My book MORE THAN A GARDEN, which is an inspirational, features a love story between two middle aged individuals. Lenora is a grandmother of an adorable little three-year old girl who is kidnaped by a very sleazy man intent on getting a great deal of money from Lenora. Of course Kevin solves the problem and the evil guy finds himself on the way to jail. My book TWO FOR THE SHOW is a struggle between two exceptionally talented people who fall in love and have to try to find a way to be together without giving up their chosen professions. They are classical musicians and deeply in love.

I have included a tornado in both of my contemporary books which adds to the excitement. The one in TWO FOR THE SHOW was written at least two years before the destructive tornado which hit Moore, Oklahoma. My account was so close to what really happened that it was eerie. Since the book wasn't published until after that tornado people who have read it thought I used that storm as a model. I write romances for just this reason. All kinds of scenes can be included. I find the genre to be far more versatile than others.

Q: What one thing do you like the most about being a writer, and why? What do you like the least?
A:
The venue for self-expression is what I like the most about writing. I love to just sit down and write a story or book straight through, without editing or even thinking much about the mechanics. I love the creativity involved in creating believable characters and developing the plot I've outlined. I don't really like editing because that means going through and eliminating much of what I've written or rewriting it. But what I dislike most is marketing. I'm not good at it, and I keep putting off doing what I think will help sell my books. I'm working on improving my skills in the this area.

Q: Do you ever use real people as the inspiration for characters in your books? If so, why do you choose those particular people?
A:
I think it's impossible to write about characters in a book without using real people to some extent. Of course I don't or couldn't use a real person in such a way that someone would recognize them. In my book MORE THAN A GARDEN the male protagonist is very much like my late husband except that Kevin (the protagonist in the book) is a religious man and my husband was not. He was one of the sweetest persons anyone could know. He had his own deep faith in God but didn't formalize into a church setting. I think using a real live person as a character simply grows out of who the character is in the book. One just naturally thinks of someone who is like that and incorporates those characteristics.

All of my books also include children. I love to write child characters. I've raised a family, taught school and been with children all of my life. I like my books to be natural and include people who appear in real life and children are a part of that.

Q: If you include love scenes in your books, are they difficult for you to write? How do you decide whether to include a love scene at that point in the book, and if so, how explicit to make it?
A:
I don't see how one could write a romance without writing love scenes. No, they are not difficult for me to write. Usually the plots progress determines if a love scene is appropriate. If it seems natural for there to be a love scene, I include it. I don't write explicit love scenes. I think an explicit love scene is less effective than one that is written from a more romantic point of view. I've read some that sound more like an instruction book than making love in a natural way. My only book with a love scene outside of marriage is TWO FOR THE SHOW and they were engaged to be married and had just survived a dreadful tornado. They had worked very hard to help victims of the storm and when they ended up in his hotel room and began to realize how lucky they were to be alive. A love scene seemed as natural as breathing so I included it. It would have seemed awkward not to. All of my books have romantic love scenes and the undertone is a promise of more to come.

Q: How much of your own life and experiences do you put into your books?
A:
I think it's impossible to write a book, story or even an article without part of oneself being expressed in some parts of the writing. This is probably not a conscious thing but it's there just the same. As I mentioned earlier it's one of the things I enjoy about writing. One can express a variety of life experiences during the process of writing a book. Of course it is always camouflaged somehow so the reader isn't aware of how much or how little of oneself is expressed in a book. I know the fact that my musical ambitions were not taken seriously when I was a child, has found its way into my books. In TWO FOR THE SHOW. Debra looks so young and childlike that it's easy for those who don't know her to miss the fact that she is one of the most talented pianists of her time. Of course I don't relate my own life experience to that because I'm certainly not an exceptionally talented musician but I did manage to return to school and earn a degree in Vocal Music Education. I've always felt a bit cheated that no one saw fit to take me seriously as a child and this experience creeps into many of my books, although not necessarily in relation to musical talent but in various other ways.

Q: Are your books something you alone create, or do you have trusted brainstorm partners, or first readers you rely on to help you get the story right?
A:
The books are created by me alone in the beginning. I outline the plot, decide on the characters and even make profiles of all of the main characters. However, after I edit it the first time (I never let anyone read my very first draft) my daughter, June Calvin also a published author, is my critique partner. She reads what I've written and makes suggestions. She points out any inconsistencies and often suggests changes, which I sometimes make and sometimes don't. I do the same for her. We don't hesitate to be absolutely frank about what we think works and what doesn't. So far it's worked very well.

Q: What comes first-the plot, the characters, or the setting?
A:
These two elements are difficult to separate. Something sparks my imagination for a plot and the main characters just seem to appear as the idea develops. The basic plot is very easy to dream up. I've got many ideas in files that I'll never get around to writing. I started too late but I often read an article or see something that makes me think it would make a good story. I jot it down and file it away. It's an entirely different thing when I decide to develop the idea into a book. Then comes the difficult part of finding conflicts and creating minor characters both good and bad. I always know I'm going to write a romance but romances have to have more to them than just a love story. There has to be something to hold the reader's attention.

In MORE THAN A GARDEN my female protagonist, Lenora, is a ballet and exercise teacher and she owns a studio. Several scenes are set in various classes from little tots to grown women. She has a beloved three year old granddaughter, Meri Lee, and one of the most important scenes erupts when the villain kidnaps Meri Lee. The struggle to find the money he demands and the disagreement she has with Kevin about involving the FBI is an important part of the story. Kevin is religious and believes in the power of prayer and urges Lenora to pray with him about the situation. Lenora isn't against religion but she doesn't believe prayer really helps. This book is an inspirational so this kind of dialogue takes place between the two often. It took quite a bit of work to develop this plot so that there could be some excitement created in the book as well as the romance between Kevin and Lenora.

Q: Is any one of your books the book of your heart, a book you felt compelled to write? Tell us about it.
A:
TWO FOR THE SHOW falls into this category. It is about two exceptionally talented classical musicians who fall in love and their struggle to find a way to be together when it seems impossible, without one giving up his/her career. David is an established vocalist and Kristin is an exceptionally talented pianist. She is on the brink of a star career and David is already in demand all over the world. They meet and sparks fly when Kristin is drafted to play his accompaniment for an upcoming concert after his regular accompanist falls and breaks his wrist.

I have taught music in the public schools as well as privately earlier in my life. I loved the idea of two classical musicians falling in love and the struggle that would take place when they tried to be together. I was told by every publisher I sent the book to that a book about concerts and especially classical musicians would never sell, but I persisted and went on to write my book. This book has had several positive reviews and I'm still committed to it and hope it will find a larger audience.