Friends! I’ve literally been counting down the days to today’s chat in our Interviews With Women Writers series! I first met Deanna Cabinian more than a decade ago when we both worked on our college’s newspaper. She was the cool editor and I could tell back then that her passion for writing ran deep and her hard work has definitely paid off with last year’s release of her first book One Night. When she emailed me a few months ago, I knew I had to interview her about her exciting life as an author. Here, Deanna talks about the joy of the debut novel and her fantastic advice for young writers… xoxo
**And stay tuned for a book giveaway of One Night next month!!!
Name: Deanna Cabinian
Where are you from: If we’re talking originally, Los Angeles, CA. But my current location is the Chicago suburbs.
3 words to describe me: determined, intelligent, optimistic.
Website/Blog: Deanna Cabinian
Tell me a bit about yourself…what do you do, what are your hobbies, etc.?
By day, I work as a marketing director. I write early in the morning during my train ride into work and occasionally at night. As for other hobbies, I love reading and listening to boy bands of all kinds. I also like trying new recipes (sometimes) and aspire to be a better cook, but it’s lower on my list of priorities. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my husband and our Havanese puppy Cuba. And I love to travel.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer? Was it always something you wanted to do?
Writing has always been a part of me. I wrote and illustrated my first picture book when I was five. It was about a family of sea turtles and is collecting dust in my parents’ basement. I wrote a lot of picture books growing up and wrote stories here and there throughout high school. I was seventeen when I decided I wanted to be published.
What writers/books did you admire growing up?
I LOVE the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. If you are a girl, no matter what your age is, and you want to laugh out loud, these are the books for you. I read those books over and over. They never get old. I was also a big fan of The Giver by Lois Lowry.
What is most rewarding for you as a writer?
I love connecting with readers. If they can relate to my book in some way or at minimum be entertained for an hour or two, then I’ll have done my job. Also, I just enjoy the act of writing. Some days sitting at the keyboard is torture, but some of the time, I’m thinking, “God, I love this sentence!” or “YES, I know exactly where to take this story next!” I live for those moments.
How did you get the idea for One Night? What was the writing process like?
OK, so One Night is a coming-of-age story set in Hawaii with an Elvis slant. For years, my sister and I thought — GASP! — Elvis was overrated. All his songs sound the same, they’re too old-fashioned, etc. But then, in 2010, we decide to take a road trip to Graceland and BAM, we’re converted. Right around Graceland, Elvis’s music is playing in practically every store, restaurant, gas station, etc. I think being forced to listen to his music did something to us. Needless to say, I now have a number of Elvis CDs and my sister and I have seen a fair amount of Elvis impersonators. Shortly after that trip, I read the book Me & A Guy Named Elvis, which is written by one of Elvis’s best friends; it’s not only a fascinating read but also an example of great writing. Really, that book is a master class in “show, don’t tell.” At the end of 2013, I got it in my head that an Elvis impersonator would make a great character in a novel. I started writing what would eventually become One Night, but it wasn’t coming together for some reason.
Then in fall 2014, I’m walking to the train station, on my way home from work, and as I pass under the El tracks, the character of Thompson (the main character of One Night) pops into my head. I just got this picture of a heartbroken kid and I knew he was the missing link in my half-started Elvis impersonator novel. Thompson just dropped out of the sky for me. I wish all ideas came to me that way. So then I have Thompson who’s coming off a breakup and he meets Johnny, the Elvis impersonator character, and the book just took off from there. I wrote an outline and pounded out the first draft in three months. I decided to set the book in Honolulu because I love it there. I was lucky enough to stay with a friend there a few years ago.
What is one piece of advice you wish someone had given you when you were just starting out?
Share your work. I wish I had started using critique partners sooner. The sooner you get feedback on your writing, the faster you’ll improve.
What would you tell aspiring writers today?
Write what you want to read. Write about characters you care about. Do not write to trends. I spent years writing to trends — chick lit, paranormal Twilight-esque romance, you name it. They were all spectacular failures and just came off as not genuine at all. I wasted a lot of time not being myself. I have always loved reading quirky young adult novels more than any other genre; it took me a few years to realize I should be writing them, too.
Is there anything else you think I should know?
Yes, I’d like to talk about my next book! It’s called The Other Side of the World and is about a Filipino-American teen who travels to the Philippines and helps his dad complete his recently deceased grandmother’s bucket list. You can read a full description here. I’m really excited about this one because my dad is Filipino and there aren’t enough books set in foreign countries.
Thanks so much giving us a peek into your life, Deanna! Be sure to follow her on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with her writing journey! I’d love to keep this series going, so feel free to email me at email@example.com with ideas or if you’d like to be interviewed! We women have to stick together, right?!?!? xoxo