We have with us today writer Danielle A. Vann, creator of The Whizbang Machine Series and a handful of other successful books. She was the winner of the Amsterdam Book Festival, the runner-up in the San Francisco Book Festival, the runner-up in the New York Book Festival, and the second place winner at the North Texas Book Festival in the young adult category. Her newest novel, Tunney's Curse (The Whizbang Machine #2) will hit shelves on August 1 and recently won gold in the International Literary Classics Award. The first book in the series won silver when it was published in 2016.
Vann has always had a love for writing and journalism. She began as a scriptwriter then transitioned into a career as a news reporter, food reporter, morning/evening news anchor, and eventually author. After she became a mother, she was inspired to write children's books as well as novels for all ages. Currently, she is writing her stories and raising her children in Mansfield, Texas. To learn more about her or her work, you can visit her website.
BubbleLife: Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write The Whizbang Machine Series?
Vann: This is an easy one, and honestly something I like to refer to as serendipity.
One month before I was given the pleasure of signing my contract with the Waldorf Publishing team, my dear friend Erin snapped a photograph of an old Royal typewriter. It was seated in a beautiful tan and maroon case, which her family had been gifted by another family member. Knowing my affinity for antiques, especially those that deal with writing and literary works, she sent me a text one early Sunday morning with the words, ‘Look at what David’s father gave us.’
I hadn’t yet made my way out of bed as it was still very early. Hearing the familiar chime of my phone, I wondered who was texting me at that time. As the photo came through so too came the idea for the first book. I sprang from bed and began outlining. Unbeknownst to Erin, that single photo became my muse. In honor of this gift, her oldest daughter became the basis for the character of Elizabeth Yale. The rest of the series has honestly taken on a life of its own. I write as it comes and once I start, it’s impossible to get the characters to stop finding their way through my fingertips.
BubbleLife: Did you ever consider writing any of your books under a pseudonym?
Vann: I did consider a pseudonym for a short time. In the end, I decided against it. I felt that it would benefit my family not to have a known name, should that become an issue, but I also wanted to be truthful about who I really am with my readers. Coming from a television background, as a former news reporter and anchor, I’ve been in situations where name and face were recognizable. I always enjoyed fans coming up then. It turns out, I still love it today. I’ve had a few seek me out and I will always maintain that without readers/fans what I do isn’t worth doing. This is certainly a personal choice for each writer. For me, I’m comfortable being open.
BubbleLife: Do you ever listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to?
Vann: When I first started novel writing five years ago, I always wrote with music. Now, absolutely not. The only time I have written to music during this series has been during an incredibly intense scene – a funeral – at the beginning of the third book in the series. I can’t say much more as I don’t want to give it away! However, it was a deeply personal scene taken loosely from real life. The haunting arrangement allowed me to bring those thoughts and emotions to life on paper for the characters. Otherwise, I keep to a very quiet environment. I visual every bit of every scene. Music tends to interrupt that fluid movement of mind and fingers.
BubbleLife: Did you always know you wanted to publish a novel?
Vann: Without question. I was the kid that stayed up all night reading and writing. I started writing intensely in high school, though I spent many days before that with pen and paper. I had an English teacher that pushed me to write more, be better, focus. She submitted one of my pieces to a contest called Wings of Freedom. It won and was displayed in the White House and then the later in the halls of Congress. It inspired me to keep writing. I selected journalism in college so that I could write daily. I knew that being an author was ultimately where I would finish my professional career. I’ve been extremely fortunate to turn a goal into reality.
BubbleLife: Which of your novels did you most enjoy writing?
Vann: Honestly, there hasn’t been one that I’ve enjoyed more than another. They are each like children to me. They each have different personalities in a way. It’s like asking me to pick a favorite child—impossible! Each time I sit down to craft a new book I get lost in where it takes me. I start with an outline but they always stray. That’s why I can’t love one more than another… They develop into what they are supposed to be in spite of the author.
BubbleLife: Do you believe in writer's block?
Vann: Yes and no. I believe that as writers we put too much pressure on ourselves to perform. To write something bigger, better, award-winning, and I think that closes our channels of creativity. Do I think we have control over that? Absolutely. If I start struggling with a particular part or idea I walk away. Literally, I shut my laptop, get up, and move on to something else. It’s when I’m not thinking about it that the connections start and play out for me. I carry paper and pen with me at all times. If I get stuck for too long I turn to my yoga and meditation practice to clear my mind.
BubbleLife: How long does it usually take for you to write one book?
Vann: I really hate to answer this question. One, people generally don’t believe, and two, every writer is different. As I said, I visual and go with the flow. Once I’m into a book I often cannot turn it off. The Whizbang Machine, Book 1, took three months to write from start to finish. It was in editing for about two weeks and we worked together for another two weeks to get it ready for publication. Book 2 took four months and is a much longer book. I’m currently writing book 3. It’s looking like it will take just about the same time as book 2. Visualizing the scenes, trusting the words that I put together, and not second guessing myself helps to reduce what most writers tell me takes them the longest to get over while writing.
BubbleLife: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Vann: Eek! I’m almost embarrassed to answer this question. Half-finished: about ten. Finished: roughly 20. That is a combination of children’s books, novels, and a couple non-fiction works. There are a few special novels that I plan to revisit after I finish the Whizbang series.
BubbleLife: Name one underrated book you think everyone should read.
Vann: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Even though it had a short stint on the NY Times Best Seller list, I don’t think this book really got its due. I read it in a single sitting—not something I generally do as a mom of three. While the backdrop of the book isn’t something I generally find interest in—racing—Stein weaves emotion, the characters, the overall themes in such a spellbinding way that makes it impossible to put down. Sadly, in my experience, most people haven’t read the book. I’ve read his other books and this is, in my opinion, his best.
BubbleLife: What's your favorite part about living and writing in Texas?
Vann: I’ve been fortunate to call Texas my home for the last twelve years. I have a deep affection for the diversity, the culture that seems to have a life of its own, and the bigger than life true characters I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know while living here and Houston. I’ll admit, some of the best “characters” I’ve written have been based on some real-life Texans.
Be sure to check out Vann's published works, as well as the compelling new installment in The Whizbang Machine Series, coming August 1!