Busy Women Writing Books
This is the debut of a new interview series profiling women writers who’ve written and published books while also working, parenting, volunteering, caring for family, attending school, and ALL OF THE THINGS.
For our first interview, I'm pleased to introduce you to Lene Dybdahl.
Lene Dybdahl is the Danish author of six published fantasy novels at Tellerup with a seventh coming out in September. Her fantasy series ‘Nøglens Vogtere’ (Guardians of the Key) has been said to be ‘The Da Vinci Code for Kids’ and her writing has been compared to The Children of the Lamp series by P. B. Kerr. Her fantasy series ‘Ovanienprofetierne’ (The Ovania Profecies) was featured in the Danish Literary Magazine at the London Book Fair. She has received the grant for continuous artistic production from the Danish Art Foundation twice. Besides writing, she does online courses, teaching aspiring writers how to write better books and promote them through online marketing. Furthermore, she has another business in which she teaches solopreneurs, therapists, writers and small business owners how to create and launch profitable online courses.
I know how amazing you are, but please let everyone else know a bit about yourself and the books you’ve written thus far. Own it and brag a bit for us!
When my first novel Den Gyldne Nøgle (The Golden Key, Guardians of the Key #1) came out in 2012, I was deeply surprised by the reception of it. Within 2 hours at the bookstore where I had a book signing, it was sold out. We had people standing in line out in the street to buy it and the bookstore had to improvise and take payments on the spot and promise that people could pick it up the next week.
The Guardians of the Key series is an exciting adventurous tale about the Danish / Spanish twins David and Laura who discover that their family on their mother’s side are the guardians of a magic key that can open a portal into medieval Spain. Evil forces in the shape of the Agakhan Brigade want to get hold of the key, so its whereabouts must be kept secret. When the twins’ parents are abducted and taken into the parallel world of medieval Spain, they are forced on a journey to recover the key and bring their parents back to the present.
All my novels play with magic and history in some shape or form. Where the Guardians of the Key are focused on medieval Spain, Den Sorte Paraply (The Black Umbrella) is centered in Elisabethan England. And the series Ovanienprofetierne (The Ovania Profecies) takes place in the fictional fantasy realm of Ovania – inspired by medieval Europe and the Middle East.
What’s your current writing routine? Has it always been like this? What about it might be different for you now than in the past?
I have no writing routine as of yet, and that is actually the problem. Right now I am between books, that is to say, that I am researching for the next, but I have not yet began writing. When I am at my best writing routine, I write a thousand words every day. But it often only happens when I am on holiday with nothing else to do.
What is the publishing world like in Denmark? What are the steps most writers take?
When you want to get published in Denmark, you write the book, edit it as best you can and then you send the manuscript and a cover letter to a publisher of your choice. Some send the manuscript to beta readers and implement their feedback before sending the manuscript to the publisher. It is very important that the book is as close to being finished as possible. That will increase the chance of getting a yes. It is frowned upon sending your manuscript to more than one publisher at a time, and I would not recommend it. You typically have to wait between 3 to 6 or even 9 months to get an answer from the publisher, depending on the season. Fall is book fair season in Denmark and everyone is very busy.
When did you start “getting serious” about writing and what did that look like for you?
I participated in a writing contest online, and my current publisher showed an interest in my writing. They asked me to send them a finished manuscript! Even here, that is unheard of for a debutant. That acknowledgement fired me up and I got very serious about getting the novel finished. At the time, I had just had baby twins so I had to write while my daughters were at sleep.
What have you had going on in your life over the years that wasn’t writing and may have made finding time to write challenging? What strategies did you use to overcome those obstacles and get the writing done?
Before quitting my job and starting my business, I worked full time as a marketing manager of three companies under the same roof, I had small kids and I was trying to do online marketing for my books in my ‘spare’ time. I rarely had time to write. That’s when I decided that I wanted to sell online courses so that I could earn money and have some of my time back. However, running a business is also time consuming. I am still trying to find the balance between writing and working on the business. I am very much driven by the end result, the finished book. And over the years, letters from impatient readers also keep me going.
Did you ever think about giving up on writing? Why didn’t you? How did you move past that point and recommit?
I have considered it when I have been busy in my business, but it makes me sad to think of cutting that out of my life. When I commit to writing, it gives me joy. And being an author and a part of the book world in Denmark is a huge part of who I am. I could not imagine stepping out of it again. I have a goal of writing at least eight books, and now I have just finished number seven, so I cannot quit now, can I?
How are you feeling about your writing practice right now?
I feel a bit guilty that I do not commit to it very often. When I say that, people often respond to me, that they think I am so productive (7 books in 8 years). I don’t think I am very productive and I would like to write more than I do.
What’s been your favourite part of finishing and publishing your books?
A mom wrote to me that her son used to have a hard time reading. Danish was not his favourite subject, and he was a very slow reader. That was when he discovered one of my books. Within a few days, he had read the whole series. It deeply improved his reading skills, and now he enjoys a good book. Is that not just the most important reason why we should keep going? Changing peoples lives like that?
I had another letter from a girl who was a former drug addict. In order to stay clean, she consumed lots of lots of fantasy novels. She told me that reading my books saved her. I was in tears reading that letter. And deeply humbled that stories have that power.
Do you ever get “stuck” or find yourself avoiding writing? If/when that happens, how do you get yourself unstuck?
All. The. Time. Sometimes I block times out of my calendar to give myself time to write. And I remind myself of why this is important. I don’t make a lot of money on my books compared to my business. So often, I prioritize the money. But writing gives me something else: joy. It is important to remind myself of that sometimes.
What’s your favourite book about writing or writing craft?
The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.
Who do you consider your mentor(s)?
I am thankful for my great Danish teachers in primary school, high school and at the University. Also, my interest in language, is very much thanks to my mom. I have never taken a writing class but I am inspired by great authors and I try to understand what it is that they do that makes a great novel and then I try to implement it in my own writing.
What are you working on now? How are you feeling about it right at this moment?
I am researching for my next novel. I have promised myself that it will be a shorter book this time. I am excited but also a bit nervous getting started. I have a holiday coming up, and I think, I will bring my writing machine and notebooks to get started.
What advice would you have for writers who do really want to finish a book but just haven’t been able to get there yet?
Commit to it. Imagine the finished printed book in your hands. Your name on that book cover. Your book on your bookshelf. And find someone to keep you accountable. I recently worked with another Danish author. We called each other every 2 weeks reading our latest writings aloud to each other and gave feedback. That kept me going right to the finish line. I have to pick that up again!
Thanks so much, Lene!