Author Interview: Ava Dunn

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I have wanted to be an author since I was eight-years-old. I was in grade 3 (3rd grade) and the class was taught how to write a story. I loved books, but an interesting aside is that I had verbal dyspraxia as a child so struggled to learn how to read. I couldn’t read until I was seven, but as soon as I could, I was obsessed with reading. When I learnt that I could write my own “books” and stories, I couldn’t stop! My first story was about two sisters who went ice skating, and the older sister broke her ankle. I remember it so clearly. It went for pages and pages. It was as if I’d been doing it for years. All through school, whenever I said I wanted to be a writer, everyone believed I could be and encouraged me, but said I needed a “real job”, too. Sadly, they were right. I became a teacher so I could share my passion of reading and writing with children just as my teachers did for me.

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?
Printed books. It’s the page flipping, the smell, the texture, the weight…I don’t get that dopamine hit from ebooks and I struggle to focus on audiobooks – I tune out after a couple of minutes and escape into my own mind – I can’t even listen to podcasts!

Have pets ever gotten in the way of your writing?
I have a horse named Hollyhorse whom I work just to pay vet bills for, so yes! She certainly prevents me from writing full-time because I couldn’t financially survive on royalties with her aptitude for hurting herself. I love her with all my heart, so she is worth it. During the actual writing process, I’m interrupted constantly by at least one cat. I have a soft spot for cats, and have adopted seven cats. There is one little black cat named Olive who is very eager to be involved in everything I do. She likes “helping”, but mostly she does things like spill drinks on my computer and climb on my head!

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?
Yes. Maybe I already do. I think in my career outside of writing, teaching young children, writing crime novels may concern some parents so yes, I use a pseudonym. It also prevents underage children looking me up online and reading books that are inappropriate or too mature for them.

How did you come up with the title for your book Salt?
The title is a metaphor and ode to the ocean. The book first came to me after I had been surfing. I had salty hair and salty skin, and everything smelled of salt. It stings wounds but it also does good, cleans out your sinuses etc. It got me thinking that salt can be painful but good for you. It cleanses you, but corrodes things. Just like going through traumatic experiences and navigating difficulties. My character is also a surfer, trying to return to the water after a traumatic experience. The title Salt is one big fat metaphor, and I love it.

How do you come up with character names for your stories?
I like to use symbolism to match their purpose in the book or personality. For example, in my book Salt, one of the character’s names is Sanna. Sanna means truth in Swedish, and she is lying to cover up what happened to her because she doesn’t want to face the pain. She doesn’t heal until she faces the truth and reports what happened to her.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have three completed novels. I Lied For You is a psychological crime suspense thriller with plot twists. Salt is a contemporary coming of age drama. Cold Desert is a coming of age thriller – and is positioned for a late 2023 release. I have five works in progress currently. My favourite book is Salt, though Cold Desert is a close second.

How many hours a day do you write?
I write for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week – but preferably seven! There are good days when I don’t have much to do and I can spend twelve hours tapping away quite easily, but life gets in the way!

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I teach three or four days a week, and I keep one day a week available for writing. I get on a livestream with a bunch of other Australian writers and we have a chat and then write together. It’s really nice to have that social and professional connection. During the other days of the week, I try to write for at least thirty minutes a day during lunch breaks. While getting I Lied For You and Salt ready for publication, I was getting up at 5am and writing before school, as well, but I made myself rather ill and ended up in hospital from overdoing it, so I have had to take it easier and learn how to balance work with writing, along with all the other factors that come into running a farm and life in general.

What part of the book Salt did you have the hardest time writing?
My character Sanna is taken advantage of by a young man in a vile, horrific attack. I found it difficult to write because I wanted it to be told in a removed way, but still make it clear to the reader what had happened. There are no graphic details, but I needed to portray the violence and the horror of what he did to her. It was a fine line because editors and critique readers were confused because they thought it didn’t happen or that she got away, so it was challenging to get that balance right. I didn’t want to have something that victims of sexual assault couldn’t read. It was the toughest and most emotional scene I have ever written. I guess if I don’t make myself cry, I can’t make a reader cry.