Today I had the awesome chance to interview Dawn Klehr, debut author of THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR!
Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she’s publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.
Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn’t know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez’s web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.
Dawn Klehr began her career in TV and though she’s been on both sides of the camera, she prefers to lurk behind the lens. Mostly, she loves to get lost in stories –in film, the theater, or on the page – and is a sucker for both the sinister and the sappy. She’s currently channeling her dark side as she works on her next book.
Dawn lives in the Twin Cities with her funny husband, adorable son, and naughty dog. The Cutting Room Floor is her debut novel.
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for your debut book?
There was so much inspiration for this book. Film is probably the most obvious one. My characters love film and acting—and their passion really became the framework for The Cutting Room Floor. The anti-hero in the book, Dez, really sees and experiences life as if he’s behind the lens. And his reality and fantasy world begin to blur throughout the story. You’ll notice that some chapters are even written in screenplay format.
Other inspirations, especially for the protagonist, Riley, include real-life current events such as: bullying of the LGBT community; the brave people who stand up to it and win; the clash of religious teachings and school policy; and economic and political issues.
How did you come up with your title? Were there any you considered first?
Once the film theme was locked into the story, the title came easily. The Cutting Room is what’s known as the editing room in film, and the pieces of film that are never used are said to be left on “the cutting room floor.” I love the idea that there are these moments that exist, but are never seen by the masses. And that makes perfect sense for this book—there are so many things happening behind the scenes, it only comes together at the end when everything intersects.
What was the hardest part of writing this particular book?
With my writing, it always starts with a character, so getting to know and understand my characters and their motivations is the hardest part—but also the most fun. Once I really get them, the writing just seems to flow. They really take over the driver’s seat.
Is there anything that helps you get into the writing zone – music, for example?
Yes! Music, art, film, television, other books—they can all help get me in the zone. Watching Dexter or Pretty Little Liars, and all the movies mentioned in the book really got me in the mood to write this story.
What is it about young adult fiction that draws you in as a writer?
Young adults are incredibly interesting people. It’s the characters who draw me in. I love that they are trying on new personalities, dealing with major life-altering moments on a daily basis, making huge decisions, and deciding who and what they want to be. It is fascinating and exciting. I love it!
Was there ever a time when you seriously considered giving up on your writing dream?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t get serious until about six years ago. Once that happened, I don’t think anything would’ve stopped me. It’s hard in the beginning, but it’s hard now too. Sometimes you need to take a break and recharge, or take some time to toughen up the skin because it’s a very difficult business. But, I’d never give up. There’s no real alternative for me at this point. I’m at my best, and happiest, when I’m writing.
Do you have any advice for writers trying to get published?
Write the book first. Some people worry about the business of publishing before they even write anything. Write and read first, then figure out the rest. I’m also a big believer in classes, seminars, reading craft books, joining a writers’ group, and finding critique partners.
And then, get ready for a long ride!
Can you say anything about your next project/s?
I have another YA thriller coming out with Flux next year!