Interview with Danielle Dugan

Danielle Dugan1

When and why did you begin writing?

I have been writing ever since I could form words with a pencil. Before that I would lie in bed at night composing stories in my mind. Writing has always come easily for me. I have never been fully capable of expressing my feelings with spoken words. In fact, I am not that good at using words aloud in general. But when I put words to paper, it is a totally different world for me. I can say whatever I want, in whatever way I want. I love that.


Is there anything you find particularly difficult about writing?

The hardest obstacle I usually hurdle over is how I want to tell a story. I am always conscious of the reader and how they will perceive my piece. I never want to confuse an audience, and with that said, I don’t want to leave out any of what I have to say. Finding a happy medium can be a nightmare.


What are major themes in your writing? 

A theme I have been picking apart lately is my family. I have lived a very peculiar life in my 23 years and I  enjoy being able to open up about it through my writing.


Do you have a specific writing style?

I enjoy writing in a conversational style, it helps makes a piece more engaging.


As a writer, do you work to an outline or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?

I love seeing where an idea takes me. Sometimes I can write for hours and then I’ll squeeze out one little sentence and it is as if the rest doesn’t matter. I found my muse.


You’re a poet, a fiction writer, and a nonfiction writer. Do you feel like each of those pursuits influences how you approach the others?

Definitely all of them. Writing nonfiction is admittedly my favorite, there is nothing like writing about the raw truth. But poetry changed the life of my writing forever. I use to write pieces sentence by sentence but after studying poetry for a few years I began writing pieces word by word. It is not for everyone, but finding the beauty behind every word has really helped me develop as a writer. With fiction, that’s a whole different world, fiction is everything and nothing, it is anything you can dream. It has taught me–no matter what I’m writing–to never limit myself.


What is the origin of your SOS piece “A Few Simple Questions“? How did you come up with the idea for both the story and the Q&A format?

The origin of my piece is a true story. The dad in my essay is my dad–and you guessed it I am the daughter. Writing about the often tragic adventures of my father and me has become a way to express myself. I chose the Q&A format because often in my own life I am unable to answer the simple questions that are asked of me with simple answers.


The father in your story is a real tragic figure — someone I genuinely feel for despite his history of violence. Is that something you aim for in your characters? What kind of characters speak to you in both your reading and your writing?  

You wouldn’t know from my writing but I am a pretty upbeat person. I often paint tragic profiles for my characters because in my life I am surrounded by tragic lives. I try to authentically demonstrate these real-life people for my audience.


Both the father and the daughter care deeply for each other and feel responsible for the other’s well being. How do you view the role of a support system in a person’s recovery?

The role of being a person’s support system during their recovery is a heavy one. Both of my parents struggle every day with their recovery and I am often the shoulder they lean on. I think it is so important to be strong for a person, no matter what they need. Just being there with kind words or to listen to someone’s situation can mean and do so much. But I think supporters need to know it is okay to not be strong all the time. Sometimes you have to cry, too, and maybe scream and lose your mind for just a little while. But that’s okay: to become the strongest, you can’t suppress your weaknesses.


Is there a message in your piece you want your readers to grasp?

Of course and you have all heard it before. Don’t judge a book by its cover. I think of it every day with my Dad. One day, he won’t look at me, the next all he wants is to hear “I love you.” On the days he wants nothing to do with me, those are the days I want him to know I love him the most.