Getting to know DM Simmons
Who is DM Simmons? Help us get to know you a bit better.
I am a storyteller, dreamer, lover of words, and creative mind, with lots of worlds and characters kicking around in my head, but not nearly enough time to write about them all! Some day I will have the opportunity to write every day, all day. But, for now, I wear many hats, including mom and communications executive, a career I’ve had for 22 years, working with big brands and startups. I am a 4th generation Bay Area native, and currently live there with my husband of 18 years, two kids, and two precocious cats. In my spare time, I love working with animal rescue organizations, including those that work to provide safe homes for rescue dogs and cats, and WildAid, a wildlife conservation group that focuses on reducing the demand for wildlife products. I love binge watching TV shows, music, pumpkins, the fall, dig the supernatural and superheroes, and YA stories, and have a to be read pile a mile high!
When did you write your first book?
I wrote my first book in 2012. It was the foundation for Evoke. I published it but quickly learned it was in the beta stage and really needed to be refined.
Tell us about what that experience was like for you.
On one hand, it was scary – putting your words out into the world for all to see was a really humbling and vulnerable experience. It was also humbling. Writing is hard! And takes a lot of diligence and time. I am so used to doing things well and quickly, but writing really requires patience with yourself. It won’t be perfect right out of the gate. Your words may be jumbled some days, and flow easily the next. This was a really hard lesson for me.
Tell us about Evoke, an award-winning novel, you initially self-published. What’s it about?
Evoke is a character-driven Young Adult novel that is a little mystery, a little paranormal, and a little romance. It is about a girl, Laney, who wakes up as the sole survivor of a crash that has claimed the lives of three of her friends, and the journey she goes on after her world has been turned upside down by an accident that has changed her life irrevocably.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I really believed in the story and after querying for a time without success, decided to take control into my own hands. Also, I figured, if anyone could market and sell the book it was me - a person that does marketing for a living!
What was the querying process like for you?
It was hard. I did my best to use the skills I built in my professional life to make it easier. I can pitch, really well – it’s something PR people do for a living. And, I created a very targeted list with specific notes for each agent – their likes, dislikes, authors they represented, response time – you name it, I had that info. I got some nice personal feedback, which meant my queries were getting read and breaking through the noise of the others that they receive. But I just wasn’t hitting the manuscript wish lists of anyone. It was always not right now, not quite what I am looking for…it was frustrating to not feel the love for this book that I loved so much.
Evoke has won some awards. What awards? What was that like to experience as an author?
Evoke recently won a Gold Medal in the 2019 Readers Favorite International Book Awards in the YA Mystery category, and Top Shelf honors. It is extremely validating to see a story you believe in (not just because it’s yours, but because you think there is something there because of what inspired it) acknowledged in such a way. It inspires you to keep going. That there is, in fact, just one person out there in the world that needs your words.
What did inspire Evoke?
A close friend of mine was killed at Christmas my sophomore year of college. I was coming home for the holiday when a friend's mom told me while I was shopping. She and I had been super close our senior year. We had some amazing times together, and when we graduated we never signed each other's yearbooks - cause there would be time always. We'd see each other when she came to visit me in college. But it never happened and I never got to say goodbye to that incredible friend who was there at that time in our lives while we were leaving that world behind and going to another.
Death has been all around me always. People I've loved. Family I loved. Friends I loved. But that one, hurt. Hit me hard. It really makes you step back and remember those people who shape us, who play a role in who we become.
Every person in Evoke was inspired by someone I knew/know and love/loved. Some characters are a little bit of a few people. Our small community was close. Cliquey even. But those friendships - that are 40 years old even now - I treasure, so, so much because I so love those people and that community.
It burned down a few years back. The house I practically grew up in - my grandparents - and the thousands of wooden acres that were my playground. It ripped a hole in my heart and reminded me no matter how far you go, no matter what you become, home, is a part of you, always. And defines you, down deep.
I tend to feel things deeply. People. Places. Experiences. They all shape my heart.
I am so sorry to hear about the tragic loss of your friend and the loss of your childhood home. What a beautiful tribute to her that you used her story to write a book that can touch others lives.
Recently, you signed with Gestalt Media to re-publish Evoke and other works. Why did you decide to make this move?
I have wanted to find a home for Evoke and its sequel and final book (it’s a planned trilogy) since self-publishing it. Self -publishing is great if you want to control all the elements of your writing – from book release, to marketing, to follow up work(s), but it’s hard. And frankly, it often takes money because many of the avenues to market come with spends because they offer credibility that you may otherwise receive from a publisher. I really wanted to partner with a publisher that loved the story as much as I did, was creative, understood the audience I was interested in reaching, was interested in me playing a role in helping market it, and ultimately, to receive credibility that a publishing house offers.
I knew the big five publishers don’t accept previously published work and I didn’t want to give up on the series I had planned. I put together a list of publishers I had gotten to know through Twitter, and Gestalt Media was on of them. I came to know GM because of a Twitter friend that recently signed on with them for her new work (that’s you Dawn! 😊 ) and researched them a bit. I thought they would be a really good home for the story.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working with the Gestalt team to reissue Evoke with a new look and feel, as well as editing book 2 in the series. I was working on an urban fantasy series before Evoke was signed with Gestalt, but I’ve put that on the back burner to focus on Evoke and the Lake Haven series.
What is your favorite genre to read? Favorite Author? Favorite Book?
I love Young Adult. I just love it. Neal Shusterman’s UNWOUND series blew my mind. I loved Vivian Schilling’s QUIETUS. And I love Amy Plum, who wrote the DIE FOR ME series. I also really loved Stephenie Meyer's THE HOST. I’ve read it about 10 times. I love the stories where there is love and loss and complications in worlds that are flipped upside down – that’s kind of my brand.
What is your favorite genre to write?
Young Adult and urban fantasy. But that’s all I’ve tried so far, lol.
What are your hobbies?
I love music. We see a lot of concerts and art (like theater). I love sports (baseball is my favorite). I also really love binge-watching TV shows. I live in the Bay Area and everything is expensive. There’s nothing I like more than curling up in our family room with the fireplace going (we live close to water, so its cold often) and watching a good show or movie. It’s hard with two kids at opposite age spectrums – 11 and 2 – to do much and it can get really expensive. But with the older kid getting able to see more shows, we’re introducing him to lots of shows and films. I also work with animal groups and like to do things to help whenever I can. Also, my oldest and I love rollercoasters, so we did a lot of that this summer. We are also a big superhero family, so we tend to watch a lot of those shows and go down YouTube ratholes of trailers and reviews and canon educating influencer shows. (We’re a little dorky that way).
Tell us about your favorite vacation.
There are two: The first, I love London. I have been there many times. I worked there when I first started my career, and when I was at my last company, spent a week there and in Ireland. It wasn’t a vacation, but since it was a family history company, everything we were doing was historical and touristy and it was just really a magical trip. Dublin is incredible and seeing Trinity Colleague was one of my all-time favorite things I’ve done on this planet.
The second has got to be the Spring Break my family and I spent at Edgewood in Tahoe a few years back. We’ve been to a lot of places, and been fortunate to experience some really incredible experiences, but trips with kids are often a lot of work and expensive and tiring. That vacation was so chill. No one was there. We were on the lake and the ground was still snow-covered. We drank cocoa by the firepits and swam in the outdoor pool surrounded by snow. My oldest made sand angels on the beach and we ate delicious meals and walked to Stateline at night and played with the kids. And we had the most gorgeous hotel room overlooking the water. It was just a really awesome trip. Everyone had fun. No one had attitude (lol). It was just really wonderful.
Where can readers find you?
You can find me on Instagram and Twitter @dmsreadwrite.
My author website is www.daniellemsimmons.com
On Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/daniellemsimmons