More About Me, My Journey and What's Next
I enjoy introducing my kids to everything 80s, want to hike more, but will settle for making it through a cup of coffee while it is still hot, and am a not-so-secret fan of comic books, the supernatural and an ace at trivia. My favorite time of year is Fall. I love pumpkins, fires, leaves, warm socks, and comfy sweaters. I also love elephants, the planet, and the rain. My dream -- to tell my stories, own a pumpkin farm, run a tea shop, or open a retirement home for aging rescue animals (in no particular order). More about me...
Who is D.M. Simmons?
I am a storyteller, dreamer, lover of words, and a creative mind, with lots of worlds and characters kicking around in my head, but not nearly enough time to write about them all!
What is your day job?
I wear many hats, including mom and business owner. I am a communications consultant and run my own business.
Where do you live?
I am a 4th generation San Francisco Bay Area native, and currently live there with my husband, two kids, and two ridiculously loved cats.
What do you do in your spare time?
HA HA…spare time. No seriously, when I do have time, I love to read (my TBR is a mile high), listen to music, and binge-watch shows with my family. We love superheroes and comics and fantasy, and there has been so much new content in those genres, it’s really fun to experience worlds visually, we love so much as books. I also love animals, wild and domestic, and in my spare time, work with local rescue organizations, and global nonprofits dedicated to protecting our planet and the creatures that call its land and seas, home. I also love, love, love music.
When did you write your first book? Did you publish it?
I wrote my first book in 2012. It was the foundation for EVOKE. I published it, but quickly learned it was a Beta and really needed to be refined.
How was that process?
On one hand, it was scary – putting your words out into the world for all to see, was a really humbling experience. I was also vulnerable to feedback and had to learn to grow a tough skin. In my career field, we have to be thick-skinned as it is a fast-paced, highly critical field. But writing….it is a part of you. Your words are from your heart, and soul, and when people criticize your work, it can feel like they are criticizing you. You have to really understand where the line where you end and the work begins, and not take it personally.
What is your writing process? How long does it take you to write a story?
Writing takes time for me. I am not a planner. I am a pantser. This means I write free flow against a big idea. I am so used to doing things well and quickly but writing really requires patience with yourself and can be quite hard. 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. Short stories, on the other hand, are easy for me to write. I have an idea and a world in my head, and I get to power through that idea and give readers a taste of the world without agonizing over every plot point. It’s very freeing and has helped me hone my craft.
What is EVOKE, your award-winning, debut novel, about?
EVOKE is a character driven YA story 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. It takes place in the fictional town of Lake Haven, Maine.
How was it published?
It was self-published, and then released through a publisher, and then I regained control of it and self-published again.
Why the change?
When I first released EVOKE, I had queried for a while. I received some amazing feedback and interest, but ultimately, publishing is a right time, right moment world. I really believed in the story and where I was planning to take it. So, after querying for a time without success, decided to take control into my own hands and self-publish.
How was that experience?
Self-publishing is great if you want to control all the elements of your writing – from book release, to marketing, to review, etc. However, it can be hard, and, often, takes money because many of the avenues to market can come with a financial spend.
Why did you take EVOKE from being a self-published book to working with a publisher?
I began to look for a publishing partner for EVOKE to help me reach more readers. As more people began to read it, I realized there was an audience but couldn’t reach them on my own.
How did you find a publisher?
I knew the bigger, what is often called “traditional publishers,” don’t accept previously published work, and I didn’t want to give up on the series I had planned. I really wanted to partner with a publisher that loved the story as much as I did and was interested in me playing a role in helping to market it but would do the lifting as well.
How was the query process 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 MSWL’s. It was always “not right now” or “not quite what I am looking for.” It was frustrating to not feel the love for this book that I loved so much.
Why did you decided to self-publish EVOKE after working with a publisher?
Ultimately, I regained control of EVOKE and again self-published it, because I knew it was going to take some time to get the second and third books done (it is a planned trilogy), and I was doing a lot of the marketing and it made better sense. I figured, if anyone could market and sell the book it was me, a person that does marketing for a living!
Did you like working with a publisher?
I did. I learned a lot.
Would you work with a publisher again?
I would, most definitely. I think EVOKE has a really compelling story and world and have already gotten some interested in publishing the trilogy when done. We will see. I am really interested in working with an agent and publisher, eventually on more stories down the line.
What was it like to receive an award for your first book?
EVOKE 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 is your favorite genre to read? Favorite Author? Books?
I love YA. 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 THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer. I’ve read it about 10 times.
What is your favorite genre to write?
YA / NA paranormal, love, and urban fantasy. I love stories where there is love and loss and complications in worlds that are flipped upside down – that’s kind of my brand.
Have you written other stories that have been published?
Yes. I have a short story called RISERS, which was included in a charity anthology called BENEATH THE TWIN SUNS. And another short story called FIVER, which was included in a charity anthology called THE NEW NORMAL. You can read both stories for free and learn where you can buy each anthology, here.
What are you working on now?
The sequel to EVOKE is coming out this fall. I am so excited about that story. It’s deeper, darker, and even more atmospheric. And book three will be out in 2022. After that, I am going to toy with Kindle Vella for an urban fantasy series I have started but would love to continue.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer to aspiring writers?
Start writing. Even if it is one sentence a day. Even if it is a scene, a line, a character’s name. Get it down. And then build from there.