Some of you may remember one of the very first From The Mind Of… interviews I did. It featured a beautiful young writer who had just finished up her first novel, a psychological thriller. At the time this young woman was all geared up and ready to self-publish her story, and when the time came for it to be released, it exploded. People on Amazon and Goodreads lauded it, with it garnering consistent five star reviews. Suffice it to say, Danielle Esplin and her debut novel Give It Back was a hit.
Now, usually I wouldn’t revisit a past author or interview without warrant. Well, Danielle has done something most self-published authors can only dream of: She’s getting published by a traditional publisher. Black Rose Writing had taken notice of the soaring success of Danielle’s book and felt it needed to reach a wider audience – and rightfully so. It’s a fantastic honour, and one that Danielle will surely cherish for all of her days.
You can check out the release, under Black Rose Writing here.
Or on Amazon, here.
In case you missed the interview the first time, here it is again!
Q: Give it Back: it’s a bold title to say the least. It’s simple, yet engaging, and instantly draws the reader in – I can say that because I’ll read this book when it’s ready. But with such a bold title, you need the words to fill it – what can you tell me about the book that anybody browsing your blog might not know? What inspired the thrilling story, and where do you want to take it once it’s done?
I came to America as an au pair. I worked between two houses, the host mother’s and her ex-husband’s. I lived with the host mother. The day we met in person was the day I moved in. That’s when the ideas started to surface. The person you let in your house could be dangerous. It’s extremely scary. The screening process is easy to pass. Not that I lied or anything (this has nothing to do with me, I promise)! But I just thought how eerie it actually is to let someone live with you, someone you don’t know at all.
With that said, all my characters are fictitious! When my husband read the first draft of my novel, he connected me to the au pair. He said the writing felt so authentic that he got worried. I took it as a compliment and teased him for a few days after.
Where do I want to take it once I’m done? That’s a hard question to answer. A part of me wants to self-publish my book and get it out there as fast as I can, so that I can start to build a platform of readers. Then another part argues that there’s still a lot of readers who doubt self-published books. But I also believe that a good book will sell itself.
Q: You have a degree in Food Science and Chemistry – it’s a bit of a coincidence since my day job deals with a lot of people who have the same qualifications, however not a single one of them has a creative bone in their body. So, how did this whole change come to be? You’ve always liked writing – growing up you would share your stories with your mom, but what changed? When did you decide that a “Practical” degree was the way to go? And conversely, why did you decide to go back to writing?
So let me start by saying that I did not graduate university, I dropped out. No one expected me to just leave. I literally packed a bag in my apartment on campus, plodded down the street from where I lived, and got on a bus. After a twenty-six hour ride, I crossed the border and left South Africa. As I arrived in Swakopmund, Namibia, I switched my phone on and told my mother I dropped out of university. I had many reasons for doing so, and I disappointed too many people in the process.
A writing-career in South Africa didn’t seem as enticing to be honest. I always wanted to write a book, but I knew that I had to make a living. Food Science and Chemistry is a tough major, and there was a high demand for food scientists. I did very well in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. After my first year I got a full-ride scholarship, and the dean called me into his office to congratulate me on my achievements. I was one of the top students. But I felt smothered, like a part of me died. I guess what pushed me over the edge was my circumstances back then too, I went through a rough time personally. And I realised there’s more to life than writing factual reports, where there’s absolutely no dimensions of creativity allowed. I wouldn’t dare get poetical with my assignments, I was a robot spitting out the most accurate results I could obtain in the laboratory.
When I eventually left university, I lived with a friend in Henties Bay, Namibia (more than 1800 kilometers from home) for three months. There, among the countless serpentlike-dunes that appeared like a half-closed girdle nestling the everlasting-sea, the desire to write resurfaced. It’s a quiet place, so I had some time to rethink the decisions I’ve made in life and what I want to do.
I then went on Blogspot.com and signed up. I didn’t have a theme to my blog. I also didn’t really know what my niche was. I just started to write. (Some of the posts I wrote in Namibia: http://danielleesplin.com/unrelated-posts-to-give-it-back/). It’s been a bumpy road, but I have no regrets today.
Q: Every writer is different, that’s no secret. Everybody has their own creative process, and their own unique inspirations. You’re not shy about sharing what inspires you on your blog, but I would like to go a bit deeper, if you don’t mind. I would love to hear about your support system; who do you have to keep you going, and what was their reaction when you decided to write a book? As well, I personally would like to know from where you draw your creative drive? Is it a personal drive, do you just want to share stories with the world? I’m genuinely curious about that.
I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions I got when I told my friends and family that I decided to write a book. My mother is a firm believer that you work hard and pay your dues. I remember she asked, “So what are your plans? What are you going to do with your life?” By this time, I’ve been living in Seattle for six months as an au pair (nanny). I met my husband, Nickolay, and we got married in Las Vegas. The problem? I didn’t have a work permit. So my mother wanted to know what my plans were. By then I already envisioned myself writing a book. I even felt shy to share that idea with my own husband. It seemed farfetched, but the need increased to a point where I couldn’t keep it in anymore.
My mother said, “Yes, why not? Go for it!” I stared at my phone like it was some kind of foreign object. Like really? My twin sister, Chanelle, asked me: “Is this a realistic goal?” And she meant that in the nicest way possible. I got started and the support system just grew! The more I shared the more support I got from all over the world. It’s phenomenal! I really didn’t expect that.
I have a very deep craving for success, and ever since I wrote the first sentence of Give it Back, the passion and hunger grew. What also drives me is that if my book doesn’t sell, or the next one, then I need to find something else to do with my life, and that would be devastating, since I love to write. So I’m very driven not to lose ‘my job’ as a writer because that might mean I will have to do something I don’t like.
Q: Currently on Instagram, you have 13.5 thousand followers… 13.5 THOUSAND! That’s a hefty number. I think I have like 8. What do you feel is behind a successful social media campaign? Also, how do you think it will impact your book once it’s launched? I mean 13.5 thousand followers are probably already aware of it, has that influenced you at all – maybe bring about a bit more confidence that it will sell – or at least be read upon launch?
I think it’s imperative that you interact with your audience. It’s time-consuming, but it pays off. I actually joked with my husband yesterday and said, “I don’t have a niche on my profile.” Some Instagrammers focus on one thing at a time, like fashion, music, landscape photography, or traveling, you name it. He said, “Yeah, you’re just all over the place,” and we had a great laugh, because it’s true. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. The one moment I have a bunch of traveling pictures, then some cute outfits, the other moment there are videos of me singing, and then there area bunch of books and cute animals. It’s funny though, because that’s exactly what most Instagrammers advise against. I guess I’m just being myself online.
I’d rather not get my hopes up high, but so far I’ve had quite a lot of people asking me where they can buy my book, and it’s not a great feeling to tell them they need to wait a few more months. A part of me feels like they might forget. I’m extremely humble when it comes to things like this. I stay positive, but I try my best to be realistic and open-minded.
Q: Like any half way decent interviewer would do, I did a bit of research prior to talking to you – in other words I Googled your name, and when I did I came across a YouTube channel. I must say, you have a fantastic singing voice. Is that something you’ve ever considered pursuing? Have you had any lessons, or sung in any shows/concerts before?
Thank you! I always blush when someone says that. I’ve had no lessons before. I was in the choir in Primary School, but that’s about it. I participated in one concert before when I was eleven or twelve years old, but as a joke! It was something I was shy off because no one ever acknowledged it in a positive light. I think it’s because of my older sister. She’s “the singer in the family.” She sang throughout school and she had a professional vocal coach. I sang in the shower or whenever I was alone at home. So lately I’ve been climbing out of my little shell. Now I’ll sing once a month for an hour or so. I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying myself!
Q: Speaking of other talents; what other skills do you have tucked away? Some pictures on your Instagram suggest perhaps maybe a modelling gig here or there? You absolutely have the look to be one. Or perhaps you have a fondness for photography? You might be thinking, how does this relate to your book, well, as a writer myself, I can find writing constantly to be a bit draining and so other releases need to take place. I suppose that’s my long winded way of asking what other activities do you do to help with the creative process?
Thank you again. I did model as a child. I loved it. There were catalogues that booked me over and over again, mostly French Catalogues. But the drive in and out of the city became too much, especially when my parents divorced. There wasn’t time for that anymore. There were other things to attend to, more important things. In a blink of an eye, I was enrolled in Stellenbosch University. My hectic inflexible schedule kept me from pursuing modeling. I reconsidered it when I came to America, but may not sign any contracts until my work permit is processed.
I definitely have a fondness for photography! I also love to edit videos. I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it! If I could, I would’ve delved into that hobby a bit more. Like we discussed, I sometimes sing for fun. I miss dancing! I was in a hip hop group, Basic Black, which represented South Africa in Germany. We participated in the World Championship there. It was an amazing experience! I was also on the South African Drum Majorette team. We went to Texas in 2007 for the World Championship, where we won eighteen trophies.
Q: Lastly, with Give it Back on the horizon, what other works do you have? Are there any other stories or publications people can read? or is Give it Back your first serious foray into the world of publishing? What other works would you be interested in doing? Shorts for anthologies, or maybe submissions to magazines?
Who knows, perhaps an opportunity knocks on my door. I like to dwell in possibility, but for now I’d like to focus on writing books and marketing them. Give it Back is my debut novel.