Hannah Carmona Dias On Turning A Real Life Struggle Into A Creative Project

Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.

Today's guest for the WHAT is Hannah Carmona Dias a writer who currently resides in Tennessee. Beautiful, Wonderful, Strong Little Me is her debut book which tackles a topic she herself has struggled with.

Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?

Yes I remember the day exactly! I was shopping at Target with my daughter and while I was checking out the cashier looked at my daughter and said, “She’s beautiful. What is she?” My daughter was 2 years old at this time and while I had gotten this question all my life (referring to the complexion of my skin and curly hair) I had never had this question directed towards my daughter. It was then that it hit me… she would be living her life hearing this question over and over again just like I had. My brain bulb flashed—someone should write a book about about this! And so I did. 

…Also just for kicks I told the cashier she was part alien par t dinosaur and walked out.

Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?

This was a really rare case where the story seemed to flow out naturally. Instead of running it through my mind for weeks or doing extensive plotting, on the drive home I could already visualize the words in my head and see the beginning, middle, and end. My fingers were itching to get the story down on paper, which I did that night.

Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?

Abosolutly! In the case of my debut picture book the story didn’t change much. Like I said above, it was a very weird and unusual occasion where the story just flowed. Now my current WIP is a whole different beast. If you saw my initial outline as compared to what’s currently on paper you wouldn’t think they are the same story! I love outlining because it gives me a starting point and I don’t feel overwhelmed when I begin to write. However sometimes inspiration strikes when my fingers hit the keyboard, which is what happened with this WIP. New characters emerged, minor plot points became major plot twists, and my ending changed a total of five times!

Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?

I have a notebook of story ideas. I blame it on the fact that I’m a children’s theatre director in addition to being a writer. Constantly being around the creativity of a child keeps my brain flowing faster than I can keep up with it. I realize that this is a good problem to have which is why I keep avid notes in case the day comes when this is a struggle.

How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?

I start what I call brain plotting. Nothing on paper, but I begin by telling myself the story over and over again in my mind. Once I can tell myself the complete story I know it’s a workable idea. If this idea sparks a fire where I can’t function until I get it out of my system then I know it’s time to begin writing.

I have 8 cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?

You are achieving my life goal! I currently have two cats, a dog, and iguana in addition to my two kids …so I have an abundance of writing buddies. Though my favorite writing buddy is a hot mug of tea and giant bag of chocolate!