Author, I Never: An Interview with Don Zolidis


Don Zolidis

author of The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, out October 2, 2018

Author, I Never is a segment in which I interview fellow authors about the writing process, breaking into the industry, and breaking rules. I ask some hopefully novel questions along with some of the old standards, and finish it up with a round of I Never to find out what cardinal writing rules we've broken.

Question the first: Don, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer. I’ve even got a little book I wrote when I was 11, that I PUT A COPYRIGHT ON. (Yeah, I was already concerned with copyright infringement). I think I decided I wanted to be a writer for a career my junior year in high school. I was sitting in the back of my parents’ car heading to a swim meet and it hit me: I just want to be a writer. 


That’s pretty hilarious. The copyrighting, not the lifelong dream. Question the second: What has been your proudest or most exciting moment as an author so far?

I’ve had a bunch. Probably sitting in the audience on opening night of my first professional play production. That was unbelievably exciting and nerve-wracking. 


That does sound pretty amazing. Question the third: At what point did you think to yourself "I've made it" or at what point do you think you'll feel that way?

I was teaching middle school, and I could check my play sales during the day online. This was in September 24th, 2007 – (cause I wrote it down, cause I’m that big of a nerd) – and I made $900 in one day, which was more than my weekly salary as a teacher. Suddenly I realized that I could make a living as a writer, and that was super exciting. It would be another 5 years before I was finally able to quit my day job, but that was the day I realized it was a possibility. 


That sounds like an incredible feeling. Question the fourth: Did any experienced authors or industry people mentor or give you helpful guidance on your journey to publication?

Absolutely, yes. After my job teaching middle school, I got a job as a visiting professor at a small liberal arts college. Jennifer Finney Boylan was a guest professor that first time, and she had just published a Middle Grade book. At that point I started thinking about writing novels – she helped me with my query letter, and eventually introduced me to my agent. (And then she wrote a lovely blurb for my published book many years later!)


I love hearing those stories! Question the fifth: Have you ever had a time when you've felt like giving up? 

Honestly, no. I really haven’t. I’ve been pretty laser-focused on being a writer since I was 16 or so – (I used to tell my friends I couldn’t hang out with them because I needed to work on my novel), and I’ve had a nice mixture of support and success along the way. It took me five books to sell my first novel, but I never felt like giving up because I was having so much success as a playwright (which helped pay all the bills, so it felt like I was playing with house money). 


That always helps! Question the sixth: What was the most inconvenient time or place you were struck by inspiration?

Everywhere. My brain is never able to take a vacation. I was in Hawai’i for vacation with my kids, and I used to sneak out of the hotel room in the middle of the night to go work on a book. 


Question the seventh: Can you give us hint to help us find an "easter egg" or hidden item to look for in one of your books? Maybe an obscure clue if there's a mystery thread, or a reference you threw in to a favorite book or song?

Oh boy. I put a lot of “real things” in there that poke fun at my friends from high school. I mean, I even described the actual clothes they wore. So all the “easter eggs” are in jokes with my old friends. 


That’s so fun! Okay, it’s time for the…

I Never Round


The basic rules of I Never, the kid friendly version- I state a generally established writing rule (or at least a norm). If you've broken that rule, state your guilt for the record.


I never made up a word in my manuscript, and stood by it during copyediting. 



I never had an amazing idea right before bed, and decided sleep was more important.

No – I’ll usually write it if I have the idea. 


Power through! I never started a story with a character waking up, looking in the mirror, or in a bathtub.

Yes! My first short story – a kid woke up, had a depressing day, and then jumped in the river at the end. It was so deep. 


I never worked on two manuscripts at once.

Yes! I’m doing this right now. 


Plus this interview. I never went several days or even weeks without writing. 

Yes! But I feel REALLY bad if I go for more than a few days without writing. I start thinking of myself as lazy and worthless. 


You are neither! I never wrote "for a long moment."



I never cheated during NaNoWriMo.

I’ve never won NaNoWriMo! 


Maybe you would have if you’d cheated. Thank you so much for appearing in Author, I Never! When and where can we look for, preorder, or buy your next or most recent book, and where can we follow you on social media?


@donzolidis (twitter) 

The book is up for pre-order on all the usual places. 


Bonus question: If your book had a theme song, what would it be? 

“Still Hurting” by Jason Robert Brown, from the musical THE LAST FIVE YEARS. 

DJ Spotify, are you still…?