My next guest on Simon’s 10 Q I has led an incredible life. Born into a family of thoroughbred engineers her career was probably predestined and she did indeed follow in the footsteps of her predecessors. A marriage, a divorce and several award winning books later, she still acts as consultant to engineering companies around the globe. Although now she does this with teenage daughter in tow, whom already speaks several languages and appears convinced that she will break from the mould and make a life outside of engineering.
So, whom is my next guest? Let’s find out…
By the time Dakota was ten she could swear fluently in every European language, and carry on a conversation in all the major ones. A high performer from a young age, was it therefore unpredictable that she would go on to work on cutting edge, high performing, vehicles throughout adulthood?
She attended college at Stanford and MIT, and further postgraduate studies in France, Germany and Italy. During her engineering career she has worked on jet engines for Rolls-Royce, for Ford and Holden before joining her father and grandfather in the family consulting business.
Dakota’s first marriage ended in divorce, which in turn may have been the reason for her picking up the quill back in 1996. She had a few rewrites before hitting the golden formula and releasing the award winning Ruthless To Win series. She also ended up hospitalized for several months, following a testing accident, which held her entry into professional writing back for several months longer. She is a fighter, a battler, just the kind of individual we love to see here on Simon’s 10 Q Interviews. Since becoming a writer Dakota has written no less than eleven books which are available on iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords and Barnes and Noble. She still writes and continues to work as a consultant from her pad shared with her husband and teenage daughter in Switzerland.
I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what Dakota made of our… *ahem*… rather different questioning technique here on Simons 10 Q I. But one thing I was sure of was that she would give as good as she got, and it sure was one interview worth waiting for as this cookie ain’t of the crumbling variety!
So, here it is… Welcome to Dakota Franklin…
SD Q1: You were born into a family of engineers, went on yourself to become a highly successful engineer and have acted as consultant to many of the major motor manufacturers! You clearly have a great grasp of racing… so from the age of 10 through to 40, who were your favourite drivers and what made them so?
Age 10 Driver: Francois Cevert.
Why? He was darkly handsome, he was indefinably foreign, he died before I was born, and I had traded for a poster of him. All of that together made him mysterious. Or at least put him on my wall, right next to my poster of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the most glamorous engineer who ever lived.
Age 20 Driver: Paul Newman.
Why? He was 70 when he won his class in the 24 Hours of Daytona. I already knew I wanted a child, and it was obvious I’d have to take time out to bring her up. So older racers were already an inspiration.
Age 30 Driver: Tom Kristensen
Why? Six consecutive wins at Le Mans 2000—2006. His nine wins until he retired last year is a record that will be almost impossible to beat.
Age 40 Driver: I’ll make the choice when I turn 40.
Why? I’m not 40 yet.
SD Q2: If you follow Simon’s 10Q interviews you will be aware that we have a Time Machine (Beat those men in white coats at CERN to that one!) In fact we recently upgraded it to enable Room 42 interviewees to enter a fourth dimension. As a consultant engineer who improves the inventions of others, what would be the first four elements of the Time Machine you would ask about and/or look to improve and why?
Element 1: Unobtanium.
Why? It’s the magical solution to every engineering materials problem. Timoshenko eat your heart out! (Timo is the author of the standard handbook of engineering materials.)
Element 2: Komprezzion.
Why? Another magical element, invisible to conformity inspectors, of course. It cools the fuel just long enough to get more into the regulation fuel bladder so your car can go a bit further or faster.
Element 3: Ebauche.
Why? It expands time, and I’d develop it to be useful on earth, putting 27 hours in my day, eight days in my week, 13 months in my year.
Element 4: Perfektion.
Why? I’d develop this anti-ignorance agent into a pill that everyone could take to perfect their knowledge of everything.
SD Q3: You moved to Switzerland I am guessing for its tax haven status after your husband Ferry made rather a lot of money in the oil business? Having been there a few times myself I have been introduced to two very dangerous things; Firstly, Cheese fondues, not entirely dangerous in their own right unless the richest mixture of swiss cheeses are used, a great deal of wine is consumed and there is a requirement to be more than 20 yards from a lavatory for the following 24 hours. Secondly, skiing down a particularly treacherous black run on the Mont Blanc (Might have been on the French side actually, I’ve tried to block it from my memory!). In my case the combination of the two dangers led to perhaps one of the best skiing performances of my life, albeit for all the wrong reasons…. I survived what is meant to be the most notorious and dangerous slopes available and made it to the restaurant with dignity intact, albeit with spectators wondering why I didn’t want to stand around and discuss my achievement! If you had to advise readers to avoid any combination of things, due to the hidden/combined potential dangers, what would that combination be and why?
DF A3: Thanks for the giggle!
Wine and the ski slopes together are dangerous enough, especially if you go off-piste and meet a hidden rock, as Michael Schumacher did. But to a woman cheese fondue is a far more dangerous threat to her hips and thighs. I like fitting into my daughter’s castoff jeans and being the trendiest mum for three hundred klicks around!
No cheese fondue for me, thank you all the same…
SD Q4: You started writing back in 1996 but as with most successful writers your road to publication was a rocky one with three or four of your first novels ending up in “Box 13”. But you then took on a writing instructor who helped tailor your creativity leading you up to winning the efestival of words winning series of 2012 with Ruthless To Win. As a highly successful engineer, what motivated you to continue to write and what adjective would you use to describe your personality; whether it be pride, determination, stubbornness, ambition or a.n.other and give a life example, outside of writing, why/how you arrive at that chosen adjective.
Example: I had no desire to be published. Because my professional work is the development of machines designed by others, it isn’t primarily creative. I wanted a form of creative expression. But I was perfectly satisfied for that expression to be private, as long as it rose to the quality I dreamed of. Publication was irrelevant, though I must say you meet some nice people. But my guru, Andre Jute, takes the view that publication defines a writer, and threatened to drop me if I resisted. I keep writing because those characters, once mine, have taken on a life of their own: I like being with them and discovering what they will do next. Nor was the path to publication rocky. Andre got me an offer of an impressive advance from an American publisher and, when I hated the bossy editor who started lecturing me immediately after saying hello, fixed me up instead with the agreeable Gemma. Those early complete books that ended in the bin when Andre at last took me on were a mistake. They deserved to be binned. The books in my Ruthless To Win series are light years superior to them. You want an example of striving outside writing. Well, I was a short “lady engineer” in a black pants suit with black rimmed glasses, all brains and no sex appeal, horribly serious. I wanted Ferry, who was then a university teacher, my academic advisor for my dissertation, tall and handsome and witty, always surrounded by elegant women, but he never even noticed that I was a woman, very correct but infuriating all the same. So every weekend I’d fly to Italy from England, where I then did my practical work at Rolls-Royce (turbines, not cars), to be on the periphery of his vision, until he fell in love with this girl that he never quite saw. With the help of his sister, who thought I’d be good for him, I also turned myself into the smartest Italian woman you ever saw, a regular pocket rocket. It was the cleverest thing I ever did. Our daughter is beautiful, intelligent and civilized, and Ferry and I have been very happy. We turned out to be perfectly matched, a marriage made in heaven.
SD Q5: Back at question two we talked about the famed Simon’s 10 Q Interview Time Machine. I think if you have got this far then it is only fair that we allow you to test it out! So, if you could choose any three years, past, present or future to travel to, which years would you travel to, to what destination, for what purpose and what would you bring back as evidence of your travels…
“The value of a thing will please when the price is long forgotten.” Sir Henry Royce.
Year 1: 1905.
Destination: Bern, the Patent Office.
Purpose: To observe Einstein during his Annus Mirabilis, in which he published four groundbreaking papers.
Evidence: I’d like to take a modern camera team and bring back film of how one of the great creators of modern knowledge behaved while he was creating that knowledge, a record of genius in action.
Year 2: 1931.
Destination: West Wittering overlooking Chichester Harbour in the South of England.
Purpose: To visit a shrine.
Evidence: Here’s a brief scene from Le Mans a novel: On that perfect English summer afternoon Richard drove me out onto the headland at West Wittering to show me where Sir Henry Royce worked and lived. He looked it up in a book and on maps. I was deeply touched. In my mind I saw and heard a Schneider Trophy seaplane, driven by the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine which later powered the Spitfire in the Battle of Britain, swoop in on us from the Atlantic and turn over the beach. I imagined Henry Royce, master mechanic, old and too ill to rise, lying in his bed, listening through the ivy-framed window to the scream of his engine — which would one day soon save civilization for posterity. Richard, with his certain touch, brought me to a holy place for an automotive engineer. ‘Sir Henry said, “The value of a thing will please when the price is long forgotten.” That is how I feel about you,’ Richard said. It was his tacit admission that his mind is now made about our discussion in Bayreuth. He would not demand that I stop racing. I wiped the tears from my cheeks, then drew him to me and kissed him. ‘There are people here,’ he murmured against my lips. ‘Am I that obvious?’ ‘I read it in your eyes.’ ‘If they turn their backs for just a moment I shall enrich your sex life beyond your fondest imagination.’
Year 3: 1947.
Destination: Committee rooms of the racing authorities as they emerged after World War II and started converting airfields to race tracks.
Purpose: To share with them everything we have learned since then about racing safety to preserve drivers, crew, marshals, medical attendants, and the fans from injury or death.
Evidence: Automobile racing is a bloodsport. It is inevitable that eventually someone will be hurt or even be killed. But it needn’t be often, as Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley and Professor Sid Watkins proved by elevating racing safety measures to a very high standard. So the evidence, year by year from 1947, would be many fewer injuries and fatalies than history actually records.
SD Q6: A female automotive engineer, living in Switzerland, hitting the autobahns to get back home to husband and daughter most evenings by 7-8pm. Whilst I think the Swiss probably invented speed cameras, the Germans still haven’t grasped the concept of speed limits. So, on your travels on the autobahns in Germany; what car do you use, do you drive or put your safety in the hands of a driver, what is the top speed you have reached and what is your view on speed limits on Motorways and Autobahns?
Which car? Bentley Mulsanne Speed. The question will immediately arise why I didn’t choose the 12-cylinder Bentley Flying Spur, the more modern, “technical” car. The answer is that on public roads, at the speeds we drive, the extra torque of the 6.8 litre V8 is very valuable in reducing exposure in passing maneuvers. Or maybe at heart I’m still a California hot rodder!
Who drives? There isn’t space for a chauffeur. Until now there have been four people in my car, my immediate team of three and me. Everyone has advanced driving training and takes a turn but when we’re in a hurry they normally want me to take the wheel because I’m the fastest and the surest. I don’t know yet, but I doubt we’ll be driving so much in my new job with its different priorities; we’ll use the plane more.
Top speed: I hate to disappoint you but our everyday best speed on the autobahn is hardly ever over 250kph (about 155mph), and then only briefly, because the autobahn is so busy, and often there are restrictions. It’s a good day on the autobahn these days when you can average over 100mph for a decent distance. Once I took the Bentley up to 300kph (about 185mph) early on a Sunday morning when the autobahn was clear.
View on Speed limits: Speed limits are definitely a good thing for the British, the Americans and other dangerous drivers. Speed limits are irrelevant for Italians, the French, Australians, and the Germans.
SD Q7: You’re a Bestselling Author, a highly successful business professional, a mother, a wife, living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. At some stage in life every individual must slow down, smell the roses and simply enjoy the fruits of their labours. So, what are the plans for the foreseeable future and if/when eventually you do decide to slow down, what are the first things you would change to free up some “self-time” and what would you do with that time?
DF A7: It happened since we last spoke, Simon. I’ve felt for some time that my business had grown too big, that I was no longer doing what I did, and relished, when I first joined my father and grandfather, which was hands-on engineering development. So now the corporation has been split in four geographically, and sold off to the management. I’ve retained only a small piece of each of the four new entities. I have agreed to stay on five years as executive chairman of all the newly independent pieces, as the representative of the bank which financed the transfer, and another five years as non-executive chairman. But it is not expected that I should be in the office more than a couple of days a week, and of course I will no longer spend so many hours every day travelling, just a normal drive to the office and back after proper office hours. I always intended to return to racing at a modest level when Giselle (my teenage daughter) enters college. Now I shall have space and time to do it. I don’t really need more time for writing, as I’ve always managed; I’m into quality, not quantity.
SD Q8: As one of your inner circle, your writing instructor, André Jute informs you that you need a change in direction with your writing and expedites your immediate departure to an unknown destination. Hours later and still in your customary black business suit you find yourself being dropped off alone on a deserted island. The island is plentiful with food and potential shelters, but you have no means of communication with the outside world and are left to fend for yourself. Aside from your family and means of communication, what are the three things you would yearn for the most and why?
Item 1: A laptop and endless batteries.
Why? To relax by entering the world of characters as I write them.
Item 2: A large reel of sturdy rope.
Why? For building the raft and rigging the sail that I shall use to escape confinement.
Item 3: A wide-brimmed sun hat.
Why? Vanity. I wouldn’t want the sun to ruin my complexion.
SD Q9: Whilst your writing is all featured around racing, you do not attach yourself to any particular genre. If you had to call the genre of your current work in progress, what would it be, is there a title for your readers to get salivating over and when can they expect it to be available to purchase?
DF A9: The salami-slicing of genres in the ebook vendors’ efforts to give everyone a tiny niche in which they can shine is ridiculous.
I think of my books as character-driven novels. That they’re novels of action follows from who the characters are and what they do with their lives. That mine are also novels of suspense that thrill is equally the result of readers’ identification with the characters and the jeopardy in which their actions place them. That my books are quality literature is almost incidental, because I just like doing things right, and I have the best instruction and advice money can buy. Also, I don’t like reading rubbish, so I try to put only first-class thrillers in the hands of my readers. If you force me to choose a genre, I write novels of suspense, thrillers set against the auto racing milieu that can be read by anyone without any prior knowledge of auto racing precisely because character is more important than technicalities.
I have ten books out, nine in my series Ruthless To Win plus a free fun disutopian/scifi adventure Andre Jute and Andrew McCoy invited me to write with them, Gauntlet Run Ten hefty thrillers should keep readers busy for a while!
Three more racing novels are in progress, but publication is probably a couple of years away. I’m more interested in good than fast. To give you an idea of how patient I am in pursuit of perfection, I worked about two years on each of the first nine books in the Ruthless To Win series.
SD Q10: Dakota, we are at the last question now, but before closing off I should just say that it has been a pleasure and a challenge! I hope you have enjoyed taking part and I thank you and wish you all the best for the present and future… So, now for my last question I would like to put you in my chair… Ermmm, just to confirm I will get out of it first! So, from my chair you must choose somebody in the world to interview. Who would that person be, what would be your opening question and why? Dakota. Thank you very much.
1st interviewee: Bernie Ecclestone, 84, boss of Formula One.
1st question: Bernie, can I have your job when you retire?
Why? About the time Bernie retires, say when he turns 100, I might need a new challenge.
*** Thank you so much for having me, dear Simon, and for taking the trouble to design interesting questions specifically for me. You’re a brick; I hope your books sell a ton.
SD Comment: Indeed, thank you Dakota it has been a pleasure.
Readers, I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as this interviewer! Please feel free to visit Dakota’s website where you can find links to the several websites that offer up her books for download. Here is the link to Dakota’s own website to help you on your way! See you all soon…
Dakota Franklin’s Website: Dakota Franklin
Simon Duringer is both a Goodreads Indie author and Independent Interviewer. Simon’s most recent book is The Word: The Best of Simon’s 10Q Interviews, featuring 28 equally interesting and exciting interviews, with some great names in the literary trade from both sides of the fence (Indie and Traditionally Published). It is available on Kindle, Prime (#Free) and Paperback. You can also buy The Word Volume II which is now available on Kindle using the following link – The Word Volume II Simon Duringer.
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