Connie: Hi, Donna. Thank you for being here. I look forward to pumping you for information on writing and maybe a bit about yourself outside of writing. Perhaps youíd be willing to get us started by telling a bit about yourself, what youíre working on now and what we can see on the shelves in the near future.
Donna: Iím really happy to be "here"! Iím one of two Canadians writing for Harlequinís Romance line. I wrote for nearly five years before making my first sale, during which time I was a stay at home mom and then worked at my childrenís school. After I sold Hired by the Cowboy, the first of my Windover Ranch books, I decided to stay home and write full time. My Romance debut, Hired by the Cowboy hits shelves in May and is already available on the Harlequin and Mills and Boon websites. In September, the sequel will be out, entitled Marriage at Circle M. Thatís followed by The Soldierís Homecoming in March 08, and then the third of the "Windover" books is being written as we speak.
Connie: It appears youíre keeping very busy, or the stories and characters are keeping you busy! And since I mentioned characters, letís talk about them for a bit. When they develop, either in your head or on "paper" what possibilities do you see for them or want for them?
Donna: Developing characters is one of my favourite parts of writing. In the beginning, you have nothing but possibilities. I like to learn who they are, what makes them tick. What their biggest fears are. And thenÖI like to throw them together, knowing that they are the worst Ė and best Ė things that could happen to each other. I want them to ultimately be able to lay to rest the ghosts of their pasts by learning to love and trust each other!
Connie: Life experiences donít play a part in your writing, in what make your characters tick, or learning their biggest fears. What triggers your "what ifs", learning what makes them tick or what they fear? What triggers the development of your characters and their traits?
Donna: Sometimes it will start with one character. Iíll know something that happened to the heroine, for example, so Iíll say, "What if the hero represents everything she wants to forget?" It snowballs from there. Iím also a huge fan of brainstorming. Nothing gets me jazzed like a good brainstorming session with my critique partner or other authors!
Connie: Iíve been in on a few of those and they certainly do present all sorts of avenues an author can travel.
Cooperation between writer and characters is key, especially if youíre an author who allows the characters to come alive (so-to-speak). Who do you find has the most difficulty cooperating, you or your characters, or is it a draw? What helps you get back on track?
Donna: Oh, great question! I have learned to cooperate first. I plan less now than I used to, and tend to let my characters take the lead. Sometimes what they want to do doesnít work though, and I have to get tough with them. In one instance in Marriage at Circle M, the heroine wanted to do something I never planned on letting her do. But I indulged her, and it was one of the best moves I could have made as far as deepening the conflict. For the most partÖI listen to my characters and then do it my way.
Connie: Ah, a compromise of sorts from time to time? Even if there is cooperation between you and the characters, Donna, how do you know if the plot has stalled? What do you do to get things going again?
Donna: I know if the plot has stalled because it feels flat. Sometimes I need to walk away, sometimes I need to hit the delete key, sometimes I need to have a talk with my cp, and sometimes I need all three! Walking away for a day or two is usually the best. Giving it space to breathe often makes new ideas pop up!
Connie: Hopefully in an orderly fashion!
You write for Samhain and Harlequin. Both focus on romance, but each line has its own unique formula and/or audience. Do you find a need to put yourself in a different mindset when writing one or the other? Are the guidelines for both the same?
Donna: Another great question! Harlequin Romance is fairly specific with guidelines, but I donít find them a hindrance at all. I know exactly what kind of book they expect and love writing them. They fulfill a promise of an emotional, satisfying read. Samhain is very broad in its scope, so as long as the writing is strong, theyíll accept all kinds of stories, and I think they are wonderful for picking up stories that cross subgenres. This means when Iím writing something for them, I have the freedom to try some things that I canít in Romance. But I donít find them that different to write to be honest because I think my voice is the constant.
Connie: It sounds like youíre very happy writing for both publishers and having your creative juices exercised.
One project at a time for you, correct? What happens if an exciting idea for a plot comes to you in the middle of the night, in the shower, while writing your current story? Is it jotted down for later use or are you able to store the idea and thoughts away in your mind?
Donna: I start a word file; I might find character pictures and jot down a blurbish idea. I might just let the idea percolate in my mind. I usually have two or three proposals ahead of time anyway, so the challenge is finding the time to write them all.
Connie: Aside from encouragement and support, whatís the best advice your c(ritique)p(artner) has ever given you that you could share with aspiring authors out there?
Donna: I can trust my cp to say several things. First of all, Dedication, Determination, Desire and Discipline Ė the four Dís for getting published. She would say Iíd never do it if I quitÖso keep going and keep learning. And even after getting published, I get some pretty hard critiques sometimes. I try not to panicÖbut I know that the very next e-mail she sends will say "You can do this." I love her for that. I know she believes in my ability and itís surprising how much that counts for.
Connie: One last question, Donna, about writing before getting to know you a bit better. You wrote several MS before one was accepted by Samhain. What would you tell the aspiring author regarding submissions?
Donna: Realize the numbers are against you, but donít let that stop you. I really believe that the editors in Richmond knew who I was after the first half dozen submissions were logged and read. Realize that everyone has their own learning curve too. If youíre lucky enough to get feedback on your submission, itís pure gold. Listen to what that editor or agent has had to say. If you can take that advice and apply it to something fresh and new, youíll stand a great chance of advancing. Most of all realize that editors donít just buy a single story. They buy a voice. Work on developing a strong, distinctive voice.
Connie: Words to ponder. Thank you!
Youíre given the opportunity to time-travel for a visit. What time-period would you pick and what would you do or see first? Why?
Donna: Goodness, I donít know. Each era has something different to offer. My cp writes Historicals, so Iím quite taken with the Roman period right now. But I also love sixteenth and seventeenth highland tales and Regencies. And though itís not long ago, I have a real fascination with World War II Europe.
Connie: Interesting and pivotal times in history to be sure.
You have two little ones, "me" time is limited. When you do get "me" time, what is something pampering you like to do for yourself?
Donna: Saturday night is traditional. Thatís "pamper myself" night. I have a bubble bath and maybe a self-facial, some dark chocolate and often open a bottle of shiraz Ė and veg out with a dvd. Iíll watch favorite movies or mini-series over and over again.
Connie: For fun, DonnaÖ Where would you rather be stranded and with whom (fictional)? During an all-out blizzard in a fully stocked cabin complete with hot tub and fireplace in the mountains or on a desert island with a fully stocked fully functioning Swiss Family Robinson type tree house?
Donna: Definitely the mountains. Maybe thatís the Canadian in me, I donít know. And I love hot locations, but Iíll take the cabin and indoor plumbing any day. And hmmm, which fictional characterÖthatís a tough question, but perhaps my hero from Marriage at Circle M. Months later I still have a huge spot in my heart for him.
Connie: HmmÖ : - )
When it comes to snacks are you a salty or sweet person?
Connie: What qualities does your husband have that Prince Charming doesnít?
Donna: Heís handy. Prince Charming hires minions to do renovations. My husband does these things himself (with some help from his wife) and does a damn fine job too. Gotta love a man whoís good with his hands.
Connie: A perfect place to end our visit. Thank you, Donna, for taking the time to answer my questions. Before we say goodbye, is there anything I forgot to ask that youíd like the readers to know?
Donna: Iíll likely think of something next week, but I do want to say thank you, Connie, for putting together such a wonderful, personalized interview. Itís been a great pleasure answering your questions.
Connie: Iíd love to do this again sometime, Donna.
Comment or respond to Donna's interview and we'll post your comments below!
"I'm so glad I saw this interview. I've just finished Hired by the Cowboy
and it's a tender, sensitive and just an incredible love story. However, now I
have an understanding thanks to your interview with Donna, her writing and
the books to come. Thanks so much and thank you Donna for the wonderful
hours of enjoyment in Hired by the Cowboy!