A busy wife and mother of three (2 daughters and the family dog),
Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist. An avid reader since childhood, Donna always made up her own stories. She completed her Arts Degree in English Literature in 1994, but it wasn't until 2001 that she penned her first full-length novel, and found herself hooked on writing romance. In 2006 she sold her first manuscript.
Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly 12 years in Alberta where her Harlequin career began, writing about cowboys and the west. Donna's debut Romance, Hired by the Cowboy, was awarded the Booksellers Best Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Romance.
Donna loves to hear from readers; you can contact her through her website at www.donnaalward.com, visit her facebook page, or through her publisher. Her Twitter is: @DonnaAlward
Donna was nice enough to do a Q&A with us:
WPMP: How long did it take to get your first book published?
DA: It took nearly five years, and ten manuscripts before I got the call. There were several times I got discouraged and contemplated quitting, but they never lasted long. I was too stubborn to give up. Funny story though – the night before I got my first contract offer, I was blubbering all over my husband’s shirt because I was sure it was never going to happen! Then I got up in the morning and checked my e-mail and there it was!
WPMP: Has it become easier to complete manuscripts the more you have written? How long does it take you to complete a manuscript?
DA: It depends. Some manuscripts are like pulling teeth and others seem to flow together with a minimum of fuss. The only way to do it is to put your butt in the chair and keep working at it. I have written books in a month and others have taken me 3 or 4. Once I had to rewrite a book from scratch – and then the next went through with minimal revisions. The one thing that HAS gotten easier is realizing that no matter what, I am capable of fixing whatever is wrong. It might not be easy, but I *can* do it (because I’ve done it several times already!). That alleviates a lot of the stress.
WPMP: What is your all time favorite comfort food?
DA: Toast with butter and raspberry jam. I have a lot of comfort food favourites, but that is one I can have any old time at all. It’s especially good with a hot cup of tea.
WPMP: Where do you typically do your writing?
DA: In my office. I was so excited when we moved into this house and I got an office. Before I had a 7x7 foot space that I shared with a piano, a toy box, and a fish tank – not to mention I shared the computer with my spouse. I have a lovely office now with lots of windows, looking out over grass and trees, with my own desk and computer and a comfy futon for doing edits on, or reading. It’s bliss. I know some people like changing their environment up but not me. The routine of being in the office puts me in the zone.
WPMP: Do you listen to music while writing?
DA: Sometimes, but it’s usually instrumental or something in another language so it doesn’t distract me. Sometimes though I’ll fire up a few songs as I’m getting ready to open my document. I do usually have a soundtrack for a story, and listening to some key songs BEFORE I launch in puts me in a good frame of mind.
WPMP: Who are your favorite authors?
DA: Oh gosh – this is hard! My two all-time faves are LaVyrle Spencer and Julianne MacLean. I recently got hooked on Mary Balogh, too. I adore historical romance – it’s my favourite reading escape. I really enjoy Robyn Carr and Susan Mallery and Sherryl Woods on the contemporary side of things (especially her Chesapeake Shores series). There’s also a pretty new author in the line I write for – Harlequin Romance – who is seriously becoming a big fave of mine: Barbara Wallace. I finished her September book, The Heart of a Hero and adored it.
WPMP: If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
DA: I’d like to say Hakuna Matata, but anyone who knows me will laugh at the thought of me being a “No Worries” kind of person. Actually – I totally believe in seeing things as opportunities, and I used to love running and listening to Eminem’s LOSE YOURSELF before I sold. Totally believe in the lyrics “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/this opportunity comes once in a lifetime”. Life’s not a dress rehearsal. Opportunities are there – we just need to seize them!
WPMP: Where do you get the inspiration for your plots/characters?
DA: You know, it gets harder as I go on, sometimes. Quite often I’ll get a snippet of an idea from something I’ve watched on tv – sometimes it’s as insignificant as the way a character moves or looks at another. The way someone walks into a room…and I think, that person needs to be a book character. Sometimes I think of ideas but I’ve already done something similar so I either have to let it be, or find a way to twist it. And quite often I brainstorm with friends, or do a “what if” scenario. I also tend to be an “issue” writer, so I look for an issue I haven’t dealt with yet and weave it into the conflict.
WPMP: Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you deal with this?
DA: Not as such. I’m not sure I believe in it. What I do believe in is going in a wrong direction and writing yourself into a corner where the words just aren’t coming. When that happens, it’s usually because I’ve done something wrong and I need to go back and fix. Recently I was writing and it didn’t feel right and I realized I needed to cut over 4000 words. I axed them and it was painful, but once I did the rest of the book flowed out. The “cure” for writer’s block is to put your butt in the chair and write those first few paragraphs. Usually if you do that, you’ll keep going. It’s like exercise. Getting to the gym etc. can be the hardest part, but once you’re 10 minutes into the workout, chances are you’ll finish it. And be glad you did.
WPMP: Was there ever something you really wanted for Christmas as a kid, that Santa didn't bring you?
DA: Not that I remember, but I did tend to keep Christmas lists pretty simple. One year I wanted a Daniel Hechter sweatshirt. EVERYONE had them. Some people had several. I just wanted one. I got it. Of course this was the ‘80s, so lists didn’t really include the gadgets so popular now. Maybe Santa will hold out on me this year - I think I want a kindle…
We want to give a big thanks to Donna Alward for her participation in this month's author spotlight! Don't forget to check out her new release, Breathe from Samhain Publishing.
Award Winning Author Jasmine Haynes
Award-winning Jasmine Haynes is the author of sensual and classy erotic romance and a 2007 Rita Finalist, two-time Holt Medallion winner, and winner of the NRCA. She writes for Loose-Id and Berkley, including the Fortune Hunter Trilogy and her Courtesans Tales. Coming in 2011, she brings readers a breath-taking new erotic trilogy from Berkley Heat, The DeKnight Tales, starting with Past Midnight
in May. She also masquerades as Jennifer Skully, writing over-the-top, hilarious romantic mysteries and is the winner of the prestigious Daphne du Maurier award. Look for a brand new Jennifer Skully novel this summer! And of course, Jasmine is the author of the award-winning Max Starr psychic mystery series. Look for the Max Starr Series in print!And now, an exclusive interview with Jasmine:
Jasmine: Thanks so much for having me. A little background on myself, as Jasmine Haynes, I write erotic romance for Berkley Heat and LooseID, and am the author of the paranormal mystery Max Starr Series. I also write funny romantic suspense as Jennifer Skully.
WPMP: Do you follow a strict writing schedule?
JH: Definitely. My day starts with my promo stuff, like Facebook, Twitter, my blog, guest blogs, and interviews. Then I start writing about 10 am. If I’m working on a first draft, my goal is to write 2500 words a day, and if I’m in the revision process, the goal is to revise 3 chapters a day. when I adhered to that schedule. I used to be an accountant and we’re very regimented, LOL!
WPMP: Do you write in an office?
JH: I have a home office with a lovely view. In fact, I was inspired to write my Rita finalist Somebody’s Lover while looking at the view outside my window. The book is about a family of tree trimmers and the view that particular day happened to be my very attractive tree trimmer climbing around in my trees, LOL!
WPMP: Do you listen to music while writing?
JH: I know a lot of writers are inspired by music, but I actually prefer silence when I’m writing. However, the song which inspired me while I was writing Dead to the Max was “You’re Gone” by Diamond Rio. Funnily enough, in Baby, I’ll Find You, my latest book under my pseudonym, Jennifer Skully, the title of the book is inspired by the song my hero writes.
WPMP: How long does it typically take you to finish a manuscript?
JH: I just finished The Principal’s Office, Book 3 in The DeKnight Trilogy, which took me a little less than three months to write and revise. It’s a full-length book at 90,000 words. Novellas like Kinky Neighbors, which is about 40,000, take six weeks.
WPMP: How do you decide on character names?
JH: I have a large file full of fun names. Many of them come from spam or reading the credits of movies! A writer is never bored, not even while sitting through credits or sifting through spam. I also have a cross reference file for all the books so that I don’t duplicate names. But ultimately, a name has to strike a chord in me. And sometimes it can be something quite random. I remember sitting in an airport, and hearing the name Angela Rocket over the loudspeaker. I got the ahah moment and knew that was the perfect name for a character in Power to the Max, the 4th book in the Max Starr series. LOL, later I heard the name repeated, and it was actually Angela Crocker, but I still used Angela Rocket because it was so right for my character.
WPMP: Do you ever suffer from writers block? How do you deal with this?
JH: I’m never short of ideas; I fall asleep by making up stories. So writer’s block to me is when the story just isn’t working. I push through and keep writing, but ultimately I have to figure out where I went wrong, what was the mistake I made in the storytelling and go back to fix that wrong turn. Sometimes it doesn’t even get fixed until revision time. In What Happens After Dark, Book 2 of the DeKnight trilogy (available Nov 1), there was something off with my hero, and it wasn’t until I discussed it with my editor that we both realized it was his back story. I completely changed it because it wasn’t working, and the story is so much better for that.
WPMP: Where is your favorite hiking trail?
JH: My favorite hiking trail is in Big Basin State Park, CA (fairly close to my house). You can walk from the top of the mountain all the way down to the ocean. It’s about 13 miles, and there’s a gorgeous waterfall along the way. Of course, that means you need someone to drop you off at the top and pick you up at the bottom!
WPMP: What Authors inspire you?
JH: Bella Andre inspires me, her stories are fantastic and emotional and her productivity is amazing. I’m also inspired by writers like Michael Connelly, Lee Child, and Robert Crais. They all create heroes that a romance reader can adore. I especially love Robert Crais’s Joe Pike character. He’s such a tough guy, and yet there’s always this soft spot leaking through.
WPMP: If you could be a guest star on a television show, what show would you choose? JH: I’d want to be on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know, it’s an old show, but I loved it! Every time it started to get boring, Josh Whedon threw in an amazing twist that turned everything around and made me dying for the next episode. But gosh, if I had to pick something new, then I’d like to be on Dexter, another of my favorite shows. Same thing, the writers of that show know when to throw you a curveball. This last season (which I just watched on DVD) almost made me cry. I think I’d like to be on the forensics team with Dexter.
WPMP: What is the best gift you've ever received?
JH: My husband bought me an MP3 player, and I’ve been hooked on audio books ever since! I love to read, but since I’ve become a published writer, my time is so limited that I was down to reading perhaps one or two books per month. But with the MP3, I now listen to at least three books a week, while I do my morning speedwalk, clean the house, do the dishes, and iron my husband’s shirts. The MP3 has given me my reading life back!
Jasmine: Thanks so much for having me! Readers can find me at www.jasminehaynes.com, www.jenniferskully.com, and they can read all about the Max Starr paranormal mystery series at www.jbskully.com. I’m also doing a free erotic read, a chapter every week, on my blog, www.jasminehaynes.blogspot.com. I invite everyone to come by!
A big thank you to Jasmine Haynes for allowing us to interview her for the Author Spotlight. We also want you to know that we've reviewed her book Past Midnight and Dead to the Max. And check out the Giveaways page for your chance to win a copy of Past Midnight!!