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.