Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Author Spotlight - Donna Alward

Today the Minxes feature the lovely Donna Alward who is so unselfish with her time and always has such wonderful advice for struggling pre-pubbed writers. After reading Donna's answers to our Minxy questions, we're sure you'll join us in thanking Donna for taking time out of her hectic schedule to join us today!

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

UNPUBLISHED! I was getting close though--I sold my first book 9 months later (in March, 2006) so I was probably working on the book or books that ended up being my first sales.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?

HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE, which is my first reprint, was actually inspired by a book I wrote before selling. So many things didn't work in the early version, but I did like the idea of a heroine trying to reclaim her life and doing it in the small Rocky Mountain resort town of Banff. The original story had an English story, and I rewrote it with a sexy Italian. I had the heroine as an assistant too, and in this story, she's the acting manager. It does make her butt heads with the hero quite often - something that really puts her out of her comfort zone. And I gave her a different backstory, too - one that really ended up being quite emotional and I loved writing her character arc and how she found herself and also gained her confidence again. Mari has a lot of courage, and Luca is strong and yet gentle enough to understand what it is she needs.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

Now that would be jinxing myself wouldn't it? And yet--I've always believed in seeing where you want to be and going for it. David Foster said in his book "Hitman" that the road to success is straight let's just say I still see myself writing, and hopefully expanding my readership in a big way. I also see myself putting in a lot of work to get there ... by then I'll have girls in high school so I also hope to still be SANE. :-)

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?

Oh, Gosh! I read the More Than Words anthology which features Harlequin bestsellers and really enjoyed it. I also read Jessica Hart's Oh-So-Sensible Secretary, and had writer envy most of the way through. But Jessica's voice is so very different from mine. I really don't want to emulate anyone. I just want to write the best Donna Alward book I possibly can.

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?

I say this so often, but LaVyrle Spencer made me fall in love with Romance novels and I have always kind of hoped that I might tap into a fraction of the wonderful warm feelings her writing inspires. I have read her books so often most of them are falling apart. I have been writing since I was a child, but I can't deny the influence her stories have had on me.

6. As a writer for the HMB Romance line, can you tell us what drew you to that line or did the line 'choose' you?

The line kind of chose me - once I found my voice. I fit there. Once I figured it out, it became easier to write the kind of story I needed to write. I knew what sort of story they were looking for and I had the voice for it. It was then a matter of working to get the writing and story elements in line. It took me a few mss to get there, but I finally hit the right notes with HIRED BY THE COWBOY.

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?

After 19 years with the same man, 15 of those married - I can't list just one. But there are moments that stand out. Our first kiss. Dancing beneath the stars while our children slept in the camper. Finishing my first novel and calling him at work to tell him I wrote THE END - and having him show up late for dinner. I gave him a hard time until he told me he'd stopped on the way home to buy me something to celebrate - a new watch. But it's not grand gestures. It's sitting together on the deck and having him reach over and take my hand, or ordering supper if I've had a crazy day. That's real. That's what keeps you going through the tough times.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?

How hard I'd work. It doesn't get easier; in fact it gets harder as you go along. Being published isn't the key to the city. There may still be rejections, struggles, missed deadlines, poor sales, stress over time management ... I wasn't completely prepared for that. But, you know, I've had books that didn't sell as well as I'd hoped, I've had rejections, and I still get frustrated when writing feels like pulling teeth and I'm still here. Still writing. Still loving the mailman when he delivers author copies and smiling when I get reader mail. It's a damned hard job, but it's a good one. :-) I can't imagine doing anything else.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Oh gosh! I've had a lot of good advice but I'll never forget my first editor at Mills and Boon, Maddie West, telling me to go ahead and take risks. Editorial can always pull you back if you go too far, but taking risks can really result in extraordinary fresh stories.

10. Tell us about your latest release.

This year has been crazy with releases which is very good for me. :-) I had an ebook release from Samhain Publishing in April - Sold to the Highest Bidder. It will be out in print in February. July sees the reprint Hired: The Italian's Bride in the UK in the anthology Mediterranean Men and Marriage along with stories by Carol Grace and Raye Morgan. Then in October, Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle is out in the UK, and will be out in North America in February 2011. I round out the year with two releases in November - a reprint of A Bride for Rocking H Ranch, a Christmas novella in another UK anthology and Breathe from Samhain Publishing. There are excerpts from all these titles on my website.

11. What's next for you?

I have two more stories written for the romance line that are just waiting for final approval and revisions. This summer I am switching gears a bit to work on an independent project that I'm really excited about. I can't wait to get some chapters in the hands of my agent!

You can catch up with me at my website I'm also on Facebook - Donna Alward, Romance Author and on Twitter - @donnaalward. Stop by any of those places and say hi!


Rachael Johns said...

I just love reading about authors I love and their writing lives!! Thanks for sharing the advice about taking risks. Oh and I LOVED Jessica's Sensible Secretary too :)

Donna Alward said...

Thanks for having me and hello Rachael!

Actually the answer for question 11 has changed slightly - one of those books was accepted yesterday! Whee!

Lorraine said...

Congratulations, Donna! Great interview!

I've read HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your characters had lots of life and the setting was ideal.

Unknown said...

Hi Donna, thanks for sharing your writing life.

I'm currently reading Hired: The Italian's Bride. Love the setting and the hot! Italian hero.

Caroline said...

Hi Donna. Congrats on the all the releases this year and the latest acceptance. And as the Minxes say ,you are very giving of your time - especially when you do a pitch competition. So thanks for your support of us un-pubs! Caroline x

Scarlet Wilson said...

Congratulations Donna, love reading your books. Interested to hear you say you have an agent as I know some harlequin authors don't. What made you decide to look for an agent?

Tara Pammi said...

Hey Donna,

Congrats on getting the Argentinian accepted. And much more success to you. The wonderful lady that you are, you deserve every good thing. :-)

And thanks for being with the minxes today.


Joanne Coles said...

Hi Donna,

I read your blog regularly, so should have realised, but was totally in awe when I read your answers to our Minxy questions. You are *so* busy!!

Also congrats on your newest acceptance. 15 is awesome :-)

Donna Alward said...

Susan, thanks for asking about an agent. Man, I could talk for ages about the whys and wherefores - I actually developed a workshop about it earlier this year.

It kind of ties in to what I said earlier about growing my readership. I love writing for the Romance line and hope to stay there for a long time, but I'm dying to try my hand at a single title too, and to shop that around I need an agent. I went to Nationals last year with that specific purpose in mind - pitching and meeting, though I did submit through regular slush earlier last spring and racked up a few rejections. :-) I met my agent quite by accident at Nationals and we talked several times. I liked her instantly and we talked a whole lot about career direction and philosophies.

You can definitely be your own agent for digital publishing and category romance. But an agent is good for lots of things including being a sounding board, negotiating (and yes, it does happen even with a series romance boilerplate), and advocacy. It is great knowing I have someone who is so good at their job as part of my team.

Does that help?

Donna Alward said...

Hey Sri - how're you hangin' in there? Any news on the submission front? I expect your mind is rather occupied at the moment with baby matters!

Maya Blake said...

Hi Donna, we're so honoured and lucky to have you with us. Congrats on all you've achieved and especially for the latest acceptance!

Love the story about your hubby being late because he'd stopped to get you a romantic!

Jackie Ashenden said...

Love the interview, Donna! Mega congrats on your 15th book. Sounds like it was a major pain in the rear to write. So pleased it go there in the end! :-)

Maisey said...

Hi, Donna! :) Mega congrats on the 15th (WOW!) book. And it might have been a pain, but I'm sure that all the work you put into it has made it one heckuvan awesome read. :)

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Hi Donna - sorry arriving horribly late - thank you for visiting the Minxes' blog.

Great to read your answers and can't wait to read those new stories.