Keeping Secrets Children of the Light Series Book 1 by Donna Hechler Porter Genre: Historical Romance
A woman with a past, a man determined to uncover the truth, and a secret that could tear them apart forever.
A Grieving Husband: Amon Cayle needs a seamstress. He has spent the last year rebuilding his life after the tragic death of his wife in a kitchen fire, the same fire that nearly took the life of his eldest son as well. The business of grieving their loss, as well as the work of his tobacco plantation, has caused him to neglect the simplest of tasks. His family now needs clothes and despite his dislike for Mary McKechnie, and their shared past, he offers her the job.
A Desperate Mother: Mary McKechnie needs a job. Her brother has threatened to take her daughters and place them into indentured service if she can’t provide for them. He hasn’t made it any easier by insisting she work only for fellow Friends. When Amon Cayle offers her a job, she has little choice but to accept.
A Devastating Secret: The last time Amon spoke with Mary, after she walked away from him into the arms of another man over twenty years ago, she assured him she was not keeping secrets. He didn’t believe her then, and he doesn’t believe her now. While she is working for him, he is determined to find answers. She is just as determined to not give them.
Will Mary be able to save Amon from the past? Or will his love threaten to destroy them both?
Keeping Secrets is the first book in the Children of the Light Series. The Society of Friends (Quakers) and 1750s colonial Virginia, on the cusp of the French and Indian War, provide the backdrop for this sweeping historical about families trying to live their faith in a new land. Fans of series books will enjoy this series of faith, love, and redemption.
Dear God, he wanted to know if she had betrayed him as he feared.
But he did not ask. Instead, he grabbed her neck and yanked her forward. He sank his lips onto hers.
She pushed at him. She tried to twist her head to the side.
He held her tight. He worked his mouth over hers, up and down, back and forth.
And then, she reached around his shoulders. He slid his hands to her waist, wrapped them to her back, and tightened his hold.
She pressed herself against him.
His lungs collapsed under the strain. He tore his mouth from hers. “For God’s sake, Mary.” His chest heaved for more air. “Why can you not tell me what happened?”
A bolt of fire shot from her eyes. She loosened her arms from his neck. She tightened her mouth, swung her arm to the right, and slammed her palm against his face. His head stirred only slightly from the blow, but the sting burned nonetheless.
She ran from the barn.
Amon picked up the rake and slung it against the far wall. Tines broke and rained downward.
He had never intended to kiss her, but he had wanted to for so long he could hold out no longer. It had taken all his willpower to pull back, especially since she had relaxed beneath the onslaught. Why can you not tell me what happened?
The words had rushed past his teeth before he had a chance to stop them. And now, she would assume he had taken advantage of her when nothing was further from the truth.
He had thought he was playing with fire when he left, but this was far worse.
This was a conflagration.
Breaking Promises Children of the Light Series Book 2
A woman dedicated to peace, and man destined for war, and a journey that will change them forever.
A Haunted Young Woman
Annie McKechnie is desperate to go to the backcountry to her twin sister, Katie McKechnie Sawyer. She is convinced doing so is the only way to end the dreams that haunt her nights and follow her days. The one man who can help her find peace is David Cayle, and she hates him for it.
A Devoted Son
David Cayle, back from a tour of duty with the Virginia militia, is determined to mend the breach he created his with father. Taking the man into the backcountry to rescue his wayward sister, however, was not what he had in mind. Annie’s insistence on going makes matters worse, until it becomes obvious that leaving her behind is more dangerous than taking her along. Or is it?
A Harrowing Journey
A young nation fights for its destiny, and the backcountry is no place for the faint of heart. Only the stoutest souls and strongest minds endure.
But can David keep his promises? And what secrets is Annie still keeping?
Breaking Promises is the second book in the Children of the Light Series. The Society of Friends (Quakers) and 1750s colonial Virginia, on the cusp of the French and Indian War, provide the backdrop for this sweeping historical about families trying to live their faith in a new land. Fans of series books will enjoy this series of faith, love, and redemption.
Annie curled her fingers around the bills only because she did not want them fluttering to the ground. What could she do to
convince him to take her along? She was desperate to get to Katie.
Almost as desperate as she was to stop the . . .
No. Not here. Not now.
She shoved the money into the slit at the side of her skirt and forced the bills into the pocket at her waist. Where was the fear coming from?
David tapped his index finger against her temple. “You are a few tobacco leaves short of a full hogshead.”
She swiped at his hand again, this time catching it and flinging it aside.
Where was the David Cayle she grew up with? This one had cheeks chiseling into a man’s face, and his eyes, today beneath the nappy straw hat, swished between the color of summer blueberries one minute and boysenberry black the next. He has left home a boy and has come back from the militia a man.
They were Gran’s words, and they had wracked Annie’s nerves. Was it the man in him that had become so hard and unbending? If so, she much preferred the boy.
The heavy fog was coming, pressing her into the ground. She gasped for air. Why could she not control it? Why could she not will it away?
“Annie?” His face shifted from irritated to concerned.
She could not stand that either.
“Are you sick? Is the heat getting to you?”
She reached for her temple. “I am just tired. My sleep has not been good.” Not good? She had hardly had any at all in the past two months.
“Do you want me to help you to the house?”
“No.” The last thing she needed was for David Cayle to know anything was wrong other than her desire to get to Katie. No matter how painful their past, he would never let her carry the burden alone, and too many troubles came along when they shared things.
She twirled around and picked up her pace, determined to outrun the fear. As usual, it followed her like a demon after a lost soul.
Binding Fire Children of Light Series Book 3
A woman without hope, a man determined to save his family, and a past that could forever change their future.
An Estranged Husband
David Cayle wants nothing to do with his wife. He may have broken promises, but she kept secrets. Important ones. His only hope to mend his shattered self is to start over in the backcountry far away from her and Cayle Farms. But walking away from her is not as easy as he thought, for she is not done with her secrets, and this one will change his life forever.
A Frightened Mother
Annie Cayle faces an unknown future. Despite her last days at Cayle Farms and the danger she left behind, she is desperate to return home. When David Cayle arrives unexpectedly in Richmond, she asks him to change his plans for the sake of her unborn child. But home is not safe, and neither is David Cayle.
A Child that Binds
With their friendship torn apart, and their marriage shattered beyond repair, David and Annie must forge a new destiny for the sake of their child. But when old enemies exact revenge they are forced to confront past secrets and broken promises.
But can David face his deepest fears to save his wife? Or, in the end, will the past destroy them both?
Binding Fire is the third book in the Children of the Light Series. The Society of Friends (Quakers) and 1750s colonial Virginia, on the cusp of the French and Indian War, provide the backdrop for this sweeping historical about families trying to live their faith in a new land. Fans of series books will enjoy this series of faith, love, and redemption.
“Alright.” His hands came up. “We can leave first thing--”
“No.” Her voice was rising with the hysteria. “We have to go home now.”
“Annie!” His mouth fell open. Surely the birthing had snapped her mind. “’Tis the middle of the night. It is cold and damp, and look at you.”
The child gurgled, unlatched, then spit up most of what she had taken in.
Annie hoisted the babe to her shoulder. The child burped and set to howling all over again. This time she drew her knees upward against Annie’s shoulder.
“You are still in quite a bit of pain.” He had seen it on her face every time she lifted the child to her breast.
“I do not care about me.” A hunted look swamped her eyes. “Something is dreadfully wrong. I cannot stand to . . . to lose . . .”
He lurched to his feet and paced in circles this way and that, his hand in his hair, then gripping his neck. “How will I keep you warm?”
“I will hold her, and you can wrap us both in a quilt. I have two.”
“Two quilts? Annie, ‘tis still dripping rain outside, and the fog is so thick it will turn your bones to soup.”
“If you cannot take care of both of us, then take her. Leave me here and come back.”
The woman was truly mad.
“I cannot leave you here.” He upended his shaky palms. “You cannot even stand to your feet to stoke the fire. And what would you eat?”
“Then if you will not leave me, you must take me.”
He eased to the bed. “Do you realize how much agony you will be in on that horse?”
“If we stay here our daughter will be dead by tomorrow.” The tears sheeted down her face. “Please, I will do anything to save her.”
Was she right? Was the babe really that ill? Or was she making more of it than need be?
No. He did not remember John’s birth, but he remembered Thomas’. He remembered Abby’s well. They did not cry as if their insides were rending apart.
But still. To take them both home? Now?
She grabbed his wrist. “If you get us home, I promise I will do anything you ask of me.”
The hair on the back of his neck rose.
“I will cut you from the marriage. I will make an effort to fix the marriage. I will follow you to the backcountry and never complain.” She tightened her hold. “I will even join with you again if you wish to have more children.”
He yanked free of her hot grasp and jerked to his feet. “Fine. I will saddle the horses and bring them around.” He grabbed a candle from the table, another one of those items he had tried to get her to leave behind and headed out the door. He could barely see the decrepit barn, and it had little to do with the dark and more to do with the thick, cold fog that wet his face and lifted his skin with bumps.
The candle wavered. It was not likely to stay lit long in the damp air.
Join with him again? For another child?
The thought sent an unwelcome heat into his gut, but he doused it readily enough. The other options he could consider. By God’s teeth, he might even make good on forcing her to the backcountry.
But joining? Not a chance. They already were tied with this child, and he could never be completely free of her.
Another joining with the woman would kill him.
Donna Hechler Porter graduated from Texas A & M University with a B.S. in Education. After many years of teaching, she now homeschools her twin sons and is active in her local homeschool group. Her first foray into fiction, her "Children of the Light Trilogy," has already won numerous awards. She is a member of Romance Writer's of America, as well as the subchapters Hearts Through History and Northwest Houston's Lonestar Chapter. In addition to fiction, she has published five genealogy books and a short biography on her struggles with hypothyroidism titled "Will Someone Please Shoot the Cuckoo?" She is currently working on her fourth novel. You can visit her at her website/blog at donnahechlerporterbooks.wordpress.com.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an
author? I always wanted to write books. I mean – ALWAYS. Like in first grade always. I dabbled at it off and on for years, and in fifth grade wrote a book on notebook paper called “The Tweedles.” It was a knock-off of “The Borrowers.” (I think my mom still has it somewhere.) When I got into researching my family tree when I was about nineteen, the stories exploded into my head. They just never really left even as I went to college, taught school, and later married and had the twins. Then, I reached my 45th birthday, and I knew it was “now or never.” So I started reading how to plot and create characters. I started taking online classes through groups like RWA. And here I am today!
What is something unique/quirky about you? I absolutely despise the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I know! Who doesn’t like that song? Me. Of course, “The Wizard of Oz” is on my least favorite movie. So there’s that, too.
Tell us something really interesting that's happened to you! This is going to sound odd, but I think the most interesting thing that has ever happened to me is having identical twins.
What are some of your pet peeves? Junk laying around the house – especially in the living areas. I mean – there’s a trash can in each room. People get up from chairs. Why can they not take their trash / food / dirty plates with them?
Where were you born/grew up at? I was born in Baytown, just east of Houston. I grew up there, went to and graduated from Baytown schools.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day? That is quite a poignant question considering my husband passed away this past May. It was sudden and totally unexpected. If I knew that was going to happen to me? I would spend every last breath with my family, especially my boys.
Who is your hero and why? My parents. My mom has always been my biggest champion and supporter. She taught me I could do anything I wanted if I was willing to work hard enough to make it happen. My Dad has had some tough health challenges the past few years – a hip replacement, a triple bypass, prostate cancer – but he keeps up with his lunch buddies, teaches some driver’s ed, and plays lots of poker, and he turned 82 this past December! He has taught me to keep on moving no matter what, and to take each moment you are given. Oh, and did I mention – they have been married 58 years!
What kind of world ruler would you be? A tired one. LOL. I would want to know every person under my rule. I would want to teach them a skill so they could make their own way. I would want to encourage them in whatever dreams or endeavors they had. I would want to know them all by name and on and on. Yep, I’d be one tired princess.
What are you passionate about these days? My writing.
What do you do to unwind and relax? A long walk unwinds me, as does a soak in the tub and a good book. Sometimes I will meet a friend for lunch or go thrift shopping. Sometimes, just being in the house alone and with my work-in-progress is relaxing. But the best thing I do is find my big tom kitty (he weighs 15 pounds) and we curl up on my king size bed. He crawls on my chest and I pet him. We usually fall asleep that way at night. Something about digging my hands into his fur and rubbing slowly this way and that settles me down, and I can feel the stress slipping away. At least for a time.
How to find time to write as a parent? When the boys were little, it was hard. I wrote a lot in the evening or early morning before they woke up. They are older now, but one has been ill the past few years. This past Thanksgiving and Christmas we were at Cleveland Clinic for surgery. He is on the mend, but I will be getting a job soon. It is going to be a challenge to find time to write then. I will have to let you know how that goes!
Describe yourself in 5 words or less! Stubborn, Melancholic, Bossy, Old-fashioned, Hyper-sensitive
When did you first consider yourself a writer? This is going to sound strange, but it was when I commissioned new covers for my first four books. I don’t know why that stands out as marking me as a writer. Perhaps it was because the covers were so magical, and it was hard to believe my name was even on the front.
Do you have a favorite movie? One favorite movie? Not really. But the top three favorites are – The Last of the Mohicans, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and The Princess Bride.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie? Really, any of them – but I think “The Rood” would be fantastic translated onto the big screen. The plot is fast-paced and different with the hero being a Scotsman and the heroine being a French Acadian. The setting of the French and Indian War is not done nearly often enough. Thomas and Elizabeth traveled through real places on their way to the Indian towns, and it would be awesome for people to get a flavor for the wildness and beauty that was America before it became filled with towns and cities.
What inspired you to write this book? My family history. The main characters, Amon, Mary, and especially David and Annie, are drawn from my own ancestors who were members of the Society of Friends in Virginia in the years preceding the French and Indian War.
What can we expect from you in the future? I am currently working on the second book in my “The Marylanders” series – “The Brooch.” After that, I have plans for a contemporary trilogy. I am not certain which story I will migrate to after that. I am leaning toward doing several stand-alones, but if another trilogy grips me, I might have to go with the voices that talk.
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? Not yet. I have outlines sketched for stand-alones for Grayson and Ivy Cayle and Noah and Raine Ledger from my first trilogy. I have a partially written story on John Cayle and Sarah Grayson. I do have plenty of projects to keep me busy.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in “The Children of the Light Trilogy”? The Cayles and McKechnies belong to the Society of Friends, or Quakers, in Virginia in the years preceding the French and Indian War. Amon Cayle and Mary McKechnie were childhood sweethearts, but she married another man before Amon had a chance to ask for her hand. When the book opens, it is twenty years later, and everyone has a secret - even the children, David Cayle and Annie McKechnie. None of them are doing so out of malice, but rather out of love. The consequences, however, are no less devastating.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book? So far, the concept and characters for my books have come from my own family history/tree. I take the facts I have and then work a story around them. I try to stick to dates, timelines, and the historical records as much as I can, but I am forced to take liberties at times to create a story that is enjoyable to read. I am careful to never promote my novels as family history. I have family history books with full research notes and bibliographies for that.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book? I loved watching David and Annie grow from children to adults. They are both so young in the beginning and that immaturity causes them to make such bad decisions. It was fun growing them up and into who they were meant to be.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel? Well, everyone was keeping a secret!
Who designed your book covers? Germancreative. I especially like the paperback covers. There is a wraparound motif on each of them that is lost on the digital covers, and I love the play of light used on all three of them. She captured exactly what I was striving to do myself but could not manage.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? Not a thing with the book per se, but I always agonize over the title. I am still not sure any of the four books had a title I really liked, but I finally went with I have now.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book? That if the characters are not ready to talk, Donna is not ready to write.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead? Well, that would be difficult. The protypes are now way past the ages they play. 40sish Tom Cruise and teen Tom Cruise were the protypes for Amon and David Cayle. Yes, I am a picture geek. I had pictures of both plastered on my writing boards. The funny thing was – I tried to use other men, but Tom just kept intruding into the movie in my head. Madeline Stowe was the prototype for Mary McKechnie, and a young Mia Sara was the model for Annie McKechnie. So any actors hired would have to be along the lines of those people and their younger selves.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers? I think it’s important for the readers to understand the Friends (Quakers) were not the Amish. Before the French and Indian War, they dressed plainly and in older fashions, but they did not wear strict black and white outfits as they did in later years. Unlike the Amish, they did not shun people, so a member that was labeled “disorderly walker” could still participate in community life. They were like the Amish in that they were pacifists and did not believe in war or violence.
How did you come up with name of this book? The Cayles and McKechnies are members of The Society of Friends, or Quakers. The Friends referred to themselves as “Children of the Light,” so it was natural to call the series by that name. As for the individual books, I had already titled “Keeping Secrets” by that name because everyone was “keeping secrets.” In the second book, people are “breaking promises,” right and left. In all three books, the motif of “fire” has been pivotal. Amon’s first wife died in a fire before the book opened. Mary is nearly burned in a fire on Amon’s property. In the third book, the motif of fire continues as David and Annie try to work past some tragedies and their own stubborn selves, thus the title “Binding Fire.”
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
“Breaking Promises” is my favorite of the three, probably because it was such an adventure book, and I never thought I was capable of writing adventure. But as far as any one part, I like the way I brought Annie’s grandmother, Huldah Langdon, back into the story through her journal entries in the last book “Binding Fire.” I had not planned on doing that at all in the original plot. I like the way it grounded the story within multiple generations.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do
during that day? I would definitely be spending it with Huldah, Annie’s grandmother. She had a quick wit, and her goose, Penelope, is a favorite of my readers! I would love to have a look at Huldah’s flower book and spend a day in the garden with her.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? Most of my major characters are based on real people. Others not so much. David Cayle and Annie McKechnie were based on my fifth great grandparents David Crews and Annie Magee. The real Amon and Mary, who were David Crews (father of the younger David) and Mary Ladd Magee respectively, were widowed and later subsequently married amongst the Friends. At that time, the real David and Annie were about 13 and 14 years of age and had grown up near each other in Hanover County. I know quite a bit about David and Annie, but David and Mary were more elusive. However, I took the smattering of facts and married it with a plot. I changed the names because I did take liberties with the characters and because this was a novel, not a treatise on the Crews and Magee families. (I have a book devoted to that alone in my genealogy list.)
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story? I have the reins of the story, but they will sometimes turn the plot in an unexpected direction. In “Breaking Promises,” David kisses Annie while they are on a horse going to the backcountry. That kiss was supposed to happen later! I wrote the scene – and the kiss – and then I sat back in my chair and my hands fell into my lap. I was like – uh oh! That was NOT supposed to happen until later. But it was happening then instead. And it was the perfect place for it. My minor characters can cause even bigger problems. They oftentimes want to step in from nowhere and take the attention away from the main characters. That’s why I have so many possible novels in my computer now featuring characters who were once minor!
Have you written any other books that are not published? No. I have several in the works, but none finished enough yet to be called “books.”
What did you edit out of this book? People. I edited people – and there were still too many characters. But each one served a purpose, so I could not edit any more.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors? Catherine Cookson, Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, Kristen Heitzmann, Philippa Gregory, Suzan Tisdale, Judith Pella, C. S. Lewis, Jan Brett (yea – she is a children’s author – but her books are beautiful!) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati
How long have you been writing? I have dabbled all my life, but I have attacked it seriously for the past twelve years.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write? I generally have a handle on all the characters, especially the major ones, before I write, but occasionally a minor one will slip into a book. That was how Grayson Cayle, Amon’s brother, showed up. Amon walked into his brother John’s house, and there Grayson was, leaning over Mary’s hand and kissing it. I was not certain who was more surprised. Amon or me!
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book? I am fortunate in that I have been reading and studying history since before I was twenty, so I have a lot of information in my head. I often tell others I have one foot in the present and another in the past! So far, when I have needed to do research, it is specific to a situation in the book. For example, I had to do some research on vultures for “Breaking Promises,” as well as some research on how to extract an arrowhead. The route to the west, for David and the others, had to be researched as it was specific to the book. So I stop the writing and do some research until I am satisfied I have what I need, and then I get back to writing.
Do you see writing as a career? I would love to see writing as a career, but I have to be realistic as well. If I am able to reach a point it earns me a consistent and decent income, I will consider myself blessed. In the meantime, the bills do have to get paid.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre? Of course – historical fiction has ALWAYS been my favorite genre. I have no idea why I have this love of the past. I love gothic mysteries as well, and I will read contemporary. But, and I hate to admit this, I am very selective in my tastes!
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why? It just depends on how I am feeling that day. Sometimes its full steam ahead with music from “The Last of the Mohicans” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Other days its George Winston, Nightnoise, Brian Crain or others with a softer flair. And some days I want it so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time? Generally, I am a one project person. I can work on different parts of books – say the writing on this one and the plotting on that one, but I like “completed” projects, and I feel like the end of that project is that much farther away if I am working on multiple projects at one time.
Pen or type writer or computer? Computer. I have carpal tunnel syndrome and the beginnings of arthritis. I have a pretty neat script if I am writing slow – like when scribing or scheduling things, or making lists, but for writing a scene my fingers simply cannot keep up with my thought processes.
What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision? I have wanted to be an author for so long, I really cannot say what made me want to become one. Was it the right decision? In my case, definitely. If I had not pursued this dream, I would have regretted it forever.
A day in the life of the author? Mine changes far too often, but at the moment, I wake up and read my Bible and scribe some while I eat breakfast. I pray and then collect my thoughts for the day. I usually do a few small chores – make the bed, empty and load the dishwasher, throw laundry on, take out trash, stuff like that. I then try to get several hours of writing in. My afternoons, however, are not routine. I tutor, and sometimes there are doctor appointments or other sorts of errands / chores to do. I try to schedule all those things in the afternoon and group them together as much as possible. Most evenings after supper, I will be found with the laptop back in front of me and posting on my Facebook genealogy pages, or editing the novel, or even working on plotting for future novels. Of course, once I get a job, that schedule could change.
Advice they would give new authors? Learn the craft, especially those things indicative of the genre you are choosing. Do NOT choose to self-publish too early. If you are young, take your time. Save money for cover artists and editors. And above all else – take classes. RWA offers a number of inexpensive classes that are helpful and give a burgeoning author lots of small group instruction. I am sure there are other places that offer classes as well. Read books with the eye of a writer. What did you like about the book? Were the characters genuine? Was the plot fast or slow? Was this done well or not so good? Learn to imitate what you like in others’ writing and then put your own spin on that style so that it becomes yours.
Describe your writing style. I am sort of an eclectic mix of Catherine Cookson meeting Phyllis Whitney with a dash of John Jakes sprinkled across the top. I generally push my characters through some tough hardships, and they have some deep emotional wounds to overcome. I find myself writing a bit of mystery to each book. Perhaps there is a secret to uncover. Or perhaps there is an object, such as in “The Rood,” that holds some sort of power or charm over the characters. And of course, John Jakes was a master of the historical novel.
What makes a good story? Characters. The book can be lackluster as far as prose and grammar and writing style, but if the characters are believable and real, and I can identify with their wounds and their need to right their world, then I am in the story for the long haul.
What are they currently reading? Currently, I am reading through Sara Donatis’ “Wilderness Series.” I am currently on book 3 “Lake in the Clouds.” There are six books in all, so I have a ways to go.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? I start with my characters, and then I move to plotting through a journey cycle. Once that journey plotting is secure, I go to a scene to scene outline structure, and I work through at least 2/3 of the book. I don’t do the last 2/3 because as I am writing sometimes things change. Besides, the last 1/3 is always pretty clear for me, it’s the first 1/3 and the beginning that gives me so much grief.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? Perfection. Like I always tell my students – “get the darn thing written.” Good books / reports are made in the revision stage. Poor grammar is another trap. You don’t have to be a college level grammar guru, but you should have good control of language. You should not be willing to rely completely on an editor, and you can never find your own voice unless you first have the basics. Perhaps the biggest trap I have noticed in judging contests is the lack of understanding of plot. If its not rich and layered, it shows in the first few pages, and the reader puts the book down and never comes back.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Fatigue and my family. When duty calls, you have to drop the writing and handle family stuff. And when the hours of the day are gone, and bed calls, Donna has to go to sleep. I have hypothyroidism, so sleep is super important. I find I get a lot less done if I try to burn the midnight oil, so sometimes writing has to be put off to another day.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I try to do a little of both. I don’t want to write what someone else has already written, but at the same time, readers expect certain things from certain genres. In my case, historical fiction, they expect stories of the past and they expect those stories to be as accurate as possible in the details. Beyond that, there is wiggle room with the characters and the plotting to create something unique and different. I think I accomplish this uniqueness in “The Children of the Light Trilogy” with the Society of Friends and a storyline that encompasses two generations. “The Rood,” my latest release, is unique in that it has a Scotsman, the son of a Jacobite rebel, and a French Acadian lass who was exiled to the colonies during The Grand Expulsion. Neither of those sub-groups are hot topics for novels.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? To start earlier and to believe in myself. I waited until I was 45 to get serious about getting these stories out of my head, and then it took me another twelve years to believe that people would find my books worth reading.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I actually have more trouble getting into my females’ heads than my males. Generally, men are straightforward. They know what they want. They know what they like, and they are relatively uncomplicated. Miller Mackintosh in “The Brooch,” which I am currently writing, has been an exception, but that was because he wouldn’t talk to me. LOL. The females, on the other hand, have their thoughts straddled everywhere and their emotions all over the place.
How long on average does it take you to write a book? If I were to cut through all the chaos and distractions, and just consider researching, plotting, and writing, I think the process would take me about six months to a year from start to finish including to publication. If I’m writing a sequel to a previous book, obviously it is going to take less time because I already know some or most of the characters. If I am starting from scratch with a vision and rough edges, it takes longer, mostly because of the time it takes to get to know the characters. Even so, it’s difficult to say for sure how long it takes me to write because of all the illnesses and turmoil the past few years, especially 2019. None of my books, so far, have been written under ordinary circumstances.
Do you believe in writer’s block? Not generally, at least for me. I find writer’s block really translates into “Donna hasn’t done her plotting deep enough yet.” LOL. I do sometimes get stuck, and I am unsure how to go from this scene or problem to where I want to be. But that is not the same as writer’s block. That just means I need to step back and relook at the events / choices / dynamics in that scene, or even, perhaps, a few scenes back. Generally, if I do that, I can move forward again with no problem.
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