Donna McDonald is an Amazon best selling author in Contemporary Romance and Humor, and lately has been climbing the Science Fiction list as well.
Science Fiction reviewers are calling McDonald “a literary alchemist effortlessly blending science fiction and romance”. Contemporary and humor reviewers often write to tell her that the books keep them up reading and laughing all night. She likes both compliments and hopes they stay true forever.
McDonald’s idea of success is to be sitting next to someone on a plane and find out they are laughing at something in one of her books. Ideally, this would be happening while she was heading off on her next adventure to feed her creative soul.
Anyone who knows me (Leanna) is fully aware that I am a bit of a literary stalker with Donna McDonald; doesn’t matter what she’s written, I’ve read it and love it! Whether she’s portraying a divorced and retired father’s second chance at love or a futuristic space romance opera, she’s on point and on fire! Donna has graciously accepted our offer to chat a bit about what makes her tick - so let’s give her a huge TLR welcome!
TLR: Would you describe your writing style in three sentences or less?
DM: I’m a total “pantser”. My usual mode is to write in a near panic state while driven by the urge to get down that scene playing over and over in my head. I talk to myself as I’m writing. I talk about my characters like they are real people.
TLR: What would you say was the deciding factor in becoming an author?
DM: I have a been a writer all my life and made a living as one several times. However, publishing my books and becoming an “author” was the really hard decision. I lost a job through downsizing and spent the following year taking care of my daughter who died of cancer. After spending several months staring at walls and doing nothing, I decided life was too short not to take a chance with my writing.
TLR: Once you made the decision to take the plunge, how long did it take from your completion of your first novel to publication?
DM: I count that time in terms of what happened. I put in six or seven months of hard writing work to perfect a couple titles, suffered through five rejections of them from agents and presses, and researched long enough for me to absorb everything Mark Coker of Smashwords was saying to authors who had good books and no one willing to market them. Quick answer is about a year from finishing my first marketable title and putting it up.
TLR: Being successful in two genres (Contemporary Romance and Science Fiction) is no mean feat. That being said, is there genre that you’d like to tackle in the future?
DM: I need multiple genres to be a happy writer. When I started writing romances in the early 90’s, ‘paranormal’ was the only category for everything different and I loved those stories. In the future, I’m going to be writing more work that will fall into the newer paranormal categories. Next year, I’ll work on a ‘dragon’ book. I might try a romantic suspense one day.
TLR: One thing I’ve really enjoyed about your work is that your heroes/heroines are for the most part nearing or at middle age (or older). Was that something you consciously chose to portray and why?
DM: Yes, it was intentional. My children are the ages of the younger heroes and heroines typically found in romances, and those stories are needed. My writer voice was meant to be used for the ones closer to my age. I feel blessed that so many readers have responded well to those books, but I think that’s because I’ve had the nerve to talk about love, sex, and romance happening after 35--lol. Since that statement always make me laugh, I taught myself to write comedy because it fills a great need in me to make readers laugh. I save every note I get where a reader tells me that they laughed out loud over something I wrote.
TLR: With the recent exposure (if you’ll forgive the pun) of erotica and erotic romance, how do you manage to keep your scenes sexy and engaging without being excessively
DM: At a recent reader-author conference, I was on a ‘sex in romance’ panel. While I don’t have any ‘throbbing members’ in my books, I also don’t have any ‘cocks’ either. I personally have no problem with any term that is applicable for the story, but language is being used to judge books these days. I assure you that most writers could write anywhere along that spectrum. I chose my ‘middle road’ language for my sex scenes for the comfort level of the reader audience I imagined in my head. Okay and because of friends from old day job teasing me about my sex scenes. They used to look up terms and I vowed that they wouldn’t find them again in my books. So maybe I owe them for my workarounds.
In Dating A Cougar II, I had a dirty joke going on between Walter and Harrison, so I got by with using a term I haven’t used in other books. Honestly though, I’ve had some reviewers call some of my work erotic. I’ve had others who say the sex scenes are mild and boring. I’ve had reviews that say the scenes are ‘hot enough to be interesting’. All these comments make me laugh. I personally describe my scenes as explicit because I intentionally describe sexual acts. This kind of judgment is very subjective. I write what feels right to me. There are different levels of sexuality in each of my books. To me, the sex between a couple is an aspect of each relationship. Dating A Metro Man has the most sex because Seth used it as a way to keep Jenna connected to him. Dating A Cougar II and Dating A Silver Fox have the least amounts--maybe. I never think about it in those terms. I let it evolve as part of the overall character development in every novel.
TLR: What are the perils and joys of writing series books and stand-alone titles? Which do you find easier/more difficult to write?
DM: I love to read series books, so I naturally write them. If I love characters, I want to see them again in subsequent books. I want to know that their happily-ever-after is working out for them. In the Never Too Late series, I wanted the friendships to be in every book. In the Art of Love series, I wanted the family to remain a family that shows up on each other’s doorsteps. This just seems normal to me. To date, I only have one or two single title books (The Right Thing and Quickies Volume 1). They have their place among my titles, but I tend to think of the future in terms of series or at least trilogies.
TLR: In your “Art of Love” series, you’ve really fleshed out the creative personalities of each main character. Do you have any creative pursuits in addition to writing? How do you think that’s helped you write this series?
DM: I am glad you asked this question. I love art, but am not greatly talented at all the things I admire, such as painting, drawing, sculpting, and so on. I made the characters artists because in the process of seeing my titles published I came to see myself as an artist. I now think of what I do as creating and see each book as a work of art. It makes me feel very good to describe my work this way.
TLR: Speaking of your AOL series, will we ever get to read Drake and Brooke’s story?
DM: <sigh> Yes. You will. I promise. I started the book in 2012, and tried to write it earlier in 2013. It just wasn’t working for me. I would sit and stare at the screen day after day. Finally, I decided it just wasn’t time to write it. So I set it aside and finished DAC II. Now I’m working on Book 5 of the Forced To Serve series. After that though, I’m going back to Covered In Paint until it is done. Brooke’s issue is hitting a little too close to home for me in terms of storyline conflict. Yet I still feel it is the story I need to tell. I am waiting until the Muses and I get into agreement about it. I love that series too much not to finish it. There’s actually a book after Brooke and Drake’s story.
TLR: I’ve noticed that the first book in the AOL series, “Carved In Stone” is currently being offered for free at many online retailers. Do you find that this has made a noticeable difference in your sales on subsequent series installments?
DM: I’m a free book advocate. It is a great way to let readers try your work. If they don’t like your book or your writing, then they have lost nothing. If readers do like the free book, then they will buy the others. A lot of my fellow authors do not agree with this strategy, but I remember buying my first romances at used book stores or checking them out of the libraries. I realize now that these did not make the authors of those books any or much money. When readers have to be careful with their buying dollars, like I used to have to be with small children in the household, this kind of thing matters. Maybe I would not feel this way if I thought I only had one more book in me, but I have dozens still to write. Having a few books free has helped me get them into reader hands.
TLR: Tell us, who’s books are on your TBR list?
DM: Wow. Well, you don’t have enough room here for me to list them. I read JD Robb, Janet Evanovich, Jennifer Cruise (her old books), and am tapping my foot waiting for the next Darynda Jones book. I read across genres and recently finished Aramus by Eve Langlais which is book 4 in her excellent Cyborgs: More Than Machines series. She’s awesome. Shortly before that I read Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series—the whole series. I don’t get a lot of time to read, but when I do, I read obsessively if the books are good. I read everything by Robyn Peterman—beta read for her sometimes—she is incredibly funny. I also read JM Madden’s and Teresa Reasor’s military romances. I recently added Sharon Hamilton to that list. I also read Liliana Hart—her dragon book hooked me. I met Julie Ortolon at a conference and realized that I have 3 of her books on my ereader—lol. I read what interests me and look for unique stories. I’ve started a paranormal book listing site called Risky Readers. It is bringing a whole bunch of new books to my attention. My TBR pile is as daunting as every other reader’s.
TLR: If you could choose to have a career other than being an author, what would it be? Why?
DM: I have cleaned houses, worked for a newspaper, waited tables, been an account clerk, and then put in 18 years in a technical field. I’ve done plenty of other things for money--lol. Writing fiction is the most fun, interesting, fulfilling work I’ve ever done. I love talking to readers and writing books that I think will entertain or make them laugh. I truly cannot imagine doing anything else.
TLR: Do you have any guilty pleasures? How do they figure in to your creative process?
DM: I am learning that massages, facials, and exercise classes are not luxuries, but necessities to keep going. Writing demands a lot of hours in the chair and takes a toll on my body, especially those long obsessive days. Bruce knows I like romantic getaways with walks, fireplaces, and wine. I love going to the beach. All these things rejuvenate me. But when the worries of the world push in too hard, I revert to what has always worked. I go to my ereader and pull up a favorite book that I know will take me to a place where I can really escape—lol.
TLR: What do you hope your readers take away from your books?
DM: I hope they put down my books and smile for the rest of the day. I hope they think of something funny that happened to the characters and laugh. And I hope they realize that I’m writing about people just like them who have the courage to take chances and really get to live a full life.
TLR: Do you have a favorite among your stories? Which one?
DM: Wow. This is another nearly impossible question to answer. Each book means something special to me. I have reasons for loving each. Over all, I would say Captured In Ink was the most fulfilling book in terms of storyline. It is a highly uplifting story. I also think fondly of Dating A Saint because after I finished its complex storyline, I felt like a real writer. I remain proud of Dating A Cougar because it is a story of my heart and continues to create controversy with its sexy 50 yr old. Dating Dr. Notorious taught me that writing can be fun. I wrote the entire novel in 2.5 week and rarely slept or ate, but I laughed the entire time I was writing it. The entire Forced To Serve series is challenging and entertaining to my writing mind with its fight scenes and bad guys. I can feel myself growing as a writer in each one of my paranormal books.
TLR: Which of your characters would you say you most resemble?
DM: Regina Logan from Dating Dr. Notorious is my alter ego and I like her bravery. Her character voice is a reflection of my writer’s voice. Like her, I don’t mind shocking people. I want everyone to worry a little about what I’m going to say next. Readers of the series know that I have to have Regina appear in a every book—lol.
There are bits and pieces of me in every single character I create, but Jane’s reaction to Walter’s advances in Dating A Cougar II is the most auto-biographical I have gotten in a novel. I was 41 when I met a 28 yr old male who kept pursuing me. I finally married him this year—lol. It took me a decade to believe it had any chance at all of working out long term. He never doubted it and never wavered about staying in my life. So I feel very qualified in writing my ‘cougar’ stories. Like Walter, my husband was mature for his age and I was youthful for mine.
TLR: What was your biggest surprise about the writing process?
DM: My biggest surprise is that each and every book I publish causes me the same amount of nerve wracking angst as I turn it over to the readers. Even with 18 original titles out there, I still had crazy butterflies when I pushed the button to release Dating A Cougar II. I don’t think this is going to change.
TLR: Please share with us your upcoming releases and projects. What twists/turns do you see your writing taking you in the future?
DM: Putting the books into audiobook format has required me to tweak my writing style a bit. It’s taking me a little longer these days to put the words down on the page, but they read better when I do. Upcoming releases? Dating A Cougar II was late September. The Demon’s Change will be out in the next month or two. The Demon Master’s Wife and Dating Dr. Notorious will be out in audiobook before Christmas. Covered In Paint doesn’t have a release date, but I promise I will be back to working on it soon. Next year I’m going to be finishing both Next Game I Play and Next Move I Make. Then later in 2014, I will be doing something new I think—maybe the dragon book.
TLR: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
DM: They can go to my website at . They can go to my Never Too Late for Romance blog at and/or the Demons, Dragons, and Space Opera blog at . My books are available at most ebook retailers. I have an Amazon author page and a presence on Goodreads. I’m on Facebook at Donna Jane McDonald and Twitter (@donnamcdonald, @scifiwoman13, and @riskyreaders). They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.