Monday, February 1, 2010

Christian Author, Donna Dawson

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing multi-published author, Donna Fawcett, who writes fiction under the pen name Donna Dawson. She is also a creative writing instructor for Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and writes freelance non-fiction for national and international magazines.

Welcome, Donna! Let’s begin with when you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
My first thoughts of being a writer came when my high school English teacher told me that if I did nothing else, I should write. While I didn’t jump right into the career from there, it certainly was foremost on my mind as my children grew up and I headed for the empty nest.

Were books a big part of your life growing up? If so, what books would you say influenced you most as a child?
I, like many writers, didn’t have an easy childhood. While my parents were great, school bullying made me reclusive. I found release in books such as ‘The Call of the Wild’ and the occasional Harlequin romance novel. Other than that I didn’t read as much as I did in my teens and as an adult. I also liked ‘The Crysalids’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Share with us a little about your publication journey.
Publication for me began with creative non-fiction articles. I didn’t know how unusual it was to have published the first piece I’d ever written. Guideposts took that one on and published it in their Angels on Earth magazine. From then on it was a battle to keep the rejection notices to a minimum. I then, decided to learn the mechanics of writing and did so earning two university certificates in writing. I was already writing for a local newspaper so the publishing credits were already there, opening the door for national and international magazines. My first book was self-published and is called ‘Thriving in the Home School’ (Donna Fawcett). It has become a well-used manual for those considering home teaching. By the way, I have a great respect for teachers. I taught three students, they teach thirty—they deserve awards! My next three books were also self-published and were suspense novels. Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance (Word Alive Press) hit the market and have continued to do well. Then came publication with Awe-struck books. This royalty publishing company took on my manuscript Fires of Fury. I’m now working on two other manuscripts; Chinook Winds and Rescued and hope to see them in print in the next year.

You won some awards recently. Will you tell us about them?
My novel Vengeance (Word Alive Press) was entered into three categories in The Word Guild Awards. This is Canada’s biggest Christian writing contest and I didn’t even think I’d see it on the finalist list. I remember, clearly, the feelings I had when I opened the email announcing the finalists and saw my name in all three categories. Best Contemporary Novel, Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Novel and Best Independently Published Novel. I knew who the other finalists were and was sure that this was as far as it would go. They were amazing authors. I kind of made a fool of myself at the awards gala because I was so busy looking around to see who would win that when they called my name for Best Contemporary Novel I let out a fairly loud ‘What!?’ and received some lighthearted laughter for it :-). I was equally shocked with the Best IP Novel. It has been quite an honour to have received this kind of recognition and I am still wondering if they picked up the wrong novel by mistake and just gave me the credit :-). I have also received some awards for my creative non-fiction but nothing like The Word Guild Awards. That was so cool!

Where did you get the idea for 'Vengeance'?
I was actually on holidays with my husband and we were on a cruise ship to Hawaii. Funny story—the ship on the cover was a stock photo purchased by the publisher. She didn’t know when she bought that photo that that was the ship I was on when I was plotting out the story. Divine intervention perhaps? At any rate, we knew the cover was meant for this book!

What most inspires your imagination?
Life! I see plots in newspapers, conversations, incidents in everyday existence. I teach creative writing at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and I often tell my students that the best inspiration for fiction comes from life itself. Besides the fact that I’m ADHD. That kind of restless energy helps me read beyond what is into what can be.

Do you do a lot of research for your books? If so, how do you go about doing it (internet, books, one on one)?
I often tell students to write what they know. I grew up in an army family so often my books revolve around military or policing. I use the internet but I also try to find someone who is in that particular industry. Case in point: in The Adam & Eve Project I needed a lot of information about WWII vehicles. Who better to ask than my father who was a career soldier? And my brother also. I try to find the most credible information I can. I even contacted the San Diego FBI office to get some of my information and I have to say they were awesome!

Are there some new releases you’d like to tell us about?
I’m looking forward to seeing Fires of Fury in print. It’s a romance mystery and I’ve got a lot of my readers asking for it. Another one coming is Rescued. Imagine that there was a procedure that would end abortion. It’s possible! I’ve contacted medical professionals from all pertinent areas including an abortionist and they all agreed that the procedure was feasible. So instead of writing it in non-fiction, I chose to put it in a suspense novel in hopes that more people would read it and push for the procedure to replace abortion. I even have Pro-life and Pro-choice marching in protest to get the procedure done. Imagine a world without that fight! So that’s the next novel to be released.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started writing?
I wish I had spent more time learning the craft first before actually publishing. Editors are NOT the enemy. It’s better to look foolish to one editor than to a thousand readers. I also wish I had interviewed more successful writers so I could have by-passed wasting money on promotions that don’t work. The key is getting the book to the readers and the best way to do that is to figure out where the readers are. For each genre it’s different. The key to a successful book is accuracy and marketing.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers out there?
Don’t waste your energy writing that manuscript before you’ve learned the craft of writing. You will find it frustrating because you will just have to go back and rewrite—A LOT! Take the time and find a good creative writing course. That is money well invested! Ok so I’m a bit biased there but my students will back me on that one.

Where is your favorite place to write?
Definitely the local coffee shop. Everyone seems to know that I’m writing and they don’t bother me. When the laptop’s open, I’m undisturbed. As soon as it closes I get visitors :-). When it comes time to edit, however, I am entrenched in the privacy of my office.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what are some of your favorite bands/artists?
I only listen to music in my car. Funny because I’m also putting out a CD of my songs this year. Did I tell you I’m ADHD? I need either the steady hum of the coffee shop or absolute silence. I do love to listen to the WOW CD’s in my car though.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
You mean there are other things to do besides writing? In those rare moments when I’m not writing, proofreading or teaching, I’m dawdling in my veggy garden or playing with the livestock—horses.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
That I have been a kilt-maker for professional pipers and dancers and that I have shod horses for twenty years.

You’re at the checkout counter in your favorite department store and you’re purchasing something from the book, music & movie sections. What are you buying?
Easy that one—a good conspiracy or suspense whatever! The music is pretty much all WOW CD’s. What can I say—I have no imagination outside of writing.

Do you have a favorite TV show? What’s your favorite movie?
Our TV isn’t connected to stations. We only have DVD or VCR. Yes, stone-age, I know. On the rare occasion when I slow down enough to watch movies I must confess that Conspiracy Theory is my favourite.

Where can we purchase your books, and do you have a website?
Thriving in the Home School, Redeemed, The Adam & Eve Project and Vengeance can be purchased at most book stores. You can also get them on Fires of Fury can be purchased as a download at or you can just check out the books and my crazy life—and my blog where you will meet my editing buddy Duke the Chihuahua—at

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Writing can be frustrating if we look at it as a business. It is part of who we are—a way of expressing ourselves and we should keep that in mind as we write. I write because I can’t NOT write. It is something God has put in me to do and he will take it wherever he wants. Having said that, I also work hard to do my part—making sure the manuscript is clean and well edited, marketing where I should and not worrying about it when I shouldn’t. The biggest reward for me is in receiving the emails that tell me my book has brought meaning into the reader’s life.

What a fun and fascinating interview! Thank you, Donna, for sharing so much about yourself and the writing craft. You’ve offered some very sound advice that I’m sure will be very useful for any aspiring authors out there. I know I’ve been enlightened.


Cindy said...

That was an interesting interview--cool story about the cover picture for your book, Vengeance. All the best with your books, Donna!

Beverly Taylor said...

Interesting interview. Your books sound wonderful.

Congratulations on your success!