Donna is a bestselling, award-winning author of over thirty romance and women's fiction (aka 'chick lit') novels. I have now read three of Donna’s books: The Merry-Go-Round, Mountain Laurel, and An Accidental Family. All three of these books were fun reads.
While I am a romantic, I will admit that I have not read many romance novels. I tend to get my romance fix from my favourite genre, historical fiction. I've read some 'chick-lit' à la Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes, but even there my experience is limited. While I don't read a lot of romance or chick lit novels, I do understand why they are so popular, and recently even wrote a piece defending the genres.
I gave each of these three books 3/5 stars. Note that this is below the average rating of 4.5/5, 4.5/5 and 4/5 stars respectively on Amazon.com, but is still a rating of 'good' from me (see my Book Rating Scale for details). This means that if you're a fan of the romance and chick lit genres, you will likely love these books and perhaps rate them higher than I did. If you're not normally a fan of romance and chick-lit genres, you may still enjoy these books as I did.
Donna is such a down-to-earth, kind and caring soul and this comes through in her writing. If you're looking for a feel-good book, look no further. Donna does not disappoint!
And now please enjoy my interview with Donna Fasano:
Cookie’s Mom: Donna, can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you come to be a writer? Have you done other types of work as well?
Donna: Like any self-respecting wife, I blame it all on my husband. Let me explain…
I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. When my youngest son started school, I considered finding a part-time job. My husband looked pointedly at the books stacked around our house and said, "You've read enough of these, why don't you try writing one?" He planted a tiny acorn that took root and eventually grew into a mighty oak of a writing career for me.
Before I was married, I worked as a clerk in a grocery store. I had some loyal customers who wouldn't allow anyone else to tally their grocery purchases. For a while I wrote newsletters for churches in order to make a little mad money; however, I often ended up donating my earnings back to my employers for one good cause or another. The most interesting job I had, by far (other than writing my romance novels, of course), was the year I spent doing litigation research for a large corporation. I spent my days pouring through the files of scientists, looking for information pertaining to various law suits. Interesting stuff. Hmmm…I can see how some people might deem these jobs a little on the boring side, but I'm the type of person who can take lemons and turn them into a Vodka Sling (did someone say party?).
Once I sold my first book, I was hooked on writing and I've been doing it ever since.
Cookie’s Mom: Would you briefly describe the difference between the romance and women’s fiction (aka ‘chick lit’) genres?
Donna: I wrote on this very topic over at BigAl's Books And Pals. My full answer can be found here, but in a nutshell, I said:
"Romance novels are books that feature a relationship arc which results in a positive ending, often described as 'happily ever after' (HEA). This relationship is the main focus of the story—one woman, one man, and their hurdle-ridden journey toward finding true and lasting love. In addition to this relationship arc, a romance will also contain one or more subplots (a.k.a. plot devices, the themes of which are various and sundry) that help to bring about the female protagonist's individual character growth.
Chick lit books focus on a female protagonist and her personal (and usually foible-filled) journey toward self-understanding and self-acceptance. In these books, the plot devices are the story. Whether the protagonist ends up with a man is not as relevant as the learning process she experiences through various situations that culminate in her resolving her issues, be they emotional, professional, etc. Chick lit is as famous for its upbeat, emotionally satisfying ending as romance fiction is for its HEA."
Cookie’s Mom: As you know, I’ve written my own piece defending the genres. What do you say to critics of the romance and ‘chick lit’ genres?
Donna: To tell you the honest truth, I have stopped trying to reform the critics. In my 20+ year career, I've heard it all. And I'm still hearing it. I've realized that I cannot force people to open their hearts and minds to something that they've decided is [insert derogatory adjective of your choice]. However, just the other day, after I saw yet another attack on the genre, I was reminded of a workshop I attended at a conference. Sitting on a 'panel of experts' was a female warden of a female prison. She was there to give a firsthand account of how romance novels helped her inmates. She told the writers in the audience that many of the women behind bars come from violent backgrounds. Most of them learned early in their lives that love hurts. The warden claimed that reading romance novels showed the inmates that personal growth is a good and valuable thing, that rising above the past is possible, that sex and violence do not go hand in hand, that the happiest women (like the feistiest heroines) are those who are independent, who can take care of themselves, and who set goals and work to achieve them. The female protagonists in romance novels show the inmates the importance of self-respect. The warden said her inmates learned that failure, rather than being the end of everything, could be a learning experience, something that demanded you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and give it another go. And the biggest lesson romance novels taught, the warden claimed, was that love doesn't hurt. It might seem silly, but I came away from that workshop walking a little taller.
The continued popularity of the romance genre, not to mention its market share, should be enough to make the naysayers shut up. But they never will, so I'll just put my feet up and have another Vodka Sling.
Cookie’s Mom: Donna, I’ve read three of your books now. What is obvious from your writing, and also from the guest post you wrote for me in April, is that you are a life-loving romantic. Can you tell me what it is about the romance and women’s fiction genres that you love so much?
Donna: I'm an arm-chair psychologist at heart and love to ponder the 'whys' of human behavior. Writing novels means creating characters complete with strengths and weaknesses, and then plopping those characters into the middle of a situation where those very strengths and weaknesses will be tested to the hilt. There is nothing more interesting, more intriguing, more enchanting than the intricacies of the man/woman relationship. The emotional spectrum is vast and the opportunity for plots is truly endless. Besides, who wouldn't want to spend all day thinking about hot, buff men? (The emphasis here is on the thinking. I am a happily married woman, thank you very much.)
Cookie’s Mom: Buff men? Hmm, yes. I see your point.
I understand that your publisher, at the time that The Merry-Go-Round was written, required it’s authors to adopt a pen name, is that right? What’s it been like to write under a pseudonym and to now write under your real name?
Donna: Many, many years ago, even before I wrote for the company, my former publisher required its authors to take a pen name, owned by the publisher, in order to protect its profits. However, by the time I came onboard, authors had already fought for and won the ownership of their pseudonyms. One of the claims the publisher has made, over and over, is that their brand name on book covers is what sells books, not an author's name. The only way I could see to prove this wrong was to publish my backlist books and my original fiction under my real name rather than my pen name. So far, it's working out fine for me. Readers are finding, buying, reading and enjoying my work.
Cookie’s Mom: Is it true you’ve written 32 romance novels as Donna Clayton, and several more women’s fiction novels? You've had quite a prolific writing career!
Donna: It's okay, I guess. Just don't compare me to Nora Roberts (200+ novels) or Issac Asimov (500+ novels).
Cookie’s Mom: Well, in the world of self-published authors, I'd say you're doing very well. Let’s talk about these three books.
Book Description (Source: Amazon.com)
When Lauren divorces her husband, she has one thought on her mind...stepping off the merry-go-round. However, her life quickly turns into a three-ring circus: her hypochondriac father moves in, her ex is using her shower when she's not home, and her perky assistant is pushing her out into the fearsome dating world. She also has to decide if the dilapidated barn and vintage merry-go-round she was awarded in the divorce settlement is a blessing or a bane. As if Lauren's personal life isn't chaotic enough, this slightly jaded attorney is overrun with a cast of quirky characters who can't stay on the right side of the law. What's a woman to do? She can allow life to spin her in circles forever. Or she can reach out and grab the brass ring.
Rated 4.5/5 by 39 customers on Amazon.comCookie's Mom: I enjoy the feel of The Merry Go Round. As I’ve alluded to, there is an optimism about your writing that I like very much and it is very present here.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
Donna: This book started with the concept of the break up of a relationship. I wanted to write a book about divorce in a way that was different from any that I've ever read. I knew how I wanted to the book to begin, and how I wanted it to end—the reader probably realizes these things too when she starts the book—but it's the journey of getting there that was so fun for me to create. I really had a good time writing that book.
Cookie’s Mom: Who or what inspired the main character, Lauren?
Donna: It's a funny thing about the characters of that book…I put a lot of thought into the plot, and once I realized what kind of characters I needed to make the story work, professional, strait-laced, no-holds-barred Lauren just showed up. I knew I needed a strong, bull-headed female protagonist, a woman who had (or thought she had) a clear view of right and wrong, good and bad. I knew my male lead had to be more laid back; he wore the pants in the relationship, but he didn't mind that Lauren wore pants too. (I'm laughing here, knowing that your readers will have to read the book in order to understand what I'm talking about.)
The secondary characters in that book hold a special place in my heart. I gave Lauren's pessimistic father my dad's name, Lew. And I gave the lively Norma Jean my mother's name. You see, my mother passed away when I was very young, and getting Lew and Norma Jean together again was my way of fulfilling a childhood dream.
Cookie’s Mom: Donna, that’s incredibly sweet! I’m so glad you shared that!
If The Merry-Go-Round is a mostly sweet story of reunion, Mountain Laurel is a slightly steamier story of new love. Laurel tries to convince her younger sister to make the responsible decision to go to college. Laurel hasn’t had a date since senior prom, so her sister makes a deal with her. If Laurel will start dating, she will consider college. Enter sexy forest ranger Michael Walker.
Book Description (Source: Amazon.com)
So what if Laurel Morgan hadn't had a date since the senior prom? If all it would take to convince her teenage sister to consider college was to go on a few dates and have some fun, it was a bet she could beat. And before she could change her mind, sexy forest ranger Michael Walker agreed to play the part of her ardent admirer! Laurel never expected Michael's acting abilities to be quite so convincing. Whenever her sister was watching, Laurel found herself wrapped in a heady embrace with a passionate kiss on the way. Her captivating cohort promised a performance that would win her the wager, but when the curtain closed, would she lose the only man she would ever love?
Rated 4.5/5 by 11 customers on Amazon.comCookie's Mom: What inspired this book?
Donna: I would have to say that Mountain Laurel was inspired by the setting. My husband and I used to take our boys to Western Maryland. We'd stay in a cabin and eat S'mores and hike in the mountains by day and stare at the Milky Way Galaxy at night. We fell in love with the mountains of beautiful Garrett County. It's a place filled with crisp breezes and vibrant color in the autumn. The smell of wood smoke always brings back memories of our vacations in the mountains.
Cookie’s Mom: Who is Laurel? Is she modeled after someone you know?
Donna: I do hate to admit this, but Laurel is me, or mostly so, anyway. Mountain Laurel is the first book I wrote, so it was easier for me, a newbie writer, to draw from my own character traits when creating Laurel. Agreeing to do something outrageous, like Laurel did, in order to help someone learn a life lesson is something I could see a younger me doing (I'd like to think I'm wiser now…the common sense part, I'm still working on).
Cookie’s Mom: [SPOILER ALERT] I enjoyed this book, but have to admit, was slightly disappointed at the lack of… how can I say this and keep my blog PG… an adult intimate encounter. There was so much build up that I expected, like the honeymoon suite of a hotel expects, you know, it. Was it a conscious decision to keep it PG, a requirement of the publisher, or was there some other restriction? I know that other books that you have written, such as An Accidental Family, go into more… um… detail.
Donna: My grin is very wide right now. I understand completely. The lack of … um … mattress dancing was a requirement of the publisher at the time the book was published. Another of my books, Taking Love in Stride, has no … ah … horizontal mambo going on, either. Since publishing these two books and receiving feedback from readers that they'd prefer more … um … mating music, I've decided to turn up the volume a bit. Hopefully, my readers will be satisfied (pun most joyfully and deliciously intended).
Cookie’s Mom: It’s good to know it’s not just me! I’m looking forward to this new direction!
An Accidental Family is the book I read most recently. I liked this one best, I think because I was able to relate some to the predicament that the couple found themselves in. I have a young child myself.
An Accidental FamilyCookie's Mom: What inspired this story, Donna?
Product Description (Source: Amazon.com)
"I do," the bride and groom said…
and without love they wed.
Jonas Winslow knew nothing about fatherhood, yet he was determined to keep his orphaned nephew. But the boy's aunt, Robin Hampstead, wasn't about to let go of her only remaining family. The solution: a temporary - strictly platonic - marriage…or so they thought.
Their agreement was to share the house and all child-rearing responsibilities, which seemed an uncomplicated arrangement until…Jonas began seeing Robin in a new light, not as a pretend wife, but as a very real woman whose bedroom was enticingly close to his.
Rated 4/5 stars on 24 reviews
Donna: Once again, I was looking to write something a little different. There are plenty of stories out there where a man and a woman are fighting over a child, and it's usually the woman who is the caretaker. What makes this story different is the fact that the female lead seems to have no maternal skills. I like to take ideas and twist them just a bit. I feel it makes the experience a little more unpredictable for the reader.
Cookie’s Mom: What sort of research was involved in writing this story? It seems you must have had to learn something of the legal system surrounding execution of wills and appointed guardianship.
Donna: I need to know just enough so that it sounds like I know what I'm talking about. I've found that people LOVE to talk about their jobs. Whenever I need to know something, I pick up the phone and call—whether it be a lawyer, a doctor, the owner of a fruit orchard—and my questions and requests for help have never been turned down. In fact, once people hear that the information they're giving me will end up in a book, they're more than happy to help. And thank goodness for the internet!
Cookie's Mom: Amen!
You just released His Wife for a While, the book you've graciously offered to give away to three of my lucky readers.
Cookie's Mom: Please tell us about this story.
His Wife for a While
Product Description (Source: Amazon.com)Desperate Bachelor
Ben Danvers was about to lose everything―unless he found a woman willing to become his wife. The terms of his grandfather's will were outrageous, but they were iron clad. Just when Ben was about to give up all hope, the last woman he ever expected to wed made a startling proposal.
Chelsea Carson offered Ben a deal he couldn't refuse. He could keep the family fruit orchard if he would make her one and only dream come true. But there were to be no strings attached, no messy emotions when it was over. Their makeshift marriage would be perfect―unless Chelsea allowed love to bungle the plan.
Rated 4/5 stars on 2 reviews
Donna: This book was one of the best-selling titles I wrote for Harlequin. The original title of this book, when it first came out, was Wife for a While. Once I acquired the publishing rights to the book, I spent two months working on it, adding some steamy moments that Harlequin wouldn't allow, editing, updating and expanding the scenes, and developing the characters. I worked with a cover designer to come up with the packaging, and I am so pleased with the result. I'm so happy, in fact, that I would love to give away a few copies to your readers! (What can I say? Joy makes me do crazy things.)
The marriage-of-convenience story is about a young woman who is hindered by events that took place in her past and the man who helps her to overcome the obstacles. I write romance novels, so I'm not giving anything away when I reveal that they do find their happily ever after. As all romance readers know, it's about the journey, not the destination.
Cookie's Mom: You are also involved in an anthology of personal stories called Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories. I love that all of the proceeds from sales of this book go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to fight breast cancer.
Cookie's Mom: Can you tell us about this book? How did you become involved?
Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories
Product Description (Source: Amazon.com)
This exciting anthology contains stories from twenty-five women from different parts of the world. Their ages differ, as do their backgrounds and locations, but one thing they all have in common is a spirit of independence and a determination to not only succeed, but prevail. Whether their struggles are to maintain balance between motherhood and career, escape from an abusive relationship, or to step out in faith and pursue a dream, all of these women have forged their own path.
As women, one of our most powerful "gifts" is the ability to encourage one another. This book is an effort to encourage women across the world. These twenty-five women share stories that will make you laugh, inspire you, and maybe even make you cry. Their hope is that these stories will inspire YOUR independent spirit and allow you to live the life you were meant to live.
In addition, each woman has included a “sneak peek” into one of her own novels.
Rated 5/5 stars on 6 reviews
Donna: Sometimes you wake up to a miracle, and that's what happened to me with this book! I opened my e-mail and there was an invitation to join this project. I still don't know how or why Cheryl Shireman and Heather Adkins (the wonderful ladies who came up with the idea) thought of including me; I'm only glad they did.
The book is an anthology of personal experiences that are meant to inspire and inspirit women. Some of the stories are tragic, some are silly, but all of them are encouraging. Readers will also find sample chapters of one book from each author; however, there is a table of contents included in the front that allows readers to go directly to personal stories and bypass the sample chapters, if they wish.
What I am most proud of is the fact that this amazing group of women are helping other women by donating all the proceeds of this book to fight breast cancer.
Readers can find out more about Indie Chicks at donnafasano.blogspot.com.
Cookie’s Mom: Thinking of all of the books you have had published, which of your stories is YOUR favourite, or is that an unfair question?
Donna: My books are like kids; some are witty, some are introverted, some smart, some have a funny streak, some are somber, some are outrageous … how's a mother supposed to pick a favorite?
Cookie’s Mom: I thought you might say that!
What’s changed for you with respect to writing romance and women’s fiction over the years? Has the process changed at all? Where do your story and character ideas come from? Is that different today than when you first started out?
Donna: Ideas are sparked in myriad ways. I might meet someone who has an interesting character trait or read about a tragic happening; I might see an amazing news segment or overhear a snippet of conversation between strangers while I'm out shopping. Anything can light the embers of my imagination, and once that first tiny flame ignites, it's up to me to stoke it into a bonfire. The process hasn't really changed for me over the years, but I can tell you that the course of action—or how a story gets from brain to paper (or hard drive)—can vary greatly from one writer to the next. I do a lot of thinking before I sit down at my computer. All I do know is that, once an idea takes hold, the creating and unfolding is as close to a miraculous event as I have ever experienced. I can't begin to understand it; I only know that the creation seems to take on a life of its own. While I'm writing, the story, the people feel real to me, and it's easy for me to get lost in that world. Sometimes the best thing for me to do is just get out of the way and let it happen … and type as fast as the scenes and conversations in my head flow.
Cookie’s Mom: You've recently decided to self-publish. What do you enjoy about being an independent author? It must be liberating. Are you more successful as an independent? What are its downsides?
Donna: I never imagined that I would ever venture out into the publishing world all on my own. This new career path often runs through beautiful green meadows, but I've also encountered a pothole or two. Or three. Being an indie author is liberating. I'm free to write whatever I wish. I've toyed with the idea of publishing the children's stories I wrote years ago. And my love of cooking calls me to write a cookbook. I recently wrote an article about my experience as an indie author that was published in Words With Jam magazine (see pages 26-27). The opportunities to publish my work seem endless now. The largest limiting factor is lack of time. Without a publisher to handle the editing, cover design, publishing and marketing, I am left to do it all. I've been fortunate to find a group of talented people who are willing to help me, but I've learned that finding success takes a lot of work. I'm really happy that readers are finding my books, and when two of my books hit Amazon Kindle's Top 100 list, I felt I'd found more success as an indie author than I could have ever dreamed. I can't say that I'm more successful now than I was as a traditionally published author; I've sold over 3.5 million paperback books worldwide. But I've only been an indie for a couple of years. The way I see it, there's a wide open road ahead and I'm in the driver's seat.
Cookie’s Mom: That's a lot of books - 3.5 million! Wow.
What’s coming up for you in the future?
Donna: I have seven more backlist books that I have to update (which includes adding those "dancing" scenes mentioned above), edit and format; the newest of which is HIS WIFE FOR A WHILE. Once I get all of my backlist up for sale, I have a completed manuscript with the working title HINDSIGHT that needs an overhaul before I can upload it for sale. After that I'll start thinking of another book, and then another, and another. Now that I'm an Independent Author, I feel a freedom that I've never experienced before.
Cookie’s Mom: That's great news, Donna. I'm looking forward to reading some of those new scenes!
Donna, readers often enjoy hearing about who and what their favourite authors like to read. Would you please share with us some of your favourite authors or favourite books?
Donna: I've spent my whole life reading, and my taste in books is pretty eclectic. Here are some of the books that have stuck with me:
Stephen King's The Stand and Dolores Claiborne
Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas series
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (the best romance ever)
Jonathon Kellerman's Alex Delaware books
LaVyrle Spencer's Morning Glory
Catherine Cookson's The Cinder Path (I still own a copy of this book)
Agatha Christie (too many titles to name)
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (from my childhood)
Grace Metalious's Peyton Place (oh, the drama … yum!)
Colleen McCollough's The Thorn Birds
Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones
Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner
Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones
I could go on forever.
Oh, wait! I can't leave out McMurtry's Lonesome Dove
Or Stephen King's The Green Mile
Cookie’s Mom: The Kite Runner is one of my favourite books, and I agree with your assessment of Pride and Prejudice. I read a lot of Catherine Cookson’s work when I was younger.
Finally, if you could be anything else other than a writer, what would you like to be and why?
Donna: I would love to be a teacher; there is no greater calling than to be a positive influence on the lives of children.
I would love to be a therapist, helping people to understand that the past is just that, the past. They are not the things that were done to them, that they are not the things that they have done. That's it's possible to let go and move on. And that their Creator wants nothing more than for them to lead happy, productive lives.
I would love to be a musician. Music can stir the soul like nothing else.
I would love to be a doctor. It must be amazing to help sick people heal and become healthy.
I would love to be a circus clown because there is no sound more beautiful than laughter.
I would love to be a strip…um, ah, wait…I was only supposed to choose one fantasy profession, wasn't I?
Cookie’s Mom: Donna, thanks so much for joining me today! Best of luck to you!
Donna: Sue, I am very happy and feel honored to visit your blog and answer your questions. From the very first time we interacted, you were warm, friendly and helpful, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. ♥
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Growing up the third child of five—yes, smack dab in the middle and the only girl to boot—Donna Fasano had no idea she would one day be a published author. Her story-telling talents came to light when she conjured lively and elaborate tales of pure blarney (yes, she has a bit of Irish in her blood) for, first, her youngest brother, and years later, her children.
Donna sold her first manuscript in 1989, and since then has become a bestselling, award-winning author of over thirty novels and four audio books. She writes under her own name, Donna Fasano, as well as under the pen name Donna Clayton and is known for her "smooth, polished" writing style and for creating "strong, complex" characters. Reviewers have described her stories as "poignant," "richly textured," "enticing," and "absorbing." The writing process can be extremely engrossing for Donna, so much so that she's missed appointments with dentists and doctors, lunches with friends and family, and once she even forgot her carpool run. Luckily, the people in her life make allowances for this quirk.
Still happily married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of two grown sons who have flown the coop. She and her husband share their home with Roo, a spotted red and cream Australian cattle dog that looks (and acts) like a wild dingo. Donna's spare time is spent reading, walking the countryside and beach, or trying out new recipes from one of the many cookbooks she has collected over the years. Oh, and one night a week she and her hubby nab some alone time from their busy schedules, enjoying a nice glass of wine and a movie—preferably a romantic comedy.
~ Source: http://home.comcast.net/~donnafaz/bio.html
Ways to connect with Donna
Donna’s Blog - http://www.donnafasano.blogspot.com/
Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1111480.Donna_Fasano
Twitter - http://twitter.com/DonnaFaz
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/DonnaFasanoAuthor
A selection of books by Donna Fasano
Now also available:
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Don't forget to enter the giveaway for one of three copies of His Wife for a While:
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