Author Interview with Donna Hatch
August 7, 2009
Welcome to The Hope Chest Reviews, Donna.
1. Since we share our home state of Arizona, I am curious to know if you are a native Arizonan, and what you like most about living here.
I am a native born and bred, although I haven't lived here all my life. I've left AZ and moved to places with nicer weather, but some evil invisible force keeps dragging me back. My favorite thing about it? It's NOT the heat, I'll tell you that! Nor the scorpions. Things I do like about the Sonoran Desert: no black ice, well laid-out streets on a grid, gorgeous sunsets and sunrises, cultural and ethnic diversity, the smell of rain which is totally unique, and dry heat, which I don't usually appreciate until I go someplace like Dallas or San Antonio where it's both super hot and super humid...then I appreciate why dry heat is a good thing. But mostly, what I like about AZ is that most of my family and my husband's family is here, so we stick around to be near them. If I had my ‘druthers' I'd move up to the Flagstaff area where there are four seasons and a tamer summer. My truly favorite thing about Arizona is its mountains!
2. I read in your bio that you are the mother of six children, and I must say that I'm very impressed that you were able to write a novel while dealing with the demands of motherhood. Do you have any advice for other moms who are juggling work and children?
It's a matter of priority. I gave up some things in order to feed my obsession - not terribly important things, but at times it does seem a sacrifice. I used to be OCD about having a clean house, but between being outnumbered by children who aren't worried about a clean house (what a surprise), and realizing it wasn't essential to their health and well-being, I relaxed about housework. Now I clean about once a week instead of every day and I also let non-essentials like dusting more or less go. I also gave up scrapbooking, TV, a lot of girls' night out things like Bunco parties, and most other hobbies or time wasters. And when I'm in the "zone," meals become painfully simple; frozen chicken nuggets, waffles, etc. Oh, and often I give up what I used to consider a necessary amount of sleep in order to write while my children are in bed.
3. When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
I've always written stories - my first one was at the age of 8 - but I first considered the idea of being a published author when my 8th grade home room teacher encouraged me to consider it.
4. Which authors have inspired you the most and in what ways?
It's hard to name any one author. I grew up reading a wide variety of books, most several grade levels above me, because I used to raid my older brother's bookshelf (he's 7 years older), so the authors I read all probably influenced me in small ways that I don't even realize.
5. What made you choose to write your stories in the Regency era rather than another time frame or sub-genre of romance?
Okay, get comfortable, because this is the part about which I become passionate. The Regency Era was unique in many ways. Clothing fashions underwent a dramatic change. The influence of the charismatic Beau Brummel took men out of bright colors, satins and ruffles that make one think of a peacock, and put them into more subdued colors and styles that evolved into the modern day tuxedo. People lost the powdered wigs and began bathing on a regular basis. The wealthy even had indoor plumbing. Josephine Bonaparte, who was influential in France, created the simpler women's fashions of flowing, empire-style gowns reminiscent of Greek gowns, which were quickly adopted by the English who, no doubt, were grateful to rid themselves of corsets, panniers, and laughable headdresses.
While images of hedonistic pleasures often come to mind, the Regency era was also steeped in manners, honor, and duty. I also love Regencies because of the way they spoke so eloquently. Reading Jane Austen is almost like ready poetry. Each word was carefully chosen for its beautiful wording, imagery and cadence. There was no mauling the language by the upper classes. They also had a great deal of wit. Indeed, wit was prized, and they excelled in using the understatement.
Regency men were educated and were taught to dance, read and recite poetry from a young age. They were athletic; they hunted, raced, fenced, rode horses. They were manly. Strong. Noble. Resolute. Honorable. And that is why I love them.
6. Do you think that you might ever write in any other sub-genre?
I love fantasy and I actually have written several, one in particular that I'm actively shopping but has yet to receive a contract.
I also love medieval romances, but I'm scared to delve into the research enough to feel that I can write in that era, so I will refrain yet a while longer.
7. What made you decide to write your romances in a sweet, traditional style?
I'm old-fashioned and I'm an insufferable prude. I freely admit it. I hate to follow characters into the bedroom (or wherever passion may strike). Also, I find the details usually distracting rather than adding to the story. Besides, what would Jane Austen think? ;-)
8. I understand that The Stranger She Married is your first published novel. How long did it take from start to finish to get it published?
From the moment I wrote the first word until the day it was released was a little over two years. Part of the delay came when my editor suggested I turn it into the first of a family series, which created major rewrites. I'm glad I did. It's been fun linking all these stories together in a way I hadn't originally planned.
9. Do you have any advice for other new authors who may be trying to get published?
I found it helpful to enter contests which gave detailed feedback/criticism from the judges. The nice thing about contest judges is that they are usually really trying to help, and they have no preconceived notions, nor are they worried about holding back. You can count on getting an honest critique. Painful sometimes, but honest. And often there's something to them. It's all subjective of course, and you must resist the temptation to either give up because the criticism hurts so bad, or to change everything everyone suggests. Look for trends that come back in the form of suggestions from the judges. If the majority of the judges say something very similar, then you may want to consider following that advice. My cycle after a contest: Cry. Stomp around and rant about how unfair and negative all the judges were. Eat lots of chocolate. Cry some more. Eat more chocolate. Wait a good week or more, then go back through the judges' suggestions and look for common suggestions. Ponder whether anything rings true. Write thank you notes to the judges via the coordinator. Roll up my sleeves and get to work making whatever changes I now see are necessary. Enter another contest.
The other thing I recommend is to take writing classes constantly. An awful lot of authors think talent alone will get them through. Not so. It also takes skill. And skill must be learned. You might be a really talented dancer, but unless you take classes and practice constantly, you will never dance for the New York Ballet, or even a local ballet. It's the same thing for writing.
10. What was the most challenging part of writing The Stranger She Married?
Keeping the mystery(ies) moving along and unfolding at the right pace was hard for me. I'm still not sure I did that well! It was hard to give clues that would make sense later but wouldn't be too obvious at the time while still keeping the story flowing along at a natural pace. I never meant it to have that much mystery in the beginning, but it kept creeping in on its own until I finally just gave in and let it flow.
11. What was your favorite part of writing The Stranger She Married?
Cole. I fell totally head over heels in love with him. He really battled his savage half, the one that came alive during the war and his year playing pirate with his brother Jared. But he was a true gentleman at heart who was still suffering over the horrors of war, so it was fun to see those two sides clash.
I also loved (and stressed about) trying to balance the believable Regency feel, with an easy to follow format that today's reader, who's not necessarily an expert on Regency terms, can follow.
12. In The Stranger She Married, there is a passage where Nicolas relates some of the stories of the constellations to Alicia. Do you share Nicolas' interest in Greek mythology and/or astronomy?
I do. I had College-prep English classes which covered Greek and Roman Mythology, but I've forgotten much of it, so I don't know as much about them as Nicholas does. I had to look up a few things. I've always wanted to take a class about astronomy and learn more about the constellations. One of my fondest memories of my uncle was looking through his telescope while he told me about the stars.
13. I have enjoyed reading the historical notes and tidbits on your blog and website. Do you enjoy doing historical research?
I have learned to love it. I didn't at first, mostly because I was overwhelmed by it. Reading Regencies and writing them are different, and as I began writing, I realized how much I didn't know. The problems arose because I didn't know how much I didn't know, so I made blunders along the way that it hadn't occurred to me to even research. Thank goodness for critique partners and a careful editor! But now, it's become sort of an obsession and I greedily devour anything I can find relating to the Regency Era. I've considered going back to college and getting a degree in English History.
14. For readers who aren't aware, The Stranger She Married is the first book in the Rogue Hearts series. You said that Cole's pirate brother, Jared, is going to be the hero of the next book. Do you also have books planned for his other two brothers, Grant and Christian, or any of the other characters from The Stranger She Married?
Yes. Jared's book, The Guise of a Gentleman, will be out early in 2010. Christian's is rough-drafted. Grant's is in the planning stages. My editor encouraged me to consider a book about Alicia's younger sister, but I have nothing in mind. I do have a couple potential stories knocking around in my brain for the older sisters, Margaret and Rachel, but nothing is solid yet.
15. Could you please tell us a little bit about Jared's upcoming book, The Guise of a Gentleman?
This story basically wrote itself. Elise needed to be developed, but Jared essentially walked off the page, and I pretty much just typed as fast as I could while I watched the movie of his story unfold in my mind's eye. I don't dare tell Cole that I love Jared every bit as much...perhaps even a little more. But then, I shouldn't play favorites just like mothers aren't supposed to have favorite children. Anyway, all I really did was take classes and research Pirates and the Navy to fill in the details, so I could get the sailing parts of the story accurate.
16. What are you currently working on?
I'm doing edits for Christian's story and am still researching/brainstorming plot details about Grant. I hope to have Christian's story out about six months after Jared's comes out.
Thank you so much for visiting with The Hope Chest Reviews to share about yourself and your work. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
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