Interview with Australian Author – Donna Munro

“Australian Authors” – Tell us a little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know?

Donna – I’m only 4′ 10″ and been called Shorty, Pygmie, Short Stuff among other names. It doesn’t bother me. I like being petite. Though I mostly write one genre (women’s fiction) I read widely. I once had such a bad sporting accident (head clash in basketball) my head injuries were equated to a car crash victim. My head was wrapped in pressure bandages. I looked like an Egyptian mummy and my youngest son wouldn’t come near me. I love Africa, wild animal, pets, children (I have two grandchildren), collecting notebooks, elephants, owls, The Roosters (NRL), beaches and sunshine, cheese, and I’m addicted to Peanut Butter.

“Australian Authors” – What made you want to become a writer?

Donna – I’ve written as long as I can remember. I wrote ‘The Mouse with the Musical Ears’ in second class. My mother nurtured a love of reading and though my dad had little education he encouraged me to question, research and broaden my education through practical sources as well as books. Making up stories makes people happy and that’s why I write, to make people happy, or at least feel something.

“Australian Authors” – What gives you inspiration for your book(s)?

Donna – Places, people, animals, children, and memories (especially deep-seated grief and recovery). Often the idea will be in my subconscious. It will take a while to form before I begin a story. I like things to brew. But, if necessary I can write to a prompt or assignment quickly.

“Australian Authors” – Now, the big question, are you working on another book?

Donna – Yes, always. I began with a different idea, but after I joined a critique group my focus shifted. I’m now fully engrossed in the process of creating my next general fiction book (tentatively titled Heartbreak House on Blueshell Beach). Receiving feedback from my peers has made me realise I should submit to traditional publishers rather than continue self-publishing. So my aim this year is to become hybrid.

“Australian Authors” – What genres do you prefer to write in?

Donna – I wrote mostly non-fiction during my freelance writing career. It was easier to sell than fiction. I always had a manuscript on the go. The first Bindi was general fiction with romantic elements (as most do). It was good but I had a lot to learn. I wrote a further four (all draw bound) before I published Elephant Creek. All tend to be high on romance but not category because I add suspense and twists. I guess I have my own style. I prefer character-driven stories and would probably say women’s contemporary fiction is my preferred genre.

“Australian Authors” – What do you think about the ebook revolution?

Donna – I don’t mind it. I knew things would go that way. I’ve been tech-savvy for quite some time. I worked with the first publisher in Australia to offer ebooks. They were ahead of their time, but sadly too far ahead and were originally scoffed at. Some people prefer Kindles and iPads but I love the feel and smell of real books. To me, nothing will replace relaxing with a good paperback or hardcover book.

“Australian Authors” – Do you start a book with a definite plot, or do you just write?

Donna – I brew the plot for a while; thinking, dreaming and taking notes. Early days I wrote a list of chapters and what would be in them (about a paragraph). I still use that if my plot seems to be wavering but I’m now more of a pantser, letting the GCM of the main characters make them do what they need to do. I love when the characters take over, and I know they are guiding the story in the right direction. Though of course, I have to pull them up every now and then.

“Australian Authors” – Pen or type writer or computer?

Donna – I used to do everything long-hand and then type it. It’s laborious. Now I write my stories in Word (with added Grammarly app) on my computer (HP laptop). I love technology, so I’m comfortable doing it that way.

“Australian Authors” – Do your characters seem to hijack the story, or are you always in control?

Donna – Always, in ways I don’t expect but find them as lovely surprises. I’m getting better at character development. That’s where they take on a life of their own. I become invested in their future.

“Australian Authors” – Are your characters based on real people or completely imagined?

Donna – Oh, should I admit that some are based on real people? Loosely of course. My husband believes he’s the love interest in every story, ha, ha (not that he’s read them). I guess I have to give him a little credit, especially since he loves me unconditionally though he doesn’t get the writing gig. Like all authors, if someone does me an injustice they may find themselves in a story, and not in a flattering light. Also, they may be killed off. Though, I did kill off a favourite character once, but that was only because of where the character led me rather than it being about anyone real. That was a sad moment.

“Australian Authors” – Have you thought about joining with another author to write a book?

Donna – I’ve done collaborative books so, yes. I featured in ‘Having it all at 50 Plus Innovative Edition’, had two stories in ‘Just What the Doctor Ordered’ and am working on an anthology with my critique partners where we’ll each submit two romance stories.

“Australian Authors” – Who are your favourite authors?

Donna – Early days I loved Nancy Drew (written by various authors), Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks, Puberty Blues by Gabrielle Carey and Kathy Lette and The Stud, The Natural (a surfer series that I have not been able to find since). I loved Tarzan novels too. Edgar Rice Burroughs encouraged my love of Africa. A standout was Gloria Keverne’s A Man Cannot Cry. Roots by Alex Haley. Australian authors Jennifer Bacia and Di Morrisey. More recently Mandy Magro and Liane Moriarty. I’ve just read fellow RWA author award-winning romantic suspense by Michelle Somers, Lethal in Love.

“Australian Authors” – What’s your advice to Authors? On writing? Publishing? Marketing?

Donna – On writing, read Stephen King’s On Writing and any other writing recourse you can get your hands on. Take courses like the RWA OWLs to improve your craft, and most of all WRITE! Find a critique group. On publishing, I submitted manuscripts over the years and gave up. In hindsight, I should have continued submitting because any feedback is good for improving. I self-published after I turned 50. I found the process easy but being a graphic designer and having a stint working for publishers gave me invaluable input, a(and what not to do). Anyone attempting it needs to find the right resources to self-publish professionally. I love the freedom of self-publishing but will now chase a book deal. Make sure the book is well edited. On marketing, that’s the tough one. Everyone says to build an author platform. Definitely have a website. You also have to market your books often and regularly. It’s time-consuming and takes away from writing time. If possible automate it and keep writing.

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