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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Interview: Donna Dalton

The Long and the Short of it is excited to welcome Donna Dalton. Donna, a mixture of English on her mother's side and Irish and American Indian on her father's side, was born, raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she discovered a love for reading at an early age. She told me her Grandma Stone had a massive bookcase filled with such treasures as The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Then, when she reached an age thought appropriate, she was allowed access to "the hallowed romance collection."

It wasn't long before she started writing herself and was published in her high school's literary magazine. No genre was off limits to her imagination. As a matter of fact, one of her earliest stories, as a young girl, was about garden vegetables where the carrots, potatoes, and squash were all living characters. "Bringing my imagination to life," she told me, "was, and still in, wonderfully fulfilling."

Life intervened and she married and had children, with historical romances becoming her favorite escape from the demanding roles of wife and mother. But, time went on, the children grew up, and once the nest was empty, she focused on her writing career. She discovered that writing is not an easy process. "Nor is it stagnant," she said. "I’m always striving to improve my writing through workshops, conferences and talking with other writers both on-line and at the monthly VRW membership meetings."

As a matter of fact, it was at a workshop given by two Virginia Romance Writer members five years ago that prompted her to try her hand at writing historical romances. She told me, "I love reading that genre, so why not write them?"

And write them she has. Since beginning her writing career, she has written and published three full-length novels and has a fourth currently in progress. Irish Destiny was contracted with The Wild Rose Press in January 2007, followed by The Cavalry Wife and Irish Charm, which we are giving away in our weekly contest. She told me all of her books were favorite but Irish Charm proved to be the most challenging.

"Trying to weave romance into an intricate murder mystery plot was quite the task," she admitted. "I wanted to keep the reader engrossed with both the romance and the plot without giving away too much too soon. This story required a bit more plotting than the other two, but the end result is very satisfying."

The hero in Irish Charm, Jamie Donovan, was a secondary character in her first book, she told me. In her new book, Jamie is a Pinkerton agent, hot on the trail of a murderer. "He's a cocky Irishman," she said, "who uses his charms to bring criminals to justice and lure women to his bed. Most women, that is, except icy Agent Kathryn Mitchell. She's immune to his charms." Or, until she is forced by events to join up with Agent Donovan.

Most of Donna's writing is done early, as she's a morning person. "My best writing," she said, "is done between eight and noon. After that my brain decides it's siesta time and shuts down."

One of Donna's traits is that she's a compulsive organizer, a fact that has no doubt stood her in good stead in her writing. She told me, "That trait seems to have mellowed a bit with the years, much to the delight of my dear husband. Clutter drives me nuts, and I'm always straightening up." She hastened to assure me that she only does so in her own house. In another person's home she doesn't "no matter how badly I itch to adjust a crooked picture." I'm sorry she added that, because I was just before asking her to come visit…my house could use some compulsive organizing!

I asked Donna what was an expression she used a lot. "I say 'Oh my!' a lot when exclaiming over surprising incidents," she said. "Sometimes I add a 'goodness' or 'heavens' to the exclamation, but it’s usually just 'Oh my!'"

Donna shared with me she owned a quarter horse named Coke for a while before family issues made it necessary to sell him. "Trail rides through the Virginia Blue Ridge were my favorite excursions," she said. "But he's living with a good friend now, so I get to visit now and again."

Please visit Donna at her website.

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