I'm delighted to be able to spotlight one of my favourite authors on Legends At LoveCats today.
Introducing the fabulous Robyn Donald . . .
Please tell us a little about your journey to first getting published?
I had no intention of writing novels until I found myself married, with a toddler and another on the way, having just moved from the small town I'd grown up in to Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city. I'd already found romances and was entranced by the work of the New Zealand and Australian writers for Mills & Boon. As I coped with morning sickness and loneliness, I found myself one day sitting down at the dining room table in the only spare time I had, the toddler's afternoon nap, and writing. With a pen.
I still have that first attempt. It's awful - banal, derivative, dull - you name the writing sin, I committed it. But I loved writing. Not that I finished that first novel - yet another sin. In fact, for ten years I wrote and wrote and wrote without every finishing a novel, until one day, when I'd returned to teaching, my husband had a heart attack and had to spend six weeks not working. He found this incredibly difficult, and so did I, as I'd been warned not to let him get stressed, so when he suggested I finish the novel I was working on I agreed - and did it, to our mutual astonishment. I had no idea what to do with this large, handwritten manuscript on lined school pads, so I asked a friend's daughter to type it for me, christened it 'Bride at Whangatapu' and sent it off to the only romance publisher I knew, Mills & Boon with a two-sentence letter requesting their consideration. To even more astonishment and much delight, it was accepted with minor revisions. Two years later I gave up teaching, and since then I've written consistently, sending off the 86th novel a couple of weeks ago.
Probably the biggest aid I've discovered was computers. I was a reluctant toe-dipper, encouraged by my husband and children to buy an Apple Mac when they first came out. Teaching myself to type was painfully slow. Although I'm fast I'm still inaccurate, but it certainly beats writing the first eleven books by hand! Email meant learning to control my urge to read every one as it comes in, and also opened whole new realms of friendship and information. But the most important thing for me is reading - romances, of course, but also following the many other genres and authors I love. And I never read reviews of my books...
What has been the highlight of your publishing career so far?
No excitement can beat being accepted for that first book. Fortunately I didn't know the second book was supposed to be more difficult to write, so I didn't worry about it. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss! Since then I've had too many pleasurable moments to be able to pick one occasion in particular, but being presented with a small Tiffany box by my editor to mark the publication of my 75th book was a real highlight.
I have no favourite book. It's like being asked which is your favourite child. 'Bride at Whangatapu' is special because it was the first. Others remind me of glorious holidays, and I do enjoy writing about my home of Northland in New Zealand. Taking part in the Niroli series was great fun and interesting. And I enjoy using minor characters from previous books and seeing how they're getting on.
Plotting is an arcane, mysterious process that other writers do. I've always envied writers who plot; it must be so reassuring, and once, buoyed by a charismatic speaker at a romance conference, I raced home and plotted three novels. None were written. I found the process of writing boring when I already knew what was going to happen. Reluctantly, I've accepted that I write to discover stories. The way I work is messy and slow, and involves a fair amount of rewriting and quite a few choice epithets, but it's the only way that works for me. Something I tell beginning writers is to try both ways, then settle on the one that works best for you. And never let anyone tell you that your way is inferior; if it works, stick with it. The most important thing is to finish each manuscript before starting the next.
The whole reason for writing is to tell stories, and every writer is different; each writer has a method of producing that is personal. I often get stuck in the middle of the book; I find the best way for me to overcome that is to write the final scene. It's amazing what I learn. Often it has to be scrapped because the story changes and the characters find a different path to the one I'd imagined, but it works for me
Although I've spent quite a lot of time tearing my hair over recalcitrant characters, I enjoy what I do enormously. I like working at home, I like being able to do what I like when I like, I love researching, and I treasure those (rare) moments when I reread a sentence or a phrase I've written in a tearing hurry, and realise with a jolt that it's turned out exactly the way I intended. And I like hearing from readers!
Thankyou Robyn for being with us today and generously answering our questions.
Leave a comment to go into the draw to win a fabulous hardback copy of Robyn's latest release, Stepping Out Of The Shadows .....