Jul 18, 2012

Legends At LoveCats . . . Robyn Donald


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.

How many books have you had published so far in your career?
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.

The world of publishing is ever evolving, how have you stayed on top of trends and continued to give your readers what they want?
 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.

Which of your books is your favourite, and why?
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.

Are you a plotter or a panster?
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.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
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

What do you love most about being a romance author?
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 .....


  1. You said, "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." Well, *I* treasure those (rare) moments when I read and reread a sentence or two because I love how the author has written it/them. You write them; I'll read them. Sounds like a match made in heaven, LOL!

  2. Robyn, it's such a thrill to have you here at LoveCats! I've been reading your books for years and dipping into your romance world is a special treat for me. Your books have a lovely feel and emotional intensity that I love to immerse myself in. Over the years I feel I've been treated to discover wonderful places you know so well (the north of NZ and the Pacific in particular) but especially to follow the ups and downs of your hero and heroine's stories.

    Thanks for the interview. I loved your idea of writing the ending when the middle gets tough. I've never tried that but might give it a go in future. Like you I don't plot in detail and find myself writing to discover what's going to happen. What fun!

    Thanks so much for sharing. I'm wondering what sort of story you're working on now.

  3. Squee, squeee, squeeeeeeee! Robyn Donald is visiting the kitties.

    Robyn, lovely to read your interview. You know I'm a huge fan because I've told you (in a totally non creepy way, of course, LOL!).

    I think you write the most wonderful emotional intensity - is there any particular technique you use to achieve that level of edge-of-the-seat tension between your hero and heroine? Once I pick up one of your books, I can't put it down until I get to the end, happy and completely wrung-out and wanting ANOTHER one straightaway.

    It's interesting to read that you're such a non-plotter. Me too. Someone at a writing workshop I did had a wonderful phrase for my writing process and it seems to fit yours too - we're our own first readers. Once I know what's going to happen, it all becomes as flat as a pancake for me in the writing process. Like you, I dearly wish I was a plotter but not to be.

    Thanks so much for coming here today. It's a real treat!!!! And thanks, Love Cats, for inviting a genuine legend to share her wisdom. xxx

  4. Thank you Robyn for sharing your journey. Great post Helen.

  5. Robyn, it's so wonderful to have you at LoveCats today.

    Bride At Whangataptu was the very first Mills & Boon I read when I was eleven years old and it was that book which made me fall in love with romance. Logan will always be one of my favourite heroes.

    So many of your books are on my keeper shelf - like The Colour of Midnight - now that's one deliciously tortured hero.

    Thankyou for being her today and for all the wonderful books you've written and I look forward to reading number 86 :)

  6. Robyn Donald is one of the main reasons I'm now writing for Mills and Boon too - and a part of me can't believe I'm writing that sentence! Thank you for your brilliant stories and endless inspiration :)
    x Abby Green

  7. Very nice interview. Congratulations on the book!


  8. Awesome interview, Helen, and thanks for taking the time out to answer questions Robyn. It's just fabulous to hear you've been a pantser for 86 books! I can't wait to share that with the writers I mentor who are always thinking they *should* be plotting. My all-time favourite of Robyn's is "Some Kind of Madness". The hero Alick was hot, hot, hot! And he wasn't taking no for an answer. Emotional intensity +

  9. Robyn, thank you so much for sharing this with us here today! I hadn't realised that you started writing 10 years before sending off your first to M&B. and I can't imagine your reaction at seeing that Tiffany box when you reached #75!! You so deserve it.
    Thank you for all those wonderful stories =)

  10. Robyn, you have always been an inspiration to me. I've loved your stories, listened to your words of wisdom, and enjoyed your company.
    All the best for the next - 75?? I can't see you slowing down any time soon.
    Sue MacKay

  11. Hi Robyn, So lovely of you to come visit us today! Many congratulations on -*how many books??* 86!! You are indeed a legend! (Currently revising book 4- another 82 seems very daunting- hopefully I'll have got the hang of it by then!)

    Thank you for your part in my journey- your Kara writing weekend seems a long time ago now, but nevertheless a huge learning curve for me filled with lots of aha moments!

  12. 86 books and counting. Most impressive. I wonder how many of these I have read over the years?

  13. Hi Robyn
    I have stacks of your books on my keeper shelf. Actually they don't fit so I have a big green eco shopping bag with the overflow. One of the things I particularly like is the links to other stories. When I do a reread I have to read in order so all the links work properly.

  14. Hi Robyn, you are absolutely inspiring to us all. Thank you.

    Jane Beckenham

  15. Oh wow, it's Robyn! So nice to get to know a bit more beyond the sweet, gentle, modest Robyn we meet at conference - and to know she is all those things and more! :-) A true Kiwi legend - and rightly (?writely?) so. I echo Laney4's comments. A great interview with a great lady!

  16. Reading this interview had gave me 1 more "important thing" about writing book, thank you

    love the cover, i think red gown is always glamour :)

  17. Thank you all so much for your lovely remarks. I tried to answer individually yesterday, but for some reason couldn't get through. Thanks to kind Helen Lacey I'm trying again - typing with crossed fingers! So I'm afraid this will be a general answer. I'm so glad I mentioned that I'm a pantser - or an organic writer, as a long-suffering editor once described me. Sounds better than disorganised, doesn't it. And as an ex-teacher, it's great to think that I've had some small influence on so many excellent writers! Now it's back to work, trying to work out how to to start the next book - and who it's to be about...
    Robyn Donald

  18. What a lovely photo of Robyn! And hooray for pantsers everywhere!

  19. Thanks so much for visiting Love Cats, Robyn! I loved learning more about you, especially what it was like for you in the early days. The world's so lucky to have your stories, but we kiwis are *especially* privileged to have such a fantastic romance pioneer in our midst. {:o)

  20. Robyn, it's so wonderful to have you here at the LoveCats!

    86 books!!! Am applauding madly. :-) Though, I have to say I'm breathing a huge sigh of relief that computers did come along. While handwriting those first 11 manuscripts must have been a mammoth task (mind you, I like writing my first draft by hand), handwriting the revisions must've been a nightmare.

    And I just have to say that I think the cover of Stepping out of the Shadows is gorgeous.

  21. Hi Robyn, it's so nice to put a face to the name. Another talented Kiwi doing so so well out there in the big wide world. I love your work and I love how the front covers of your books have "New Zealand Author" written on them and proudly displayed in our shops, it always makes me instantly pick them up. Good luck with your future stories :)

  22. Terrific interview, Helen and thanks, Robyn, for taking the time to be interviewed, you're a legend.
    Lesley Millar

  23. Just wanted to say a huge Thank you to Robyn for joining us at LoveCats - it has been wonderful to have you here.

  24. Hi Robyn...Can't wait to read 'Stepping out of the Shadows'. Like you i cannot say that i have a favourite book. I love reading and if i fall in love with a story, it automatically becomes a favourite of mine.

  25. Robyn, I have some of your books on my keeper shelf. So glad to get to know you a bit more through this interview!

  26. Robyn, welcome to the LoveCats! Sorry I'm late, late, late - we're on the road at the moment so Internet is intermittent. But I just wanted to say how much I love your books! Like Rachel, I have lots of your books on my keeper shelf - which sadly means they are 3000 kms away at the moment or I'd be tempted to get one out for a read right now!

    Helen, thanks so much for having Robyn to visit!