In The Spotlight Today: Robin Donovan!

April 3rd, 2019 → 6:55 pm @

How old are you and where are you from?

My first book came out in 2010 and the menopausal protagonist, Donna Leigh, was patterned after me. I was in the early days of menopause back then.

I was born in Jersey City, NJ, so in many ways the dye was cast. At a young age I moved to Connecticut and experienced a very different culture – it was a remarkably broadening experience. Today, I live in Omaha, NE and the merging of these three very different cultures is what enables me to build multi-dimensional characters and when I do create characters that are two-dimensional, it’s deliberate. I’ve recently added a ski home in Utah – more grist for the mill.

Tell us more about your book!

My Donna Leigh Mystery series (with three books) features the menopausal owner of an Omaha ad agency, Donna Leigh. In each book, someone from Donna Leigh’s world has been murdered – and in each case her connection to the victim propels her into the investigation. Donna Leigh has enabled me to address all of the pet peeves I have collected in years of reading cozy mysteries. I work hard to eliminate red herrings as well as other painfully stereotypical cozy mystery devices, i.e. when a disguised voice phones to invite Donna to a remote area, late at night and alone in order to obtain a lead – she let’s loose a torrant of anger as she explains that she was not born yesterday and she will never fall for that ploy. Donna Leigh is a smart and attractive woman who is not perfect. She’s not twenty-something, skinny, flawless and brilliant – she has her flaws – but they don’t keep her from being awesome, and funny.

You’re sharing an elevator with a big name publisher. Pitch your book using 20 words or less!

Do you want to give readers an Evanovich-like laugh and a legitimate mystery to solve? Let’s talk.

What does your writing space look like?

In the winter, I like to be sitting at a huge window, looking out at a majestic mountain with a glass of white wine in my hand and my laptop on my lap. In the summer, I typically start out on the couch in my family room and switch to the table on my deck as the day warms. I add the white wine at 5 pm.

If your book was turned into a movie, who would play your main characters?

I think Bette Midler would crush the role of Donna Leigh. And once you have Bette, nothing else really matters. Nevertheless, I think my first murder victim, Claire Dockens would ideally be played by Julia Child – unfortunately, she’s not available – but she would have been perfect! Paris Hilton would make an awesome Clovis Cordoba Seville, that built in narcissism would be an ideal enhancement to her performance. Pam Ferris and Felicity Kendal from the British TV murder series Rosemary and Thyme would make an excellent Peg and Babs.

You’re stranded on an island, and only one character from any book can save you. Who are you picking?

I would want to be stranded with Clovis Cordoba Seville. Despite her incredibly annoying personality, there is nothing like extreme narcissim to get your demands met, and without an adoring audience, Clovis would not stick around on any island.

Besides being a writer, what else do you enjoy?

Well, reading, naturally. I also love my bulldogs (English and French), dancing, skiing and wine dinners with friends. I do enjoy working at my ad agency, Bozell, but that’s work.

I would want to be stranded with Clovis Cordoba Seville. Despite her incredibly annoying

Follow Robin on social media!

Facebook Author page: RL Donovan

Series page: Donna Leigh Mysteries

Check out her mystery series, available no on amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/Robin-Leemann-Donovan/e/B009G5AKCS?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1554301202&sr=8-1

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This Week’s Author Round Up: Writing Difficulties

February 25th, 2019 → 6:53 pm @

My Donna Leigh Mystery series revolves around a menopausal ad agency owner in Omaha, Nebraska. Although each book encompasses the murder of someone known to the protagonist, the books are actually comedies. With three books in the series, the challenges have been in finding credible enough yet over-the-top comedic events, without an over-abundance of similarity, and in keeping the plot fresh enough overall that the books don’t start to feel formulaic.

Evanovich’s protagonist, Stephanie Plum, pretty much always sets a car on fire, it’s her signature comedic move. Perhaps I should have set a precedent like that, because creating new and outrageous scenarios is increasingly a challenge.

Each book requires approximately six comedic events to keep things moving at a fast pace. I realized this would be a daunting task as early as my second book, and the third book was that much more intimidating.

Along those same lines, it is a genuine challenge to keep my plots from becoming formulaic. The same characters want to say and do the same things. It is imperative to find ways to pull them out of their comfort zone without pulling them out of character.

Folks have suggested that I move on from Donna Leigh and start a whole new series, but my gut is telling me to stick with her for at least another book or two. And if I’ve learned one thing in this whole experience, it’s to trust my gut.

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This week’s author Round up: writing goals

February 4th, 2019 → 9:34 pm @

My goals in my first book: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? grew in number as the writing progressed. I wanted to show that menopausal women can be cool and that female amateur sleuths don’t have to be 20-something, stunningly gorgeous and brilliant (but end up doing really stupid things like meeting the murderer with no weapon and no back up in a dark alley). Female sleuths don’t have to be either 20-something or Miss Marple with nothing in between. My sleuth, Donna Leigh, is menopausal, attractive but not perfect and smart but not flawless.

A great panel

 

I wanted to clearly avoid my most common pet peeves,

Bookdisplay

Bookdisplay

the ones repeated throughout cozy mysteries that I read, e.g. men are always telling female sleuths “I am angry, you need to stay out of this investigation.” This rant is generally repeated ad nauseum throughout the plot. The female sleuth typically ignores this command, yet often frets that she’s making the macho guy mad with every move she makes. I’m sick to death of this and I’m guessing others are as well.

I wanted to show that the most appealing woman doesn’t have to be the thinnest – that women can be spectacular, desirable and stylish at any weight.

I also wanted to show that comedy doesn’t have to detract from the mystery in a murder mystery. If the author is careful not to leave a trail of red herrings and is diligent in answering every question in an interesting and compelling way, a comedy can be every bit as suspenseful a drama.

Have I met these goals? Feedback from readers tells me I have – maybe not every goal with every reader – but enough to know it’s all in there.

www.bozell.com

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This week’s author Round up: Writing Influences

January 15th, 2019 → 10:52 pm @

I would have to say that I had five writing style influences, and try as I might, I cannot eliminate any of them.

Donna Leigh Mysteries

Donna Leigh Mysteries

In my early years it was Cornelia Otis Skinner, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Their droll approach at humor never failed to amuse and entertain me. As dark as some of their topics were, their depictions of characters and how they behaved would often have me laughing out loud.

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By the time I reached high school, I had added James Thurber to the mix. The Night the Bed Fell on Grandpa felt as though it had happened in my life, and in fact, that type of event was not uncommon as I grew up. I frequently wrote letters and then emails to family and acquaintances using these four icons to help guide my style.

Sharing ideas

Sharing ideas

Humor was what kept our family together, and humor is in my veins. I guess writing humorous novels was inevitable.

As I prepared to write my first novel, Janet Evanovich joined the ranks of influences. The grace and ease with which she is able to move from serious issues to hilarious occurrences is something I wanted to emulate. I actually studied the components of her work to form a pattern for my own. Enough humor, but not so much that it destroys the balance of the plot.

www.bozell.com

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This week’s author Round up question: What are my writing plans for 2019

January 7th, 2019 → 3:56 pm @

I would like to write my fourth book in the Donna Leigh Mystery series. Instead I will focus on writing every guest blog post, guest column, author interview and any other means of getting exposure for the first three books in the series. If offers aren’t forthcoming, I will reach out in writing and offer my services.

Luckily, I enjoy interviews and blogging as well as the writing of the actual novels, but let’s face it, the novels are more fun. Right now I am honoring my pragmatic side and trying to build some steady sales for the series before putting my concentration into creation.

In order to ensure that I doggedly pursue this goal, I keep reminding myself that it doesn’t really matter when that fourth book is released if the readers will be few and far between. In the meantime, I’m capturing notes on the details of book four as they occur to me. Starting that writing process will be my reward if I see enough progress in sales. if I’m being honest – there will never be enough sales, but a noticeable uptick would be enough to get me writing again!

www.bozell.com

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This week’s author Round up Addresses the Difficulty of Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex

December 17th, 2018 → 4:16 pm @

I killed a woman in each of my first two books. They were intimate and personal murders and the details revealed themselves easily.

No women were killed in my third book, only men. I won’t mention the number (you know, spoiler alert), but suffice it to say that there has been nothing personal and/or intimate about how I have murdered men.

It’s not something I’d ever thought about before answering this question, but the facts are undeniable. I kill women more elegantly than I kill men.

Sharing ideas

Sharing ideas

LaVista Author Talk

 

I’ve read about how men tend to murder in a more gruesome and personal way and women prefer a cleaner, poison-based crime. In examining my work, I would have to say that I’ve murdered women in a more gruesome, close up manner (none of which have not been graphically depicted because they are cozy mysteries) and the men in a more distant method with less explicit details that are abruptly glossed over.

Get a jump on your Christmas shopping

Get a jump on your Christmas shopping!

Why that is remains unclear to me, although as I unpeel the onion the women have been murdered for bad behavior in personal relationships, that caught up with them. My men, on the other hand, have been murdered for acts far more public than personal. This leads me to believe that I am may not be comfortable addressing men’s private feelings and related actions, so I build a layer of separation between their feelings and the motives for their murders.

Perhaps, it’s merely because my third book is my first experience with murdering a friend. Could it be as simple as that? Murdering a friend was definitely more difficult than murdering those hateful, shrewish women. It was a genuine challenge to find the right balance between expressions of grief and sadness without completely killing the humor.

When I review the question about the difficulties of writing for the opposite sex I have more questions than answers. Who would have guessed that with all my focus on writing mysteries, I am the real mystery?

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This Week’s Round Up Shares My Writing Quirks

December 10th, 2018 → 10:33 pm @

I usually write all day Saturday and Sunday when I’m working on a novel. I have a portable writing desk and I make myself comfortable on our sectional sofa surrounded by my ipad for thesaurus needs, coffee or diet soda and my three bulldogs and their various antics.

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My favorite part of the day is when I can wind down a writing session with a glass of white wine. In the summer I take it out onto the deck and breath in all the beauties of the outdoors. In the winter, I get the fire going and watch nature through large windows and skylights. It’s almost as though my diligence during the day has earned me the right to relax and enjoy nature – and wine.

Sharing ideas

Sharing ideas

Much of my first novel was written on a ski trip to Utah. After a day of skiing, I would sit in front of a fourteen-foot high window in our rental house, drinking white wine, gazing at the mountains and waiting for deer to pass by. It was amazing how much work I was able to get done in an hour or two each afternoon.

Conversely, when editing, I sit rigidly at the desk in my home office and plow through chapter after chapter. Even those areas that require a fair amount of writing do not get me to budge from my dedicated station. And I don’t look out the windows located behind me,

While writing or editing, I constantly save my work. I save two copies to a flash drive and two copies to my desktop. Whenever I get up to go to the bathroom, take a phone call, grab a bite or get out of the way of a determined bulldog – I save my file four times, sometimes eight when I want to double check. Hmmm, I guess I’m quirkier than I thought.

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This Week’s Round Up Question: What is the Most Difficult Part of the Artistic/Writing Process?

December 5th, 2018 → 8:54 pm @

My Donna Leigh Mystery series revolves around a menopausal ad agency owner in Omaha, Nebraska. Although each book encompasses the murder of someone known to the protagonist, the books are actually comedies. With three books in the series, the challenges have been in finding credible enough yet over-the-top comedic events, without an over-abundance of similarity, and in keeping the plot fresh enough overall that the books don’t start to feel formulaic.

Evanovich’s protagonist, Stephanie Plum, pretty much always sets a car on fire, it’s her signature comedic move. Perhaps I should have set a precedent like that, because creating new and outrageous scenarios is increasingly a challenge.

Each book requires approximately six comedic events to keep things moving at a fast pace. I realized this would be a daunting task as early as my second book, and the third book was that much more intimidating.

Along those same lines, it is a genuine challenge to keep my plots from becoming formulaic. The same characters want to say and do the same things. It is imperative to find ways to pull them out of their comfort zone without pulling them out of character.

Folks have suggested that I move on from Donna Leigh and start a whole new series, but my gut is telling me to stick with her for at least another book or two. And if I’ve learned one thing in this whole experience, it’s to trust my gut.

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Check out my “hardest scene to write” in this week’s author Round Up

November 26th, 2018 → 4:24 pm @

Question: What Was Your Hardest Scene to Write?

In my first book Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? I wrote a scene featuring a remodeling contractor from a small town in Nebraska. I wanted to change his pattern of speech from the arguably more urban patterns of the characters residing in Omaha. I wanted there to be a distinction.

I wasn’t trying to make this character sound distinctly back woods, rural because that’s not really a thing in Nebraska, so finding a distinction was challenging. He wasn’t uneducated, so giving him bad grammar was not the solution, and we tend to be accent neutral in Nebraska so I didn’t have much with which to work.

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I wanted this character to be sweet and just a tad naïve. How does that sound? As I wrote, I found myself slipping into the cadence of a southern twang – NO! edit, edit, edit.

A great panel

A great panel

 

After finishing the book it officially went into editing. On the fourth round, my editor commented “you have this contractor who starts out talking like a hick and almost immediately evolves into having the elocution of a Harvard grad. Fix it.” Wow, how I not see that?

So, I was back at the drawing board. That short scene was the hardest I’ve ever written or rewritten – before or since. I labored over every word he spoke. In the end, I had to invent some speech patterns based on imagination and fleeting experience with folks in rural areas either through road trips across the state, or films about the Midwest. I think it works – but even now I’m not positive. In fact I can feel myself starting to perspire as I write the response to this question.

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Check Out My Writer Spectacle Interview

October 8th, 2018 → 8:05 pm @

Writer Spectacle #4 Featured Writers

Writer Spectacle
Featured Writers

 

Robin Leeman Donovan

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What kind of content do you mostly write?
humorous cozy mysteries

How long have you been writing?
novels – 8 years

How many hours do you dedicate to writing per week on average?
8 hours on Saturday and Sunday – when I’m writing a novel

Do you have any formal education, mentoring, or experience related to writing?
I was an English major and took creative writing classes

In one sentence, what motivates you to write?
I have a huge amount of fun when I’m writing comedy.

Do you have any funny or unusual writing habits?
When I was working with a publisher and I would get the manuscript back all marked up, I would have a have a one-sided dialogue as I read through manuscript. If I disagreed with the comment i would become indignant and sometimes yell my objections, and when I felt the comment was an improvement on my work I would complimemt the manuscript graciously. I often wondered how entertaining a video of me reading my manuscript comments would be.

Pick an excerpt from any of your writing that you’re really proud of
“You mean Donny was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time? A victim of circumstance?”

“That’s about it.”

In all the years I knew Donny, through all his bark and bluster, I knew the one thing he would hate about this was the fact that he was insignificant in his own death.

What advice, if any, would you give to a fellow writer who has just been rejected by several large publishers and told he or she has zero chance to make it as a writer?
If you are certain that the work has merit there are other avenues than the large publishers. You owe it to yourself to investigate another way to get your work out there.

What is the most important tip that you can offer other writers?
Manage your expectations. If your work is great and the feedback you get is consistantly positive, that still doesn’t mean you’ll ever be Janet Evanovich. You have to understand and be okay with that. Even if you don’t make millions from your work, there are moments that will make it one of the top 5 (or even 3) experiences of your life.

What would you say are some common traps that aspiring writers should avoid?
That the work is so good they don’t need an editor or a proofreader.

That acclaim will come to you and you won’t have to work your butt off for everything you get.

That you HAVE to take every piece of advice from your editor.

Have you had any adversity or challenges surrounding your writing career? If yes, what?
I wrote the first half of my third book while I was getting ready to edit my second book. When I went back to it after two years, it was just awful. I honestly didn’t think it could be salvaged. I spent some time thinking and came up with an ending that wouldn’t have been possible two years earlier. Once I had that ending, I was able to go back and edit the first half. Then I absolutely loved it and finished the second half of the book with relative ease. I never expected to like that book – and I love it. It would have been extremely defeating to have had to abandon all that work.

A direct link to your most proud of written work
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=donna+leigh+mysteries&sprefix=Donna+leigh+m%2Caps%2C159&crid=2AVA1BUQ9T752

Amazon link to: Donna Leigh Mysteries

Your website or blog
www.rldonovan.com

If a new writer asked you what you thought was needed to become an internationally famous and successful writer, what you would say or recommend them to do?
Have someone you know well get murdered, and then write a book about it. I have found that there is one absolute besides death (no pun intended) and taxes, if you are personally involved in a murder and you write a book about it – you WILL get a book and movie offers – no matter how badly you write. The more gory the murder the more celebrated the fame.

You are tasked with cleaning up and organizing a dirty, junky 10,000 sq. ft. mansion within 24 hours. The owner of the mansion hasn’t made an attempt to straighten the place out in 3 years. You are given $3000. What would you do to get it as clean and organized as possible for its happy owner?
I would find an OCD therapy group and invite them to a party at the mansion. I would use the money to for food and party favors, you know, Swiffers and windex. All of the party games would revolve around getting an area the cleanest and most organized. Bonus points would earn them extra areas to clean.

Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m kind of a ham and I like to make people laugh. That said, my mysteries hold together. I don’t believe that I can phone in the clues and leave red herrings all over just because my focus is humor. I also don’t believe that smart sleuths will deliberately paint themselves into a dangerous corner – like almost every brilliant, young and gorgeous sleuth tends to do (sure, I’ll meet the heavily breathing, disguised voice creep that calls and invites me to a dark alley at midnight). My sleuth is smart but imperfect, menopausal but cool and she’s a whole lot more relatable than a lot of today’s amateur sleuths because she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

 

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