Check Out My Top Wire Interview

May 22nd, 2019 → 6:37 pm @


Don’t say it, do it. If you don’t like it when you’re done, put it away and take it out again when you’re ready to rewrite it until you do like it
-Robin Donovan

Today’s Author in the Spotlight is Robin Donovan. Author of the Donna Leigh Mystery Series, stories about an owner of an ad agency. Check out her interview below!

TW: What is your writing process?
RD: I break each novel into four parts. I do not allow myself to write anything directly connected to the ending until I begin writing the fourth segment. I keep a notebook of people and occurrences in each chapter to ensure that I don’t leave any gaping holes or red herrings in the plot. I allow myself some flexibility, e.g. I got halfway through my third book and put it aside to edit my second book. When I went back to it I realized it wasn’t good. As I was contemplating what to do, the perfect ending occurred to me, so I went ahead and wrote it. Once finished, I went back and edited the first half to make it fit and it all came together beautifully. I believe having the ending, in that case, made all the difference.

TW: How difficult was it to write your story?
RD: My first novel virtually wrote itself. It was as though someone said “go” and I did. Writing a series makes writing the rest of the books a bit more difficult. There have to be enough similarities in characters and occurrences to create a common thread without making the books seem formulaic, and in the case of comedy, without using the same comedic mechanisms over and over. Although Evanovich manages to make a car either blow up or catch fire in every Stephanie Plum novel – and she makes it work.

TW: What are your hopes for this project?
RD: My hope is that I will start seeing more regular sales so that I can focus less on promotion and write another in this series and possibly even start a different series. I spend an enormous amount of time promoting my three existing books and the fourth one is sitting in my head waiting to hit the pages. Just last week I received a wonderful compliment from a TV writer and author in LA. Up until that note, I was just enjoying the writing and the speaking engagements, not to mention the written interviews, blog posts, occasional TV and radio interviews… I was surprised at how much the validation from a bona fide celebrity writer would mean to me. I guess I was hoping for that without even realizing it.

TW: Do have plans of writing more books?
RD: My fourth book is starting to hatch without much prompting from me. I’m not really sure that I have a choice in this whole thing. I want to be careful to end this series before it does start to feel formulaic. If I feel that this series has reached its natural end I have no idea what my next series would be. Maybe when that time comes I will know.

TW: What is your favorite genre of books and do you plan on venturing in those areas?
RD: Any kind of mystery is fascinating to me. Scott Turow is one of my favorites. He creates a true mystery that holds together until the end and writes it beautifully. I’m less inclined to enjoy a mystery that involves gore and/or torment. For now, I’ll stick to cozy mysteries laced with humor. The comedic element seems to come naturally from me, although I take my cozies very seriously. I make sure they are edited extensively and that the focus is as much on the mystery as the humor. I try to avoid the clichés of “light” mysteries, i.e. someone constantly yelling at the amateur sleuth for sticking her nose into police business, having a protagonist who is willing to meet any stranger alone in an alley at midnight, etc.

TW: What do you want readers to know about you?
RD: I spent years wanting to write a book and making excuses for not getting started. I worked as an English teacher and then in advertising and never had time. A series of occurrences made me realize it was ‘now or never’ so I got started. I had no idea how much absolute fun I would have doing the actual writing. And the speaking engagements..are like catnip.

TW: Do you have a favorite author or book?
RD: Aside from Scott Turow, I have always loved Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier and I can’t get enough of Jane Austin’s humor. Charles Dickens is another favorite. But I tend to pattern my writing style after a combination of James Thurber and Cornelia Otis Skinner.

TW: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
RD: The fact that I have to put my whole heart and soul into it – and my work is not for everyone – so that comes with some rejection. In the beginning, a bad review was devastating. One reviewer actually commented that mine was the worst book he/she had ever read. That’s when it starts to become comical – but there is still that initial little arrow stab at every harsh comment. I do wonder why folks who clearly don’t like my genre still choose to read and review my book – but I guess that’s the age-old question for authors

TW: What does literary success look like to you?
RD: Apparently, getting a complimentary and encouraging note from a professional TV writer and author. While I’d like to see a lot more sales, I am grateful that my sales are considerably above average based on studies I’ve read – the average is surprisingly low. I am getting invited to speak at author and library fairs and book clubs, I wouldn’t mind more invitations of that nature. I think success is writing a book, and success is publishing a book, and success is getting opportunities to promote a book. I think success is tiered and there’s always the next level.

TW: How has this book changed your life?
RD: There are extremely high highs and some seriously low lows. One moment you feel as though you ARE a celebrity and at the next event no one shows up and you’re just sitting there among all the books you lugged in along with your posters, bookmarks, etc. all by yourself. I read a book by the author of a well-known book turned movie. She commented that at one of her book events so few people showed up that the bookstore owner made all of his employees stand on line and pretend to buy a book. She didn’t find that out for several years – and it was a blow when she did – but it made me feel as though I’m in good company.

TW: What advice do you have for an aspiring writer?
RD: Don’t say it, do it. If you don’t like it when you’re done, put it away and take it out again when you’re ready to rewrite it until you do like it. Some authors take months to write a masterpiece and some take decades – just get started and see where it takes you. And don’t expect overnight stardom – or most likely ANY stardom. Do it because you love it.

TW: Do you have any future events or updates we should know about?
RD: My focus recently has been on promotion in the form of interview and guest blog posts. I have some local author fairs and as many interviews and I can fit into my schedule – but nothing particularly noteworthy at the moment – except, of course, for this interview.

TW: How can we contact you and purchase your book?
RD: Web site:
http://www.rldonovan.com/

Books (Can all be found under Donna Leigh Mysteries on Amazon):
https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=donna+leigh+murders
Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch?
I Didn’t Kill Her But That May Have Been Short Sighted.
I Don’t Know Why They Killed Him He Wasn’t Really That Annoying.

Book Trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmgkpYPi5q8

Best to message me on Facebook:

Author’s pages on Facebook:
Author’s Page:
https://www.facebook.com/rldonovanauthorpage/

Donna Leigh Mystery Series page:
https://www.facebook.com/Donna-Leigh-Mysteries-279477928760374/

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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.

Bookdisplay

Bookdisplay

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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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.

Bookdisplay

Bookdisplay

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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Week Number Four of Richard Lowe’s Round Up – Check out my Response

November 7th, 2018 → 4:44 pm @

My primary goal has always been to entertain my readers and make them laugh, while also making them think. To give them an escape from the troubles in their lives. Based on feedback (and not just from my mother), I am grateful that I seem to be on track with that goal. There is no better feeling than when a reader is genuinely effusive about my work.

When I read this Roundup question, it got me thinking about my goals beyond the readers’ reaction and I realized it’s a very basic goal. I want to enjoy the writing experience even more.

That’s not as simple as it sounds.

I enjoy writing cozy murder mysteries and I enjoy doing the speaking and signing engagements, hell, I even enjoy editing, but all these components can interconnect in a way that makes writing either a joy or an exercise in self-debasement or both – kind of like a seesaw.

To start with I enjoy the writing, but feeling pressure to hurry up can bring that enjoyment to a screeching halt. Once the book is released there’s a huge amount of work to gain any level of awareness. I actually enjoy guest blogging and interviewing, I genuinely enjoy public speaking. But if you’ve ever done an author event to an audience of two, even considering there are torrential rains outside, you know how demoralizing that can be.

Although many of us don’t get into writing for the money (a lot of you are laughing out loud right now) it is nice to actually see some return on your investment. There was a time when I referred to my writing as a “very costly hobby.” Although I still don’t rely on my writing as my livelihood, there’s no denying that monetary gain is a measure of success, and when you’ve poured your guts out to create your masterpiece, any measure of success is a plus.

One day euphoric success, the next day humbling disappointment, and repeat. My great grandmother had a saying that seems to fit “what never makes you laugh will never make you cry.”

My goal would be to see the scales a bit more heavily weighted toward the laughing.

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Check out my answer to this week’s Roundup question

October 29th, 2018 → 8:51 pm @

As a child I was an avid reader and writer of letters. My letters always seemed to surprise people, making them laugh when they needed a laugh, shoring them up when they needed support. The feedback all seemed positive and appreciative that I was able to sense their needs and write something that helped. Whenever their comments focused on my making them laugh, I was in heaven. Even as a child, I fancied myself a cross between Cornelia Otis Skinner and James Thurber – my dreams were big. It was only a matter of time before I penned the great American comedic novel.

A great panel

A great panel

Then life happened. I taught English to high school kids who suffered through my love of literature and taught me new forms of grammar and spelling that haunt me to this day. When the academic life began to pale, I ventured into the world of advertising. Sure I would be a star copywriter, I instead found myself behind a calculator in the world of media buying. It was hard work and it kept me busy. Too busy to write a novel.

As the years progressed, I found myself the owner of an ad agency with one, two or three partners, depending on the year. During one particularly stressful period when the economy was lagging and my CFO partner was obnoxious as hell, I found myself looking for escape. That’s when I started my first novel.

In retrospect, I think I wrote about murder to assuage my desire to commit murder. Killing off people who cause you extreme stress is so cathartic. And when you do it in a novel, you don’t go to jail.

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Thanks for including me in this week’s Round Up

October 22nd, 2018 → 6:03 pm @

Robin Leemann Donovan

Robin DonovanHide things – who me? Hell yes, I’ve hidden a ton. So, you’re asking me to give it all up now? Let’s see where I can begin. Book one, Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch?, was written after a small group, lead by one of my business partners, who had a fairly public breakdown, tried to stage a coup and throw the other two of us out of our company. There are numerous veiled references to the details of the coup, e.g. wanting financial gain without having to invest, etc. One of the less savory characters in the book has the combined name of two of the conspirators. I could go on, but that would be too much of a spoiler alert. Let’s just say the murder victim will not be sorely missed. And suffice it to say the coup was unsuccessful.

In book two, I Didn’t Kill Her But That May Have Been Short Sighted, a great deal of the back story consists of true events from my early days in advertising. Although they’re not exactly hidden, the reader would never know fact from fiction. The inspiration for the murder victim actually did all of those obnoxious things. The events leading directly up to the murder, however, are all carefully crafted fiction. The hidden part consists of numerous little character traits and foibles that paint a startlingly accurate picture of my victim, right down to the physical description. Once you know the facts, you would never question the accuracy of the fiction. The portrayal of B.J. comes from years of watching and listening to her inspirations’ unprincipled behavior.

In book three, I Don’t Know Why They Killed Him He Wasn’t Really That Annoying, the major hidden message lies in the treatment of one of my former partners. He had joined the company shortly after “the coup” and was fine for a few years. Then had his own version of a breakdown. He’s featured in the first two books as my valued partner and legendary smart ass, Donny Miller. He makes an excellent foil to my protagonist, Donna Leigh. By the time I started writing this third book, the inspiration for Donny’s character had exited the company in a most contentious fashion. Throughout the book, there are references to his departure that are in reality private jokes.

Reading through my response I arrive at two conclusions: I have actually hidden quite a bit (and this is only the tip of the iceberg) and it’s unhealthy to be my business partner if you’re a man.

https://www.thewritingking.com/secrets-books/?fbclid=IwAR3F_vhNDIaNQUDm28fotuhdM1hKDJeGWIj-znKbA9ZI6Vr30QO-9ZdJUl0

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How Has Writing Changed Your Life? Multi-Author Interview by Richard Lowe

October 15th, 2018 → 5:42 pm @

So appreciated being included in Richard Lowe’s multi-author interview:

https://www.thewritingking.com/writing-changed-life-roundup/

Robin Leemann Donovan
I’ve always been a control freak, working hard to maintain a tight reign on as many aspects of my life as possible. When I started writing my first novel, I designed a process and built a timeline, allowing myself little leeway. As the writing progressed it became evident that I was not controlling the process, rather the process was controlling me.

I would often find myself at points in the plot where I didn’t know what would happen next, yet I kept writing. I would often look back and be surprised at what had been written, sometimes an event that didn’t exist a few minutes earlier, and sometimes a memory from deep within my brain that found its way out and onto the page. That is probably why writing novels is one of the most relaxing things I do. I let myself go and let my subconscious take over – and I love the freedom it gives me.

 

 

 

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