It's Monday - huzzah!
What do you mean, you're not looking forward to it?
It's time for another fabulous Author Interview!
Today we have Donna Marie West, author of NEXT IN LINE (and a whole bunch more)! Donna Marie West is an educator, translator, author, and freelance editor. She has published some 500 drabbles, short stories, and non-fiction articles in a wide variety of Canadian and American magazines, web sites, and anthologies. She loves the unusual and unexplained, and often finds ways to weave these themes into her stories.
She has co-authored a collection of horror-themed short stories and poems titled HAUNTED HORROR, which is unfortunately out of print as the publisher closed its doors. Her first novel, NEXT IN LINE, was published in September 2020 by Random Evolved Media. The sequel, tentatively titled BLOOD CONNECTIONS, is scheduled for release in 2022.
She has also edited well over 100 short stories/novels/non-fiction books which have subsequently been published by various authors and publishers in Canada, the US, and the UK.
Donna spends her precious free time reading, writing, and doing research for her current projects. She lives in Quebec, Canada with her long-time partner and two beloved kitties.
You can follow her on her Amazon author page, Goodreads author page, or her public Facebook page, all under her name.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I’ve always loved writing. As far back as elementary school, my favourite subject was English. I never thought of myself as a writer, though, until I was much older. I actually published my first short story in 2004, at the age of 43.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? Anywhere and everywhere. Books, the internet, the news . . . Something I see someone do or hear someone say that sticks with me. Sometimes, a little voice just pops into my head and I have to tell its story.
When did you write your first book and how old were you? I wrote my first novel when I was 15 or 16. I only showed it to my mother, who said it was “nice.” That put a damper on my writing for a long while . . . but thankfully, not for ever.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? I do have a day job (teaching in a college-level equine studies program). I’m also a freelance editor, so I usually have a job going on on the side. Besides that, of course, I love reading and doing research for my stories and articles.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite? Not counting the one when I was a teen, I’ve finished four novels (one is published, one is coming soon, and two are still looking for a publisher). . I’ve also published hundreds of short pieces, both fiction and non-fiction, in a variety of anthologies and magazines. My favourite is probably whichever rpiece I’m working on at the time.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they? Of course, read as much as you can. Take writing and editing classes. Don’t be afraid to show your work to one or two trusted and knowledgeable people and learn to take constructive criticism. Finally, ignore negative comments from those who might be ignorant or jealous of your effort and/or success. Unfortunately, there are lots of them out there.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say? Actually, I don’t but I would love to!
(((HEY READERS! GET IN TOUCH WITH DONNA! SHE WANTS TO HEAR FROM YOU!)))
What do you think makes a good story?
For me, it’s strong but sympathetic characters with some aspect I can relate to, and of course a good story line. Also, I love learning something new as I go through the book.
What is the first book that made you cry? I don’t think it was the first one, but The Little Prince by Saint Exupéry stands out. The book made me cry years ago, and the audio version narrated by Viggo Mortensen that came out a few years ago did as well. Actually, I listened to it in the car and by the end I was weeping so much I had to pull over for a few minutes.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I try to be original, although of course I want readers to enjoy reading the story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer? To name only afew, Kindra and Edd Sowder, James Pyne (a Canadian author whose epic novels I’ve had the pleasure of editing), Kerry Alan Denny, Christina LoBianco, and John Irvine (a New Zealand poet/author). All have been very encouraging and John, especially, is something of a mentor for me.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book? I have a series started called The Line of the Blood. The first book, Next in Line, came out in September 2020, and the sequel is currently going through final edits. The others are stand-alones.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Keep writing. Don’t let anyone discourage you, not even your mother.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? As I said earlier, one is coming soon, and two are still looking for a home.
What do you have coming ne
xt? Blood Connections, the sequel to Next in Line (published by Random Evolved Media, an indie press in the US), should be out early in 2022. The first draft of book 3 is underway.
You can find me, my novels, ans some anthologies I have stories in at:
www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, and other Amazon sites
SPECIAL TREAT! Chapter excerpt from Next In Line:
Chapter 1: Hit and Run
He came out of nowhere from between two parked cars.
I hit the brakes on reflex only, no time to think or even to scream. I felt the thud rather than heard it, and he was rolling on the tarmac in the ghostly glare of my headlights.
“Oh my God! Oh my—!” I was screaming as I fumbled frantically with my seatbelt. I wrenched the door open and practically fell from the car. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you. I—” I dropped to the wet street beside him, barely noticing that my knees were in a puddle of cold water.
He was moving; groaning and pushing slowly to his hands and knees.
“Are you okay?” I asked stupidly in panic. “I mean, of course you’re not! Don’t move! I’ll call 9-1-1!”
“No!” he gasped, reaching out to grab my arm with his grazed and bleeding right hand. He grimaced in pain and immediately let go. “No. Please don’t call anyone. I—I’m all right.”
There was a distinct accent to his words. Spanish, maybe, or French. No time to wonder about it now.
Grasping the arm I offered for support he got to his feet, only to stagger and sway and sit heavily down again on the curb. “Just give me a minute. Please.”
In that minute, I saw that he wasn’t much older than me. Early twenties, no more. His longish hair was dishevelled and so were his clothes. He was soaking wet and thoroughly scuffed from the accident; a thin trickle of blood ran from a scrape on his right cheek. He swiped at it with the palm of his uninjured left hand and contemplated the blood on it for a second before wiping his hand clean on the thigh of his jeans.
I realized I was trembling, but whether from cold or shock—or both—I had no idea. The late October shower that had stopped a while ago was beginning again, and my car had stalled right there in the middle of the road. I wondered vaguely if it would start again.
A couple cars honked and rolled slowly past us. The drivers gawked, but were either afraid to become involved, or too concerned with getting wherever they were going to stop. A handful of passers-by gathered, pressing in closer until suddenly he looked up at them, his eyes startled and wide like the eyes of a hunted animal. Even under the dim light of the streetlamps I noticed that they were a rich chocolate brown, and framed by thick dark lashes.
“I-I must get a-away from ‘ere,” he whispered, making a second and more successful attempt to stand.
“But what about . . . um . . . shouldn’t we wait for the police?” I asked as a police siren wailed shrilly in the distance. I assumed someone had called 9-1-1 in my place.
“No police!” he hissed, limping away from the side of the road, his arms wrapped protectively around his ribs. He leaned back somewhat into the substantial cedar hedge lining the sidewalk, still breathing in audible gasps.
“Okay then, whatever you say,” I agreed hastily. I had no idea why, but I would have said anything to prevent his taking flight the way I suspected he was preparing to do. “Get in my car. I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”
He nodded and hobbled obediently around my car while I dove in and stretched across the front seat to unlock the door on the passenger side.
He collapsed in the seat, pulled the door closed with a heavy click, and said, “Let’s go.”
“Where do you want to go?” I asked as the police siren grew louder.
“Anywhere but ‘ere!” he yelled sharply, his accent becoming more pronounced. French, I decided. “Go!”