School starts in my area today and to mark the occasion, we have a former teacher visiting today!
Donita K. Paul is another of the authors that participated in the Motiv8 fantasy fiction tour. I met her on that tour when I heard a young reader say, "You can tell she has fun writing her books." Of course, with an accolade like that, we had to bring home DragonSpell (Dragon Keepers Chronicles, Book 1).
I've since learned that before picking up her pen to write, she worked in the classroom. So let's sit down for a chat with her today while the students are finding their way to their seats.
Q: What is your background and how did that lead to your career in writing?
A: You know that old saying, "Don't quit your day job"? In a manner of speaking, my day job quit me. I was an elementary school teacher, but I became disabled in '96 but didn't give in to not working outside the home for a couple of years. Writing became a career because I was stuck at home - an A type personality in a D body. In order not to go crazy I started writing again, something I've always wanted to do.
I think this is just where God wants me. I kind of wished I'd listened earlier to the gentle nudgings.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you plan first or let the story develop as you write?
A: I am definitely a seat of the pants writer. I "see" the scenes in my mind and just write them down. Then I go back and do the technical stuff. I have a general idea that will be accomplished by the end of the story, but there are no details on neat 3x5 file cards. No story board. No notebooks. No character sheets. If I die just before the climax of my next book, everyone is out of luck. No ending!
Q: You work in two genres (romance and fantasy) - does the process vary between the two?
A: The process is the same with both my romance and fantasy novels.
Q: Christian fantasy has historically been considered a very tough market. How did you find your publisher? How long was that process for you?
A: It didn't take long at all. I submitted the manuscript and had a contract in eighteen days.
Q: What marketing techniques or events have you found to be most successful for you?
A: Without a doubt more books are sold by word-of-mouth than any other ploy. So you need to consider how you can stimulate conversation about your books. I use bookmarks and t-shirts as giveaways.
Q: How did the Motiv8 tour come about? Had you met any of the other authors before?
A: I knew Christopher Hopper from one quick meeting. This young man is a dynamo and has a wonderful ministry to teens. I know LB Graham from another brief meeting. I was most familiar with Bryan Davis and Sharon Hinck. We've been online writing friends for several years. The fantastic four (Wayne Thomas Batson, Christopher Hopper, Bryan Davis, and Sharon Hinck) did a book tour up the east coast the year before the Motiv8, and they invited us to join the troupe traveling down the west coast.
Q: What were some of the benefits of working together with other Christian fantasy writers?
A: One of the things we did as we talked to readers was to guide them to the authors who had the books best suited for the reader. I would point out that the mother of my young fan would appreciate Sharon's book with a mother protagonist. For younger brothers and sisters of my readers, I could point to Eric's and Jonathan's boks. For those interested in more epic fantasy, we had books by Bryan, Wayne, Christopher, and LB.
A: With eight authors and readers with limited funds, the frustration of young readers wanting to buy everything they saw and not having enough was a bit sad. However, we encouraged the patrons to ask their public libraries to get copies of the books and to put the books on their birthday and Christmas lists.
Q: What encouragement would you offer writers that are just beginning their journey to publication?
A: 1. Read. Read. Read.
Read the genre that you intend to write.
Read the books on how-to.
Read the books you like and try to figure out why.
Read the books you hate and try to figure out why.
2. Get in a productive critique group. Don't pick one where everyone says "Oh that was just wonderful!" Don't pick one where there is one person who "knows it all" and has the kind of forceful personality that dominates the group.
Q: Are you already working on another book? What is next for you? For your readers?
A: I have started writing the next book. It picks up where The Vanishing Sculptor: A Novel left off.
Q: One last question - I noticed on your blog that you sometimes take your dragons out for dinner. Are they generally well behaved?
A: They are generally well behaved. However, if the grandsons go also, the dragons become excited and don't behave.
Thank you, Donita!
If you want to know more about Donita K. Paul and her books, visit her website at http://www.donitakpaul.com for games, downloads, a photo gallery, writer's resources and more.
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