Monday, January 5, 2015

Interview with author Donna June Cooper

Today we'll spend some time getting to know a bit more about author Donna June Cooper.

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

A ~ I'm a mountain girl at heart. I was raised in a valley in the foothills of the Appalachians and my mother was a coal miner's daughter. I only ended up in Texas because my (gorgeous) Italian husband lured me away from my mountains. I belly dance for exercise (and for the sparkly costumes), I dress up for Renaissance Faires, and my co-author is a Jack Russell Terrier named Caliente.

Q ~ If you could have lunch with one person, dead, alive, or imaginary, who would it be and why?
A ~ I have to be honest and say I would love to have lunch with my dad. We lost him when I was four and I know from conversations with my mom and sister that he was an amazing man. I would just like to have some time to get to know him myself and, in so doing, to understand myself a bit better.

Q ~ Do you have a favourite author? Do they influence your writing?

A ~ I have a LOT of favourite authors! That is a really tough question. Too many to name. But there are a few authors I re-read when I need a comfort reads. (Actually, they are comfort listens, since I buy mostly audiobooks these days.) Susan Elizabeth Phillips, whose Chicago Stars books will always be favorites. Lois McMaster Bujold, who has YET to disappoint me with anything she writes. Kresley Cole, whose IAD series is amazing (I'm in love with the narrator—Robert Petkoff.) J.D. Robb, because I am in love with Roarke. Every single book I read influences my writing in different ways. Even the ones I can't bring myself to finish.

Q ~ Are there any new Authors that have grasped your interest recently and why?

A ~ Most recently, Craig Johnson's Longmire books have been added to my comfort read/listen pile. Craig loves Wyoming and his love for the setting absolutely shines through the books. I really enjoy getting an up close and personal feel for the countryside. But I also appreciate his focus on the challenges facing the indigenous tribes of the area and the truth of their history—our history.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?

A ~ It all started when I was eight or nine. I was a prolific reader and constantly maxed out my library card. Then one day I discovered that books don't always end the way you want them to, and I took pencil to paper and rewrote the ending of one in particular. After that I wrote lots of what I now know was fanfic for some of my favorite TV shows. When I hit puberty, I fell in love with romance novels. While I was commuting to work, I was writing my own books in my head—listening to the characters, talking through the plot. Finally the noise got too loud and I decided to get it out of my head and on to paper.

Q ~ Do you have any writing rituals that you follow? What is your go-to snack while writing?

A ~ My pre-writing ritual is taking a walk with my co-author. I get some of my best ideas and breakthroughs while Cali and I are out checking out the park and feeding the ducks. My most important writing ritual is sound-suppressing headphones and suitable music, which I add to as I write. By the time I finish writing a rough draft, I have a complete soundtrack and have probably bought five new songs. My go-to writing snack is hot PG Tips tea in large quantities, no cream, lots of sugar.

Q ~ When you write, do you try to reach a specific word count or simply write until you are done?

A ~ I am very left-brained – a plotter, not a pantser, so I do aim at a specific word count. I do the math, so I know how many words in how many days are needed to hit the total word count I am expecting for a book. I prefer to leave off in the middle of a scene if I can. It makes it so much easier to get started in the morning.

Q ~ Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming release Making Magic?

A ~ Making Magic is the third book in my Books of the Kindling series and focuses on the third sibling in the Woodruff family, Thea Woodruff, and the county sheriff who she has known since childhood. Thea gave up a music career and spent years as a corporate attorney trying to hamper the illegal activities of her father's pharmaceutical company to no avail. When she returns to the mountain she calls home, Sheriff Jake Moser, who she once performed with on stage, begins to wonder if the two of them can still make beautiful music together. But they are both hiding powerful abilities that might make that impossible.

Q ~ What is your favourite part or scene in the novel?

A ~ That's a tough one. I love so many of them for different reasons. But if I'm honest, my favorite scene occurs really early in the book when Thea rescues an adorable, homeless, bedraggled dog at a truck stop. But then there is the scene where she drives into town with the filthy dog on her lap and meets up with Jake for the first time in years… But then there's this scene where… Never mind!

Q ~ What prompted or inspired you to write the Books of the Kindling series? Are any of them rooted in some sort of truth?
A ~ Well, first of all, I love romance. Good old-fashioned romance that makes you sigh and hope for happy-ever-afters for us all. Second, I really enjoy romance with strong female characters who can, if necessary, save the guy. Third, I adore my mountains and I wanted a chance to say something about what is happening to them—poaching, invasive species, mountaintop removal, over-development, climate change, species extinction. As for being rooted in truth, even the most magical thing in the books is based in reality. I actually had a reader who was absolutely ecstatic when she found out the synchronous fireflies in Mostly Magic are real. She had just finished the book and saw a special on TV about those very fireflies. Honest! It's all true. There really is magic in those mountains!

Q ~ What was the most difficult part of the process while writing the Books of the Kindling?

A ~ That first revise/resubmit! More Than Magic was my very first book. I must give credit to Lisa Dunick, the editor at Samhain who pulled me out of the slush pile and pointed out the manuscript's biggest flaws. Learning what to cut and what to keep and what to add to give the story a better arc and pace as well as the best ending possible was quite a learning experience for me.

Q ~ Have you written an outline for the series or do you make it up as you go?

A ~ Well, I'm a plotter, so for the next three books in the series, I have the logline—the two main protagonists, the antagonist, the basic conflict, and the special twist that makes it exciting and drives the series storyline. I also have the logline for the final book in the series, of course. But in between, there are so many more stories that can be told…

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?

A ~ I select surnames based on the region of the country/world where the individual was born. I try to find first names that ring true regionally and have some meaning to the story. For example, Melissa's name in Mostly Magic has its origins in Greek where it means "honey bee". In the same book, Daniel's name came from the Old Testament prophet Daniel who had visions of the end of the world. However, sometimes I select first names based on family names and names that I just plain like.

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?

A ~ I still really love Daniel. He is such a sweet, gentle soul, and yet strong and resilient. I think his struggle in Mostly Magic really resonates with those of us who have loved and lost and, perhaps, fear loving again because, as he says in the book—"Falling in love with someone means you sign up for pain." Being willing to endure that fear of loss and sorrow and embrace the joy of love, no matter how temporary, is a decision that we all must make at some point in our lives.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?

A ~ I am working on the character back stories, research, and scene by scene log lines for Mirror Magic as well as the major scene loglines for the next two books after Mirror Magic. I can't wait to get the characters in Mirror Magic out there so they can tell their story to everyone instead of just chatting constantly in my head.

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?

A ~ I would tell them that Calvin Coolidge was right. "Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent."

About the author:

When she’s not being dragged down the sidewalk by her Jack Russell (if you know Jacks, you understand), Donna June Cooper is belly dancing (shiny!), reading (three books at once), writing (of course!) or complaining about the heat (no matter the temperature). A child of the Appalachians who was transplanted to Texas by her Italian husband, Donna returns to her mountain roots as often as possible, and takes us with her in herBooks of the Kindling. Visit Donna at

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the FUN interview, Jonel. I had a blast answering your questions and Caliente was very pleased to see her name on the web. (She is so in love with the limelight!) Thanks again!