Jen: This week we are excited to welcome Donna Kauffman to Romancing the Book. Donna, will you please share a short bio with us?
Donna: Here’s the publicist’s version: USA Today Bestseller, Donna Kauffman is an award winning author and former RITA finalist, who has been published steadily for 19 years, with more than 40 titles currently in print, translated into more than 20 languages, sold worldwide. She has seen her work reviewed and excerpted in venues ranging from Kirkus Reviews and Library Journal, to Cosmopolitan and Entertainment Weekly. She currently resides just outside the nation’s capital in the northern Virginia countryside where she is busy writing her next happy adventure.
Jen: Tell us about The Naughty List and where it’s available.
Donna: The Naughty List will be released the end of September/early October from Kensington Brava and features three novella length stories. I share the title with Susan Fox and Cynthia Eden. My story, NAUGHTY OR NICE, wraps up a three story novella arc that began in To All A Good Night and continued in last season’s Kissing Santa Claus. The latter is also being re-released the end of September in the mass market size. To All A Good Night is available in both trade and mass market, too…and all three are available in digital. They can be found or ordered from any of the major book retailing outlets.
Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Donna: My mom tells me I wrote long stories about our gerbil family when I was little, with full color illustrations—and thank goodness those have been lost through the vagaries of time! Think of the blackmail potential!–but I didn’t seriously start writing until my early 30’s. I joined a local writers group (thank you Washington Romance Writers!!) which was a long established chapter of Romance Writers of America and knew immediately that I’d found My People. I jumped right in and got very involved with the group, volunteering to do everything from being program coordinator to editor of our booksellers newsletter and eventually even served as their president. Which meant that while I was soaking up everything I could learn about plotting, characterization, and storytelling in general, I was also educating myself and forming connections to people presently working in the industry I was hoping to become a part of. I’m positive that it was because of that dual approach that I was able, eventually (two years later), to sell the first book I completed. I signed a three book deal with Bantam for their then-category line, Loveswept, and have never been out of contract since. I encourage anyone trying to break into this business to not overlook educating yourself about the industry side of the process while also writing the very best book you have in you.
Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Donna: I do a little of both. I do put together a general synopsis or story outline detailing the main characters, their general backstory, their conflict (both personally and with each other) and what path I see them both taking to get to their happily ever after. Then I ignore all of that and write the story that they tell me to write. Sometimes it has a passing resemblance to the concept I began with, but it’s just as often that it goes in a completely different direction. As I get to know the characters, the ideas, plots, concepts, and all manner of other information all comes out….which I couldn’t possibly have dreamt up sooner, because I didn’t know them yet. There are many times I wish they’d be a little less vague and mysterious in sharing these details with me, but eventually I drag it out of em! So, I guess you could say that I’m a general outliner, then a major fly-by-the-seat-of-the-my-pantser.
Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
Donna: Iced tea and a small, tastefully appointed cave would be the best of all possible worlds. Anywhere that I can shut the rest of the world out and sink into my imaginary one, works for me. Once I’m in, bombs could detonate right outside my door and I wouldn’t hear them. But it’s being somewhere where I can sink in and get lost that’s vital. Well, that and the endless supply iced tea. Of course.
Jen: What is it about the romance genre that appeals to you?
Donna: I think two people finding each other and forming a rich, rewarding and fulfilling bond is sort of the core of who we are. I think that’s why I can write a book set in the mountains of North Carolina, and get a fan letter from a reader in Sri Lanka who found something in the story that spoke to her, despite the cultural chasm that might exist between her personal experience and those of the characters she connected to. Love is universal, yes, but it’s also the need to bond, to share, to unite that speaks to us all. I love the hope, the optimism, and the absolute leap of faith required to achieve that unity, that bond. Getting the chance to explore the paths two people can take to get there is pretty much the best job ever. Telling their stories reaffirms my own hopes and optimism, as well. By filling those stories with laughter, excitement, baited breaths, sexual tension, personal growth, and, finally love and commitment, I feel like I’m putting more of that joy and optimism into the world, and that’s a legacy I’m very happy to have a part in creating.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Donna: Most challenging? Developing the right story for the characters that I think up. Then coaxing them into telling more, telling me now, and telling me all! Easiest? Developing new characters and concepts that I want to explore. I have more than I will ever be able to develop.
Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Donna: Initially, writing a story I’m proud to share with my readers, that I happily anticipate them enjoying. And secondly, because I don’t get to actually see the result of my work directly, it’s all rather anonymous as I don’t get to see readers enjoying the results of all my work, unlike, say a screenwriter could by sitting in a crowded theater and viewing a screening of his or her work – I love getting feedback from readers, hearing how the stories have touched them, made them laugh, provided a boost to their day, or even something more profound and moving.
Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one you most identify with?
Donna: After 20 years and more than 50 books filled with characters, I just feel like I get to live in one mammoth extended family filled with a lot of people I adore and love. They’re all dear to me in their own way (and wouldn’t it be fun to have a virtual reunion and get them all in the same place?) So no particular favorite, but I do think about what each one contributes to the “family” legacy.
Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Donna: One great thing about romance is that, as a writer, I can use it as a platform to jump into just about any form of fiction there is, from mystery, to s/f, to horror, if I so choose. I’ve had the pleasure of writing suspenseful romance, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance as well and have enjoyed every foray. I don’t think you’ll ever see me writing an entirely historically set work of fiction, but I love the paranormal potential of bringing a bit of history forward into modern times…or sending my contemporary characters backward (or forward!) into other times and places and having the chance to explore a bit of the past and/or future that way.
Jen: If NAUGHTY OR NICE, from The Naughty List, was made into a movie, which actors would you choose to play the hero and heroine?
Donna: Hmmm….I never think in terms of real people (famous or otherwise) when I create new characters as they are an entirely new and different person. But if they had to be brought to film life? Hmmm….I don’t know, you’ve got a spunky American heroine and a hunky Irish hero. I think I’ll leave that up to the readers to debate…(and any Hollywood producers who might be reading this as well! I’m open to suggestions!)
Jen: What did you do to celebrate your first book?
Donna: My agent and publisher sent flowers and my family took me out to dinner to celebrate. Due to scheduling issues, it didn’t actually come out for almost a full 18 months after it sold, so we just used that as an excuse to keep the celebration alive for a year!
Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Donna: I read stories from all different sorts of genres and have favorites in all of them that keep my Tower of Pisa book pile at an always-alarming tilt. At the moment I am reading a brand new author, Anne Fortier, and her debut novel, Juliet. Loving the duality of the different stories set in different times, and the new take on Romeo and Juliet. Or should I say the very old take. Sort of like Davinci Code Goes Shakespeare! Next up is the launch book of Janet Evanovich’s new Diesel series, Wicked Appetite. And, of course, like a lot of folks, I’m waiting with drooling anticipation for the final book in Nora’s Bride Quartet series (Happy Ever After), hitting the stands in early November.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Donna: Next up is Off Kilter, the sequel to my June release Some Like It Scot. It should hit the shelves right about the time Santa is making his stocking stuffer rounds (shameless hint!) I hope everyone enjoys their trip back to Kinloch. Also out at that time is my short story contribution in The Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance. I love Scotland as a setting for romance and it’s been a real thrill getting to write stories set in contemporary Scotland. The MAMMOTH BOOK contribution gets a little paranormal boost as well! And I just signed on to launch a new series for Kensington Brava, CAKES BY THE CUP, which will launch the end of 2011. I’m happily doing cupcake research as I type!
Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Donna: My website and daily blog are at www.donnakauffman.com. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.
Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Donna: I love writing connected books. I’m careful to make each book stand completely on its own so they can be read in any order, but I love getting the chance to revisit some of my “extended family” members again. So my question to readers is….how do you feel about connected books? Do you read them as they come out? Wait for them to all be released and then dive in? Or reread the last one when the next one comes out? (Me! Me!)
Jen: Thank you for guesting with us. I understand you have a special contest for our readers.
Donna: I love giving away free stuff, so I say YES! Speaking of connected books, the winner will get all three books in the current Christmas novella series: To All A Good Night, Kissing Santa Claus, and The Naughty List (the latter of which is signed by all three contributing authors.) No location restrictions. The more the merrier!
Jen: And now for the small print. As Donna said, there are no restrictions on the contest. So, to enter, first you need to leave a question or comment for Donna. Then to complete your entry, you must either leave your email address in your comment or send a message to email@example.com. The winner will be chosen on Thursday, October 7. Good luck!