Interview & Contest: Donna McDonald

Jen: Today we are happy to welcome Donna McDonald to Romancing the Book.  Dona, can you tell us about Dating a Cougar? Where did the idea come from?

Donna: Dating A Cougar is the story of 50 year old former lingerie model turned successful business woman, Alexa Ranger, who falls in love with 38 year old medically retired Marine and widower, Casey Carter. Alexa isn’t trying to be a “cougar”, but her two best friends in their forties tease her about becoming one as they encourage her to give dating Casey a chance. Alexa was married once in her twenties to the father of her now grown daughter. Since then she has dated, but never remarried. Even dating again after two years of not dating requires some encouragement from her best friends. Dating a younger man like Casey was never in Alexa’s plans. Being former military, and just as opinionated about life as Alexa, puts Casey in a very different category from the wealthy, self-absorbed business men and celebrities Alexa has dated in the past. All the struggles and arguments between them make for a great romantic comedy with lots fireworks.

How did I come to write DAC? Would you believe it was because I was 52 at the time and a cougar myself? While both are true and could be funny reasons, that wasn’t the case. Basically, I wanted to write the kind of story that would entertain the reader for a few hours and get them to laugh. I wanted the reader to walk around smiling after they had read the book. It was easier to focus on the funny parts when I could so easily visualize how a 50 yr old heroine would feel about dating a younger man. I got the idea for Casey from the wounded soldiers coming home who kept showing up in my college freshman English classes.

It was also great fun to write a story about someone of Alexa’s age and success who was poised and confident in her business life yet came unraveled when she found herself falling in love at 50. The giddy craziness of real romance is an ageless phenomena and I wanted to point that out. Like most contemporary romances, Dating A Cougar, contains sexual situations between the couple and I was very happy to show a heroine that age still enjoying her sexuality. Rarely do you find romance novels featuring main characters over 35 who are still showing an active interest in physical intimacy. You wouldn’t believe the number of older readers who have written to tell me thanks for writing what they call the “truth” about sex and aging. Really it was just a matter of me writing what I knew was truth for myself and my friends who are of similar ages.

Also, I wanted to write about how important friendships are to us all. Alexa’s best friends are 47 year old Dr. Regina Logan (sex therapist heroine of Book Two) and 42 year old Lauren McCarthy (trust fund/budding entrepreneur heroine of Book Three). They are loving, funny, and brutally honest with each other, all facts which create over half of the comedy in this novel and the other three in this series. A recent reader and reviewer said I captured the essence of female friendship like that in the “Sex and the City” foursome. I consider that comment some of the best praise for my work because I believe that show demonstrated the value of female friendships.

This book is still free at all ebook retailers and I encourage you to download it from your favorite. It is my way of letting new readers try my work without risk.

Jen: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Donna: Here is my current biography. I change it as I evolve, but it is still true.

After 35 years of doing everything for a living except writing books, Donna McDonald finally published her first romance novel in March of 2011. Ten novels later, she is now living her own “happily ever after” life as a modestly successful author who gives back to the universe by doing her best to keep several Lexington, Kentucky coffee shops in business. McDonald dreams of selling her house and taking to the open road once she figures out how to do so without her children and grandchildren finding out. For the time being, she continues to live contentedly with her permanent fiancée of many years who helps her sneak away from real life as often as he can. She loves him dearly for it.

Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?

Donna: I am primarily “pantser” because half the fun for me is letting my characters get us all into tight spots that we have to get out of in some interesting way. Yet I confess there is a point in larger books (over 75k words) where I start to forget things. When that happens I become a “plotter”, or at least an “outliner”. I go back through the novel and make myself a plot table of what happens in each chapter. It makes it easier to fix things and to look things up. That’s not a true “plotter”, but it’s my mini-version. I’m too impatient for the adventure to plot and I like surprises when I write.

Jen: How do you come up with the characters’ names?

Donna: I’m taking this secret to my grave. However, if those five extra phone books you get every year end up missing from your front porch, just remember I don’t know anything about that.

Jen: Who has inspired you as an author?

Donna: This one is easy. I am inspired by my readers who write to tell me they liked/loved a book and ask me when the next one is coming out.

Jen: What’s next for you?

Donna: Contemporary novels? In response to requests I received from those I like to call my “serial readers”, I am working on a group of new contemporary books called the Next Time Around series that are about three divorced 40 yr old college friends who are starting over. Responses from beta readers about Book One have been positive so far which means the first book is about ready for editing. I’m also working on Book 5 of the Never Too Late series which will feature my oldest heroine yet. Lydia McCarthy (Lauren’s mother from Book Three) is in her sixties. Think of her as a beautiful Helen Mirren with a really bad attitude about life and men.

Paranormal novels? Right now, I’m in the process of releasing my first paranormals in the Forced To Serve series. The Demon Of Synar (Book One) just released in February and functions as a prequel to the whole series as it sets up life on the ship and introduces the reader to the characters. The Demon Master’s Wife (Book Two) has the intricate storyline and will be out near the end of March (pending editorial blessing). When I started this series, I thought of it only as paranormal romance. After I released the first book, I realized I’d essentially created a “space opera” as well. All the stories primarily take place on a spaceship with a crew that rescues Peace Alliance officials for a living. The series has aliens, but they are more like advanced humans—no bizarre physical parts (okay maybe one or two). There is a demon which is very paranormal, but Malachi is not typical. He’s more like an incarcerated alien entity serving time as demon mist until he learns his life lessons. I’m having great fun and getting to write fight scenes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Jen: I understand you have a contest for our readers.

Contest: What does sexy and 60 look like?

I’m trying to discover what sexy and 60 looks like. I went searching for a stock photo of a sexy kiss or romantic clutch pose between a couple that age. I sent a selection of photos featuring “mature” characters I found to several reading groups of women mostly over 60 asking them to pick a favorite and give me feedback. To say my suggestions bombed completely is putting it mildly. Their uncensored comments about what I sent made me spit popcorn on my laptop as I read them.

To enter the contest, you need to comment on this post. It’s like a sexy scavenger hunt. Copy and paste a link to a site or photo that shows what “sexy 60” in a romantic clutch looks like to you. I am hoping for kissing photos, but a sexy hug or embrace will do. Winning entry will receive free copy of the ebook when published and/or an autographed copy of the print version. The winner will also receive acknowledgement for educating me in Lydia’s book (still looking at May or early summer for a release).  And be sure to leave your email address in your comment so that you can be contacted if you’re chosen as the winner.

Deadline for Romancing the book.com readers to enter: March 31

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