Guest & Contest: Donna June Cooper

As a reader, and a very visual person, I enjoy picturing the characters and the settings as well as the clothing and the décor of the books I read. As a matter of fact, when it comes to setting, unless I can clearly picture where the characters are, I have this vague sensation that I, along with them, am just floating in the blackness of space. But it’s a careful balance for every author to ensure that they don’t bog down the pace of a book with too much description.

However, while I’m writing, being a very visual person, I need visuals—photos of my characters, blueprints of my rooms, pictures of my locations, snapshots of dogs and doodads—some to verify details, some just for the inspiration. When I first started writing, I gathered these visual prompts into folders on my computer—until I discovered Pinterest!

Just like any other social media, you can definitely get lost on Pinterest. I must admit that I immediately went looking to see which of my favorite authors had boards. Some do, some don’t. As a reader and a visual person, I was very happy to find the boards of my favorites out there so I could explore and find out a bit more about their process and what they visualize as they are writing.

WNC Mountains

I’m still learning all the various ways to use Pinterest—still pinning away, but I wanted to share with you some of the ways I have used it while writing the Books of the Kindling.

First, the fabulous setting of More Than Magic—the gorgeous Appalachians in Western North Carolina. No one captures the beauty of those mountains better than Dave Allen Photography. He has done so many breathtaking shots that it is hard to pick one, but this one represents the view from Woodruff Mountain that tends to mesmerize guests.

And then there’s the rest of the setting. When you are writing scenes, it’s important to know the layout of rooms and even the precise arrangement of furniture. I went looking for the exact layout of the house, which involved an interesting exploration of house plan sites. I found a likely layout, made some modifications of my own, and voila—the Woodruff home. Here’s the first floor.

House 1st Floor

And of course, you need to furnish your setting. The Woodruff home is comfortable and homey. I decided to search out some decorating ideas just so I would have a picture of the interior of the home in my head as I wrote, as well as the exterior, since they have a wonderful wraparound porch and sunroom. Actually, I would LOVE to live in this house!

Woodruff Home

*WARNING*: If you don’t want to see what the characters of More Than Magic might look like from the author’s perspective, go no further!

Young Grace

My character photos for More Than Magic were intended to capture the physical characteristics of the main characters.

Note that I didn’t say “absolutely capture the main characters”. I don’t think any author can do that unless that author is also an artist. When I was trying to describe Grace Woodruff to someone early on I said that she was a “grown up Alexis Castle from the TV series Castle” (actress Molly Quinn). I was thrilled when the cover artist for More Than Magic—the fabulous Nathalie Gray—actually captured Grace perfectly on the cover of More Than Magic as a grown up Alexis Castle! What do you think?

NickAnd now the guys of More Than Magic. Again, finding someone who is a perfect match for what you see in your head would require being an artist, and a very good one at that. But I have to admit, this fellow comes very close to what I see when I think of Nick, although Richard’s a bit older. He does have the necessary black hair, amazing gray eyes, and lean looks. You can imagine the rest (and that’s the fun part). What do you think?

And finally, the fun stuff. You can also pin things like this, which fits in perfectly with the underlying theme of all the Books of the Kindling.

Save the Earth

And that is how I use graphics to guide me as I write. Thanks for coming along!

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Enjoy this excerpt from More Than Magic:

Scrambling to get everything back into his pack, which had tipped over, Nick sniffed the air like mad, checking the wind, trying to get a direction. His GPS unit, which hadn’t been working a minute ago, had suddenly acquired a signal, or was trying to. But he was in a shallow ravine surrounded by rocks. He would have to climb up to acquire enough satellites.

His compass was working though. South. The smell was drifting from the south. Of course that didn’t mean much, since he had no idea exactly where on the map he was, but he could figure it out pretty accurately once he had the last trackpoint the GPS had dropped.

Right now he wanted to reconnoiter and get a visual. Blundering into a working operation alone wasn’t what this case was about and likely wouldn’t answer any of his boss’s questions, but he could at least confirm what his nose was telling him.

He hefted his pack by the straps and scrambled out of the ravine, one eye on the GPS display, expecting it to disappear at any second, but hoping—

The dog didn’t so much bark as yell at him—a deep baying noise that scared the crap out of him and made him drop the GPS and his pack. He had almost reached his gun before he recognized the slender figure in the gaudy but colorful hat catching up with the dog. The crunch his pack made as it hit the rocks below echoed in the silence. His GPS made an equally loud noise scraping back and forth against the zipper of his jacket as it swung on its tether.
Pooka stood in front of him, tongue lolling, apparently not sure whether to go for his throat or lick him.

“Am I glad to see you,” he said, looking up at Grace as he sank to his knees in front of the dog. “I thought I was a goner.”



Mr. City Man was kneeling in front of her dog in the middle of her trail to her sang bed and for just a moment he hadn’t looked at all like the convalescent who had checked in last night. In fact, she had regretted coming up here without her 12-gauge. But now he looked like he was going to throw up.

Grace took a deep breath. A million questions tumbled through her brain and adrenaline made her hair stand on end. Was Nick merely another guest who got lost out here thinking his fabulously expensive GPS would save him? Was he following her? Why on earth would a very sick man—because he was clearly still ill whether he would admit to it or not—get up at an ungodly hour to follow her into the cold damp of these woods?

She looked at the perspiration beading on his upper lip with a clinical eye. He was either running a fever or really scared. And she honestly couldn’t tell which without whipping out her thermometer.

Was he after the sang? Not in his condition. He couldn’t dig it up or transport it, but he might be trying to map its location for future digging. But why? He didn’t look like the average sang poacher. Clearly he had money of his own. Top of the line GPS. Top of the line hiking boots. Top of the line windbreaker, although it looked a size too large for him. More evidence that he was, or had been, really ill.

And she wasn’t really worried about the sang. Far better sang hunters had tried and failed to follow this trail, much less actually find the bed.

“Are you insane?” she asked.

Pooka relaxed and sat back on his haunches, but Nick gave her a puzzled look.


“No, don’t answer.” She threw up her hand. “I apologize. That was an unfair question.” She took a breath. “What are you doing out here?”

Nick looked bewildered for a moment, then he looked down at his pack, and at his GPS, and back up at her again. “Hiking?”

She grimaced.

Trying to hike?” he offered again.


djcWhen 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 her debut novel More Than Magic.

You can visit Donna’s blog at You can also follow her on Facebook at and on Twitter at @donnajunecooper.

And you can check out the rest of her Pinterest boards at

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** Please note that all the photos were provided by the author. If you feel we are using a photo that is violating a copyright law, please notify us and we will remove the graphic.

14 thoughts on “Guest & Contest: Donna June Cooper

  1. Sol says:

    Yes I do. It gives me an idea of what the characters look like while I’m reading and imagining the events playing out.

    • Donna June Cooper says:

      Thanks for commenting, Sol! And that’s exactly why I put up my Pinterest boards. Just in case a reader might want to sneak a peek at something, or someone.

    • Donna June Cooper says:

      Sounds like the beginning of your own Pinterest board, Joy! I did that with J.D. Robb’s “In Death” books. Created my own version of Eve and Roarke. Turns out some other people had the exact same actors in mind!

  2. Stephanie F. says:

    I am always curious how authors picture their characters and how they stack up to my idea of them.
    This sounds really good. I haven’t read anything from her but I was hooked with the magic angle.

    • Donna June Cooper says:

      Thanks for coming by Stephanie. Hope you get a chance to read More Than Magic and see how my Pinterest picks stack up to your idea of the characters. Maybe you’ll win a copy! I think you’ll enjoy the very unique magic in the Books of the Kindling.

    • Donna June Cooper says:

      bn100 – It’s the same as a taste for a certain kind of book or a certain genre or even a given POV. Variety is the spice of life, and I say YAY! Some people like things this way, and some like things that way. I have to grab graphics just to have a point of reference (settings and room layouts) and to have graphics available for my cover artist (characters). I just decided to put my own graphic points of reference up on Pinterest for those readers who might enjoy them, and to make it easier for me to find them. Thankfully, readers like you can even avoid looking at the cover when it’s an eBook and just picture everything based on whatever is in the story. It’s a win-win!

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Nancy Goldberg Levine says:

    Donna–I love love love Pinterest. My alter ego Vi LaNance has some boards there. I’m going to look you up over there as soon as I finish this comment. And the book sounds wonderful–thanks for the chance to win.

    • Donna June Cooper says:

      Nancy – I can tell that you are a regular pinner! I’m a newbie by comparison. I am glad they gave us unlimited secret boards so I can work on my pinning for future books without revealing TOO much. And you’re a weather geek and nature geek too! Gorgeous photos! I actually have a tornado story in my pile to write. I have always been fascinated with tornadoes… Thank you so much for commenting! Good luck on winning.

  4. Donna June Cooper says:

    Laurie – Yep, sometimes I even change the author’s written description in my head to match MY vision, if it’s different! Thanks for commenting! Good luck on the contest.

  5. Donna June Cooper says:

    CONGRATULATIONS Stephanie. I hope that you enjoy reading More Than Magic and seeing if you visualize the setting and characters the way that I did! Thanks to everyone for entering the contest. And a big thanks to Romancing the Book for everything they do to support authors and readers!

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