November 9, 2008

Inerview with Donna Hatch

1. So, tell us a little about yourself? What is your typical day like?

I get my children off to school (no small feat, considering I have six!), then get ready and do a little housework (and I do mean little) or run errands. Then I sit down at the computer and write, or edit, or do research. After lunch, I go to work at my part time job as a secretary. After dinner, we do homework (the children’s – not mine), and then I get them ready for bed. If bedtime goes fairly well, I have time to play the harp and then read my email or sometimes just read. I write or edit if I’m really in the “mood” or have a pressing deadline but usually I’m sorta burned out by night. Which is ironic in a way, because when my children were small, late at night was my best time to write. Must be getting old that I can’t say up half the night anymore. Having time to write uninterrupted during the day makes a big difference, too.

2. When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published? How many stories did you finish before you were published?

I wrote my first story when I was 8, and my first full-length novel when I was in 7th grade. They were both so bad that they will never see the light of day (and neither will my husband if he ever posts them on the net!) About five years ago, I really got serious about writing, and I got my first book contract roughly two years later.

3. How did you break into publishing?

The first thing I did was join a local chapter of Romance Writer’s of America. I took writing classes and workshops, got critiqued, entered contests, got more critiques, attended conferences, pitched to editors and agents, got more critiques, submitted my manuscripts to agents and editors, and found a critique group who I really trust. I never gave up, no matter how many rejections, or how discouraging the critiques were, and I kept working to learn the tools of the trade. Plus I got enough positive critiques that those helped me keep going. When I started winning writing contests that gave me a huge boost and I carefully considered the input I received from contest judges.

4. What influenced you to write?

I’ve always loved to read, and writing seemed the next logical step. It seems to be some weird, insane compulsion. It also got me through some serious bouts of clinical depression. When I wasn’t writing stories, I wrote in my journal. Now I write when I’m happy, or sad, or anything in between. And I still read voraciously.

5. What inspired you to write romance?

I feed off the euphoria of new love and I need a happy ending. It’s like having a piece of chocolate at the end of the day. Only not fattening. There are some great books out there, but if there isn’t enough romance, I’m disappointed. And if it doesn’t have a happy ending, I’m totally bummed out. Reading doesn’t feel like an escape if the book doesn’t end well and happy. Life throws so many challenges and disappointments that I need the escape of a great book with a satisfying ending.

6. What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

I write fantasy and Regency, but so far, I’m only published in Regency. I love historical overall. I grew up on Little House on the Prairie books, Jane Eyre, Anne of Green Gables. Historicals are like a whole new world, totally different from the modern world in which I live. Regency in particular is fun because the manners and mores of society are so formal and lavish (unlike my reality). Besides what’s not to love about men who can dance? Not to mention that there are few things as manly as a man riding horseback or fencing or willing to engage in a dual to protect his honor. Or that of his lady love. I have a thing for medieval romances, too. Love those knights. I might write medieval romances some day when I work up the courage to begin research into a whole new time period. The thought is totally intimidating at the moment.

7. What difficulties does writing this genre present?

I’ve actually wanted to write Regency for years, but was intimidated by the amount of research I’d have to do. The time I spend researching alone is daunting. Even after spending the last three years researching the Regency era, I learn something new almost every day. Some of my book ideas are simply not possible due to customs or laws of the day in that land. If I’d failed to adequately research, I would have spent all that time and effort writing them and learned my errors later. One of my biggest fears is that years from now, I’ll discover some historical inaccuracy in one of my books despite my efforts.

8. What motivated you to write your current book?
I’ve always been drawn to the arranged or forced marriage situation; two good people who are thrust together, not necessarily happy about it, but learn to fall in love and make the best of it. (No, it’s not based upon my real life!) I also enjoy love triangles. I’ve always kinda wondered what would have happened if Christine in Phantom of the Opera fell in love with the Phantom instead of the young handsome viscount. Or if maybe she’d felt really torn between them.

9. How much time do you devote to writing each day?

Generally 3 to 4 hours a day are spent in writing or editing. Back before I started working, I spent 5 to 6 hours a day writing.

10. Tell us about your other works, books, stories, etc.

I have a novella coming out in April. Here’s the backcover blurb: Desperate to escape her estranged husband and a home enshrouded with death and despair, Julia flees in the middle of the night. Little does she know, her determined husband is in pursuit. Along the journey, she discovers a telling revelation. But will it be enough to banish the ghosts of the past and quiet her troubled heart?

11. What are you working on now?

Book 2 of the “Rogue Hearts Series: The Guise of a Gentleman” which is about the brother of the hero in Book 1, The Stranger She Married. There are four books planned for this series, each about a brother of the same family, but each book is meant to be a stand-alone novel. Book two is about a spy infiltrating a pirate ring whose past comes back to haunt him…and endanger the life of the lady he loves.

12. How do you write? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

I’m a combination writer. I have a pretty good general idea of what the book is about, and typically I know several key scenes along the way, but most of it develops as it goes along. I wish I were a plotter; I can see how that would make it easier to stay on track and spend less time revising. My characters influence me the most and sometimes won’t do what I want them to do. One of my secondary characters kept trying to take over as the hero. I had to have a heart-to-heart with him. We made a deal; he’ll stop trying to be the romantic lead, and I’ll let him be more of a tough guy – with the possibility that he’ll get his own book some day soon. He started behaving after that. But then he got really tough and conflicted so now I have to write his story.

13. What was the most usual way you came up with a story idea? I mean, I’ve gotten a plot idea from a song I heard, from brainstorming with a classmate. What unusual thing caused you to think, ‘hey, I could make that into a story?’

I don’t know how unusual this is, but I often wonder about a secondary or walk-on characters and start thinking about what their story is or could be. Sometimes I don’t like how a book ended, or how it deviated from what I thought was important, so I write it as it should have been. Right now I have one percolating in my head that was inspired by something my boss said he did when he was a young adult just before he met his wife. It’s a great concept for another series.

14. If you could spend an hour talking to anyone from any time in history, who
would it be? And Why?

Jane Austen. She was so witty and had a snarky sense of humor that I find highly entertaining. Plus I’d like to ask her some pointed questions that I haven’t been able to learn in my research.

15. Tell us some of the things interviewers are saying about your story or stories.

One of my interviews gave me such glowing praise I almost blushed:

“It is an exceptionally well written book, filled with mystery, high adventure, and most importantly of all, a wonderful romance. Ms Hatch creates a wonderfully atmospheric book and just when the reader thinks she might have the mystery figured out, she throws in a delightful twist that leaves the reader guessing all over again! Regency readers will love "The Stranger She Married." And I will be eagerly awaiting Ms Hatch's next book!”

16. What is your all time favorite book?

There are so many, it’s very hard to choose. Jane Eyre ranks way up there. I mostly have favorite authors such as Lynn Kurland, Candice Hern, Julia Quinn, to name a few, rather than favorite books. I have two criteria for a masterful book: 1. unforgettable characters who are deep and complex and 2. are beautifully written with gotcha phrases that demand I go back and re-read just to savor, like taking a walk in a garden and stopping to admire a single bloom.

17. How do you do research for your books? What’s the most interesting bit of research you’ve come across?

I take online classes, I read books – both fiction and nonfiction – written in the Regency era or thereabouts, and I belong to a Regency/Georgian online chapter of RWA and there are some really well informed authors there to guide me with questions and discussions.

I didn’t used to love research and saw it as a necessary evil. But I’ve learned to really love research and now I frequently uncover interesting facts. An interesting bit of research involved pirates, which was really fun. I also learned something about the way criminals were executed, (sounds morbid, I know) but if I tell you, it would be a spoiler, since I use it in my next book. Sorry.

18. What advice would you give aspiring writers today?

Be persistent and work really hard to continue to develop your craft. Great artists – whether they be painters, dancers, musicians, or authors – must spend countless hours learning and practicing. Then keep working at it and don’t give up. Lots of people want to be writers, but most don’t have the determination to ride through the rough times or do the continuing education.

19. How do you like your fans to contact you?

I have a place on my website that says “contact me” and I’m always happy to hear from readers (as long as they don’t bring up a research mistake I’ve made. Just kidding!)

20. Tell us about your newly released book.

My current novel, “The Stranger She Married” is a sweet, yet sensual Regency romance with adventure, intrigue, a love triangle, and a terrible secret.

Torn between a disfigured war hero with the heart of a poet, and a handsome libertine who may not be all he seems, impoverished Alicia must marry by the end of the month. Despite a murder threat looming over her, learning to love the stranger she married may pose the greatest danger of all … to her heart.

Order on line at Look for The Stranger She Married under the category “Historical.” It’s also currently listed under “Best Sellers” on the right side of the home page.


Beth Trissel said...

Lovely interview. I enjoyed learning more about Donna's world and her writing journey. She and I grew up reading a lot of the same books. :) The blurb for this story is a great hook, and congrats on that excellent review. This new release is in my tbr folder on my laptop, and one I intend to get to.
Good luck on a terrific tale, Donna.

Skhye said...

Wow, Donna! I read a lot of answers that I swore were my own! But I only have one child. GREAT INTERVIEW!!! And fabulous review. When will the novel be in print?

Virginia said...

Great interview, you have really got your hands full with six children. How do you manage to write, keep up the house, children and a job? I don't think I could do it.

Karen H in NC said...

Great interview Donna. I was especially interested in what you said about the amount of research necessary to write regency books. You are so correct in that if any facts are wrong, it could very well set your readers off the book. In my reading experience, I have found that authors who focus on the historical/regency period can more easily cross over to write contemps far better than a contemp based author can write a regency. I've read several of the later and was disappointed in most because the heroine and/or the narrative was 'too modern' for the time period with glaring errors in facts, attitudes, language, etc. As a reader, I don't mind an author taking literary liberties with some historical facts to fit her story (as long as a disclaimer is at the end of the book) and I can accept some factual errors in the book, but incorrect characterizations due to lack of research or knowledge of the period totally throws me off the story!

I haven't read your work, but 'The Stranger She Married' sounds like my kind of story so it is going on my BTB list.

Donna Hatch said...

Thanks for your comments Beth, Skhye, Virginia and Karen. It was fun to "see" friends here. And Skhye, to answer your question, my book will be in print April 10, 2009.