Deirdra: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
Donna: I liked to write stories when I was as young as 8, but it didn’t occur to me that I wanted to be an Donna until I was about 12 or 13 when my Jr High English teacher encouraged me to pursue it. Self-doubt and lack of knowledge threw up a roadblock soon after and then I sorta gave up on it until after I’d already gotten married and had three children. I didn’t seriously pursue publishing anything until after my sixth child was about two.
Deirdra: What is your writing and educational background?
Donna: I have a Bachelors Degree in English Composition and a Masters Creative Writing. Ahem. In my dreams! Actually, there’s nothing spectacular about my education except that I’m an English geek, and (according to my daughter) a grammar Nazi. I’ve always loved English and writing and always took more of those classes than I needed for school credit. About six years ago I started taking classes and workshops, and began reading everything I could find about how to write and publish. That same time, I also began studying and researching Regency England. I’ve written countless short stories and novels, only four of which have been published. The rest will never again see the light of day.
Deirdra: What makes you passionate about writing?
Donna: That’s a good question. It’s probably either escapism or some kind of weird sickness. Maybe my mother dropped me on my head.
Oh, wait, I know what you mean. I love the creative process and I live for the happy ending. But getting to the happy ending is the real joy; seeing the characters grow and become better people by overcoming their challenges and their own weaknesses. But I really do love the happy ending.
Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Donna: Bumpy. And filled with tears. After about a dozen rejections, I decided I needed more time to perfect the skills of writing. Who’d a thunk that raw talent alone wouldn’t be enough? Many revisions later, I received a contract offer for the first publisher to whom I submitted my manuscript.
Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Donna: Crying is good. So is stomping around and blubbering on the proverbial shoulders of my closest friends. Then a hot bubble bath. And finally, chocolate. Then I roll up my sleeves and get back to work. The same procedure works well for a harsh (in my opinion) critique.
Deirdra: What is your writing schedule like?
Donna: Eratic. I write when I can, and often in small snitches, but usually when the children are at school or late at night while everyone is in bed. But when I’m on a roll, I write and ignore my family. My children have learned to cope. As long as I have cold cereal or frozen chicken nuggets on hand, I can get away with that. Fortunately, my family “gets” me.
Deirdra: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Donna: Somewhere in the ether, I think. Sometimes from a song, or a line in a movie or poem. Sometimes I get an idea by wondering about the story of a secondary character. Or I play what if? My current work in progress came from me wondering what kind of circumstances would require a marriage between strangers. I’m having fun answering that question. Not every idea/plot is publishable, hence my manuscripts that will never be published. I sorta have to rely upon impartial judges for that one, or be willing to do massive rewrites to make it marketable.
Deirdra: When did the idea for this book first come to you?
Donna: It came to me while I was writing the first book in the series. The heroine was trying to change the subject and she asked the hero about his family. Hero said one of his brothers was a pirate. No, this was not planned; I had no idea he had a pirate for a brother. But it stuck and the idea took root and formed the basis of book two.
Deirdra: What do you hope readers will get from this book?
Donna: I have a very strong theme about hope and forgiveness and trusting your inner voice.
Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline
Donna: I usually write the first couple of chapters organically, then pause and brainstorm a loose plot before I write the rough draft. Much of the story takes shape during the first draft as things come to me, and is polished during the revision process.
Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Donna: Seldom. When I do, I call my critique group and we brainstorm. Often, I’m just tired or stressed, and after taking a break, the solution comes to me.
Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Donna: I like instrumental music; nothing with lyrics or a drum beat.
Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Donna: My very gifted and generous critique partners who help me take a vague scene or idea and help form it into a rough plot.
Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Donna: I grew up idolizing Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Frances Hodgson Burnett, so I’d say they both had a great influence on me. And they’re probably why I’m most attracted to historical, although I have gone the English route instead of American history. I also loved Anne of Green Gables and reread the series as an adult.
Deirdra: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Donna: Giving them flaws balanced by lots of good qualities that are relatable.
Deirdra: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?
Donna: Nope. That’s like asking me to choose a favorite child. They are all beloved. Even the ones I’ll never publish.
Deirdra: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Donna: I don’t snack much when I write. Sometimes I chew on ice, or snack on mixed nuts or crackers. I usually go into a writing coma for several hours, and then when I come back to reality, I realize I’m starved and eat whatever I can get my hands on the fastest.
Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Donna: You must be passionate and persistent and patient. You must love to write so much that you won't give up no matter what. That means, finish the manuscript. 90% of people who say they want to be a published author never finish a book.
Then you need to accept that your manuscript isn't perfect and be willing to fine tune it. Take writing classes. Read books on writing. Have an experienced author mentor you and teach you specifics about your book.
Then revise, revise, revise. Edit, edit, edit.
Once you have a polished manuscript, send it out to several “beta readers” meaning people who don’t feel obligated to tell you it’s wonderful just because they know you. Then learn how to do a synopsis and a query letter. Then send them out to agents or editors who accept your kind of book--so make sure you do your homework.
I also recommend joining a writer's group. The support and training you receive may mean the difference between publication and just dreaming. Don’t rush to finish and submit a manuscript, or settle with a publisher you don’t love. Hold out until you and the manuscript are really ready.
Persistence and passion will carry you through the tough times.
Deirdra: What are you working on now?
Donna: More things than are good for me. I'm finalizing a new Regency romance and getting it ready for submission, trying to fix a draft that isn't working (needs a new subplot, I think) and working on the rough draft for a new young adult historical paranormal.
Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Donna: Nah. I'm sure everyone's asleep at this point. I think I'll go bore my family now.
Deirdra: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
Donna: They are all on Amazon. My fantasy, Queen in Exile is also available at all Costcos, Deseret Bookstore, Seagull bookstore, and a number of bookstores.
My Regencies, The Stranger She Married, The Guise of a Gentleman, and Troubled Hearts, are also available at the Wild Rose Press website here http://www.thewildrosepress.com/Donna-hatch-m-258.html?zenid=77b4e4afe1907da0c732e60685d9ab67, both in paperback and in ebook format.