Sharon Donovan lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her family. Prior to the loss of her vision, she was a legal secretary for the Court of Common Pleas where she prepared cases for judges in Domestic Relations. Painting was her passion. When she could no longer paint, she began attending creative writing classes and memoir workshops. After a long and winding road, a new dream arose. Today, instead of painting her pictures on canvas, Sharon paints her pictures with words.
Sharon writes stories of inspiration and suspense. She has certificates in business and medical transcription. Echo of a Raven, a narrative non-fiction about her struggles with diabetic retinopathy, received a CTRR award for outstanding writing, and The Claddagh Ring is a 2009 CAPA nominee for best inspirational of the year. Other books by Sharon Donovan are Mask of the Betrayer, Touched by an Angel and Lasting Love. Her Biggest Fan and Charade of Hearts are coming soon from The Wild Rose Press. You can visit Sharon at http://www.sharonadonovan.com/. Welcome, Sharon.
Tell us about Her Biggest Fan. Is it available in print and e-book formats?
My latest release is Her Biggest Fan, a romantic suspense published by the crimson line of The Wild Rose Press. It is available in both print and eBook format. When New York Times bestselling author Tess Kincaid wins the RITA award for her romantic suspense, little does she know she is being photographed. But when she finds a letter in her mailbox, hears her favorite classical song playing on her stereo, and receives an obscene phone call at midnight identifying himself as her biggest fan, she realizes she is being stalked. Plagued with fear, Tess flees to her childhood home, a century-old New England manor overlooking Frenchmen’s Bay. And when the psychotic fan follows her, Tess becomes ensnared in a bizarre game of cat and mouse. Using wax gargoyles, flickering candelabras and eerie music, her biggest fan sets out to drive the pretty little princess insane. But when Tess calls the police, all the props disappear. And when a ball of fire rolls down the hillside, threatening to burn her century-old estate to ashes, Tess calls the fire department. When they arrive, there is no sign of fire. No one believes the spoiled beauty with the bewitching green eyes. Authorities think she’s crazy as a loon. But sensing evil from deep in the woods, Tess Kincaid would bet her life someone is keeping vigil from the watch tower. With the help of her very handsome neighbor, Sheriff Mike Andretti, Tess is bound and determined to prove her biggest fan is real and put an end to this bizarre game.
Wow! how intriguing! Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?
Oh, yes. As writers, we never stop learning. Smart writers learn from their mistakes, and I’ve certainly learned by mine. Initially, going back ten years ago, I had no concept of pov, no idea of how to create subplots or follow a constructive outline, or how to determine a sub-genre or for that matter even a general genre at times. These are all signs of the novice writer, and editors and agents will pick this up in a New York second and toss your carelessly put together manuscript in the slosh pile. Learn the genre you are marketing; otherwise, you’re just wasting your time and the time of the agent/editor. The best thing to do is to carefully read the guidelines of each publishing house that you want to submit to before submitting. Find out if they’re accepting your choice in genre, the word count the font, etc. But most of all, present the most flawless manuscript that you can, free of errors. Joining critique groups for constructive criticism is the best way to improve writing, aside from writing often. Readers are our biggest fans, and ultimately we must please our readers. If more than one person reads the ms and is lost, you have a problem that needs addressed before you submit to a house. These are the words that I live by. I’m a better writer than I was yesterday, but not as good a writer as I will be tomorrow.
Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others? If so, why?
Mask of the Betrayer was my biggest challenge. The main character is a twisted sociopath and serial killer. The mind has always fascinated me. It can bend. It can break. It can snap. In order to write Michael DeVeccio’s story, I had to get deep inside his mind, and in order to do this, I took psychology classes to best understand and study the complexity of the mind and its many disorders. For the most part, sociopaths have been severely traumatized in early childhood, causing their psyche to crack and unravel in later years. Getting into Michael’s head and telling his story from his pov was a frightening place to be. Research for me is everything, and if the facts are misleading to the reader, I haven’t done my homework and have no right stating so in print.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
Certain characters are roughly defined from people I know, while some are strictly from my imagination. Others stem from old television shows or movies or soap operas, combining several characterizations into one. I’ve been known to incorporate some of my own traits into characters, mingling the vulnerable with strengths. For setting, naturally the best way to bring one to life is by visiting the town or country. My visit to Ireland inspired me to write a mystic tale about The Claddagh Ring, and vacationing in the wild and majestic Hawaiian Islands was the backbone to my upcoming suspense Charade of Hearts. But since I can’t go to all the locations I choose to write about, I research the town or country thoroughly and often interview people who have first hand knowledge.
What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
In both the protagonist and antagonist, each has to have a little of both to make them human. Who do you know that is all good or all bad? I can think of certain people that consider themselves flawless, but in reality, are anything but. If I created a heroine that was so squeaky clean and so perfect, who could relate to her? She would come off as cold and unfeeling, not to mention selfish and snobbish. The same with the hero. What woman wants a man who is too perfect for words? How could she let her own hair down if she was afraid to let Mr. Perfect see her flaws or see her naked face without a ton of makeup? This would make for boring life and boring fiction. We all have our flaws, and it’s been my personal experience that admitting to them and finding the humor in them makes people relate to me and admit to a few of their own. Tess Kincaid is my heroine and the protagonist in Her Biggest Fan. She is a beauty with mahogany hair and bewitching green eyes and has been treated like a princess all of her life. On the downside, Tess is prone to migraines when under stress and anxiety attacks requiring medication. In Mask of the Betrayer, Margot Montgomery is polished and sophisticated and highly disciplined. But her flaw is something that she falls prey to, binging and purging when under stress.
How do you determine voice in your writing?
Oddly enough, through music. Music sets the scene for me and invites characters to form de mentions. For instance, in Her Biggest Fan, the song I use is "Midnight Sonata". The haunting piano keys of this old classic strum up an aura of mystery and has been the prelude for many a murder scene. I find the spiking of piano keys chilling when they reach a crushing crescendo, and this song plays from the antique phonograph in the old ballroom, adding the perfect ambiance for an eerie and otherworldly setting. It’s one of those songs that will stick in the head of the reader, sending chills skating down the spine. I hope this is what I’ve created for my readers in Her Biggest Fan.
For Mask of the Betrayer, I used the childhood nursery rhyme "The Farmer in the Del", changing the lyrics to “A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go. Heigh ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go. We’ll catch a fox and put him in a box. Heigh ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go." You can view the book video on my website:
Music sets the scene for drama, suspense and murder!
Where do you write? When? What do you have around you?
I write in my makeshift office and am surrounded by good luck charms and my collection of Mardi Gras face masks. I’m a dream weaver of mystic legends and lore, superstitions and a believer in magic and happily ever afters. My books are all inspired by the legends I collect, and Her Biggest Fan is no exception. My mother is from a small coal mining town in Shamrock, Pennsylvania. When she was growing up, there was a ball of fire that would roll down the hill every night at midnight. If anyone tried to get close, it would disappear. One day, it just vanished and the mystery was never solved. Some say that one of the coal miners lost his life in the shaft and was keeping vigil, protecting other coal miners from death. When my mom and her sisters were together a few years ago at a holiday get together, they talked about this bizarre ball of fire on the hillside. Even though Her Biggest Fan is not about a coal miner or a coal mining town, the ball of fire inspired me to write the book, and I dedicated it to my mother and the unsolved mystery of Shamrock.
Any current projects?
I am hard at work on Vendetta, the sequel to Mask of the Betrayer. Charade of Hearts will be released in December by the crimson line of The Wild Rose Press as part of the Jewel of the Night series. It stars Oliver, my sexy cyber butler.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
The best place is my website for book releases, excerpts and reviews. You can also learn what I’m up to under NEWS and don’t forget to sign up for my news letter. Oliver will be happy to serve you a drink with a smile and a wink and direct you to my blog. My website will direct you to my publishers where you can purchase my books. Thanks for reading, and Susan, thanks for the interview! Here’s my website:
Her Biggest Fan
The Wild Rose Press
Mask of the Betrayer
Sharon, you are truly an inspiration to all of us! Tremendous success!