Today, Natter and Review would like to welcome author Donna Jean McDunn. Here is a short biography of our visitor.
Donna Jean McDunn lives in Iowa with her husband, four cats and two dogs. She is the mother of three daughters and the grandmother of eight. Donna enjoys spending time with her family and friends, camping, fishing, bicycle riding, listening to music and dancing. She is a third degree black belt in Songham Taekwondo and loves working out. Donna writes fiction for young adults and women in her off hours, but spends most of her days as an administrative assistant. She hopes someday to retire and write full time.
N&R: Hi Donna. Welcome to Natter and Review. Donna is one of my new authors with MuseItUp Publishing. Today I would like to get to learn more about her world, not just as an author.
I see you have been married to the same man since you were nineteen, over forty years. That is quite the accomplishment in this day and age. To what would you attribute the success of your relationship?
DJM: We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but through it all we have always supported one another. I think that’s what has kept us together all these years. When both parties show love and put the other person’s feelings ahead of their own, it can only bring them closer.
N&R: Sounds like a good recipe for marriage. Has the farm always been part of your married life?
DJM: We moved to the farm in 1972, when our oldest daughter was one. So, yes, I guess it has been.
N&R: Has it been a catalyst of any stories for you?
DJM: I started writing children’s stories when my grandchildren were born, and many of the animal characters I wrote about were based on a lot of the animals we had over the years.
N&R: Looks like you’ve pursued a rather diverse number of interests in your life. What led you to study martial arts?
DJM: I had been fascinated with martial arts since I saw the Green Hornet in 1966 when I was fifteen years old. One day I saw a sign for martial arts and decided it was time to get back into some type of exercise. I gave it a try and loved it.
N&R: That’s really neat. Are you still active in that field?
DJM: Unfortunately, no. I had some medical issues and three surgeries and I just couldn’t keep up. I still pay my dues to the American Taekwondo Association (ATA), so I am a member and I work out with my weapons and practice forms at home, but I no longer teach or attend classes at the dojo. I miss working with the kids, but have kept in contact with some of them on Facebook.
N&R: That is very inspiring. Maybe some day you can get back to the classes. I see you received a college degree at the age of 42. What did you study and what inspired you to return to school and further your education?
DJM: Until I attended college, my only jobs had been working in the restaurant business as a cook or waitress. When the place I was working at closed their doors for good, I decided to change my career and study business and computers. Computers were just becoming available for almost everyone and most businesses wanted people who could use them. The Internet was in its infancy and I was very curious about it. I am not, and never will be, a computer wiz, but I do love it. I was lucky enough to find a job, after graduating as an Administrative Assistant, with a small business that has been wonderful and taught me even more about business and computers.
N&R: Congratulations on your success. I am sure our readers would like to know all about your work. Let’s begin with your short stories. Can you tell us about them and perhaps include some excerpts?
DJM: Trapped is a short story about Stacie, a clairvoyant. When her sister goes missing after a tornado destroys the family business where her twin, Julie was working, everyone except Stacie thinks the tornado killed her. Stacie ‘saw’ her sister being kidnapped before the tornado ripped through the diner and has ‘seen’ where she is being held, but needs to convince her older brother—who thinks she is crazy—and his friend, to help her find where her sister is trapped before the kidnapper returns.
Here is an excerpt from Trapped which was chosen from over 100 other YA mysteries and included in an anthology Mystery Times Nine 2012, published by … http://www.buddhapussink.com/ and now available at Amazon http://tinyurl.com/cxom7wq
“She wanted to scream at him, “Julie’s not dead! Not yet!” But he already thought she was losing it and that would only add fuel to the fire. She took a deep breath and repeated, in a calm voice, what she’d told him that morning. “Julie was not in the diner when the tornado struck. She was taken before it happened. I saw her…”
“Here we go again with ‘seeing’ things,” Jeff interrupted. “You can’t be serious?”
“She’s my twin sister. I would know if she were dead. She needs my help.”
“Julie’s alive?” Kyle interrupted.
Startled, because she’d forgotten he was there, her stomach flipped. Well, that probably fixed any hope she’d ever had of Kyle liking her. Now he’ll think she’s nuts too.
Jeff was quick to answer him. “Stacie thinks Julie is alive.”
She stomped her foot. “I know she is. I’ve seen her.”
Jeff sighed and rubbed his forehead and then rolled his eyes. “Stacie thinks she’s psychic.”
“How do you know she isn’t?” Kyle asked.
Her mouth dropped open.
Jeff was the first to recover. “You believe in that stuff?”
Kyle shrugged. “I like to keep an open mind. I’ve never known anyone who was psychic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’ve never met any astronauts either.”
The Golden Stallion is a story about Shawn. He loves living in the city, but when his family moves to a ranch, he has a hard time adjusting. Out of boredom and frustration, he begins exploring the surrounding area and discovers a herd of wild horses. A Palomino stallion is their leader and Shawn feels a deep connection to him. He keeps the discovery a secret from his family because he’s a little jealous of his little sister and believes she would destroy the magic he feels when he is with the stallion. A neighbor wants to round up the herd to find them new homes, but Shawn misunderstands and thinks they want to destroy all the horses. He soon learns that if he is going to protect the stallion and make sure the herd survives the winter, he will have to help the ranchers find the horses or risk letting them starve.
Here is an excerpt from The Golden Stallion. It can be found online at Stories That Lift… http://tinyurl.com/bt9gtn6
“Shawn slammed the door and flopped onto his bed. He had hated the ranch from the minute his dad said they were moving. He had begged his dad to let him stay in the city with his friends Zach and Justin, but Dad said he had to live on the ranch for three months.
“You’ll love it; give it the summer,” he had said. Shawn had been certain he would prove his dad wrong.
Then early one morning, when he climbed onto a boulder to get a better look at the river below, he discovered the wild horses. The Palomino stallion stomped and reared as the mares and foals thundered past and in a magical golden swirl of dust the stallion spun around, showing off, as if he knew Shawn watched. Then he disappeared into the valley.
Shawn kept the horses and his special place a secret—especially from his little sister—Katie the Pest. A spoiled baby like Katie would ruin the magic.
And now—just when he decided he never wanted to leave—old man Harrison and Dad were trying to take it all away.
The knock on the door startled him. His dad opened it. “Shawn, I need to talk to you?”
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained is a story about Emma, who has been a widow for seven years and wants to start dating again, but doesn’t know how to find a date. She decides that instead of an online dating service, she could find her own date by putting an ad online and in this way, no one would ever know how she found her man. The problem begins when the ad is misunderstood by some undercover police officers and they believe she’s part of a prostitution ring. Matt Harris answers the ad. Matt and Emma are drawn to one another and he soon realizes the police have made a mistake, but it’s too late and his partner insists she be arrested. Emma is badly traumatized; she rejects Matt because she believes he betrayed her, even though her erotic dreams of him are telling her differently.
Here is an excerpt. It can be found online at Page and Spine: Fiction Showcase – The Front Page… http://tinyurl.com/cynx8ye
“He put the money on the fireplace mantle.
I didn’t know what to say. I looked from the money to him and back to the money. “Matt, I don’t think you understand.” I picked up the money and held it out to him. “I don’t…”
“That’s not enough? You’re an expensive one.”
“No,” I said, very close to tears. “I mean yes. Oh, I don’t know what I mean. Why are you acting this way?”
His eyes widened and then it was as if understanding suddenly dawned on him. He opened his mouth to speak.
Someone pounded on the door. “Police! Open up!”
It was my turn to be surprised. “You’re wanted by the police?”
He reached for the door. “No.” He pulled out a badge and flashed it at me before opening the door. “I am the police.”
I think I stopped breathing.
The officer who had beaten on the door, looked like he should have retired years ago. He crossed the room with a few quick strides. “You are under arrest, Emma Smith,” he said. “If that’s your real name.”
I glared at him. How dare he burst into my home and accuse me of…what was he accusing me of? “Of course that’s my real name. Why are you arresting me?
“For prostitution,” the older cop said.”
N&R: Wow, they look very interesting. I definitely want to find out what happens next. This brings us to your longer work. Was Nightmares your first novel?
N&R: Did anything specific inspire this story?
DJM: To be completely honest, I have to admit the work began as a short story when I was in high school. It was based on an urban legend about a young couple who parked in a dark secluded area where a crazy man with a hooked hand roamed. The legend is told in two separate versions. In the first, the crazy man comes to their car and scares them; they take off and when they return home, they find his hook on the door handle of the car, And in the other version, the couple run out of gas and the boy leaves to get help, but never returns. During the night, the girl hears a scratching sound on the roof of the car. When morning arrives, the police are there and the girl gets out of the car and turns to look back at the vehicle and sees her boyfriend hanging from the tree above the car; his throat is cut and his hands are scratching the roof. In the original short story I wrote I kind of combined them, but in 2008 I took the story out and began rewriting. The result is the version you see today, which has very little resemblance to the old legends.
N&R: Very interesting. I like what you have changed it into for your novel. This has quite a paranormal flavour to it. Have you had any experiences with what could be called the ‘paranormal world’?
DJM: No, not really, but I have always loved stories about ghosts and psychics. One of the first sitcoms on television, that I remember watching, was Topper, 1953-1955. It was about a young couple and a Saint Bernard, who died in an avalanche, and came back to haunt their house where the new owner was the only one who could see and hear them. It was hilarious—or at least I thought so—but what did I know? I would have been about five or six.
N&R: I agree it was hilarious. I remember it well. Are there any challenges that need to be overcome when writing for the Young Adult?
DJM: I think there are challenges for every genre and age group, but for the Young Adult, making my characters sound like teenagers who are almost adults was a challenge. I was constantly asking myself, would an eighteen year old say that?
N&R: This story is definitely a Romance as well. When writing in the Young Adult Romance genre, what kinds of guidelines—if any—do you set for yourself?
DJM: I wanted them to come across as real teenagers with all the angst and emotions that teenagers have to deal with, but without compromising themselves in the process.
N&R: I think that is where a beta group of grandkids comes in handy. LOL. This book has all the characteristics of a paranormal “Nancy Drew” mystery. Have you thought about a series based on the characters?
DJM: I have and I’ve been working on that project for a few months now. I really love the characters I created in Nightmares and in the next book I want to share more of their lives with the reader so they get to know them like I do.
N&R: How about sharing a little of the story, Nightmares.
DJM: Eighteen-year old Emily Preston has it all. She’s beautiful, strong and confident. But just weeks before graduating from high school, the nightmares she’d experienced as a child, begin to plague her once more. When a mysterious voice warns that she must remember her past and accept her gift of seeing into the future in order to save her boyfriend’s life, she believes she’s losing her mind. The nightmares escalate into visions of long ago and memories begin to return. Will Emily allow herself to accept the gift or will she lose everything, including her life.
DJM: Tagline for Nightmares: Emily must accept her gift of clairvoyance and remember her past, when a psychopath returns to kill again.
Here is a short excerpt from the book.
“She knew it was too soon to expect Tony’s return, but peered into the darkness anyway. She saw her own distorted reflection in the glass. The images shifted and changed as she watched. She felt herself being drawn into the shadows until they completely dissolved. She saw the child from her nightmares lying in a bed asleep, while a terrible thunderstorm raged outside.
Lightning flashed around the room and a crack of thunder rattled the windows. The child sat up and for the first time Emily could see her face and blond hair. A dog howled and the girl’s eyes widened with fear as she scooted off the bed.
Her heart hammered inside her own chest to the same rhythm as the child’s. Emily wanted to warn the little girl to lie down and stay where she’d be safe. She wanted to tell her it was too late, she’d already run out of time.
“No!” Emily screamed when the child ran toward the window. “Don’t look.”’
N&R: Is there anything you would like to share about the world of storytelling with other up-and-coming writers?
DJM: You are never too young or too old to begin writing and I’m sure they have heard this a million times already, but it is so true…never give up.
N&R: Thank you so much for visiting today. I have enjoyed our time together and look forward to reading more of your work.
DJM: I’ve enjoyed working with you, too, and I have learned a lot from you about not only writing, but the promotional side of things too. It’s been a scary and a fun journey.
N&R: Thanks, Donna. I look forward to us working together in the future sometime soon. In the meantime, here are some links to Donna and her world:
Her blog: http://www.donnajeanmcdunn.wordpress.com
Her Facebook author page: http://www.facebook.com/DonnaJeanMcDunn
MuseItUp Link to Nightmares: http://tinyurl.com/c747opc