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Inspirational-Suspense with...

Sharon Donovan

 

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be interviewed by you. 

Where do you currently reside?  Have you always lived there? If you could live any where in the world where would it be? 

I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I have always lived. If I could choose a place to live anywhere in the world, it would be Hawaii. I vacationed there years ago and it is truly an island of paradise.

 

Where can our readers find and contact you?

I love to hear from readers. They can contact me by email at:

sharonad@comcast.net or visit my website at: http://www.sharonadonovan.com

 

You have quite a few newly released books this year.  There’s a wonderful mixture of inspirational, suspense, and nonfiction. 

It’s been a busy year. My genre of choice is suspense, for both reading and writing. Stories of inspiration draw emotion from readers, leaving them with a feeling of peace. Suspense, on the other hand, is exhilarating, moving along at an accelerated pace until the riveting climax.

 

Can you please tell us a little about your latest release, TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL? 

Touched by an Angel is a story of spiritual healing. Charles struggles with his faith after the death of his wife. He misses Jill terribly and decides to end his life. But just as he’s about to jump off the cliffs of the Mojave Desert, he hears Jill’s voice, telling him it’s not his time. And when Charles meets Emma, who looks so much like Jill she could be her twin, he fears he is losing his mind. As the story unfolds, Charles and Emma discover their spouses have died on the same day and are buried side by side in the same cemetery. Charles is drawn to Emma, but feels he is betraying his wife. Before Charles can move on, he has to face his past. I want readers to feel the deep devotion Charles felt for his wife, his unwillingness to let her go. The message I hope to deliver in Touched by an Angel is that everything comes full circle under God’s plan. Death is a part of life. But while we’re on earth, we have to make every day count.

 

I noticed that the main character for TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL, Charles, is a widower.   Do you have any preferences when it comes to gender for your protagonists? 

For the most part, I choose a woman for my protagonist. And there are never any in betweens. She is either sweet and demure and has to face something that will toughen her skin—or she already is tough enough to take on the whole world with attitude personified. The reason I usually have a woman protagonist is because I feared I couldn’t express a man’s emotions. But through Charles, I learned that beneath a tough exterior beats a warm and loving heart, every bit as sensitive as a woman’s.

 

In what way is Charles unique from other characters in your other books?   

Speaking of ghosts, Charles haunted my dreams on a regular basis. Touched by an Angel sat on my hard drive for years, titled The Yellow Rose--an assignment for my first writing class. In the original manuscript, Charles was an older man, a distinguished gentleman with a quiet demeanor. Devoted to his mother’s memory, he faithfully decorated her grave with a wreath of yellow roses. Last year when I challenged myself to write a short inspirational, Charles sprouted wings and came soaring out of my computer and into my dreams. And after being silenced for so long, he came out giving me lip. He let me know he was no mama’s boy—and wasn’t about to play the role of some old fuddy duddy that had no life other than placing flowers on his mother’s grave.  

The new and improved Charles fancied himself Charles the stud. He wanted to be young and hot looking. And he demanded I create a gorgeous leading lady to do him justice. So keeping the inspirational theme with the cemetery and the yellow rose, Touched by an Angel was born. And Charles got his way and got a makeover. The new and improved Charles is in his early thirties, has black wavy hair, and midnight blue eyes that could melt butter. I figured Charles would stop starring in my dreams once the manuscript was contracted and published. No such luck. Now Charles comes to me in a dream, demanding to know how sales are going.

 

Can you tell us something about Emma?

 

When I created the theme for Touched by an Angel, I envisioned the heroine a sweet woman with an inner wisdom that made her shine. To me, the name Emma is regal, a name that remains timeless and ageless. And this made her the perfect woman for Charles. Even though Emma has lost the great love of her life, she has accepted it and is willing to move on. Emma is a sensitive woman whose tranquil nature has a hypnotic effect on Charles. Rather than being angry at God for taking away the love of her life, Emma takes comfort in knowing her husband is out of pain and in God’s hands.

 

Emma resembles Charles’ deceased wife.  There’s an old saying that everyone has a twin in the world or that sometimes people are reincarnated.  Did this have an effect in creating Emma’s character?  What are your views on reincarnation?  

They say opposites attract. But Charles is as stubborn as the day is long. Totally absorbed in his self-pity, the only emotion he lets out is his anger. If a feisty woman expressed an interest in Charles, he’d strike out with an angry outburst, head for the hills, and burrow deeper into his bubble of self-pity. I needed something to shock Charles back to the present and bring him back to life. In Charles opinion, no one could possibly hold a candle to Jill, his deceased wife. But if someone who was her striking image came along, the shock would snap him back to the present. How many times I did a double take when I swore I saw someone who had died. It gave me chills, making me feel as if I’d just seen a ghost. So if a stranger could evoke this kind of emotion in me, what would the haunting image of his deceased wife do to Charles? Charles was walking around like the living dead, so caught up in his life with Jill, the world around him stopped revolving. So I created Emma to show Charles how to let go and move on. Through Emma, Charles found the strength to lay Jill to rest and open his heart to love.  

Do I believe in reincarnation? I don’t know, but part of my heritage is Irish—and that makes me superstitious by nature. I’d like to think that those who have made mistakes could come back and be a better person the second time around. I’ve experienced déjà vue so many times, feeling as if I’d been to a place I never set foot in. It’s something so brief, the smell of a rose, the sound of the waves, the feel of a piece of jewelry in my hand. And it’s the same with people. How many times I meet someone for the first time and feel as if I’d known them forever. Other times, something so coincidental will happen, I swear reincarnation truly does exist. My aunt loved the blue bird. She had an entire collection of them in her home. Shortly after she died, a blue bird nested in the tree outside my window, chirping a cheery hello. I believe the special are chosen to come back as guardian angels.

 

There was popular TV series years ago called “Touched by an Angel”.  Was this series an influence in any way in writing this story?  

No. Even though I was a fan of the show, it had no influence on my story whatsoever. Angels hold a special place in my heart and I’ll tell you why. Several years ago, I developed a rare brain infection and wasn’t expected to live. My neurologist scheduled me for risky brain surgery. The day before I went to the hospital, I went out and bought an angel charm and hung it around my neck on a chain. The minute I secured the clasp, I was filled with a sense of peace and tranquility I’d never known. I knew whatever the outcome, I’d be all right. And I prayed to my guardian angel for a miracle. The morning of my brain surgery, my doctor cancelled the operation. He told me in his professional opinion, I would not have survived the operation. He treated the infection aggressively, giving me an antibiotic distributed intravenously for six hours every day for a solid month. The side effects were harsh, worse than chemo. I was exhausted, an apparition of my former self. But I never once gave up hope—and never took off my angel necklace. Through the power of prayer and my angel, I beat the odds and recovered. So you can see why angels play a significant role not only in my life, but in my writings. Angels lift us when we are too weak to lift ourselves. In my darkest hour, my guardian angel never left my side.

 

Your next upcoming releases, THE CLADDAGH RING, LASTING LOVE and MASK OF THE BETRAYER, are just around the corner.  I’m sure our readers would love to hear a bit more about these new titles. 

The Claddagh Ring is a story about a woman’s search for her purpose in life. This is a St. Patrick’s Day story published by The Wild Rose Press. When Meghan O’Malley’s mother died, she left her a family heirloom, The Claddagh Ring. The Claddagh pattern has a heart, two hands holding the heart, and a crown on top of the heart. According to Irish legend, the wearer of the ring will find love, friendship and loyalty. But the ring has to be worn in a certain way in order for the spell to work. Worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward means the heart is open and searching for love. Worn on the left hand with the heart facing outward means  you have found someone. And when worn on the left hand with the heart facing inward means you are committed to your one true love for life.  

Meghan Shannon O’Malley is a feisty redhead who owns a bar and grill on Chicago’s waterfront.  When her mother leaves her the Claddagh Ring, she tells Meghan everything in her life will come full circle. She tells her that if she wears the ring, she will find her soulmate as well as a purpose. And when Meghan meets the ruggedly handsome Rork McGuire, sparks fly. But Rork has a dark secret that tests the legend behind the ring. 

Lasting Love is an Easter story published by The Wild Rose Press. Abbey Jordan owns a garden nursery in rural Vermont. When her assistant quits right before Easter, one of the busiest times of the year, Abbey places it in God’s hands.  And when she hires Brady as her horticultural manager, he seems like an answer to her prayers. But when Abbey’s greenhouse burns down the night before Easter, she buries all hope of love beneath the bed of ashes. In Lasting Love, I use a dramatic scene to illustrate the true meaning of Easter--The Resurrection. 

Mask of the Betrayer is a suspense, a thriller about a serial killer stalking the foothills of Red Rock Canyon. He leaves his signature—a skull mask on the corpse. But when the homicide cop realizes the crimes are a reenactment of a crime never solved, all fingers point to a prominent businessman. And when Margot realizes she is married to the killer, her life becomes a living nightmare. Mask of the Betrayer has a very complex plot with several subplots. The main character is a sociopath, totally void of all emotions. Raised by his uncle, a Vegas icon who was deeply connected to organized crime before his death, he trained Michael to kill any and all who betrayed the family.  

Mask of the Betrayer is more of a psychological thriller, dealing with the complexity of the mind. I take the reader back to Michael’s childhood when he was a sweet boy who lived with his parents in a small fishing port off the coast of Tuscany. Michael led a simple life with loving parents until they were killed in a car crash. At the age of twelve, Michael is sent to live with his father’s brother, a man without a conscience or soul. And when Michael realizes he is being trained to kill, he slowly but surely loses his sanity. Psychology fascinates me. The mind is a tricky faux, weak in even the strongest of people. It can bend. It can twist. And it can snap. I am currently seeking representation for Mask of the Betrayer.

 

Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp? 

Yes. When I write stories of inspiration, I want to leave readers with a feeling of hope. Never give up on your dreams. Follow your heart over the rainbow until you find your pot of gold. Writing inspires me and I’d like to think I inspire readers with my writing. I think everyone deserves a happily-ever-after—and I give my characters that gift in my stories. Now as far as suspense, that’s totally different, a complete 180. I want to create storylines that have readers on the edge of their seats, keep them turning the pages. When I read a suspense book, I expect the most compelling scenes to send chills skittering down my spine. I like when stories take an unexpected twist when you least expect it. So given these facts, I try to incorporate these things into my writing.  

People often ask me why I write both inspiration and suspense. It’s actually very simple. I’ve been through so much in my life, so much trauma and heartache, writing stories of hope is my way of reaching out to people who need a little sunshine in their lives. Not only that, but writing is good therapy…and a lot cheaper. Now when life gets the best of me and I feel shall we say less than inspired, I just go out and kill someone in the wonderful world of fiction.

 

Has anyone ever compared your work to any other authors such as Andrew Greeley or Danielle Steele? 

Mask of the Betrayer was originally entitled Raptured, a story I started in my first creative writing class. After reading the last chapter, my teacher told the entire class it reminded her of a John Grisham novel.

 

I want to move on to your non-fiction work.

 

ECHO OF A RAVEN is described as “narrative non-fiction” instead of an autobiography.  Can you please offer us more insight into why this isn’t classified as an autobiography?  

An autobiography is a person’s account of his or her own life. A narrative non-fiction is a retelling of a true story in which a series of events come to life on the page.  And that’s precisely what happens in Echo of a Raven. Diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of six, a doctor at Children’s Hospital predicted I would be blind by time I was twenty-five. His cruel words changed the entire course of my life, affecting every decision I made for years to come. His words haunted me. They consumed me. They devoured me. No matter where I was or what I was doing, the words echoed in my head. I was afraid to drive for fear I’d go blind and kill someone. I was afraid to get close to anyone for fear of rejection. I was always afraid. Yet no one knew my fears, not even my family or closest friends. I never discussed his venomous words because I thought if I said them aloud they would surely come true. And at the age of twenty-one when I had the initial bout of blindness, I went a little crazy. I had a fantastic job at the courthouse in the Family Division. I spent my weekends horseback riding and doing what I love most—painting.  

For the next two decades, I underwent countless operations where my vision came and went. It was an emotional roller coaster that tore me apart. With each passing year, I lost more and more vision, and more and more of my independence and dignity. And when I had the final operation, the outcome was total blindness, much to my shock and horror. Devastated and disillusioned, I enrolled in a sixteen-week program for the blind and visually impaired. The classes demanded discipline, motivation—and a whole lot of guts. Some of the classes were access technology where I was taught how to use a computer with adaptive software. Another class was personal adjustment, relearning basic skills as grooming, shopping, keeping a checkbook and organization skills without sight. Group therapy was for dealing with anger issues, and the worst, being trained to use the dreaded white cane.  

In Echo of a Raven, I take the reader on a brutally honest journey to some of the darkest recesses of my mind. I use raw but direct quotes that might  shock and offend. But as my writing teacher told me, if the reader is to get the real feel of what went on inside this institution, the explicit language must be quoted; otherwise, the reader will not be drawn in. Without bringing my true-life characters to life on a page, the reader will never know or understand the extremes we faced. The sixteen weeks I spent at Pittsburgh Vision have left a lasting imprint on my brain.  

Echo of a Raven is not for the weak at heart. Anger is not pretty and everyone deals with it in a different way. I use shocking anecdotes of my sixteen-week stay at Pittsburgh Vision. Some of these include: the humiliation of being fitted for a white cane, the sheer terror of being disoriented in traffic, being forced to talk about my feelings in front of strangers at group therapy, explosive anger issues straight out of the Wild Wild West.  

I have read memoirs about a person losing his or her vision, but none with such prolific details told from an insider’s point of view. It was an incredible journey filled with heart-wrenching pain. We laughed and we cried. We bonded in a way words could not describe.  Part of the reason I was reluctant to enroll in this program was I thought other clients would be uneducated. I was wrong. They were all ordinary people with extraordinary problems--thrust into a living nightmare due to circumstances beyond control. There were teachers, engineers, doctors, all with some type of eye disease that was literally robbing them blind. Some had the added burden of facing marital problems because a spouse was unable to deal with the pending blindness. I would not have survived the most challenging ordeal of my life without this special group of people. What didn’t kill me made me stronger.

 

How did you come up with the title for this work?

My life story could be a Stephen King movie. When I was ten years old, I went for a routine visit to Children’s Hospital for my diabetes. I saw whatever doctor was on staff that day. Diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of six, I was used to doctors. And until this day, the doctors at Children’s Hospital treated me in the manner one would expect a physician to treat a child. But on this particular day, the protocol I’d become accustomed to was shattered. I was sitting in the examination room with my mother when the doctor stormed through the door with my blood work, his mood dark, fueled with anger. The first words out of his mouth were, “Your sugars are much too high. You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five.” 

His cruel words changed the entire course of my life. From that day on, his words echoed in my head, affecting every major decision I made for years to come. His face faded with time—but his words echoed in my head forevermore. I lived in constant fear of losing my vision. One night when reading an English assignment, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe, the doctor haunted my dreams. I heard a tapping at my window and went to look out. When I parted the curtains, a huge black raven was perched on my window pane. In the voice of that doctor, he screeched, “You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five.” 

The raven haunted my subconscious for years to come. I became so enmeshed in my future I missed out on the present. The only time I found peace was when I painted picturesque scenery, slipping into another place and time. Painting was my sanctuary, my passion. But after a long and winding road, a new dream has resurrected. Today, instead of painting my pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words.

 

Why did you choose to write this particular book? 

I enrolled in a memoir class a few years ago. Uncertain of what to write, I began writing stories about my stay at Pittsburgh Vision. My teacher and classmates became so enthralled they couldn’t wait for the next chapter. My teacher felt this story had the potential for a movie. He wrote a column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and put me in touch with his editor—who in turn challenged me to write an excerpt from my memoir. I did and Worst Fear was published in the Life Support column in April of 26. The results astounded me.  

Many people facing similar problems called me to ask for phone numbers and addresses of organizations which could help someone they knew facing a progressive eye disease. Even though the seed was planted in my mind to write an entire book about my struggles with diabetic retinopathy, it didn’t blossom until the following year. I took yet another memoir class with another instructor—and with her urging along with the entire class egging me on—I accepted the challenge.

My teacher said it was unlike anything she had ever read. She said it would shock, fascinate and teach the general public as well as inspire those facing an eye disease. At first, I shied away from the challenge. It is very hard to reveal such intimate details of one’s life, open up one’s heart and soul. But when others supported my teacher’s proposal, I set aside my apprehensions and buckled down. Writing this story open scars that will never completely heal. Some of these memories came back with such vivid recollection, I felt as if I were reliving that turbulent time all over again. I’d get so upset I had to walk away before I literally fell apart. But I pushed myself to go back to it,  keep plugging away for the sake of helping those in similar situations. And that’s my goal, my mission.  

Echo of a Raven is a must read for diabetics, those facing a visual impairment, and for intelligent people who want to find a cure for this world-wide epidemic. With America in the lead at 20.8 million, there are more than 230 million diabetics with the number rapidly increasing. Close to half of these diabetics will develop some stage of retinopathy. In under-developed countries, being diagnosed with diabetes is a death sentence because of insufficient health care. Isn’t it time to end this world-wide epidemic?

 

Have you written any other non-fiction books? 

No. I’ve learned to never say never---but I will say it’s highly unlikely.

 

The story about how you became a writer is inspirational to anyone with goals and dreams no matter what challenges they might face.  Did your own life inspire you to write inspiration fiction?  

Absolutely. Hope is the nucleus of who I am. If I give up on a dream, all hope is lost. And until I draw my last breath on this earth, I will keep hoping for a brighter tomorrow.

 

Do you ever include any of your life experiences, even friends in your story plots? 

Many times. I attended a writers’ convention where the speaker gave some sound advice. She said if you want to bring your character to life, think of a person you know with a similar personality. It’s amazing how my characters appear so natural since I’ve taken this advice to heart. I imagine talking to this person I’m using as a role model and the character’s voice and personality come alive with amazing clarity.

 

What books have most influenced your life? 

Before the loss of my vision, I was not much of a reader. My free time was spent horseback riding and painting. When I lost my vision, I was introduced to audio books. For some reason, I was under the impression the choice in books would be both limited and boring. Once more, I was proven wrong.  

The first set of books I got was Nora Roberts trilogy, The Jewels series about the Gallaghers of Ardmore, Ireland. Not only was the writing superb, but the woman who narrated the books truly brought the characters to life. It was like being at a play. I became so enthralled with the descriptions of Ireland I knew I’d have to visit some day. Some day came three years ago when my family and I traveled to the Emerald Isle. My dad’s father was born in County Cork and we toured it along with the entire island. We stayed at a medieval castle where the Earl himself used to entertain guests several centuries ago. We were greeted at the door by a kilted piper and a glass of Mead. 

 Ireland is filled with rugged landscape, rolling green hills and sheep grazing high on the hill. The music is sweet and lyrical. When I walked through the castles and villages, I felt as if I had been transported in time to a place where magic truly exists. It’s an enchanting land of legend and lore. I was so intrigued with the legend of the Claddagh, it inspired me to write my upcoming story—The Claddagh ring.

 

JOYFULLY INTERVIEWED: How and where can we purchase all the books mentioned?  

Touched by an Angel is available at The Wild Rose Press. As an e-Book

www.thewildrosepress.com

or through my website

www.sharonadonovan.com

 

The Claddagh Ring will be available as an e-Book

February 25, 2009 from

The Wild Rose Press

www.thewildrosepress.com

or my website

www.sharonadonovan.com

 

Lasting Love will be available as an e-Book from

The Wild Rose Press

March 18, 2009

www.sharonadonovan.com

or my website

www.sharonadonovan.com

 

I am currently seeking representation for Mask of the Betrayer and Echo of a Raven.

 

How long does it take you to write a book? 

It all depends. I started my first book in 2002 as Raptured. After several writing classes and several revisions, it is now Mask of the Betrayer. It was a learning experience, my first attempt at writing. It takes time to develop sharp writing skills. And through my many mistakes, I have learned to follow a more definite outline. I do character sketches, imagine what my characters would buy when I’m shopping, the food and clothes they would buy. Now that I have the basic writing skills mastered, my writing moves along at a much smoother pace—and a lot faster. But still, it’s impossible to say how long it takes to write a book. Sometimes, life just has a habit of getting in the way.

 

What do you do when you’re not writing? 

I like to cook. Cooking relaxes me. Again, my creative muse shines through in this hobby. Cooking is a form of art and creation. I dabble in the simple to the gourmet—depending on time and deadlines as well as the occasion.  I am a huge fan of audio books. Some of my favorite authors are Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb—the In Death series, Lisa Jackson, Sandra Brown, James Patterson, Tami Hoag and Sydney Sheldon. I’m a member of a wine and dining group where we try new eateries around the city of Pittsburgh. I collect Waterford crystal, Fennel and Santas from around the world.

 

What does your family and friends think of your work? 

They are my biggest fans! Grin!

 

What do you consider the most difficult part about writing?  

Two things come to mind. Finding the time—and writing about myself. It is very difficult for me to post something about myself or my reviews on the various groups out there. I was brought up not to brag and never had much to brag about to boot in the last two decades. I was in such a dim light for so long, being in the lime light for author spotlights and interviews humbles me. So many disheartening things happened to me in my life, I keep waiting to wake up from a dream.

 

Where do you get your information or ideas to write books? 

I’d like to say by traveling the world, but that would be a fib. Outside of Ireland serving as research for The Claddagh Ring, most of my research is through the Internet. With the technical support of Glenn, my disembodied cyber space buddy who narrates the words on the screen, I research the setting for my stories. Glenn can be pretty loud, mouthing off sometimes even when I don’t ask for his opinion. I swear he has a bit of the Irish in him, mischievous by nature. On election day when I was sitting in front of my computer, deeply lost in my thought, he announced in his monotone voice, “Don’t forget to vote.” 

I nearly jumped out of my skin. Even if he isn’t programmed to read something, he reads the pop up messages automatically. Glenn gets on my nerves sometimes, but for the most part, he’s a Godsend. He’s a real trooper, reading my email, documents, whatever I research on the Internet. And he never bugs me for a raise. If I could just program him to do a coffee run, I might consider giving him that raise.

 

How many books have you written?  

I have three e-Books published by The Wild Rose Press. Mask of the Betrayer is a full-length novel--complete and looking for a home. I am half finished with its sequel, Vengeance. Another suspense novel is currently under review, and Echo of a Raven has the finishing touches to add before it reaches fruition. I am a member of a writers group where we have just published our first anthology—Northland Writers at Work where I have five short stories.

 

What are your most current writing projects now? 

I have just submitted my latest suspense for review. It is about an author whose biggest fan turns into her biggest nightmare. The setting is Napa Valley, modern day. When Tess Kincaid returns to her childhood home, a seaside mansion overlooking the rugged cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, she learns the hard way one can never go home again. This story is a full length novel, filled with all of my favorite things. Suspense. Inspiration. Romance. Intrigue. That’s all folks. Stay tuned for coming attractions.

 

What do you feel contributes to making a successful writer? 

Attend writers conferences, workshops, critique groups, whatever it takes to sharpen your writing skills. Criticism takes some getting used to, but the end result is a polished gem. Critique partners and critique groups offer so much in the way of honest reviews. Just because you think your work is ready for submission doesn’t mean everyone shares your enthusiasm. If more than one person views  your crystal clear manuscript as clear as mud, you have a problem. The job of the author is to please its audience—the reader. I belong to several critique groups and learn something new every day. I know I’m a better writer today than I was yesterday—but not as good as I’ll be tomorrow.

 

You’re stranded on a desert island. Name one person from anywhere in history or literature you would like to accompany you and three things you would take with you. 

It sure wouldn’t be Edgar Allan Poe.  When I think of being stranded on a desert island, Gilligan’s Island comes to mind. And that was filmed in Hawaii, a very tranquil and beautiful place. Hmm. King Arthur comes to mind. Narrowing it down to three things is a bit of a challenge. Water, lip balm and a journal.

 

Can you share with us the most remarkable and moving thing that has happened to you since you first started writing? 

The power of networking. So many doors have opened since I’ve started writing. I have made so many friends and connections world-wide and the list keeps growing.

 

I want to thank you for spending time with us and our readers today. 

Thank you so much for your time!  

Thank you so much for the interview. It was my pleasure.

 

     

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