INTERVIEW WITH DONNA COOPER
Donna Cooper says that she remembers that her grandmother was a natural storyteller, and that she created fascinating bedtime stories for her when she was a child. Her grandmother's fictional characters took her into the land of make believe, places that she will never forget. Her fabricated tales gave Donna a passion for storytelling and taught her that first one must be a storyteller before becoming a writer.
It was not until after Donna's children went away to college, was she able to study writing professionally. She attended the University of Arkansas and studied in private classes as well as in the North Arkansas Community College. While attending the community college, she and a creative writing instructor wrote a romance novel. When the rejection letter came, Donna saw the effort as a failure, but the instructor saw the value in it. She rewrote the story and sold it to Harlequin. From that day forward, Donna had a dream to repeat the performance with a story of her own - one that would be publishable.
Then divorce came and that knocked the romance out of her heart. It was several years later before she could read a romance novel, must less consider writing one. The creative juices were not there anymore, and since she had to make a living, she became an insurance agent. She traveled rural Arkansas and sold health and life insurance to farm families. During those days, she allowed her emotions to heal, but never stopped thinking about writing.
Then about twenty years ago, she met and fell in love with a man who thought she should have been a writer. It is odd that he could see the storyteller in her, even when she couldn't see it herself. He reminded her often that she could probably write and publish a novel. Finally, one day while wintering in sunny California, she opened her laptop and started pecking out words. It was then, that she created the novel, “TROUBLE ON SUGAR CREEK.” The setting she chose was a place that she still thinks of as home, Barry Co., MO.
The manuscript sold to Siren-Book Strand Publishing after only a few days in their slush pile. This was her first novel and her first attempt to re-enter the world of storytelling. Publishing wasn’t something that was foreign to her, because back during her days in college, Donna published in a few poetry magazines, and later in several historical non-fiction books, in at least 30 fiction short stories during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Presently, she writes daily, because she is the administrator and coordinator of the Barry County MOGenWeb site. She enjoys writing historical data and code for web pages, but she says that’s very different from storytelling.
Donna likes writing fiction, especially classical romance stories. She enjoys telling the story of emotional and sexual love, the kind that a woman holds in her heart. She works hard at what she does and hopes that what she writes isn’t too spicy for her friends and family to enjoy reading. Her stories range from the happy ever after romance to the naughty side of the romantic world. She likes a variety of characters and writes tales about people from different occupations with varying lifestyles.
Q: What genres do you like?
My favorite reads are contemporary and historical books. I like to read and write about people who settled the wilderness and lived in the early days of Colonial America, but a modern day read that romps me through the bedroom with a handsome hero is okay, too. I enjoy writing and reading about a spunky heroine that’s a little on the feisty side and a hero that adores her for who she is. He doesn’t have to be Superman; he can be an ordinary Joe that loves her for all the right reasons. I like to read about a man who knows what he wants and is not afraid of falling in love. He is apple pie and America made as far as I am concerned. Call me an old-fashioned girl if you want. I don’t like erotic sexual behavior to take away from a good story, and so I write about falling in love and add some complications, a few conflicts to spice it up some. Since I like a little excitement in a romance book, I added a murder mystery as the suspense plot to TROUBLE ON SUGAR CREEK.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
I am inspired to write about life as it is lived. Everywhere you look, you see parts of untold stories.
Q: What type of music do you listen to while writing?
The soft love songs of the fifties add to my inspiration and remind me of what love really seems to mean to most of us. Believe me when I say that there is no better feeling than the one you get when you listen to Jerry Lee Lewis belt out “GREAT BALLS OF FIRE” or the Righteous Brothers sing “UNCHAINED MELODY.”
Q: What type of hero is your favorite?
That’s a tough question. I like to read about a hero who is honest, hardworking, and who will stand by his woman through all kinds of hardships. He has to be worth saving for me to let him get near my heroine. If he can’t be faithful and love her for who she is then he can get off the page.
Q: What type of beverage do you drink while you write?
Coffee – coffee – coffee – coffee.
Q: How do you keep a positive attitude when reject is part of submission?
I was an insurance agent for almost twenty years. During those days, I attended many seminars and workshops on sales rejection, so I know that rejection does not mean it is not salable or that someone else won’t like it. For instance, one time I submitted a short story to the same editor three times, and on the third time, she bought it. Keeping a positive attitude includes being able to see the manuscript as someone else might view it. Making revisions when needed is only a part of it.
Q: What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
NEVER fall in love with your own words!
Q: If you weren't writing what would you be doing?
If not writing, I’d be traveling to a romantic place with my sweetheart, sipping piña coladas in the sunshine, and surfing the waves. That sounds very romantic, but I am only kidding! Seriously, I would be traveling to a romantic place with my sweetheart - and I'll leave the rest to your imagination.