My Writing Life: Donna Fasano
Growing up the third child of five—yes, smack dab in the middle and the only girl to boot—Donna Fasano had no idea she would one day be a published author. Her story-telling talents came to light when she conjured lively and elaborate tales of pure blarney (yes, she has a bit of Irish in her blood) for, first, her youngest brother, and years later, her children.
Donna sold her first manuscript in 1989, and since then has become a bestselling, award-winning author of more than thirty novels and four audio books. She writes under her own name, Donna Fasano, as well as under the pen name Donna Clayton.
When did you first discover a love of writing?
Although most writers know from a very early age that they are born story-tellers, I came to writing from being an avid reader of romance novels. I was addicted to that “happily ever after” that each book gave me, and I used novels as an escape from an unhappy adolescence. I married (looking for my own HEA!) and had two children. Once my sons started school and I felt it was time to find a part-time job, my husband took a look at the piles of books all over our house and said, “You’ve read enough of these; why don’t you try writing one?” I thought he was crazy, but he planted a seed that sprouted and grew.
What book had the greatest impact on you? What book made you want to write?
To Kill a Mockingbird helped me to become the compassionate person I am. The Far Pavilions stirred my interest in history in a way no high school teacher could. I like to think I take something away from each book I read. Hundreds of writers have offered me a little piece of themselves in the books I have read over the years, and I am so appreciative and often in awe of the fact that each story takes me on a journey, allows me see something new, introduces me to people and places I could never imagine without the help of these talented and true visionaries.
When I was a young mother, I found Silhouette Romance novels. I devoured those little gems. The books were inexpensive and I could buy them at the grocery store. After reading them I couldn’t bear to give them away. So there were piles of them everywhere. When my husband suggested I try my hand at writing a novel, those light, fun, romantic books became my learning tool. Emma Darcy, Rita Rainville, Day LeClaire, Anne Mather, Penny Jordon, Violet Winspear, these were the authors who inspired me to write my very first sweet romance novel.
Where do you get your story ideas?
I never know what might spark an idea for a story; someone I meet, an article I read, a dream I have, a story someone tells me — I once overheard a snippet of conversation in an elevator between a mother and her soon-to-be-married daughter and the idea for Return of the Runaway Bride was born.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
Writers write. Keep writing. No matter what. Life is going to have its ups and downs, and there’s not much you can do about it. Don’t allow life to keep you from writing.
What book would you recommend any aspiring writer read?
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
What made you decide to self-publish?
There are many reasons I decided to self-publish, but the biggest reason was that my father became terminally ill and I was his primary caregiver. It’s difficult to write upbeat romance novels when someone you love is sick. Yes, this is one time when life kicked me so hard that I found it nearly impossible to write. I acquired the publication rights back to my first 11 books, and I decided that the task of updating and editing the books was something I could do — something that would allow me to continue to feel like a writer while I was caring for my father.
If you could meet any writer, living or dead, who would it be?
What’s the last truly great book you read?
I am reading the final installment (book 6) of Hugh Howey’s Wool series. I would define this whole series as a great read. Sci-fi isn’t my favorite genre, but these self-published books were recommended to me by a friend so I bought them. The author creates a world that is so vivid, with characters so real, I was mesmerized. I held off reading the final two books because I didn’t want the story to end. I’m reading what I thought was the last book, and I just found out that the author is planning to continue the series.
If you could require world leaders to read one book, what would it be?
You’re boxing me in with the request for ‘one’ of something. It’s taken me some time, but I’ve narrowed my answer down to two. A simple message is necessary, otherwise world leaders would get caught up in an argument over the nuances–missing the moral of the story–and for that reason, I’ve chosen two children’s books.
The Tree by Dana Lyons illustrates the beauty and sacredness of nature. When the forest is threatened, The Tree asks, “Who will house the owl? And who will hold that river’s shore? And who will take refuge in my shadow, if my shadow falls no more?” This haunting story clearly explains the interconnectedness of all things.
And Dr. Seuss can make anyone smile while he’s teaching an important lesson. Horton Hears a Who is a book that teaches, “even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The biggest and first concern of governments the world over should be serving the people.
What question do you wish we’d asked?
“Other than being a writer, what’s another profession you’d like to try?” I’d love to own a small, success B&B on a tropical island. I love to entertain; I love to cook; and I love the beach, so this would be a dream come true for me!