DONNA BALL: RAINE STOCKTON WAS BORN ON SEPTEMBER 11 2001
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
The adventures of Raine Stockton became one of the most popular animal fiction series. The ninth part Home of the Brave was published in September. We get exclusive chance to learn more from the author herself how challenging is to write such a book.
Our next guest published her first novel in 1982. She has written more than eighty fiction novels using as well the pseudonyms as Rebecca Flanders, Donna Carlisle, Leigh Bristol, Taylor Brady, and Donna Boyd.
Dear friends, let’s welcome lady Donna Ball.
– Donna, what the readers may find in Home of the Brave, book 9 of Raine Stockton Dog series ?
– In HOME OF THE BRAVE, Raine and her young friend Melanie spend the Fourth of July weekend at a camp for dogs and kids, never imagining what a terrifying turn their holiday is about to take. This book explores the fairly intense themes of terrorism and political corruption, and begins a story arc that will require at least two more books to resolve. Readers can expect to stay up late reading this one!
– How did you decide to write the story of Raine Stockton?
– Most people find this hard to believe, given that the tone of the stories has evolved into that of a cozy dog mystery over the years, but Raine Stockton was born on Sept 11, 2001 while I watched on live television as the first plane crashed into the Twin Towers. At that time, no one believed that what we were seeing was anything more than a terrible accident, and between the time of the first and the second plane a whole story unfolded in my head about a woman with a search-and-rescue dog from the North Carolina Mountains who was called in for disasters like this. Once we learned the magnitude of the tragedy, of course, I no longer had the heart to write that story. It was three years before I was able to return to the character that had been born so vividly in that moment, and to this day I have avoided taking Raine into a disaster zone. However, you will notice that the first couple of Raine Stockton books are much darker in tone than the rest of the series; I believe this is because of the circumstances of her creation.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge in writing these books is the dog! Cisco is an adorable canine sidekick, but to give him a vital, essential role in each and every book is a different matter altogether. I’ve come to envy mystery writers who only have to write a mystery. It’s like Ginger Rogers said to Fred Astaire: “Try doing that backwards—and in high heels!”
– Tell us something more about your main character? Is she close to someone from your real life?
– On the Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries web page it says, “Raine Stockton is just a small town girl with man problems, money problems, and dog problems.” Except for that—and the fact that if I were on a wilderness search and rescue mission the only thing I’d be searching for is the nearest Holiday Inn– she’s just like me!
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– It took me six months to write the first book in the series, SMOKY MOUNTAIN TRACKS, and NAL/Berkley published it about a year later. It took me three months to write HOME OF THE BRAVE, and since I am now an independent publisher, about two months to get it into print.
– Would you unveil something about your other top series Dogleg Island and Ladybug Farm?
– The Dogleg Island series was born from my need to write a slightly more sophisticated mystery/suspense series, while still keeping a dog as a major character. Flash, the canine hero in the Dogleg Island mysteries, has his own point of view, his own challenges, and his own character growth. His two co-stars, Aggie and Grady, are police officers who work on opposite sides of the bridge. On the island side, Aggie and Flash deal with what are ostensibly small-town problems: parking violations, missing cats, prowlers, kids breaking curfew. On the mainland, Grady is in charge of a team of detectives who track down drug dealers, murderers, and crime bosses. The way these two storylines intersect is what makes this series so much fun to write—and hopefully to read.
The Ladybug Farm series is a different animal altogether, so to speak! Inspired by my own experience of moving from the suburbs to the country and restoring a century-old barn, this series is about three friends who, now that their husbands are gone and their children are grown, decide to turn their backs on their former lives and buy a decrepit old Victorian mansion in the Shenandoah Valley together. This series has generated such an amazing response from readers that it remains the crowning achievement of my career.
– Who are you (Would you describe yourself with few sentences)?
– At my core, I am a story teller and a teacher. I am not one of those people who, on her death bed, will wish she had spent less time working. I’ll wish I had time to tell just one more story.
– What are your writing habits?
– I am not a morning person, so I get all of the necessary stuff—exercise, shopping, housework, answering e-mails—out of the way before noon. I start to work around 1:00 p.m. I write on a laptop, and if at all possible, I work outside in the fresh air. I set a minimum production goal of 1000 words a day; generally I complete 1600. I always promise myself I will stop every two hours and do yoga or walk around the block, but I never do. I try to finish the day’s work by 6:00 p.m. However, about halfway through a book I forget about word counts and working hours, and often write straight through until midnight or 1:00 a.m. In other words, my writing habits are very sloppy and I don’t recommend them to anyone!
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– Actually, I am! Raine Stockton has been very good to me, and I would be the lowest kind of ingrate not to acknowledge that. Of course with every book I aspire to do better, to attract more readers, to generate more sales. I want to be phenomenal! But in terms of satisfaction, yes, I absolutely am.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– I have an amazing core group of readers who will basically buy anything I write. I don’t take this for granted, because it took years to earn their loyalty. My main promotional efforts are always to reach out to them through my newsletter and social media when I have a new book out. I offer give-aways and contests to generate buzz about the book. Recently I’ve begun doing virtual blog tours and I’ve hired a PR company to get my book before reviewers and other print media.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– I plan to have a new Raine Stockton book out late this summer. Because the last book was so intense, this one will be a little lighter. It takes place in the time immediately after HOME OF THE BRAVE, while Miles and Melanie are still in Brazil, and Raine and Cisco become involved in a missing person case after a golden retriever wanders into their yard covered in blood. Is this an ordinary domestic dispute, or the work of a serial killer who has evaded authorities for years?
– How did you find your love to write for the animals?
– My first Golden Retriever, Jinx, taught me everything I know about dogs. My first collie, Kodi, taught me how to dance like no one is watching. My first service dog, Glitter, taught me how to love unconditionally. My first border collie, Rhythm, taught me to be brave. Every book I write is for them.
– Why did you decide to write with different pen names?
– In the old days of publishing, a writer was only allowed to write one book a year (at $5000 a book!) and the belief was that readers would not follow her across genres. I was fortunate enough to be able to write in multiple genres, and ambitious enough to refuse to write only one book a year. So I created pseudonyms.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be?
– Why do you write books? Because I don’t know how to do anything else. Because this is, apparently, something I do well. Because readers write to me and tell me I have changed the way they look at things, helped them cope with a difficult situation, prompted them to reconnect with a family member, seen them through a tragedy, made them laugh, made them feel important, made their problems seem unimportant, made them cry, made them feel alive, made them think, made them understand, made them forget. That’s why I write books. For readers.