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Donita K. Paul Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"When readers read, they want to be a passenger, living life vicariously through the characters in the story. They don’t want to be a dump truck, carrying around lessons and sermons. What a burden!"
--Donita K. Paul

Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school, but soon got bored! The result: a determination to start a new career. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She says, “I feel blessed to be doing what I like best.” She mentors all ages, teaching teenagers and weekly adult writing workshops.

God must have imprinted 'teacher' on me clear down to the bone. I taught in public school, then home schooled my children, and worked in private schools. Now my writing week isn’t very productive unless I include some time with kids.” Her two grown children make her proud, and her two grandsons make her laugh.

C.J.: Have you always wanted to write, or did you discover your desire later in life?

Donita: Before I wanted to write, I wanted everyone to listen to me “tell a story.” Later I discovered that if you wrote the story down, your mother could mail it to your grandmother. Later than that, I learned that if you didn’t want to have to tell the story over and over, you could write it down. So, out of laziness, I began my career as an author.

What books would you say influenced you most as a child?

Remember Dick and Jane? I doubt that the early readers influenced me more than any other books, but I remember the pictures were so much more interesting than the words. I wanted more words on the page to expand the information given by the pictures. Remember Sally, the little sister? I like her too.

Share with us how your mom encouraged you to start writing fantasy.

I was living with my two teens and my mom when I hit a bump in my writing journey. She told me she thought I was ready to write something different, something bigger. You should always listen to your mother.

Why do you write fantasy instead of the romance novels you started out writing? What drew you to the genre?

I found fantasy to be more fun and the readers are more fun, too. The genre is definitely different from what I had been writing. I am not a fantasy fanatic and have read very little fantasy from our generation. Perhaps because I didn’t have traditional fantasy to draw from, I managed to create something a bit different.

Where did you get the idea to write The Vanishing Sculptor?

From the parrot, actually. I had this grand character, Sir Beccaroon, and he needed a home. So, I developed the home, his friends, and the situation from that need.

The Vanishing Sculptor by Donita K. PaulWhat can readers of your Dragonkeeper Chronicles expect in this new book? I hear it’s in the same universe as the Chronicles?

I’ve been told the book is funnier than the others. It takes place before the saga of Kale and Bardon on a continent opposite of Amara. Imagine England as opposed to Chili on our globe. The races are the same, the flora is more tropical, and the people in Chiril have never heard of Wulder. I love several of the characters who popped up to help tell the tale. I’m hoping the readers will too. Plus (the secret is already out, but I’m pretending you have to read to find out) two characters from the other series step into the scene.

The Vanishing Sculptor has received mixed reviews. Those who love it, really do, and those who don’t, don’t mind saying so. Reader comments on sites like Amazon are interesting. If you get a basher review, the author can usually pinpoint the reviewer’s problem. Sometimes, the bad review is a sour grapes review. “I can write better than this mess.” These are most often unpublished writers.

Sometimes, it is the plea to be considered profound. These reviewers toss around “story arc,” “developmental sequence,” and “the hero’s journey.” The review is a display of their incredible knowledge of fiction.
Then you have the agenda folks. “I hate God, therefore, I hate your book.” Or “So and so is a much better writer. Check out his books at www.otherauthor.com.”

A tepid review is much more likely to point out things the author can actually work on, like pacing, motivation, strong plot points. Basher reviews tell more about the reviewer than the book or the author.

You’ve said in a previous interview, “When we write we shouldn’t preach but lead the reader to truth.” How do you apply that to your own writing?

I don’t think about it. I only think of characters and story. If I concentrate on a “message,” my story degenerates into Dragonlight by Donita K. Paula vehicle.

When readers read, they want to be a passenger, living life vicariously through the characters in the story. They don’t want to be a dump truck, carrying around lessons and sermons. What a burden! It is much better to be the one carried and have an excellent view of the countryside where the reader can see for himself the themes the tale reveals.

What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?

Time Travel

What’s been the hardest part about writing The Vanishing Sculptor?

Getting the balance between the characters so that they each have enough time to tell their story.

Where is your favorite place to write?

In my big brown chair.

I hear you’re a big fan of writerly quotes. Care to share some of your favorites?

"Stories tell us of what we already knew and forgot, and remind us of what
we haven’t yet imagined."
Anne L. Watson

"I have written a great many stories and I still don't know how to go about it except to write it and take my chances."
John Steinbeck

Dragonfire by Donita K. Paul"The tale is often wiser than the teller."
Susan Fletcher

"Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators."
Olin Miller

"I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork."
Peter De Vries

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Harry Potter and Twilight series books. Do you recommend them to Christian readers? Why or why not? (Yeah, I know, hot button topic!) :)

I didn’t read all of HP, and I haven’t read any of Twilight. So, I get out of this question very neatly.

Do you have any advice for parents of reluctant readers?

It is all right to read to your older children. If they are struggling to read the story, they can’t enjoy the book. The thrill of the adventure is lost as they try to decipher “trundled into the treasure trove.” If they fall in love with reading by hearing it rather than doing the “work” themselves, eventually, they will make the attempt to read a book.
Read books that your children will be tempted to pick up between reading times so they can take a sneak peek into what happens next. Don’t shun comic books. These are a legitimate means to practice reading.
Model good reading habits and discuss books at the dinner table.

When you talk to young readers, what do you find they want more of in their books?

Oddly enough, they want authority figures. They want characters of strength and moral backbone to stand against evil and give aid to the weak. They want a hero to champion and the hope that everything will turn out all right in the end.

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
Dragonspell by Donita K. Paul

I think warm water physical therapy is luxurious. I don’t like mac and cheese.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Cooking for people

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Scrambled eggs and yogurt

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Drinks, cheese, and leftovers

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

A tall, sugarfree breve.

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

Make one more person smile. Make on more person aware of God’s love. Kiss one more soft cheek. See flowers, smell the rain, dig in the dirt!

When was the last time you cried?

A couple of nights ago when I re-watched the movie “Miss Potter.”

Three words that best describe you:

Jovial, optimistic, and steady

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

A children’s song CD Bugs, Slugs, and Lullabies by Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame.

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C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.