of Standing Strong
by Rel Mollet
Donna Fleisher Interview
knew from the moment I started writing that I wanted to explore friendship,
and that I wanted to write stories that honored my Lord and Savior,
-- Donna Fleisher
Donna Fleisher, like her father and brother, is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Her novels include Wounded Healer, Warrior's Heart, Valiant Hope and Standing Strong. She lives on the Oregon Coast and is in a never-ending search for sand dollars. Visit her website at www.donnafleisher.com.
Rel: Please share some of your writing/publishing journey with us.
Donna: My journey has definitely been one of ups and downs, starts and stops. Eleven years ago I first put pen to paper (literally, I didn’t have a computer), seven years ago I put it all away, four years ago it all came back, and now it’s all done. But truthfully, I wouldn’t trade one moment of these last eleven years for anything. I firmly believe God cares more about the journey we walk with Him than the destination. And besides. Any destination short of where He wants us to be is a lousy destination.
You have said that Standing Strong is your last novel at this point. Any chance Donna the Author will reappear?
Well, I’ll tell you what. If she does, I certainly will not chase her away. If a new story and a new set of characters ever show up on my doorstep like the last story and the last set of characters did, I’ll give it a go. Until then, I’ll be content with staying active in the industry from the other side of the pen, so to speak, as a freelance editor.
You provide editorial services - how does that differ to writing your own novel?
Honestly, it’s not near as much fun as creating something new and seeing your own imaginary friends come to life in your mind’s eye. The time spent writing and editing my own novels has been some of the most exciting and enjoyable years of my life. But one can only continue to be a novelist if fresh story ideas continue to flow. For me, that flow dried up and withered away. I have no doubt that God gave me the secondary task of writing novels for a season to prepare me for the primary task He now wants me to do: to provide editorial services to new novelists just starting out in the industry—my brothers and sisters who do have fresh story ideas flowing like crazy. To be able to help them get started on the right path is exactly where I believe God wants me to be. So, on that note, it’s almost as much fun as writing my own stuff.
What did a regular writing day look like for you?
When I was caught in the undertow of looming deadlines, my writing days were full. They would usually start around 2 p.m. and not finish until around 2 a.m. Sitting in my recliner, alone in my apartment, I would plunk away at my laptop until my eyes and fingers couldn’t take any more. On good days I could crank out about 7000 words. On not so good days I was lucky to write 3 new words. Usually, though, on those days I would edit, so the time wasn’t totally wasted. I edit as I go, which is different from the way most writers do it. Just about everything I do is different from the way most other writers do it.
What has been the best experience you have had as an author?
I’m hoping my best experience is still yet to come. Hearing from readers is always amazing, and building awesome friendships (like ours, Rel!) is a blast. Maybe someday, after we’ve had time to relax in Heaven, I’ll be given a glimpse into how this story the Lord has given me to tell has played a part in bringing people closer to Him. That will be the best. In the meantime, I have to say that getting to know Chris McIntyre and Erin Mathis has been the best. True, they are imaginary, but I’ve learned so much from them and have grown so much since they have entered my life. For this, I will always be grateful.
The basis of your series is the close friendship of two women, Chris and Erin - in a world where romance sells so well, what made you choose a friendship as the crux of the stories?
They say to write about what you know … or, in other words, don’t write about what you don’t know. If you know me, you know I’m not normal. I’m single, have always been single, and will always be single. I believe with every fiber of my being that my Father God has set me apart to be totally His. One day I hope to be, but until then, that’s my journey. So, because of this, what do I know about romance? Most of the romances I’ve read have left me feeling lonely. It’s strange, cuz I don’t usually feel that way any other time.
I knew from the moment I started writing that I wanted to explore friendship, and that I wanted to write stories that honored my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The more I witnessed Erin’s concern and pure love for Chris, the more I understood the depth of Jesus’s love for me. His love is that of true friendship, clean and pure and real and intensely powerful.
How much of the military action in the books is based on your experience in the Air Force?
Almost none. In the late ’80s, there wasn’t much going on in the world. My three years of active duty and the two I spent in the Guard were quiet. Sure, we played all the war games, but I never, and I repeat, never, experienced anything like Chris and Erin faced. I did come away from my time of service with that ever-present feeling of belonging, as if I knew (and still do) that I had been a part of something special. But the only details I was able to speak of firsthand in my stories were about the clothes Chris and Erin wore (BDUs – Battle Dress Uniform), one of the places where they went to get hot food (MKT – Mobile Kitchen Trailer), the food that kept them from starving when they didn’t have the MKT (MREs – Meals Ready to Eat), and the state of life unique to all military experiences (boredom and terror, hurry up and wait, and illogical military logic).
Kimberley Square seems a pretty unique community. Have you experienced that level of relationship amongst neighbours?
I am totally not a city girl. If I had to live in a city, I probably wouldn’t last more than a week. But where I’m living now, in a small beachfront neighborhood in a medium-sized town on the Oregon Coast, I have been fortunate to have developed good relationships with my neighbors. Sometimes it feels as if I’m living in a fishbowl, but other times I know it is good to have so many people around me that I care about, and who care about me. We look out for each other. They all take good care of me. It’s a great feeling.
What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?
Even though the main thread of the entire series is the friendship between Chris and Erin, this last book continues to explore the romantic relationship between Chris and Jason. Some of my favorite lines in the book are when Chris says, “Bit by bit, Jason. If we get married and start a life together, we’ll be as one. But unless you walk with me closer and closer to Christ, I’ll walk with you farther and farther away from Him. If I marry you, and you don’t want to follow Him, you’ll pull me away from Him. If that happens, bit by bit … I’ll die.”
A friend of mine told me about this quote by Maya Angelou: “A woman’s heart should be so hidden in Christ that a man should have to seek Him first to find her.”
The beauty is when we are so hidden in Christ, He still gives us friends to love—friends that He can love through us. On the last page of the book, Chris realizes this because of how His love flowed through Erin to reach her. She wraps up this realization by repeating one line she heard spoken to her eight months before. I hope readers will be able to make the connection to enjoy the full impact of Chris’s words. I really hope readers will come away from reading the entire series more in love with their Savior than ever before.
Why was it important for you to portray Chris and Jason’s struggle with their relationship, due to their difficult pasts?
Part of that was because I did not want to write a romance. Chris’s story was never about finding physical love and contentment with a man. That would come later, yes, but in the first few months of her new life as a believer in Christ, she and I both knew her story was about her journey to finding true love and contentment in Jesus Christ. Once that relationship was strong and secure, then she could move forward in a relationship with Jason.
Of course, Jason doesn’t care for this, but he did at one time love the Lord Jesus as his Savior, so deep down, he understands. This forces him to face his own ugly past, and to choose for himself if he will once again trust in Jesus.
If this series was made into a movie, who would you cast?
I had a sneaky feeling you would ask me this question, so I’ve been thinking about it for quite awhile. However, the sad thing is that I watch very little TV and I go to probably one movie a decade, so my list of actors and actresses to choose from is limited at best. So I’ll just politely refuse to answer this question, thank you. Or … does anyone have any ideas? I’m open to suggestions. Oh, and Chris wants me to tell you that she looks nothing like the beautiful girl on the covers of the books. That girl actually looks more like Erin. Though, at this point, neither of us are complaining about it.
Do you read Christian fiction yourself? If so, some favourite authors or books both Christian and/or secular?
This too, is sad. Except for my clients’ manuscripts, I read very little. It’s almost embarrassing to say this. How in the world can I write and edit novels when I don’t read them? This makes Camy Tang crazy. I hate to make her crazy, but what can I say? Well, I did read her debut, Sushi for One?, and I enjoyed it very much. I know I’m missing out on some good stories, so I’ll try to do better.
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m just getting started with a manuscript about a young woman who is a master piano player. Her fiancé has just been killed, and one of her students is an autistic musical savant. Should be an interesting read.
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
By now, can’t you see how culturally inept I am? I hate TV, don’t even own one, and see maybe one, maybe two movies a decade. But, okay, if you must know, I love Fried Green Tomatoes (the movie, not the book). “How many of those hormones you takin’, honey?” And Ed: “I just can’t figure out how in the (heck) you can hit someone by accident … six times.” I’ve also seen Ghost at least eighteen times. “Have a nice life, have a nice death, good-bye.” And Always. “Girl clothes. You bought me girl clothes.” Hah! Guess I do have some favorites.
Who inspires you?
My spiritual teachers are Gayle Erwin and Oswald Chambers. My examples in this industry are Francine Rivers and Angela Hunt. The music that most centers me on Christ is usually written and sung by Margaret Becker. The place where I live, the central Oregon Coast, inspires me. People who truly allow Jesus Christ to live through them, and it’s usually obvious when they do, inspire me.
You have a fabulous blog where you share not just your writing journey but also your love for Jesus - how did you get into that?
Blogging has been a lot of fun. Lately, though, I’ve toyed with the idea of shutting it down and calling it good. But can I? Am I addicted? It’s not like eight million people stampede over to hear what I’ve got to say, but having that outlet to share ideas and hopefully just plain fun stuff with whoever shows up has been fun. So much of life is about things that really don’t matter one wit in the larger scheme of things. No matter what, I want to continue to talk about things that really matter. Talking about Christ and encouraging others to be more fully His—that matters. That’s what I hope to continue to share on my wee blog.
You are passionate about sport! What did you play during high school?
It would probably be easier to tell you what I didn’t play. Chess. Synchronized swimming. And golf. Never played golf. My favorite sports were basketball and softball, but throwing the javelin was a blast. After high school I coached several sports, including several motley crews of javelin throwers. That I’m still alive to tell the tale after several close calls is a miracle. Now that I’m old and gray, I have developed highly lethal allergies to anything even remotely resembling exercise. So, to keep from dying, I avoid it at all cost. So far so good.
Tell us something about you we don’t know.
Okay, if you must know … when I was coaching, I was once almost gored—square in the chest—by a javelin. If the young man who threw it had thrown his usual distance, I would have been a human shish kebab.
Please share some of your faith journey...
My faith journey began with my mom’s spiritual quest. She took us from church to church in search of the truth, and when we found it, she made sure we all accepted it. At the time, I was seven, so I didn’t mind. Jesus was real, He loved me, and I knew it, even at seven. I asked Him to be my Savior, and He said, “I would love that.” He came into my heart and has never left. I wish I could say that I have always been faithful to Him, but I can’t. Even still, the journey is about constantly following, constantly seeking Him. After everything I’ve experienced, it is still this journey that matters most to me. I know where it will lead me, and there is nowhere else I would rather be.
Some essential Aussie questions...
When/if you make the trip Down Under what do you want to see first? A platypus or a koala?
Hopefully when I make the trip, and ooooo, a koala. Are they really as cute and cuddly as they seem?
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Whichever is nearest the koala.
You have tasted vegemite - describe it in one word (be nice, now!)
Aiyazawowza! How’s that? Okay, next time I will definitely spread it on thinly.
Any last words?
Just one. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. I love your blog, Rel, and I love TitleTrakk! It has been so cool to see the exponential growth of Christian fiction in the last few years. For all you do to help it grow …thank you!!
Rel Mollet is a lawyer, wife and mother of three young daughters and lives in Melbourne, Australia. Reading has been her passion since childhood. She is a Book Club Co-ordinator and has her own website ~ relzreviewz ~ dedicated to reviews and author interviews with the sole aim to support authors writing from a Christian worldview. She believes Sir Francis Bacon's (1561 - 1626) creed, "Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body".