Meet Tina Donahue. I know you’ll find her a fascinating interviewee because I did. She’s had an interesting career, commencing with a stint as a child model. She’s published with both electronic and print publishers and pens both contemporary and historical novels. www.tinadonahue.com
Susan Palmquist (SP)-You’ve had a very varied, and sounds like, an exciting career as a model, editor, story director, PR director, how did you become an author?
Tina Donahue (TD)-I’ve always written. I wrote and illustrated my first story when I was nine and went around the neighborhood selling it to my friends’ parents for whatever change they would give me. I didn’t know at the time I was an author. I was just doing what I wanted to do. And it wasn’t until much later that I realized authoring and illustrating a book wasn’t what most nine-year-old kids do. J
SP-On your Web site there’s a cute photo of you as a child model? How did you get into the business, any commercials or ads we might remember you appearing in?
TD-My mother, who had always wanted to go to Hollywood and be a star, got me into the biz, entering me in beauty contests. Nothing like what you see now on ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’. There wasn’t any makeup or flippers (fake teeth) or $1000 cocktail dresses. Just kids wearing what they did to school or at play. I never won any of those contests, but I did get modeling assignments.
I modeled for Ralston-Purina for a milk product they had at the time. That billboard appeared in select cities in the nation. I also modeled for Keds shoes (sneakers and such) and did numerous fashion shows and tea room modeling for major department stores in the Midwest. Never appeared in any commercials. By the time I turned thirteen, I wanted to be a regular kid, just going to school and hanging with my friends, rather than working, so I quit modeling at that point. Didn’t regret it for a minute.
SP-You write both contemporary and historical novels. Do you prefer one over the other and if so, why?
TD-I enjoy both genres, but I have to admit, dialogue is far easier in a contemporary novel – at least for me – than in an historical. I have a rather irreverent wit and it comes out in my contemporary dialogue. With historical novels, I sweat over the dialogue, especially in the 1400-1500 time periods (which I generally write in). Those folks just didn’t use contractions, and believe me, it is tough to write dialogue without any contractions. It sounds so stilted. Also, many words we take for granted today weren’t even used in the 1400-1500 time period. I have a reference book English Through the Ages that I’ve always used to determine if a word was in use during the time period of my novels. When they aren’t, then I have to search for a term that was used. It’s very time consuming, and at times, daunting.
Then there are the period costumes. When I was researching my Spanish historical “Just One Kiss”, I couldn’t find anything on Spanish clothing. English clothing, yes. German clothing, yes. French clothing, yes. But not Spanish. It was murder trying to find out what those people wore. I had to look at portraits from that time period and I also read some online manuscripts that detailed merchant wares and what women were packing for their trousseaus. I eventually compiled the data, but again, it was very time consuming.
SP-Ellora’s Cave and Kensington are your publishers. What are the big differences in working with print and electronic publishers?
TD-I’d say frequency of publication and distribution of royalties. My experience with an e-publisher is that they publish more books and do so more frequently than a print publisher. Therefore, an author can have more titles available to the public in order to build a fan base. My first novel with Ellora’s Cave was Adored. I contracted with EC in September of 2009 and the book came out in November of the same year, a mere two months. With a print publisher, it’s generally nine months to a year from time of contract signing to publication. And it could be much longer.
As to royalties: In print publishing, royalty statements come out twice a year whereas an e-publisher sends them out once a month. Generally speaking, print publishers offer advances, while e-publishers do not. However, with print publishing, there are the dreaded returns which are counted against any monies paid to a writer via the advance.
Other than that, I’ve found the process very similar. Both print and e-publishers have editors that look for flaws in a writer’s manuscript and work with the author to fix them. Luckily, my edits have always been very light for both types of houses.
SP-As the former editor of an award winning Midwestern newspaper, did you ever come across a story that’s found its way into one of your novels?
TD-Not through my previous work as a journalist. However, news stories often spark an interest in what I eventually write. For example, I wrote Lush Velvet Nights after reading about high-powered corporate women hiring escorts because those ladies were too busy to find a guy the so-called normal way. And with my latest erotic romance In His Arms the news stories about women being abducted and sold into sexual slavery captured my attention and my plot began to form.
SP-As the former PR director of a literary agency, any tips you picked up while there?
TD-If you’re an author, promo your books until you can’t promo them anymore. I cannot stress this enough. You can write the best book on Planet Earth, but if no one knows it exists, you’ll have nothing but returns (for print publishers). For most writers, it takes time to build a fan base, so write as much as you can, make certain the quality is excellent, and then promo it. Don’t depend upon the publisher, your agent, or anyone else to do it. . .at least until you’ve joined the ranks of those authors who hit the New York Times bestseller list.
SP-Do you have an agent and do you think all writers eventually need one?
TD-I do have an agent. Whether a writer needs one or not depends upon where they’re trying to submit their manuscripts. To the best of my knowledge, no e-publisher requires an agented submission. And there are some print publishers that don’t either. Sometimes, it’s harder to get an agent than it is to get pubbed. By entering writing contests with agents as judges or attending conventions like the RWA National, a writer can connect with agents and publishers much more easily than submitting blindly.
SP-Tell us about your newest release?
TD-In His Arms was released September 3. Here’s the blurb:
Owned by one man, loved by another. . .
Abducted and delivered into sexual slavery, Lori has surrendered her will in order to survive. For more than a decade, she’s been known as Summer, a lovely submissive, her owner’s possession until he gives her to his newest lieutenant, a mysterious man called RJ. Commanding and virile, RJ dominates without cruelty and possesses without threat, engendering a mixture of safety and passion. In his strong arms, Summer enjoys carnal pleasure she’s never known and tenderness she’s craved. In his heated gaze, she experiences a sense of recognition she doesn’t immediately understand until it proves dangerous in a way she could never have imagined. Bound by desire and their growing love, RJ traverses the shadowy world of human trafficking, risking all for Summer’s freedom only to learn she harbors a fateful secret that threatens to tear her from him, leading to an irrevocable event that risks both their lives.
The reviews have been excellent. Here’s what they’ve said (in part):
Brandé at Book Junkie gave it FIVE flowers and wrote: “Love it, couldn’t put it down. From the first pages of IN THIS ARMS by Tina Donahue I was captivated, more like ensnared, actually commandeering every fiber of my heart and taking it for one heck of a wild ride!”
The Romance Studio gave it FIVE hearts and wrote: “This was a seriously sexy, heartbreaking yet heartwarming contemporary erotic romance. If you are looking for a must-read modern narrative pick this one up.”
It received FIVE teacups from HEA reviews where the reviewer wrote: “This book is so intense it had my attention from the very beginning. It’s a book worth reading more than once.”
Other stellar reviews can be found at this link: http://www.tinadonahue.com/reviews/
SP-Your books are both romances and erotic romances? Do you prefer writing one over the other?
TD-I began by writing sweet, romantic comedies that I enjoyed. On the advice of my editor, I moved into the Brava romances which are considered erotic. It was a natural progression from there to move into the highly erotic Ellora’s Cave romances.
I’ve had a blast writing them all, and I do love my heroes. J
Any tips for aspiring romance writers? And how about would be erotic romance writers, any tips for avoiding the fatal beginner mistakes?
TD-Study the market before you write or submit. Don’t give up. You’ll be rejected. We all were. Read, read, read – then write, write, write and write some more. It’s a never-ending learning process. You should keep getting better.
For erotic romance writers, I think the biggest mistake is to believe the novel is nothing but one sex scene after the other. Certainly, there must be frequent and highly erotic sex in that type of romance. However, there must be a reason for the sex, otherwise it can and does get boring for the reader. Readers want to be involved with the characters. If they don’t care what happens to them, you can have the best bed play going and it will fall flat, because the characters – not the sex – make the story.
SP-What’s next for you, what are you working on right now?
TD-I’m nearly finished with my next WIP, another contemporary erotic romance. I should have it on my editor’s desk by the middle of October. Until it’s contracted, I can’t say much more about it.