I know I'm in my own little world, but it's OK.
They know me here...


Monday, May 9, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR: Robyn Donald

A huge welcome this week an author who has almost seventy published romance books to her name.

She's a co-author of WRITING THE ROMANTIC NOVEL with Daphne Clair and was one of two New Zealanders invited to contribute to an essay entitled Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance writers on the appeal of the Romance Novel, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, and pubished by the University of Pennsylcania Press, and winner of the Susan Koppelman award for its contribution to feminism.

Please say g'day to Robyn Donald!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I live with my husband in the northern part of New Zealand, overlooking a distant view of our lovely coastline.  Not too far away are the most wonderful grandchildren in the world.

I’m a passionate reader.  I learned to read before I went to school, and spent a lot of my childhood with my nose in a book.  I don’t have hobbies but I enjoy lovely gardens and I’m very good at weeding.  I also like food and trying out new recipes with my daughter, a much better cook than I am.

And in New Zealand’s wet winters, I like to holiday somewhere warm and dry with lots of sunshine!

When did you start to write and how long did it take you to be published?
I started to write after the birth of my first child.  I’d always loved romantic novels – Georgette Heyer was an especial favourite – but it was then I discovered the Mills & Boon romances, perfect reads for a pregnant woman with a small son.  I devoured them, and without making any sort of decision slid into writing them.  Or trying to write them...

It took ten years of abandoned, half-finished manuscripts– and my husband’s suggestion after his heart attack that perhaps I should try completing one – for me to finally do that.  To my astonishment, after revisions THE BRIDE AT WHANGATAPU was accepted.  It felt like coming home.

What sparks your creativity?
I wish I knew.

It sounds very boring, but routine is important to me; I have a set time to write, and I’ve concluded that inspiration lives mostly in my keyboard.  I scribble thoughts down, but rarely use them.  I keep a board of pictures I find romantic or interesting or funny, but hardly ever look at them while I’m writing.  I play music while I write, but often won’t hear a note.

I read voraciously – books, magazines, newspapers – and I have to confess I listen to gossip; sometimes when I reread a book of mine I’ll be able to trace some incident back to something I’ve read or heard about, but always it’s become something entirely different, something that suits only those particular characters.

Northland countryside, NZ
What do you think it is about your genre that readers find so fascinating?
The glitz and glamour of the settings, and the intense, emotional charge between the two main protagonists.

Are you a pantster, scener, or plotter? Is it your characters or plot that influence you most? What’s your writing process from start to finish when writing a book?
My process, alas, involves a lot of rewriting...I have only ever plotted one book; shortly after I was published I read an article in a writing magazine that set out a foolproof system of producing a novel.  I thought it was brilliant, so I followed the instructions.  When I’d finished I was delighted with my efforts - but I never wrote the book.

Eventually, after struggling far too long with it, I realised that I write books to find out what’s going to happen. Once it was all laid out in front of me, I lost the excitement and anticipation of the actual writing.

Invariably I start with a setting, and a house, and one main character – usually the heroine, but not always.  After that it’s a matter of sitting down and plugging away, with occasional wonderful moments of discovery when my muse reveals that a throwaway remark in Chapter Two is of vital importance in the final scene.

Aus/NZ cover
Can you tell us about your latest release?
THE FAR SIDE OF PARADISE is set in one of my favourite locales, my imaginary Pacific island of Fala’isi.  I woke one morning with an image of a man listening to a dramatic, tragic answerphone message, and making a vow to punish someone, and it all happened from there!  The woman Cade wants to punish – a matter of justice, he tells himself, not revenge – is Taryn, the reason for his brother’s suicide.

(UK cover)
Her awakening in paradise... 
Instead of the heartless seductress Cade Peredur expected, Taryn's blue eyes reveal an innocent sweetness clouded by private mystery. Determined to gain her trust and find out the real story, Cade sweeps her away to the dreamy tropical island of Fala'isi, and finds himself unprepared for the raw, passionate power of their steamy nights!
 A disastrous engagement has left Taryn wary of men, but Cade stirs feelings she's never known before. However, when Cade's identity is revealed, will Taryn's paradise fantasy be washed away with the Pacific tides...?

Can you share a few fun facts about the geographic locations where your novel takes place?
I adore the Pacific islands, and Fala’isi is the perfect one, with everything I need for any book I decide to set there!  There is sun, perfect weather – or a cyclone whenever I need bad weather - an exquisite lagoon ringed with enchanting atolls, mountains, a legend, gorgeous sunsets, and palm trees and the scent of frangipani flowers and gardenias – as well as fabulous men and women!
How gorgeous! Sigh. Makes me want to go and get stranded... 

What was the easiest and hardest parts about writing the book?
The easiest part was waking up with that image in my mind!  The hardest – coming up with an actual story to fit it.

More of beautiful NZ
What’s the worst writing mistake that taught you a valuable lesson?
Not finishing those first manuscripts.

Once I gritted my teeth and decided to plug away to the end, even though I was certain it was hopeless and dull, I discovered I’d given up far too easily.  I still get that feeling with every book I write, but I know now that perseverance will get me there.
Take note! Some very wise words here, folks!

Do you have a pet that keeps you company when you write?
The dog, a Corgi, is actually my husband’s companion, but when I’m alone Buster lies under the desk and snores while I write.  I’m almost sure he feels he’s keeping me company. 

If you weren’t doing what you do today, what other job would you have?
I trained as a teacher, so I’d probably be doing that.  In fact, in a way I've always taught.  With Daphne Clair I’ve taken weekend courses on writing romance (Kara's School of Writing Romance) and we get an enormous amount of pleasure and fun from them – and many of our graduates have been successfully published.

Tuscan countryside
Are there any particular settings or sorts of characters you’d like to use in a future book?
One day I’d like to set a book in Tuscany – which would mean a visit there for research purposes.  Quite a long visit, I’m sure...
Oh, what a great idea! Tuscany is gorgeous. I had the pleasure of visiting there this time last year. 

What’s next for you? What are you working on?
Right now I’m writing about a young mother whose unhappy previous marriage has left her so determined to protect her son she tries to ignore the man she’s falling in love with. 

Do you have any advice/handy tips/craft skills you’d like to share with unpublished authors?
Finish every manuscript you begin.  It’s the only way to learn how to write a whole book.
Robyn, thank you visiting today, it's been wonderful having you here! I look forward to seeing you at the RWNZ conference this year in Auckland, NZ.

Some of Robyn's many books:

If you'd like to contact Robyn, visit her website.


  1. Great interview and great advice! Well done ladies =)

  2. Ditto what Bronwyn said!


  3. Robyn! I'm having a TOTAL fan moment here - I LOVE your books! I've read them for years and lots of them grace my keeper shelf!

    In fact, I've recently re-read The Colour of Midnight! One of my all-time favourite scenes is at the start of that book with Nick on the horse with the dog.

    My dear old dog, who has now gone to the great kennel in the sky, used to quite happily lay across my knees when we were out riding. We generally popped her up in front of me when we knew we were about to ride past the properties with large unfriendly dogs.

    Anyway, enough rambling from me! LOL

    Great post, Kylie and Robyn, with terrific advice!


  4. Hi Robyn
    You know I've always been a fan. Bride at Whangatapu was the first Mills & Boon I read when I was eleven years old and the reason I fell in love with romance. Logan and Fiona remain two of my favourite character's ever. Thank you for writing so many wonderful stories!

  5. Bronwyn & Shar, so glad you could pop in for a visit.

    Sharon and Helen, have either of you had the pleasure of meeting Robyn face to face, maybe at a conference? Isn't it wonderful to meet the authors whose books you've read and enjoyed?

  6. Hey Kylie
    I met Robyn (not sure if you remember Robyn) many years ago when she visited my writers support group (with our groups mentor Helen Bianchin) on the Gold Coast. We had a lovely day talking about all things romance. She even signed my copy of The Color Of Midnight. It's one of my favourites too Sharon :)

  7. Hi Kylie and Robyn, a lovely post and full of such good advice! I had to smile at your failed attempt at plotting, Robyn. I did something similar and then figured 'why write the darn story when I know the end already'. I haven't attempted that again!

  8. Hi ladies :0)

    I think I need to track some of these titles down, they sound great...and a fellow Kiwi, even better!!

  9. Awesome article - thanks for posting. Have attended Robyn and Daphne's courses and was so inspired by them...yet like Robyn I never discipline myself to finish. Have taken great heart from a timely reminder to "finish that dammed book!" Off to Sicily next week (not Robyn's Tuscany) but I do feel another book coming on!

    Thanks for posting:)

  10. Hi Robyn - so true about finishing a book. Like you, I had several underway but never finished. But when I finally sat down and finally finished one whole book I sold it! However, I'm sure I learned a lot about writing through my half finished atempts. Practise makes perfect.

  11. Helen, what a treat that have been having Robyn over to speak!

    Hi Helene, great to see you here after the aborted/black hole attempt to post a comment. I remember Robyn and Daphne did a joint workshop at RWNZ a couple of years ago - so inspiring and lots of great advice.

    Cath, check out Robyn's website for her full list of books. She has SO many to choose from!

    Hi Cass! Ahh, a graduate of the Kara's School of Writing! And a jet-setter to boot. How long will you be in Sicily for?

  12. Bron, I think every writer has one or two boxes of unfinished manuscripts! LOL I know I do. It's a very empowering feeling being able to say I've finally finished my manuscript. And addictive! :-)