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!
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!
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|
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.
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.
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|
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.
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.