Today, I have someone extremely special with me today. Author and blogger extraordinaire, Donna Brown is someone I met through Facebook. She is extremely supportive of both bloggers and authors and runs the wonderful “The Indie Exchange” website. She has written a wonderful collection of short stories, Double-take Tales, which I have previously reviewed here.
So, lets get started. I can’t wait!
Interview with Donna Brown, author of
About Donna Brown, the Author
Describe your book? What genre would you classify it into?
I guess I would class it as ‘Short stories’ and ‘Contemporary’ – it’s just a collection of three short stories, designed to be a nice read for a train journey or split over several lunch breaks etc. It’s a fairly quick read, hence the low price, but I hope it’s a satisfying one!
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
They were just three short stories that I wrote over the course of a few years and I felt they fit together nicely because of the little twists (hence the title ‘Double-take Tales’). I’ve written other short pieces but somehow I felt these three made the best trio.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since I was a child (I won a poetry competition at aged 10 so that’s my earliest writing memory but I suppose it could pre-date that). Mostly I wrote poetry until my earlier twenties but in the last ten years I’ve developed a preference for short fiction.
Why do you write short stories? Any plans of writing a novel?
One of the short stories I wrote a couple of years ago felt like it came to a bit of an abrupt end and the character – Harry Schmidt – is one I’ve thought about often. I hope to develop his tale into a novella and I’m currently about 7,000 words in but need to get my momentum back.
What appeals to you most about short stories?
Honestly? Well, I’m flighty and I like to skip from idea to idea so short stories enable me to do that. However, my big secret is this: I don’t get attached to my characters. I like to delve into their lives briefly and then leave them to it (preferably after causing a bit of upheaval). Harry Schmidt is the only character I’ve ever wanted to spend more than 2-3,000 words with!
Who is you favourite character in the book?
I don’t think I really have a favourite character, mostly because I see my characters as more the embodiment of certain flaws or character traits. I think I have a favourite story, though, and it’s probably C’est la vie. I wrote that for a Creative Writing course and it didn’t go down very well with the tutor. About two months later it was published in a magazine and now in this book and a few people have proclaimed it their favourite.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
Actually putting it out there. I’ve found it very hard having my work ‘out there’. I know it’s not as though thousands of people are clamouring to read it but it has still been a huge leap of faith to actually put a price on my work and say ‘I believe this has a monetary value’. The first month or so after I put it on Amazon I felt sick whenever I sold a copy but as reviews started to come in I felt my confidence growing.
Who designed the covers of the book?
I designed this cover. Again, this was partly out of a lack of confidence – I wasn’t sure if people still had an interest in short stories so I didn’t want to spend $200 on a cover and find I didn’t sell any copies. So I tweaked a stock image. I love the image but I’d be the first to admit that the typeface could probably use some work. I’m in the queue to have a redesign done in March – I’m finally putting a little money behind my work!
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Less from writing, more from publishing: self-publishing is not an easy option. I had already partially learned this lesson through David publishing his book. It’s a lot of work, a lot of commitment and it’s far from easy. There’s also a lot of prejudice to overcome. This lesson was reinforced by putting my own work out there.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
I think I’d like to add a couple of extra stories in at some point. I believe it’s a good value read and a nice set of stories but I can see that three might seem too few to some. At some point I may re-release with a couple of extra bits, perhaps including some of my shorter pieces.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Committing to my characters. I’m not sure if I’m envious of those who talk about having a relationship with their characters and that their characters talk to them. Mine certainly don’t talk to me! It makes it easier to let them go and write short stories without getting too attached but sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out a little.
What are your current projects? When is your next book coming out?
Currently I’m working on various tasks to prepare for A World Apart, which is my husband’s second book and will be out in May 2012. That’s taking a huge chunk of time. I’d like to think that Harry Schmidt (working title) will be out before the end of the year but I’m not promising! In the meantime I’m trying to publish some of my shorter pieces on my blog to keep my work out there.
About Donna Brown, the Blogger
You are a big supporter of Indie authors. When and why did you start?
It took Dave around two years to write and redraft Fezariu’s Epiphany before it came out in May 2011 and during that time we went from colleagues, to friends, to dating, to married! So I was critiquing him before we even knew each other very well and I guess I’ve always been pretty forceful when it comes to his work. I wanted him to go down the self-published route and so during the two years he spent writing, drafting, editing etc, I was researching into self-publishing. Even so, research is one thing but having the work out there is completely different and I was stunned by how supportive the community is. I’ve been reviewing and blogging for several years but had taken a bit of a hiatus – it seemed a great thing to do to begin a new book blog to help give a little bit of something back to the community that had been so welcoming.
Can you tell us more about all your online projects?
I run The Indie Exchange, which was born of a project called Adopt an Indie. It was originally going to be a quarterly event but during the first event the workload was huge and in the run up to the second event it became obvious that the workload was going to be even bigger and far too much for one person, even with some volunteer support. That’s when I set up The Indie Exchange – we have a Facebook group to support one another but also a communal site where people can post reviews, guest posts, news etc. We’re up to 200 members so far and I think we’ve developed a wonderful balance of supporting one another, promo-ing (a little!!) and meeting great people online.
I also blog at Book Bags and Cat Naps, which is 95% books and about 5% cats. I live with six cats so it’s impossible to keep my love of felines away from my blog! I try and blog every day if I can, sometimes 2-3 posts a day if I’m hosting an author on a tour stop (such as a review and excerpt) and I take on a large number of books (I’m aiming to read 150 this year) but the number of requests always surpasses the time I have. I hate turning anyone away but I also hate (HATE) being chased for reviews so I’m finding I’m being pickier about what I take on.
What is your biggest pet peeve with authors, both Indie and trad?
Rudeness. Most of the emails I receive are very polite but some are so rude it makes my teeth ache. I don’t expect anyone to grovel or beg to appear on my blog – I believe it’s a quid pro quo business (although it would be nice to think people share the posts when they’ve appeared) – but I’ve had emails where authors have literally pasted their blurb in an email and nothing else. Do they want me to review it, buy it, promote it?! And I also offer free advertising space on my blog for authors and I’ve had some pretty rude emails just saying ‘I want a free week’. I think sometimes people forget that there’s a person running the blog and not just a faceless machine. I think I’m a pretty friendly and polite person but things like that instantly turn me into a bit of an ice queen I’m afraid. And as I said, I hate being chased for reviews. I understand it’s important to get reviews and people want to make sure they haven’t been forgotten but it makes me feel so pressured.
How much time do you devote to blogging and your other projects online?
Good question… up until recently I probably would have said about 25-30 hours a week, not including reading time but I am trying to cut back. It’s not that I don’t want to continue to support authors but I do want to focus on my work (I’ve been working for Novel Publicity since December) and Dave’s book. I’ve also seen a few bloggers get ‘Blogger burnout’ and become overwhelmed. I figure it’s better to commit less hours than to be forced to give it up completely. It’s fun but committing to a daily blog is hard work too – and I’m sure you know about that better than I do!!
About Donna Brown, the Person
What is it like being married to a fantasy writer? I’d love to hear how you two met!
We were working together (in jobs completely unrelated to writing) and sort of knew one another on ‘nodding terms’. One day I asked to look at Dave’s writing and ending up editing some short stories for him. And pretty savagely. I remember he told me his best friend had taken one look at what I’d written and then said “Who does she think she is?!”. I think he must have decided I was a pretty good critic to have around, though, because we started meeting up as friends and then started dating and eventually he married me – bagging a wife and a publicist all rolled into one!
I wasn’t a huge fan of fantasy and I never made any bones about that to David. I didn’t really expect to like his stuff for that very reason. I think that’s one of the reasons I agreed to look at it – I knew he wasn’t expecting me to like it so I could be completely honest. But actually, I found there were lots of things that I enjoyed about his work. In many ways his stories are more about relationships, misunderstandings and human nature, just told in a different way. I was already a fan of Pratchett and Gaiman so I guess I wasn’t completely anti-fantasy but I have broadened my horizons a little.
What book are you reading now? Which are your all-time favourite authors / books?
I’m currently reading One Day by David Nicholls, Generation by William Knight and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. I usually have a paperback, ebook and audiobook on the go at once and try and get through one of each a week if I can.
I love Marian Keyes, Sophie Hannah, Jodi Picoult and Terry Pratchett. I’m aware that they’re all traditionally published but they’ve been in my heart a long time so I guess that’s why they automatically come to mind. Of course, Fezariu’s Epiphany also has a special place in my heart too for many reasons.
Who are your favourite Indie authors?
My husband (of course!) but I’ve also been very blown away by the work of Jeremy Rodden, Jonathan Gould and Vickie Johnstone. I have a great admiration for Emlyn Chand, both as an author and as a business owner. I’m also extremely inspired by Terri Giuliano Long and the success she’s had with her indie book In Leah’s Wake – I also find her gratitude to book bloggers extremely heart warming!
Can you tell us about your three favourite blogs?
Earlier this year I discovered two excellent blogs that I hadn’t come across previously. One is Ritesh Kala’s Book Reviews (that sounds a bit familiar?!) and the other is Cabin Goddess (http://cabingoddess.com). Both you and Kriss put such a huge amount of time and effort in your blogging that I find it really inspiring – you create such elaborate posts! I also really enjoy Pro Blogger (http://problogger.net). A lot of the articles are very useful and even though I sometimes think they go way beyond my little blog, there are some good tips.
Give us three “Good to Know” facts about you, something you could not read just about anywhere.
- I’ve had a nose job. Not for cosmetic reasons but because I tripped over a paving slab when our garden path was being redone and broke my nose in spectacular fashion.
- I have an irrational fear of escaped snakes. Not snakes I hasten to add, escaped snakes – I’ve seen snakes in the wild, even held them in captivity (including a boa constrictor at Heathrow’s quarantine centre!) and have no problem with them at all but the thought of an escaped snake makes me shiver.
- I once ate Cuckoo at a restaurant in Belgium and have felt guilty about it ever since.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to readers?
Enjoy books. Reading should always be a pleasure and not a chore. If it’s a chore, don’t assume it’s because you’re not a reader. Assume it’s because you’re reading the wrong books.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to authors?
You’re welcome at my blog – but I apologise in advance for the waiting lists!
ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?
I find ebooks easier to get through but you can’t beat having a good old paperback to curl up with!
I know you love cats. Have you had any other pets?
Dogs through most of my childhood. And two male rabbits – which became 8 when one turned out to be female.
Coffee or tea?
Tea mostly but I love a latte.
Lasagne or strawberries.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream?
What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Pen, ipod (with an audiobook!), paperback, coffee money
Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?
I’m not fussy – I’d do it anywhere if an idea hits and I can find a pen and paper!
If you were deserted on an island, who are 3 famous people you would want with you any why?
- Margaret Thatcher – I find her fascinating and these days she’s often perceived as something of a monster – I’d love to hear her thoughts looking back. Plus I think she’d keep everyone in line!
- Stephen Fry – he’s amazingly witty and intelligent but I also admire his honesty and openness about his mental health issues. I think having people like Fry talk about these things makes them much less taboo for the rest of us to discuss.
- Dara O’Briain – he’s so funny. Before I got married I dreamt he gave a speech at my wedding. It will always be the one thing that was missing on our actual wedding day!
List 3 of your all-time favourite movies and 3 of your all-time favourite music bands.
The Shawshank Redemption, Dave and It Could Happen to You.
The Decemberists, The Beatles – I think those are the only two bands I could hand on heart call favourites. I love so much music I find it impossible to whittle it down!
Which is your all-time favourite song (only one song please)?
This is SO hard! Probably The Crane Wife 3 by The Decemberists.
What is a movie or TV show that you watched recently and really enjoyed?
I love Only Fools and Horses. It’s been around for so long now and is no longer running and even though I think I’ve seen every episode multiple times it still cracks me up every time. I watch the re-runs pretty regularly.
About Donna Brown
Donna is a long time book reviewer and has devoured books from an early age. She writes short stories as and when inspiration hits and is married to fantasy author David M. Brown (Fezariu’s Epiphany).
Donna has lived in many different areas of the UK over the last 31 years but has remained in Yorkshire for the past decade. She ardently disputes the misnomer that ‘It’s grim up north’. You can find Donna on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Goodreads, or visit her blogs: Book Bags and Cat Naps and The Indie Exchange.
You can find Donna here:
About Donna’s books
Three dark, sardonic short stories that will have you expecting the unexpected:
In “Poison,” a psychologically abused wife discovers that her husband’s nut allergy may be the solution to all her problems.
In “Round Trip,” a five pound note passes through desperate hands, greedy hands and tired hands before coming full circle…accompanied by a big surprise.
In “Ç’est La Vie,” the police bungle a murder investigation under the watchful eye of someone uncomfortably close to the killing.
- Guest Post by Donna Brown author of Double-take Tales (abshepherdsreinventedreader.blogspot.com)
- Book Review – Double-take Tales by Donna Brown (alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com)
- Double-take Tales by Donna Brown Review (riteshkala.wordpress.com)
- Double Take Tales (a review) and Sicilian Ravioli (cabingoddess.com)
- Come on in, the writing’s lovely – thanks to Coral Russell and Frederick Lee Brooke (bookbagsandcatnaps.com)