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Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I wish I had been blessed with Alison’s artistic talent! Her fingers itch for a brush the way mine itch for a pen. I’m just more comfortable holding one in my hand even if I don’t have anything to write. Other than that, I don’t consciously base my characters on myself or anyone I know. They grow into themselves through freewriting and in the initial draft.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I asked my daughter, and she said that I fill my glass with so much ice that “you can only put a teaspoon of soda in it.” And a straw. I kind of have an obsession with straws.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, telling them to myself as I fell asleep at night. In the third grade, I made up an amazing game with my friends where we were kittens who could turn into lions and tigers with our magic watches. But it’s only been in the last six years or so that I’ve been able to devote time to a writing career.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love Anne Perry’s World War I series, Tolkien’s Middle Earth sagas, C.S. Lewis’ nonfiction works (though not his space trilogy), Daniel Silva’s thrillers, and practically anything about World War II. Other favorites include Kate Morton, Susan Frasier King, Jane Kirkpatrick, Davis Bunn, and Jack Cavanaugh.
My most recent reads are Mind of Her Own by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer and Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman. Both were fun and entertaining stories by talented authors. I’m currently re-reading Les Miserables and The Hobbit.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I choose not to run, run, run by limiting my obligations to only a few major activities. I facilitate a women’s Bible study, serve as President of the American Christian Fiction Writers Central Florida Chapter, and volunteer as a guardian ad litem for my county. I also have other ACFW responsibilities, such as a First Impressions first round judge and Genesis Historical Fiction Coordinator.
Almost every day, I have quiet time in my comfy chair. My papillon
Rugby lies across the top of the
chair so he can see out the bay window. I pray, read Scripture, and write in my
Sometimes I am overwhelmed – who isn’t? But these are specific choices I make to lessen stress and give me the time I need to write.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
This is an interesting question. Somehow the main characters seem to choose themselves, though I have looked up common German names, for example, for those characters and kind of try different ones on for size. Eventually something fits just right. I’ve also used a database that lists the most popular names by decade. This is a great resource for historical novelists.
For minor characters, sometimes I just look around at the books on my shelves or check the credits of some TV show for inspiration.
A World War II double agent, the protagonist in an earlier manuscript, was code-named after my sister’s cat which inspired the names of an entire secret mission.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Giving my now adult children happy childhood memories.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
When I was two, I wanted to be a dog when I grew up. But now I’d like to be a powerful bird, like a falcon or hawk, so I can fly above the world and see its magnificent variety.
What is your favorite food?
I love pizza and a really good steak. But not at the same time.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I’m always afraid of the blank page so it helps me to write my first draft during NaNoWriMo. Where Treasure Hides began as a NaNoNovel in 2009. The published story bears little resemblance to that messy draft, but it gave me something to work with. I also found it helpful to being a blank book with the words, “My name is Alison Schuyler ...” I kept on writing and discovered several things about Alison that helped with both character and plot development.
This year, I spent November writing my next project. Again, I don’t expect the polished version to look much like the original. The main characters need more depth, and my dramatic climax didn’t work. But the messy draft gives me potential.
Tell us about the featured book.
Alison Schuyler inherited her family’s artistic talent and a strong belief that true love leads to tragedy. On the eve of World War II, a chance meeting at
station brings bold and compassionate British officer Ian Devlin into her life.
While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch
Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of
art alike. As time, war, and a spurned Nazi officer struggle to keep them
apart, Alison fears she and Ian will be separated forever. She needs to find
the faith to fight for their love and to trust God with her future.
Please give us the first page of the book.
First Page (
Lena, this is
actually the first two pages. The first page is only the first two paragraphs,
but adding the second page gives a more complete vignette. Of course, feel free
to use as little as you wish.)
The stringed notes of “Rule, Britannia!” grew louder as the crowd quieted, eyes and ears straining in their search for the violin soloist. The patriotic anthem echoed through Waterloo Station’s concourse, and as the second chorus began, sporadic voices sang the lyrics. Travel- weary Brits stood a little straighter, chins lifted, as the violinist completed the impromptu performance, the last note sounding long after the strings were silenced.
Alison Schuyler gripped her leather bag and threaded her way through the crowd toward the source of the music. As the final note faded inside the hushed terminal, she squeezed between a sailor and his girl, murmuring an apology at forcing them to part, and stepped onto a bench to see over the crowd. A dark-haired boy, no more than seven or eight, held the violin close to his anemic frame. His jacket, made of a finely woven cloth, hung loosely on his thin shoulders. The matching trousers would have slipped down his hips if not for his hand-tooled leather belt.
Either the boy had lost weight or his parents had purposely provided him clothes to grow into. Alison hoped for the latter, though from the rumors she’d heard, her first assumption was all too likely. She stared at the cardboard square, secured by a thick length of twine that the boy wore as a cheap necklace. The penciled writing on the square numbered the boy as 127.
Other children crowded near the young musician, each one dressed in their fine traveling clothes, each one labeled with cardboard and twine.
transported to England
for their own safety while their desperate parents paced the floors at home and
vainly wished for an end to these troublesome days.
“Now will you allow him to keep his violin?” A man’s voice, pleasant but firm, broke the spell cast over the station. The children fidgeted and a low murmur rumbled through the crowd. The speaker, dressed in the khaki uniform of a British Army officer, ignored them, his gaze intent on the railroad official overseeing the children.
“He better,” said a woman standing near Alison. “Never heard anything so lovely. And the lad not even one of the king’s subjects. I’d take him home myself—yes, I would—if I’d a bed to spare.”
Alison mentally sketched the tableau before her, pinning the details into her memory. The officer’s hand resting on the boy’s shoulder; the official, a whistle around his neck, restlessly tapping his clipboard with his pencil; the dread and hope in the boy’s eyes as he clutched his prized instrument. The jagged square that tagged his identity.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My Treasured Moments blog is at www.johnniedonley.com.Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnnieAlexanderDonley
Thank you, Johnnie, for sharing your book with us today.
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