An Interview with Donna Sunblad: Author, Writer, Coach & Tutor
Sylvia: Hi Donna, it is such a pleasure to interview you. Please give our readers a brief introduction of yourself and a little about your book.
Donna: Thank you. I’m a full time writer, author, writing coach, and speaker. I lost my staff writer/editor job last fall just when my novel The Inheritance was nominated for a 2012 Epic Award in the spiritual category. Within two weeks of losing my job, my publisher of 8 years closed their doors due to the death of the owner.
Now I’m forging a new path as a freelancer and ghostwriter with more than 1,000 SEO articles published. The Inheritance is my fourth book but the first written for a Christian audience. Other works include various inspirational short stories, including those found in Life Savors and Cup of Comfort.
Sylvia: I am sorry to hear that you lost your job and the death of your former employer, but it seems that you are really living your passion as a full time writer. Besides your passion to put pen to paper, tell me a little about you?
Donna: Sure! My interests are varied and I like trying new things. For instance, I learned sign language in my 30s, and started breeding cockatrices. I still own birds and raise them. In my 40s I learned how to play piano and saxophone, and believe it or not I taught piano for 7 years. Today I tutor one-on-one to help students with grammar and creative writing. I love watching them blossom!
Family is a big part of life for me, and I’m a Christian so the Lord permeates daily living. I’m a health enthusiast who believes in a proactive approach to health through diet and exercise. To relax, I enjoy reading a variety of genres or a good movie. I often wish there were more hours in the day! My varied interests and background are the reasons I make a good generalist writer.
Sylvia: What inspired you to write your first book?
Donna: The very first book I wrote was a fan fiction novel. I wrote it because the story was in my head. Part of me wanted to see if I could do it. Little did I know that there was little chance of it every being published because the publisher that owned the rights only considered previously published agented authors. However, the process taught me many things. First of all, that I could finish a fictional work with several sub-plot intertwined in the overall plot; and secondly, the importance of knowing your market.
Sylvia: For the sake of my readers, please explain what a ‘fan fiction novel’ and the process you endured?
Donna: Fan fiction is based on someone else’s characters. For instance, if you write a Star Trek story, those characters are copyrighted. Only one publisher holds those rights. If they don’t want your story, there is no paying market for it.
Sylvia: Ok, I understand! Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Donna: Yes, the story is designed to entertain but challenge people to think about what they believe and why they believe it. It’s written in a modern fantasy format, but in an allegorical tradition like classics such as Pilgrim’s Progress.
Sylvia: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Donna: Set writing goals. I talk to so many writers who have great ideas that never get developed because they don’t make time to write. When you do set goals they need to be flexible and achievable. One mistake I see writers make when they first start setting goals is that they make a long, overwhelming list when they haven’t been doing anything at all. To start out, keep goals simple. My first writing goal was to write 20 minutes a day four days a week. Within five years I walked away from my 9-5 job and started writing full time.
Sylvia: Why should we buy your book?
Donna: It’s a cleverly devised tale that’s imaginative and thought provoking. It does not tell you what to think, but stimulates you to ask why you believe what you believe in your own quest for the Eternal City (Heaven). It provides a visual for sifting through traditions that divide and the hope of coming together as one to live in unity. While I wrote it to entertain, on another level The Inheritance it is an ideal read and discussion starter for youth groups, homeschoolers, and book clubs that enjoy meaningful discussions.
Sylvia: Is there a special place that you prefer when you write?
Donna: Most of my writing takes place in a cozy room with peach colored walls, dark cherry bookshelves, where I sit with my laptop, feet up, on the loveseat right beside a large picture window.
Sylvia: What is your POWER WORD? Why this word?
Donna: Interesting question to ask a wordsmith. I guess if I have to pick one word it would be FAITH.
Sylvia: Why did you choose to write The Inheritance as an allegory?
Donna: An allegory is a style that communicates the story on a symbolic level. I decided to use allegory because it was a method I could use to create a book both believers and non-believers could enjoy. It was a way for me to write about a spiritual journey that seeks for Truth without being preachy and allows people to think for themselves. In the right hands, I believe it will be used as a witnessing tool.
Sylvia: Can you provide an example of this symbolism?
Donna: Much of the story takes place in the Valley of Shadow. This idea is based on the popular Psalm 23. The River of Tradition runs through the valley, and many villages and towns are built along it. In the Village of Conformity, the protagonist learns there are many rules that govern the citizens there, but there is no compassion for those who do not conform. During his travels, the young protagonist meets a man named Understanding who directs him to follow the Narrow Way. Two sisters…Worldly and Heavenly Wisdom offer conflicting advice, and a silver haired beauty named Prudence lends her guidance along with similar characters. The story lets the reader see into the spiritual realm, and offers insights into spiritual warfare. It has plenty of conflict but also a touch of humor.
Sylvia: Do you have a favorite character?
Donna: That’s a hard one. As the writer, I’d say Wigglewot was my favorite character. It just so happens he is the most talked about character among my fans, too. Probably the most asked questions are: What does his name mean and what is he? First his name is based on an old English word “wit” which means to know. Wot is the past tense. Wigglewot is the main character’s conscience. He “knows” the right thing to do, but often tries to justify doing something else. Thus I came up with the name Wigglewot. He’s small, has wings, and makes the story interesting. The biggest challenge with creating him is that he is not seen by other earthly characters.
Sylvia: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
Donna: Yes, you can buy The Inheritance at Amazon in print or for Kindle. For a limited time it is available for free for Kindle Select users. If anyone wants more information, they can visit my website at www.theinkslinger.net/wp or find me on Facebook.
Sylvia: Thank you so much Donna. I commend you on a great book. Please leave us your complete website, social media sites and where to buy your book?
Donna: You are welcome. My contact is:
Book available on Amazon, Twitter, and some local Christian bookstores