I’d like to introduce D. G. Driver, a fellow Melange Book, LLC (Fire and Ice YA) author.
D. G. Driver is a member of SCBWI Midsouth and lives near Nashville, TN.
She has published several award-winning and critically acclaimed non-fiction works as Donna Getzinger.
YA romance: 12 and Up
When Mark struggles to find a way to win the love of the perfect girl, can a ghost with a talent for writing love letters help him?
I got the idea for this story when one of my step-daughters was in a relationship where she and her boyfriend only communicated through texts. I wondered why they never actually talked and also wondered what ever happened to writing real love letters.
That sounds like my youngest son and his girlfriend!
And now to get to know Donna better! Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?) List other titles if applicable.
Passing Notes is not my first book. I published three middle grade novels, a couple theater books, and five nonfiction works all under the name Donna Getzinger.
My biographies on Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel, and my book on The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire are all still in print (www.morganreynolds.com)
In 2014, Fire and Ice Young Adult Novels published my first YA novel Cry of the Sea, a fantasy about the discovery of real mermaids. I also had a story published in an anthology of pirate stories called A Tall Ship, A Star, and Plunder. This year I’ll see the release of Passing Notes and a middle grade novel titled No One Needed to Know, being published by Schoolwide Inc.
You’ve been a very busy lady! What does your writing process look like?
I have a full time job and a family, so I don’t get to write as much as I would like. I also devote a lot of my evening time to doing promotion. I tend to do two blocks of writing on Saturdays and Sundays, in the morning and the afternoon. When I get myself in the chair and focus, I can usually write pretty fast. For novels, I usually have a rough outline of the plot, and then sometimes I actually follow it a little bit.
Finding time with work and family is very challenging but it sounds like you’ve got it figured out. Where do you write?
I mostly write in my home office. It is very messy and undecorated. I have dreams of making it nice someday, but it seems to be the catch-all room in the house and even when it’s clean, it’s still a mess. Two Christmases ago, my husband bought me a new office chair that is really comfortable, and I love it.
Comfy chairs are a must! Do you have any strange writing habits?
No, I can’t say that I do. I do like to read my stories out loud to find where the problems are, but I won’t do it if people can hear me. I have to wait until no one is home.
I like to do that, too! Are you a plotter or a pantster (writing by the seat of your pants)?
I do plot. I like to know where the story is going. My outlines are little paragraphs of what I think will be in each chapter. I amend it as I go if my story takes a turn or I wind up adding new characters. I’ve never wound up with the same story I started out writing.
That’s got to make creating your summary a lot easier. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others?
I don’t write racy stuff. I write pretty sweet YA. I had a ghostwriting gig a couple years ago writing romance novellas, and I drank some wine as I wrote to loosen me up.
A bit of wine can do the trick! Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?
I don’t think I see myself ever writing science fiction. Too many gadgets and spaceships. I love reading it, though.
I’ve a Sci-Fi I’m working on and you’re right, it gets complicated. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
In the story, Mark is learning to write a love letter through these little yellow notes he keeps finding hidden in his backpack or desk. It turns out the notes are being written by a ghost. I liked the play on Passing Notes, something kids do at school and passing referring to the writer of the notes being dead.
That is clever! What book do you wish you could have written?
Harry Potter, so I could be known as a genius and also be a millionaire.
Don’t we all! Plus, they really are very good stories. What other books/authors are similar to your own? What makes them similar?
I read a ton of YA, but I don’t read a ton of romance novels. I’m not sure off hand what book would be like Passing Notes.
I’ve read a few YAs recently. Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
My covers for both Cry of the Sea and Passing Notes were done by Caroline Andrus. She is one of the publishers and cover artists for Fire and Ice Young Adult/Melange Books. I gave her some info about the book characters and setting, and she created these beautiful covers. I’m very proud of them.
Here’s a Shout Out to Caroline Andrus! Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
We have a great group of authors here in the Midsouth group of SCBWI. I’ve really looked up to: Tracy Barrett, Sharon Cameron, Ruta Sepetys, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb (among others) who are all successful writers but still willing to share their knowledge and friendship. Famous authors that inspired me were Judy Blume and Stephen King for providing the very wide spectrum of stuff I like to read and write.
My favorite character is Mark, the main character. I think that he is very sweet and humble. He adores Bethany and wants to be what she needs so badly. He’s also good to his family.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
My least favorite characters are Bethany’s friends Kat and Lissy. They are very dismissive of Mark, and they are rude.
Those are fun to write! If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
I’ve thought about this a lot for my novel Cry of the Sea, but I haven’t at all thought of Passing Notes as a movie. Probably because it’s kind of short. I’m sure my 13 year old daughter would know exactly who should be playing each part.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I am a teacher, and I often use names from kids I’ve had in my classes, although I will mix up the first names with last names. Sometimes I will pull names from my childhood, kids I used to go to school with.
One of my college degrees is in Art Education, but since my husband (a pilot) is away so much of the time, I am a substitute teacher and I work for a company involved in teacher’s education. So, I am around a lot people and I often ask them what they are reading. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?
I tried to think of how to make it longer – into a full-length novel, but I couldn’t do it without changing a lot of the story and making it too convoluted.
Most people have no idea how hard it is to write a short story or novella and keep it clean a crisp. Talk about using your delete key! What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
I’m most proud of my novel Cry of the Sea, which was released last year.
Good for you! Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My hope is to land an agent one of these days and get picked up by one of the bigger publishers. I’d like to see my children’s and YA novels in schools and libraries. I’d like to be doing a lot more school appearances.
I think that’s wonderful idea. Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes. I wrote as a hobby as a kid and through school. My goal was to become an actress, not an author, but after being asked to write a couple plays, I decided to pursue writing as a career path. I’ve been published for 20 years now.
I enjoy being an actress, too. My experience really helps me as a storyteller. BUT…it does take a lot of time away from writing. What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Keep writing. You get better as you go. Don’t submit stuff until it’s been revised and cleaned a couple times. Don’t take no as an answer. There’s more than one publisher and more than one agent.
Very good points! Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
Yes I read them. Knock on wood, so far I’ve only gotten good ones.
Congratulations! What (when not writing) do you do to support yourself?
I am the lead teacher in the infant room of a Child Development Center.
How sweet! But why did I think you’d work with middle school students. Hmmm. Do you have any other talents or hobbies?
I am an actress/singer/dancer and was a professional performer in my twenties. I even danced at Disneyland in the parades for my high school job! Now I do community theater for fun.
How much fun is that!!!! I was a balloon wrangler for a Christmas parade at Universal Studios! But seriously, what is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Ditto! What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Tell a friend about it. Follow me on FB, Twitter or Instagram and like or share my posts.
Getting people to post reviews on Amazon is tough, but rating your book on Goodreads, “Liking” and “Sharing” is an easy way to show support. What is your best marketing tip?
I’m still learning, and I don’t know if I have a great tip for marketing. My most successful author friends seem to have a lot of friends that support them. I suggest finding friends like that.
Send a few my way! Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
I try to always to attend the SCBWI Midsouth Fall Conference in Nashville
Good for you! I’ve got a children’s book that my son was supposed to illustrate this past summer. THAT didn’t happen! What are you working on now?
The sequel to Cry of the Sea.
Sequels are what sell! What is your next project?
Cleaning up a middle grade novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo about dragons.
Kudos to you! I tried NaNoWriMo and lasted about three days! What can we expect from you in the future?
More, I hope.
What do you wear while writing?
I am usually in sweats or jeans and a sweatshirt on the weekends when I’m writing.
I keep thinking that I’m going to get a “shirt” to write in. I’ve already worn a pair of overalls out as an artist, so I like the idea of having the “look” of an artist/writer. Speaking of looks, have you ever dyed your hair an unusual color?
I’ve dyed my hair most colors. I’m afraid of tattoos ( the permanence) but hair can be changed. I’ve had it bright red and a little pink. I was platinum blonde for a while because I was doing a one woman show in Hollywood about the life and music of Doris Day (which I wrote as well). Lately, though, I’ve stuck to various shades of brown.
That’s pretty cool! My mother looks like Doris Day…but I didn’t get her genes. What is your biggest fear?
Being burned alive. I can’t even watch movies about firemen. Unfortunately, I love witch stories, and that seems to come up a lot in those plots. Maybe I was a witch in a former life.
Yikes! I wonder what I was in a former life since I have a fear of driving of bridges? Hmmmm. Anyway…if you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to split into several clones so I could get more done in a day.
BRILLIANT! Now for something more intimate. Do you make up your bed every morning?
I do make my bed every day.
I wish I had that discipline, or desire! 🙂 What is on your bed right now?
I made two crocheted blankets for my husband and me two years ago to match our bedding and replaced the ones his mother made, which were getting kind of worn.
Sounds romantic! Speaking of romance…Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
I really, really, really want to get to Venice one day.
I really, really, really hope you get to go!
Now, please describe something (significant number of words/a character/entire scene) you “deleted” from your work and why. Because a real writer knows when to hit THE DELTE KEY!
My original version of Passing Notes was intended to be a short story that I was going to submit for an anthology of ghost stories. I over-wrote it (as I always do with short stories). With help from a friend, I had to cut about 2,500 words out of it. We pruned it like a Bonzai tree to get it to the right word count. It didn’t get accepted to the anthology, and I didn’t know what to do with it. Last year, I decided to try stretching it into a novel. It wound up tripling in size, but it didn’t get anywhere near a novel. So, in the end, I added rather than deleted, but all the original cuts we made are still there.
Now that’s what I call EDITING!
Thank you, Donna, for this great interview. It is always a pleasure to meet YA authors because I believe young people should be doing a lot more reading and less time playing video games! (As I keep telling my two sons!) I have really enjoyed getting to know you and I look forward to following you career.