NiFtY Author Donna Cooner
I met Donna at Katherine Longshore’s book launch, after I’d been
stalking following her and her fellow muses via the YA Muses blog. Her debut young adult novel, SKINNY, will be released this coming Tuesday, October 1st, and I’m thrilled for her, and can’t wait to get my hands on that book!
BH: Welcome, Donna! I am so looking forward to reading SKINNY. What was the biggest joy of writing the book? What was the biggest challenge?
DC: My biggest joy in writing this book has been the personal connections people seem to have with the story. Readers have shared some amazing struggles with self image and many of them have nothing to do with weight. I love the fact people are able to relate to the story in so many different ways. The biggest challenge for me was just completing the story. My full time job as a university administrator is hectic and time consuming, so finding time to write is always difficult.
BH: I heard from a little bird (or two birds) that SKINNY wasn’t your first choice of a book to work on. Can you share why it was more difficult to commit to this one than the other ideas you had?
DC: This book is incredibly personal. In many ways, that made it a difficult choice to write. I’ve tried to avoid the topic of obesity all my life. The thought that I was actually going to write about it for the whole world to see was terrifying. It probably would have been much easier to work on something that wasn’t so close to my heart, but I also think that’s the very reason it connected with readers.
BH: If you had a daughter, which of Ever’s attributes do you wish she shared? Which ones would you never want to see her display?
DC: Ever is a talented singer. I would definitely hope any child of mine would be involved in the performing arts in some way. Singing solos in church and performing in school musicals as a choir member gave me the self-confidence to be in front of people. I learned to prepare well, practice, and perform under pressure. As an adult, I still draw on those skills today when teaching and speaking to groups.
Ever is so extremely self-absorbed and self-critical that she almost misses out on some fantastic opportunities and potential friendships. Her journey is all about learning that lesson and coming to some positive realizations about herself. I would hope my daughter wouldn’t have that same, so so difficult, struggle. Reflection and introspection might be good for writers, but there definitely needs to be a healthy balance. Especially when you are a young adult.
BH: Do you have a new project in the works you can tell us a little about?
DC: It’s a little too early to talk about yet, but there is definitely a book two in the works. It’s not a sequel to SKINNY, but will be set in the same Texas town. You might even get to see Ever and Rat again.
BH: What does your workspace look like?
DC: I have a second floor loft in my house that is my study. My cat, Stu, tries his best to get in between me and the computer screen (see picture). Roxanne and Cassidy, my chocolate labs, are usually lying on the floor near my feet. The wall is adorned with notes and scene cards for my next project. I also tack up pictures from teen magazines to represent what I think my current characters might look like.
BH: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?
DC: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
BH: Any words on advice to aspiring writers for keeping the hope alive?
DC: SKINNY is my third completed novel. If anyone had reasons for giving up, and not writing book three, it was me. But the story was there. Waiting. And so was this amazing journey. I’m just so grateful for good writing friends who encouraged me when I most needed it or I would have missed it all. Don’t give up. Write your stories and keep writing your stories. You never know what might be waiting for you just around the bend from your next “The End.”
BH: Thank you, Donna, for visiting and sharing about SKINNY and your writing adventures. For more on Donna and her writing, you can visit her website by clicking here. You can read the first chapter of SKINNY by visiting the YA Muses Blog here…and you can buy it on Tuesday!