Monday, February 22, 2010

Interview with Donna MacQuigg

Today we’re interviewing author Donna MacQuigg, who’s been a member of LERA (Land of Enchantment Romance Authors) since 1994. Donna’s latest book, The Dragon’s Secret will be released in May 2010.

NMRW: Thanks so much for agreeing to do the interview, Donna. I like to start out with a little about you. Where are you originally from?

Donna: I’m a second generation native of New Mexico.

NMRW: Do you also have another profession besides writing (a day job)?

Donna:  I’m retired from dental practice management.

NMRW: What is your spouse or partner’s name, occupation, how many kids, etc.

Donna:  He’s retired APD, Jim MacQuigg. My daughter, Beth is a 1st grade teacher in Edgewood, and my son, Donald is an auditor with an Albuquerque accounting firm.

NMRW: Do you have pets, or a favorite or special pet?

Donna: Yes. Tony – a Chihuahua and Tessa – standard poodle

NMRW: How long have you been writing and what got your started?

Donna: Since 1993. I helped my daughter who had an English assignment which asked for a paragraph describing a character. We got an A. I think getting a new computer also helped. It made writing easy with spell-check and a built in thesaurus.

NMRW: Where are you likely to be when you’re not writing?

Donna: Outside, either playing with the dogs, my daughter’s horses, or tending to my garden.

NMRW: Besides writing, what else are you known for?

Donna: I built a pretty good reputation for dental practice management when I was working and when I retired, I tested and got my commercial drivers license and drove 18 wheelers with the hubby for awhile. I actually got “the call” selling my first romance while at a truck stop in California.

NMRW: Can you tell us what inspires you to write?

Donna: I started reading romance when I was in 7th grade and read every chance I got. After I got that A from my daughter’s English teacher, I decided to try writing my own. I had a romance on my lap that I used to format my manuscript since I didn’t have a clue how to punctuate dialogue or any of the basics used in writing a novel. I finished my first 400 page manuscript in 90 days, and actually landed an agent with it. By the time I published my first medieval romance in 1999, I had written four more novels and had at least a dozen ideas outlined.

NMRW: Do you have any "practice" novels or stories hidden away in your basement or trunk?

Donna: I have about 250 pages of a paranormal that I really need to finish, but I just don’t like the idea of killing off my heroine to be with her lover who happens to be a ghost. I’m open for suggestions on how to end this other than starting a fire with it.

NMRW: What writers clubs, associations or groups did you join before you were published? Were any of them particularly helpful? Have you ever founded, chartered or served as an officer for any club or group?

Donna: RWA and LERA. LERA was very helpful. As a newbie, it was great meeting other authors and listening to them share their expertise. Later I joined in and gave a few presentations on weaponry, and since I raised horses, threw some equine information in for fun. As VP in 1995, I chaired LERA’s very first romance conference. It was a two day affair and lots of work, but tons of fun. We had Agent Meredith Bernstein, Editor Lucia Macro, authors Leigh Greenwood, and Diana Gabaldon as speakers.

NMRW: Do you have a favorite author (or authors) that inspires you or who you idolize?

Donna: Owen Wister, author of The Virginian, and in romance, Judith McNaught and Kathleen Woodiwiss.

NMRW: Where do you do most of your writing? (Home office, living room, Starbucks, in the front seat of your car, etc.)

Donna: I’ve always had a home office just because we had an extra room in our house, and since 1984, have always owned at least one computer.

NMRW: What romance genre, subgenre or niche genre is your “specialty?” What other genres do you/or do you plan to write?

Donna: Historical romances are my favorite. My first were medieval then I branched out to historical westerns. I’ve also written a cowboy-contemporary and lastly a historical fantasy set in Wales.

NMRW: Are you a pantser or a plotter? Right-brained or left-brained?

Donna: I’m definitely a pantster. I will jot down an outline, so to speak, but it’s usually not formal and it’s usually handwritten on the lined pad on the desk next to my computer. I have scraps of paper with names, dates and important research scattered around as well. I never found it beneficial to chart things out. I am too busy writing. I will also write a scene out of context if the mood strikes me and work it into the story at a later date. I don’t set aside a specific time to write or set a specific word count. I find that letting my muse dictate my writing schedule works best for me.

NMRW: On average, how long does it take you to write a novel from first word to market draft? How much time do you invest in research?

Donna: If I’m possessed by a story in my head, I can pound out 400 pages in about 3 to 4 months. However, to turn out a polished, marketable manuscript and still maintain some semblance of family life, I’d have to say between 6 and 12 months. I love research, especially history, and have an extensive library of my own ranging from medieval times to the 1800’s. I can honestly say I don’t read history books from cover to cover, rather I search out the era I’m writing about and glean all I can from certain sections in several different books.

NMRW: Which sections or scenes do you find most difficult to write? What makes you laugh? Cry? Crazy?

Donna: I like to have a little humor in most of my stories, and the same with crying, although I’m not so sure I’ve brought many readers to tears. I’m pretty certain I made a few editors cry over my grammar and spelling. I’m easily frustrated when I can’t find the correct terminology for something I’ve put into my story such as a type of coach or a piece of medieval armor or clothing.

NMRW: Do you utilize a support group--critique partners, beta-readers or peer writers--when you’re working on a manuscript? (Feel free to plug their work!) How did you get started working with them?

Donna: I did extensively for years before I was published. It was one of the perks of belonging to LERA. Later, I worked alone for quite awhile until I attended the Desert Dreams Conference in 2005. I met Kathryne Kennedy in an elevator and we became the best of friends. That was before she published The Relic’s of Merlin series, which I edited (puffing out chest) and now she has a huge contract with Source books, and I help edit all of those, too. I also have a wonderful CP that I just recently acquired, and she’s been very helpful, especially in spelling and grammar since those are my weakest areas.

NMRW: What is the most valuable reference book you can recommend to other writers?

Donna: The Synonym Finder, by J I Rodale.

NMRW: When you face adversity with your writing, what keeps you going?

Donna: This is a good question and one I thought I’d skip, but changed my mind. It’s easy to write when everyone around is supportive, but quite different when they aren’t. The important thing to remember is who are you writing for? In my case, I write because I love it, not because I need validation, although it’s nice when it happens. I’ve been lucky with my editors. All of them are supportive and encouraging. Nothing helps an author more than to have their editor call and ask if you’ve written anything new.

NMRW: Have you published novels, e-novels and or short stories? When was your first book published? What are the titles and genres/subgenres and who published them and when?

Donna: My first book, a Scottish medieval was released in January of 2000, followed by a second English medieval 2001. Both were with Kensington. I next published with Five Star Expressions and they published three western historical in 06, 07, and 08. A Five Star Expression Contemporary in 09 and my historical fantasy is due out in May of this year. I have also had 3 of my previously published acquired for e-books.
NMRW: Are you open to other writers contacting you by email with specific questions or to seek advice?

Donna: I’m always available to other writers, especially if they have questions about weapons-both modern day and in historic. I’ve raised, trained and bred Arabian horses, and ridden all over New Mexico on trail rides, and shown extensively. One spring, I helped deliver 23 foals, so I have some knowledge on that as well. I’m happy to answer questions about horses, their behavior, conformation/ anatomy and the gear a rider needs as well as saddles and tack.

NMRW: Thanks, Donna, for taking time out from your day to do this interview and answer the questions. I’ll look forward to the release of The Dragon’s Secret in May.

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