Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Conversation with Novelist Deb Donahue

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Deb Donahue
with Deb Donahue

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Deb Donahue to Omnimystery News today.

Deb's new novel of suspense is Chasing Nightmares (Red Door Press; April 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the opportunity to talk to her about it.

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Omnimystery News: When you're setting out to write a book, do you know in advance if it will be a stand-alone or a series title?

Deb Donahue: Chasing Nightmares is a standalone book and never really felt like anything else. I think the reason is that I came up with a plot first and it just happened to be one that needed to end in a happily ever after type of ending. That kind of ending sort of kills the series idea. Who wants to read about characters when the conflict is over?

The cozy mystery I'm writing, however, developed first as a series idea, rather than a specific plot. For one thing, that genre works well as a series because your main character is usually someone who is likely to find him- or herself in interesting predicaments. My main character has a husband, for instance, who is a deputy part-time to help support the small farm they have. I wanted to create an art colony with quirky creative types and cuddly and/or kooky farm animals, then throw in a murder or two. Because of the periodic turnover of retreat residents, there is a host of potential conflicts that can occur, thus multiple plot potentials.

OMN: Did you choose the same setting for both books?

DD: The ranch depicted in Chasing Nightmares is an entirely fictional place. There is, however, a waterway named Silver Creek near Denver. I chose to set the book in that area because when I visited years ago I was struck by the number of abandoned mine shafts studding the countryside. The remoteness and the ghostliness of those gaps in the ground that had been dug with so much hope yet ended in so much futility seemed to demand stories be told about them. They seemed like perfect places to hide a body or keep someone prisoner, so how could I not use them in a story?

Now the new book I'm working on is set in a real place, but I've fictioned it up a bit. Names have been changed, and distances and store fronts may be altered to suit the storyline, but in my mind when I'm writing, I see the farm houses I knew when I lived there and the village streets and even sometimes the faces of people I knew. I never really say in the book what state we're in, but I think it will be obvious it is the Midwest. That is specific enough for me. Midwest rural communities have many similarities regardless of which state you're in, and are looked at nostalgically, I think, by people who live there, have lived there, and even people who have never been there. It is sort of the epitome of small town, simple country living that everyone can relate to. The perfect setting for a cozy mystery.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience is included in the books?

DD: Chasing Nightmares has little of my personal experience in it other than the setting I mentioned earlier. I don't have nyctophobia or know anyone who does; I've never been addicted or suffered from migraines. Where the author comes through in this book is more thematic in nature than anything else. When I first started it, I had this near obsession with the "wounded male" phenomenon. That is, I felt especially sensitive to men with deep psychological wounds and wanted to nurture them all (especially if they were good looking and brooding). If you're a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, think Angel in the first couple of seasons in particular. I've matured a bit since then which I feel makes the finished novel more realistic and less angst-ridden than it was in its draft version several years ago.

The new cozy mystery, however, will take advantage not only of the places I knew from years of living in the rural Midwest, but all the gardening, canning, cooking and animal husbandry I engaged in. We raised and butchered cattle, pigs, and chickens in the early days of our marriage, and my basement was always well stocked with canned tomatoes, green beans, peaches, applesauce, etc. In addition, as a writer I have attended artist colonies so I am able to take the eccentricities from some of the creative people I know and mix and match them into my colorful murder suspects and victims.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

DD: I read a wide variety as a kid, from literary to sci-fi, but the ones I remember best, and read the most, were always mysteries: the Hardy Boys and Bobbsey Twins particularly. There wasn't a book in those two series that I didn't rush to buy as soon as I could. I used to make up stories about Joe and Frank Hardy in my head when I didn't have a book to read and the first "book" I wrote on paper was about a family similar to the Bobbsey twins, minus the twins. The kinds of books that drew me in were ones that created a world and characters I wished I knew in real life, so I think that is why I write character-driven fiction rather than plot-driven. It wasn't solving the puzzle that I enjoyed most when reading mysteries, it was joining the characters in this other world as they walked through the clues and triumphed on the last page.

OMN: Have any specific authors influenced how and what you write today?

DD: Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz influenced me a lot as an adult reader with the way they tell a story and build suspense. I don't really like horror that much, but even their books that rely heavily on horror usually have characters I care about or get caught up with, which makes the suspense of what might happen to them more important. If I don't really care what happens to the main character, it doesn't matter if you've got a great plot, I probably won't finish the book or if I do, won't put it on my best books list.

Dorothy Dunnett is a completely different type of author who influenced me simply due to the depth of world-building her historical novels achieve. She also wrote mysteries, but it is her Lymond Chronicles and Nicolo Rising series that I am fascinated by. I read the Lymond books at least five times each (six books in the series) and I own both series in hardback and audio versions.

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Deb Donahue knows all about country living in the Midwest. She spent her early married years tending a huge garden and preserving the contents to keep them through winter. She and her husband raised and butchered their own beef, pork and chicken which she then prepared using delicious recipes from her Grandmother's cookbooks. Living in the country was never boring because she had books to keep her company. Romances and mysteries by authors like Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Dorothy Dunnett. Is it any wonder that these are the themes she chose to write about when she finally decided to fulfill her childhood passion for writing?

For more information about the author and her work, visit her website or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Chasing Nightmares by Deb Donahue

Chasing Nightmares
Deb Donahue

Dr. Charles Levine despises his younger half-brother with a hate that even death can't destroy. So why should he let Gordon's demise prevent him from exacting revenge? His weak-minded nephew, who resembles his father in so many ways, would serve Charles' purpose perfectly.

With romance, suspense, and a touch of madness, Chasing Nightmares tells the tale of Anne and Lee as they struggle to conquer the terrors that have haunted their dreams since childhood. Terrors that Charles exploits with finesse and specially concocted pharmaceuticals.

Will Anne's nyctophobia keep her from saving herself and Lee from the Doctor's insane plans? Can Lee escape the yoke of addiction his uncle keeps pressing upon him? Or will their nightmares become their reality and devour them in the darkness?

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  Kobo eBook Format

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