Friday, May 3, 2013

Interview with Donna Douglas

Today we have Donna Douglas visiting the RNA Blog. Donna was born in south London but now lives in York with her husband. She started her career writing photo love stories for teenage magazines (a great training ground for writing snappy dialogue and plotting!), before becoming a women’s magazine journalist. As Donna Hay, she won the RNA New Writers Award for her first novel, Waiting in the Wings. Welcome Donna, do tell us about your latest book under your new personna, and what inspired you to write it.

In the first book of the series, we met three girls from very different backgrounds starting their nursing training at an East London hospital in the 1930s.

The Nightingale Sisters continues their story and also introduces us to some other characters from the Nightingale Hospital, particularly the new Night Sister, Violet Tanner – a woman with a secret! Even though it’s a continuing story, you don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy the second.

Are you a lark or an owl? When are you at your most creative?

Definitely a lark, once I’ve managed to get up! If I can bear to get out of bed early enough, then I love starting work at the crack of dawn. That's when I do my best work. By the afternoon, ‘real’ life has caught up with me and I start faffing around answering emails, doing domestic stuff or wasting time on Twitter. I’ll only work at night if I’m in danger of not meeting my deadline.

Do you edit and revise as you write, or after you have completed the first draft?

I used to edit as I went along, but since I’m highly likely to come up with a new idea while I’m writing that causes me to ditch much of what I’ve already written, that proved to be a bit of a waste of time. Now I just plough on, making notes to myself as I go. Then, when I’ve finished a draft, I can look at the whole shape of it and change things around. I write at least three drafts before I’m really happy with it.

What do you enjoy most about your particular genre?

One of Donna's reference books.

The research! I never thought I’d say it, but I love hunting out obscure details that bring the story to life. When I first started writing the Nightingale novels, I did a lot of research in the Royal College of Nursing archives and some interviews with former nurses. Also, dealing with such a wide variety of characters and their life and death dilemmas gives so much scope for conflict. There’s never a dull moment!

What do you do when the going gets tough?

It’s quite tough going at the moment, so that’s a very timely question! Sometimes I go out for a walk, or into town for a coffee. Having time away from your desk really helps clear the mind so you come back raring to go. If things are really tough, I might just take a nap or watch an episode of ‘Say Yes To The Dress’ on YouTube – my daughter is getting married, so I have a good excuse to watch TV programmes about wedding dress shopping!

Which three books would you take on a desert island with you, and why?

I might consider one of my 1930s nursing manuals, to deal with emergencies – it was amazing what those real life Nightingale Girls could do with very few resources in those days! I would also have to take a survival guide, since I would be hopeless fending for myself. If there wasn’t a Waitrose on the island I might starve! If I didn’t have to be practical, then I would probably take Riders by Jilly Cooper – that is my all-time favourite comfort read, and I never get tired of it.

If you could clone yourself, what job would you hand over?

Admin! I absolutely hate all those boring but necessary jobs like sending out invoices, sorting out the banking and filling in forms. Especially when you have to do it online – you can bet I always forget my password and get locked out of my own account. So hopefully my clone would have a better memory than me!
And how do you relax when you’re not writing?

I would love to say I do a couple of hours of Pilates, but the truth is I’m a real couch potato. When I’m not writing, I’m generally vegging out on the sofa with my husband, watching TV. We love a good cop series, or a gripping drama. But I drive him mad because I’m always rewriting the plot or trying to guess the twists! I also enjoy reading, of course. Anything from historical novels to Heat magazine!

A stormy winter’s night in 1935 brings Violet Tanner to the Nightingale Hospital in London’s East End. It quickly becomes clear the new Night Sister is not all she appears. Who is she, and what is her devastating secret? But Miss Tanner is not the only one with something to hide, as student nurse Millie Benedict finds herself torn between the two men in her life, and Dora Doyle struggles to cope with her family’s new-found poverty. As the death of King George V heralds a new era, it’s clear the Nightingale Girls’ lives are never going to be the same again… 

Thank you for sparing time to talk to us today Donna. We look forward to more books in this series and wish you every success.
Best wishes, Freda

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