Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Q and A with Donna Bell, author of the Ladybug Farm series

What was the inspiration for your Lady Bug Farm series?

The story was inspired by my real-life adventures when I moved from the city to the rural Blue Ridge Mountains and began to restore the 100 year old converted barn in which I now live. This book is the closest to real life I’ve ever written-- almost everything that happens to the ladies of Ladybug Farm has happened to me, or to someone I know.

You've written over eighty novels. What's your process and how long does the average novel take you to write?

I spend a lot of time thinking about the book before I’m ready to sit down and write it. Because I’m a very visual person, the story comes to me in scenes. I know the opening scene, and the ending scene, and I have an idea what has to happen to move my characters from the beginning to the end. I also know the point of the story– what it is I’m trying to say– before I begin. I usually write the first couple of chapters before I actually start to outline the plot of the story, and throughout the writing process I take notes on upcoming scenes or lines of dialogue as they occur to me.
Every book is different in terms of how long it takes to write. A YEAR ON LADYBUG FARM took two years to develop and eight months of dedicated writing time. The sequel, AT HOME ON LADYBUG FARM, took half that time. My writing day is usually about five hours long, but when I am on a tight deadline, or when I’m really caught up in a story, it can stretch to twelve or fourteen– thus shortening the time it takes for me to produce a book.

Your first novel was published in 1982. What changes in publishing have you seen over the years?

Wow! That could be a whole essay. When I started publishing (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) publishing companies were run, for the most part, by people who knew and loved books. Today, publishing is run by people who know and love business. As a consequence, everything is geared toward the bottom line with very little understanding of how books are read or what the bottom line really means in the world of books. Less and less marketing is done by the publisher for books they acquire, series are canceled within months of release if the first book doesn’t show a profit, publishers are willing to invest virtually nothing in building a writer’s following because it’s cheaper to simply find another book to plug into the midlist slot. The most dramatic changes have probably occurred in the last ten years, with massive consolidation and reorganization of publishing houses, and more and more really good writers competing for the few spots left on publishers’ lists. On the other hand, the internet and POD publishing have made it ridiculously easy for anyone, qualified or not, to publish a book, so that being a published author doesn’t have quite the cachet it once did. And I do believe the most dramatic changes in the business are yet to come, most likely within the next five years.

What's your best craft advice for writers?

My best advice to writers is to read everything you can get your hands on. Read what you like and what you don’t like. Read your competition. Read the bestseller list. Read out of your genre. Read inside your genre. No writing class, workshop, conference, critique group, coach or editor can teach you as much as you can learn by simply reading, and opening your mind to what makes a good book.

What books do you have on your nightstand right now?

RELENTLESS by Dean Koontz
HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY by Audrey Neffenegger
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo
SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy
SOUL OF A DOG by John Katz
on my Ipod as an audio book EVIDENCE by Jonathon Kellerman

Who are some of your influences?

My job as a writer is to absorb everything I encounter, process it, and return it to the world in the form of a story. I therefore have to say that everything I come across influences me to some degree.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice at the beginning of your career, what would it be?
I think one of the most important things I could advise myself would be to keep a healthy distance between the act of writing and the demands of publishing; to beware of allowing the business part of publishing to strip away the joy of writing.

Donna Ball published her first book in 1982. Since that time she has written over eighty works of commercial fiction under pseudonyms that include Rebecca Flanders, Donna Carlisle, Leigh Bristol, Taylor Brady, and Donna Boyd. She is known for her work in women’s fiction and suspense, as well as supernatural fantasy and adventure. Her novels have been translated into well over a dozen languages and have been published in virtually every country in the world. She has appeared on Entertainment Tonight and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and has been featured in such publications as the Detroit Free Press, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and even T.V. Guide. She is the holder of the Storytelling World award, 2001, the Georgia Author of the Year Award, 2000, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards for consecutive years 1991-1996, the Georgia Romance Writer’s Maggie Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times, among others.Her most recent titles are the Ladybug Farm series: A YEAR ON LADYBUG FARM (March 2009), AT HOME ON LADYBUG FARM (October 2009) and LOVE LETTERS FROM LADYBUG FARM (Fall, 2010). She is also known for The Raine Stockton Dog Mystery Series: SMOKY MOUNTAIN TRACKS, RAPID FIRE and GUNSHY , and, under the pseudonym Donna Boyd, THE PASSION and THE PROMISE. All are now in paperback in bookstores everywhere.
You can keep in touch with Donna through her blog,, or her website,


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