Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and the Lightning Road series. She is represented by Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at schools. She is also the creator of Create Your Awesome Community for Debut Authors, a proven 10-step system to building a successful author platform. Access her free video training series at yourawesomeauthorlife.com.
Donna will present a session on how to harness your childlike wonder and create an engaging story idea that tweens and teens can connect with, and another session on how to develop a tailored school presentation, create a fee schedule, connect with educators, get testimonials, work with bookstores, and book the gigs!
Pennwriters: Your one series, the Element Trilogy, has paranormal elements to it, involving mind control, mind reading, and telekinesis. Tell us what inspired you to write paranormal?
Donna: I am fascinated by the power of the brain and how little we use. We are not even close to tapping our potential of brainpower. Writing in the paranormal allows me to tap into the “what if.” What if we possessed the power to do the unbelievable? Like telepathy, telekinesis. And what if we could use those powers to heal – or to kill? Some people like to imagine that aliens would have such power, but what if it was inside us all along and we just had to tap into it?
PW: Any advice for writers who dream of being published one day?
Donna: Get out of your writer’s cave and join writer communities and organizations now, no matter what level of writing you are at. Also, I wish I’d learned about how to write a book before writing my first book. I took writing workshops after I finished that first book and it required going back and fixing a ton of things! However, I don’t regret the learning that took place afterwards because it taught me how to write a better book from the beginning. Keep learning your craft and keep filling your writer’s toolbox! And remember that this writing business is not going to be easy – it’s going to be worth it.
PW: If you could live any place real or fictional, where would it be? Why?
Donna: I would live in an old stone cottage by the sea in England. I lived in an English village as a child and fell in love with this land rich in history, legends, and beauty. My love for all things King Arthur grew from there, and I even coerced my parents to take me to Tintagel in Cornwall, the legendary site of King Arthur’s birth. I can’t wait to take my family there next summer to visit. But here’s especially why: my son’s favorite author (and one of mine too!), Jenny Nimmo, the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlie Bone series, lives in Wales not too far from where I grew up in England. Jenny so kindly endorsed my middle grade book, Joshua and the Lightning Road, after reading the bound manuscript in her converted Welsh waterwheel home. I loved knowing that she was reading Joshua and the Lightning Road there by the river, and she welcomes us to visit her on our overseas trip.
PW: How/why did you start writing?
Donna: I fell in love with writing because of reading, really. The tooth fairy brought me every Roald Dahl book that was out. And the first book I remember falling in love with was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I would curl up in a nook at school to hide away and read it. Aslan, the lion in the book, was my hero and I even got a special lion ring to wear to feel close to him. Soon after I wrote my first screenplay, a murder mystery, at seven years old and acted it out with the neighborhood kids. I was hooked! I attended school in England in a magical castle like Hogwarts where my imagination ran wild in an itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included). I suppose that inspired me to write my first fantasy story when I was ten about dodo birds, wizards, and a flying ship. I still have that story.
PW: How does your environment influence your writing?
Donna: I have woven my experiences through my writing. Being adopted, being in the Navy, having lived in many places in the U.S., including Hawaii, and England, I relate to the nomad and I think that comes across in the characters I write. They aren’t bound by any one environment, like me. I get restless in the same spot for too long. Many of the places in my books are based on real places I’ve visited or lived.
PW: Are your characters/stories inspired by real people/events?
Donna: I write paranormal and fantasy so I wish the stories were inspired by fantastical events! They are only real in my mind. The characters are very real, though! In my middle grade book, Joshua and the Lightning Road, Joshua calls his grandfather, Bo Chez, which stands for the Big Cheese – and what my godfather is called by his kids. Bo Chez is like my godfather, big and strong with a booming voice. And then there is Joshua, the hero, who is based on my own son, Joshua. I also envision Joshua’s mentor, Leandro, a mysterious cloaked man, to be like my hero in The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn. Leandro means “lion of a man” and that is representative of his personality as well. He is all heart and warrior when it comes to finding – and protecting – those he cares about. This is similar to Tolkien’s Aragorn, who was very real to me. So much so that long before the movie of The Lord of the Rings came out, as a teen I even dressed up like Aragorn for Halloween of what I thought he would look like. Long hooded cape, boots, and long hair. No one knew who I was but me, of course! And in my Element Trilogy series, both characters Ben and Laura are from my own life. Laura is me as a little girl growing up on a mountain and Ben is a Navy photographer stationed in Hawaii, which I was, long ago.
Also, adoption and being an only child run through all my books. I am both and they both had a deep impact on my life. Adopted children often suffer abandonment issues and feel like they never belong, that they aren’t “blood family.” Being adopted myself, I understood this. But as an adopted child I was lucky. I had a loving family and I learned my heritage (and I am very glad I was given up. Read more about that here). I got married and had an amazing son. In having him, I have my own “blood” now. I do belong – with my family. I like to think we can overcome our genes and thrive in an environment that allows us to do so. In such an environment we can conquer our obstacles and achieve anything, but without love we are lost. And I believe that our genes do not dictate who we are – and this gives me hope. And, without hope, change is not possible. These are threads that wind through all my stories.
PW: How do you know when you’ve “made it” as an author?
Donna: My first made-it-moment is a private one. The death of my mother propelled me to finally write the novel I always wanted to write. I did it through grief without looking back. Writing “The End” was a private made-it moment for me. Connected to this was the defining public made-it moment when reviews started rolling in praising my debut novel, A Human Element – and they were by unbiased strangers! I continue to be amazed that people I don’t know like my book and have been as touched by my characters as I am. My mom drove my made-it moment of writing the novel I always knew I had inside me to the made-it moment of knowing I had written something that touched others. I hope I can do it again.
PW: Thanks, Donna!
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All meal options end May 9th, 2018 at midnight.