December 18, 2012

interview with the author of 'the seven steps to closure'

Blogger's Note: After sharing an excerpt of Donna Joy Usher's The Seven Steps to Closure (read it here) and reviewing it (see it here), I'm pleased to let you get to know the author a little bit better in today's interview as part of her Chick Lit Plus blog tour.

Change the Word: How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Donna Joy Usher: It started with a really vivid dream. I woke up and started writing, with no thought for where the story was going. Not surprisingly, seventy thousand tedious words later I still had no plot and was forced to stop and rethink the situation. (All right, I admit it; I stopped for a couple of years.) Finally I invented new friends for Tara - my protagonist, developed a plot using a lot of my earlier work as history, and eventually The Seven Steps to Closure was born.

CTW: How much planning went into your book before you wrote?
DJU: A heap of planning went into The Seven Steps to Closure. I know some authors are capable of writing a book without fully developing their plot, but unfortunately I can’t work like that. I develop all my characters, my plot, my timelines, the different parts of the book and then map out all of the scenes on their own cards, and only then, when I have the entire book sitting in a pile of scene cards, do I start to write. This way I never have writer’s block because I always know what I am writing.

CTW: What characteristics do you like best in a leading lady?
DJU: I like her easy going nature and her loyalty to her friends and family. I also like the fact that she’s a little bit of a klutz – it allowed me to add a lot of humour to her story.

CTW: How about in a leading man?
DJU: Geez – what’s not to like in the leading man. Hubba hubba. He gorgeous, funny, nice, a good listener and sexy – they should make more like him.

CTW: What similarities, if any, do you share with your main character?
DJU: Well, I’ve also been in a relationship with a controller. Luckily I realised very early on and was able to exit before I got too entangled.  I am also a wee bit klutzy and I have a heap of really good girlfriends and a great relationship with my parents. I guess as this was my first book I did use many facets of my personality to inject into Tara, but once I started writing she took on a personality unique to herself. That’s one of the things I love about writing, watching these characters develop far beyond your own imagination – it’s magical.

CTW: What was the most challenging part about writing this story?
DJU: I always find the connecting scenes harder to write than the action scenes, because the action scenes are so much more fun.  I have to be extremely disciplined with myself and make sure I write the book in order rather than writing all the fun scenes first. You’ll be pleased to hear I use the same principle with my cake and always eat the icing last.

CTW: What is the best lesson you learned while writing this book?
DJU: You have to give yourself permission for your first draft to be awful. I did a writing course during which I observed a woman so critical of her work that she ended up deleting most of it, sometimes all of it, at the end of the day. That’s not a good way to get a first draft finished. I find that once I have the framework of the first draft complete it is much easier to go back and polish it, than it is to make it perfect from the very beginning.

CTW: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
DJU: I’ve always loved reading and about seven years ago I started writing. I found the process so peaceful and rewarding that it quickly became a part of my daily routine. A lot of the early stuff I wrote was pretty awful, so I enrolled in some courses and read some books on the subject and finally, triumphantly, completed my first book.

CTW: What is your favorite writing snack?
DJU: Gee – what isn’t one of my favourite writing snacks? During the day I just love a hot cup of tea and a piece of cake (or two). At night I graduate to a glass of white wine and some cheese.

CTW: How do you get through tough-to-write passages?
DJU: Just keep writing, is my motto to myself. Although when I’m really struggling it becomes more of a little song I sing over and over in my head – a lot like the Little Engine that could. (It’s normally time to have a break when that starts happening.) But seriously, I find if I trudge through the awkward parts, often when I come back and reread it I find it isn’t as bad as I thought.

CTW: How do you keep yourself motivated to write in general?
DJU: When I can’t write I think about the next few scenes, imagining them in my head, working out how the characters would react, what sort of emotional element should be present and what I want the reader to gain from the scene. Then when I have time I’m just gagging to get into it. I also find the NaNiWriMo strategy very helpful. Writing 1667 words a day gives you 50,000 words a month, (Normally done in the month of November.) That’s a book in a month and a half. Of course there’s a lot of work you have to do before you can get to that stage.

CTW: Where is your favorite place to write?
DJU: This is really boring I know, but I love sitting at the dining room table. Our dining room is quite large with really good natural light and it makes me feel like I am outside. When the sun is shining I can see the blue sky through the open door and it always puts a huge smile on my face. (Plus it’s close to the kettle, making my tea and cake raids less likely to attract my husband’s attention.)

CTW: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
DJU: Work out your strategy to get your book finished. Sort out all the elements you need before you start writing and then just go for it. It’s all right to do a horrible first draft. That’s the point of a first draft and it’s often where most of the hard work starts.

Plus I would say to read books on how to write a book and find the way that suits you. I’m a plotter but you may be a pantser, so you have to write the way that suits your personality. And then I would say learn to edit. Learn to be more critical of your work than anyone else and don’t think that every word is sacred. (That was the song playing in my head when I first finished my first draft. After I had cut out 38,000 words that song was long gone.)

CTW: What's next for you and your writing career?
DJU: I’m currently working on the second book of a YA urban fantasy trilogy, The War Faery Series, and have started my next chick lit novel, Coca and Chanel. I’m intending to write and edit the whole YA trilogy before I start publishing it so it won’t be available for a little while. If all goes well though, Cocoa and Chanel should be available by the end of 2013.

CTW: Is there anything else you would like to share?
DJU: I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank you for hosting me on your website. I’d also like to thank any of your readers who end up buying The Seven Steps to Closure, and to remind them to send their receipt to to go into the draw to win one of two $25 amazon gift vouchers.

About the Author
Born in Brisbane, I started my working life as a dentist. After 15 years of drilling and filling I discovered there was more to life, and put pen to paper. Now I drill by day and write by night.

When not doing either of those things I like spending time with my husband and two little dogs, fishing and camping, motorbike riding, traveling, drinking wine on my deck and eating chocolate. Last year I ran my first half marathon and took up paddle boarding.

I have lived in a myriad of places: Melbourne, Perth, England, Rockhampton, Roxby Downs, Sydney, Cairns and am now situated on the New South Wales Central Coast.

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