Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Interview with Donna Thorland

 From now until the end of the month, enter the March Mayhem contest sponsored by Joanne Renaud, Kat Laurange, Donna Thorland, Lynne Connelly and Kat Parrish. Details and entry form here.

Author Donna Thorland earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has been a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow and a WGA Writer's Access Project Honoree, and has written for the TV shows Cupid and Tron: Uprising. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project aired on WNET Channel 13. Her fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Her Revolutionary War novels are published by Penguin NAL and she writers urban fantasy for Pocket under the name D.L. McDermott. Donna is married with two cats and splits her time between Salem and Los Angeles.

Her latest novel, the Dutch Girl, is available here and in bookstores natiowide. It is part of her "Renegades of the American Revolution" series of historical fiction.

You have a degree in classics and art history. Why the American Revolutionary period rather than ancient Greece or Rome?

I wanted to write swashbucklers and it seemed to me that the American Revolution was crying out for stories like that, particularly with a female protagonist.

If you could live during any era in any place, where would it be, and what is it about that time/place that attracts you?

I’d be really interested in seeing Salem at the height of the China Trade—the bustle and spirit of adventure.

What made you decide to go to USC to get an MFA? What appeals to you about visual storytelling?

I left the museum world because the most successful programs that I wrote in that context were narrative fiction. I wanted to better understand the art of storytelling, and how to apply it in a public history setting. Though my USC degree is in film production, the program there, at its heart, is really an education in storytelling.

Did you originally envision The Turncoat as a one-off or did you see the novels in the Renegades of the American Revolution as a series from the beginning? Is the series open-ended? Are you contracted to do more?

The Turncoat was always meant to be one of many books. There will definitely be more.

You’ve published one novel a year since 2013. Do you have a writing “process?” A certain number of words you want to get down on paper per day? A certain number of hours you write each day? A certain time you devote to writing?

I actually write historical fiction as Donna Thorland and urban fantasy as D.L. McDermott and end up writing about two books a year. My process is pretty fluid—whatever gets the job done on any given day.

What’s your favorite social medium? (Please insert your Twitter, Instagram, FB, pinterest, Snapchat or whatever tags here so people can follow and adore you.)


I really enjoy talking with SALEM fans on Twitter. I live-tweet the history behind the story during episodes. And Facebook is where I go to talk about 18th century America and historic preservation.

Dog or cat? Coffee or tea? Wine or Beer or Spirits?

Cats. Tea. All of the above.

If you weren’t a writer, is there anything else that would draw your interest? Any other career you might have followed?

I managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum and worked in public history for nearly a decade before becoming a writer, and I still consult on occasional projects and serve on the boards of nonprofits. Historic preservation is really important to me.

Some readers have a passionate relationship with the POV of the novels they devour and some have made it clear in reviews that they would have given book X more stars if it had been in first or third person instead. Do you write third person or first person exclusively, or do you change it up?

I write whatever perspective is most appropriate for the story.

Have you ever written a story from a male point of view, or from the point of view of a character who is of a different race/culture/religion?

Yes to all of the above.

What was the first piece of writing you ever sold?

A short story for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. It’s called The Road to the Airport. It made some “Best of” lists at the time and you can read it for free on my website.

What’s the last good book you read?

I just finished The Forgotten Room. It’s terrific.

Do you find it hard to switch gears when you write your Cold Iron books?

I actually really like changing up what I’m writing, both genres and mediums.

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