Interview with Elizabeth Donavan

Describe your desk
It's basically a flat table to put my laptop on. My workspace is anywhere that is conducive to the creative process, and can be with the laptop on my lap sitting cross legged on the bed, outside under a tree, or anywhere that is a pleasant and comfortable work environment.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am a beginner here, but I'm starting out with social media, with email.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Chicago area, and yes, that massively influenced my writing. I was encouraged since third grade to write, and was side tracked by life, as most of us are. I was a voracious reader, and read as much science and adventure/travel books as I could. I never imagined that I would be traveling around the world, and thought I would wind up either working in a factory or library somewhere. But afterwards that actually happened. It's not like I had a million bucks to do this, in fact it was a friend that asked me if I wanted to go with him to Australia to meet an R&D group there. So I went, and met some amazing people that I still consider my friends, even though we do not speak that often. I think my travels, and my research were the main influence on my writing.
When did you first start writing?
Oh geez. It must have been in the third grade. I mean, it sounded like stories that a third grader would write. But I read so much, and Asimov, Heinlein, and others influenced my style, as well as Douglas Adams. My friends always said I had a quirky sense of humor, and that ends up in my writing. I kept writing during my teen years, and did some serious stuff in my 20's--technical papers that had massive footnotes and a killer bibliography. I didn't want someone to say I didn't do my research. In fact, that is where I learned to do research, and the three source rule. If you cannot corroborate something with three sources that do not know each other, then it's probably bogus, or at least doubtful. I completed a novel that my father started in my 30's, and I can see how that might have a sequel, or perhaps a series. It has been said that you cannot have enough life experiences to really do a novel right before the age of 40, and that is probably right. At this point in my life, I have known so many different people, good and bad, that I have a deep well to draw from. When you're young, it's like there are just a handful of pieces on the chess board, and now there are so many, and an enormous amount of interactions between them.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Well, the one I just published, Broken Wings, was about the secret space program, and did a lot of research on that one. Being a private pilot myself, I could draw from those experiences. The Mississippi Shadows book was drawn from experiences in the deep south, and the people who live there. Send Lawyers, Guns and Money was about post 911 America, and the corruption going on there. That was drawn from personal experiences as well. That's how you make it real--put your own experiences in, and change the names around. I knew a lot of scientists that worked on so-called free energy devices, and many of them had fatal accidents--no joke! This gets into real James Bond stuff. I don't even have a title for that one yet. It's been rattling around for years, and friends have been egging me on to write something about it. I will sometime soon. The most recent release is Quantum Horizons, which really gets into the science. That will be for the alt science crowd, and there is a huge reference section there for those to look up the actual articles. Ancient Reunion is about an Atlantean colony that is hiding in a nearby star system, keeping away from a galactic empire started up by rogue military factions after the global disaster of that time. Yep, they started right back up again making the same mistakes. Gee, it looks like I've been busier than I thought!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I guess it was a personal compulsion. When I worked at the newspaper, I would write about corruption in the hope that someone more rich and powerful than I was would have enough of a conscience to do something about it. My great awakening about that one came in my 20's, when I discovered that the rich and powerful had set up this corrupt system to begin with, and were the last ones to do anything about it. So then I wrote to the whistleblowers, until the government declared a war on them. And after that the government declared war on the journalists and I had no incentive to come back to America. Like any newspaper person, it was to expose criminals and bullies, and let someone else do the cleaning up. Now, years later, I can see that rarely happens, but somehow feel an obligation to point out the injustices where they lie. It's like tossing a bottle out into the ocean. Perhaps at some time someone will open it up and discover what's inside and act on it. I guess every writer and journalist is like that.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I can't say I'm an unqualified success just yet. However, I am hopeful. If I produce stories that people find worth reading, then they will buy those, and both they and I will be happy. Smashwords has given me a place to put my work, and I am grateful for that. I can say that any spare time I have will be dedicated toward researching what I would need to know for new stories, and then there is always a deep well of experience to draw from. Novels are always easier to write than straight technical books, and they're so darned fun! Besides that, it's more effective to weave life's problems and esoteric concepts into a novel, and go with the characters on that journey. It's more memorable that way as well.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Seeing the characters come alive and write the story for themselves. Really! I just see them interacting in my mind, and just write down their actions as fast as I can. It's like transcribing a daydream, or a parallel reality where they exist. Yes, they resonate with me because they have the same skill sets as I do, and share the same thoughts. And through some strange quantum entanglement, I get to see them as a kind of special privilege. I see characters coming into my real life that seem to resonate the same way.
What do your fans mean to you?
They are friends to me that happen to read what I write. They also support me, and I feel that obligation to show them a story that takes them to places that they never would have traveled to otherwise. Isn't that what life does anyway? There are places that I never would have guessed I'd be able to visit, but I arrived there never the less. Life always has a twist, and I think a lot of fiction is too flat and one dimensional. Mine evolves as it goes. Just as you plant a seedling that grows extra branches that are unexpected, life, and even fiction, should do that as well. And even the doubt that you have should be there as well to make it more 3 dimensional.
What are you working on next?
My name is Bond...Jane Bond. I have been toying with a novel that has the illegitimate daughter of James Bond, and the solicitor finds her, after the other heirs have mysterious accidents. After, all, in all the movies we see him bedding innumerable women, and at least SOME of them must have become pregnant. I leave it up to your imagination where it goes from there.
Who are your favorite authors?
Heinlein, Asimov, Doug Adams, Phillip K. Dick , and way too many others.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Writing, and sharing my thoughts through stories. There is a piece of yourself in every character, even if those characters are modeled after a real living human being. There is still a little bit of yourself in there. Even with the nasty ones, you want to temper their psychotic tendencies with a shred of humanity, and not make them too repulsive. Sometimes that works, and sometimes not.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
In the summer, swimming and snorkeling. In the other seasons, hiking, yoga, taking walks with the dog, reading (primarily emails), and watching movies at night with a small bowl of salad, sometimes popcorn. I still try to educate myself with new discoveries. I've read hundreds of print books, and these are more recently ebooks on my laptop. I have also educated myself on the Linux operating system, and the benefits of open source software and hardware. I find that world to be amazing, and I'm learning so much.
Where do you get your ideas?
For the novels, I draw from real life. It has been said that you can't really write a novel with "meat on its bones" before 40, and that is probably right. For Quantum Horizons, it was collecting all the free energy and antigravity stuff that are a part of the "altculture" that is evolving along side the mainstream. I think it's important not to leave anything out if one is to understand physical reality, and that was a pretty big chunk to just go missing. I have met a lot of the inventors for that, and it was shocking to me to see such a large part of the scientific community becoming marginalized, with some inventors and researchers losing everything they have for the ideal of helping humanity. It is such a huge sacrifice, and not many realize it unless they've been there.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can't remember the first one I read, but I do remember my mother reading to me as a very small child from books about space travel, and different sciences. I would ask her if I could do that, and she would reply that I could do anything that I applied myself to, as long as I did that with integrity. I didn't know what "integrity" was at the time, but she explained that it came from the heart, as well as the head. I now understand that it means a complete integration of all that you are, and following your passion. So many of us are distracted by little things in life, and never follow our passion, becoming automatons in the process, and less than we could be. It takes so much courage to push forward to get your truths out so that others can see them.
How do you approach cover design?
That was always a tough one. I did one short piece that took two weeks to write, and a week to decide on the cover. No joke! The cover has to be symbolic of the story, and has to evoke a certain emotion in the process that is remembered while reading the story. I think that is the secret. That is why it is so difficult for me to do that. Instead of one picture being worth a thousand words, it has to be worth ten thousand. But in the end, you finally choose, and that image becomes a part of the book that is just as important as the text.
What do you read for pleasure?
On the rare occasions when I get enough free time, I like to read the classics these days, going way, way back--like Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, or those in a similar vein, such as Dracula (pun intended.) A lot of the works, then and now, are about technology going wrong, or the reality of things not being as they appear. It has been said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and we can see that what happens is completely opposite to what was intended. In some cases, this is due to not understanding the nature of the problem, and applying a simplistic solution to a complex issue and having Murphy's laws biting you. A lot of works in sci fi and what would now be termed horror are cautionary tales.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It was in third grade, and ran about ten pages. Other kids would write one or two pages, and I would turn in this whole stack. The teacher at the time just told the class to write whatever they thought was a good story, so most wrote about a summer vacation, or their dog. But oh no...not me! The teacher read it, and said that it made the apocalypse sound like a summer picnic. My mother asked me where I got the ideas, and I told her it was from the Sci fi movies I watched. She was more careful of my viewing habits after that.
What is your writing process?
For novels, I first do an outline, so I get a general idea where it's going. Then I work out what the major characters are. This forms the framework. Then you throw a situation in there, and see how the characters respond. If you have a pretty good idea who they are and what they would do, then after that it takes on a life of it's own. One friend, who is also a writer, says she just has a daydream, and transcribes it. Those are pretty strong daydreams if that's her process. With mine, it is a little more structured to begin with, like setting up the track in a roller coaster. Then you go for the ride with the characters. You're like an invisible companion with them along the way, and they become as real as you are.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
All I have is my laptop, so that's what I use.
Where do you see yourself in the future, say five years or so?
I'm not sure I will be in Europe, but wherever I wind up, writing will always be an important part of my life. Each part of the world has its own atmosphere, energy or spirit, and that is conducive to a particular genre of writing, whether it's mystery, adventure or whatever. So where you are is important. For example, you don't want to be in a chaotic, draining environment, because that will be a part of what you're writing, and the reader will sense that. You want the reader to leave with an uplifting feeling rather than feeling exhausted and drained after reading your work, because that's a deal breaker--they're not likely to buy another book of yours again. It's difficult to write a romance novel while in an abusive relationship, for another example. So wherever I go, it will have to be first and foremost conducive to my writing.
What do you use to write with?
It has evolved over the years. I remember my Mom giving me a Smith Corona typewriter that my father used to write the beginning of Mississippi Shadows, and I would keep jamming the keys. Later, I had a Challenger C4P, with an entire 8K of RAM. That wasn't much better than the typewriter. I had a Mac after that, and stuck with the Mac Apple line for a long time, until Apple began to mess up the operating system. A couple of years ago I discovered Linux Mate and the open source community. Linux is the favorite OS of the hacker community, and I had a real education about network security and the apps associated with that. I use Libre Office, and it can read and export to dot doc files. The Mac was getting so slow that I would have to wait for it to catch up to me at times, and that does not happen with Linux. I do my covers with Gimp, and most of my writing is with Libre Office Writer. For now I'm open source all the way. Whatever you use should be transparent, so you can focus on the story. Windows is getting just as clunky, and I just had a friend "convert" over to Linux from that OS, and she noticed the difference. One thing though: I have tried using voice recognition, and I think it uses a different creative channel. One piece I did with dictation sounded like it was from someone else--not me. I suspect it's the same way with pen and paper. There are subtle differences with every medium, and it shows up in the writing. I think if you gave Dickens or Shelly a laptop to write with, it wouldn't be the same. What we write is influenced by the medium we use.
Published 2018-06-15.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Quantum Horizons
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 98,980. Language: English. Published: June 15, 2018. Categories: Nonfiction » Science & Nature » Energy, Nonfiction » Science & Nature » Gravity
This book is a collection of different articles I have written over the years. As opposed to a novel, this one is both science as well as speculation, and has a lot of graphics as well as photos. It deals with Alternative Energy, Gravity control and how to generate it (kiddies, don't do this at home) as well as an extensive bibliography that consists of many papers in my library.
Mississippi Shadows
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 85,780. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Historical » USA
This is a book that was started over 50 years ago by my father, Patrick, and finished by myself. It is about a man who returns from the Korean war to go home, and finds that he is no longer the same person who left, and is on a journey of self-discovery. It is bound to be controversial due to language, and situations that were found in that period of time in the south.
Ancient Reunion
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 93,000. Language: English. Published: May 20, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
Tredlak and Loki are two young people that have an insatiable curiosity about their past, and the past of their people. They left earth thousands of years ago, certain it was to die a horrible death due to environmental collapse after an ancient nuclear war devastated their world. They also want to warn them not to repeat their same mistake.
Send Lawyers, Guns and Money
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 78,700. Language: English. Published: May 17, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Liz finally takes a vacation to a neighboring town to visit her friend Carrie, the mayor of Oceanside. After going to the beach, she locks horns with the Sheriff and local minister, who gives her a ticket for public indecency for sunbathing topless at the beach. This leads to an investigation that spirals out of control involving smuggling, drug running, covert ops, and mind control.
Broken Wings of the Secret Space Program
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 16,920. Language: English. Published: May 9, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Jim Morgan is a seasoned test pilot, and agrees to test pilot a special aerospace plane that uses antimatter and the hydrogen of space for fuel. Something goes wrong, and he winds up stranded far from home, all prospects for rescue gone on an alien world. He survives, and we are with him every step of the way on his journey of discovery.