Interview with Marty Donnellan

You have four fiction titles to your credit and two non-fiction. Which do you enjoy writing more?
Both! Whenever I learn a skill, I have this uncontrollable urge to document it for others. I had a blast writing and illustrating “Teach Someone to Roller Skate”. The project completely absorbed me for months. I like it that the book helps people in their real lives.

I also love writing and illustrating my frendibles fiction. The fiction comes from a different place inside of me, a strange, personal place full of mysteries and symbolism. Simply put, my fiction is my attempt to make sense of my world.
You pack a double whammy as an author/illustrator. Which comes first for you, the artwork or the writing?
Nowadays, the writing. For non-fiction, I write out a procedure, then illustrate it with a drawing or diagram. For my frendibles fiction, I follow the same pattern, writing and then drawing. But it didn’t start out that way.

Before the stories, before the drawings even, were some dolls! Some of my first frendibles characters began as handmade, needle-sculpted cloth dolls. This was during the Cabbage Patch-inspired soft sculpture craze of the early 1980s. Henbit's head is made of panty hose stuffed with fiberfil! I nearly wrecked her face, kept going anyway, and ended up with a character I really liked. Henbit soon became real to me, as did a few of the other dolls. They acquired names, personalities, backstories. They began to interact. In fact, it's the interaction between Henbit and her two sisters which provides the emotional framework for all of the stories in which they appear.
Where did you get the setting for your stories?
In 1993, my family moved to a semi-rural area north of Atlanta, GA. Almost as soon as we moved in, the setting for my stories appeared and I began to write in earnest. Frendibles stories are all set more or less in the present day. The pine forest, thicket, river, etc. are all real places close to my home. The frendibles’ existence in the real world provides an underlying tension as they try to remain undetected in such close proximity to humans.
How do you illustrate your stories today?
The old-fashioned way. Sort of. Let me explain.

For years I tried to draw the frendibles with pencil and paper, but consistently failed to capture their uniqueness. Frustrated and discouraged, I gave up.

Meanwhile, I was creating pattern pieces for new cloth dolls in Corel Draw, drawing the shapes with not a stylus but a mouse. In 2013, I published my roller skating book. For that project also, I drew directly into Corel Draw using the mouse. This technique worked so well for me that I decided to try it with frendibles.

For reference, I scanned in an old photo of the Henbit doll. I imported the scan into Corel Draw and traced it, adjusting and re-arranging features as the narrative required. To my astonishment, looking back at me was Henbit! I scanned, traced and altered a few other photos to get Sweetflag and Bog Bilberry. Cloudberry I drew from scratch. Maybe that’s why she looks the least like a frendible. But that’s ok, because she’s not like the others in other ways as well.

The most fun part of the illustration process for me is taking an existing drawing of a character, and changing the pose, expression and/or clothing for a different scene. Sometimes the characters’ expressions make me laugh out loud, which I can only hope is a good thing. The most aggravating thing for me is trying to change the angle of a head.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I teach roller skating to all ages. I also direct a small, non-profit, 501(c)3 public food charity called Joy Community Kitchen, Inc. Joy Kitchen is a mobile food ministry. We prepare and serve free community meals for the clients of local food pantries. It is a passion and a calling.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've always had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, so indie publishing very much fits who I am. For years I worked in all aspects of the printing industry, so typesetting, formatting and editing my own books for publication has not been too much of a challenge. I am fortunate to be able to illustrate my words. I love earning higher royalties and having complete control over my work. I especially love the idea of selling the same product, over and over and over, whether print or digital.
Where can I see some of the dolls which inspired your stories?
There are a few photos at
The frendibles' names are so cute. How did you come up with them?
Searching for wild edibles is a long-time hobby of mine. The names of many of these plants and weeds - Henbit, Maypop, Bog Bilberry, Verbena and others - seemed a natural fit for frendibles.
Were your characters always called frendibles?
Nope. Originally they were called feggs.
"Henbit and Her Sisters" is Book One of the "Forest of the Frendibles" series. When is the next book coming out? Anything different about it that you'd like to share?
The next book is entitled "Tegera" and is out now. What's different is that in addition to an assortment of frendibles, the book features a few human characters. The ones I'm most fond of are three siblings, 15-yr. old Caleb, his 12-yr. old sister Mariah, and their 5-yr. old sister Anna Grace. I really enjoyed getting to know them.
You have written loads of free children's Bible lessons. Is your fiction Christian?
Nope again. I decided early on that my fiction is aimed at the general reader. But it does stem from a Christian worldview. If you look hard, it’s kind of buried in there. It’s like not noticing there are leaves lining the bottom of a pond until you look carefully into the water from above. My purpose in writing is to tell a story, not preach a sermon. It’s to provide a place for the reader to go and get lost in for awhile, and come away refreshed. BTW, my kids Bible lessons can be found at They include art and science activities and games.
Published 2014-09-09.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Thursday Mystery - A Hannah Scrabble Cozy Novelette
Series: Hannah Scrabble Cozy Mysteries. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 23,040. Language: English. Published: March 2, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Romance » Clean & wholesome
It's 1977 and Jimmy Carter is President. Amateur sleuth Hannah Scrabble has visited the Mountain City Public Library every Thursday for the past year. One day she realizes another Thursday patron has been checking out the same book again and again, all year long. Hannah decides to find out why, and in the process discovers a threat to the nation that only she and her friends can stop.
Teach Someone to Roller Skate - Even Yourself!
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 13,400. Language: English. Published: July 3, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Sports & outdoor recreation » Roller & In-Line Skating, Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Exercise
"Teach Someone to Roller Skate" is a beginning roller skating course for children through adult. By studying my clear text and engaging illustrations, you can teach someone to roller skate - including yourself or your child - with skill and enjoyment. Or, you can build on existing skills. Many of the skills taught are transferrable to beginning inline skating and beginning ice skating.
Henbit and the Roly Poly
Series: The Forest of the Frendibles. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 3,470. Language: English. Published: May 27, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Short Stories
Short illustrated chapter book for younger readers: Sibling rivalry runs rampant in this humorous, true-to-life struggle between bossy pine frendible Henbit and her two bratty younger sisters. Who will have the last laugh? "Henbit and the Roly Poly" is a stand-alone story, not part of the "Forest of the Frendibles" series.
Henbit and Maypop
Series: The Forest of the Frendibles. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,940. Language: English. Published: February 13, 2009. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books, Fiction » Children’s books » Fiction
(5.00 from 2 reviews)
Maypop does not like being the youngest frendible in the pine forest. Henbit does not like being the oldest. Hoping to improve her chances for playmates, Maypop has accidentally ruined her hair. Can Henbit fix things in time for dinner? Enjoy this gentle tale of youth, age and friendship. "Henbit and Maypop" is a stand-alone story, not part of the "Forest of the Frendibles" series.