Interview with Winfreda Donald

Published 2015-09-08.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in a hospital in the centre of Brisbane ― a legacy of the charitable works of the Greek wife of Queensland’s first governor. The hospital closed the year after my birth and after many uses, the original building is now an institution which helps and accommodates homeless people. That warms my heart.
Over time I ended up as the oldest of seven children. Our expanding family was constantly on the move and we lived in mining communities, timber camps and many small country and coastal towns in the beautiful state of Queensland.
Those early years were unsettling, but full of variety and excitement.
When did you first start writing?
Because of WWII and a shortage of teachers, I was one of the rural children who didn’t start school until aged seven. I must have caught up quickly as I remember writing and producing a play when I was around nine. Writing essays and short stories were favourite activities all through primary and secondary school years.
What would you say are the main influences on your writing?
My own family and working-life experiences of course. And the stories I’ve heard from patients, clients or colleagues through my work. And never-ending reading, or watching TV and movies. Since being able to write continuously after retirement it is wonderful to have time to re-read and pull apart the work of my favourite writers. So much to learn from that.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Freedom! To explore ideas and plots, and get to know the characters who turn up from nowhere.
And I relish the research needed to bring authenticity to the players ― their timelines, activities and locations. Haunting library archives and surfing the web are pleasurable diversions. And for exploring places and journeys, Google Earth is a wonder.
I hope readers love what I do.
What was your latest writing task?
Editing and publishing the third book in The Long Shadows Series. Future Hope continues to unfold the stories of Freya and Alexander who first met as high school students in Australia as their separate paths start to link through experiences in Scotland, Europe and Africa. Future Hope, like Past Imperfect and Present Tense is available in e-book and paperback formats.
What is your writing process?
For The Long Shadows Series I started with a vague idea of the beginning, the middle and the end and one or two characters in a story.
After that it was simple. I sat with my fingers on the keyboard and the ideas took flight. The first draft led me into all kinds of diversions but it began to take on shape and clarity as I continued to the end. Then came the first edit. I don’t regret the large wads of material that were discarded (they served their purpose and influenced other ways of thinking) and the substantial reshaping that took place. After that it was the next edit, and the next . . . . And such help through critiques from Writing Group colleagues.
And I regularly review for relevance, the notebooks full of scribbles, half thoughts, observations and quotes that accumulate when there was no computer to hand.
My next adventure for process is to learn Scrivener. I tried a few times without success, but have now found a wonderful coaching program by Joseph Michael.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kobo and a Kindle ― both given as gifts ― and enjoy their convenience when commuting or travelling. Their flexibility is a boon for older eyes. They will never replace the substance and texture of a real book though.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It may not be the first story I read but it is the earliest one that made a big impression ― The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy. It was a gift sent by my Scots grandparents. I have re-read it many times and am moved by it with each reading ― such an apparently simple style ― a tale of family and communities in Hungary in the lead up to and during WWI. It delights me to know that it is now a designated classic and was recently reissued. I recommend it to everyone.
Do you have other writing projects in progress?
I’m playing with a kind of memoir. Currently I’m working on collating topics that fit with each seven-year span of my life, and find it is flirting around the edges of social history. The approach seems to be working, but I haven’t gone beyond the second span yet. So much has changed - so much has remained the same. A fascinating project. Even if it is not published, the process is opening up more understanding of personal as well as general past events.
Also I’m about to publish a small collection of short stories and I’m being adventurous in trying to design the cover myself. (See next question)
How do you approach cover design?
The designer for my e-books I found by searching the internet for ages, to find someone whose work I liked - simple, bright and clear. I was delighted with the four covers that Justine Elliott produced for The Long Shadows Series. Unsure if they would be as impressive on paperback, I took advantage of the free cover opportunities with Feedaread and was very satisfied with them for all three books so far published.
I have a preference for plain, uncomplicated covers but find that others have different views.
For that reason I’ve been pursuing ideas through the internet with the ambition to design my own with a compromise approach. I’ve been looking particularly at and the offerings of Joanna Penn and Derek Murphy about designing covers with Microsoft Word.
Although new learning is always time consuming, I enjoy the challenges. Maybe I’ll be successful, maybe not, but the process is fun.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
At first, mainly my age ― knowing how often stories (even by authors who later become best-sellers) are rejected, and how long it can take before an accepted manuscript reaches the shelves.
After my first experience with publishing an e-book through Smashwords I gradually understood the many advantages of being an indie, especially being in control.
I feel I owe a debt to Mark Coker for the encouragement he gives through all the resources made available and the commentaries he provides. Thank you so much Mark.
And then I learned about Feedaread for paperback publishing. That works well too and the various staff members have been so helpful.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

Miscellany: Where is Home and Other Stories
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 17,490. Language: English. Published: December 5, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Themes & motifs » Medical
(5.00 from 1 review)
In this collection of seven spare tales, while some of the stories feature flashes from other dimensions, they are all about families. Daughters, mothers, husbands, children, babies – coping with challenges at different life stages. Might you have done things differently?
Future Hope
Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 86,760. Language: English. Published: December 31, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General
In 1998, Freya travels to the rugged north-west of the Scotland, seeking emotional healing after a stressful volunteering mission in famine-affected southern Sudan. As her health and energy is restored she is guided into unexpected journeys by a prophecy that reveals family history and family secrets, and the story of betrayal that culminated in the loss of her first love.
Present Tense
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 101,860. Language: Australian English. Published: December 16, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Adventure » General
Lost love, new love, and lingering secrets from World War II still affect Freya as she adjusts to marriage and her return to Australia following thirteen years in Scotland. After a spate of complicated family matters resolve, she embarks on a risky challenge as an aid volunteer during a period of extreme famine in Africa. Emotionally scarred she leaves on furlough to recover in Wester Ross.
Past imperfect
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 107,140. Language: English. Published: March 30, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Romance » General, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
A resourceful fourteen year-old, Freya Dunbar accepts responsibilities beyond the norm. Family is paramount. She has no regrets – she’d do anything for Mama, but she frets at being the odd-one-out in every part of her life. Always alert for clues about family mysteries she yearns for a sense of belonging until she meets soul-mate Alexander Marcou. Identity issues matter less then.