CBP: Can you share your story of how you came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ?
Donita: Oh, my goodness yes. I went to church all my life, taught Sunday School when I was 18. Going to church was just part of my background. I met my husband, he asked me if I was a Christian, which I thought was kind of rude. Does that give you a hint that maybe I wasn't? I thought, well yeah, I was born in America, I'm not Jewish, so therefore I must be Christian. But I didn't say it that way, because I was impressing him. We went to church together, got married, and moved to Austin. He had three years of German in two months. It was intensive German where he would go in at 8:00 in the morning and get home at 5:00. He had been immersed in German all day long in order to finish off his degree.
So, being a young wife, I wanted to impress him with how spiritual I was, because right after we got married I realized he was reading his Bible. A weird thing to be doing. The church he took me to there talked about having a quiet time. I would open the Bible by the chair he usually sat it. Didn't read it, but I opened it up and turned the pages so that when he came home every night he could see I had had my quiet time. Whatever that was. That didn't seem to be impressing him that much. I decided to read it a little bit and ask him intelligent questions, because, you know, a husband likes to spout off on all he knows. So I'd read a little bit to find something I could ask him about.
CBP: You were a good wife!
Donita: I was just so intent on making him happy. I'd ask him intelligent questions, and actually began listening to the answers, instead of just sitting there, smiling sweetly, and nodding. Then I actually had some real questions, and by the end of the summer I had accepted Christ as my Savior. God has such a funny sense of humor. A young bride's attempt to please her husband, it was good.
CBP: We're talking about DragonKnight today, which is the third in your series DragonKeeper Chronicles, and you have the last of the series coming out next year titled DragonFire. How did you decide to go into writing fantasy?
Donita: I had an infection in my leg...
CBP: Which is bothering you today...
Donita: Yes, very much today. So at one point it flared up again, and I had to sit in a chair with a leg higher than my heart for six weeks. I was bored in five minutes. My son who was twenty-four at the time had a basement apartment, we called him the troll from the dungeon, he brought up a set of books called The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Huge, thick books. There must have been seven or eight at that time, 700 to 1,000 pages. I wasn't much interested in fantasy, I had read a little bit as a child and had read them The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit. It wasn't a big part of my literature. But I sat there and read them, and I thought, These are interesting. Oh, I don't like that. Oooh, that's good. I finished the series at about the time I could get up again. I thought it was interesting, but I just dismissed it.
About nine months later, my mother said, "You know, I think you're ready to write a bigger book. Something different." Well, fantasy is something different. So I thought, I'll try that. And it was the thing I should have been writing.
CBP: Did you find it hard at first?
Donita: No, it was easy at first. Now it's hard.
CBP: Why is it harder now?
Donita: I have higher expectations of myself. I have fans now, and I want never to disappoint them. I'm just a perfectionist I guess. I struggle with it. So that's okay, work's supposed to be work, isn't it? But I still love it, and my characters are part of my family.
CBP: Are you carrying some of those characters into your next series?
Donita: Yes. There's some ambiguity about exactly what we're doing. I have free reign, but I have to wait until I get to the end of DragonFire to see if it opens, if it continues, or if I should jump into a different era of the land I have created. The more I plan, the harder it is to write. I know that some writers outline and then write, and some writers write and then outline at the end. I'm one of those.
CBP: Do you have a favorite character?
Donita: Yes, definitely Wizard Fenworth. He's really quite intelligent, but he can't remember how to do anything. I identify with that. I know I have a recipe somewhere in the kitchen. What drawer it's in, what book it's in, it's folded up and stuck in another cookbook, I'm so unorganized and Fenworth is like that. He's really very capable, if he could ever get organized.
I'll tell you a question that came up on the fan forum. He's this all-powerful wizard, and he dies like a grandparent -- as if he's in an old folks' home, he just passed away. One of my fans said, "Why wasn't he part of a big battle or something? Why didn't he do something glorious in the end?" I said, "Well, most of us die, we just quietly slip away." The child had said, "He was worth more than that." I said, "What grandparent in your life is worth more than that, but is just off someplace, you haven't written that letter, not called him? Maybe you have a Fenworth in your life that's quietly slipping away." Several of them wrote back and said that it's true.
CBP: When you wrote your first three books, did you have certain biblical themes in mind?
Donita: Never! If I come at it from that side, that I'm going to demonstrate the parable of the lost coin, it comes out preachy and stilted. What works better is to just put my characters into a situation, and make them sound real. That sounds funny! I'm taking my dragon and my wizard and putting them in a situation that sounds real! Where I've come from, my Christian worldview comes through.
CBP: You're writing more with the intent of good, clean entertainment?
Donita: Right. I don't intend to proselytize in my writing.
CBP: What do your readers ask you most often?
Donita: There's a fan forum on our website (www.dragonkeeper.us), which was started by two fans, two college girls, and then they picked up a computer-savvy guy who's in the military, and they run it. They do more than ask, they suggest! They think I can go into a conference and tell people, "You really need to do a movie of DragonSpell. You really need to do a video game." So I said, "Well, I'll go by and talk to them, but I have no clout whatsoever." But they don't get that. I don't have as much power or money as they think I do. They talk to me about everything: school, their own stories they want to write, how to get published, have my agent look at their work. I tell them that it takes a while to get to the point where you can approach. My heart is really for kids.
CBP: Can you give us any hints on what's in store in DragonFire?
Donita: DragonFire is about fire dragons that come in and destroy things. It's not really about good and evil, to begin with, but two evil forces are fighting each other. The good people just happen to be in the way. What they want is for this war to just go off to someplace else, let those bad guys battle it out. But they're right under the territory that the bad guys have chosen as their battle field. They have to rise up, but not just against one evil foe, they have two, and try to get them out of the way. It's kind of like the innocent bystanders having to stand up and say, "This is right, both of you are wrong." It's going to be hard.
It's going to be out June 2007. They have them spaced out a year apart until 2010.
CBP: The next series is a three part?
Donita: Yes, but we're still talking about that. We don't know exactly what's going to happen. I don't know if it will be Book 5, 6, and 7, or totally different. We'll really have to wait until DragonFire is turned in, to see how much is resolved. Oh, that's another thing. In the Fan Forum they'll say, "What about this?" and I'll think, Oh, no, I forgot about that! I would probably have come across it, or one of my editors would say, "Hey!" But it's nice for them to do that.
CBP: Who do you like to read?
Donita: I'm very eclectic. I like Kristin Billerbeck. And Angie Hunt. I like to read scary things like Brandilyn Collins, and funny things like Susan May Warren's new book, Coming Up Josey. She took chick-lit one step up. It was wonderful. I love cozy mysteries. I like westerns like Stephen Bly, Douglas Hirt. I don't read horror. And I read an awful lot of craft books, like James Scott Bell's Scene and Structure. My webmaster and I are working on putting up more of a recommended book list, because parents are always asking me what they should have their children read besides DragonSpell, and there's Jim Denney, Sigmund Brouwer, so we want to have a list.
It's interesting that I wrote this for young adults, but when they did the market analysis they said it was for all ages, generally the same audience as Harry Potter, which is 8 to 80. I have gotten reader mail from pastors, grandmothers, a missionary in Bogota, Colombia, a soldier in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, all sorts of people, so I guess they were right.
CBP: Do you have a dream project?
Donita: I would love to have a writers ranch, where writers could come to retreats and it wouldn't cost an arm and a leg. Because most beginning writers to midlist writers are not making big bucks. To come to a conference is one of the best ways to improve your skills and make contacts, but it's prohibitive because of the cost. So, I want to have this idyllic estate, with walking trails and a swimming pool, and things like that. It would be almost non-profit, so that they could come and do their work without the hazards of home. And I want to run it all by solar and wind power. So you'd have this place that was not draining energy, and set it up as a model. So, at night when I can't sleep, I spend money in my head. Castles in the air.