Exclusive Interview with
Donna Sager Cowan
Let’s start with your Career as a writer!
When did you start writing?
I began at an early age, taking books and stories that I read and changing the characters or the problem and creating my own new stories. My mother always talked about how I made Cinderella a secretary with an evil boss. Seriously writing full time waited until my family was grown and I had retired, in 2015
What makes writing your passion?
I love to share and tell stories about my life, how I imagine others lives are, or to relate some universal truth to kids. They are just figuring out their own personalities, so I love presenting new and interesting characters, traits, and flaws for them to resonate with and maybe emulate.
How long have you been writing?
I know authors often say, they've been writing forever, but with me it is true. I have had a passion to write and create stories from a very young age. I think it was how I related to those around me, made myself unique and memorable to my peers, and later found useful in my adult life.
What was the feeling when you published your first book?
Exhilerating, scary, and overwhelming. I felt like my dreams and fears were all coming true at the very same moment. It never occurred to me that I would need to talk about my book, promote my book, or do anything after writing it. It was truly an eye-opening and learning experience.
What’s the story behind your choice of characters?
I did a lot of research for the middle grade genre when writing the first book in the series. After talking with kids, I realized they often didn't connect with the characters because they couldn't see themselves in them. So, I decided to use animal characters in kid settings (going to Superhero School) and having to face the same or similar issues that they deal with. They can see themselves in each character, whether by their personality, their hobbies, choices, or their failures. It has been my geniune surprise how well they connect to each one.
What annoys you the most in pursuing a writing career?
All the interruptions to my creativity. While I love helping other authors publish, edit and write books, it does cut into my actual writing time. The promotional aspect of being an author or having a writing career requires constant supervision and attention.
How do you get over the “writer’s block”?
I don't generally have writer block. I tend to think it is a symptom of writing the character into a corner or forcing them to do something they would never do. If I ever do have issues with any scene or manuscript, I simply interview my characters. Ask why they think there is a problem or how they would resolve the issue. They generally have great answers and more times than I can count have given me a new, fresh perspective or direction for the story.
We all know the writer’s path is never easy, what makes you keep going? What advice would you give to new authors?
I feel driven to write. To create and share stories for readers. My advice to other authors? Write passionately. Write about what you feel driven to say. Say it however you need to, but be true to your own voice, your own story, and your own perspective. Look for inspiration daily, create a writing habit, and never stop reading or learning your craft.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self, what would you say?
Life has seasons. We all want our dreams to happen in the now, but we have to live through the learning season, the processing season, and the crafting season before we can begin the actual story-telling season. That doesn't mean wait until after those seasons to happen to practice. Prepare for your future self. Practice your craft as if those seasons have already passed so you can fly through them, prepared for your moment when it arrives. The lesson is the thing, not how long the journey.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with the bad ones?
Yes. I read every single one. I don't see bad reviews, what I see is an opportunity for someone else's perspective. To learn what I might have missed or overlooked. Bad reviews, as you call them, teach me more about becoming a better writer than all the other good reviews combined.
What is the feeling when you get a good review?
Exciting. I write for readers, always. So when a reader or reviewer takes the time and energy to write, I listen. I absorb their words and review them before I write another book.
It's like receiving a mini love-letter from a future fan. I cherish and celebrate each and every one.
Have you ever incorporated something that happened to you in real life into your novels?
All the time. To say we usually write about what we know, is true. I dive into my own childhood dreams, failures, questions, and worries when creating my books. I feel that most concerns are universal or can relate to our own insecurities at that pre-teen stage.
Which of your characters you can compare yourself with? Did you base that character on you?
Most of my characters have a bit of me now and a bit of me back when. I think Catt represents me as a child--scared and uncertain. Patty is more of who I am now--take charge and solve the problem in front of you.
What do you think, the book cover is as important as the story?
I think the cover to your book plays a vital role in getting readers. It is as important as the story, just in a different way. You can have the best story in the world, but if your cover doesn't resonate with your readers, it won't matter.
Do you connect with your readers? Do you mind having a chat with them or you prefer to express yourself through your writing?
I do both. I love connecting with readers, especially kids, about my book, the characters, themes, and ideas presented.
How do you feel when people appreciate your work or recognize you in public?
Shocked and elated. That I spoke to them enough to remember and recognize me is beyond thrilling. I always want to hear what spoke to them, or left such a great impression with them as a reader, kid, parent, teacher, etc.
Who is your favorite author? Why?
In middle grade, I have two of my favorites: Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants and DogMan; and Stuart Gibbs, Spy School series.
They speak to the child inside me. They don't hide the mistakes, missteps, or mishaps of childhood. In fact, they shine a light on them. I love that, and hope some of the same ideas are in my own books.
What’s the dream? Whom would you like to be as big as?
I dream of becoming a beloved author for children in my lifetime and beyond. To have my name amongst the greats, like Judy Blume, Dr. Seuss, or other timeless authors would be the ultimate dream.
Would you rewrite any of your books? Why?
No. I think they show progression of an author, and the stories grow with me.
If you could switch places with any author – who would that be?
I've never considered this, but I like where my journey is leading me, so for now...my future self?
What would you say to the “trolls” on the internet? We all know them – people who like to write awful reviews to books they’ve never read or didn’t like that much, just to annoy the author.
I find that negative reviews are their own special source of marketing. I've had readers purchase my book based on a negative review, just to see why they despised it. Turns out, they don't agree and are now great fans.
What would you say to your readers?
Thank you for allowing me to realize a life-long dream of becoming a published author. Thanks for continuing the journey with these stories and characters as we grow, learn, and mature into our own superheroes. Without your support, I don't think I could get up every day with this sense of purpose.
Thank you for sharing! Let’s talk about your Personal Life!
Share a bit about yourself – where do you live, are you married, do you have kids?
I am married, a grandmother, and a cat-owner (big surprise) living in Northern California. I love all thing writing related, and can often be found writing, teaching writing, editing, or helping others start on their jouney.
What is your day job if you have one?
Writing is my day job, although my family says my day joy is being the anchor in a storm. Both titles are nice.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
Reading! I am a voracious reader of almost all genres. I don't read horror because my imagination it a little to vivid for scary stories. When I'm not writing, reading, or helping authors, I like to swim, garden, or hang out with my cats.
Did you have a happy childhood?
I don't know that anyone has exclusively happy childhood. Mine had many of the same challenges that others experience, plus a few that were my own personal ones. I come from a large family, so it's easy to be overlooked, yet I always had playmates. I was shy and introverted, but later as an adult, was dragged into being more outgoing. Both side serve me well when I need them.
Is there a particular experience that made you start writing?
I think I began writing because I ran out of books to read, so I rewrote the familiar stories into something new. Books were my escape into another realm.
Do you have unpublished books? What are they about?
Yes. Many books that were more about learning the process of writing and what doesn't work. They were lesson to practice my Art.
What do you think should be improved in the education of our children? What do we lack?
Connecting reading and stories to the basics of learning. Exploration, discovery, mistakes, failures, personality, and history. Everything we learn today can be related in a story somewhere.
If you were allowed 3 wishes – what would they be?
Authors are considered Rockstars!
Books are free, because of #1
The world reacted as if their story was being published in a book.
What is your favorite music?
Country, Jazz, and Musicals
Share a secret with us 🙂
I'm very disorganinzed.