Historical Fiction Author Interview: Meet Donna McDine

Within the world of children’s literature, no one is ever “just” something. Donna McDine is no exception! She came to authorship via an “unfulfilling career in the business world.” In addition to writing, Donna reviews books for children and also provides book publicity marketing services.

Donna is off to a good start. Her first book, The Golden Pathway (Guardian Angel, 2010), an historical fiction story for new readers, has won a number of awards, including Literary Classics 2011 Silver Award Recipient Picture Book Early Reader, Literary Classics 2011 Finalist Picture Book Early Reader, Finalist in Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards, and Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2011 Top Ten – Children’s Books category.

Donna lives in Tappan, New York. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Please welcome award-winning author and public relations expert Donna McDine to the Family Bookshelf.

RT: Hi Donna, and welcome to the Family Bookshelf and the Reading Tub. In describing your books for children on your website, you offer visitors this description: 

Be prepared for the adrenaline rush of escaping via the Underground Railroad, the slip of the ice beneath your skates, the harsh reality of the Royal Navy Press Gangs, or the discovery of whale poachers at the beach. The roller coaster action in each escapade will transport the reader into a specific time period.

In doing the research for your historical fiction books for kids are there things you learned or influential people whom you had never heard about?
Donna: My aim for visitors is to learn my books are not just one specific genre, whether historical fiction, sports, or modern day events. For The Golden Pathway, which is a story built around the Underground Railroad, I was tickled to find information about plantation life that suggested that just because a specific plantation owner had slaves, not everyone in the whole family agreed with that point of view. That is how  David’s story came to life.

RT: In a related question, as you dug through the events and learned about the people in these different eras, did they spark ideas for other books? If so, can you give us an example of an untold or little-known story that you think deserves to be in the reader’s view?
As a matter of fact, that has happened. Through my research of the Underground Railroad I read about the specific event of Major John Andre impersonating as a soldier in General George Washington’s army, when in fact he was a British soldier attempting to deliver the secrets of West Point to the British. This is what sparked my interest in my middle grade manuscript, “Images of the Past.”

RT: The Golden Pathway is an “early reader” that is available in both traditional print as well as an e-Book. As someone who grew up with the joys of holding what some would call a “real” book, was it difficult to embrace the new media as a way of telling a story for children?
Donna: Yes, I initially had difficulty in accepting e-Books. I love the feel and smell of a brand new book and always dreamed of holding my own published book in my hands. So when I began the submission process I researched and specifically sought out publishers that handle both print and e-Books.

RT: We talk more about your children’s books in our Reading Tub interview, but I do have one last question: if you could have a soundtrack playing in the background as you read The Golden Pathway aloud, what music would you select?
Donna: Classical music, specifically Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.”

RT: In addition to writing and publishing your own work, you also offer  public relations (PR) services to other writers. Could you tell us about your journey to that path … were you a marketer first and then an author, or vice versa?
Donna: Believe it or not, I was neither an author nor a marketer first. I originally worked in corporate America as an administrative assistant for many years. After I had my second child, I was longing for something more fulfilling and one afternoon while flipping through a magazine I came across an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. My interest was immediately piqued and I sent away for their aptitude test. Once received, I eagerly completed and mailed back. Happily I was accepted and now I’m here with one published book for children in my hand and three more under contract.

The marketing path came later. VS Grenier, creator and owner of Stories for Children Magazine, hired me as the magazines Marketing Director after seeing my own book marketing efforts. I have since moved to being the Publicist for The Working Writer’s Club and, with encouragement from founder Suzanne Lieurance, I have expanded my efforts and services to my own book publicity firm, Author PR Services.

RT: You also review children’s literature on your blog, Write What Inspires You. What do you find the most difficult part of the review process?
Donna: If the book doesn’t pull me in from the onset and I know in my heart I can’t continue reading and provide an effective review for the author to use in their marketing efforts, I respectfully decline.

RT: Given the volume of books (and manuscripts) you read, do you see any patterns or trends relative to writing for specific audiences?
Donna: In recent years, many of the books are geared toward vampires and fantasy. In my opinion to be able to do this effectively the author needs to bring a new twist to it, so that it’s not a copycat of the more successful books on the market.

RT: When you are looking for a “comfort read,” what are the kinds of books you tend to turn to? Why?
Donna: I tend to lean toward Danielle Steel’s romance novels. It is nice to climb in to someone else’s world and escape.

RT: What would you like to do next to stretch yourself as an author?
Donna: I’m currently stretching myself on my middle grade historical fiction manuscript where it takes longer to tie the past and present without repeating events in both.

RT: Is there a book – from your childhood or as an adult – that has stayed with you more than any other book? What is it about that book that made it so meaningful to you?
[amazon_link id=”B0014JUGFU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Night Tourist[/amazon_link]Donna: Katherine Marsh’s middle grade novel [amazon_link id=”B0014JUGFU” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Night Tourist[/amazon_link]. The author easily brings to life the wonders of New York City history through mystical storytelling of those gone before. Having traveled through Grand Central Station and New York City with my father growing up and as an adult the places came to life again through Marsh’s book.

RT: Thanks Donna for joining us.

If you’d like to read more about The Golden Pathway and her works in progress, visit the Reading Tub. You can keep up with Donna and learn more about her public relations (PR) services via these social media platforms.

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Donna’s Website: www.donnamcdine.com
Write What Inspires You blog: www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com
The Golden Pathway
blog: http://www.thegoldenpathway.blogspot.com
Author PR Services: