Author Spotlight: D.G. Driver

I’m pleased to welcome Donna Driver (writing under the name D.G. Driver) on my Author Spotlight this month. I met Donna through our mutual publisher, Fire and Ice, and read the first book in her Juniper Sawfeather series, Cry of the Sea, last year. While fantasy books usually aren’t my genre of choice, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone with Cry of the Sea. I found it to be a fun YA read featuring real and likeable characters, a suspenseful storyline, an ever-important (and timely!) message about the importance of protecting our planet, and–of course–mermaids. Like the first book, the second and third installments are sure to appeal to fantasy-lovers and environmentally conscious teens and adults, alike. As it just so happens, TODAY IS RELEASE DAY for the third book in the Juniper Sawfeather trilogy, Echo of the Cliffs!

EntireJuniperSeries new covers[7606]

In addition, Donna and I both have short stories included in the Kickass Girls of Fire andKickAssGirlsOfFIYA Ice (April 2017) anthology compiled by our publisher. Her story, Beneath the Wildflowers, is great and provides a sample of her writing. The best part? The anthology is FREE!

Now, here’s more about Donna and her books…

SAMSUNGD.G. Driver loves writing about diverse characters dealing with social and environmental issues. She has been writing and publishing for 22 years and has won awards for her fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She mostly writes contemporary fantasy like the Juniper Sawfeather Novels and her romantic ghost novella Passing Notes. However, she has also written a middle grade contemporary novel about bullying and autism called No One Needed to Know, and she has short stories ranging from romance to horror in several anthologies. When she’s not writing, she can be found teaching or performing in a community theater show somewhere around Nashville.

Learn more on D.G. Driver’s WEBSITE and BLOG.

echo[7605]Back Cover Blurb for Echo of the Cliffs:  The mermaids are back, and they’ve got a message for Juniper Sawfeather.

Juniper knows American Indian mythology connects the mermaids she rescued from the oil company to the ancient spirit trapped forever in a tree. The third part of that myth is about a man turned into stone, but where could he be and what will he be like? While on a quest to find the answers, her boat is attacked by a killer whale. It appears to have been led by mermaids. So, are the mermaids trying to tell her how to find them? Or are they warning her to stay away?

Once again, June is on a heroic mission, the most frightening and magical adventure yet. A thrilling ending to this award-winning young adult fantasy trilogy.

Author Interview:

If you could spend the day with any character from your novel, who would it be? Why?

I guess I’d like to spend the day with Juniper herself. She’s kind of lonely, and her best friend Haley never really gets her. I’d like to just hang out with her at the beach, taking nature photos and drawing pictures together while talking about big dreams and adventures we’d like to go on.

If your book was made into a movie, who do you envision playing the leading roles?

I’d like to see Chloe Bennet from Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. play Juniper. I think Dylan Massett from Bates Motel would be a gorgeous Carter if he grew his hair out a little. It wouldn’t hurt my feeling to see Lou Philip Diamond as Peter Sawfeather and Julia Roberts as Natalie Sawfeather.

Great choices! What attracts you to writing in the contemporary fantasy (or urban fantasy) genre?

I’m a sucker for plot-heavy books. I know a lot of my author friends cringe at that, but I like adventure stories, whether they are fantasy, historical, mystery, contemporary or what-have-you. I do like character-driven stories – I just like to see those interesting characters do stuff and not sit around having feelings. I also like it when unusual things happen to normal people. These are my favorite kind of fantasies. I enjoy them much more than epic or high fantasies set in other worlds.

Is writing your full-time job? If not, what else do you do?

No. I work full-time as a teacher at a learning development center in Nashville where we help special needs children alongside their typically developing peers. I’ve been there 12 years.

What are your hobbies outside of writing?

I love reading and watching movies and TV. I also am a singer/actress and try to get on stage at least once a year in a community theater musical or play – usually alongside my husband or one of our kids. I used to perform a lot more (my degree is in theater), but I’m trying to devote more time to writing.

How do you deal with rejections and/or negative reviews?

Rejection has been harder for me than negative reviews. So far (knock on wood) the criticisms I’ve had of my published books have all made sense to me. I mean, there are trolls who give one stars for no reason, but usually a person who takes the time to write something has a valid point to make. I don’t always agree, but I understand what they’re saying. Rejection is harder, and I’ve dealt with it all my life as an actress and author. The thing that hurts the most about it is that I often never know exactly why my work has been rejected, just that it wasn’t “what they were looking for”. I often get very ‘nice’ rejections complimenting me on my skill but not loving the story I’m telling.

What time of day do you prefer to write?

I usually write on the weekends in blocks of time. My weeknights tend to be about marketing, as I have less time to get anything done because I have to feed my family and spend time with them. When I’m under a deadline, my family eats a lot of fast food and is ignored to a certain extent.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on two YA projects right now. I’m cleaning up an old manuscript to get it ready for submission. It’s an adventure/ghost story. The other project I’m working on is adding 2 related stories to my novella Passing Notes in order to create a full-length book. Fingers are crossed that Fire and Ice YA Books will like both of these projects and take them on.

Is the setting of your novel based on a real place? Tell us about it and why it inspired you.

Yes. I set this series in Washington. I wanted the oil spill that starts off the first book, Cry of the Sea, to be in the Pacific Northwest, similar to the Exxon-Valdez oil spill of 1989. I used real cities and places in that book. In book 2, Whisper of the Woods, the forest is set in the location of a real American Indian reservation, but I purposely never gave the name of the reservation.

A large part of book, 3, Echo of the Cliffs is set at the very top corner of the continuous United States. I knew that I needed a magical stone or rock or cliff for this book to go with the legend, and I researched a few different places. What finally won me over were these magnificent sea stacks, the tallest among them called Fuca Pillar, that exist right where the Strait de San Juan meets the Pacific Ocean at the most northwestern point of Washington State. The Fuca Pillar, at the right angle looks a bit like a big face. I knew the story had to wind up there, but I won’t tell you why or what happens.

Sounds like the perfect setting for your story, Donna. Thanks for being a part of my blog, and best wishes on your book release!

 

What’s on my Summer Reading List?

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and you know what that means… It’s time for SUMMER READING! The same excitement that comes from my childhood memories of summer reading has carried over into adulthood…maybe because I picture myself devouring books while lounging by a pool, sipping a glass of wine and completely uninterrupted by kids (yeah, right!) Before checking out my list below, please note that it comes with two BIG disclaimers:  #1–I’m constantly (everyday) finding new books to read, so this list is likely to evolve and expand, and #2–My reading lists are usually over-ambitious, meaning it is likely I may not actually read every book this summer, but it’s good to have goals!

The-Girls-Emma-Cline1. The first book on my list is one I’ve been wanting read all year — The Girls by Emma Cline. It tells the story of a 14 year-old girl who gets drawn into a Manson-like cult in 1960’s California. It promises to be a mesmerizing read involving cult psychology, teenage insecurity and murder. The book has received rave reviews and was named an Amazon Best Book of June 2016. Sounds like the perfect beach read to me!

2. I love everything by this next author, Liane Moriarty. Her writing style is Truly-Madly-Guiltyfast-paced, humorous, and suspenseful– all of my favorite things. I was so thrilled when her novel (and one of my all-time favorite books), Big Little Lies, was recently made into an HBO mini-series. I haven’t had a chance to read her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and I can’t wait!

These next two books fall into my favorite reading (and writing) category–Psychological Thrillers!

All the missing girls3. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda has been calling my name for a few months now. The premise of a suspenseful tale told backwards intrigues meThis book has received tremendous reviews and was named as A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. I’m excited to read it.

4.  Because I enjoyed Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, I look forward into-the-water-678x1024to reading her new novel, Into the Water. While I see it has received mixed reviews on Amazon…frankly, I don’t care. Just from reading the back cover blurb I want to know why a single mother was found dead at the bottom of the river and what she had to do with the teenage girl who was found dead in the river before her. I’m eager to read this best-selling story of psychological suspense written by a talented author.

And in the Historical Fiction category…

Two Family House5. The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman has been sitting on my Kindle for months. I’ve heard great things about it and I’m going to make time to read it this summer. I love historical fiction because it transports me to another time and place. This family saga is set in post WWII Brooklyn and follows the lives of two brothers who share a house with their wives. It promises to be an emotional page-turner featuring vivid characters, life-altering secrets, lies, love and redemption.

Now I’m moving on to one of my favorite categories–  Equestrian Fiction!Ride Every Stride

6. Ride Every Stride by Amy Maltman appears to encompass everything I love in a great book–horses, dark secrets and plot twists! This novel is set against the backdrop of a prestigious stable and one man’s quest to earn a spot on the Canadian Olympic equestrian team, despite the personal demons that threaten to destroy his dream. Bring it!

Showdown7.  Showdown (Red Rock Ranch, Book Two) by Brittney Joy I read the first book in the Red Rock Ranch series, Lucy’s Chance, and very much enjoyed it. I found the first book to be a fun and quick YA read that transported me into the world of Western riding and contained just the right amount of suspense, romance and, of course, horses. I look forward to escaping into Book 2 on one of my beach days.

Continuing on the YA Theme, I’m eager to read…

8. The Art of Holding on and Letting GoArt of Holding on and Letting Go by fellow Michigan author, Kristin Bartley Lenz. This Fall 2016 Junior Library Guild Selection tells the coming of age story of a teenage competitive rock climber who is forced to take a year off after tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop. I love learning about cool sports and enjoy journeys of self-discovery, so I’m beyond excited to read this highly acclaimed book.

Fault in our Stars9. Because I’m the last person on the planet who hasn’t read this book, I’m adding YA bestseller The Fault in our Stars by John Green to my list. I’ve been hesitant to read it because it just sounds so depressing, but millions of people can’t be wrong…right? I’m not going to bother telling you what it’s about because you’ve probably already read it. And, no, I haven’t seen the movie either.

I also love reading Non-Fiction books, and have several on my summer reading list, including…

10. The Dogs Who Found Me: What I’ve Learned from the Pets who were Left Behind by Dogs who found meKen Foster. I’m a sucker for animal rescue stories, and I’ve already got my box of Kleenex ready for this one. Animals can teach us so many things about ourselves if we would just pay attention. This tale of multiple rescues is bookended by the tragedies of 9/11 and hurricane Katrina. I can’t wait to learn how this author was touched by a loveable array of abandoned dogs.

Edible11. Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet by Daniella Martin has peaked my interest. As if my mostly-vegan diet wasn’t “crazy” enough, now I’m going to learn about eating bugs? Absolutely! Hey, I didn’t say I was actually going to eat insects, I’d just like learn about the people who do. And because I believe in science and I’m all for saving the planet, I’m reminding myself to never say never…

12.  Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance is Hillbilly Elegyanother non-fiction read that sounds timely and fascinating. This book is described as a passionate and personal analysis of poor, white, working class Americans, and how one man achieved upward mobility while the rest of his family was left behind. I’m hoping this book will delve deep into another way of life–one that I know little about–and might help offer a new perspective.

Because the next novel I’m going to write is an Eco-thriller/Suspense story, I’m trying to read as many similar-type books as I can. Here are a couple that are at the top of my eco-thriller list:

Open SeasonTipping Point

13.  Open Season by C.J. Box

14. Tipping Point by Simon Rosser

 

 

Finally, (although I won’t be reading my own books this summer) I have to give a quick darkhorse[3612]shout out to my Dark Horse Series. These YA mysteries set against the backdrop of a summer camp in northern Michigan make the perfect beach read for anyone who loves fast-paced mysteries, creepy ghost stories, and/or horses.

That’s it! What’s on your summer reading list? Now please excuse me because I need to start reading…

Courageous Heroines of YA! (Blog Hop)

Courage QuoteAs part of April’s Kickass Girls of YA blog hop event, I’m writing a post about what I love in my favorite YA heroines. So many admirable traits make for strong female characters in YA fiction: cunning, intelligence, physical strength, empathy and loyalty, to name a few. But for me, one trait stands out more than the others, perhaps because there are so many varieties of it. I’m talking about courage.

I enjoy reading and writing about courage because it first requires knowing the character’s vulnerabilities. Ambrose Redmoon says, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” John Wayne stated it more simply when he said, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” That quote always makes me smile because it reminds me of my main character, Brynlei. (Literally!) She is terrified of breaking promises, drawing attention to herself and disappointing people, yet she abandons all decorum when she gallops her horse into the off-limits forest in the middle of a horse show in the name of something “more important than fear.”

Few things make a reader connect more with a heroine than knowing what terrifies her. When a character then has to face those fears, the reader is left with no choice but to pull for her. The recipe for a courageous heroine is simple–the main character possesses a weakness, fear or phobia, and then is placed in a situation where she has to choose between letting the fear overtake her, or facing down her weakness and doing the right thing. Obviously, she’s going to take the second option because she’s a kickass girl of YA!

I also love courage because–just like our favorite heroines–it comes in many varieties. Of course, there’s the high-action courage we all love–the female dragon slayers and the girls who try out for the all-male football teams who risk their physical health–or even their lives–by taking on opponents much larger than themselves. This kind of bold courage is exciting and fun to read, not to mention empowering.

There’s also the “taking a stance” kind of courage–the girl who sacrifices her social status by standing up for the new kid who’s getting bullied by the popular crowd, or the girl who finally walks out of an abusive relationship, or the one who organizes a rally to save the dying whales. Often these characters know they’ll be judged harshly by their peers or society, but they find the strength to stay true to themselves and their values. Who wouldn’t want to root for these heroines?

Quiet CourageThen there’s a more subtle kind of courage:  the girl who has never spoken out in class before decides to raise her hand. The introvert who feels insecure in front of others tries out for the school play. Or the one whose parents tell her she’ll never amount to anything resolves to focus on her studies every day, quietly charging toward a better life. I love this kind of complex and understated courage, too.

Ultimately, kickass heroines are courageous in their own ways. No matter what type of courage they embody, they all decided that something else was “more important than fear.” This is what makes them #kickassgirlsofya to me.

Who are your favorite YA heroines? What fears did they overcome in order to demonstrate their courage?

Now visit the other bloggers in this BLOG HOP!

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Calling All #KICKASSGIRLSOFYA

This month, I’ve been honored to participate in a promotion sponsored by my publisher, Fire & Ice, to celebrate strong female characters in YA books–including my own Brynlei Leighton! I posted the calendar of events a week or so ago, but today I’m posting a reminder about a few exciting things…

SaleFirst, the epic 99-cent eBook Sale is happening now! This is such a great opportunity to try out some great new authors and their books in a variety of YA genres. The full list of books offered in this sale is HERE. (Note: Trail of Secrets is on the list!)

Not sure which books to buy? Eight Fire & Ice authors (including yours truly) have written short stories featuring our kickass female characters! Download our FREE Kickass Girls of Fire & Ice anthology on Amazon, B&N or Smashwords, and test the waters with a variety of characters, genres and authors.KickAssGirlsOfFIYA

Second, there’s an exciting Rafflecopter Giveaway also happening now! Just click HERE for your chance to win and eBook bundle from Fire & Ice (you choose which books you win!)

Next, please join the Kickass Girls of YA Facebook Party on Saturday, April 22nd. I’ll be hosting between 10-10:30am, but the party lasts from 10am-2pm with different authors hosting every half hour. Check it out to win entries for great prizes and swag, including autographed print books!
Finally, don’t forget our Twitter chats on Friday nights from 9-10pm EST. Use the hashtag #kickassgirlsofya to connect! Good luck and have fun!

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