Colleen L. Donnelly grew up in a rural environment, but during and after college she began to spread her wings to experience other places and other cultures. She finally realized she could have her cake and eat it too, by buying a place in the country and working for a college where every culture possible passes through. Even though Colleen was born with the creative urge to write, it wasn’t until after college and after kids that she finally sat down to take it on as a semi-career. True to what’s predicted for beginning writers, she had to write about five novels that were rejected, before her sixth was snatched up by a NY publisher. Still working and still writing and still lending a hand to now grown up kids, Colleen believes that life is good.
Your latest release is ASKED FOR. Tell us about it. “Asked For” is built around unraveling family morals, this one told from two points of view, Lana’s and James’, mother and son bound by a man who wanted neither one of them. Lana was a young girl when Cletus asked for her, full of dreams of someday being special when she became someone’s bride. James, Lana’s youngest son, dreamed of playing baseball and making his father proud if Cletus would ever come to one of his games. Cletus wanted only a wife, nothing so foolish as a bride, an uncomplicated woman who would give him sons. As Lana gave birth to more daughters than sons, last of all to James who looked nothing like Cletus, Cletus’ detachment and anger increased until it culminated in him deeming James as “That boy” the one who wasn’t even his. As Lana’s and James’ parts of the tale build from this family’s beginnings to the eventual climax where choices are revealed, we see everyone’s obstacles and the coping mechanisms they chose to survive what nature and nurture had unfortunately given them.
Tell us about your characters. In “Asked For” Lana is almost a child when Cletus asks for her. She goes into an arranged marriage with illusions that turn into delusions even before her wedding night is over. Full of determination to do what’s right, the way her grandmother taught her, Lana gets little reward for her efforts. Buoyed by her love for her children, and the gentle reminder of her value offered by two men who see the beauty beneath her worn exterior, Lana marches forward gaining the strength she needs to not only endure, but to survive the life Cletus gives her. James knows the love of a mother, the moral support of a local businessman, and the rejection of the one man that matters – his father. As he grows, James untangles what is truly him from what isn’t. His needs suffer great disappointment, but in the end define who he truly is – whether he is “That boy” or Cletus’ son.
Why is the setting important? I have a tendency to write in the past. I love that setting because it forces my characters to act and grow without the aid of modern conveniences. I want them to get up, travel a path, chart a course through obstacles rather than receive a text message with an easy answer. I’ve been told that my settings become characters, and maybe this is why – so my heroes and heroines are forced to interact with their settings to achieve their goals.
Who were your heroes growing up and how do they affect our storytelling? I have to admit that villains in my life may have more to do with my storytelling than heroes, now that you ask. Hmmmm, that’s kind of embarrassing and I may have to ponder this some more. But I write from dilemmas, and the people who created those situations for me or those around me, have stuck in my mind and are now “types” in my novels. That said, who did I turn to as a child for help from these foes? Family members, a few close friends, teachers, and God – not necessarily in that order. I know that list seems cliché, so let me also say a large cast of fictional characters inspired me also – from movies and literature alike. I did learn, though, that heroes can’t and/or won’t always do what you want, but many times what we want isn’t what’s best. Darn.
Do you have a favorite mystery author? I’ve read Agatha Christie more than any other, but I’ve also read a fair amount from these authors – Wilkie Collins, Poe, Sue Grafton, John Sanford, and Janet Evanovich (when I need some comic relief).
What’s next for you? I’m in the final stages of editing my next book. As of now, it’s called, “Love on a Train,” but sometimes my working title vanishes right before I submit it to my publisher, and another, more creative title, takes its place. This tale is a post-World War II story of a young woman who falls in love on a train with a soldier who has recently returned from battle. The intensity of her passion for him causes her to write their story, a work of non-fiction that becomes fiction when she realizes he loves another. Her obstacles are the loss of that love, the family shame she creates by adding a fictionalized happy ending to her story and publishing it as romance, and the “good provider” she finds herself engaged to while her heart still belongs to the man she fell in love with on the train. After this book is out, I have a number of novels on my hard drive from the days I was learning to write. Good stories are buried in there, they just need matured and cleaned up, something I plan to do after “Love on a Train” is out.