ACFA is excited to partner with The Wordsmith Journal Magazine and feature authors interviewed in that publication.
Author Donita K. Paul is about as versatile as a writer can get. She has successfully secured an audience through her two allegorical fiction series, The Chiril Chronicles and The Dragon Keeper Chronicles, while appealing to readers of romance and children’s books. Satisfying such a diverse audience takes talent, a strong connection to readers, a bit of heavenly inspiration, as well as a divergent personality. This is evident on Paul’s website where she incorporates art, photography, homeschool helps and yes, her favorite books. Her circle of (author) friends include Lori Copeland, Lauraine Snelling, Brandilyn Collins, and Lynn Austin. With such a broad range of input and inspiration, Paul is able to reach an expansive audience seemingly effortlessly as she endeavors to entertain, and in the case of her recent book Taming the Wild Wind, reveal a practical application for the Christian journey.
MN-Writing about Indians in your book Taming the Wild Wind is not just a side bar of research. Tell us about your Cherokee heritage.
DP-My grandfather died with one of his sons in a drowning accident. My mother barely remembers him, but she remembers her mother’s side of the family had little to do with her father’s side. Her mother never invited both sides of the family to the house at the same time. That was curious but didn’t bother her too much. She was an outdoorsy gal and roamed the banks of the Wabash, particularly the woods near by. There she would play that she was an Indian princess. After she was grown she found out why the two sides of her family were antagonistic toward each other. Her mother had married a half-breed. Back then there was much prejudice and not much tolerance. My mom was thrilled to learn she was a quarter Cherokee. Years later she taught me an Indian dance in the living room of our house in Houston. Jump years ahead again and I was at a Native American Powwow and I saw some Cherokee tribesmen dance that same dance. I guess she knew what she was talking about. It all came from books, though. She never got to know the family that quit coming to visit after her dad died.
MN-The saying goes that there is truth in fiction. What is the basis of truth found in Taming the Wild Wind?
DP-Ida is casual Christian. All her life, she has followed her own path, and there is nothing overtly wrong with her choices. She knows Christ as her Savior, God as her Father, and the Holy Spirit as her Comforter. But she hasn’t grasped that God is also her Lord. She doesn’t consider herself disobedient to her parents because she avoids the conflict and doesn’t act out an obnoxious rebellion. She has not taken to heart that God sees the attitude that is behind the action. I Samuel 16:7 “for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (NASB) And when a Christian doesn’t seek God’s wisdom, he can be caught up in sin without being aware. Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (NASB) In her new situation, she is draws closer to God and realizes that going against her parents’ wishes was rebellion whether she was caught or not.
MN-Ida is an influential main character. She is rebellious in the best of ways, standing up for the very ones she is expected to shun. Do you think women a hundred years ago were stronger in that aspect than we are today?
DP-I guess it depends on what history book you read or which historical females you have researched. I believe we have a mix of people now much like the ones who lived then. You have Harriet Tubman and all the people who helped her with the Underground Railroad. But you also have seriously selfish New York debutantes.
Also you have to take into account what culture influenced these people. I had a friend whose great grandmother was a nice enough woman, but she was from the farming south. She used derogatory terms for any race but her own. I think that arrogant, obnoxious attitude was taught to her and those who were raised in a similar background. No baby comes out of the womb with a desire to wear a white sheet and burn crosses in someone’s yard. I think we could find a woman from a hundred years ago who was stronger in protecting the underprivileged just as we could go out and find a woman in our own neighborhood who would stand up for what is right.
MN-Ida represents the wild, carefree characteristics many women hide and even deny. Not in that she wanted to live life without responsibility, but that she wanted to live on her terms. She developed her talents in spite of the restrictions of her society. Is it safe for women to unleash this wild side?
DP-Actually, Ida’s formative years were spent in getting away with what she could without any consideration as to God’s will. Her mother set high standards, but Ida dismissed them. Self-absorbed, Ida did what she wanted, like visiting the Irish family, and carefully kept the action from coming to her parents’ attention. We can look at Ida’s wild side and realize that the actions were not necessarily evil, but the attitude was an encumbrance that kept her from running the race in her life. When the Lord worked with her spirit in the lonely mission house, He tamed her wild wind. It is safe for women to explore their gifts, challenge ungodly behavior, stand up for the downhearted as long as the women are grounded in God’s Word and submissive to God’s will.
MN-You have mentioned your struggle to becoming a Christian and trying to act the part prior to it becoming an authentic lifestyle. How would you describe your life as a Christian now?
DP-I’m a very easy-going Christian. I admit to being a bit of a zealot after conversion. But God softened me. Do you know much about Brother Lawrence? He took praying without ceasing literally and every conversation, every task was done in the awareness that God is a participant, not a distant god, but a Present God. About eight years ago, one of my friends wrote a book that helps to explain. Practicing God's Presence: Brother Lawrence for Today's Reader (Quiet Times for the Heart) by Robert Elmer and Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
I have very strong convictions about what the Bible says, what God wants us to do and what He wants us to be. But I’m not called to be a street corner preacher. God has given me specific talents and helped me develop them. I’m a storyteller as are many in my family. I know from the emails I get that God has used this to change hearts and move His children. DragonSpell has sold close to 150,000 copies. If one little nugget of truth came through to a troubled mind with each book, the effect is astounding. And I chuckle, because it isn’t me, it’s Him.
MN-As a proponent of literacy, what are some steps that you suggest parents can take to encourage their children to read?
DP-The first would be to model reading. Children who see their parents sitting with a good book will want to get the same pleasure from their books. Read to the child and be enthusiastic. The parent who has to be coerced to read a bedtime story isn’t sending positive messages about the joy of reading. Discuss books. Ask the children questions in the car, at breakfast, during dinner, and make observations about the books they read. “I liked that book we read last night. The one about the lost mouse. What was the title? Shall we read it again tonight? What would you do if a big mean cat was between you and mommy?”
Make books available and model treating books with respect. Get excited when they get a book as a gift. Help them shop for books as gifts to relatives. This grandma loves to get books. I’ve found that the bargain books at Barnes and Noble are fantastic. The children are drawn to the bigness and the flashy colors and the unusual topics of the coffee table books. What grandpa doesn’t want a huge thick book with glossy pictures of Spanish castles? You might want to suggest to Grandpa to demonstrate his enthusiasm.
MN-You have written children's books, historical fiction, romance, and contemporary fiction. In which genre is it the easiest for you to write?
DP-The easiest book I’ve written recently was Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball. This is a contemporary romance with a touch of fantasy. I was tired of the same old same old, and rested by writing this delightful “Made for TV-type” light tale. It took me less than six weeks. It was fun. I want to go back to Sage Street and revisit the modern matchmaking wizards who live there.
MN-Your favorite Bible verse?
DP-Right now: I Corinthians 15:58 “With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don't hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” (The Message) Isn’t that a beautiful message for anyone in the mission field? Whether you are a preacher in the Sunday pulpit, a missionary calming the fears of new believers in Iraq, a medical missionary performing surgery in Africa, or a writer, stand your ground! Don’t hold back. Nothing you do for HIM is wasted.
Author Bio: Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school, but soon got bored! The result: a determination to start a new career. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She says, “I feel blessed to be doing what I like best.”
She mentors all ages, teaching teenagers and weekly adult writing workshops.
“God must have imprinted 'teacher' on me clear down to the bone. I taught in public school, then home schooled my children, and worked in private schools. Now my writing week isn’t very productive unless I include some time with kids.”
Her two grown children make her proud, and her two grandsons make her laugh. You can read more about author Donita Paul at:http://www.donitakpaul.com
For more author interviews featured in The Wordsmith Journal:
Donna Fitts, Jocelyn Green, and Judith Hugg.
About Mary Nichelson.
Interview is courtesy of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine.