Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Donna Fitts Interview with Mary Nichelson

ACFA is proud to partner with The Wordsmith Journal Magazine to feature authors interviewed in that publication on our blog.

Unlike many authors, Donna Fitts had no aspirations to become a writer. “I have always been a starter but not much of a finisher. I never, ever dreamed of writing a book. Certainly not a romance novel!” But that is exactly what she has successfully accomplished in her novel, An Unexpected Romance. While the word unexpected defines her journey to writing, it also embraces the concept of her book; surprises can happen to anyone, at anytime. Why would the mother of two children, grandmother of five grandchildren who loves Snickers candy bars, strawberries and snorkeling in coral reefs, tackle a writing project pertaining to romance in the twilight years? I quickly learned to expect the unexpected when it came to interviewing this energetic woman of faith.

MN-As a Navy mom, I am surprised by how many military families I encounter daily. Your father was in the Air Force, which I am sure stamped your passport several times. Can you name a few of the places you have been and which one was your favorite?

DF-We lived in a number of different states, including  Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Illinois, and California, but my favorite place was Tripoli, Libya.  While we were there, we lived in a couple of cool places before my dad was able to get base housing.  One of those was a farm where the long private drive was lined by almond trees.  When there were almond on the trees, we kids were known to reach out the windows as Daddy drove down the driveway and try to grab the green almonds off the trees.  We spent three wonderful years there, at Wheelus Air Force base.  We also were able to travel in the area and see a number of different Roman ruins.  I was actually baptized in the Mediterranean Sea while we were there.

MN-Let's talk about your new book, An Unexpected Romance. It didn't always have that title. Why was in changed from Prodigals?

DF-When I first titled the book, my husband didn't like the title.  At first I was convinced that Prodigals was the right name for it, but later developed mixed feelings about it. The publisher found that when women were asked about that name, they were not favorable.  Most thought it was a  self-help book. The publishing team put their heads together, several titles were suggested, and we kind of bogged down for a bit. Then, while discussing the content of the book with someone, I used the phrase, "an unexpected romance," and we decided that was the perfect title for the book.  So, my husband was right, after all!

MN-In writing the book, you found a need and filled it. You stated there were no novels written that targeted the mature woman. I think it is brilliant and certainly God inspired. How hard was it to write for a target audience from the beginning instead of writing and then figuring out who your audience is?

DF-It really wasn't difficult.  I honestly did not think about the audience.  I just wrote about the characters.  I know it probably sounds a bit strange, but I didn't even know how the story would unfold or how it would end.  I felt inspired by God to write it, and it almost seemed to write itself once I got started.  I would sit down at the computer, and start typing and the next thing I knew, another chapter was finished.  I think the most difficult part was letting go of the idea that the cover had to feature a senior citizen couple.  I actually didn't let go of that idea until I realized that the book really could appeal to readers who are not senior citizens.

MN-Even though Elizabeth is a senior citizen, I have to admit that I could relate to her character on many levels. Don't you think that proves that whether we read about a fictional character set in the 1700's or a contemporary senior citizen, we are basically the same at heart making it necessary to not discredit our ability to learn from others just because they are different?

DF-I absolutely agree that we can learn from reading about people who are, on the surface, very different from ourselves.  We learn from Jesus' parables, and they are definitely different from us in many, many ways.  The important thing is the ways they are like us.  When I first started writing this book, my husband said he just didn't see why I would feel that writing a novel could be something that might help others.  I reminded him that Jesus used parables--which are kind of like mini novels--and that sometimes it is easier for people to learn from stories than direct teaching, because stories are less threatening.

MN-Is there a little bit of Donna in Elizabeth?

DF-A little bit.  Elizabeth is very  concerned about the environment and conservation. She enjoys helping others. She still believes that there are absolutes in God's commandments, regardless of what the current culture thinks.

MN-You were certified through seminary to teach which led to your current position, Director of a preschool academy. That takes a lot of patience. Is that a virtue of yours?

DF-Actually, I only studied religious education in general at seminary.  It was my experience as a teacher and a principal in  elementary school that really prepared me for this position. The things I learned not only about teaching, but also about budgets and administration are very instrumental in being a successful director of a preschool.  I think being an elementary school principal took more patience than being a director of a preschool.  Being a director of a preschool is such a daily joy!  There is nothing better than going to "work" every day at church and "work" being the joy of being around God's precious little ones!

MN-Will there be a sequel to An Unexpected Romance and are there any other writing projects on your agenda?

DF-I have started a sequel, featuring one of Elizabeth's younger sisters, a very angry and sad woman who trusts virtually no one. I do have several other ideas for books, but enjoy my daytime job so much, I must admit I am not doing a lot of writing.  The second book is certainly not moving along as quickly as the first one did!

Author Bio: Donna Fitts has a wealth of different life experiences to draw on for her work, including overcoming abuse as a child, traveling the world with her Air Force dad, being a single mother on welfare to marrying and graduating college Magna Cum Laude.Donna's easy writing style allows the reader to see herself and her friends in her writing, but also directs the reader back to the ultimate authority: God's Holy Bible.

Donna is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southeastern Louisiana University, and California State University. She has served more than 30 years in churches and in public schools, and is currently serving as Director of a Christian preschool after retiring as an elementary school principal in Rhode Island.  

You can learn more about author Donna by visiting her website

About Mary Nichelson:

Other interviews featured in The Wordsmith Journal: Donita K. Paul, Jocelyn Green, and Judith Hugg.

Donna Fitts interview is courtesy of The Wordsmith Journal Magazine.

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