Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Author Interview ~ Donita K. Paul

Donita K. Paul retired early from teaching school. Now she is an award-winning novelist writing Christian Romance and Fantasy. She's written five novels, four novellas, and numerous short stories since 1999. Dragonspell won a finalist medal in the Christy Awards 2005. She also mentors writers of all ages. Her teen writing club has e-published four juvenile novels, and she conducts two writing workshops each week. Her two grown children live in Colorado Springs where she visits them often. Her dog keeps her company in her studio apartment labeled "The Hobbit Hole."

What book or project is coming out or has come out that you’d like to tell us about?

DragonKnight is due to come out June 20th. It is the third in the Dragon Keeper Chronicles and there will be one more next year. DragonQuest was nominated for the Christy Awards.

I am very pleased with the response to the Dragon Keeper books. I get reader mail from young and old. Kids who had the books read to them at bedtime, teens who are sharing their books with friends at school and church, parents, grandparents, and pastors. Evidently, many people were looking for just such a series.

Tell us about your journey to publication. How long had you been writing before you got the call you had a contract, how you heard and what went through your head.

I wrote as a teen. In fact there were four and sometimes five of us who would write during the week, then meet for a slumber party on Friday night and share our stories.
I took the Institute of Children’s Literature correspondence course when my two children were preschoolers. But I didn’t settle down to writing until I became disabled. I had a nasty infection in my leg that put me in the hospital for 21 days. I was an elementary school teacher and I went back to the classroom on a part time basis, but I just couldn’t handle it. Elementary school teachers have to be able to move! And move quickly!

So I was at home and probably bugging my mother who lived with us. Remember when your mom was tired of having you underfoot and would tell you to go to your room and read? My mom told me to go to my room and write. She said, “You’ve always wanted to. Now is the time.”

I sold three novels and four novellas in the Christian romance genre. Then Mom said, “I think it is time you wrote something bigger.” That was DragonSpell.
Moms are good to have around.

Do you still experience self-doubts regarding your work?

Always. I suppose there are some writers who think, “I am brilliant.” But I am rather surprised that other people enjoy my quirky characters and don’t mind that my Christian world view supports every storyline. I also raise the bar every time I start a new project and then tremble with doubts about making a clean vault over.

What mistakes have you made as a freelance writer?

My mistakes center around disorganization. I have piles of papers around my office, spilling into the sitting room, crowning the bookcases, and lining the cupboards. And in that mess are ideas for new books, notes on marketing opportunities, and tax deductible receipts. An organized writer is not losing time digging for info that could be at her fingertips.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard on writing/publication?

Persevere. Read. Deliberately hone your skills. Read. Go to writing conferences. Read. Don’t try to write what you think the market is buying. Read. Write the story of your heart. (Yes, dragons represent the story of my heart.)

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve heard?

Write what you know. It should be write what you care about. If you care about penguins you can find out about penguins. If you are a third generation tuba player, but dream about ballet, your story about tuba playing will not touch the hearts of your readers.

Do you have a scripture or quote that has been speaking to you lately?

Well, I have life verse that found me.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service;”
First Timothy 1:12

I enter the verse backward.

Mostly, I’m a “yes” person to “service.” In the verse, service is the last word. I’ve said yes and found myself working before I even knew what service entailed.

Before service is “putting me.” Sometimes God put me in service; sometimes I did. When it was me, I hit my knees position quickly. When it was God, I prayed but not quite as frantically.

From here, Back up another step: “He considered me faithful!”
My answer? “Are you sure you’re thinking about me, God? I mean the faithful part? I’m a pretty pathetic wimp.”

One more step backward: “Who has strengthened me.”
Well, praise God for that!
God stretches me, achieving goals that are beyond my expectations. And the success is indubitably due to God’s enabling.

And now the end, which is the beginning.
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And why is the thankfulness last? It should be first, shouldn’t it? Did I tell you this is my backward verse?

Is there a particularly difficult set back that you’ve gone through in your writing career you are willing to share?

All of my setbacks have turned out to be progress in disguise. Some of the disguises were pretty ugly. But once you get past the appearance of a problem, and look back at God’s infinite care, you can see the beauty. I’m not prone to talk about them. When God is teaching you, or disciplining you, or redirecting your path, it’s usually a very personal experience.

What are a few of your favorite books?

Robert Elmer has written two related romances, The Duet and The Recital. Those well crafted tales touched me deeply since they are about older “lovers,” Max Lucado is my favorite non-fiction writer. The secular writer I admire most for her characterization and plotting is Patricia Veryan. I love Linda Windsor (Christian Romantic Comedy) for the way she loves God.

What piece of writing have you done that you’re particularly proud of and why?

There are actually characters that I am proud of. Amanda in Returning Amanda ( A novella that Barbour has just reissued in a collection called A Mother’s Heart ) came off as just the right blend of the little girls in the preschool Sunday school classes I’ve taught.

I have to admit that I am fond of Wizard Fenworth, but I wouldn’t want to live with him.

Do you have a pet peeve having to do with this biz?

Yes! I enjoy mentoring and I am involved in several critique groups that have a mix of published and unpublished writers. My peeve is that some of the unpublished writers have tremendous talent and there just aren’t enough contracts to go around. They have wonderful stories, alive with interesting characters, and have polished their writing skills until the tale sings. I want them all to hold their books in their hands.

Can you give us a view into a typical day of your writing life?

Chaos, pure chaos.
Lots of good intentions; lots of interruptions.
Moments of sheer delight while words pour through my fingertips.
Gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, tears of frustration.
All in all, it’s a pretty humdrum way to make a living.

If you could choose to have one strength of another writer, what would it be and from whom?

It would be Max Lucado. I would like to do in fiction what he does in his books. I would like to connect the reader to the Heart of God through the tale of my heroes.

Do you have a dream for the future of your writing, something you would love to accomplish?

My main goal is to raise the reader’s awareness of God. Not to preach, or entice and cajole the reader into my Christianity. But to stir the desire in the reader’s heart to enter his or her own walk with Jesus.

How do you approach theme in your writing?

Some writers have a theme, and they build a story to support it. Others write a story and discover the theme. I am one of the latter.

Your fantasies point out Christian concepts. How do you weave those into the storyline?

I don’t try. I’ve been a Christian a long time, and I think like a Christian. I have by no means perfected my Christian walk, but my view of life is pervaded by the faith I have in God. So it comes out in my writing. If fell into a conversation with a man who is a football fanatic, you would soon hear his passion for football in the way he talks. He would use phrases like “touchdown,” “stuck on the bench,” and “passing the ball,” as descriptors. A hunting enthusiast would have a different underlying reference point.

How do you picture your audience?

I see a young person curled up in a cozy spot, fingering the edge of the book, impatient to finish reading the words, so he can turn to the next page. Or, I see a family in a car or lounging around a den while a parent reads aloud.

Was there ever a time in your writing career you thought of quitting?

Nope. I have to admit I like the job of grandmothering a bit more than the career of writing. But I haven’t been a writer all my life, just in the last seven years, so I am in no way tired of it yet.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of being a writer?

A blank page combined with a headache is the least favorite part of writing. Meeting readers is my favorite.

How much marketing do you do? Any advice in this area?

I do what I would call “casual marketing.” I hand out bookmarks to people I meet. I go to conferences and book signings, libraries and schools. But I don’t spend a lot of time on it. We have a very interesting website, and I play with that and let my webmaster turn ideas into reality. But truly, when I get caught up with trying to devise marketing schemes, my productivity at the keyboard diminishes to almost nothing. I’d rather write than promote.

Parting words?

I am a writer’s quote fanatic, so I am going to leave you with someone else’s words. I believe what G. K. Chesterton said is true:

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because
they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us
that dragons can be beaten."


  1. Donita!

    great to hear your voice.

    You'll have to tell our "listeners" how you ran into my FRENCH neighbor in a shoe store in California right before Mount Hermon. What are the odds?

    And, I must say, my daughter Sophie has loved your books. She's thrilled by them. Thank you for writing something she loves.

  2. Thank you for the inspiring interview. I can see why people seek you out as a mentor.

    Your comments about the Christian worldview in your writing are about as clear as any I've read. Thanks.

    Love your take on your verse, and the closing quote.


  3. "All of my setbacks have turned out to be progress in disguise."

    I love that. And your dragon quote at the end. I'm almost as inspired as if I'd just listened to "Eye of the Tiger". Hah. Good stuff, Donita. I've got a question.

    What age group is this book aimed at? I've got a 9 year old boy. Would this be appropriate? Thanks.

  4. Thanks, Donita, for your encouraging and inspiring words! I credit Donita and a couple other critiquers for saving my writing career before it even got started. She read an early draft of Landon Snow and pointed out the character and story flaws, which were major. Landon was literally born again, and the books have survived. Again, I thank you.

    Your dragon books have come at a great time for Christian readers of fantasy. You and your writing are a blessing to many. Keep up the awesome work!

  5. Donita Rocks! ;) Always caring & ready to laugh, but always sharp and deadly with her critiquing pen. (deadly to writing errors that is)

    And I echo Gina. That G.k. Chesterton quote is awesome!

  6. Fantastic interview, Donita! I cannot wait till your newest novel releases!!

  7. I'm thankful there are writers like you, Donita, who are willing to mentor. We need you!

    I love the Chesterton quote because it speaks to life.

  8. thank you for your kind comments.
    Gina, I originally wrote DragonSpell for YA which is through the teen years. But market analysis showed it to be more for the same audience as those who read Harry Potter, which would be 8-80. Who wants to argue with that? And truly, the reader mail has reflected a wide age range.

  9. Awwww, Donita, that pet peeve of yours is surely going to balloon Shannon's head to unsightly proportions. I'll pretend you were talking about me instead.

  10. *blinks at Michelle* But ... but ... she IS talking about you! And Stuart, and ...

    A wonderful interview, Donita! We love you!! {{{{{{{{{{Donita}}}}}}}}}}}

  11. I love Donita's book. It is beautifully written and teens who love fantasy will absolutely love it.

    Suzanne Eller (Suzie)


Don't be shy. Share what's on your mind.