Donna Stanley Author Interview

Donna Stanley Author Interview

Donna Stanley lives in the beautiful Endless Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, Jonathan, and their teenage daughter, Olivia. She attended Philadelphia Biblical University, Moody Bible Institute, and Mansfield University, where she studied angelology, demonology, and the anthropology of religion. She was a youth leader for ten years and a pastor’s wife for sixteen years. She now serves as a young adult mentor and leader in her local church.

New Wings Book Synopsis
Why is that when we pray for the supernatural we are surprised when it shows up? Seventeen-year-old Olivia Stanton always knew the Bible says guardian angels exist, but she assumed they only showed up when people were dying or needed to be saved from some kind of sudden disaster. Until she meets her own guardian angel, who appears to her in the form of a good-looking guy her age. As Olivia gets to know Mike, she learns how many misconceptions she had about the spiritual realm. She starts seeing angels on a regular basis—both good and evil ones. Mike tells her he needs to prepare her for the daunting spiritual battle that is about to overtake her small town, which could destroy her, her family, and her friends.

Who is you favorite character in your book and why?
I LOVE this question! We storytellers experience crazy occurrences when the characters starts ‘writing themselves.’ This is not always the case, but when it happens, it’s magical! It’s as if they are staring over your shoulder and interjecting things like, “No, I’d never do that!” or “I would say this.”
You would expect me to say Olivia, the main character,right? After all, doesn’t the heroine always experience some type of transformation in a well-told story?

To the contrary, the surprise character had a supporting role and stole the show many times. Her name is New-Wings-2Eden, Olivia’s best friend. (Supporting roles do this in movies too!) She’s a pastor’s daughter whose life was anything but charmed, yet makes the most amazing discoveries, experiences the most heart-wrenching moments, and has the most amazing transformations. The touching love story between her and Ty Hudson enchants every reader. I still cry when I read her scenes. It’s as if she was this unexpected visitor that came and made her home in my story. She’ll definitely appear in any sequel!

How did you name your characters?
After my daughter’s frustrating search for fresh YA paranormal fiction, I began writing a chapter a day of New Wings, putting her name in as the main character (like I had done when she was little and I’d read her bedtime stories), and she’d come home and read that chapter after school.
Mike’s name just came to me as a present day form of the name Michael, although Mike is not an archangel.
The other characters’ names came from people in real life, other than the angels themselves. For them, I used an encyclopedia of angel names and picked which ones best fit each angel’s personality.

Are the characters in your books based on people you know?
Most of the characters are a blend of several people I know. Some are real people and I’ve changed their names. One character, Bev, is a real person and I asked permission to use her name. The main character is a mixture of myself, my daughter, and the friend of mine whose real life experiences are represented in this book.

Why do you think your readers are going to enjoy your book?
I was primarily seeking to create an alternative for those craving supernatural/paranormal fiction for those who were tiring of vampires, fallen angels, werewolves, ghosts, the occult, and zombies. My daughter and I are great fans of this genre, as are many, as we see in the widespread supernatural content throughout mainstream media.

Furthermore, people love the topic of angels and anything supernatural. Every human-being longs for explanations for the unexplainable. And almost everyone has a story about something supernatural/unexplainable they’ve experienced sometime in their life. So I wanted to connect with the reader on that level, as well as give them some solid facts about the celestial realm many have little knowledge of.

I feel that the holy (non fallen!) angels deserve a voice. Hollywood, in my opinion, hasn’t done them justice. New Wings gives us a glimpse into their realm, revealing their purpose, their attributes, their history, and their personality. And what better supernatural ‘super heroes’ could I write about?

Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected? (What was it?)
I was shocked at how accepted it was and how many people could relate to the main character, Olivia. I think the popularity of the supernatural/paranormal genre in all kinds of media helped to open the door. I learned how many people have had encounters with angels (or demons) and are afraid to tell people for fear that they will be labeled “crazy,” when, in fact, they have the gift of “discernment of spirits” listed in the Bible. It’s not just a “feeling”…they actually SEE.

How do you start writing a new book? What comes first? The characters? The story?
The characters and the story come first. Then you have to have an ending, otherwise you have no idea where you are going. I tend to write in scenes, not in a linear fashion, just like movies. I write the scene when I am in the mood to write, or feel inspired to write a particular scene, then I take all the scenes and weave them together into a plot.

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Do you like to write series? Or single titles only?
I have only written one book so far, so I have not finished a sequel yet. This book could be either a stand alone story, or launch a series. I left it wide open for a sequel.

Can you describe your heroine/hero in one sentence?
Olivia is an average American teenaged girl with typical fears and problems that young people face in modern society, yet learns to overcome and be an “atmosphere changer” wherever she goes.

In two sentences or less can you tell readers something unique about your book?
I know of no other novel or story involving the intimate interaction of a teenager with their guardian angel (on a daily basis! And no, it is not a romance, but those who like the chemistry of the two main characters will find the ending fulfilling). Nor do I know of any other YA novel about the supernatural realm that sticks so closely to the biblical facts concerning angels and demons, weaving the celestial and terrestrial worlds together.

List three adjectives that describe your book as a whole:
Fast-paced, engaging, life-changing.

Where can a reader purchase your book?
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Christian bookstores.

Where do you find your ideas? Does something trigger them? Do you carry around a notebook in case inspiration strikes?
Most of the ideas for this novel came from my collection of stories I have filed away in my memory about real people facing real life encounters with the supernatural world. Having been a pastor’s wife for 16 years provided plenty of experiences with the supernatural world and spiritual warfare. I did keep a notebook of ideas as they came to me. I also do a lot of plotting when I lay awake at night (I’m an insomniac). That is when I’m my most creative.

Have you written your entire life? Have you always considered yourself a writer?
I have written since I was 12 years old. There was no such thing as a YA supernatural/paranormal fiction genre back then…but I managed to write it! In school, my fellow students always begged the teachers to read my creative writing papers aloud because they were so entertaining…(or should I say WEIRD????)

Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do?
I’ve written research articles in my areas of expertise such as sales and marketing. I also write about canine nutrition and dog care (I’ve bred and shown Labradors for almost 30 years). I’ve always wanted to write a fiction novel…and I wrote the kind of book I wanted to read!

If you could visit a place for research, where would it be?
Heaven! Is that an OK answer???

Where do you want to go with your writing career? Where do you see your writing career in five years?
I’d like to write other novels of the same genre. I have ideas swirling in my head that I feel are very creative and original, and I can’t wait to share them with the world. I’ve already started a sequel to New Wings, and a Prequel to it.

But, truly, I’m open to whatever doors open. I’ll write about anything, given the opportunity.
Most of all, I hope this story allows me to have the opportunity to talk to individuals and audiences about the topic of angels and demons and the unseen realm. I also look forward to educating the church about the gift of “discernment of spirits” that has been widely ignored and misunderstood.

If you were told your stories were unbelievable and not written very well, would you continue to write? What would your response be?
Well, any smart writer will get a whole lot of professional critiques from within the industry before they spend years writing terrible material. At least, that is what I did. I put my writing in front of the best people in the business and decided if they told me to stop writing, I would. They did not do so. They encouraged me to keep writing, said my story was unique and timely, and that it had the potential to be a bestseller. If I had been told otherwise, I would have discontinued writing. I have too many other interests and hobbies that take up my time. Why waste time on something you’re not good at? Time is too precious.

Would you ever consider converting one of you stories/published books into a screenplay? And if you could corroborate with someone, who would it be?
I was able to maintain full movie rights to my book, and I have a screenplay that is already in the works. Should someone approach me to option the rights I would certainly consider it. But I’d be very cautious. I’ve seen so many good books turned into HORRIBLE movies. Depending upon who bought the rights, I would be open to their recommendation/preference of a screenwriter, director, and production company. I’d want to be involved in the process in some way to maintain the integrity of the story and characters.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
Other writers inspired me. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. And I LOVE movies. I love STORIES. When I finally felt I had a story to tell, I ran full speed ahead and have never looked back. Not only did I feel it would be entertaining, but I felt it would literally change lives. And it has. I receive letters every day from readers. All the hard work has been worth it when I see how this story has affected so many people in a positive way.

What are your strengths as a writer?
Since I have the shortest attention span in the world, I assume everyone else does too. So, I write fast paced, can’t-put-it-down type of plots. The fact that 9 out of 10 people tell me they finish the book in two sittings tells me I’ve accomplished my goal of not boring people!

Do you like to travel? If so where is your favorite city?
I like to travel, but I love being home the most. The older I get, the more of a home-body I have become. Having built my dream home in 2008, I don’t want to leave it. If anything, I love going back to my hometown area in Maryland, where this story takes place. I loved being near the Chesapeake and everything about northeastern Maryland.

What is your favorite food? Do you have a favorite restaurant you’d recommend if we ever visit your city?
I love Italian food and seafood, and could live on it if I had to. But if you ever visit NorthEast, MD (near Rising Sun, MD, where most of my story takes place), don’t miss Woody’s Crab House. The seafood in that area is incredible.

How many books in a month do you read?
1 or 2. I wish I could read more. Before I began writing I read a lot more. If and when I ever retire, I hope to read every day for hours on end. Hopefully I won’t feel guilty doing it by then. To me it’s the most self-indulgent thing I could do. At this time of my life, I always feel guilty reading because I think of all I need to do as a mother, wife, homemaker, and business woman.

What are you currently reading?
Books on “how to market your book!” (laughter) And for fun, historical fiction. I also love anything by Don Miller. Phil Yancy, Ravi Zacharias, and Bob Goff (non-fiction writers). I also enjoy biographies about celebrities.

State 5 random facts about yourself.
I consider my first talent to be singing.
I love dogs, and have been breeding and showing Labrador Retrievers for almost 30 years.
I’m shy in a crowd, but can sing or speak in front of thousands of people and not get nervous.
I get addicted to a TV series very easily and gobble up a whole season on DVD within days sometimes.
Although I went to Bible College, I later went to Mansfield University and majored in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor in Archaeology, Women’s Studies, and Psychology.

In all the books you’ve read. Who is your most favorite character and why?
I love “Louie” in the Ann Rice Vampire novels. He’s one of the most complex characters ever written, besides his sidekick, Lestat. You both love him and hate him. And Ann makes you feel pity for such a thoroughly evil character who is so conflicted within.

It was the vampires in Ann Rice’s novels that most inspired me to begin writing a prequel to New Wings from the perspective of a Nephilim (pre flood, half angel/half human, referred to as “the giants of old” in the OT). I imagine them to have been so very tortured within, fighting both their human and demonic nature. And they were victims of their fate…they never asked to be such. Their fallen angel fathers and human mothers created them. Yet we don’t know whether they were offered redemption, or, if like the fallen angels, they have no chance at redemption.

Have you ever sat and just watched the people go by?
How did you know I am a professional ‘people watcher??’

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