Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist and author of two novels of family drama, At Wave’s End
(2017) and Deliver Her
(2016) published by Lake Union. She is currently at work on a third. She began writing fiction on a lark in 2011; since that time, her stories have appeared in a number of literary journals. She enjoys travel and mentoring new writers, and relies on running and yoga for balance (literally). The mother of two grown daughters, Patricia and her family spent six years in Lyon, France in the nineties, an experience she plans to mine in a future novel. Today, Patricia and her husband live at the Jersey shore with their Yorkie Diesel. Connect with her on Facebook
, and Instagram
, or visit patriciaperrydonovan.com
If you haven't done so already, read Patricia's winning entry, Still Life
, and then return to learn more about how she transitioned into writing fiction.
----------Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: Welcome, Patricia! I can't wait to find out more about your background. Although you started out as a journalist, you mention you started writing fiction on a lark in 2011 (and obviously it has served you well)! What was the first fictional piece you wrote and did you submit it anywhere?
It is so interesting for me to revisit my fiction roots. I wrote my first fictional piece for a Gotham Writer's Workshop in 2011, a short story titled “Orchard Beach.” It was inspired by the week I spent every summer with my grandmother in the Bronx. My “Nana” was a very independent and resilient woman for her time. To this day, I remember every detail of her city apartment: her freshly rinsed stockings hanging in the shower, the heavy incinerator drawer outside her door, her quirky neighbors. I reworked that story a number of times, submitting it to literary magazines and competitions. By then retitled “Little Fools,” the story was ultimately published by Bethlehem Writers Roundtable in 2015.
WOW: Great sensory details! I'm not surprised it found a home. So it sounds like you started out writing short stories and ventured into writing and publishing two novels, At Wave's End and Deliver Her and your website describes you as a "writer of hopeful family dramas." Your winning entry "Still Life" also falls into that category. How did you decide to explore these particular themes in your longer works of fiction and in "Still Life?"
I wish I could say I “decided.” However, even though I usually have a rough idea of how the story will turn out, one of the marvels of writing fiction (that would never fly in journalism) is allowing the tale and your characters to guide you. While I love exploring family dynamics and even dysfunction in my novels, I am at heart an optimist. Experience has taught me that no matter what travesties life places in your path, or how futile things may feel, you can always, always have hope. I try to imbue my fiction with that sentiment, and leave readers feeling that even if it hasn’t happened by “The End,” things will ultimately work out for the characters in which they have invested their time.
A note on “Still Life:” I wrote this story after greatly reducing Mia’s storyline in my debut novel Deliver Her
. After killing (or actually seriously injuring) this “darling,” I still felt her story deserved to be told. I always save all my deletions in a separate file. You never know when you might want to “resurrect” a character or plot point.
WOW: Saving deleted scenes in a separate file is such a great idea and I'm glad to hear it worked out so well for you! By reading your blog I see you have some fun ideas regarding promoting your novels with book clubs. What have been some of your favorites (swag, putting together discussion questions, etc.)?
I love book clubs and have made many live and virtual visits with them...and always provide swag! I recently reconnected with a friend from grammar school who invited me to her club. We were also in Girl Scouts together for many years, so we had lots of fun reminiscing. I created a list of discussion questions for each book, but inevitably, we veer off topic. Readers always want to know about the writing process, which I am happy to discuss.
However, my favorite experience has been running my early drafts by my OWN book club. This local group has been “retired” for many years, but we are great friends and they are always happy to reconvene to become beta readers. This is at once terrifying and gratifying. They are my most ardent supporters but also keep me honest. Especially while writing my second novel At Wave's End
, inspired by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, I relied on their feedback and suggestions. We all lived through that storm on the Jersey shore, and feel its aftereffects even today. And believe me, these women hold NOTHING back! (Note: Book clubs can arrange visits via my web site,patriciaperrydonovan.com.)
WOW: A very savvy move on your part--I'm sure you got some great feedback from that! So what type of books do you gravitate toward reading with pleasure and what is on your nightstand right now?
The books I love to read fall into three categories. First, I like to check out what’s current, including Pulitzer Prize winner Andrew Sean Greer’s Less
(a HOOT for writers; I’ll be rereading this one), and family dramas like Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere
. I am also making my way through George Saunders’ Lincoln at the Bardot
Second, I try to keep up with and review upcoming and new releases from my fellow Lake Union Publishing authors, including Loretta Nyhan’s Digging In
and Barbara Claypole White’s The Promise Between Us
. I have learned a lot from this talented, supportive writing community, including the value of book reviews to authors. Readers and writers, please take time to share your thoughts on a book you’ve read. This feedback is invaluable to authors and helps with rankings and those pesky analytics that drive our careers.
Last but certainly not least, I devote time to reading works in progress (WIPs) of fellow writers. I belong to several writers groups, where we critique each other’s work. I also try to mentor fledgling writers by sharing lessons I have learned. No matter the discipline, it is important to give back.
WOW: Remembering to "Give Back" is a great reminder for us all. Thank you. You lived in France for six years with your family. What were some of your favorite experiences there?
My goodness, there are so many! But my most lasting memories are of family and friends coming to visit. We lived in a small village several miles outside of Lyon, France, and while our company enjoyed touring that city and beyond, they also marveled at our daily life: the local trip to buy baguette, the wine-tasting in the supermarket, the overwhelming smell of French cheeses when they opened our refrigerator, our daughters’ ability to speak French. We loved sharing these small details with everyone because truthfully, we never tired of them ourselves.
Over six years, we were fortunate to travel to many countries with our two daughters, who were three and ten when we arrived in 1997. Highlights include strolling the Great Wall of China, riding camels in the Sahara, and dogsledding in the Arctic Circle. While our life is much calmer fourteen years after repatriating, those travels are embedded in our memories and flavor my writing. The two chefs in At Waves End
are inspired in part by life in France’s culinary capital. Also, I’m at work on a new novel tentatively titled Best Interests
partially based on a trip to Spain’s Costa del Sol.