Author Donna Anastasi delivers an off-beat love story in “Spin the Plate,” a newly expanded and reissued ebook available at Amazon and other retailers. In the novel, she deals with child abuse and damaged lives through Jo and Frances. Jo has dealt with her horrifying childhood by building physical strength and careful emotional detachment from human social intercourse. She rescues abused humans and abandoned animals; she uses her strength to fight bullies; she works as a tattoo artist. Frances is a gentle soul who wants nothing from Jo but her heart and he sets out to win it.
Join me for an interview with Anastasi as part of Walker Author Tours.
Where did you get the idea for the story?
“It came to me one day as I was driving my daily 65 mile commute across the width of New Hampshire. It was like remembering a movie I’d just seen. The main characters, Jo’s flashback and her story just hit me in crashing waves. It was a pretty amazing experience, the first one of that kind I’d ever had.”
What is your greatest writing challenge?
“Child abuse and post-traumatic stress syndrome are such sensitive topics, so I needed to proceed cautiously and strike a balance between realism and not being overly sentimental or dramatic.”
“The many posts I’ve received from readers on how it’s moved them forward life journey. Plus winning the Living Now gold medal award was a huge honor.”
Tell us about your previous work.
“I wrote two books on animal care – ‘The Complete Guide to Gerbil Care’ and ‘The Complete Guide to Chinchilla Care.’ I just completed another ‘gritty Christian fiction’ work, a short story entitled ‘In God’s Name’ available free from Smashwords.”
What other projects do you have coming up?
“Another small-animal book called ‘Gerbil Agility: Yes, they can.’”
Do you write full time?
“No, I don’t write full time. I’m an interaction designer. I make on-line applications easy to use and improve the user experience. Design is a very interactive process requiring a lot of feedback and revision, plus a thick skin. The focus has to be on improving the end-product and making it right for your audience. These skills help in writing as well.”
What is your writing process like--do you outline first or just start writing, etc.?
“The book was originally a short story that came to me all at once. I wrote it down in about two week. Then I thought, ‘these characters are such interesting people, why not tell the whole story.’ Writing fiction is extremely difficult. So, I had many authors, editors, and avid-readers help me to expand it to a full-length novel, which took four years.”
Do you work with a writing group or mentor? Why or why not? If you do, what do you get out of it?
“My husband has had four books published and has won several playwriting awards – he helped me with the dialogue – plus several friends and relatives helped by writing down their stories which I wrote the characters into. This style of writing, which I term ‘mosaic,’ results in a very realistic portrayal of events because of the details know only to those with first-hand experience.”
What have you done to develop your writing craft?
“Write and rewrite. And then rewrite again. I seek out feedback from a wide variety of people and truly see and treat honest reviews and all feedback as a gift.”
What was the hardest part: writing the book, getting it published, or marketing it? Why?
“Marketing, because that is the area where the author has the least control. There are so many good books in the Contemporary Fiction, Christian, and Romance categories – readers have many choices, and getting the word out has been tough, but that’s why I’m doing things like this. “
What have been your most successful marketing techniques?
“Getting good reviews – especially from Amazon.com, entering contests, offering a free e-book version, doing giveaways and virtual tours.”
Who is your favorite author of all time, and why?
“C.S. Lewis. I like that he can describe very complex ideas simply, that he writes both fiction and non fiction, and writes on the topic of theology. He draws you right in with characters and storyline and is neither sentimental or pessimistic.”
If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be, and with whom?
“I’ve been to Europe twice - once on my honeymoon and once with our children – I’d love to go back. My favorite way to travel is to stay with people who live in the country and have them show me around.”
If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?
“Probably sample everything on the menu from my favorite Chinese restaurant and have it with diet coke. I’d eat it on a paper plate because I always enjoy my meals most when I know I don’ t have to do the dishes afterwards.”
Is your family supportive of what you do?
“Yes – though I’m missed when I go away on my weekend writing jaunts.”
Do you find it hard to share your work with others?
“No, I love people to read what I write. Though I like to wait until I’ve completed a full draft of my work before I have anyone review it. Once I’ve done this initial writing, it is exciting for me to see how other people can make it better and take it places I hadn’t imagined.”
What is your opinion on people who post bad reviews?
“Good or bad I consider every thoughtfully written review as a gift. Michy Devon wrote an insightful three star review of my book that shaped a re-write. I acknowledged and thanked her at the end of the novel.”
Are you an independent writer, or are you represented by an agent? How does this work out for you, especially if you have done it both ways?
“I’ve never had agent representation, yet, but have gone down all the publishing routes. Traditional publisher, Indie/small press, and self-publish. There are pros and cons to each. The traditional publisher gives you a wider distribution, but less control over content and revision. The indie publisher has limited distribution and in my case a limited time period for “ownership” of the book rights which then reverted back to me. With self publishing you have some distribution, as well, Create Space and Smashwords channels are starting to rival what the indie publishers offer. But you have to be able to figure out lots of things on your own (or hire someone), e.g., book cover layout and design and formatting the ebook content.”
Tell us a little about yourself as a person. Hobbies? Pets? Family?
“I love all things small and furry. My favorite thing in the world is to take a road trip with my gerbils and then show them off and educate the public. I just supported the World of Pets Expo in MD and did a gerbil agility training exhibit. It was a big hit; one little boy hung out at my booth for hours until I finally had him join me inside and set up jumps for the gerbils. We got one to do 11 obstacles in a row.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into Anastasi’s life. We’ll have an excerpt from the book on March 20 as the next part of Walker Author Tours!