Elizabeth Chats With…Eileen Joyce Donovan
Last month, I talked about the internationally based networking and support group I’m part of, although I didn’t mention its name. We call ourselves Authors in a Pickle and over the next few months, I’m going to be sharing this platform with my fellow members of the Pickle Jar. Today’s guest is an author whose debut historical novel, Promises, won the Marie M Irvine Award for Literary Excellence. She is also the author of short stories and essays for numerous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Soul. She has taught college writing classes in Arizona, North Carolina, and New Jersey, and currently lives in Manhattan, New York. Her second novel, A Lady Newspaperman’s Dilemma, will be published by Woodhall Press later this year.
Hello Eileen and welcome to my blog. We’re going to start by taking you back to childhood. What is your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?
This might not be my earliest memory, but it’s one that immediately comes to mind. When I was five years old, and in kindergarten, my class went to a tiny little park not far from the school (Actually, most people wouldn’t even call it a park, but living in New York City, any place with some green space was a park to me.) It was the first time I saw pussy willows and I’ve been in love with them ever since.
What was your favourite subject at school — and which was the lesson you always wanted to avoid?
My favorite subject in elementary school was reading, although since my sister was three years older, I had usually read all the stories in the reading books already. I soon learned how to mark which paragraph would be mine to read (round robin reading was the norm), and carefully tuck a novel into the reader so I could continue reading whatever story I liked. I always hated math, although I was good at it. In high school I loved biology and chemistry, but hated physics. And, of course, in college, English literature was my favorite.
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “not a lot of people know…”?
Not a lot of people know that I used to go target and trap shooting with my late husband every Sunday when I lived in Arizona.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
I would have to say my favorite place is the Teton Mountain Range in Wyoming. The first time I saw those mountains, I fell in love. Of course, there are many places I adore, but those mountains captivated me and still do.
How do you relax?
With a cup of tea and a good book. I can get lost for hours in a story.
If you could change one thing about yourself or your life so far, what would it be?
I wish I had started writing sooner. It took a few forceful nudges from my late husband to get me to sit down and write seriously.
Watch a film, go to the theatre, read a book or talk to friends — which would you prefer?
Oh, tough choice. I love the theatre and always tried to go once a month, but Covid has prevented me from doing that now. And I love reading books, naturally. But I also enjoy talking with friends. Can I combine all of them? That would be an ideal day.
If you could take part in one television programme, which one would it be?
It would have to be one of the Masterpiece Theatre shows on PBS. But don’t make me choose. Something like Downton Abbey, All Creatures Great and Small, Around the World in 80 Days, Call the Midwife, and on and on. Or it could be Escape to the Country where I could view, and maybe buy, a lovely little cottage in a market town in England.
Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?
I’d have to say a mixture of both. I love analyzing/solving puzzles and brain teaser, but I also love being creative and dreaming up people and their lives, then writing about them.
And finally, an obvious question to ask a writer: how do you get your ideas for a story?
I’m terribly curious and when I see an article in a magazine, a reference in a book, or a mention on the Internet, or on TV, about something in history that interests me, I immediately start looking it up to find out all I can about the person or incident. (Obviously, I write historical fiction.) I’ve even gone so far as to start buying any books I can find on that historical person or event. If it’s something I can research on the web, I print out every article I can find, them file them in my “Story Ideas” folder in my file cabinet. I know I could file them on my computer, but I like having them printed out. Right now, my folder is about four inches thick with possible future stories, so I’m set for a while.
Thank you, Eileen, for dropping by today. Readers, you can find out more about Eileen and her writing by visiting her website.