Fasano finds success as a romance novelist
Jan 08, 2015 05:30PM
● By Kerigan Butt
Courtesy photo “Elkton holds so many precious memories for me,” Fasano said. “It was a perfect place to grow up.”
By Steven Hoffman
Donna Fasano has childhood memories of precious Saturday mornings spent in the old Elkton Library on Main Street.
“I’m sure the hours I spent roaming those aisles of books, reading all those wonderful adventures, helped to mold the person I have become,” Fasano said.
Today, Fasano is a USA Today-bestselling author of thirty-two books that have sold millions of copies around the world.
Fasano did not grow up dreaming of becoming an author. In fact, for a few years in elementary school, she didn’t even like reading all that much.
“I first became interested in reading in the third grade when my teacher, Margaret Edwards, encouraged me to read,” Fasano recalled. “I am so grateful that she turned out to be more stubborn than I was. She wore me down, and because of her diligence, I came to love reading. It wasn’t until many years later that I was able to turn that love of reading into a love of writing.”
Fasano was married and busy raising two young sons when her husband looked at the romance novels stacked around the room and suggested that she try her hand at writing one.
“At first, I thought he was crazy,” she recalled. “But the more I pondered the notion, the more I started feeling that I just might be able to do it.”
She spent more than a year and a half working on “Mountain Laurel,” her debut novel.
“I wasn’t certain I could even finish a full novel,” Fasano explained. “I wanted to complete the book just to prove to myself that I could. Then, once the book was finished, I was afraid to send it off to a publisher. I had put so much of my time and effort and heart into it. I would have been crushed if an editor said, ‘no thanks.’”
Instead of submitting the novel directly to a publisher she entered the book into an international contest sponsored by the Romance Writers of America.
“To my surprise,” she said, “the book earned a finalist spot. The judge happened to be a senior editor at Harlequin. She didn’t choose “Mountain Laurel” as the winner of the contest, but she did buy and publish the book.”
Fasano was thrilled at the prospect of having her novel published, but there was still hard work to do. When “Mountain Laurel” sold, it was fifty pages too long to fit the publisher’s editorial guidelines.
“The editor asked me to cut as many pages as I could,” Fasano recalled. “I was able to trim thirty pages without doing too much damage to the story. It was a painful but necessary process. The editor cut the final pages. I quickly learned to write a book that ends up within that 50,000-55,000 word length.”
“Mountain Laurel” was the start of a writing career that has thus far produced thirty-two books, including seventeen that have been published under the name Donna Clayton, which is her literary nom de plume. The other books have been published under her real name.
Fasano explained how she came to write in the romance genre.
“Romance novels were what I read as a young woman,” she said. “Romance heroines are fun and feisty. I love the happily-ever-after endings that the books offer. Above all, romance novels offer an uplifting feeling of hope. I think that’s what always drew me to them.”
Story ideas come to Fasano in a variety of ways. An article in a newspaper or magazine can plant the seed of a story, or she might see something on television that sparks an idea.
“I often overhear bits of conversations between strangers that stir my imagination,” she said. “And then there are those times when characters will just show up in my head and start talking to me—these stories usually turn out to be the most interesting books.”
Fasano said that she names characters and then spends time with them so that she can get to learn something about each character. She never begins writing a novel until she gets to know the characters.
“Then I’ll start playing the ‘what if’ game. ‘What if’ this were to happen in the story, or ‘what if’ that were to happen. I go by my gut feelings on what feels right. The most important thing is telling a compelling tale that will entertain readers. It’s through these ‘what if’ questions that I form the plot of each book.”
Next comes an outline of the story. Fasano calls the outline a road map that will help her get to the destination.
“An outline assures me that I will avoid that awful sagging middle that causes some books, and readers, to suffer. If I have twists and turns all through the story, I know the book will be a success. Every writer follows a different process, but this is the one that works for me.”
It usually takes Fasano three or four months to write a book, but all the hard work is worth it when she sees the finished product.
“There is absolutely nothing quite like walking into a bookstore and seeing your name on the cover of a book on the shelves,” she said. “Writing for harlequin allowed my work to be available to readers all over the world. Harlequin sold millions of copies of my books, and they were translated into nearly two dozen languages. I would never have been able to accomplish this without Harlequin.”
When asked about which of her own books is her favorite, Fasano said that it’s an impossible task to choose just one.
“Asking an author to choose a favorite book is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child,” she said. “I love each and every book I’ve written. Some are more fun, some offer serious life lessons, but all of them are full of romance and hope and that wonderful happily-ever-after.”
Fasano has earned numerous awards during her writing career. She has won the Virginia Romance Writers Association’s HOLT Medallion three times. She won the Best Single Title Award from CataRomance.com and has been a finalist in the Desert Rose Golden Quill Contest and the Golden Heart contest. This year, she won a Best Romance Award in the Readers Choice Awards given by Books and Pals Review Blog.
Two other career highlights came after the publication of her book, “Reclaim My Heart.”
“I was over-the-moon happy when I made the Amazon Kindle Top 10 List, the Barnes & Noble Top 10 List and the iTunes iBook Romance Top 10 List all in the same week. But one of the biggest highlights was in August of this year when “Reclaim My Heart” made the USA Today Bestsellers List,” she explained.
“Reclaim My Heart was recently purchased by Montlake and was re-launched in November.
“I am overwhelmed by the speed at which the publishing industry works these days,” Fasano said. “When I wrote for Harlequin, I would have to wait ten months for a book to be published.”
Now, it can take just a few months from sale to publication.
Technology has also played an important part in allowing Fasano to make connections with readers. She blogs regularly.
“I call my blog “Donna Fasano, In All Directions” because I write about anything and everything that tickles my fancy,” she said. “I offer book news, of course, but I also offer tips for writers and interesting stories for readers. I post recipes—because I have an on-going love affair with food—and useful information for women. Just recently, I wrote a blog post titled “How to Change a Flat Tire in 10 East Steps.” See? I go in all directions.”
Updates on her work can be found on her official website at www.DonnaFasano.com. Anyone who enters his or her email address will receive updates on news and current blog posts. Readers can also follow her on Twitter @DonnaFaz and Facebook at Facebook.com/DonnaFasanoAuthor.
Fasano also said that she really appreciates all the readers who leave positive comments and reviews on websites like Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or Goodreads.com.
“Those wonderful reviews help other readers find and try my books,” she explained. “I always love hearing from readers. I feel extremely blessed to have achieved my dream of being a published author. I am indebted to the people who buy and love my books. Romance readers are fiercely loyal and they read tons of books. I am so thankful for that.”
In the future, Fasano said, she hopes to continue writing love stories.
“I also hope to branch out into mysteries. I’ve always loved reading mysteries, so I’d like to try my hand at writing one. I also have several children’s stories tucked away in a drawer that I’d like to see in the hands of children. And since I love to cook and often offer recipes on my blog, I see a cookbook or two in my future, too.”
Her work-in-progress is a novel titled “Katy Did” that she describes as a combination of “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” and “Step Mom.”
Now that she has achieved the goal of having her books published, she wants to continue to write about hope, love, and happily-ever-afters.
“I hope to continue to write entertaining books for many years to come,” she said, “and I hope readers will continue to enjoy them.”To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donna Fasano’s books are available at Amazon in the Kindle Store and in the book store, at Barnes & Noble stores and online, and eBooks are available through sites like KoboBooks.com and the iTunes iBook Store. Audio books are available at Amazon.com, Audible.com, and in the iTunes store.