Welcome! Thanks for this Q&A. What was one of the most surprising things you learned when writing your books?
I discovered that many of the sayings about writing and creativity are true. For eg – despite how important the destination is with writing, it is about the journey, not so much the destination; you do just need to start as there is magic in that (rough translation of a quote by Goethe); if readers don’t like your story – blame the muse (what the ancient Greek artists used to say if someone didn’t like their work); and while writing is hard, nothing feels better than just having written (Stephen King).
How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formulas?
I love using the milestones of the ‘heroes journey” for plots and utilise a spoken “interviewing process” (I use voice recognition software on my computer to do this) for getting to know my characters.
I need to interview my characters out loud when I’m early in the writing process because when I’m talking there is less opportunity to censor my first thoughts. When I’m typing it’s just so easy to judge ideas before they’ve had a chance to live.
The hardest and most creative part of story writing for me is the bit that comes before plot and character - the bit where you come up with a premise, or hypothesis to test in your story.
The premise needs to keep me interested and motivated to sit and write and make all the sacrifices I’ll have to over the coming year so there is a lot of pressure on finding the right one. It’s also a process that takes as long as it takes.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I grew up in Sydney in the 60’s when there was a lot of major construction going on and as a result, saw a lot of cranes around the place. I thought that were the most magnificent, simple and powerful creations I’d ever seen and at the age of 3, wanted to be a crane driver. I couldn’t imagine anything better than sitting high up in the sky as I picked big things up and put them down again with a big mechanical arm – that is, until I saw The Sound of Music a few years later. After seeing Julie Andrews singing on those mountains in Austria, I wanted to become a nun.
Fortunately, I moved on from both of those career ideas.
What are you passionate about these days?
These days, I’m passionate about finding balance in my life, being mindful and getting to finally, truly be my own best friend.
On a practical level that means not being so quick to say yes to things, getting into ‘being’ more than ‘doing’ and finding the flow. Yummy.
When’s the last time you played that musical instrument?
I have just taken up the violin again after not playing for a few decades.
I am absolutely positively atrocious at playing, but I don’t care. I’m just going for it anyway, bowing away with all my might as I play multiple renditions of “Twinkle twinkle little star” (as the dog howls).
My teacher told me that if I take the approach of a 5 year old on this one, I’ll get to my goal of joining the local orchestra more quickly than if I play like a tentative adult.
Say your publisher has offered to fly you anywhere in the world to do research on an upcoming book, where would you most likely want to go?
One of my favourite books is called “The Continuum Concept”. It’s a non-fiction book about a super model who meets some adventurers and spontaneously runs off with them to Venezuela pretty well because she is bored. She ends up living with a technologically primitive but highly socially evolved tribe in the Amazon. The ‘Continuum Concept” is the book she wrote a book about their highly effective parenting methods that became a best seller.
I’d like my publisher to support me to find this tribe, live with them for a bit so I can see if they have any more wisdom we could gain. I believe we could live together simply and beautifully if we had more of a vision of how it might look.
Entice us. What future projects are you considering?
I’m working on a romantic comedy about a socially active women who is trying to save the world and win the guy at the same time. She’s a wannabe documentary film maker who is in love with the subject of her film – a social activist who is living off the grid in what appears to be an ideal community (a bit of a connection here with my socially evolved Amazonian tribe).
The story is an exploration of the monogamy/polyamory spectrum, how far people will expose themselves for a cause they believe in and the light and dark side of being a hero.
Is there is one passage in your book Love By Numbers that you feel gets to the heart of your book and would encourage people to read it? If so, can you share it?
‘But what if my deepest thoughts and feelings want different things?’
‘If your head and heart can’t agree, then you haven’t found your deepest truth. You have to keep looking for it.’
Maybe, but it was a surprise to me that what I needed was to think and feel more. Thinking and feeling were a full-time job for me already.
‘So how do I stop being infatuation-prone?’
‘Instead of having fantasies, you need to get caught up and hurt and disappointed in a real relationship.’
‘But I keep getting attracted to the wrong people!’
‘You don’t get attracted to the wrong people. You get attracted to people who are just like you. Or at least who have the same level of woundedness, or wholeness, as you have.’
ABOUT THE BOOK
Love by Numbers
by Sara Donovan
Choose an available compatible guy-friend who doesn't turn you off and rewire your brains for a hot and heavy romance.
1. Get emotional while watching a sad movie.
2. Share a major adrenaline rush.
3. Be competent at something cool, but don't make a big deal out of it.
4. Have him provide food from the hunt (a good restaurant will do).
5. Eyegaze until it doesn't feel weird.
6. Fulfil each other's primary fantasies within reason and without judgment.
7. Sleep together like stacked spoons.
Repeat the above until love and lust click in. Then send your love brain chemicals into overdrive by not seeing each other. That's when things really get cooking.
‘Nip it in the bud and run like hell,’ he read from my notepad after I’d had a rant about my suspected limerence problem. ‘Hard to nip something in the bud when it’s already a forty-metre gum tree.’
‘It’s not a forty-metre gum tree. It’s slightly less than that. And anyway, what about you and Holly? You’re almost as bad as me.’
Holly was my high school classmate, flatmate of two years and soccer team-mate. She was our team’s starting striker and I was sweeper, which pretty well sums up our relationship, despite it being the off season. I was sure Nathan was somewhere on the limerence spectrum when it came to Holly — which was probably the real reason why he’d suggested going back to my place when we were on the phone.
‘Well despite the Ryan-labelled box of condoms in your ensuite cupboard which is a bit obsessive,’ (not fair of him to bring this up. I was half drunk watching The Secret and visualising my goals at the time), ‘I think you’re taking this OCD thing too seriously. If we’re obsessive, then half the people in this bar are as well.’
‘Really?’ I had a quick look around. ‘They don’t look obsessive to me.’
‘No one does from this distance.’
I sighed and looked out the window.
‘So, how would you get over Brian?’ Nathan asked gently.
‘Well, according to the experts,’ I said, putting down my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and taking the textbook I’d borrowed from the uni library out of my bag, ‘all I have to do is have an intimate relationship with him so I can find his flaws and kick him off the pedestal.’
‘That could be problematic,’ Nathan said. ‘What are your other options?’
‘No contact or total rejection, which isn’t so easy to get unless you try to get it, so the book says.’ I threw the book back in my handbag.
‘I’d go for no contact,’ Nathan said.
‘I can’t. We work for the same company.’
‘That only leaves rejection.’ Nathan’s eyebrows knit together. ‘You’re not going to try to get Brian to reject you, are you?’
‘Of course not! I just have to find a way to stop thinking about him.’
Only I was thinking about him again already.
‘So your only real option is to make a list of his fatal flaws and kick him off the pedestal without being his girlfriend. You have put him on a pedestal, you know.’
I gave Nathan a resigned smile, then tried to list Ryan’s shortcomings in my head. Within seconds, I was back at the wine bar with him, having our third imaginary drink.
‘Tell me your deepest, darkest faults,’ I said as I leant towards him.
‘Only if you tell me yours first’, Ryan replied, making me laugh.
What was I doing? How could I be having another Ryan fantasy already?
‘So you have to do an assignment, right?’ Nathan said, picking up the handout that was in my notepad.
‘So you do it on curing love addiction and write twenty pages on Brian’s flaws.’
‘Or maybe you’ll get a lucky break and he’ll be retrenched tomorrow.’
The thought of never seeing Ryan again suddenly sent a chill down my spine, despite it being the one sure way I could get over him.
‘Odyssey won’t retrench him. He makes them too much money,’ I said. ‘But if I survive the restructure, I’ll use my obsessiveness to get over him, not into him. I have to. Otherwise it won’t just be Gran’s ring I’ll be accidently throwing away — it’ll be another year of my life!
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Sara Donovan is a corporate facilitator and instructional designer who delivers training programs in neuroscience and communication skills. She draws inspiration for her writing from psychology, science and her accidental romcom life.
Sara will be awarding an eCopy of Love by Numbers to 3 randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour.
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