About R.E. Donald:
R.E. Donald is the author of the Hunter Rayne Highway Mysteries series. Ruth worked in the transportation industry in various capacities for 25 years and draws on her experience in creating the realistic characters and situations in her novels.
Ruth attended the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., where she studied languages and creative writing to obtain a Bachelor of Arts degree.
She currently lives on a ranch in the South Cariboo region of B.C., where she and her partner, Gilbert Roy, enjoy their Canadian Horses (Le Cheval Canadien) and other animals.
What inspires you to write?
I write mainly because I love to read. I love reading a good whodunit with characters that seem like real people to me, living lives not so different from people I know. I like to think that what I’m reading about could really happen, so that’s the kind of story I try to write.
Tell us about your writing process.
I start with a sketchy idea of who did what to whom and why. Then I start to flesh out my characters, and the characters give me a better idea of the plot. Because my novels take place in different locations and involve characters with different backgrounds, I do a lot of research to get the locations and characters as realistic as possible. I start writing the first chapter once I have some basic ideas, but the characters and plot continue to take shape as I write.
As the story evolves, my insights into the characters might change and the plot might continue to change along with the characters. It’s not unusual for me to get a new idea in chapter five that makes me go back and make changes to a plot or character description in chapter two. This can happen over and over again from the first chapter right up to the last chapter, so it’s almost as if the story begins to take shape like a clay sculpture might evolve, starting with a shape that gets added to and subtracted from and added to again until it takes on its final form.
Each novel takes many months or sometimes more than a year to complete. (The most recent one, Sundown on Top of the World, took me two years to finish.) I don’t write a first draft from start to finish, then go back and revise. I am continually revising earlier scenes as I write each chapter, so that when I finally write “The End” the novel is close to its final version. I then read the novel through several times, rewriting parts of it, tweaking a scene or bit of dialogue as I am reading through to the end.
For the first four novels, I’ve created the manuscript in a single Word file. For the fifth novel, which I’m just starting to write, I’m trying to use Scrivener because from what I know about it, it should make the writing process a little easier. It promises to make the character sketches, preliminary notes, and all the prior research as well as the research I do as I go along, easier to access as I write.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to my characters, per se, but I watch them interact with each other and learn more about them as the story develops. I let them change, and let my perception of them change, as the plot unfolds. They come to be real people to me, and I hope that my readers feel the same way.
What advice would you give other writers?
If you want to turn out a good novel, don’t rush it. Writing is hard work. If writing a book seems easy, the book is probably not as good as it has the potential to be.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I wrote my first two novels with every intention of finding a traditional publisher. I came quite close to landing a New York agent who had represented some very successful mystery writers, but I lost patience with the whole querying process. On a whim, I purchased a Kindle in 2011 and that made me realize that writers were now in a position to publish their own novels, so I decided to turn my first two novels into e-books to see how readers would respond to them. The response was so positive that I finished writing my third novel, and as time went by, I began to realize the advantages of having my own publishing company to produce books.
I’ve had friends who landed publishing contracts and after two or three books, were dropped by their publishers before the third book was even published because their first one or two books weren’t selling well enough to make the cut. Their only option at that point was to change their pen name and go through the whole querying process over again with a brand new series. That proves even harder than getting a first publisher interested.
With my own independent publishing company, I’m my own boss. I don’t have to worry about cancelled contracts, I don’t have to work under the stress of a deadline imposed by someone else, I don’t have to make manuscript changes that I don’t agree with to satisfy an editor who may not have the same vision of my series as I do. I get to write what I want, set my own pace, and approve my own covers. I also get to keep up to 70% of the cover price of my e-books, and everything above the printing and distribution costs of my trade paperback editions, as well as set my own terms. I like the concept of print-on-demand publishing because it’s better for the environment than printing thousands of books only to have a large portion of them remaindered and destroyed.
Being an independent author/publisher isn’t for everyone. I happen to have a marketing background, plus I have the advantage of good computer skills so I can do the formatting for both the digital and print editions of my novels. I like that kind of work. I’m also at a stage in my life when I don’t have the financial needs that someone in their prime earning years might have so I can afford to build my readership over a period of years. For some writers, traditional publishing is still the way to go.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I like to think books will always be important to people, fiction included. Sometimes you just need to be alone with your imagination, and books give you the opportunity to do so. Whether you’re on a crowded commuter train, in an easy chair with your favorite beverage on a rainy day, or winding down from a busy workday at bedtime, you get a chance to escape from your worries in a story. The writer provides a framework of words, and your imagination fleshes out the characters and provides color and dimensions to their surroundings. Whether it’s a digital or a paper book, the experience is much the same.
What do you use?: Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Mystery, traditional mysteries with a North American setting
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print