I’ve lived in Sydney, Australia, my whole life, and I love it – despite living out in the suburbs, nowhere near the harbour and spending extended periods in traffic jams just minutes from my driveway.
The beaches, climate, lifestyle and sport are just a few reasons why Sydney’s worth the occasional grid lock.
I’m a business woman, mum and wife as well as a writer. I feel like I’ve been doing a juggling act and been a bit of a workaholic for years. My passion these days is learning to let go of all the ‘doing’, getting into the ‘being’ instead and finding the flow. Yummy.
What was your first book?
Love By Numbers is my first book. It was a long time coming though.
I wanted to be a writer since high school but hated the subjectivity and uncertainty that came with anything creative and ended doing the most objective subject I could pursue at university – science. I always felt I had a book in me, despite avoiding to even try for a few decades. Eventually the pain of not writing became greater than the pain and uncertainty of writing.
Even though it was very difficult to start, once I was 30, 000 words into my first draft, I was hooked on the experience of going deep inside and expressing what wanted to come out. It was totally compelling…
Describe your first break…
My management consultancy led me to read a lot about neuroscience and behaviour, and out of personal interest, I began to also read about the science of the ‘brain in love’.
To my surprise, I discovered that many scientists believed the ‘falling in love’ experience was due to certain circuits and chemicals getting fired in the brain, and that to quite a degree, this process could be influenced by the environment.
A storyline about a borderline obsessive girl who used this knowledge of neuroscience to influence who she fell in love with, began to form in my mind and wouldn’t go away.
I enrolled in a couple of writing courses, asked one of my teachers to become my mentor and started.
I gave up TV, ate enormous amounts of chocolate to stay awake late at night and 15 months and 3 drafts later, I got a book deal with HarperCollins.
What is your favourite genre to read? To write?
I love reading biographies. I love learning from people’s real life experiences. But my favourite genre to write is romantic comedy.
Being in love and lust with someone, then trying to create long term intimacy with them without being engulfed, is so damn tough and funny and compelling in my experience, I can’t leave the topic alone. I guess I write about what I need to learn.
Are Happy Endings a must in your stories?
Yes.. but my idea of a happy ending isn’t necessarily the same as that of all my readers.
What makes a protagonist interesting?
I think for a reader to find a protagonist interesting, they need to resonate with their character and voice, relate to their flaws and find their approach is to solving their problems entertaining.
What is the worst and best thing about writing?
Time is the worst thing. Writing is very time consuming and I am time poor in many ways. I run my own business and have a family, so I can’t just write and do nothing else – as tempting as that would be sometimes.
Ironically, time is also the best thing about writing. When you’re in the creative flow of a story, you’re basically in a trance state, which often creates blissful feelings – especially when the characters take over and you’re just a witness discovering what’s happening as you type. When you’re in that kind of blissful writing trance, you completely lose track of time.
I was recently on a 5 hour flight, deep in a writing trance and was really confused when the air stewardess told me to put away my computer because we were about to land. I thought we’d been in the air about 20 minutes.
Panster or plotter?
I need a plot so I can unleash my panster.
What that means is - I write out the plot longhand, structure the characters and even every scene in detail in longhand, then I sit down to type and let the panster take over and do whatever she likes.
What do you see the direction of your future writing taking? What can we expect next? Give us a little tease?
I’m going to let myself write much crazier first drafts and then let my editors pull my story back in if it’s too out there.
My next project is 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.
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.
Just for fun…
Not sure that this is fun exactly – but it is definitely quirky and usually gets a reaction.
I’ve been in love with two men – not at the same time, but I have had two marriages – to two brothers. YES! I know!! Surprising, maybe even taboo for some (or maybe lots. I’m still surprised by the assumptions and judgments directed at me because of this...)
Anyway, I deeply respect my husband and my ex- and the two male characters in my book aren’t carbon copies of both of them. Both male characters, despite how different they are, are based on my husband. There are many sides to his personality.
Cat or dog person?
My dog goes crazy with happiness every time I let him inside in the morning – and he makes me laugh almost every day. I’m a total dog person.
Almost anything French – ie lots of sauce over everything.
A poetry book – The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Really tough one. Hmmmmm… today it is “Like Water for Chocolate”. A romantic quirky Mexican film.
The one I’m going to have with my kids doing a Gorilla walk in Africa.
Would you rather be the princess or the villain? Why?
Princess (so long as she isn’t the damsel in distress kind) because they get the best clothes and the guy
Who has more fun, orcs or hobbits?
Hobbits for sure. I’m only 5’1” tall, so I should know.
How to Fall in Love with Someone YOU Choose. (Why not, if you have a broken man-picker?)
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.
Half an hour later, Claire helped me carry my boxes to my new floor.
‘I’d lose the breast-enhancers if I were you’ she said when we were alone in the lift. ‘The men in this office are worse gossips than the women. They’ll notice if your boobs are bigger one day to the next, and have a big discussion about it.’
I gave her a confused look.
‘You’re not serious?’
‘I’m deadly serious.’
The lift stopped at the fourth floor, but Claire held down the ‘Close Door’ button. A buzzer went off in protest.
‘I’d do it now if I were you,’ she said.
I put down my box, reached into my bra and fished out one chicken fillet, then the other. My C was instantly a B. I put the fillets in my handbag.
Claire gave me a look of approval, then took her finger off the button. The doors released and we walked straight into the six-foot-four-inch frame of Wade, Ryan’s boss.
‘Wade, this is April, your new L and D consultant,’ Claire said, taking charge.
‘So … April,’ he said, casting a micro-glance at my cleavage before stepping into the lift. ‘Welcome to the jungle.’
Before I could answer, the doors closed and the lift whisked him away.
‘Typical Wade,’ Claire said with disapproval, before putting on a determined look like a pith helmet and slicing her way through the jungle that was the fourth floor. Loud phone conversations, lively debates, shouts across workstations and counter-shouts back filled the space. No one paid any attention to Claire, me and my boxes.
I kept my head down until she suddenly came to a stop near Ryan’s workstation. I had a good look at his things since he wasn’t around. There was a calendar blu-tacked to his bookshelf, pictures of an unknown beach and ski slope, a President’s Club certificate (a junket for only the best salespeople) and a laminated quote stuck to the top of his computer monitor: Victorious warriors win first, then go to war. The words Sun Tzu — The Art of War, were in small writing underneath. Fortunately, there were no happy couple or girlfriend pictures.
‘So what do you think?’ Claire asked.
‘Um. There’s a lot of energy in here for sure,’ I said. ‘It’s pretty noisy, though.’
‘I meant what do you think of this workstation?’ she said putting the box she was holding on a desk a few metres from Ryan’s. It was so close. Too close. Like being in the front row of the cinema.
‘Is that spot also an option?’ I pointed to a workstation further away.
‘Too far away,’ Claire said. ‘It doesn’t send the right message to the team. I want them to know you’re available.’
She glanced at my skirt which seemed to ride up every time she looked in my direction.
I put my box on my new desk, then wriggled my skirt down when she wasn’t looking.
‘By the way, did you know that Toby was working on a team-building afternoon for these guys and the Technical Support team? They need some cohesion.’
‘He never mentioned it.’
‘It’s tomorrow,’ Claire continued. I gave her a surprised look. ‘I know,’ she said. ‘Bad taste. The day after retrenchments and we’re spending money on lunch and a jet boat ride. It was booked a while ago.’
‘Shouldn’t it be jet boat first, then lunch?’ I said.
‘Talk to Wade about it. Call me if you have any problems.’
Claire walked away as my phone buzzed. It was Wade inviting me to a team meeting in half an hour.
I tried to stay calm as I unpacked my things, but it was hard. My eyes kept checking out the lift, waiting for Ryan to appear. I felt like a predator waiting for her prey. Only it was the other way around. I was the prey.
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.