Thursday, November 1, 2012


Uplifting stories set in the Great Lakes

How a novelist found her niche
Donna Winters adopted Michigan as her home state in 1971 when she moved from a small town outside of Rochester, New York. She began penning novels in 1982 while working full time for an electronics firm in Grand Rapids.
She resigned from her job in 1984 following a contract offer for her first book. Since then, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Zondervan Publishing House, Guideposts, and Bigwater Publishing have published her novels. Her husband, Fred, a former American History teacher, shares her enthusiasm for history. Together, they visit historical sites, restored villages, museums, and lake ports, purchasing books and reference materials for use in Donna’s research.
Donna has written fifteen historical romances for her Great Lakes Romances® series. Recently, she turned her attention to her hometown on the Erie Canal and produced an historical novel, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal, which released as a paperback in June, and has now been offered in Kindle format for 99 cents at

Summary of Bluebird Brockport Canal (back cover blurb)

Dreams of floating on the Erie Canal have flowed through Lucina Willcox’s mind since childhood. Yet once her family has purchased their boat and begins their journey, they meet with one challenge after another. An encounter with a towpath rattlesnake threatens her brother’s life. A thief attempts to break in and steal precious cargo. Heavy rain causes a breach and drains the canal of water. Lucina comforts herself with thoughts of Ezra Lockwood, her handsome childhood friend, and discovers a longing to be with him that she just can’t ignore. Can she have a future with Ezra and still hold onto her canalling dream?
Ezra Lockwood’s one goal in life is to build and captain his own canal boat, but two years into the construction of his freight hauler, funds run short. With his goal temporarily stalled, and Lucina Willcox back in his life, his priorities begin to change. Can he have both his dreams — his own boat, and Lucina as his bride?

Interview with this author

1. I imagine you’ve created enough characters to populate a small city. I know you travel as a big part of your research for each book. Do you find your characters while visiting settings or do you already have a fictional person in mind when you decide the location of the book?
My fictional characters always grew out of the research for the setting. When I wrote my last trilogy about an iron smelting town, I read lots of archival material on who was actually living there. A census told me about their education level, ethnic background, occupation, and size of household. Newspaper articles covered religious beliefs and social practices. Knowing this information, I developed characters that fit these circumstances.
2. Many of your books are Great Lakes Romances. Does this mean your characters are familiar with life near a large body of water? Or do you bring in some who like the great plains or the hills instead?
Sometimes I import characters from elsewhere, such as in Sweethearts of Sleeping Bear Bay, where I brought a Mississippi River navigator heroine (there were four women licensed to navigate the inland rivers in the late 1800’s) north to take a cruise on a Great Lakes steamer.
3. Which one of your characters is your favorite? Why?
That’s a tough question, kind of like asking a parent to reveal who is his/her favorite child, and if the parent is smart, they won’t divulge the answer. But I’ll tell. My favorite character at any given moment is most often the last character I wrote, in this case, Lucina Willcox. She was unique from others I’d written with her own version of spunk, unworldliness, illiteracy, humor, and farming background, and she just exploded onto the pages of the opening chapter with idioms that defined her era and personality.
4. How do you keep up with new trends in fiction writing? How have you seen your writing talent mature over the years?
I’ve been scrambling to move forward with new writing techniques I learned about since joining ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) in Jan. 2010. In my latest story, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal, I put into practice deep point of view for my hero and heroine. My writing talent has matured through the guidance of good editors and my effort to study new techniques. The ACFW courses have helped also, giving me advice on dialog, description, and humor. Over the years, my setting descriptions have become more detailed and concise, character development has deepened, and plot structure has taken more twists and turns that are unpredictable.
5. What challenges you most about writing a novel now?
Fitting the process into an active retirement lifestyle. My husband retired from teaching in 1999. We spent several years immediately thereafter caring for aging mothers, moving from Lower to Upper Michigan, remodeling our home, and becoming a part of our new community. Additionally, in 2010 we bought a used motor home and have done a good bit of traveling during spring and fall. I accomplish most of my writing during late fall, winter, and early spring.
6. How did you start with your latest book, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal?
I scoured Amazon and ebay for Erie Canal literature, both fiction and nonfiction, and bought over two dozen titles. My husband searched internet sites and printed out dozens of articles. I also purchased a copy of a doctoral dissertation about Brockport’s origins, and a history book by a local professor that was for sale at the village office. I spent lots of time reading these resources before deciding my approach to the story. Then, when spring arrived, we set out on a month-long trip to Erie Canal country and visited museums and towns, taking photos and notes.
7. How many of your books have been best sellers?
None. I’m just learning how to market my work on the internet, this blog article being part of that effort. In the old days, when books were sold primarily from bricks-and-mortar stores, I used a regional distributor who placed my titles in the Great Lakes region. My titles sold well from book stores and gift shops in tourist areas throughout Michigan. Those days are gone and online marketing is now my challenge.
8. How do you market? What has been the most effective method?
I’m still working at discovering the best method. If I get it figured out, I’ll let you know!
9. What haven’t you written that you feel compelled to do?
“Compelled” would be too strong a word for any plans I might have. Writing for older women, young adults, and the devotional market are all on the list of possibilities. My current work-in-progress, which I plan to focus on throughout the winter, is a story about an older woman who wants to prevent a local state park from closing. The working title is Saving Mossy Point, and it takes place in a fictional Upper Peninsula (of Michigan) location. I’ve done a considerable amount of character development and outlining and look forward to actually writing the story.
10. Anything else you’d like to tell us?
Thank you, Ada, for giving me a chance to meet your readers and tell them about Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal.
Readers can connect with me at the following links: wholesome fiction for readers 12 and up
Facebook Profile: Donna Winters
Facebook Book Page: Great Lakes Romances

1 comment:

  1. Ada, thanks for inviting me to Ink From An Earthen Vessel! Blessings! Donna Winters