Welcome, today we are talking with Donnette Smith! I would like to thank you for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to answer a few questions. First, let’s delve into who you are. Some of the questions may be untraditional but you’d be surprised at what readers connect to, and sometimes the simplest ‘I can relate to that’ grabs their interest where nothing else can.
Can you share a little something about Donnette Smith that’s not mentioned in your bio on your website? I love to sing. I learned to harmonize in my early twenties. Me and my husband often entertain by singing together. We hosted DJ and karaoke shows for years.
I spend an insane amount of time watching true crime documentaries as well. I am obsessed with true stories about serial killers. Don’t worry, I’m not the next Aileen Wuornos. I just have a fascination with the investigation behind their apprehension. Anything murder mystery, crime investigations, and forensic science is right up my alley. It doesn’t matter how horrific it is.
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? It became obvious in the 4th grade. Our teacher used to have us get up in front of the classroom and read stories we’d written. I spent more time on mine than the average student. And I loved entertaining my peers with them. It wasn’t lost on my teacher, who pulled me aside and told me I was going to be an author someday. He was right.
How long have you been writing? I got into serious novel writing when I was in my early twenties. I remember sitting up when my husband and kids were asleep and writing until one o’clock in the morning. It was before I had a typewriter—before the age of the computer—and I hand wrote everything. I’ll never forget the purchase of my first typewriter. God, I thought I was in heaven.
Then came submitting to agents as green as I was. That was like nails on a blackboard. Let’s just say I had a lot to learn. If feel badly for them now. There’s no telling how many submissions from inexperienced authors like I was then, they had to weed through. If there was a blacklist of writers somewhere in the agent world, I’m sure my name was on it.
Things really turned around for me in my mid-thirties though. There was one agent who took the time to send me her thoughts, and her editing guidelines. That was like gold in my hands. It seriously changed things for me as a writer. For the first time I could see what I had been doing so wrong. I would define that moment as when I truly began to grow as a writer.
What have you found most challenging about it? For me, it’s the lack of patience. It takes time to write a novel from start to finish. Once I start a project, I’m so consumed by it that it’s all I can think about, and it’s all I want to do. But life, commitments, and responsibilities don’t freeze in the face of a new novel. I have had to learn to pace myself, to slow the train, and juggle all the things I need to do, and still write that novel. Yup, I struggle with that even today.
Then, there is also all the distractions. I have a big family, so finding a space to go to where I won’t be disturbed is sometimes impossible. I prefer silence when I write, so you can imagine people coming in and out can be quite disruptive. I have had to train myself to block it out. Trust me, it isn’t easy.
What does writing do for you? Is it fun, cathartic, do you get emotional? It gives me the kind of high I can’t get with doing anything else. When I’m writing I’m truly in my element. I’ve gone years without writing, especially when I was running a full-time business, and I really didn’t have the time to write. But there wasn’t a day that went by I didn’t long to write again. In fact, getting back to creating stories was one of the main drivers behind selling my business. And when I sold it, I promised myself I’d get right back to doing what I loved the most. That was in 2019. And since that time, I’ve published two more books. And I’ve got a third one on the way that is part of the same series.
Describe what your writing routine looks like. Are you disciplined with a strict schedule or do you have to be in the mood? When I start a new book I typically write daily. I usually write for a few hours, stop, and take care of things I need to do around the house, then pick back up again and write for another few hours sporadically throughout the day.
When I sit down to draft a new book, it starts with a full scene-by-scene outline, which will take roughly a week to type up. Then I begin on the manuscript. It always amazes me how the plot will change as I continue writing the book. Once I write scenes, I always read back over them the next few days as I continue writing the story and make editing changes. Once the manuscript is complete, I have an editing guideline I run it through as a final step, read through the manuscript one more time, then it’s off to the publisher.
Did you go into writing thinking that it would be a hobby or a job? To begin with it was a hobby. And it still is, only now I have deadlines attached to that hobby. Writing, to me, is a deep passion that needs constant feeding. It’s almost as if I don’t have a choice but to write and create stories. Something inside me will not let me rest unless I do.
What inspires you? Sometime while I’m watching a movie, an idea for a plot will strike. I think, what if the producer had done things this way, instead of that way. True crime murder mysteries always give me inspiration. I watch so many crime documentaries that it not only gets me up close and personal with the way crimes are solved, but it gives me tons of ideas for future books.
Let’s move on and give readers some insight into your personal life.
What is your favorite:
Animal – I have two chihuahuas and a cat. So, I’d say it’s a close run between dogs and cats.
Food – Macaroni and cheese. What can I say, I’m easy to please.
Movie – This is a difficult one. I watch soooooo many movies. But if I was forced to choose, I’d have to say 50 shades of Grey because Anastasia has a love and patience for Christian unlike anything I’d ever seen. And The Kissing Booth because Noah is such a jock and a hothead, and Elle is so different from him, that it makes it interesting the two of them would connect on such a strong basis as they do. See? It’s not all about crime and murder with me. I’m just as much a hopeless romantic as I am a lover of crime scene investigations.
TV show – I wouldn’t know since I don’t watch them. I’m an instant gratification kind of girl. I want the happy ending today…not twenty episodes later. Besides, with my obsessive personality, I’d be forced to binge watch the entire series all at once while the world falls apart around me. I know myself better than that and I’m not going there.
Singer – With my love of music I’d be here all day naming off my favorite singers. But here’s a few. Vince Gill. I can listen to that man all day. Brad Paisley. Every time I hear his voice, I want to grab my husband and slow dance, and there’s something about his guitar playing that gets me. George Strait. Not only because he’s good, but because he has a career that spans decades. And with him, there is always a memory attached to that song.
Author – John Grisham. I love his ability to wrap the reader completely up in his stories. Dean Koontz. He’s the only author I know that can get you so familiar with the inner thoughts of a serial killer that you feel like you know the lunatic.
What are your pet peeves? I know it sounds cliché but leaving the toilet seat up for God’s sake. I am surrounded by males 24-7. I’m the only female in my house. What is it going to take for me to train them to drop the seat when they’re finished with their business? That, and the fact that everything has an official place it’s supposed to be in. In my house those things are never in those places. With the crew I live with, it wouldn’t surprise me if I found the saltshaker in the freezer. I think I did once.
Who is your hero? My husband, hands down. I am loved so unconditionally by that man. We were teenage sweethearts and have been together since 1986. He’s always got my back. No one can brighten my spirits like he can when I’m feeling beaten down and discouraged.
Give us one thing on your bucket list. To sing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee. What it would feel like to be on that stage. I couldn’t even imagine. That has always been a childhood dream of mine.
What would readers find surprising about you? I would love to get into race car driving. I think I’d be good at it.
If you could go to heaven, who would you visit? My father. He passed away in October two years ago. I miss him so much. My father was a really good singer, and he loved karaoke a great deal. It’s still difficult for me to sing karaoke because it reminds me so much of him. Every time I hear a song he used to sing, it stops me dead in my tracks.
Any bad habits? Chocolate. I am a junk food junkie. I have been all my life, only now, in my older years, it isn’t so kind to my thighs.
Now that our readers know who Donnette Smith is let’s get down to the business of your book, Killing Dreams, book 1 of your Spirit Walker Series.
Please tell us a little bit about, Killing Dreams. Our protagonist, Jenna Langley is having out-of-body experiences again. The last time she had them was when she was a teenager. Now she’s all grown up and headed back to Texas for a business venture after being gone for ten years. She’s also haunted by clairvoyant visions of women being strangled to death before it happens. Feeling beholden to help these poor women, she has no choice but to turn to the police. But her high school sweetheart, Cole Rainwater is the lead homicide detective. And he’s not happy to see her after the way she tore out of town with no word of warning and abandoned him.
As the two of them fight this emotional battle over past scars, and more women become victim to a psychopathic killer, Jenna must come to terms with a shocking secret she’s kept hidden from Cole all these years. Is helping him catch a madman worth risking him finding out the truth?
What was your hardest challenge writing this book? This was the first book of the Spirit Walker Series, which at the time, wasn’t meant to be a series at all. It had been many years since I’d written a novel, and honestly, I was a little rusty. I kept sending a chapter at a time to my mother, who is the most avid reader on the planet, along with another beta reader. My mother, the pickiest person I know, was not happy with what I was sending her. But I knew she had an eye for this, and I knew if I couldn’t make her happy, my chances of making a publisher happy were slim.
It took several drafts of the first few chapters to earn her approval. I remember it got to a point that I became so frustrated, I wanted to put her picture on a dartboard and throw darts at it. Don’t tell her I said that. But the day finally came when she called me up and said, “I loved it! Now, you’re writing, my daughter.” Suddenly, I was back in the grove again, and on the biggest role of my life. I finished Killing Dreams in a matter of a couple months.
What kind of research did you have to do? Most of the research I did, had to do with police procedural. But all my writing involves detectives and solving mysteries. I’ve learned a lot from watching so many documentaries of police investigations over a span of many years.
What in your opinion makes good chemistry between your leading characters? Jenna Langley, and Cole Rainwater were high school sweethearts, and before Jenna was forced to leave so suddenly, they were madly in love. They had that powerful connection from ten years ago. Neither one of them were ever able to move on from each other.
How many books are in the Spirit Walker Series? So far…three. Book 1, Killing Dreams made its debut September of last year. Book 2, Buried Alive became available March of this year, and I am presently working on book 3, The Stolen. I am seriously debating on book 4, but I just can’t make up my mind if I should go far it, or close the book on the Spirit Walker Series, and start another series with a new adventure and new characters.
So…I’ve decided to hand that decision off to my fans. I am asking them what they think I should do. Should we have more adventures with Jenna and Cole, or is it time for a new series of stories involving brand new characters? For anyone familiar with the Spirit Walker Series, if you’d like to tell me your opinion of what you think would be the right path, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know why you came to your conclusion. I will gather everyone’s opinions and make a choice based off what my fans think.
Any other works in progress? Book 3 of the Spirit Walker Series, The Stolen. This time our tenacious, little psychic, Jenna Langley is kidnapped by an organization of human traffickers. Because of what happened to her in book 2, Buried Alive, her clairvoyant abilities have now altered, so that she can see people who have died but have not moved on. She is continuously haunted by a dead girl who just so happens to be a previous victim of the human traffickers who have kidnapped Jenna. She discovers that her only means of survival is to rely on the guidance of this dead girl.
Having Jenna caught up in a human trafficking ring was also my way of bringing this horrible criminal network to light. Most people don’t realize that human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the Untied States, second only to drug trafficking. That’s astonishing when you think about it. There are an estimated 27 million victims of trafficking. 50% are children, and 80% are women and girls. That is a horrible statistic. And I feel as if there isn’t enough awareness of this horrific crime.
Any advice for aspiring authors? Every writer knows how tough it is out there. And every path to success is unique and different. If I could go back twenty-some years and write myself a note, I’d tell myself to accept constructive criticism…to be more accepting of others perception of my writing. I’d write more for an audience and less for myself. And I would’ve understood writing stories isn’t about me, it’s about the reader. I would have used a lot less adjectives, and more action words. I would have paid more attention to the phrase ‘show don’t tell’. And I would have listened to those who knew more than me.
Who knows why us writers are as stubborn as we are. We’ll tell you we are open to criticism of our work, but deep in our hearts, we aren’t. And until the day comes when we truly are, we can’t grow as writers and become a master of our craft. A good writer never stops learning.
Final words? I am ecstatic to write stories and entertain people. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do in life. And I love involving my readers in my writing by running interesting contests, like having my audience pick the name of my next character, and what I’m doing now…leaving it up to my fans whether I continue the Spirit Walker Series or start a new adventure.