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Interview with Romance Author Donna Fasano aka Donna Clayton- How to write a best seller

Updated on March 2, 2012

Magic Only on Hubpages

Hubpages was amongst the first revenue sharing websites that I began writing for when I wanted to build up my online portfolio as a freelance writer. It has been to date a wonderful experience to be associated with this magical site.

Many interesting stories are associated with my hubs and the reactions that they have drawn, but the most amazing one is what I am chronicling here. As my regular readers are well aware whenever I finish reading a book I tend to write a book review for it on a hub.

Some time back I was reading a lot of light romance novels and decided to do a hub on 5 of the best romance novels on kindle. Imagine my surprise when the author of one of those books not only left a comment on the hub but actually emailed me!!!

Donna Fasano (Donna Clayton)
Donna Fasano (Donna Clayton) | Source

The Author is question was none other than Mills and Boon writer - Donna Clayton (pen name)

Donna Fasano, as is her real name has been writing for a long time. She is also being kind enough to share some of her experiences with us.

You can read her blog post on the experience we shared here.

About the Author

Donna Fasano has been writing romance novels for over 20 years. Harlequin Books published her first book in 1999, and she went on to write 32 novels for the company under the pen name Donna Clayton. In 2010, Donna acquired the publishing rights to eleven of her novels. She's been updating and expanding the books and is publishing them under her real name. Donna's books have won awards and have made best-seller lists. Her books have sold over 3.5 million copies worldwide.

1.Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your family?

I have been married for 34 years and have two children. I see myself as a wife and mother first, and an author second. My family is very important to me. I also have a large extended family, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews. I feel very fortunate to have such a close and loving family.

2.When did you first know you wanted to write?

Most writers know from a very young age that telling stories is in their blood…something they must do. However, I came to writing as a reader. I was an avid reader as an adolescent. My mother died when I was 13 years old and reading was my escape from real-life tragedy.

3.How did you get your first break?

I finished my first manuscript before trying to submit my story to a publisher. I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish a book. I entered my book in an international contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. An editor from Harlequin was the final judge. My book made the top 5 in the category, and although I didn't win the contest, the editor bought and published my book.

Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

Donna's first book was Mountain Laurel.


4.Which was the first novel you published?

Mountain Laurel was the first book I ever wrote. I have since learned that it is rare to have your first book published. I feel very fortunate.

5.Of all your books which one is closest to your heart?

Oh, I just don't think I could choose. My books are like babies…how can an author choose a favorite one? I like different books for different reason. Mountain Laurel is close to my heart because it was the book that started my career. I'm proud of Taking Love in Stride because many of my writer-friends didn't think I would be able to publish that book since it has a sports theme. I especially love The Merry-Go-Round because I see it as 'the underdog'; it is my least best seller, yet I think it's one of my best book. And I could tell you something wonderful about each of my books. You see, each of them holds a special place in my heart.

6.Would you ever consider writing an autobiography?

I might consider it. I haven't written much non-fiction, outside of blog posts and an article here and there. But it might be a fun way to go back over my life and reminisce about my choices.

Specially for aspiring writers

As this site is full of writers a few questions about how you approach the writing process.

1.How do you pick the themes of your books?

I know this might sound strange, but most of the time my books pick me. A good example of this was the time I was taking the elevator down to the first floor in my local JC Penney department store. A young woman and her mother stepped into the elevator with me; the young woman was carrying a wedding gown she had just purchased. She told her mother she didn't thing she could go through with this and the mother was very adamant that she would. That small snippet of conversation sparked an idea that became Return of the Runaway Bride. I never know when or how ideas will come to me.

2.Do you write at a specific time during the day?

Since becoming an independent author, I am responsible for everything: story (writing, editing, grammar, etc), formatting, cover, and marketing. It can be overwhelming. I am still trying to find the right balance of writing time vs. everything else.

3.What do you do if you hit writer’s block?

I view writing as a job. I show up every day…and work. I have found that if I sit in my chair and turn on my PC, the words will come. Eventually. If I hit a particularly difficult spot, I will call a writer friend for some emotional support. When my friends call me to say they're having a rough time, I offer an ear and a firm "Get back to work!" order. Playing the 'what if' game often helps. What if this happens in the story? Or what if that happens? Or what if she says this? Or what if he meets a huge obstacle? I use any means necessary to kick-start my imagination.

4.How long is one of your average books (word count)?

My books are between 50,000-60,000 words.

5.How much time does it take you complete a book?

About 3 months.

6. Any specific advice you would like to give aspiring writers?

Find other writers. No one will understand you like other writers will. I have a close network of friends I can call on for support and advice. I would also tell aspiring writers to read, read, read. Find the authors you love to read and try to figure out why you love their books. Do their characters leap off the page? Do you find their story-lines intriguing? Is it the descriptive detail that grabs you? Learn how to tell a good story from the authors you love to read.

You can follow Donna on Twitter


General Questions

Just a few more questions.

1.As an author who may suffer from piracy, what do you think of SOPA and PIPA?

Although I have had my books pirated a time or two, and have had to take action to combat this horrible crime, I think that SOPA and PIPA would create chilling effects on both speech and creative expression on the internet that would far outweigh the potential protections afforded to authors like me. I oppose both of these bills completely and embrace the internet as a largely positive force for creative expression and sharing of ideas.

2. Which would you consider a better option, getting an agent or self publishing?

I see benefits to both. I have been published by a large, well-known New York City publisher and I have also self-published my work. As a Harlequin author, my only responsibilities were writing a good and entertaining story. Harlequin took care of the packaging and marketing of the book. As a Harlequin author, I earned 2-6% of cover price for my talents and abilities. As a self-published author, I am responsible for everything; however, I earn 35-70% of the cover price for my talents and abilities. So although I sell fewer books as a self-published author, I earn more money.

3.With so much competition in the romance writer’s field is it difficult to establish yourself today?

Luckily, I am able to let readers know that, having worked for Harlequin, I am an established author with a proven track record (via awards and sales). I think that a new romance author starting out without a track record would have a very difficult time establishing a readership. But even though Rome wasn't built in a day, it WAS built. It can be done. And when you build it yourself, you get to build it the way you want. You also get to take all the credit. New authors can't expect to become best-sellers overnight. I have been at this for over 20 years. It takes time to build a fan base. But I will also say that, if you offer readers a good story, they will most often come back for a second book…and a third…and so on. Keep offering your readers the best story you can and they will keep coming back for more.

4.What is your favorite leisure activity or stress buster?

I love spending time with my family. I love laughing with friends. I love walking, and if I can do it out in nature—in the woods, or at the park, or on the beach—I am very happy. I love to cook and I own nearly 100 cookbooks. I love to watch romantic comedies. I love to read anything and everything. I have lots of ways to rest and relax.

5.Do you travel abroad much? And have you ever visited India?

I have been to Great Britain at least half a dozen times. I love London and Harrogate and York. I spent my 30th wedding anniversary in Brussels, and I have been to the south of France twice. I have never been to India, but I would love to visit. The architecture is just beautiful. The Taj Mahal is breathtaking, and I would also like to see Jama Masjid, The Tomb of Akbar The Great, The Great Mosque of Djenné, as well as other beautiful buildings. I would love to visit Chennai and Mahabalipuram, Deli, Bodhgaya (especially), the beautiful palace of Bikaner, Cochin, Jodhpur, Darjeeling, the fort at Jaisalmer. Most of all, I would like to visit the Himalayas. I honestly believe those mountains are holy. So far, I have only had the pleasure of seeing these places on television or reading about them in books and magazines, but I would love to actually visit and see them with my own eyes.

6.Anything specific that you would like to say to the readers of this hub?

I would like to let readers know that I am so grateful to have an audience for my books. I love to write, and I feel so honored when people read my work. I would like to tell writers that, if you have a dream to write a book, you should go for it. Reach for the stars! I did. And I have captured a few. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this interview.


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    • profile image

      Candy Laine 

      4 years ago

      That was an inspiring interview. A lot of new authors are looking to break into the publishing industry today and many take the self publishing route. It may not be easy, but it can be a great deal of fun!

    • cashmere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from India

      Donna it was a real pleasure and privilege to be able to do this interview with you. Also want to let you know that I lived the new ebook, His Wife for a While. Specially the incident where they rescue the bird from the chimney.

    • profile image

      Donna Fasano 

      6 years ago

      Cashmere, thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity. I continue to share your efforts on my Facebook page and on Twitter. You're a wonderful interviewer! Love and Light to you!

    • cashmere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from India

      Thanks Arti, for stopping by. I'm sure that you will do some fantastic writing of your own soon!

    • profile image

      Arti Jai Ganesh 

      6 years ago

      Very nice interview. I feel so happy and motivated after reading this.

    • cashmere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from India

      Thanks so much for reading it :)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I love biographies and hearing the 'story behind the story'. Too many times, even though we've read several books by an author, we'll have no idea who the author is in real life. Dust jackets may or may not reveal much about him/her, so interviews such as this one are real treasures. Thanks! Voted up, useful and awesome! ;D

    • cashmere profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from India

      Thanks everyone for stopping by. It was indeed wonderful to get the interview with Donna.

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 

      6 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      I really enjoyed this well written interview. I have never read Donna Fasano's work, but I fully intend to. Inspiration comes from many sources. The tricks of the trade from those who have conquered it are inspiring me.

    • Robin Cristy profile image

      Robin Cristy 

      6 years ago

      cashmere, Thank you for sharing this interview. Inspiring!

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      cashmere, Congratulations on being recognized by published author, Donna Fasano, and bringing this uniquely riveting interview to hubpages. Your interview and this piece are very interesting and I want to thank you for the opportunity to gain insight from an experienced, successful author. Well done!

    • profile image

      Kristie Leigh Maguire 

      6 years ago

      What a wonderful interview!

    • profile image

      Katheryn Lane 

      6 years ago

      Thank you Donna for the advice and tips! A really interesting interview.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great interview. Thanks, Donna!

    • HattieMattieMae profile image


      6 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

      Nice job! :)

    • Rusticliving profile image

      Elizabeth Rayen 

      6 years ago from California

      This Hub was so interesting to read. What an honor that you had when you received that email from Donna. I bet you were thrilled! Great questions and wonderful responses from Donna causes me to vote this up and shared! Thank you! Lisa:)


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