Sunday, April 19, 2009


Donna Russo Morin is a native of Rhode Island and, in addition to writing, editing, and teaching, she dabbles as a model and actor, using yet another imaginary world to help support her real one.
Who is the one person who most encouraged or influenced you to be a writer—and why?

It’s a very cliché story, heard so often by writers who found their path as a child, but it’s very true. My sixth grade teacher was a young woman (I’ve been able to see her youth looking back, though at the time she merely appeared as another ‘adult’ to me). From the moment she first read my silly stories—The Pink Pussy Cat who wanted to be President and the earthworm who didn’t like dirt—she would leave the most encouraging notes on the pages, and those notes encouraged me to write more. On Fridays, she would allow me to read some of the stories out loud to the class. Her words gave me a confidence in my writing. The other students’ enjoyment of my stories taught me the power of my words. I’ve never really looked back since.

In addition to writing fiction, you’ve written a lot of non-fiction. Do you have a preference for one over the other? Which do you find more rewarding—and why?

I’ve always considered my non-fiction writing to be my ‘day job.’ With a degree in Communications, I worked in the PR/Advertising fields for years. Writing non-fiction articles became an extension of that work. Though I took pride in them, I never felt a great challenge in reporting a factual occurrence in a well-written manner. But to create a world of my own, to inhabit that world with people I make come alive…that has always been a thrill beyond anything else I’ve ever done (except, of course, creating real people—my two wonderful sons).

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

When you combine some difficult personal times—the death of a parent after a long illness, a chronic illness of my own—with the inherently demanding nature of this intensely difficult profession, you find many challenges. There is one that stands out particularly however. The day my agent contacted me to tell me that she had sold my first novel: IF I’d be willing to change the ending. It was the best and worst day. To choose between artistic integrity—not to mention an ending I loved—and the start of a career I had dreamed about my entire life was agonizing. I did what I had to do. Now I dream about the day when my reputation will allow me to end a story any way I please.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

THE COURTIER’S SECRET (Kensington) was released a couple of months ago. It is that first novel I just spoke about. In France in 1682, Louis XIV, The Sun King, is at the height of his power; his court dazzles with opulent glory. For many privileged young women, Versailles is a paradise. For others, it is a gilded and bejeweled cage of oppression. Jeanne Yvette Mas Du Bois is unlike most courtiers and the flavor of decadence tastes bitter upon her tongue. Her thirst for knowledge and purpose entices her father’s brutal wrath to fall upon her time and time again. But her Uncle Jules encourages Jeanne’s independence, secretly teaching her the art of the sword in the palace’s labyrinthine basement.

When two of the kings’ Musketeers are beset upon by criminals mere feet from Jeanne’s fencing lessons, she plunges into the fray, saving a Musketeer’s life. With her face concealed behind her dueling mask, Jeanne is mistaken for a man, and she becomes him. As “Jean Luc,” Jeanne is admitted to an inner circle where she learns of an assassination plot against the Queen of France. As Jean Luc, she is permitted to bring her intelligence and swordsmanship to bear. And, as Jean Luc, she is free to love the man of her choosing even if she can never have him. Now, with the Queen in jeopardy and her own double life exposing her to the tangled intrigues at court, Jeanne is in a powerful—yet increasingly perilous—position.

THE COURTIER’S SECRET is available at all major bookstores and many independent ones as well. It’s also on-line at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, and a few other on-line booksellers I had never heard of before (but appreciate their support nonetheless).

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m in the copy edit stage for my second novel, THE SECRET OF THE GLASS, which will be released in early 2010. In the early 17th century, the glassmakers of Murano, Venice, are revered as master artisans, enjoying privileges far beyond their station. But they are forced to live in virtual imprisonment, contained by a greedy government that hordes their talents at all costs. Amidst political and religious intrigue, the scientific furor ignited by Galileo, and even murder, Sophia Fiolario must do anything to protect herself, her family...and the secret of the glass. It’s a story full of complexities that parallel modern day questions, both political and religious, and will be available at all the same venues as THE COURTIER’S SECRET.
And I’m thrilled to tell you that I’m in the research stage for my third book, one where I return to France, in the 16th Century this time. It’s filled with espionage and what I hope will be quirky characters and dynamic subplots in the best of the Dickens tradition.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Respect the craft. The more seriously you take what you are doing, the more seriously you will be taken. For most of us, especially when starting out, writing is the ‘other thing’ that we do. But that should in no way diminish that we are doing it. Not only must you believe in yourself, you must support it. Always strive to improve: take writing classes, read writing books/magazines, attend workshops and conferences. Be prepared to take whatever constructive criticism comes your way, ESPECIALLY from agent/publisher rejections, and learn from it. Give up the ego and do what needs to get done to make the sale. The ego can come when you make the bestseller’s list.

What writer’s organizations claim you as a member?

Some of my early-published short fiction was horror, so at one time I was a member of the Horror Writer’s of America. Now I belong to the Historical Novel Society, the Romance Writers of America, and Rhode Island Romance Writers. Genre is not as important as how much can be learned, and these groups are outstanding.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I have many private book club appearances coming up in the next few weeks that I’m really excited about. I truly enjoy meeting with these groups. The discussions are always so lively and insightful. If anyone in a book club in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, or Connecticut is reading this, I would love the opportunity to meet with your organization.

On Friday, May 1 from 6:30-9:30, I’ll be appearing at Barnes and Noble, 371 Putnam Pike in Smithfield, RI as part of a local author’s night. Beside me (yes, I’m thrilled to pieces) will be best selling authors Annette Blair, Hannah Howell, and Patricia Grasso. I’m currently setting up my ‘summer’ tour, which will include book stores at all the warm weather locales nearby, which include beautiful Newport and Narragansett, Rhode Island. Please check my website for updates.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

I love to hear from my readers. I can’t tell you what a true joy it is to hear from people who have found enjoyment in my work. I have a guestbook set up on my website and some of my biggest smiles are from the comments left there. One of the great differences with writing from other professions is that we, the writers, get that feedback. I t is a journey that we share with others and for that, I am very grateful.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):
I’m also on Facebook and am doing my best to get a MySpace page going.

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