Donya Lynne is best known for her novels Rise of the Fallen and The Arms of Winter. She has a way of creating worlds where characters pull at the reader’s emotions. No matter what she will write next, the pages will fly!
What got you interested in writing m/m fiction?
I was involved with online roleplay and took on a bisexual character. I found that I enjoyed writing m/m relationships through roleplay and that it allowed me to develop stronger emotional conflict.
How did you begin your career and how did you grow your fan base to be so humongous?
I’ve been studying writing since I was a kid and knew about twelve years ago that I wanted to be a romance novelist. I ended up taking some intense writing courses to learn how to write for both short story and novels, and I read a lot of book on the writing craft, as well. But it wasn’t until I was wrongfully fired from my last job and couldn’t find a new one that I decided it was time to pursue writing as a career. I figured, “It’s now or never.” That was when I discovered roleplaying, as well. While I worked on my writing, I roleplayed and developed quite a large online following. These were readers who loved the characters I built, as well as the storylines I created. Micah actually started out as a roleplay character who became larger than life in my head and demanded his story be told. What resulted was the first book in my All the King’s Men Series, Rise of the Fallen. Micah has bisexual tendencies but ended up mating a female in that book. However, the second book in the AKM Series, Heart of the Warrior, was Sev’s and Ari’s story, and it was all m/m. Heart of the Warrior battles with Rise of the Fallen to be the most popular book in the series, so readers obviously love the m/m action.
You write under a pseudonym. Why?
I write under a pseudonym for a few reasons. As a public persona, I want as few people as possible to have my real name. I know another author who has been stalked ruthlessly by a fan. I don’t want to set myself up for that. I’ve also received threats and seen some pretty hateful/aggressive comments in reviews and online forums. Homosexuality can be a hot button for some people, and I don’t want to expose my real identity to risk perpetrated by anti-gay readers. Also, having a pseudonym allows me to keep my professional life separated from my personal life. When I’m done writing for the day, I’m no longer Donya…although it often feels like I’m Donya 24/7.
What was it like to have your friends dub you “Most Likely to Become a Romance Novelist” in junior high?
At the time, I was flattered and excited for the possibility. Then real life struck and writing took a back seat to earning an income the way my dad had always envisioned me earning an income. My dad was my hero, but he never understood my artistic nature. I didn’t, either, and with no one guiding me to understand that I was an artistic creature, not an academic one, I ended up following an academic path. The plan was that I would become an engineer or a scientist. That was my dad’s plan, which I adopted as my own, much to my chagrin. I worked myself into ulcers and totally stressed myself into burnout by my junior year in high school. After that, I barely cared about math and science. All I wanted to do was write, play music, and draw. Thankfully, I figured myself out and found my way back to writing, even if it did take me a couple of decades to do so.
Who is the LAST person you’d want to discover you write m/m fiction and how do you think they’d respond?
No one. I would have said my dad, but he knows now. I’m one of those people who doesn’t really care what people think about what I do and what I write. After being away from what I love doing for twenty-plus years, now that I’ve found my way back, there’s not a lot that anyone will say that will bother me. I’m doing what I love. Not many can say that. And if someone has a problem with my professional choices, there’s the door. They can walk away any time they like. I no longer tear myself up to fit into what someone else expects me to be, and I disassociate with anyone who expects me to.
What made you decide to explore the idea of vampires and the importance to the bond with their mates in your All the King’s Men series?
Pure enjoyment of romance, conflict, and tension. I love vampires, and I love romance. Boom. It was the perfect fit.
Why do you think so many women love to read m/m?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s that it’s different. Or maybe the idea of seeing two hot men together is exciting. Or maybe it’s just that by its very nature, m/m romance lends itself to tremendous conflict and tension. Let’s face it, homosexuality is pretty controversial in the real world. Controversy feeds conflict. Conflict makes for good story. It could just be that m/m romance just makes for good reading because of the innate conflict involved.
Do you have a “favorite” word you find yourself using too often in writing?
No. I have a list of words to watch out for overusing, such as “look” and “just” and “it,” etc., but none are favorites. I do have a favorite class of words, though: verbs. I love me some good, strong verbs.
What are you currently working on?
Oh my gosh. How much time do we have? LOL. I’ve got WIPs coming out my ears over here. Right now, I’m finishing a contemporary trilogy called Strong Karma. It’s not m/m, but I do have some m/m projects in the works, as well. Sev and Ari’s novella has been started, and I have plans for three more m/m pairings in All the King’s Men. Trevor meets his mate in Trace’s book, and I think fans of my roleplay days will love who he mates. Trevor’s ex-boyfriend, Talon, also has a very special mate on the horizon. And Adam, who we met in Rise of the Fallen, has yet to find his mate. Other than that, I’m working on Trace’s novel, the re-release of my m/m novella, The Arms of Winter, and two contemporary love stories. The Arms of Winter was previously released by Silver, but after they went under, I got my rights back and have decided to rewrite the story my way. I had to fit it into the parameters of what Silver wanted for word count, but I want to make the book longer. I’m reworking some of the plot so I can add about 20,000 words and republish it.
Tell me about your writing process from idea to finished draft? Do you rewrite to death? Do you outline?
My process has evolved from my first book to now, but it still follows a general pattern. The idea can hit me anywhere. A lot of times, I see a picture or hear a song, and the idea comes to me that way. Once the basic idea is written down, I then begin fleshing out the characters and the conflicts. Without conflict, there is no story. Without conflict, you also have no goals or motivation. Then I begin writing. I used to be more of a pantser, but now I create a “living outline” and use that as my guide. Sometimes, my outline works. Sometimes I find myself deviating and going off in another direction as I write. I don’t let it stress me. My characters know their stories better than I do, so I let them lead.
Once the first draft is finished, I send it to my beta readers and let it rest while I work on something else. After a month or two (or sometimes longer), I go through all the beta feedback, which can be pretty harsh (and I love harsh beta feedback, because it makes me think and helps me create a stronger story) and begin reworking the manuscript. With my current novel, I’m on the third draft. With Good Karma, which I just released, I rewrote the entire manuscript three times.
I call my first draft “the bones.” The first draft is only the skeleton. Sometimes, the bones are broken and need to be fixed in edits. The editing phase is also where muscle, skin, and hair are added. Without the rewriting and editing phases, there’s no body to go with the bones.
Once I’m happy with the final draft, I begin editing. I put a novel through at least five editing phases. The first is where I tackle whole chapters, deleting or adding entire pages. The second hits at more of a paragraph level. The third progresses to sentence level. The fourth and fifth hit phrasing and words. That’s when my editor gets the story. After she edits it, I edit it once or twice more than proofread it.
By the time one of my books is published, I’ve read it at least 10-20 times. And if, after reading it ten times, I still enjoy it, I know readers will, too.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel?
It depends on the length and complexity, and whether or not the story is talking to me or if I have to goad it. From conception to publish, Rise of the Fallen took me about six months. Heart of the Warrior took about three, but it was a LOUD talker. That book practically wrote itself. My latest, Good Karma, took two years. Back in March, I wrote the first draft of a future novel in two weeks. I’ll be starting edits on that one soon. It took about three weeks to write the first draft for Coming Back to You, which is my next book, and the editing phase has already started. I think this one will take a total of four months start to finish. So, as you can see, I have no set amount of time.
Your upcoming novel Good Karma is due to be released before the summer is over. Do you think your fans of All the King’s Men will enjoy this new series?
I think so. The Strong Karma Trilogy is contemporary as opposed to paranormal, but it’s still my voice and style. It’s still a hot, hot, hot story. And early feedback from beta readers and critique partners is positive. I’ve got diehard AKM fans who read Good Karma and said, “Trace who?” LOL. I guess that means that Good Karma is good enough to appease the readers waiting for Trace’s book…and EVERYONE seems to be waiting on Trace’s book.
What advice do you have for those thinking about writing gay romance and what advice do you have for those who are trying to build an audience from scratch?
If you want to write gay romance, do your research. There are things readers of gay romance will knock you for, such as not using generous amounts of lube and condoms (I’ve seen this knocking happen in book reviews written by well-read readers of the genre, and it can get ugly). Readers of gay romance also aren’t fans of insta-love, just like readers of m/f romance. Remember, it’s still romance, just between two men instead of a man and a woman. Follow the rules of romance.
To build an audience from scratch, be patient. Write a lot of books at once. Here’s the tip one highly successful self-published author gives: Write 4-5 books before you publish the first one. Write them, edit them, and make sure they’re the best they can be (see my editing process from a previous question). Then publish one every 2-4 weeks. After five months, you’ll have a nice body of work started, and readers who liked the first won’t have to wait long for the second, or the third, or the fourth. This will give you name recognition. Once you have about five books out, run a free or $.99 promotion on the first. Buy a Bookbub ad, a BookGorilla ad, or use Author Marketing Club’s advertising resources. Trust me on this. Running a freebie on Rise of the Fallen was what allowed me to officially retire from a nine-to-five job to being a full-time writer, because sales of all my other books skyrocketed, and I found a ton of new readers.