Monday, January 11, 2010

Meet Dana Donovan, author of the paranormal Detective Marcella series

Every month I feature a fellow author on my blog, and this month it's my great pleasure to introduce Dana Donovan, author of the paranormal Detective Marcella series.
I asked Dana a few questions about his books and writing.

Q: Dana, how long have you been writing, and do all your books fall into the paranormal fiction genre?

A: Thanks, Helena, that’s a good question. My love for writing started early. As an adolescent and more so in my teen years, I liked writing poetry, finding inspiration in the song lyrics of Lennon and McCartney. For the longest time I wanted to be a songwriter myself, but that never happened. Instead, poem writing gave way to a thirst for more full-bodied compositions. Then one day I sat down and began writing what would become the first book in the Detective Marcella series, the Witch’s Ladder. That was ten years ago. Ten books on the supernatural later, including four more in the witch’s series and yeah, I guess you can say that I have established myself as a paranormal mystery writer.

Q: You have some favorable book reviews on the Internet. One in particular is a review on Skinny. The reviewer (Michael Sorensen--Miren Publishing Group) says of the book, "This was just too out there." Do you agree with that?

A: Oh sure, and why not? I don’t see the sense of writing paranormal fiction without pushing the boundaries some. In fact, I don’t believe there should be any boundaries. I know that drama, thrillers and suspense fiction have their place. Many readers like believable scenarios that keep within the realm of real life. I understand that, but then there are a lot of us who prefer to suspend our perception of what is real. With the paranormal, it is easy to do that, and yet still somehow believe that what we are reading could happen under the right circumstances.

Q: Where do you get your ideas for your books?

A: Funny, that’s a question I get a lot. The truth is that I don’t know where these ideas come from. As a kid, my teachers would often remark in my report cards that I was exceptionally curious. I’m still that way now. I think about parallel realms of reality and ask myself what if? Almost anyone who has ever lost someone close to them will tell you that he or she has “felt” the presence of their lost loved one in their hours of grief. So what if a spirit or ghost tries to touch our lives when we are most receptive to them? If I can entertain that possibility then I have no problem supposing that a more psychical relationship between our worlds can exist. From there the rest is easy and the story feeds on itself.

Q: Are you saying you believe in ghosts and the supernatural?

A: I am saying maybe. You know there are some very notable scientists and physicists out there promoting something called String Theory, which in essence allows for the existence of alternate universes to coexist within our own. To them it’s science. To me it sounds decisively paranormal. Who is to say? A few hundred years ago, predicting the weather three days out would get you hanged in Salem.

Q: Tell me about your protagonist in the witch’s series, Tony Marcella. What’s he like?

A: Tony is an enigma of sorts, a guy who loves his work more than anything, or at least he thinks so. The truth is he has regrets, only he doesn’t know where to place them. He is smart, if not sophisticated, sensitive and easy-going. It is his relationship with Lilith, the witch in his life, that exposes the cracks in his otherwise rock solid persona, and a relationship, which has allowed me to exploit the paranormal in a way that readers can relate.

Q: So what now? Will we see book six of the Detective Marcella witch’s series released anytime soon?

A: Yes, I’m sure we will. It might not be the next book released, but it won’t be long. Lately, I have been working on an outline to a sort of quasi Si-Fi. I know it is out of the box for me, but it will have a paranormal twist at the end, I assure you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell you a bit about myself, and as a gift to you and your readers, I would like to offer my book “Skinny” for download in any ebook reader format you choose. The link to it is www.Smashwords.com/books/view/6481 - remember to use the promo code JM98M to check out. For more links to my books check out http://www.danadonovan.com/.

Helena: Thank you, Dana, for such an interesting interview and your generous offer. It's been a pleasure!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

School Heads - a bane or a blessing?

In my twenty years as a secondary school teacher, I've worked under five different Heads, and all of them except one (who left after I'd been at the school for only one term!) have most definitely been a bane. The problems I've encountered with Heads seem to be very widespread, according to what I hear from fellow teachers. Why is this so? What is it that seems to lead, almost inevitably, to Heads behaving like petty dictators, who can't tolerate an ounce of criticism and – at the first sign of such - like a painter with his canvas 'brush out what they don't want to see'. (from my book It's a Teacher's Life!)

What leads to Heads being apparently bereft of moral conscience, treating teachers (and sometimes parents as well) without compassion, destroying their self-esteem, and putting ever-increasing workloads on their shoulders through crisis management and a total inability to plan effectively and organise themselves and their resources efficiently?

In the U.K., the board of governors of each school is responsible for appointing a new Head and from my personal experience, they frequently do a bad job! Perhaps because they believe they know best and won't see behind the facade that a candidate puts up (despite the advice of an experienced, outgoing Head); or perhaps because the majority of governors aren't teachers and have no real idea what teaching is all about; or perhaps they just choose someone to fill the post, whether the person is suitable or not, because they can't face going through the whole process again! It's not unusual for the selection procedure to be repeated because of a lack of good quality candidates.

Even if the appointment of a Head is initially welcomed by staff, when the person actually gets into the job, there can be a rude awakening. It seems almost as though the position corrupts. As a colleague of mine has often said – Heads have too much autonomy, there aren't enough checks and balances, and it goes to their heads. Perhaps, also, there isn't enough training for new Heads to learn about the management demands made on them, and someone who is a wonderful teacher won't necessarily be a good manager, and a good Head definitely needs to be both!

Being a Head is certainly not an easy position to hold. Perhaps certain Heads resort to being bullying despots simply to cover up their inadequacy and feelings of insecurity in the job. All the more reason, therefore, for the selection procedure to ensure the right person is chosen. I think in the U.K. the selection procedure definitely needs to be reformed and the staff in each school should be involved in the process. Prospective candidates need to make a presentation to governors, but why can't they do this to the staff as a whole? When there are school inspections, the whole staff meets the team of inspectors informally over tea. Why can't there be something similar for headship candidates? Why should it all be left up to the governors to decide?

These are just suggestions, but I believe something needs to be done to ensure that the person who is given the job, is someone

“who’ll know what it means
to be a boss;
someone who remembers
what it’s like to be human,
who can manage
resources and people
with realistic sympathy
and organized efficiency,
someone who creates
real, genuine respect —
but who am I kidding?
That’s the stuff of fiction, isn’t it,
not fact?”


(from “The Boss” in my book Family & More)

My hope is that one day this will be much more fact than fiction in the majority of schools.

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Have you had a similar or different experience to mine? Please share!