Sunday, May 10, 2009
Interview with Sharon Donovan
Sharon Donovan lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a certificate from Bradford Business School and a certificate in medical transcription from the
Community College of Allegheny County. She was a legal secretary in the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas where she prepared cases for judges in Domestic Relations.
Due to diabetic retinopathy, she lost her vision several years ago. Painting was her passion. Devastated when she could no longer paint, she took several classes in creative writing and memoir workshops. And through the darkness, a new dream resurrected for a brighter tomorrow. Motivated by new insight, instead of painting pictures on canvas, today Sharon paints her pictures with words.
1. “Today, we have as our guest, author, Sharon Donovan.” Sharon crosses the stage takes a seat and crosses her legs. (The audience goes wild.) “Thank you, audience for your wonderful welcome for this talented author.” (Laurean waves a hand to quieten Sharon’s exuberant fans.)
“Sharon, please tell us about yourself and your latest release titled, Lasting Love.” (Laurean nods.) “Sharon, you have the floor.” Whistles and howls followed by woo-hoos! blast from the first rows as Sharon smiles at the crowd. After the boisterous fans calm down, Sharon winks at her admirers and begins…
Hi Laurean! Thanks for interviewing me today. Great to be here. Well as you know, I write for White Rose Publishing, an imprint of The Wild Rose Press. I enjoy writing stories of hope and inspiration to strengthen faith. Now as far as writing Lasting Love, I nearly missed the deadline.
The Wild Rose Press has a holiday line and I challenged myself to write an Easter story two weeks before that deadline. Having no idea what I was going to base my story on, I thought about all things associated with this holiday. The lily, the rebirth of the earth and the resurrection, and a feeling of hope for a brighter tomorrow. So how did I tie all these things in a neat little package and present it to my editor?
I kept hitting stone walls that refused to budge. I was now down to one week and had not written one word. Just when I was about to give up on the idea, I had a dream about a red rose. It was a simple red rose blooming in a garden and that was it. Shrugging it off, the image kept popping into my head. Curious, I did a search on red roses…and stumbled upon the Lasting Love rose…and the theme for my Easter story.
The LASTING LOVE is an unusual rose that shimmers like a citrine jewel. It’s a brand new hybrid tea rose with old-fashioned vintage appeal. With its unique blend of dusky red and hint of plum sprouting from glossy green foliage, this gorgeous rose looks artificial. But the minute you get within ten feet of this tea rose, its timeless essence wafts through the air. So I prayed for guidance and asked God to send me a clue. And He did. Here is a blurb and excerpt:
When Vermont florist Abbey Jordan’s nursery manager quits a few days before Easter, she is left up the proverbial creek without a paddle. But when she places it in God’s hands, she finds lasting love in a garden of roses.
Brady Jones has a daughter to raise, is out of work, and knows more about cultivating roses than anyone in rural Vermont. And when Abbey hires him as the horticultural manager of her floral shop, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But just on the brink of a budding romance, a fire destroys the nursery and buries all hope of love.
An amicable silence hovered between Abbey and Brady as they walked toward the restaurant hand in hand. They knew they’d just milestone. The quiet was broken by Abbey’s cell phone. Annoyed at the interruption, she sighed and answered. It was one of her employees. “Come quick,Abbey. It’s the nursery. There’s a fire. It’s spreading like wildfire. Things look bad. Get here soon.” ****
When Abbey and Brady reached the nursery, it was a burning inferno. The glass walls had collapsed and it was going up in a snarling hiss of smoke and flames. Firefighters struggled to get the blaze under control. Police and paramedics had arrived and Eye Witness News was on the scene, snapping photos.
“Oh my!” Abbey was out of the car the minute it came to a screeching halt. Her face was as ashen as the thick clouds of smoke billowing up into the night sky. Tripping over the gravel and cinders as she rushed toward the fire chief, she screamed. “What happened? I’m Abigail Jordan and I own this nursery. What happened? When I left, everything was fine. Please tell me nobody was in there!”
“No one was in there,” the fire chief placed a hand on her shoulder. “Things could be a lot worse. Dead plants can be replaced. People can’t.”
Riveted with shock as reality filtered through her, Abbey screamed, “My roses! All my precious roses. All those hanging baskets of lavender. My exotic orchids and Easter lilies. Gone, all gone!”
“It’s all right,” Brady folded her into his arms. “Shh.”
“What started it?” Abbey stared at the fire chief.
“How did it start?”
“It’s being investigated. At this time, the cause is unknown. Could be a gas leak. A neighbor reported hearing an explosion, and in a few minutes, your greenhouse went up like a house of cards.”
In less than an hour, the fire was under control, but all that remained of Abbey’s nursery was a bed of ash. The floral boutique across the covered bridge was unharmed but the rest of the damage caused by the fire was insurmountable.
“Do you have any idea how long it took me to choose and cultivate each of my prize roses?” Abbey finally let the tears roll. Leaning on Brady, she sobbed in between hysterics. “My Lasting Love rose, demolished. And to think I’ll never smell the spicy aroma of my Sentimental rose again. And at prom time, I never had enough of the Falling in Love rose. They all wanted a corsage made of the pink roses, timeless and romantic. And not to forget the Arctic Flame rose, popular for keeping the romance alive. All my hard work, up in smoke.”
“Ms. Jordan,” the fire chief interrupted. “We know the cause of the fire. It was caused by a recently installed heating table. Some of the cable wiring possibly touched each other due to improper installation.”
Abbey shoved Brady away and stared at him, her eyes glinting with anger. “It was you. You said you knew how to install the heating table and I listened to you. You ruined my dream. Get away from me.”
“Abbey,” he tried to reach her. “There’s gotta be some mistake. Let me—”
“There was a mistake all right,” Abbey hissed.
“Hiring you and trusting you with my roses. Get out
of here and never come back. I never want to see you
On Easter morning, Abbey pulled up to her floral shop, her heart heavy with grief. Feeling as if she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, she crossed the bridge to where her garden nursery had been. Even before she got there, the thick scent of smoke lingered, a pungent reminder of what had happened the night before. She wanted the world to stop spinning.
How could Brady have been so careless? How could she
have been stupid enough to trust him? Somewhere deep in her subconscious, she knew she should have had an electrician install the heating table. So why hadn’t she listened? Because she’d been attracted to him and had been well on her way to falling in love with him. She recalled how infatuated she’d been
only yesterday when she watched him touch the roses with such tenderness. And the kiss they’d shared last night. Tears spilled down her face at the memory.
She kicked her foot in the rubble and screamed at the top of her lungs. Sobs ripped through her until she couldn’t breathe. On Easter morning of all mornings, a time of rebirth and resurrection. Hurling herself on the bed of ashes where her
nursery had been, she kicked and screamed, not caring if the world came crashing down on top of her. Hearing footsteps behind her, she looked up and gasped.
An old man with flowing white hair stood over her, his gnarled body stiff and bent. He poked at her with his walking stick. “Get up, girlie,” hecommanded. “Quit feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Who are you?” Abbey stood up and backed away. Other than the birds, there was no one around. She reached for her cell phone, only to remember it was in her purse in the car. Her heart pounded with adrenaline. “Who are you and where
did you come from?”
“I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to help.”
Abbey started across the bridge. She wanted to
get far away from this nut. Who was he?
His words had a jarring effect. She turned around to see him rooting through the rubble with his cane. What was he doing, digging around in her dirt? Was he looking for money? Food? Was he homeless?
He looked at her without expression. “I’ve come
to give you words of wisdom. When you find love,
hold on tight. Then find it in your heart to forgive.
It’s all about forgiveness.”
Curious, Abbey joined him. The sun was peeking through the mountaintops and a shimmer of red caught her eye where the old man was probing with his cane. She got on her hands and knees and joined him, shoving the dirt and cinders aside with reverent fingers.
There it was, the satiny red petals of a Lasting Love rose, buried beneath the rubble. Tears of joy trickled down her face. Preserved beneath the ash and cinders was her favorite flower
in the whole world, her Lasting Love rose. She kept digging, deeper and deeper, and before long, the entire bush and its brilliant red blossoms had resurrected.
2. Sharon, I got so caught up in your story that I almost forgot what I was doing. (Laurean takes a deep breath) Your writing has been described as vivid and beautifully detailed. Lasting Love is a great example of that. To what or whom do you credit your amazing way with words?
“Thank you for the lovely compliment. As you know, before the loss of my vision, my passion was painting. Blending colors into a rich palette of crimson, peach and indigo into a desert sunset filled me with peace and tranquility. When I lost my sight, I was devastated for the obvious reasons, but mostly, because I could no longer paint. But after a long and winding road, a new dream resurrected when I discovered I could paint just as vividly with words.
“I never want to forget the simple beauty of a rose or the exotic beauty of a wildflower. And describing what I used to see and paint in such vivid detail is my way of remembering.
“So to answer your question, I credit my talent to God and to the genes I inherited. My grandmother wrote beautifully and my aunt writes the most amazing poetry. Art of any kind is a gift, whether it be painting, writing or any of the nine muses. And I thank God for this cherished gift.
3. “Thank you.” (Laurean nods toward the audience.) “Don’t we all wish we had those genes? (The applause builds then tapers off.) “Sharon, your messages are deep, riveting, with underlying emotion. Do you think these emotions are triggered by personal life experiences? If so, will you please share one or two with the audience?”
“Yes. When I write stories of inspiration, I want to convey a definite message to the reader—and that message is one of hope. I have a very strong belief in guardian angels and incorporate them into my writing. Well over a decade ago, I was diagnosed with a fatal illness and doctors didn’t expect me to live for more than six months at best. I was scheduled for brain surgery. Shortly before I went into the hospital, I went out and bought an angel charm to wear around my neck. The moment I put it on, I felt heat searing into my body.
“The night before the surgery, a prayer chain was started for me in three states. I felt the presence of my guardian angel as I slept. I can’t explain it other than there was an aura around me of utter peace. The next day, when I was wheeled down to surgery and given the initial sedative, my neurologist unexpectedly cancelled the operation. He said in his professional opinion, I would not have lived through it.
“My doctor opted to treat the brain infection intravenously for one month, six hours a day. But still, my prognosis was uncertain. Never once did I give up or remove my angel charm. It took close to three years to make a full recovery, but that was 1996. I am living proof that angels abound.”
4. “That was an amazing account, Sharon! A miracle, no less. To what or whom do you give credit for your initial desire to put words and feelings to paper?”
“Again, that all stems back to the loss of my vision. I am a very creative person and have to create in order to feel alive. After the loss of my vision, I was totally devastated. Although preparing cases for judges in Family court was my career, painting was my heart. And my heart was broken. With great reluctance, I enrolled in a sixteen-week program for the blind and visually impaired. I was taught how to use a computer with adaptive software that converts text to synthesized speech. Then I went off to my local college to obtain a certificate in medical transcription. And I hated every minute of it. It did nothing to stir my creative muse.
“But through my classes, my life took yet another unexpected turn. I discovered a passion for writing. And hope soared for the first time in a long time. I began taking classes in creative writing and memoir workshops. I took online classes, joined critique groups, attended conferences and just kept writing. Instructors at the college encouraged me to keep at it. When one of my instructors put me in touch with his editor at a local newspaper, I got my first publication.
“But I can’t credit just one instructor or one person. Finding my way to writing was a long and winding road of triumph and defeat. And I’m still walking.”
5. “That's awesome! Now. I understand that you've had huge
obstacles to overcome? Can you fill us in? Have they made you stronger?
“Yes. My life has been a continuous challenge. I’ve been a type 1 diabetic since the age of six. When a doctor at Children’s Hospital predicted I’d be blind by time I was twenty-five, his harsh words changed the entire course of my life. From that day on, fear and paranoia ruled my world, affecting every major decision I made for years to come. And when I had the initial bout with progressive blindness at the age of twenty-one, little did I know my vision would come and go for the following two decades. It became a deadly game of “Now you see it…now you don’t.” It was also a fight for my sanity. And when I finally succumbed to total blindness, my world fell apart.
“There was no hope until I took control and forced myself out of a deep depression by enrolling in Pittsburgh Vision, an organization for the blind and visually impaired. They saved my life. With all the help available to aid the blind and visually impaired, doors have continued to open. But it wasn’t until I took the first step and asked for help did these doors open.
“I knew after the surgery that robbed me of my vision, I had two choices. Stay behind and let life pass me by—or learn how to cope in a sighted world I was once part of. I sucked it in and took control.
“Because so many people are unaware of the help available, I am in the process of writing a narrative non-fiction based on my fears of going blind. I call it Echo of a Raven, showing what happens when the mind is haunted by the subconscious. This memoir is written in three books. The diagnosis and struggles to keep my vision for two solid decades, my sixteen week stay at a rehabilitation program, and the long road to becoming a writer.
“I use shocking anecdotes from my four months at the rehab program. Some of these are: the humiliation of being fitted for a white cane, the sheer terror of being thrust into traffic for the first time with the cane, and the courage it took to talk about my fears in front of strangers during group therapy sessions. Part of the reason I was reluctant to enroll in this program was I thought clients would be uneducated. I was wrong. They were all ordinary people with extraordinary problems…just like me.
“Some were doctors, paramedics, nurses and teachers. Some even had the extra burden of marital problems because a spouse could not deal with the blindness. It was an incredible journey filled with heart-wrenching pain. We bonded in a way words could never express. Through this organization, I found the courage to face a sighted world I was once part of. What didn’t kill me made me stronger.”
6. “An amazing story, my friend. Could your personal challenges be responsible for your unique ability to delve into your
characters' minds and souls? If so, why? How?”
(Sharon shakes her head and laughs.) “You ask tough questions, Laurie! Hmm. I believe it’s true of most authors. If we put a bit of ourselves and our feelings into our characters, they seem more real and come alive on the page. Since we’re talking about Lasting Love, let’s talk a bit about the main character, Abbey Jordan.
“She is unable to have children due to a recent hysterectomy. This breaks her heart and has left a huge void in her life. Writing that scene was very emotional for me. Because of the brittle condition of my diabetes and retinopathy, doctors strongly advised against having children. And in good conscience, I could not pass my diseases on to an innocent child, given the life I had. So for a short while, I got into Abbey’s mind, feeling her pain. When her heart wept, it was my heart weeping. It was a thorn in my side for one more thing for which the answer was no.”
7. “So, did your writing begin as a form of emotional therapy? Or the desire to encourage others to never give up on their dreams?”
“Absolutely. Writing is the best therapy and a whole lot cheaper! I cannot stress this enough. Never give up on a dream. As authors, we are told to not use cliches, but I say if it is a cliché that has significance or sentimental value, use it. And this one has sentimental value for me. “When one door closes…another door opens…”
8. I love that cliché. And I truly believe it. Does "Lasting Love portray a character or incident you can personally relate to in your past? If so, which character, and in what way?
“As I mentioned, I connected with my character, Abbey Jordan on a personal level. We don’t have the answers to the things for which we do not understand. But rather than close ourselves off when we don’t get what we want, it’s up to us to find happiness and fulfillment elsewhere. Unable to have children, Abbey nurtured her roses until she became a step-mother to a child whose mother abandoned her. My maternal instincts were nurtured when my sister asked me to be Godmother to her daughter.
9. “Sharon, this is a thought-provoking question, but from what
we have already witnessed, you are a profound thinker. If you could write your own epitaph, what would you say? Don't mince words. We'll pretend that you have all the space you need”
Laurean, my epitaph would say: Nothing is more tragic than dying without living. This woman lived her life to the fullest, making every day count. Painting was her life. When she lost her vision, a new dream resurrected. Instead of painting her pictures on canvas, Sharon Donovan painted her pictures with words.
“Holy heck, Laurean! I got a little chill there, writing and reading my own epitaph. I start looking over my shoulder for that angel!!”
10. What great legacy to leave behind! Don’t worry, Sharon. God isn’t through with you, by a long shot. Now, before I let you go, please share with your audience any links to blogs and/or websites to purchase your books, And links to your reviews, or other special interviews they would find interesting.
Please come visit my website: to read excerpts and reviews and see trailers. You can also sign up for my newsletter:
And I love to hear from readers at:
White Roses in Bloom Blog:
Lasting Love has been voted readers pick of the month at:
To buy any of my books:
“Thank you for coming, Sharon. You have left us with plenty of "food for thought." And keep writing those beautiful stories of faith, hope, and love. The world needs authors like you who provide encouragement and inspiration.
“Thank you for having me at your blog today, Laurean! It’s been fun and I wish you mega success with your book Journey to Forgiveness!”
Sharon rises to exit the stage. She waves and smiles at her audience. Ear-splitting whistles follow a thunderous applause. Wait! What is this? The audience is jumping to its feet. Sharon Donovan has just received a standing ovation! She takes a bow and blows kisses, then prances backstage. The curtain closes.