Interview: Deb Donahue

Please welcome Deb Donahue, author of Chasing Nightmares.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

It starts out with me waking up not sleepy, which means it starts the night before by getting a full night’s rest! My beautiful small dog Sophie likes to lay her head on my tummy when she can tell I’m stirring and nuzzles my hand with her nose. She is so soft and silky I love running my fingers through her fur. When I ask her if I should get up, she gets all excited andchasingnightmares starts to nibble my fingers to encourage me to sit up and put my glasses on. Next comes a strong cup of coffee using my espresso maker, with a healthy dollop of Cinnabon-flavored coffee creamer while I watch Good Morning America. After breakfast the best work day is when the sun is shining bright through my office window, brightening my spirits. On a perfect day, I finish work feeling happy and satisfied with what I have written and eager to get back to work the next morning. My best evenings are the lazy ones, where I can sit in the recliner with Sophie in my lap and a cup of tea on the end table while I watch one of my favorite television shows.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Pasta with meat sauce is my weakness. My father was half Italian and I can remember the wonderful smells in his grandmother’s kitchen when I was really little. I make a wonderful meat sauce using Italian sausage and hamburger and add a little red wine at the end like she used to. I could eat this every meal for a week and not get tired of it!

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Gordon Rogers, the drama teacher and later principal at my high school. After I graduated, I went to talk to him about my dream to be a writer and his encouragement is probably the only reason I was brave enough to reach for the stars.

Madeleine L’Engle, who was so adept at creating worlds and characters that I wanted to emulate her, even though I don’t write or even usually even read, the same genre as her Wrinkle in Time books.

Edward Stratemeyer, although I didn’t realize this until very recently. I found out he is the founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate which came up with the idea for The Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew mysteries. Those books, particularly the first two series, filled my childhood with a sense of wonder and excitement and began my love of mysteries.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Usually not. If I am deep in my head creating words, catchy lyrics take me out of the zone. I prefer music with no lyrics or a song I know so well I don’t really “listen” to it anymore.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
A Hershey’s bar with almonds. Because it’s sweet and smooth but with “bumps” you can chew on a while.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
When I went on a vacation a while ago to Colorado, I was struck by how many old mine shafts dotted the mountains. I thought what a great place to hide some bodies!

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I have a tendency to write females as the heroine, more often saving the hero, rather than the other way around. Also, I think we all have shadows in our selves—insecurities, fears, etc.—and I like to write about facing those dark bits and finding ways to deal with them, rather than pretend they don’t exist.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?Anne’s abandonment as a child and having to be raised in foster homes has led to a lack of self-confidence, but it also gave her an understanding of how much it would mean to have someone in your life who does take care of you and love you unconditionally. Since she never had that, she goes out of her way to try to be that to people she cares about.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
1) The daughter in the movie Mommy Dearest. Although most of Anne’s terrors are internal–her phobic fear of the dark–Charles is just as crazy as the mother in that story. 2) Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time because Anne has the same determination and propensity to love, and 3) Oliver Twist because she is an orphan who has to deal as best she can with misfortune after misfortune as she searches for happiness.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Madeleine L’Engle, Dorothy Dunnett (marvelous historical novelist but also wrote a mystery series), Lawrence Block, and Sara Paretsky.

What’s next for you?
I am finishing up a cozy mystery titled A Bull by the Horns which I hope will be the first of a series. It’s about a working farm in the Midwest U.S. that has been turned into an art colony. When one of the residents ends up murdered, the rest of the guests are at the top of the suspect list. There are various farm animals who populate the grounds and complicate the plot, and the main character has a farmer husband who is also a part-time deputy in the small town near them.


Deb Donahue knows all about country living in the Midwest.  She spent her early married years tending a huge garden and preserving the contents to keep them through winter.  She and her husband raised and butchered their own beef, pork and chicken which she then prepared using delicious recipes from her Grandmother’s cookbooks. Her first son was born in the heat of summer, when the strawberries were ripe and needed picking.  Her youngest arrived during the worst blizzard in years; during the drive to the hospital her husband had to watch the line of fence posts to make sure they remained on the road. Living in the country was never boring because she had books to keep her company.  Romances and mysteries by authors like Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Dorothy Dunnett.  Is it any wonder that these are the themes she chose to write about when she finally decided to fulfill her childhood passion for writing?

Twitter: @CoffmanCozies


9 thoughts on “Interview: Deb Donahue”

  1. Thanks for dropping by Mysteristas, Deb. Anne sounds like a heroine I’d be interesting in getting to know. I love your farm! We have a nice garden here and we’re thinking of expanding it to the front yard, too. I don’t think the neighbors would be too upset.


  2. Thanks for a great interview, Deb! I would love to come to that dinner party. 🙂 (And oh, how I loved the Wrinkle in Time books.)

    The cover of your book is beautiful. So eerie and still lovely.


  3. Wow, now I am hungry for pasta with red sauce after reading this again. Thank you all for the great welcome. Cynthia, thank you, the photo for the cover was taken by me with my little old cell phone camera. It was an accident that it turned out so lovely and eerie, but then sometimes the best things start out by accident, don’t they? And TL, there is something miraculous, isn’t there, seeing those first shoots spring up through the garden soil? I say to heck with the neighbors–expand to the front yard if you want.


  4. Hi Deb, Sorry for the delay in commenting. Had a little family emergency going on in my world. All better now. I did want to say that I loved your description of mornings with Sophie. What kind of dog is she? I’ve got Basset Hounds with long, soft ears and an English bulldog with orthodontic issues. Love the all. 🙂 Also, this may sound weird, but I loved your author bio. The description of the Midwest was lovely. I live in NW Wisconsin so I’ve done my own share of guided by fence post driving.


    1. It worked! What a cutie. Those eyes! (And yes, everything turned out all right. My mom has diverticulitis and we had a couple ER runs for dehydration. She’s doing better now after a couple IVs and some high-power antibiotics. Thanks for asking!


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