places and currently resides in Butler, Pennsylvania. At times she feels like a
ping pong ball—bouncing from coast to coast and back again. Her grandchildren
bring her the greatest joy. She has always been involved in writing, from
journals to plays for Cub Scouts, to short stories for her children and as a
reporter for a small newspaper. Donna has won awards for her writing
and has also taught in writing workshops and retreats. She is the co-founder of
the annual OHPA Writer’s Retreat in Western Pennsylvania. Her novels
include A Strand of Doubt and CodeName Scorpion.
Interview with Donna Gustainis Fuller
- Name / Pen name & little about yourself:
My name is Donna Gustainis Fuller. It’s also my pen name. Gustainis is my maiden name, it’s Lithuanian. If you were to google Donna Fuller, there are 18 pages of results. I don’t think I’m any of them. I am not a jazz singer, I didn’t write Happy Work, Happy Life, and, fortunately, I am not dead . 🙂 In other words, there are many Donna Fuller’s in the world. But, if you google Donna Gustainis Fuller, just like Tigger, I’m the only one!
I met my husband on a blind date and we were engaged a month and six days later. In July, we’ll have been married for 38 years and he’s why I believe in happily ever afters (with all the plot twists, and ups and downs that accompany life). I have always been a stay-at-home mom, now I’m a stay-at-home writer. I have five kids, four bonus kids and five grandkids. My family is my greatest joy. I am currently working on the last couple of classes to finish at BYU what I started five kids and five grandkids ago. I’ve lived all over the country and sometimes feel like a ping-pong ball. I was born in Illinois and lived in Wisconsin, Texas, Utah, Arizona, California, New Hampshire, Oregon and currently live in Butler, Pennsylvania. I love to cook and make killer bread (as a romantic suspense writer, you can take that statement more than one way!)
I am also a co-founder of the OHPA Writer’s retreat in Western Pennsylvania. If anyone is interested for the retreat in October, go ahead and contact me.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have always written things from when I was little. My greatest literary masterpiece in 8th grade was “Camp Sights and Sounds at Midnight.” Take my word for it, it was good. I’ve always written in my journal, plays in cub scouts, stories for my kids, and I was a reporter on a newspaper (think very small and unpaid!). When I first thought I could write a novel, I joined a writing group and a published author joined it. She asked us “Why not publish?” and that got me thinking. I answered that question in 2009. My first novel, A Strand of Doubt, was the result of that question. Code Name Scorpion is the second novel.
- What genre are your books? and what made you write in that genre?
In all the writing conferences I’ve always heard, write the book that you would like to read. I’ve always loved romantic suspense. I write LDS fiction because I want to keep it clean! Some of my favorite writers who inspired me are Mary Stewart, Madelaine Brent, and Victoria Holt.
4. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My first book was finished in 2010. I was 50 years old. Of course, “finished” when talking about writers is a relative term. After all, “Writing is rewriting what you’ve already rewritten.”
- Where do you get your ideas for your books?
A Strand of Doubt started as a short story I wrote many years ago. The plot was inspired by an incident of Chinese Nationals approaching an employee at a facility in Oregon and attempted to purchase restricted technology to smuggle into China. The man they approached contacted the FBI and they set up a sting operation. Code Name Scorpion followed some of the same characters and I took a lot of the scenes from everyday life. For instance, the scene where Trevor is pulled over by a policeman and asked to remove his jacket to check for a tattoo really happened to my husband. (He doesn’t have any, in case you’re wondering!)
- How long does it typically take you to write a book?
My first book took several years to write, Code Name Scorpion took about two years with breaks for packing up the house and moving across the country.
- How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
So far, I’ve written two books. My favorite is still my first one, A Strand of Doubt, followed closely by Code Name Scorpion. =)
- Do you ever suffer from writers block? How do you overcome it?
Yes, yes, and YES! I actually wrote a research paper on writer’s block. One way that has helped me personally is to change from the computer to writing in longhand. I can write more than 3000 words while on an airplane flying from coast to coast.
I think the main thing to remember is to just keep writing. It’s like the old saying, you’ll never make a basket if you don’t shoot the ball. Just keep writing and writing till the spark returns.
- Have you done any collaborations with other writers?
I haven’t officially done a collaboration, but I think being part of a writing group is a type of collaboration. My first writing group has tossed around the idea of a collaboration work of fiction called The Writer’s Sweater. We’ll see if it ever materializes.
- What do you think of reviews.
I love good reviews! In truth, you can learn a lot from reviews. It’s a great way to see what readers think and see if your writing is heading in the right direction!
Dani Carpenter: 22 years old; dark brown hair and eyes; straight, shoulder-length hair. 5’ 5”. She is spunky, a little bit sassy, her impulsiveness gets her into trouble at times and she’s fiercely loyal. Trevor offers her a dream job. She is determined to keep things all business with Trevor—we’ll see how that works out = )
Actress to play Dani: Jessica Alba / Melissa Benoist (when she was dark haired)
Trevor Willis: 31 years old; black hair, green eyes; always immaculately groomed; 6’2”. He is sure of himself and has been accused of arrogance, but he has a good heart. He owns a business, and as a former agent, he moonlights with the FBI when they need his expertise. He is determined to change Dani’s mind about keeping things at an arm’s length.
Actor to play Trevor: A young James Brolin / Karl Urban