Interview with Sharon Donovan, author of 'Mask of the Betrayer'

Sharon Donovan lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her family. Prior to the loss of her vision, she was a legal secretary for the Court of Common Pleas where she prepared cases for judges in Domestic Relations. Painting was her passion. When she could no longer paint, she began attending creative writing classes and memoir workshops. After a long and winding road, a new dream arose. Today, instead of painting her pictures on canvas, Sharon paints her pictures with words.

Sharon writes stories of inspiration and suspense. She has certificates in business and medical transcription. She is a published author with The Wild Rose Press, White Rose Publishing, Whimsical Publications and Chicken Soup for the Soul. Echo of a Raven received a CTRR award for outstanding writing, and The Claddagh Ring is a 2009 CAPA nominee. To read excerpts and reviews of Sharon’s books and to sign up for her newsletter, visit her website at www.sharonadonovan.com.

Mask of the Betrayer is Sharon’s latest book.

Welcome to The Writer's Life, Sharon. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing professionally and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Mask of the Betrayer?

I began writing about ten years ago when my life took a complete nose dive. Diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic at the age of six, I started losing vision in my early twenties. For the next two decades, I underwent a series of complex and painful surgeries in an attempt to save my sight. But after the final operation, I lost the battle and had to climb my way out of a deep depression.

Up to this point, painting was my passion, my life. Through my artwork, I escaped to a place of peace and tranquility. No more heartache. No more pain. Devastated when I could no longer pursue my dream, I needed to find a new outlet in which to channel my creative muse. And when I learned of a computer with adaptive software, converting text to synthesized speech, hope soared. I began taking creative writing classes, and thanks to modern technology, a new dream has evolved.

With a new outlook and a new direction, I challenged myself to write a romantic suspense. After completing it, I sent it to several New York literary agents and waited for the phone to ring. It never rang, but one by one, rejection letters filled my mailbox, the last on a postcard, stating, “Your project doesn’t excite us.”

Although my initial reaction was to tell them they’d be sorry one day, I used knowledge as power and asked myself a straightforward question. Why all the rejections? Not knowing the answer, I enrolled in three critique groups to garner feedback. I also began attending writers conferences. Through these excellent writing tools, I learned to accept criticism and began viewing my writing through the eyes of a reader. It was only then that I realized if so many readers had questions, there was a definite problem. Little by little, all the pieces of the puzzle began clicking into place and my writing took on a new voice. While attending a conference, networking doors began to open and have continued to open for me.

For the next few years, I focused on short stories of romance and had several published. Looking back now, I realize writing is a gift that takes time to craft. With a few publications under my belt, I felt confident to pursue a project near and dear to my heart. Echo of a Raven is about my struggles with diabetic retinopathy. I am donating a percentage of proceeds to JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) as well as the Brenda Novak auction. In the past year, two more of my romantic suspense books have been contracted. Now, it was time to tackle my initial suspense book that had been sitting pretty on my hard drive for the past few years. While polishing it to the best of my ability, I recalled the words of my first writing instructor. She said the first book written is rarely the first book sold. Truer words were never spoken. After seven years, twenty-one rejection letters and three major rewrites, Mask of the Betrayer has a home.


I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

Smile. Thank you. Like the book itself, the title has been through its share of changes. It was originally entitled Raptured. During the second rewrite, I added a masquerade to the mix and it became Masquerade Party. There were a few more working titles, but none of them struck me as something that would attract the reader’s attention. Only after the final rewrite did I come up with a title that I was happy with. This suspense novel is all about mind control and how a domineering uncle single-handedly corrupted his nephew’s mind by training him to become his number one assassin. Michael DeVeccio is taught to kill the betrayer and cover the corpse with a macabre skull face. Alas, the title that worked for me--Mask of the Betrayer.


Why did you believe your book should be published?

With all that I’ve been through in my life, giving up is not an option. When I want something, I go after it with guns blazing. During the twenty years I fought to save my vision, I never gave in to the concept of a life without sight. Perhaps subconsciously, I began storing images in my mind for a time when I could no longer see. I would run home and paint a fading sunset, a rose in bloom, or duplicate photos from my art book of ancient Rome. All along, I was adding stories to bring the scenes to life. Somewhere along the way, I came to realize the power of my creative muse and how I depended on it to help me cope. When I lost the battle to save my vision, I was introduced to audio books. I fell in love with Romantic suspense stories, and knew I had to write one or die trying. Before long, the characters began appearing to me in my dreams, demanding their story be told in a very specific way. Bringing them to life on my computer filled a void in me and I knew one day my first suspense novel would be published. I’ve been blessed with a vivid imagination and I thank God for it. But it takes more than imagination and luck to get a book published. Research is everything, and I did my share for this book, including taking psychology classes to get inside the mind of a killer. I also questioned a homicide detective who described a crime scene investigation, types of guns used by the force and how to obtain a confession from a killer. I just kept pushing doors until they opened and finally they did for the book of my heart. I live by this mantra: Never give up on a dream.

Can you tell us the story behind your book cover? Did you choose it or did your publisher, Whimsical Publications have full control? Were you happy with the decision or did you have something else in mind?

First of all, let me say how difficult it is not being able to see the book cover. Being a former artist, this all but drives me crazy. But, yes, Whimsical Publications allows the author to give a full description of how he or she envisions the book cover, which is the next best thing for me. I knew I wanted to present a sinister aura, with the killer stalking the foothills. I described the skull mask he is wearing in detail, and judging by the reaction I get by everyone who sees it, Anastasia Rabiyah got it, hands down. But I also wanted to portray the raw and untamed beauty of Red Rock Canyon in the backdrop, a striking contrast of beauty vs the beast. The book cover has been described to me by so many people with the same reaction of utter awe, I know I couldn’t have painted a better portrait myself.


How have you approached marketing your book? Do you have someone doing it for you or have you had to do most of the marketing yourself?

I promote everywhere and anywhere I can. Promotion is everything. Aside from my website and blog, I do guest blogs and interviews, advertise on FaceBook, My Space and various Yahoo groups. I am an author at both Coffee Time Romance & More and Manic Readers, using the promotion venues to the best of my ability whenever the opportunity presents. You never know when or how you will attract new readers. I also did a Borders Book a Blog and had a lot of fun chatting with readers. I am taking part in the June Jubilee at CTR and have book signings in the works. Contests are a great way to attract readers, and I have given face masks worn at the masquerade party featured in Mask of the Betrayer to several readers. Once again, using the imagination to promote pays off in spades. And now I have Dorothy Thompson helping me promote Mask of the Betrayer with Pump it Up Virtual Book Tour. Smile.

What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

I wouldn’t compare Mask of the Betrayer to any book I’ve read. By using a unique concept of mind control and how it can lead to a twisted psyche, I hope to illustrate just how fragile the mind is. It can bend. It can break. It can snap. Exploring the complexity of the mind has always fascinated me, especially when it comes to serial killers. What could have possibly caused someone so seemingly normal to go out and do such heinous and unspeakable crimes? This inquiry mind needs to know. I will say this, however. Some of my favorite authors in the genre I love are Lisa Jackson, Sandra Brown, Linda Howard, J.D. Robb and James Patterson. I think their writing is brilliant.


Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Prologue, first page. Mask of the Betrayer opens with Michael DeVeccio (The Hunter) killing his uncle when he learns he is guilty of committing the ultimate betrayal. It’s a very creepy scene, with the hunting song playing in his head, A hunting we will go, a hunting we will go. High-ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go. We’ll kill a fox and put him in a box. Heigh-ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go. This is the song Michael’s uncle, founder of the billion dollar DeVeccio dynasty, has programmed into his nephew’s brain from the age of twelve when he trained him to kill. The family does not kill without reason, but all who have betrayed them. And this chilling scene when Michael kills his uncle in the shower sets the scene for the entire book. A once sweet blue-eyed boy with loving parents and good moral standings was brainwashed to become one of the most chilling killers of his time. And he does it with no remorse or regret, convinced it is his right to decide who should live and who should die.


Do you plan subsequent books?

Oh, yes. This is a sequel series and book one ends with a cliff hanger. I am hard at work on book two and it is going well.


Thank you for your interview, Sharon. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Thank you for interviewing me today. Readers can find me in the following places:
www.sharonadonovan.com or write to me. I love hearing from readers. My book is available at Amazon, and online book stores. But the best place is through my publisher, Whimsical Publications. Thank you for reading!
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