NovelSpot: Donaya, thank you for taking the time for this interview. I want to make sure I get this right…“DAWN-ay-ya,” right?
Donaya Haymond: It's a pleasure to be interviewed! And yes, you are right. I wanted to give people a little assistance. The name isn't that difficult but some people get nervous seeing it.
NS: That’s a beautiful name. Does it mean anything?
DH: Why, thank you. It's my legal middle name, meaning "daughter" in Pali Sanskrit. My Thai mother wanted something that would be permanently applicable. My first name is "Faye", after my paternal great-grandmother, but I use that all the time and the lovely, lovely "Donaya" needed to get some attention.
NS: We’re actually here for a special occasion: it’s your 21st birthday this month – happy birthday! Any big plans?
DH: I'll definitely go out to dinner with my boyfriend sometime that week - he's turning 20 three days before I turn 21 (I'm such a cradle-robber) - and maybe will have a low-key gathering with a few friends. Never was a big party person. My parents live too far away to come visit me at college so they usually transfer me some birthday money and send Harry & David cheesecake petit fours. Though this year I might request chocolate covered strawberries instead. Wild, right?
NS: Maybe not wild, but it definitely sounds tasty! But this even more momentous because you’ve had four novels published already…wow! Can you tell us about your latest one?
DH: Sure. HUMANS AND DEMONS AND ELVES is the fourth book in my Laconia series, which features the three species you probably have guessed from the title. It's based on an idea my best friend and I had when we were twelve. We were going to make a comedic fantasy graphic novel together about an Elf whose village is destroyed by demons and must immigrate to the human world, staying with his human-adopted cousin. The cousin's adoptive parents founded the Official Magics-Human Institute, or OMHI (pronounced "Oh my!") I unfortunately moved away before we got very far, but it simmered along in the back of my head and I managed to fit it into my developing bookverse when I was sixteen. We still were and still are best friends, but she wasn't available to do the art, so I wrote a novel instead.
NS: All four of your books have paranormal and romantic aspects to them. Which paranormal being is the most fun to write about?
DH: I like my Elves best because of the spin I put on them. They have uncontrollable empathetic powers, meaning no matter what they do, they are aware of the emotions of every sentient nearby being, and experience anger, fear, sadness, etc. of others as very palpable pain. This has had a huge impact on their society and psychological makeup. Also, they take themselves too seriously and it's fun to ruffle them - a lot of the humor in HUMANS AND DEMONS AND ELVES comes from my main character struggling with, say, how to take a shower or use a vacuum cleaner. There's a lot of room for me to play around with standard fantasy tropes.
NS: Are there any creatures that you want to tackle but haven’t?
DH: I have a single dragon in the background of book three, Waking Echoes, but it sort of shows up at the climax as just another element, without any individuality. I would love to write something with more fully realized dragons someday, with perhaps a mix of the Asian and European archetypes.
NS: After four books, do you have a favorite character?
DH: Four books are published, but I've written at least all the first drafts of the entire twelve-book series- that's what I did while I was trying to find a publisher. But my very favorite character starts off in book two, BITE ME: Dr. Nat Silver, the learned, jovial, terribly dressed vampire who is the most cheerful of the cast in any novel he appears in, yet with a tragic past that is only gradually revealed over the entire twelve-book arc. It's hard waiting for the other ones to come out so I can share them and talk about plot points without revealing spoilers.
NS: I’m thinking of WAKING ECHOES, but feel free to answer with a scene from any of your books…which scene in WAKING ECHOES was your favorite to write?
DH: Waking Echoes is book three...My favorite scene in that one to write was the heroic sacrifice of the one character that, uh, dies in a heroic sacrifice - don't want to give away too much - because even though it made me tear up, it was such a beautiful affirmation of that character's development over the course of the novel and their relationship with one of the other characters that I felt proud to have "met" them.
NS: Which was the hardest scene to write?
DH: When a character was tortured. I'm bad at describing violence in detail, but sometimes it's integral to the plot. Also, owie.
NS: Owie, indeed! So, your publisher’s site has a warning about risque, adult content…I’ve gotta ask, how steamy were the books you wrote when you were 18?
DH: Haha, my books by that publisher actually aren't steamy at all...they never go past PG-13, and that's more for language and adult concepts. The warning is because they also sell some erotica titles on the same site and don't want a relatively innocent 13-year-old fan of my books accidentally stumbling on hardcore bodice-rippers. I was first accepted by them when I was just shy of 17, but we had to wait until my 18th birthday before I could legally sign a contract because of this.
NS: Do you think that turning 21 is going to change what you write…or how steamy it gets?
DH: I have become less averse to putting small amounts of sensuality in my writing, that's true, but I think my parents have to die before I'll be able to be explicit without worrying about them reading it at some point. As my work goes on it examines more and more controversial themes and goes into darker territory, but that's all part of growing up.
NS: As a writer, who do you like to read?
DH: Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. I nearly swooned when he thanked me personally on Twitter for participating in the Clarion Write-a-Thon this past summer. I also have an intense fondness for Terry Pratchett, Anne Lamott (every writer should read her book Bird by Bird), Bill Bryson, and the poems of Rumi as translated by Coleman Barks.
NS: I'd say that's swoon-worthy! I’d love to get a glimpse of the writer at work. Computer or pen and paper? What’s your ideal writing day? Mood music?
DH: Computer - my Macbook, Idris. My ideal writing day is when I have lots of time, nothing pressing, and my roommate busy elsewhere. I have trouble writing with other people in the room, not because they distract me, but because I make faces while I write because I really get into it and people have made fun. I have a special mix on my iPod for writing, with heavy emphasis on The Decemberists, The Dresden Dolls, Florence + The Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, and REM.
NS: What are you working on right now?
DH: I recently completed my thirteenth novel and first non-Laconia, Seasons Four Open the Door, and am trying to find an agent for it. I love Eternal Press but I think this one needs a different home. I'm also polishing the unpublished Laconia novels when the mood strikes and doing some freelance ghostwriting and editing for pocket money.
NS: Thanks so much for taking time to sit down with us. Have a fabulous birthday…and we’re looking forward to book number five!
DH: Thank you for having me, and so am I!