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An Author Answers (Donna Marie Seim)

literati_rain66 Monday, October 11, 2010
Hurricane Mia: A Caribbean AdventureI had the opportunity recently to read and review Hurricane Mia: A Caribbean Adventure, by Donna Marie Seim. You can find my review here. Donna agreed to do a little Q and A for you all, and without further ado, I give you The Interview!

Literati: First, I'd like to get this out of the way- Go Bucks!! I had to. I'm an Ohio native, and I see that you're a graduate of Ohio State University.

Donna: Yay! Go- Bucks! Shannon, where in Ohio did you grow up? I was born and grew up in Cleveland!
        (L: Donna, I was born in Mansfield and raised in Mount Vernon, just about an hour North of Columbus.)

L: What inspired you to write Hurricane Mia? Was there anything specific? 

D:I love the Turks and Caicos Islands! I have been traveling there for many years and have visited all of the inhabited islands and many of the uninhabited Cays.  The turquoise waters, the wild donkeys, the people and the culture, along with bush medicine, all inspired me to write Hurricane Mia. Once I had decided to write a story about the islands, I then set about composing my main characters and soon had the idea for the core story, a search for the tea that cures everything. I  accomplished most of this while walking on the very beaches I wrote about. My goal was to write a story that would bring two cultures together,  the strength of the story relies on the relationship between the two girls, Mia and Neisha, beginning from the very moment they meet in front of the Green Flash Cafe. 

L: I've heard some authors say that they like to write because they can live vicariously through their characters, do you agree?
D: I am afraid that it is the opposite with me. My characters live through my experience and research. I love to make them come alive and I do want to share them and their foibles with my readers. But, no I cannot say I live through them. I must also admit that as I develop my characters they begin to take on their own traits and actions. I have to keep them in check so one doesn't overcome the other! It is one of the most fascinating parts of writing a novel!

L: I read in your bio that you spend time in the Caribbean. What sort of things do you do down there?
D: Yes, I spend a great deal of time in the Caribbean. My husband and I have renovated a small house and we live there on a part time basis. We enjoy taking eco tours and small boating trips to the undeveloped islands and exploring the uninhabited ones. We enjoy the people and the music, we have fed the stingrays, swam with barracudas, and visited the wild donkeys in the shelter. I love to walk  the beach collecting shells and sea glass. I really enjoy all the birds, wild horses, goats and chickens running free in the streets. We love to 'lime', just sitting and talking with friends and listening to their stories. Islanders always have stories, and they are more than willing to share them! 

L: Any favorite stories of your times spent there?
D: My favorite story is the time when we took an eco tour to meet with a real bush doctor and possibly a granny or two. We had to fly to one island and then take a ferry to another, followed by a long drive in a truck through mud at times nearly three feet high. It was a wild drive, I held on for dear life hoping we would not end up sinking in the mud! We did accomplish our goal and to my delight met with a bush doctor. He had a sign hanging out front, hand painted, that read, The Doctor is in! The back of it read, The Doctor is out. He was a walking encyclopedia of information about all the different types of plants and what  healing qualities they possessed. He also pointed out some bad ones, so you need to know your plants!  We were also very pleased to make the acquaintance of many of the local folk, among them a granny. Auntie Cecilia is partially based on this granny. By the way, a granny is a midwife, and it is out of respect that elders are called Auntie or Uncle with their first names.

L: I love to know the little details that seep through from the author's life into their writing. I noticed one- that you have a dog named Rags and Mia has both a stuffed dog and a real dog named Rags. Are there any other things from your own life that appeared in Hurricane Mia?
D: Yes, I have a dog named Rags and it was fun to put him in the story. Also the name, Dragonfly, came from our boat. Susan, the illustrator, used our boat for the drawing for the cover. Most of my knowledge of boats is based on our own boat, so I decided to name the boat in the story Dragonfly! Also, many of the descriptions of the islands are as I know them and have experienced them. For instance, I have witnessed a water spout, and it is truly a terrifying thing to see. I saw one as we were preparing to leave our house to board a puddle jumper to fly to another island. I could only imagine how scary it would be to be on the sea in a small boat with one coming toward you. It was bad enough in the air. I made a point to file that thought, hmmm, good fuel for a story! 

L: Which character in Hurricane Mia was your favorite to write?
D: I have to admit, I loved them all. Each one is a composite of different people I have met and a hearty mixture of my own imagination. Mia came first, and being the protagonist, she was my favorite. I had to check myself, as I wrote and developed the characters of Neisha and Jack, that I didn't let them take the stage away from Mia. They become stronger as the story progresses, Neisha, with all her strengths and fears, and Jack, as a lovable and humorous character. Auntie Cecilia is special, and I have to say, developing her was a true pleasure, she is a favorite too.

L: Which was the most difficult?
D: Without a doubt Gram was the most difficult! She is presented as rigid and ungiving and judgmental. Without Gram and Mia' s conflict, the story wouldn't have been able to move forward. I felt bad for Gram, because grandmothers are generalized as loving and caring, and not as demanding as the parents. But, that is not always the case, as is this situation. I had to concentrate on the conflict between Mia and Gram having it grow until Mia blows up and loses her temper. She says awful things to Gram and ends up regretting it, but neither of them are able to resolve the conflict between them. That is the reason Mia goes on with her plan and does not ask for help, believing her grandmother would never condone a trip to find something as silly as bush medicine.  

L: Quick! Yankees or Red Sox?! (It's mandatory that I ask you that. Well, not really, but I'm asking anyway.)
Red Sox! Of course!

L: Any advice to young writers and aspiring authors? 
D: The best advice I can give to young writers is to keep a journal. Even everyday incidents can be used later on for a good story. The more your pen flows, the more you write, the more you will master the art of writing. Writers should also read, read, read! I think the more you read the better you write, it helps  to expand your scope and learn how others create a storyline, conflict, tension and resolution. I often feel I write the best after I have read an author that has truly inspired me. 
Some say, write what you know, but I say,  don't only write what you know, use your imagination and expand your horizons! Do some research to fill in the gaps! I also like to write as I travel or experience something new, or meet someone who has just told me an interesting, head turning story. Writing is a process, it is always continuing and growing, you will find that your revisions of your work make it better, just like the elbow grease needed to polish silver until it shines!

L: Anything that you want to mention, but I didn't ask about?
Shannon, thanks so much for the interview! I enjoyed answering your questions, they were great! I love having the opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings about the characters, conflicts and all the ingredients that went into the making of Hurricane Mia! It was quite an adventure! 
        My very best,
Donna Seim

Donna's Bio: 

The love of children and children's literature has played an integral role in Donna Seim's life. In her first book, Fifty Cents an Hour, Donna tells her hilarious childhood stories from growing up in a large Irish Catholic family. 
Donna's first picture book, Where is Simon, Sandy?, set in the Caribbean, is an award winning story of a little donkey that wouldn't quit. 
Hurricane Mia, a Caribbean Adventure, is Donna's first novel. And, coming soon, is Charley!, the story of an orphaned city boy from Boston who sings his way into a dairy farming family in the heartland of rural Maine. 
When Donna is not in the Caribbean, she lives in Newbury, Massachusetts, with her husband and her dog, Rags. 
Donna is a graduate of Ohio State University, and holds a master's degree in Special Education from Lesley University. 

Want to know more about Donna? Visit her webpage- You can also join Hurricane Mia on Facebook and follow her on Twitter! (@hurricanemia)


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