Today I’m delighted to feature my dear friend, Donna L. Martin. Donna and I have been online friends for years, and I’ve been following her progress as a writer with joy and admiration.
Thank you, Donna, for agreeing to this interview. First of all, I want to congratulate you on your newest venture, HISTORY’S MYSTERIES. I’ve been intrigued ever since the first glimpse of the cover for the first book in the series, and I’m delighted with Amelia Earmouse!
Beth: Could you tell us a bit about the series, the concept behind it, and your plans for it?
Donna: HISTORY’S MYSTERIES is a historical fiction chapter book series for 8-12 year olds. I wanted to create a series somewhat similar to the MAGIC TREEHOUSE series, but with my own original twist. I blend “writing entries…i.e. journal, letters, etc”… with live action, along with fictional main characters interacting with historical figures, with a touch of mystery to keep my readers excited to turn the page. I released the first two books last Fall, have the next two books scheduled for this year and have the basic themes of books five through nine figured out. The number of titles for this series are endless because there will always be little known historical events to discover!
Beth: This is very different from your previous book, LUNADAR, a YA fantasy. What was the impetus to go in such a different direction? Where did the idea come from?
Donna: I was plotting out the next book in my LUNADAR trilogy when my sister happened to send me an article about a little-known train wreck which caused twenty tons of chocolate to fall on a small village in upstate New York years ago. She knew I loved history and when I read the article, bells went off in my head that this story HAD to be told and I was the person to tell it! I will get back to LUNADAR eventually, but the HISTORY’S MYSTERIES series is so fascinating to me, I’m going to run with this series for a while.
Beth: I’m sure you know how I delight in characters like Amelia. Could you tell us more about Amelia Earmouse, and her role in the series?
Donna: I can thank my tremendously talented illustrator, Estella Hickman (www.estellahickman.com) for the idea of a mouse as the series mascot. Her original sketch was an adult professor-like male mouse. While it was very cute, I suggested a much younger, girl mouse with pigtails to help young readers to identify more with her. One of my critique partners, Rinda Beach (www.rindabeach.com) , took one look at the new sketch and came up with the name, Amelia Earmouse. Some people think Amelia is either a character in each title, or even a narrator, but she’s actually neither. Amelia is a sassy, time-traveling adventuress who loves uncovering little known historical events and sharing those stories with the world. Mysteries seem to follow her, and she even shares some of her sketching skills with the illustrations found in each book. You can even find her on Story Catcher Publishing’s website (www.storycatcherpublishing.com) under the Amelia’s Kids Korner, where she shares free teacher/parent resources for the classroom or homeschool curriculum for each title in the series.
Beth: Now let’s burrow into the first book of HISTORY’S MYSTERIES – SHIP OF DREAMS. Without giving away too much, what mystery is Amelia investigating?
Donna: I spent months researching everything I could get my hands on concerning the Titanic. NOT about the ill-fated maiden voyage itself, but rather what was going on in Southampton while the people there eagerly awaited the ship’s arrival. While going through tons of research, I uncovered an onboard event which caused many questions. No one could exactly figure out the “mystery” at first, but it certainly set the tone of how some people reacted to the Titanic and their idea of her future.
Beth: Could you share an excerpt, possibly an illustration, that will pique our interest even further?
“Wednesday, April 3, 1912
You will never guess what happened while I was sleeping. The Titanic’s here in Southampton! Papa says it docked sometime after midnight and she’s supposed to sail for America next week. He will be so busy loading everything on board these next few days. I can almost feel the excitement all the way over here! Papa said he’s never seen a grander ship in all his life, and he’s been a White Star tally man for quite a few years now. He brought home a leaflet about sailing on board the Titanic and I got to look at it after dinner last night. Oh, my goodness, the Titanic has a huge dome ceiling at the top of the ship and a statue of a baby angel at the bottom of a grand staircase. They even have a swimming pool and library in the middle of that thing. Who would have ever thought about being able to float IN water ON a ship while you float ON water IN a ship? First and second class will be able to use what they call an electric lift to carry them from floor to floor, and even third class will have real electric lights in their rooms. Oh, what a wonder that would be to have!” (Journal entry made by main character, Margaret)
Beth: The cover illustration, and Amelia herself, are wonderful. Who is your illustrator?
Donna: I met my fabulous illustrator, Estella Hickman, through a Facebook call out for an illustrator to help me with my book cover for the series. I knew what I wanted the key elements to be but was afraid I wouldn’t find someone who would understand what I wanted to convey with this series. Estella answered my call out and we chatted over the phone for more than an hour. What I didn’t realize at first was the fact I was talking to someone whose work I had been following and admired for years. Estella is well-known for her gorgeous food artwork for Goose Berry Patch cookbooks. She’s also an established children’s book illustrator and I feel very blessed that she chose to work with me on this series!
Beth: Where can we find your book?
Donna: My distributor is Ingramspark which means you can find HISTORY’S MYSTERIES: Ship of Dreams all throughout the world wherever ebooks, soft covers, and hard backs are sold, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other online retailers. You can also find my book at the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Branson, Missouri. Story Catcher Publishing also has the books in stock for people wanting signed copies.
Beth: I’ve been exploring your website. There are some fantastic freebies for kids in Amelia’s Kids Korner. Could you tell us a bit about Story Catcher Publishing?
Donna: When I first became a published author back in 2013, it was through traditional publishing channels. I had heard of “self-publishing”, but back then it really didn’t have a good reputation within the writing industry due to some low-quality writing and undesirable covers/illustrations being produced. Self-publishing has come a long way since then and in 2018 I chose to explore becoming what is now commonly called a “hybrid author”…one who is both traditionally published as well as releasing their own published books. I am currently releasing some of my books through my own publishing house, Story Catcher Publishing (www.storycatcherpublishing.com). My ultimate dream for my company is to hopefully within the next five years to be able to provide a legitimate small press option for indie authors to be able to release their books for a fraction of what it would cost on their own, while providing editing, publishing, distribution, and marketing support, with a chance for those authors to retain about 80% of their royalties after expenses. That’s my dream anyway!
Beth: Something else that’s on your website, that I know is dear to your heart, is your STAR CATCHER YOUNG WRITERS CONTEST. Please tell us more about the contest, your plans for it, and how kids can enter. Where can they find more information?
Donna: Contest rules can be found on the Story Catcher Publishing website at www.StoryCatcherPublishing.com The contest runs each Fall and is open to young writers ages 10 to 18 years old. They can submit short stories from 750-1000 words covering categories including horror, humor, fantasy, science fiction, and miscellaneous. Entries will be read by published authors and winners in each category will be published in anthologies. I believe young writers have something to contribute to the KidLit world, but don’t always have the ability to get their stories published through legit venues. The only cost to them will be a $5 entry fee and if they want copies of the anthologies, Story Catcher Publishing will provide them copies at wholesale cost so they can retain 100% of their royalties with each book of their own they sell. I’ll also help them with marketing and setting up a blog/website for free. That’s the dream anyway. It’s my way of giving back to the writing community.
Beth: You have a very generous heart – thank you for all you do in the KidLit community, and for young readers. Is there anything you’d like to add about your plans and your dreams for Story Catcher Publishing, your writing, and your outreach?
Donna: Thank you for your kind words, Beth! I accept book donations year-round to process and distribute to local elementary school libraries as well as fulfilling requests for book donations all around the country. Over the past 16 years, I’ve been blessed to be able to donate over $225,000 worth of books so far! I want to continue supporting new and established authors by sharing their books through my BOOK NOOK REVIEWS and will continue to share writing advice through my WRITERLY WISDOM series. I will be adding a newsletter this year as well as some contests, so if any of your readers are interested in learning more about what I have planned for 2020, they can go to my website and sign up for my quarterly emails.
Beth: Just as a teaser, what’s next for Amelia?
Donna: Amelia and I are currently finishing the research for book three in the HISTORY’S MYSTERIES series. “Hunting Gris-Gris” will take place during World War II in a fictional town very similar to my hometown in the bayous of southern Louisiana. The mystery aspect will come from a childhood legend I was raised on and will involve a swamp creature very much alive during my childhood. I’m hoping to release book three in the spring of 2020.
Beth: Thanks again for stopping by my blog, Donna. I wish you tons of success with your endeavors, and I’ll be watching for more of Amelia Earmouse’s adventures!
Donna: Thank YOU, Beth, for this wonderful opportunity to share a little bit of my writerly world with your readers!
Donna’s bio and photo:
Best-selling, award-winning author, Donna L Martin, has been writing since she was eight years old. She is a 4th Degree Black Belt in TaeKwonDo by day and a ‘ninja’ writer of flash fiction, children’s picture books, chapter books, young adult novels and inspirational essays by night. Donna is a BOOK NOOK REVIEWS host providing the latest book reviews on all genres of children’s books, and the host of WRITERLY WISDOM, a resource series for writers. Donna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and Children’s Book Insider. She is a lover of dark chocolate, going to the beach and adding to her growing book collection.