Monday, July 6, 2015

An Interview with Author Donna Figueroa

Donna Figueroa
I am pleased to have a very special guest today! Donna Figueroa is an actor who has worked on stage and on the big and small screens.  Her credits include several television commercials and voice-overs for animation, commercials and industrial projects.  She is also a producer and performer at Story Salon, Los Angeles's longest running storytelling venue. Please help me welcome Donna, as she tells us about her debut novel, Fall Again Beginnings, now available at Amazon!

Thank you, Donna, for joining me today. I read Fall Again Beginnings and thoroughly enjoyed the story! So, first of all, tell us a little about it. 
Fall Again: Beginnings is the first installment of a four part contemporary romantic series that follows the lives and careers of two working actors over two decades. In Beginnings, readers will meet actors Marc & Lauren and their closest friends in the optimistic New York City of the 1980’s. Unfortunately, Marc and Lauren meet at the wrong time in their lives while they are both building careers and Marc has a serious girlfriend. Decorum dictates that their relationship remain in the boundaries of a platonic friendship, a task that over time will become increasingly difficult. Despite their best efforts, Marc & Lauren fall in love.

What inspired you to write it?  
In the Fall Again Series I wanted to explore several themes; meeting the right person at the wrong time, the power of a first love, friendships, and the randomness of luck, timing and situations that can shape a life and career.

As a hopeless romantic, I’ve often looked at events in my life and have marveled at how I’ve come to be where I am today. It amazes me that minor events can completely change the course of a life.

Fall Again: Beginnings
For example, as I was about to graduate from Emerson College in Boston MA, I was waiting to hear if I had been hired as an actor for the coming season of The Boston Shakespeare Company. My two auditions had gone extremely well and I was hopeful. I was told I’d hear if I’d made the company by the end of the week.  On Friday night I was devastated when I’d heard nothing. However, two days later I was offered a job in a theater company in Chicago and was on a plane to the Midwest the first thing Wednesday morning and in my first rehearsal Thursday morning! On Thursday night I received a call from a friend back in Boston congratulating me; The Boston Shakespeare Company wanted to offer me a contract for the next season…and I was already committed to the theater in Chicago!

Had I stayed in Boston, I never would have made the contact who would introduce me to a Los Angeles contact who asked me to come to an audition in Los Angeles. Instead of making a quick two or three day trip (and in the most impulsive move of my life), I moved to LA three weeks later and have never looked back! A few years later I met the man who I would eventually marry. If the company in Boston had contacted me earlier my life would have been very different…not necessarily bad, just different. Frankly, I can’t imagine my life without my husband Tony.

A personal goal in writing Fall Again was to create a realistic look at the lives of working actors whose profession is often misunderstood and represented.

How did your background in acting influence your writing? 
A friend of mine (an Emmy Award winning writer) told me that I write like an actor,  that is, I try to fully visualize the scene in my imagination as I write, and often read dialogue aloud to hear my character’s voices. I find that I create characters for the page the same way I would create a character for an acting role for the stage or screen. One of my first tasks in approaching an acting role is to create a strong backstory. I do the same in my writing, feeling that a strong backstory will make a fictional character real.

I think it goes without saying that several of my personal experiences, as well as the industry experiences of many of my fellow actors, inspired events and situations in the Fall Again Series.

You’ve said that the Fall Again series started as a short story.  How did it evolve into a novel? 
I have developed procrastination into an art form. 

Fall Again: Beginnings is the first book in the Fall Again Series. My original plan had been to write a short story entitled Time for Coffee, where two actors (who would eventually become Marc & Lauren) meet after several years on Sunset Boulevard outside of a casting studio as they’re both leaving an audition. Neither has a lot of time and decide to have coffee where they discuss their lives, careers and why they separated years before. 

The problem was I could never find the time to write this story, but the characters remained in my head and started to take on a life of their own. By the time I decided to start writing there was too much to the story. I no longer knew how to tell this story as short story, and I decided to write a stand-alone novel. After I completed a first draft, I realized that I had only told part of the story and owed it to my characters to tell their entire story. I had grown to respect them too much to do anything less. That’s when the novel morphed into a series.

As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to complete Fall Again?
When I’m working on a project I try to write every day. I am most productive during the mid-morning hours or after seven in the evenings. I find a spot where I can relax with my laptop (though I somehow managed to write my first draft on a notebook) and allow my imagination to flow onto the page. I don’t outline on paper, but I do have a mental plan on what I’ll write for each session. I always keep a notebook close by just in case inspiration strikes and I need to jot down a few quick notes that I can easily incorporate into a manuscript.

I am always very aware of my surroundings (an actor’s trait) and will happily take inspiration and ideas from my world view. (I heard an interesting name one day which became the name of a character in the next installment, Fall Again: Lost Boy.)

One very important part of my writing process is music. My playlist for the Fall Again Series was eclectic ranging from Chopin to Billy Joel and David Benoit to a recent discovery, bass player and vocalist Nathan East.

Each novel in the Fall Again Series begins with a song lyric which sets the tone of the story. Fall Again: Beginnings starts with the first few lines of the classic song On Broadway.

I began writing Fall Again on November 1, 2012 and finished sometime in early 2015. The most difficult part of the writing process was stopping.

What’s next for you?  
As a writer, my next project will be a stand-alone novel entitled A Private Family Matter. This is the story of another working actor who returns home to attend a family funeral. In this novel I’m exploring family dynamics and the humorous elements which always surround these events.

As a working actor, I am constantly auditioning for various projects here in Los Angeles. I’m currently in the process of narrating an audio book; a crime drama that features a strong heroine, several teenaged girls and other characters on both sides of the law. I’m enjoying creating the different characters, their voices…and am having a great time and loving the process. For many actors, voiceover is the purest form of acting: it’s you, a microphone and your imagination!

Donna, thanks again for visiting with me today, and readers, be sure to check out Fall Again: Beginnings at Amazon!


William Kendall said...

Wonderful answers, Donna! Maria, thanks for the feature!

Maria McKenzie said...

You're welcome, William! Thanks for stopping by:).

Norma said...

Great interview, Donna, Maria!

Procrastination as an art form. I can relate!

Maria McKenzie said...

Norma, glad you enjoyed it!