Tuesday, February 12, 2013

History Enthusiast Johnnie Alexander Donley

 Hello, Johnnie! Welcome to the Barn Door Book Loft and congratulations on your new release!

Is there a story behind your book, Where Treasure Hides?

The male protagonist, Ian Devlin, first appeared as a major secondary character in an unpublished manuscript that a few friends of mine just loved. They begged for a sequel, but since that novel spanned decades that didn’t seem feasible.

But while doing research for that story, I became fascinated by how much art the Nazis had stolen during the war and the measures taken by some museums to hide their treasures. I also watched a couple of documentaries about “hidden children” – children who were hidden away during the war, some on remote farms, one in a cupboard where he sat all day in a chair.

All these elements came together as I imagined Ian’s love story, an invaluable painting, and a young orphan. My friends loved it, and thankfully so did the Genesis judges and Tyndale. (The manuscript won the 2011 Genesis historical fiction category.)

What distracts you from writing the easiest?

The urgent. You know, all those tasks that need to be done such as dishes and laundry, errands and yardwork. 

Then there’s the memories that need making – watching my youngest grandchild take her first steps, playing a game with the eldest (who’ll soon be seven), and having interesting and sometimes strange conversations with the three who are in the middle.

I also get distracted by research. There’s never enough time to read all the fascinating WWII books out there or to watch the great documentaries on the History and Miitary Channels.

I love research too but it can deter you. Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote?

Count Theodor Scheidemann is a complex villain who believes he’s the hero of the story. But the character who surprised me the most is Peter Schuyler, the father of Alison, my protagonist. As I began the novel, I knew Peter was estranged from his own father who had raised Alison after her mother’s death. I also knew Peter would show up at some point in the story and pictured him as a mild-mannered and doting dad. 

I was wrong.

From the moment he appeared, Peter was a bitter and tortured soul who had squandered his great artistic talent because of his greater grief. The relationship between he and Alison is a difficult one as he wants to protect her and she learns his darkest secrets.

None of Peter’s scenes were pre-planned, and I’m still amazed at who he turned out to be.

That unexpected creativity interests me. And it’s fun!

I agree! Now let's have more fun. If you could paint or sculpt like a famous artist who would it be and why? 

I was not blessed with artistic talent, and I very much wish I could paint like Vermeer. Amazingly, only about three dozen of his paintings exist, so it’s a mystery why such a gifted artist created so few works. He painted scenes of everyday life for the 17th-century Dutch middle class using colors and light in a brilliant way. I wish I could capture the commonplace moments that are important to me with as much skill.

What is your strangest habit?

My children make fun of me because I can seldom finish a sandwich. To them, there’s only a bite or two left, but to me . . . it’s more than I can stomach. They like to take pictures of what I plan to eat (because nothing on the plate touches) or what’s left of what I was eating (because sometimes it’s in an unintended shape, like a half-moon). They send the photos to one another and sometimes post them on Facebook. Aren’t they adorable kids?

I have some boys like that too. What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?

Not a what, but a who. My middle child, Jill. No one aggravates me as much nor makes me laugh as much as that girl. She’s a mom now with two darling daughters of her own. But she still has the knack for making me double over in uncontrollable giggles as tears stream down my face. Unfortunately, these are usually “you had to be there” moments.

What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?

I grew up in Ohio and have lived in Missouri, Nebraska, and a few short months in Birmingham, England. But now I live in Florida, where the sun often shines even when it’s raining, sand cranes saunter along our neighborhood streets, and a lost alligator once hid beneath my car. 

My son is one of those rare creatures, a Florida native. (And so are four of my five grandchildren.)

In our county, cowmen round up cattle on horseback while only a half-hour drive away tourists enjoy the magic of Disney, the mystery of SeaWorld, and the motion of Universal.

Instead of winter, spring, summer, fall, we have love bug season, tourist season, and hurricane season.

It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s home.

Where is your favorite place to travel/vacation in? 

Last summer, my mom and I took a prolonged road trip from my Florida home to Ohio to Washington DC to Cary, North Carolina to Amelia Island, Florida, to home again. We call it our “mooching vacation” because we stayed only three or four nights in hotels. Other than that, we visited with my brothers’ and my niece’s families. 

For several weeks, we stayed at a distant cousin’s unoccupied farmhouse in the southern Ohio hills with no phone, no cellphone service, no internet service, and no television. 

We loved every minute of it. Though the night the coyotes howled was a little eerie.

Where do you escape for some quiet time to reflect, pray, read, etc?

My comfy chair – a wide, upholstered, multi-pillowed lounging place set in front of the bay window. Rugby, my papillon, lays across the top so he can see out the window. I curl up in the corner with my Bible, journal, and an ink pen. (Confession: it’s so comfortable, I sometimes fall asleep.)

When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
I’m working on the proposal for a sequel to Where Treasure Hides, but it’s not yet contracted.

Best wishes on the sequel as well as Where Treasure Hides! Thanks for visiting.

Connect with Johnnie:

Treasured Moments blog
Johnnie Alexander Donley is giving away a copy of Where Treasure HidesTo be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment along with your e-mail address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post for the author. Please note: The giveaway is for U.S. addresses only.


apple blossom said...

sounds like a good book thanks for the chance to win

ABreading4fun [at] gmail[dot] com

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Thanks for coing by again, Apple Blossom. (I love even typing that -- makes me think of spring.)

This interview was a lot of fun.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Karen, these are my daughters [underline/bold/italicize! LOL]who take the photos. Our son just laughs. ]

Our two daughters are married with children. Our son Nate is a student at Oklahoma Christian University.

Bethany Jett said...

That was FANTASTIC! I loved your interview answers, and I wish I could apologize about taking the pictures, but it's just too funny! Love you!

clellascorner.blogspot.com said...

I just have to comment even though I have already read "Treasure" and it is a treasure and so is the author, treasured, talented friend. Your answers are so "you" Johnnie. And she doesn't ever clean up her plate. :-)

Jean Wise said...

What fun to read about you here, Johnnie. I didn't know about the uneaten sandwiches. mmm, will remember that.

Johnnie's book is terrific!!

Anonymous said...

This was a great interview. Your book sounds great. Thanks for having the giveaway.


Karen said...

This is the best interview of Johnnie I've read. Loved it. So well done! And the photos are excellent.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Oh, wow! This is like a reunion. My daughter, a couple of my Kindred Heart friends, and a "golden" friend from college days. Thank you all for stopping by and the sweet words. You're all treasures to me!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed this. That trip sounded like fun. And, hard to realize that you have cowboys and cattle so close to Disney. I too leave a few bites lots of times. Tummy just won't take more. I am glad to have a chance to win your book. I hate love bugs. My daughter lives a little more than 2 hours away and they are horrible at her place. Take care.
MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

Library Lady said...

I too am one of those rare birds - a native Floridian.
I love Florida even if we do have pesky bugs, high humidity, tornadoes, hurricanes, and the only white stuff we shovel is sand.
I also love the cover of your book. Thanks for entering me in the giveaway.
Janet E.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Hi, Rose. Thank you for the compliment. So glad you stopped by.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Hi, Maxie. Yes, it was a wonderful trip. The Florida history, especially where we are, is almost like the Wild West. It's fascinating. Let's make a toast to non-clean platers!

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Janet, you are indeed a rarity. I've lived in Florida since the late 80s and love it. The Tyndale art team designed such a lovely cover -- I'm thrilled with it. Thanks for commenting.

KayM said...

Karen and Johnnie, I really enjoyed the interview. Very interesting! Thank you. I love the cover of your book, Johnnie. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Thanks, Karen. {me whispering -- I love the cover, too!}

Abbi Hart said...

Great second half to the interview! I enjoyed the stories!


Evelyn said...

It's so exciting to see your book published. I met you a few years ago at a writers' conference, and I enjoy following your career. I hope your sequel gets picked up too. Blessings to you!

karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this novel ;)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Hi, Kay. That whisper up above was for you! (Please forgive me for typing "Karen" instead.)

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Hi, Abbi! Thanks for coming back for part two! This was a fun interview to do. I posted about it on Facebook and got some fun responses.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Evelyn, that must have been the Florida Christian Writers Conference. It was perhaps the first major milestone on my publishing journey. Hope to see you there this year (I'm coming up for one day). Thanks for commenting.

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Hi, Karen. So appreciate your participation in the giveaway.

This might be a good time for me to let everyone know that Where Treasure Hides is available for only $1.99 until February 16th for special Tyndale promotion.

Two other great Tyndale Digital First titles are also $1.99: Mind of Her Own by Diana Lesire Brandmeyer and Claiming Mariah by Pam Hillman.

Teela said...

Johnnie, your son at OCU must be in the arts. I have 3 friends that have graduated from there, one in classical guitar and 2 dancers. Hope I'm not too late to be entered in your giveaway! Looks very interesting. teelayoung@hotmail.com

Johnnie Alexander Donley said...

Hi, Teela. So glad you stopped by! Nate's a football fanatic, majoring in sports management and minoring in youth ministry at Oklahoma Christian University. He's there on a track scholarship -- throwing discus, shot, and javelin. Is this the same OCU your friends attended?

HomePlace Gatherings said...

Your escape chair by the window sounds wonderful!!!

priviesandprims at yahoo dot com

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