Donna takes us back and explores what it was like growing up in the 60’s. It is a memoir of her remembrances as a teen.
Besides that, she has written a historical fiction called Last Magdalene. It is a 4 book series that is Christian based. While it isn’t non-fiction, it uses known events to create a fiction series. The focus is on Mary Magedalene.
[00:00:49] Stephen: Hey, welcome to episode 87 of discovered wordsmiths. Now, before we get to the interview with Donna, let’s hear a few words from Kindle writing life. One of my [00:01:00] shutout promos.
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[00:02:08] Stephen: Okay. Now let’s get onto the interview with Donna. Donna has an interesting book that is about the sixties surviving the sixties which she did. And we had a really great talk about the time period, how things have changed, and it’s important to have books like this. That Chronicle, what really happened in various times things happening today, we’ll get some good books in the future by people who lived through it.
This is an auto biography and she talks about why she wrote it. And some of the interesting things, we had a good discussion about Kent state, which is very close to me. And I just want to apologize up front. We had some internet problems that day and it dropped a couple of times. I’ve spliced things together, but it seems we’re missing part of the interview the second half.
So all we’ve got is the first half talking about her wonderful book. I apologize for [00:03:00] this and we’ll have to have Donna on again sometime and talk more author stuff. I hope you’ll sit back and enjoy this episode with Donna. Here she is. So Diana, welcome to discovered mood Smith. How are you doing?
[00:03:12] Donna: I’m doing pretty well, except for a bit of a cold.
So excuse me, if I cough or my voice breaks.
[00:03:18] Stephen: Yeah. But the good news is you received it on vacation, so it’s a trade-off right. Exactly. Exactly. You can deal with a little cold to be able to get out in today’s world.
[00:03:28] Donna: Yes, it was wonderful to be able to travel again. I think a lot of people are feeling that even writers who.
Isolated and tend to like it that way. I think most of my friends that are writers are anxious to start getting out
[00:03:42] Stephen: and about. I just went to a regular event in new Orleans. So that was a good time. Yeah.
[00:03:49] Donna: That’s someplace. I want to go,
[00:03:52] Stephen: we’ll have to talk. I’ll give you a few hits. Anne Rice’s house is down there.
William Faulkner had a house down there. I visited those. [00:04:00] So there’s some good stuff. Okay. So for everybody listening, tell us a little bit about you, where you live, what you like to do things besides writing,
[00:04:11] Donna: Things besides writing. Let’s see. I live in the Pacific Northwest, a small town, only 10,000 people, about an hour and a half south west of Portland, Oregon.
And what I like to do, I have a lot of different interests ones. I’m an avid. So whenever I have time away from writing, I tend to read and I also really enjoy photography. And I enjoy teaching at writers workshops that count as brightens
[00:04:42] Stephen: the topics you usually teach.
[00:04:45] Donna: I teach a variety. One of my favorites is flash fiction because my novels tend to be long tomes.
I read historical fiction. And so finishing a story and 20 minutes and then making some [00:05:00] editing changes, then doing it in under a thousand words is just Nirvana for me. So I like to teach other writers how to do that. So it’s instant gratification.
[00:05:11] Stephen: So you said you live in a small town, like 10,000 people. I still have your beat. We’re like 2200, but we have about 5,000 cows. So there you go.
And what got you into writing? Why did you want to write, be a writer?
[00:05:29] Donna: I a part of it is in my book house of the moon that. Raised in the sixties and got completely into kind of the hippie free drug culture and was failing at school and a high school English teacher pulled me out of a nose, dry dive contrived.
And yeah, I was driving stone. Don’t
[00:05:51] Stephen: do that.
[00:05:57] Donna: And gave me a love [00:06:00] of. And a writing. And so I went to college to become a high school English teacher did that. Didn’t last too long at a tough time, back in early seventies for teachers. And, but I never lost my love of literature. And in the early nineties, I finagled my way into being a journalist.
And I was there for about 16 years and doing interviews. Before podcasts, we had to go out physically or on the telephone
and with artists and the more I interviewed artists and the creative process, I realized I wanted to do that myself. And so I picked writing back up and wrote my memoir house of the moons, surviving the sixties which tells this story of people that were marginal. And weren’t listened to. And through that, a develop the love [00:07:00] of telling other women’s stories throughout history, who were also marginalized and written out of history.
And so one has led to another, to a four book deal, Magdalene Chronicles in first book in April. And hopefully that will go on and on.
[00:07:19] Stephen: So you ran a little of both. You write some non-fiction and fiction. Exactly. And your nonfiction is what I’m hearing more of almost the new style that where it’s a fictionalized presentation of the nonfiction.
It seems like that’s very popular now instead of a very dry tone. Would you agree, would you say that’s what
[00:07:37] Donna: yours is? Absolutely. I let’s see. So it’s not journalism to me. Memoir isn’t journalists. It is a selected memory of a person. And so of course it’s biased on the point of the writer because it’s what we remember, which is why my books written in vignettes.
I say, I remember the sixties and the little[00:08:00]
[00:08:02] Stephen: things.
[00:08:02] Donna: So to me, when you’re writing memoir, this isn’t also another class I teach called writing real writing. And it is be as honest as open and as dynamic as you can be. So people who are reading it will feel what you felt will know what you were going through. And it’s not just the facts, it’s not Dragnet, just the facts, right?
It is here are the facts and this is how it impacted me. This is how it made me feel. And this is how it impacted other people. It is more dramatic than just.
[00:08:40] Stephen: It was a little bit more about what your memoir covers the vignettes and all of that. And then you mentioned a new series you’re going to be working on.
Tell us a little bit about that too.
[00:08:51] Donna: Okay. How so the moon surviving the sixties is about just a four year period. From the time I was 14 until a little [00:09:00] after 18 in the mid to late sixties, it goes from about 65 to 70. Actually when I graduated high school and I wanted to write it because people have a glamorized imagining of what the sixties like, and, we have a lot of social reforms and a lot of legal reform because of what we fought for in sixties.
So the sixties was a very violent per Bulent divisive time. If that sounds
[00:09:29] Stephen: because I live by cab and you said you got some in there in your books?
[00:09:34] Donna: Yeah, I can. State was a sobering moment for people in the piece because we knew people were being killed in Vietnam. We never thought people would be killed here, just peacefully protesting. So it was a real wake up call and it was.
I had some of the most dramatic, one of the most dramatic things, of course, there’s fascination of Martin king and Bobby [00:10:00] Kennedy, and have the same impact as Kent state. But my book deals with kind of, it is a wild and crazy ride through what it was like to actually live in the sixties is just a kind of normal average kid that got caught up in drugs, sex, and rock and roll.
And The flip. The story is that my father was an undercover agent in the state of California with two teenage daughters. And so that made for some tension and some unresolved issues. And on top of it, my sister, who was four years older than I was her boyfriend dealt drugs to all the bands that came through LA.
And when we’re talking drugs, we’re talking some pot. Psychedelics drugs, some acids, some mushrooms and that type of stuff. So he wasn’t, a hardcore from no cartels. And it’s my interaction with both these people, such as Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis [00:11:00] Joplin Joni Mitchell, and how my life intersected with this.
And then what it was like, just wake up in the trenches, be alive and be active in the sixties. So I feel it gives people a an insider’s look to one of the sixties, or like
[00:11:20] Stephen: you said, you did some journalists. Did do you think your journalism background helped you with writing the book? Even if it was not straight here’s the facts that training, did that help you prepare for writing?
Something like that?
[00:11:35] Donna: Oh, absolutely. And I would say this for any writer. Writing is an art and a craft and until you tightly hone your craft, you don’t have the Liberty to express your. And so in journalism, word count the facts making an interesting story just based on facts is the craft of writing.
[00:12:00] Being able to put a sentence together, being able to know a paragraph, starts with a lead, the summary and these types of things all go into the craft of writing. And that is whether you’re writing a newspaper article or writing historical fiction or.
It’s all the same.
[00:12:20] Stephen: Okay. And I think it’s interesting too. I’ve interviewed two other ladies who have written memoirs that take place about the same time growing up. One lady, they took a drive from Alaska down to Mexico in 65, another lady. Sixties grownups. So it seems like it’s popular right now that it’s a big thing memoirs from that time period.
So I, I find it interesting that we’re getting history, but not from our history books from, but from the people who lived there. And I think that’s exciting for
[00:12:52] Donna: youngsters, right? It is. And, reading any type of life stories from people who lived is dynamic. [00:13:00] Because we don’t know it otherwise, and to me, I find history very dry usually.
And so that’s why I went into writing historical fiction because you can put emotion and intention and human interaction outside of your store, bring it to life
[00:13:18] Stephen: very much. So we talked a little bit about that. I think the there’s a changing trend. I’ve heard from people. Memoirs are becoming more like you said, dynamic, not fictionalized, but written in a fiction narrative more so because that’s more interesting to people and it keeps them engaged.
[00:13:37] Donna: And the house of the moon is written. Actually, this was a conscious choice on my part dialogue. Isn’t separated with quotation. And after the first page, everybody I’ve talked to you get into it and it is more, a flow of consciousness puts you right. Because when you and I are speaking right now, there are no quotes around what we’re saying.
And I [00:14:00] found with a memoir that putting a quote around what somebody said, separated. The action. And from the intensity of the moment,
[00:14:09] Stephen: You just made a whole bunch of editors, get pains.
[00:14:14] Donna: And I will say in my historical fiction is very classical and that floats around everything,
[00:14:22] Stephen: get an editor to touch it.
Otherwise, getting sponsors and putting commercials in a pause for this commercial break.
[00:14:30] Donna: So when I don’t know if you’ve seen mine dog podcast and he has, he, it was a fun program. We went for an hour and a half and but he has sponsors and it’s a very interesting show. If you ever have time to watch,
[00:14:45] Stephen: I’ll have to go check it out.
I know a lot of people listen to podcasts, even though it’s on YouTube or something, they put the video on and then just listen. We talked a little bit about your historical fiction. Tell us what about those books, what they’re called and or you have any written met what [00:15:00] they’re going to be called and what your what’s there about?
[00:15:04] Donna: The first book is written as it’s called the last Magdalen and the four books series is called the Baghlan. And it is about the life and times of Miriam, of Bethany, a first century Judea. And she’s coming down in history known as Mary mag. And I am taking an approach of demystifying the beginnings of Christianity to saying that these people live.
And experienced their environment. They were under the occupational yolk of Rome and it was a revolutionary time. And so I’ve gone back to original sources in Egyptian Egyptians had a lot of interchange with especially Galilee, which we can appreciate going back to the sixties. That is as Galilee was the.
I was the first century [00:16:00] came from
[00:16:01] Stephen: flip-flops.
[00:16:03] Donna: They did wear flip-flops Kris Kristofferson. Jesus was a Capricorn.
Everybody listened to Chris. Jesus was a gap report. Yeah, so it is again, almost like my them more. What was it like to be alive in person? True. To have your currency co-opted to have a Roman patriarchal government come in and just slam down on all of your freedoms at all. And that there were it culminated in 1 35 current era or Coco revolution where finally we have the diaspora and everybody was kicked out of Jerusalem, but it was ongoing probably from.
Early in first century for current era. And it was a series of people claiming to be in the line of king David and that they were the rightful king of [00:17:00] Israel and Judea. And this is, this comes down to us, somewhat mystified or trout in religious. But if you strip all of that away, you have real people living real lives and fighting for their very existence.
And Mary Bethany is one of the primal characters in this whole drama that took place trying to free Israel and Judea. And so I’m telling her story.
[00:17:35] Stephen: So it’s historical fiction, meaning you’ve got the dates times, places, people battles and whatever in there, but it’s a fictionalized. So you don’t know exactly what they said, what they may have done.
Did you try and maybe a romance or kids going to school. W how do you write a historical fiction like that? And you mentioned it was similar to your memoir, [00:18:00] which I thought was interesting. It’s like the memoir of those people. So that’s an interesting way of thinking about it. So just help me out.
How did you write something like
[00:18:08] Donna: that? At first, I had a great interest in the fact that Mary Magdalene’s mentioned so many times in the Bible and women were usually discredited and left out. So she had to be somebody important. And so I started investigating the times and the places and what women’s roles were in Judea.
And I worked with a break scholar channel locks out of Haifa university to find what women’s rules were in. And I found that women had incredible rights in Judea and we were fed a line of, what, that women were not educated. They didn’t have rights, they couldn’t go in the temple. They were judges, they were they were what we’d consider rabbis that were.
Women had incredible rights. They could inherit in their own name. One thing that is interesting is the Greeks had no concept of women being [00:19:00] liberated. Let’s say so when the word in Hebrew means a woman untrue herself, the Greek said what could that possibly mean? In Hebrew it means a woman that didn’t belong to a man.
She was an independent woman. So the Greeks said, oh, that could only be a Virgin that has to pass to deal with sex. No,
[00:19:19] Stephen: When it broke off, you were telling us about what you learned about three women in the Greek society.
[00:19:26] Donna: Oh, actually that women in Greek and Roman society, weren’t granted the same rights that they were in the middle east area through the great sea, they call her in the Mediterranean basin.
So both the Greek and the Roman societies were very patriarchal and women belonged to. And so when they translated the Hebrew word, which meant a free woman, it meant a woman onto her self and they could not understand what that meant. So they said, oh, that means she couldn’t have had sex with men. So she was a Virgin [00:20:00] and this was only one of the neuron of misinterpretations of words.
Another one is the word. Which did not have any religious connotations at all until the middle ages. It meant anointed, which meant it was the anointed king, but the Greeks have this, but they translated it to Cristos. And then it started gaining religious connotations. Once Christianity became the formalized religion of the Roman empire, but it didn’t have any mystical or religious overtones other than.
We experienced all through the, especially the middle ages, the divine right. Of Kings that they were chosen by God king. And so in Judea and Israel, if you were anointed with oil, then it meant you were chosen God, but it didn’t mean you were gone. I’ll stop there. [00:21:00] I’ve already got the editors on me.
[00:21:05] Stephen: What other books that are out there would you say are similar to these books for people that may be interested?
[00:21:12] Donna: Not too many. We have a lot of fanciful renditions about the Magdalen, everything from her being possessed by the evil goddess of Shara. And she’s had to exercise the demon goddess from her to her being a Celtic.
That was taken to Judea where she was reunited with Yeshua, who was also killed. And so we have all of this, but I don’t know if of books that have looked at the daily life and to say, this is probably what daily life was like. And the other big part of this book is that there’s archeological evidence, that the goddess Shara was still being worshiped by women.
Maybe Glen desks. But up through the second temple period, [00:22:00] find small statues of sharp. And so my contention is that Miriam of Bethany was a priestess Shara, and it is a doll woo or that it was women need a loving kind life-giving life-sustaining aspect of divinity to speak with and to entreat, to help with their day.
And this was present in. Religion throughout the Mediterranean basin, including the Greeks and Romans and Egyptians. Of course everybody else had it. So to think that the Hebrews in the second period, temple period didn’t have it isn’t logical. They did. They didn’t like it. The priest didn’t like, but it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
[00:22:47] Stephen: So your book. What was that called? I apologize. How the notes what made you want to write that book? The memoir and then change and want to write this historical fiction book. [00:23:00]
[00:23:00] Donna: What was the opposite? I had started writing and researching for the last bank and it happened very surreptitiously at a Thanksgiving dinner where my brother-in-law said.
Did you really know Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison and all these people. And I said, yeah, I did. And he says, damn, why don’t you write about that? Instead of people that have been dead for 2000 years and I went, huh? No, that’s an idea. So I wrote about my experiences and I think in doing so for all new writers, don’t be afraid to change.
I’m writing about myself and needing to be honest, needing to be. Graphic needing to be accurate in the historical fiction. And I see a connection between the two as I started out with women in the sixties were marginalized. We had very few rights. My mother couldn’t even get a driver’s license, I by dad’s plane.[00:24:00]
That’s been marginalized. I was denied a voice, which is why people of my generation fought for free. And this goes back throughout history and I realize that we’re all connected that women today are still suffering a lot of the problems that Bethany was suffering. So let’s give us.
[00:24:26] Stephen: Nice. And let me ask that for a second. Since you mentioned the musicians and I like talking music, so all the people you use, your, you met were they like everybody thinks they were moody or high, strong or anything like that. Were they pretty much the same that their public persona showed us.
[00:24:47] Donna: In my interactions with it, I would have to say that Jimmy Hendrix is, was one of the kindest, most big hearted, loving, caring people that I’ve met. He was genuine [00:25:00] and he was about the music and the music transported him and anybody that listened to it. But underneath that, he was a generous person.
And there’s a whole chapter in the book about how basically. Got me out of a really bad situation by just being a great guy. Nice. Yeah. Nice. For the other ones, Joni Mitchell is a phenomenal person. Still is. And also inclusive, not.