The Romance Reader Interviews

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New Faces 225
Donna Thorland
by Cathy Sova

Welcome to our New Faces column, where you can meet debut romance authors and discover their books. This time we are visiting with Donna Thorland, whose first book is The Turncoat from New American Library. Letís meet her.

NAME, welcome to TRR! Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey, and was the first person in my family to attend college. At Yale I studied classics and art history and as the old joke goes, got my MRS. I met my husband, who was a law student, during my sophomore year.

Are you coming to romance writing from another job? Do you still have a day job?

My first career was in public history. I managed architecture and interpretation for the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem Massachusetts. While there I wrote and directed a Halloween theater program which was so oversubscribed that one of my mentors suggested I try to reach a wider audience. So I applied to film school.

At USC I produced about a half dozen short films, and shortly after finishing my MFA, I won the Disney Fellowship. Since then I've been a filmmaker and screenwriter.

What led you to write romance?

When I was a teenager my brother and his wife moved their family to South Jersey. I used to spend several weeks with them each summer. They were grown-ups with disposable incomes and insatiable reading habits. I slept on the pull out couch in their book-filled den and late at night I'd binge on their paperbacks.

My brother read sci-fi and my sister-in-law read romance, and I read everything. But it was discovering Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles in high school that made me want to write a really epic love story.

Tell us about your road to publication.

The Turncoat won The Catherine from the Toronto RWA in 2011. I got insightful feedback from the judges and amazing support from the organizers.

What kind of research was involved for your first book?

I already had a grasp of daily life in 18th century America from working at the Peabody Essex Museum, but I didn't know the Philadelphia Campaign well, so I dove in and read everything I could about that glittering winter of 1777. When I discovered that General Howe's officers had thrown him a lavish going away party, the Mischianza, complete with a costumed joust and river flotilla, I knew I'd found the set piece for The Turncoat.

Tell us about your debut book.

Major Lord Peter Tremayne is the last man rebel bluestocking Kate Grey should fall in love with, but when the handsome British viscount commandeers her home, Kate throws caution to the wind and responds to his seduction. She is on the verge of surrender when a spy in her own household seizes the opportunity to steal the military dispatches Tremayne carries, ensuring his disgrace-and implicating Kate in high treason. Painfully awakened to the risks of war, Kate determines to put duty ahead of desire, and offers General Washington her services as an undercover agent in the City of Brotherly Love.

Months later, having narrowly escaped court martial and hanging, Tremayne returns to decadent, British-occupied Philadelphia with no stomach for his current assignment-to capture the woman he believes betrayed him. Nor does he relish the glittering entertainments being held for General Howe's idle officers. Worse, the glamorous woman in the midst of this social whirl, the fiancée of his own dissolute cousin, is none other than Kate Grey herself.

Who are some of your influences as a writer?

Dorothy Dunnett, George MacDonald Fraser, Lauren Willig, Diana Gabaldon, William Martin, Bernard Cornwell, C.L. Moore, Dorothy Sayers and Margery Allingham.

What does your family think of having a published romance author in their midst?

My husband reads everything I write and I'd be lost without him. He's often my harshest critic and always my biggest fan.

Tell us about plans for future books.

Next up is the second book in Renegades of the Revolution, a pirate story set during the siege of Boston in 1775, when American privateers took on the British Navy. Penguin will be publishing that as well, so look for a teaser chapter at the back of The Turncoat!

How can readers get in touch with you?

Readers can check out my website and connect with me on Facebook.

Donna, thanks for joining us, and best of luck with The Turncoat!

March 31, 2013

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