Donna Driver

"Cry of the Sea" by D. G. Driver

D.G. Driver is an author from Nashville, TN.  Her story in A Tall Ship is titled The Jamaican Dragon. 

1)      Why did you decide to write about pirates? 

Back in 1995 I was asked to write a children’s musical for a theater company in Los Angeles.  I came up with a story called “A Pirate’s Tale” about a girl who wanted to be a pirate.  My villain was Captain Ringlet Red, a vivacious and cruel pirate queen.  I always liked the character.  I decided I wanted to let her have her own adventure, and I came up with the idea of “The Jamaican Dragon.”  I’ve always loved pirates, and I’ve been waiting for years to find the perfect place for this story.  So happy to have found it.

2)      Why do you write at all?  What made want to spend your life on work to which a smaller and smaller percentage of Western culture is receptive every year and for which most folks doing it receive very little monetary remuneration? 

I started writing in college as a hobby, hoping to be a horror writer.  I eventually moved into doing children’s books and young adult novels (which is where I have had more success).  I originally wanted to be an actress/singer and did that professionally for a long time in Los Angeles and as a hobby here in Nashville.  When my friend asked me to write that play, “A Pirate Tale”, and it was fairly successful, it fueled my fire to write more.  I just love creating stories whether it’s on my computer or up on a stage.

3)      What, in your humble opinion, is the attraction of pirates in literature? 

It’s something about the clothes, the hair, the ships, the treasures, the villainy. All of it is very romantic and sweeping.  People don’t behave in that raw, base way anymore, and pirates had to be so clever and wicked to be successful.  I think it’s the same kind of allure that makes us like vampires. 

4)      Do you have a favorite historical pirate, if so, who is it and why?

Anne Bonny, because she was a woman, of course.

5)      Do you have a favorite literary pirate, if so, who is it and why? 

Long John Silver.  He was duplicitous, both a good guy and a bad guy all at once.  My favorite kind of villain.

6)      Do you have a favorite movie pirate, if so, who is it and why? 

Well, I’m greatly looking forward to Black Sails on Starz, so my answer may change, but currently I loved Captain Hook on Once Upon a Time.  Hot!!!!  I also loved Captain Hook form the live movie version of Peter Pan (same actor as Malfoy from Harry Potter), ooh he was wicked.

7)      Without spoiling the plot, what inspired you to write your story for A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder

A cup.  No kidding.  I’m a teacher, and I had taken a group of my students on a field trip to one of those paint your own pottery places.  One of my students painted a cup with a dragon handle in orange, yellow, green and black.  I said, “That looks like a Jamaican Dragon,” and we decided that’s what it would be.  My story begins with a man in a shop looking at a cup like that.

8)      So, pirates in general, are they lovable rouges, just misunderstood, adventurers, romantic rebels, or are they just bandits on the sea, thieves, and murderers? 

Pirates are villains.  I think there were ones who were wickeder than others, but ultimately they were all bad guys.  The fun is finding out which pirate will out-do the others in a story with his/her conniving and trickery.

9)      Who is your favorite author?  Why? 

I’d like to say J.M. Barrie to go with the theme, but that would be false.  Stephen King is my favorite.  I love the way he makes characters think in unique ways.  I also love that the action never stops in his novels.  Something crazy is always happening, and he doesn’t take time to stop and describe the scenery or what someone is wearing unless it is part of the action.  His books are huge, and because of his style I can read them in half the time as much smaller works.


1)      What’s the best response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it? 

I had a couple Middle Grade novels published as Donna Getzinger back around 2000-2002.  There was a little girl with a life-threatening illness that became a fan.  The coolest thing was her finding me online ten years later and telling me that she was in college and doing some stand-up comedy on the weekends.  She wanted to let me know how much my books had meant to her when she was younger and to let me know how she was doing.  I was so thrilled to hear from her and honored that she still thought of me.

2)      What is your favorite book?  Why? 

My favorite book is The Neverending Story by Michael Ende.  I fell in love with it when I was a young teen because the story was so beautiful and fantastic.  (The movie just pales and is only half the story.)  I loved how the book was written in two different colors of ink, green for the real-world story and red for the fantasy world. I think that novel really drove in my love for fantasy/science fiction books.  I have read it 5 times.

3)      What is the worst response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it? 

I self-published a novel in 1999, and I missed one typo where a fairy was supposed to be wearing pom-poms, and, instead, it said she was wearing porn-poms.  This reviewer got very hung up on that and wrote an entire paragraph about how my novel was inappropriate for children.  I think she needed to cool down a little.  I took a fine tip, black sharpie and connected the r to the n on all my copies of the book, though, so no children who read the book were scarred.

4)      What is the best constructive criticism you’ve ever received and who gave it to you? 

In college, I read Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing.  In it, he advised to write the full first draft without stopping to fix anything.  I have strived to do that ever since.  It really does work.  But I like revising more than initial writing.  From an actual person, the best criticism I got was at a critique session with an editor at an SCBWI conference who told me that while the writing of my first pages of my novel Cry of the Sea was good, it wasn’t ready yet.  It hurt, but I listened and rewrote the whole darn thing.  That book is being published this year by Fire and Ice Young Adult novels.

5)      Is there a book you read again and again?  Why? 

I don’t read books over and over.  There are just too many books and not enough time.  I put one down on Sunday and start a new one on Monday.  I love discovering new stories.

6)      What is your opinion of the classics in the genre in which you generally write?  That is, do they deserve to be classics? 

That’s a hard question.  I mostly write Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction.  There aren’t what I would call “classics” in Young Adult, but The Outsiders and Catcher in the Rye qualify.  I do think they were the forerunners of that genre and should still be read to this day.  Classics in juvenile fiction like The Giver, To Kill a Mockingbird, From The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Watership Down, and Bridge to Terabithia should be read by all kids who love fiction.  Great books.  Judy Blume novels should be considered classics now.  Harriet the Spy should be a classic.  I’m not always a big fan of Newbury books, though.  Sometimes they are just too heady for kids - in my opinion.

7)      Is there an author that you emulate?  Why? 

I wouldn’t say I’m trying to emulate anyone.  I belong to SCBWI-Midsouth here in Nashville, and we have a handful of fairly successful writers in my group that I am friends with.  I really respect them and love their books.  In some ways I look up to them like a Freshman looks up to a Senior in high school.  Sharon Cameron, Ruta Sepetys, Tracy Barrett, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and others – these are the cool kids in school, and I like the way they are managing their careers and quality of craft. I admire them.

8)      How much do you read? 

Every day.  I read at bedtime, lunch breaks, when my daughter’s at piano lessons, in waiting rooms for appointments, in my car when waiting to pick up my daughter after school…

9)      Where did you get your start in writing? 

I wrote as a hobby in high school. The summer between high school and college, a group of friends and I had fun one night exploring this ghost town section of Irvine, California (which is now gone) and made up a story of how it was haunted.  I went home and wrote down notes of all the things we had talked about.  Later, I went back with a couple friends and took pictures of all the broken down houses and the mill that had been converted into a creepy hotel.  I plotted out my first novel – a horror story.  I spent all my breaks in college working on it.  It’s really not very good and will never be published, but it was the beginning.

10)  What is your most current project that is close to publication? 

My novel, Cry of the Sea, a young adult novel about a girl who discovers mermaids washed ashore during an oil spill, is being released in February, 2014.  I’m currently cleaning up another dragon story that I wrote at the end of last year.

11)  Do you have a routine for writing and, if so, what is it? 

I work full time, and I’m a mom too.  So, I mostly write a tiny bit in the evenings and a lot on the weekends.  Lots of stuff gets in the way though, so I’m not as prolific as I was when I was younger.  I love deadlines though.  They force me away from relaxing in front of the TV at night and back into my office.  I do try to write at least 1,000 words a day when I’m in the throes of a novel.

12)  Do you like to read your own work out loud to an audience? 

Yes.  I’m an actress.  I have a BA in Drama.  I just don’t get to do it very often.

Mrs. Driver, thank you so much.