Today I’m delighted to welcome Donna Douglas to Me, My Books and I:
Donna Douglas is the author of the Nightingale novels, a series of stories set in an East End hospital in the 1930s. London born and bred, Donna now lives in the beautiful city of York with her husband. They have a grown up daughter.
Donna’s passion for stories began with the heart-rending serials in Bunty. At 19, she started writing photo love stories for various teenage magazines, before finally getting a proper job as a women’s magazine journalist.
She penned eight romantic comedies, one of which won the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers Award, before turning back time to create the Nightingales. This has sparked such a passion for the past, she wishes she’d done it sooner.
To find out more:
Where did the idea for The Nightingale Nurses come from?
The Nightingale Nurses is the third in my series set in an East End hospital in the 1930s. But it stands alone, so you don’t have to have read the first two books to enjoy it! It picks up the story of my three trainee nurses, Helen, Millie and Dora, and the challenges they face on the wards and in their personal lives.
Who designed the cover and why did you go for that particular design?
It was put together by Richard Ogle, the very talented Art Director at Random House. Seeing your cover for the first time is always a nerve-racking moment for an author, but Richard managed to bring ‘my’ girls to life perfectly – they were exactly as I’d imagined them! Helen takes centre stage in The Nightingale Nurses, because this is very much her story – she is in her final six months of training, and she finds herself torn between her domineering mother and the man she loves.
Which of your characters would you like to meet in person, and why?
I’d have to say Nick Riley, because he’s the hero and I quite fancy him (as do a lot of my readers, judging from the messages I receive!). I think I’d get on with most of my characters, because they’re all nice, down to earth girls who like a good laugh. Even the ‘nasty’ characters like Lucy Lane, Sister Wren and Constance Tremayne have some redeeming qualities. I know it sounds odd, but after writing about them for so long, I do feel as if they’re real. Strange but true.
What do you hope your readers will learn from The Nightingale Nurses?
I don’t know about learning, but they might discover a few things they didn’t know about nursing before the war, when the NHS was a distant dream and modern miracle drugs hadn’t been invented. But I hope they’ll enjoy getting lost in the world of the Nightingales – readers have told me they feel as if they’ve gone back in time and are walking the wards with the nurses, which is exactly how I feel when I’m writing the books!
What makes it stand out from the crowd?
I’m not sure if I’m the right person to answer that, but from the responses I’ve had from readers I’d say it’s the vivid characters and the storytelling. I love it when someone tells me they stayed up all night turning the pages, or they want to know what happens in the next book because they’re worried about the girls!
Do you follow a plan when you are writing, or do you let the story guide you?
I’m a great plotter. I know some people like to sit down at their screens and just wait to see what happens next, but to me that’s like setting off on a long journey without a map. Even if I do end up taking a few detours on the way, I like to have a rough idea of where I’m going to end up!
Do you have any writing quirks?
I guess some people would find my card method a bit quirky! I like to write out each character’s main scenes on coloured index cards – a different coloured card for each character viewpoint. I then put these all together to make the final plot. The different colours mean I can see at a glance if a particular character is hogging the limelight too much. Also, it satisfies my obsession with colourful stationery.
Who are your favourite authors and do you think they have influenced your writing in any way?
I love a good crime novel, especially one that keeps me guessing. I suppose that influences my own writing – I love to include lots of twists and turns in my plot!
If you could travel anywhere in the world to do research for a book, where would it be?
I love the USA, so anywhere in California or the East Coast would be nice. In fact, six months in Manhattan would suit me fine! But I can’t see how I could include that in a Nightingales book, unless I wrote one set during WWII, and one of my girls became a GI bride (now there’s an idea…)
Paperback or eBook?
Paperbacks, definitely. I have a Kindle which is very handy for holidays, but I just don’t feel as if I’ve really read a book unless I’ve held it in my hands!
Snow or sun?
Sun. I’m not a great sun worshipper but snow just bores me. Everything seems to shut down and you can’t get anywhere! Plus the worst holiday of my life was when we went skiing.
Sweet or savoury?
Difficult one. I would say sweet unless someone is offering the Kettle Chips around…
Listener or talker?
Depends what mood I’m in. People say I’m a good listener, but my husband seldom gets a word in edgeways.
Dogs or cats?
We’ve always had cats, but I can see the appeal of all that doggy devotion. Dogs rarely sneer at you when you walk in. Or perhaps we’ve just had a lot of judgemental cats…
Any last words for your readers?
I really hope you enjoy The Nightingale Nurses. I found it very emotional to write, and so far everyone who’s read it has shed a few tears! But I hope it will make you smile, too. I’m currently just finishing the next book, Nightingales On Call, so there’s still plenty to come from the Nightingale Hospital! Oh, and if you want to get in touch – please do. You can usually find me on getting distracted on Facebook or Twitter!
Thank you so much for being here today Donna, it was a pleasure to have you on my blog. I particularly enjoyed reading about your card method!
Now check out the book:
“It’s the spring of 1936, and student nurse Helen Tremayne is facing her final six months of training at the Nightingale Hospital. Her domineering mother Constance is determined that nothing is going to stand in the way of her daughter’s success, least of all Helen’s working class boyfriend Charlie. Helen finds herself torn between wanting to please her mother and following her heart. But then a twist of fate changes her life forever…
Her friends Dora and Millie are facing problems of their own. Society girl turned student nurse Millie is blissfully planning her wedding to her fiance Sebastian, a foreign correspondent. But then a fortune teller’s dire prediction makes her fear she might not get the happy ending she expects. Meanwhile, there’s no prospect of a happy ending for down to earth Dora. She has to stand by and watch as Nick, the love of her life, weds her pregnant best friend Ruby. For her friend’s sake, she knows she must forget Nick and keep her feelings to herself. But little does she know Ruby is hiding a devastating secret of her own.”
The Nightingale Nurses was published in October 2013 by Arrow. It is a heart-warming tale of love, courage and friendship against all the odds, set against the dramatic background of a pre-war East End hospital.