Marianne H. Donley writes fiction from short stories to funny romances and quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Tennessee with her husband, son, and a new puppy. Marianne manages the multi-author blog, A Slice of Orange. She’s a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, Music City Romance Writers,Sisters in Crime, and Charmed Writers.
You can find all her social media links at https://linktr.ee/mariannehdonley
We’re here today with an amazing woman of many talents: Author, Editor, Wife, Mother, Friend and the woman who is the creator of this wonderful blog site—A Slice of Orange. She’s a featured author in the newest anthology from the Bethlehem Writers Groups’ awarding-winning “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” series of anthologies, FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES!
Jann: You have two adorable tales in Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which made its debut yesterday. The first, When I Was Your Age and the second, Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name. How did you come up with the ideas for your stories?
Marianne: From life! When I Was Your Age was based on my grandmother (my dad’s mother). She had so many stories about growing that got worse every time she told them. Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name is totally about my husband and my sister, and they were not the good little bunnies.
Jann: I love the book cover. It’s perfect. Who did it?
Marianne: Well, now I’m blushing. Thank you. I did the front cover, and my partner-in-crime, Carol L. Wright did the back cover for the print version.
Jann: All the stories are remarkable. What was the experience like being one of the Editors for the book and one of the Authors?
Marianne: Well, we have rules.
Rule number one—you don’t edit your own stories.
Rule number two—all the stories (with the exception of the contest winners) must be workshopped by Bethlehem Writers Group at one of our semi-monthly critique meetings.
Rule number three—editing is not writing. Just because I wouldn’t write a story the way you would write that story does not mean you are wrong. Different is not wrong. We have to let the author’s voice shine through. I hope we have done that.
Rule number four—writing is not editing. If the editor makes a suggestion to me, I need to have a really good reason not to follow that suggestion.
Jann: This book has everything from unicorns to wolves to bunnies. However, the one with ants hit home with me, as I have been battling those beasts for years in my home. Tell us about how this anthology came about and the authors who are contributors from the Bethlehem Writers Group.
Marianne: Ah! The ants–Six Feet Under by Dianna Sinovic. I must say I related to that story as well. Every summer in California—ants.
When we’re brainstorming the “theme” for our next anthology our members all throw out ideas, and we debate the merits of each idea. It’s a pretty lively discussion because we have all stripes of authors–children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.
We look for themes that are appealing to most of the members. We also run The Short Story Award in conjunction with the theme of our anthologies. So, we look for ideas that we think will attract the interest of other authors. We always interpret the theme—broadly—so there is a lot of creative leeway for the authors to come up with a sweet, funny, or strange story.
The first anthology was a natural—A Christmas Sampler—because we’re based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, The Christmas City. Animal stories, I believe, was suggested by Jeff Baird. He writes very heart-felt stories about the dogs in his life.
Our next anthology, scheduled for 2022, is An Element of Mystery, Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The Short Story Award opens for entries on January 1st.
Authors interested in submitting to The Short Story Award might like to read some of the finalist for Fur, Feathers, and Scales to see what we like. The second place, third place and honorable mention stories will be published in the 2021 Winter Issue of The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, our online magazine—also available January 1st. You, Jann, will recognize one of the honorable mentions—Louella Nelson! (I may have shouted when her name was announced.)
Any member of BWG can submit a story (or two or three) to our anthologies, providing it has been workshopped by the whole group. Any member can elect not to submit a story. Since we’re working on our seventh anthology, I think we have a system that works.
Jann: I know you write short stories, romances and murder mysteries. Is any one of these genres your favorite? What are you currently working on?
Marianne: I go back and forth. My mysteries always have a romance sub-plot and my romances usually have a dead body somewhere. Probably from all those Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters novels I read over and over. Currently, short stories seem to be the easiest for me to finish. Right now, I’m working on a cozy-ish novel with a romance and plotting a short mystery.
Jann: With everything going on in your life, how do you keep it all together?
Marianne: That made me laugh. So . . .
1) Don’t look in my closets.
2) Dennis does the grocery shopping and birthday shopping and Christmas shopping. He wraps the presents, too. (Okay sort of—gift bags are his favorite and he hates bows. But since I don’t have to do it, I’m good with this.)
3) I only need about 6 hours of sleep every night. No matter what time I go to bed, I walk up 6 hours later. I do work on thinks when everyone else is sleeping.
4) I have a lot of friends who help out. Look how seamless A Slice of Orange ran when my son had a medical emergency this Spring.
5) I have a lot of family who are also willing to help. All I have to do is ask.
Jann: This was so much fun. Thank you, Marianne, for spending time with us talking about Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which is available now, and you.
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