Monday, February 23, 2015

Steven Donahue ~ an interview and his novel ~ Where Freedom Rings: A Tale of the Underground Railroad

Steven Donahue 

Steven Donahue was a copywriter for TV Guide magazine for 14 years. His first novel, Amanda Rio, was published in 2004. He released three novels in 2013: The Manila Strangler (Rainstorm Press), Amy the Astronaut and the Flight for Freedom (Hydra Publications), and Comet and Cupid’s Christmas Adventure (Createspace). His fifth novel, Chasing Bigfoot (Createspace) was published in 2014, and his short story Grit was also included in the anthology Hero’s Best Friend by Seventh Star Press in 2014.

I live in Bucks County, PA (just north of Philadelphia) with my wife Dawn, and our four dogs Chase, Riley, Zoey and Scarlet. I have always loved books, starting with author Matt Christopher's sports novels to more advanced books from John Jakes, Ernest Hemmingway, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. I work as a customer service representative for a health-care company, but my dream is to become successful enough with writing to write fulltime.

When I'm not writing, I'm reading, rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles, playing with our dogs, or watching too much television. My current work-in-progress is a novel about the Holocaust and the horrible tool it took on humanity.     


Q: Tell me something you would like your readers (fans) to know about you.
A: I love writing. My dream is to become successful enough so I can do it full time (I know, like everyone else) and I’ve wanted to be a best-selling author since middle school. I can’t imagine a better job.

Q: If you could morph into any creature what would it be?
A: A Great White shark.

If you don’t mind me asking, why?   
A: They are the undisputed kings of the ocean. They are also the closest thing to a perfect creature that we have on this planet. It saddens me to see them hunted out of fear and misconceptions. Humans have done far more damage to shark populations than they could ever do to us. We need them for ecological reasons, yet we stupidly hunt sharks into near extinction. 

Q: What is your least favorite word? Is there a reason?
A: Hashtag. It’s one of those nearly meaningless words that people in the media can’t stop using. Enough already! #Ihatehashtags.   

Q: What kind of music do you listen to? Do you have an all-time favorite song?
A: I listen to many different styles of music, but I prefer classic rock and early rock-and-roll music. I love the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Genesis, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. My favorite song is Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding.    


Q: Who's your favorite author?
A: Again I have to go with the classics: Ernest Hemmingway, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, John Jakes and Edgar Allen Poe. As a kid I fell in love with author Matt Christopher, who wrote sports books for kids.   

Q: How do you handle a writer's block?
A: I am very fortunate in that I don’t get writer’s block. Quite the opposite. I have so many ideas that I’ll need three lifetimes to write them all. Sometimes I am so bombarded with book ideas that it is difficult to choose which one to write next. I know it’s a good problem to have.  

Q: Do you write long hand first, or does it go straight into the computer?
A: I am keyboard-oriented. So much so, that I have trouble writing with a pen and paper. It just doesn’t feel as natural as writing on a computer. I guess that’s what happens when you spend 20 years writing with a keyboard.

Q: Are you a sit down and play it by ear kind of writer, or do you need a structured guideline, or maybe a little of both?
A: I write outlines for my books before I start writing the story. I am flexible. I do wind up adding or changing details as I go along. However, having a solid blueprint makes the process smoother for me.   


Q: What are you working on now? Would you like to share anything about it?
A: I am currently working on a novel about the Holocaust. As horrible as that event was, it holds a certain fascination for me. I also want my book to be a reminder of what can happen when insanity and the loss of human rights go unchecked. 

Q: Do you have a new book coming out soon? Tell us about it.
A: My latest book is Where Freedom Rings: A Tale of the Underground Railroad. The novel is about a slave family that tries to escape to the northern part of the United States in 1853. The story deals with discrimination as its apex. It is also a story about the strength of the human spirit. There are abolitionists who try to help the family on their journey to freedom, but there are also those who seek to stop them.


The thrilling story of four slaves who try to escape to the northern area of the United States along the Underground Railroad in 1853. Kelsa Colver leads her husband and two young sons on the dangerous trek after a fellow slave is murdered by a vindictive slave owner. Along the way, the Colvers are assisted by various abolitionists, including a neighboring farmer, a progressive priest, a sympathetic lawman, and notable figures Harriet Tubman and William Still. However, their efforts are impeded by a dark family secret, and the interventions of a corrupt clergyman, vicious outlaws and greedy slave hunters. 

         The hot water covered Kelsa Colver’s hands as she scrubbed the dried food from the plate in the sink. She rinsed off the plate and carefully placed it into the dish rack before she looked out the kitchen window at the two boys playing in the yard. The boys ran and laughed and wrestled with each other, lost in their youthful exuberance. Kelsa smiled at their playfulness. She admired them for finding such joy. She hoped her sons would hold onto that bliss for as long as they could, for she knew that their future would be filled with very few moments like this one.

            Kelsa turned off the faucet and dried her calloused hands on a dishtowel. She slowly hung the towel on the ring at the bottom of the wooden towel rack. A faint breeze blew across her light-brown face as the late afternoon sun began to set. She knew that soon she would have to start making dinner for the Mallards and she wondered what the lady of the house would demand for their meal. The rich family had expensive tastes. They feasted on the best meats, the finest cheeses, and the priciest wines. The money they spent on food each month could feed dozens of ordinary people. The 130-acre Mallard plantation produced more corn and tobacco than any farm in the county, and Jackson Mallard, the patriarch, enjoyed the excesses of his wealth. He also relished in showing off his prosperity with lavish parties that bolstered his position in the community.

            The Mallard fortune allowed the family to buy as many slaves as was needed in 1853 to work the plantation and keep the home pristine. Kelsa was a domestic servant. Her duties included cooking, cleaning, washing dirty clothes and any other task Virginia Mallard assigned to her. She was one of four such indoor laborers and she did her best to please Mrs. Mallard. Kelsa had been around long enough to know what happens to a servant when their work is judged subpar. The punishment was always swift and merciless.  

            Kelsa opened the screen door and stepped out onto the back deck. The fleeting daylight signaled the end of the workday for those in the fields, and Kelsa looked forward to seeing her husband Wade and spending what little time they have with their sons Paul and Diamond. She knew that would have to wait, but the anticipation kept her spirits up. She crossed her arms over her chest as the boys raced toward her.

            Paul was 12-years-old and he already had the thick, muscular arms and legs that he inherited from his father. He was taller than most boys his age, and his graceful movements defied his unusual size. His younger brother Diamond was physically opposite. The 8-year-old boy had slender legs, a frail upper body, and his soft skin was not as dark as Paul’s. His saving grace was his superb speed and balance, traits that allowed him to escape from his big brother in times of need.

            The older boy chased his prey as the youths recklessly circled their mother while she stood behind the oval table that was flanked by two smaller end tables. She warned them to slow down, but they ignored her. She tried to grab her younger son, but he slipped past her and looked over his shoulder with a grin. Diamond lost sight of where he was and he ran into one of the end tables, knocking it over. A glass vase on the table shattered as it smashed onto the ground.

            The boys stopped dead in their tracks and stared at their mother. Her face became flushed. She quickly reached for a nearby broom as a brawny, white man approached them. “What the hell is going on here?” shouted Bo Torch. The plantation’s overseer held a leather whip in his right hand and he tightened his grip on it as he halted in front of Paul. The boy kept his head down as he trembled. “You know you’re not allowed near the house.” The man’s face reddened and a vein bulged in his forehead. He grabbed Paul and shook him. “Look at me when I’m talking to you boy,” he shouted. Paul looked up at him with tears on his cheeks. Kelsa swept up the mess and averted the man’s eyes.

            The whip came down across the back of Paul’s legs with a sickening crack. Kelsa instinctively moved toward her son, but froze when Bo glared at her. The man whacked the child four more times as the boy cried out in pain. Then Bo snarled at Diamond without moving toward him. “You better be more careful if you don’t want the same.” Diamond bit his trembling bottom lip. Bo held his position for a few tense seconds before he turned and marched away from the house. He disappeared in the oncoming darkness before anyone else moved.

            Paul ran over to his mother and wrapped his arms around her. She held him tightly as he sobbed. He told her over and over again that he was sorry. She gently rubbed his back and kissed his cheeks as she tried to calm him down. After he stopped breathing heavily, Kelsa carefully examined the back of his legs. Dark bruises had already formed. His broken skin shed blood that ran down to his feet. Kelsa guided him into the kitchen and tended to his wounds.

            “It’s not fair, Mama,” said Paul, as he hugged her again. Diamond had followed them into the kitchen and he stood silently by the door. “Why do I always get in trouble? They never do anything to him.” He pointed accusingly at his brother. “He knocked over the table. I didn’t.”

            His mother gave him a stern look. “Now Paul, you were both breaking the rules,” she said. Her expression softened. “You know you’re not supposed to play near the house. And you are the older brother. Part of your responsibility is watch out for Diamond.” Paul shook his head and sighed. Kelsa knew he wasn’t satisfied with her answer. She softly patted his behind. “Run along now, you two. I’ll bring some food over after I’m done here.” Paul limped out the door without speaking to his brother.

            However, Diamond remained where he was. Kelsa glared at him. “What do you think you’re doing young man?” she asked. He didn’t respond. He remained still with his gaze fixed on his mother’s face. They stared at each other in silence. Kelsa extended her arms toward him. He ran to her and hugged her tightly. Kelsa pulled back and lifted his delicate chin with the edge of her fingers. “What do you want to tell me?” she asked.

            “I’m sorry, Mama,” he said softly. He rubbed his right eye. “I didn’t mean to get in trouble. We were just fooling around.” Kelsa said she understood. Diamond paused and took a deep breath. “Mama, why don’t they whip me?” he asked. He pressed his lips together and lowered his eyebrows as if he were trying to solve a puzzle.

            Kelsa shook her head. “I don’t know, baby,” she replied. “Maybe it’s because you’re so young,” she offered. She lightly took hold of his hands. 

            The child looked down at the floor. “No, that’s not it. The other boys get whipped and some of them are younger than I am.” He shrugged. “I don’t want to get hit, but when I don’t, the others make fun of me. They call me a princess and a pet.” He took another long breath. “And Paul hates me.” His body shook and his grasp on her hands intensified.

            “No, baby,” replied Kelsa. She slipped her hands out of his tight grip. “Your brother doesn’t hate you. He hates the white folks who treat us this way.” She kissed his forehead. “And that’s not good either. We shouldn’t hate anybody. God wants us to love everyone, no matter how hard it is or what they do to us.” She looked intently into his eyes. “Do you understand what I mean?” He nodded obediently. She rubbed his right shoulder and the motion caused his shirt to slide down, revealing the diamond-shaped birthmark at the base of his neck. She fixed his shirt and kissed him again as the swinging door on the other side of the room opened.

Q: How can we find you? Do you have a web page, FaceBook page or any buy links?
A: Readers can fine me at my book websites:

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