If you’re the author of a series of bestselling novels about nurses, what do you want to do as Christmas approaches? Raise some money for a nursing charity, of course.
York author Donna Douglas has set out to do just that.
Donna’s Nightingale series – heart-warming stories following the lives of nurses in an East End hospital in the 1930s – have tapped into our national passion for nostalgia.
If you like TVs Call The Midwife, chances are you’ll love them.
The third in the series, The Nightingale Nurses, is out now. “It’s at number 20 in the bestseller lists,” Donna says.
She’s now written a Christmas special – a novella, A Child Is Born, which is a companion to her three Nightingale novels. Available as an ebook on Kindle or as a digital download for 99p, half of the royalties will go to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust. Named after the First World War nurse Edith Cavell, the Trust offers support to nurses, midwives and nursing students going through hardship.
“I spoke to a lot of former nurses when I did my research for the Nightingale books, and had so many people help me that I decided I wanted to give something back,” says the 50-something mum of a grown-up daughter, who lives with her husband in York.
She chose the Cavell Nurses’ Trust because of the help it offers to retired nurses.
“Back in the days I write about, nurses often sacrificed the chance of a family life to dedicate themselves to their career. Then, when they retired, they found themselves alone with no family support to fall back on. Working conditions may have changed since then, the problems of hardship and isolation remain,” she says.
Donna published her first novel, romantic comedy Waiting In The Wings, back in 2000 under her real name Donna Hay.
Up until then, she’d been a freelance writer specialising in TV and interviews with soap stars.
But she had always said that she wanted to be a published author before her 40th birthday.
She made it – just. Waiting In The Wings came out two days before Donna turned 40.
Since then she’s written a string of modern romantic comedies. It is with her Nightingale novels that she’s really hit the big-time, however.
Next Saturday, she’ll be teaching a handful of lucky aspiring writers the basics of the art of novel writing.
Her “write a novel in a day” workshop at the Grange Hotel – part of a programme of writing workshops around the country organised by company WriteStars – won’t mean you can write a novel in a day. But it will cover the basics of novel writing – from plot and character to how to grab a reader with a strong first chapter.
It is sold out, unfortunately. “Although they will be doing another one in the New Year,” Donna says.
For those who can’t wait that long, she has a few dos and don’ts, however...
• Don’t feel you need to pack your novel full of explanation and background “exposition” right at the start, she says – that will slow things down and put readers off
• Don’t weight your writing down with adjectives and adverbs. “You are taught to do that at school, but your editors will just wipe them out.”
• But do revise your work. “People write something and think it is a masterpiece,” Donna says. “But everything is improved by revision!”
• A Child Is Born is available on Kindle or as a digital download from
www.randomhouse.co.uk/editions/donna-douglas-digital-short/9781473505100 priced 99p. Half of the royalties will go to the Cavell Nurses’ Trust.
• The Nightingale Nurses is published by Arrow, priced £5.99.