Literaturschock: Could you tell your German fans something about yourself? (family, hobbies and so on)

Sara Donati: I come from a very large, colorful and very noisy Italian family. I have a 13 year old daughter and a husband, three cats and a sweet small dog called Tuck, and a large garden. When I'm not writing I'm involved in textile arts (paper, fabric, art quilts) and genealogy research and friends. And I do read a lot, at least three books a week.

Literaturschock: What was the one event in your life that told you "I'm going to be a writer?"

Sara Donati: Gosh, I don't think there ever was such an event. I have always written for a living -- I was a university professor for 12 years after all. Now, I didn't think that I'd be a published novelist, necessarily. That didn't sink in until my first novel sold.

Literaturschock: You have a contract with Bantam for two more books. The fourth book will be called "Thunder at Twilight". Are you currently working on it and can you give us a little sneak preview?

Sara Donati: Yes, I'm working on it. I have about two years to write a novel that will be about 700 pages long, so it seems like I'm always working on one. This novel opens in 1812 and has a lot to do with the War of 1812 and Elizabeth and Nathaniel's children. The fifth novel is also about the war of 1812, particularly about the campaign in Louisianna and the Battle of New Orleans.

Literaturschock: Do you know when it will be out?

Sara Donati: Hopefully summer 2004

Literaturschock: How did you do your research?

Sara Donati: Reading, mostly. I have experts in different areas I consult, and a research assistant in New York City.

Literaturschock: I have to share a little secret with you: I think Nathaniel is much sexier than Claire\'s Jamie ;-)

Sara Donati: So do I, but then to each her own.

Literaturschock: I know, you are asked that question again and again but: What's the story with Diana Gabaldon's charakters in "Into the Wilderness"?

Sara Donati: Diana and I had many of the same interests, as our characters were involved in some of the same historical events. One day the subject of the Battle of Saratoga came up and Diana mentioned that she had used the battle as a setting for a scene, and this happened just as I was writing a similar scene. I said (truly in jest) hey, I need a doctor over here for this boy with pneumonia, can I borrow Claire? To which Diana said, Why not? Diana is one of the most supportive and generous people I have ever known, but still I was taken by surprise. I did write the scene and send it to her, but said that I would drop it if she had not been serious. She liked it, and so it stayed. The idea was simply a bit of an inside joke -- characters wandering from one novel to another -- and was never meant to be anything else. I have been called a Diana Wannabe, which of course is silly -- who would not want to write such wonderful stuff as her Outlander series? But there's only one Diana. I have my own stories to tell, in my own voice.

Literaturschock: You and Diana Gabaldon were friends?

Sara Donati: We still are.

Literaturschock: How did you get your pen name "Sara Donati"?

Sara Donati: I write more than one kind of fiction. Two of my novels sold within a few months of each other, and one of the publishers was worried about "confounding reader expectation". Thus was Sara born.

Literaturschock: How did you get the idea to write a sequel to J.F. Cooper's "The last Mohican"?

Sara Donati: James Fenimore Cooper wrote a series of books called the Leatherstocking Tales. His main character was Natty [Nathaniel] Bumppo (also called Hawkeye, and several other names), and seemed to be based on the legends that grew up around the real life character Daniel Boone. One of his novels was The Last of the Mohicans; another, set in Hawkeye's later life, was The Pioneers. The Last of the Mohicans has been filmed a number of times, the last and most memorable by the director and producer Michael Mann. That is the movie staring Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeline Stowe. In Mann's version of the story, Hawkeye's real name was Nathaniel Po. I wasn't so much interested in retelling the story of The Last of the Mohicans -- that has been done often enough -- but I was interested in Hawkeye's later life. So I set out to do a few things: first, write a very loose retelling of The Pioneers (keeping some of the plot, some of the characters, and some of the themes, especially the environmental ones); second, to tell the story from the female perspective (Cooper was a fine storyteller, but he didn't write women very well -- they come across as idealized and two-dimensional); third, to put my own spin on the legend of the frontiersmen who populated the New-York frontier; fourth, to try my best not to contribute to the stereotypes rampant in literature about the Mohawk. I hoped to portray them as a people who survived in spite of great hardship. Because I wanted to put my own version on paper, I changed Hawkeye's name yet again. Not Bumppo or Po or Boone, but Bonner. So I have a Dan'l Bonner and his son, Nathaniel Bonner.

Literaturschock: What do you think is the most difficult thing about writing? The easiest?

Sara Donati: Just staying with it, the discipline needed to sit down every day and write. There's nobody standing there to impose discipline, you have to do it yourself. The easiest thing... Easy isn't a word that comes to mind. The best thing about writing is, I suppose, the intellectual freedom of it.

Literaturschock: What did you feel when your first book was published?

Sara Donati: I had a number of academic books published before I started writing fiction seriously, so I think you must mean my first novel. I guess I felt excited but also a little numb. Like childbirth.

Literaturschock: Are you in close contact with your fans?

Sara Donati: I get a lot of email from readers, and I read it all. I can't answer it all or I wouldn't get anything else done, so I answer some letters and my assistant Rachel answers the rest. It's always wonderful to hear from readers.

Literaturschock: What is a question you are never asked that you wish people would ask you?

Sara Donati: What I will write when I'm done with the Wilderness novels. Not that I have an answer, mind you. But it would be a good question.

Literaturschock: Do you have a favorite writer or book?

Sara Donati: No! I have a long list of novels that I love very much and re-read regularly, and some authors I really admire. But I couldn't point to one book or author.

Literaturschock: What do you currently reading?

Sara Donati: This summer I have read a lot of detective/thriller/legal fiction. I just finished Hardcase and Hard Rain by Dan Simmons, and I read all of Patrick Lehane's novels. I also recently read The Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwall and re-read Possession by A.S. Byatt (one of my all time favorites). I read two wonderful novels by Judy Cuervas (out of print) called Dance and Bliss -- historical romance set in France at the turn of the century. And I read Jenny Crusie's new novel, Faking It, which made me laugh out loud and was very, very good.

Literaturschock: Thank you so much, Sara! I really appreciate your taking the time to let me interview you.

Sara Donati: Any time.

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