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INTERVIEW: Bryn Donovan Plots First

Updated: Jan 30

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Bryn Donovan first became known to me when I bought her Master Lists for Writers: Thesaurus, Plots, Character Traits, Names, and More. The 270-page book sits on my desk as a quick reference for when I need another way to describe smile and more. And then I followed her on social media and quickly learned she is not only an accomplished editor and author of nonfiction and fiction but was the creative producer for two Hallmark movies. Since then, she has become quite the mentor to me in all things publishing, even graciously beta reading the first chapters of my contemporary romance. Ever the champion of writers, she also runs her writer coach and editing business with her husband at Lucky Author.

Christina: How did writing your first book change your writing process?

Bryn: When I first started trying to write full-length novels, I had no idea how to plot and I figured it wasn’t for me. Now, I’m a total plotter—but my characters still surprise me sometimes!

Christina: I get that. I tried for a long to "write by the seat of my pants," but it wasn't until I made an outline when I started to make measurable progress. So, plot comes before the characters?

Bryn: I get the idea for a plot first! Then I have to figure out characters whose personalities, motivations, and personal growth fit with that plot.

Christina: You have written four novels, three as Bryn Donovan and one as Stacey Donovan. Is there one of your characters you most identify with and why?

Bryn: I actually relate a lot to optimistic Paige in Sunrise Cabin (published under my real name, Stacey Donovan.) Her morning gratitude ritual and her attitude toward Mondays are pure me!

Christina: Morning gratitude ritual. That sounds lovely.

What is your current project or latest release?

Bryn: Right now, I’m working on a time-travel romance in which my heroine, from present-day Chicago, goes to 1876 Paris. It’s so much fun!

Christina: What is your favorite of your own novels?

Bryn: I am so proud of the one I recently finished, Knight at the Museum, about a knight in shining armor who was turned to stone, and the art conservator who brings him back to life. I signed with my dream agent and she’s putting it on sub soon!

Christina: That is super exciting! Congratulations. I'll be lining up to read it.

What is your best advice for new writers?

Bryn: Get feedback on your writing—from someone who knows what they’re talking about—before you finish your first draft of a novel! Otherwise, you’ll keep making lots of mistakes and you won’t even know it.

Christina: I. Totally. Agree. Early feedback, even an early developmental edit (a few early chapters or 30,000 words is crucial) to make sure you are going in the right direction, is INVALUABLE. And I mean that in all caps. Thank you for your early read of my WIP (work-in-progress) The Hot Quixote. You helped me dial in the story, pull back from extraneous characters and language, and keep going with the good stuff. I found it so much easier to pivot while it's a WIP.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?

Bryn: Probably an art history professor! I’ve always been a little obsessed with it.

Christina: After reading a couple excerpts for Knight at the Museum, I can absolutely see how that can be true. Thank you for sharing your insight and expertise. I'm crossing my fingers for you as you go on submission that your dream agent finds your novel a home and more. Keep putting out your positive energy. I believe it always comes back around.


Bryn Donovan earned her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, where she taught creative writing courses. Her experience includes being an executive editor in publishing and the author of several novels (including Sunrise Cabin, a Publishers Weekly bestseller), ten children’s books, and nonfiction books on writing, including Master Lists for Writers and 5,000 Writing Prompts. She developed the story treatments for two Hallmark Channel movies, and she is published in Writer’s Digest, McSweeney’s, and many literary journals, including Ploughshares, The Antioch Review, and North American Review. She's a voracious reader, an altruistic kidney donor, and a dog lover. She blogs about writing and positivity at You can connect with Bryn via her website or on social media.


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