Once upon a time there was a retired Iola school teacher who became a novelist. Her name was Donna and she had many stories to tell.
Donna Regehr, whose pen name is Donna Hawk (her maiden name), taught reading at Iola Middle School for 31 years and yearbook for 16. Regehr retired from teaching two years ago to become a fulltime novelist.
“I wrote my first book and had it published in August 2012 when I was still teaching,” Regehr said.
Her husband, Larry, recently retired as an elementary school physical education teacher, too.
Regehr said she became interested in writing when in college. She would read books and think “Hey, I could do that.”
“When my boys were younger, they would take naps and I would write,” Regehr said.
Every writer has a process and Regehr is no different. She likes to jump right into writing when she wakes up. She writes at home and says there are some distractions like home chores but she doesn’t like being closed off in a separate room when writing.
“I like to write at my dining room table,” Regehr said. “I can see everything in the house.”
SHE PUBLISHED her first book, “Desert Gold”, through Strategic Book Publishing but is now an independent author. Regehr said she didn’t like the publishing process with her first novel and has decided to follow a different path.
Regehr, along with friend and fellow author Tara Elizabeth, have begun their own publishing company, called Elizabeth Hawk. Elizabeth has written three young adult novels.
This is a new field for Regehr.
“Time will tell how it turns out,” she said. “I’m really excited though and I feel good about being an indie author.”
Regehr has worked on a young adult trilogy and in May released its first book, “Where Darkness Walks.”
The story follows a high school-aged girl Clarie who has just had her heart broken by her boyfriend. Her father owns a furniture store so she decides to buy an armoire at an auction. As she begins restoring it she finds a secret compartment with a special treasure inside. The plot involves traveling to another world with her friend Patrick and trying to find her way back to Earth.
“I have all these ideas floating around in my head,” she said laughing. “I don’t know where I come up with it.”
In February 2012 she attended a writers conference in San Francisco to pitch her book. She originally had the characters in their early twenties but people at the conference suggested making them younger.
“I started all over in March 2012 with a completely different story,” she said.
She completed the three books in a year.
Regehr said she had an idea of where she wanted the trilogy to end up before finishing it but she didn’t stick to a set path.
“I had a vague outline,” she explained.
WRITING A novel can be a long and difficult process. Regehr said there would be weeks that she would go without writing until she knew what direction the character needed to go.
“In the beginning of ‘Where Darkness Walks’ the main character does something that she wouldn’t do later on so I went back and had to re-write the beginning,” she said. “You want your character to learn and grow but you don’t want to change who they are.”
She said she likes writing young adult fantasy and paranormal because there are “no rules.”
Regehr also has advice for new authors.
“The biggest problem with writers is they get self-conscious about their work,” she said. “Just finish it and have people read it and then re-read it and accept constructive criticism.”
The next book in the trilogy, “Tattered Heart,” is scheduled to come out in August. The last book “Shadowed Hands” will follow in October. She is currently working on another novel that is also in the young adult fantasy genre.
To contact Regehr or learn more about her writing visit www.donnahawk.net.
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