Donna Cooner is an author, blogger, speaker, and teacher currently living in Fort Collins, Colorado. A former teacher and school administrator, she is a now a professor and university administrator at Colorado State University.
SKINNY (Scholastic/EgmontUK), her debut novel, was selected as one of five BEA young adult “buzz-worthy books of 2012” and ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her new book, CAN’T LOOK AWAY, releases on August 26, 2014. For more info, visit her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
If you were a road sign, what would you be?
Curves Ahead. My body is (and will always be) “curvy.” It has taken me a long time to learn to love those curves. More importantly, I have also learned to respect the curves my mind takes that lead to wonderful opportunities and new stories to tell.
What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever been to?
I love to travel, so many of my favorite restaurants are integrally connected to locations and wonderful adventures. I couldn’t possibly pick just one, so I’ll cheat a bit and tell you about a perfect day of food. It would start with breakfast in San Francisco at Brenda’s French Soul Food and a flight of beignets. My absolute favorites are the ones filled with molten Ghirardelli chocolate, but the Granny Smith Apple ones are a close second. Next, it’s off to New York for an amazing lunch at a Greek restaurant near Grand Central Station. The Greek yogurt drizzled with honey is simple, yet made my eyes roll at every bite. Finally, I’d end my day with dinner at a tiny spot in Old Town Marbella in Spain where they serve piping hot paella made from fresh seafood right from the Mediterranean and seasoned with saffron from nearby Morocco.
What song best describes your work ethic?
“Home” by Philip Philips
What was the biggest opposing force that you encountered on your writing journey?
Me. I am, and probably always will be, my own worst critic. That inner critical voice has stopped me from writing creatively—sometimes for years at a time. I also struggle with time management and focus, so it’s definitely me that is the biggest barrier in the journey. But the good news is I’m also the strongest positive force in this journey as well. I continue to fall in love with words and writing. That passion keeps drawing me back in and helps me overcome that inner critic.
Do you ever create hidden meanings or messages in your work?
I have a hard time coming up with character names, so I use friends’ names often. It’s always fun for one of your best friends to discover she’s the dead cat lady on page 121. I also feature my own pets. Roxanne, my chocolate lab, was featured in SKINNY and Stu, my shelter kitty, is in CAN’T LOOK AWAY. Here he is, waiting on his starring role.
Do you pay attention to strong reactions to your work? Does that affect what you create?
Reactions to my first novel, SKINNY, were powerful. Weight and body image issues were a lightning rod topic for many. The emails, web posts, and social media comments were incredibly moving, intensely personal, and sometimes heartbreaking. As a debut author, I found it overwhelming at times, but it ultimately became my inspiration for CAN’T LOOK AWAY. Some of the teen vloggers I researched for this book are constantly scrutinized by over half a million subscribers. The constant pressure to produce videos for followers, and dealing with the reactions from fans, was a formidable challenge for anyone and I wondered what kind of teen would take on that challenge.
If you were to get a tattoo, what would it be?
It would have to be a sugar skull. I became infatuated with sugar skulls when researching my new book, CAN’T LOOK AWAY. For me, the skull images captured the pain of grief while also honoring the memory of the lost loved one. This particular sugar skull sits on my study shelf to remind me of my mother. Her faith was a central part of her life and she was an avid gardener, so the flowers and cross decorations are especially symbolic.