Hands down, Donna Morrissey is the most enthusiastic, energetic and engaging author that I have met! She makes my “list” of authors that I would love to have lunch with along with Margaret Trudeau and Joseph Boyden! She provided insight into the inspiration for her 6th novel, The Fortunate Brother, and her dramatic reading kept the audience spellbound. Writing since 1999 when her first novel, Kit’s Law, was published she also spends time as a creative writing instructor – if only she lived closer, I would love to sign up as I can only imagine the learning and fun that must happen in her classroom!
She had the audience laughing when she came to the front of the room saying, she needed “just a couple more minutes for my pills to kick in” as speaking was “nerve wracking”. You would never have known if Donna was truly nervous as she is an amazing and authentic speaker. She noted that her publisher encourages her not use the word trilogy when describing the third volume of the New family and that The Fortunate Brother is, actually, a stand alone novel. I am looking forward to the treat of discovering her novels! (Although I try and read the books before the events, my followers will know that I have been working through the Giller Short-list before the November 7th announcement).
It was interesting to learn that her books “are all born out of my life story even though they are fictionalized”. She spoke of writing about her mother’s strength despite losing her parents, 3 babies, a teenage son and her husband to alcoholism, before being diagnosed with breast cancer. She noted how she had been lost when starting to write yet had a dream where her mother, now deceased, told her that the “key to the story is the man with a cross around his neck”. She could not figure out what this meant, even after 5 walks in the park, until she googled and learned about St. Augustine and the phrase “dark night of the soul” written by St. John of the Cross. After scanning a few pages, she learned that he had a cross of grass fastened around his neck and that she needed to go back and lead the character, Addie, through that dark night. She shared how life deals some sharp blows and that some “walk stronger yet some others get hit by life and go down” and the power of her mother in dealing with the difficulties in her life and becoming stronger while her father got weaker.
During the question period, she was asked if there would be a 4th in the New family series. She chuckled and said “not unless my mother speaks” and shared that she is 20,000 worlds into a new novel. Author Michael Helm also added that Donna has a short piece being published in the next Brick magazine.
Meeting Donna, who grew up in Newfoundland, was fantastic. I hope that she will travel to Southern Ontario from her home in Halifax again, once I have collected more of her work to be signed.
For more information about Donna Morrissey check out the following article which describes how a misdiagnosis led her to writing and took her away from splitting fish in Newfoundland: