Donna Hay never set out to be a writer. From an early age, she wanted to clip poodles in a dog grooming parlour. But sadly her career in canine care never happened, so she turned to her other love – storytelling.
“I was always telling myself stories as a child,” she says. “I used to keep them in my head and work out a chapter at a time. And I always ended on a cliffhanger.”
When she left school, she decided she wanted to be a journalist. She ended up working at a syndicated press agency in London, preparing features for various provincial newspapers.
“The closest I ever got to editorial work was photocopying the motoring pages for the Accrington Observer. But at least I could tell people I worked in Fleet Street, which sounded impressive.”
Eventually she got her big break when one of the writers went off sick and she was asked to produce a beauty article at short notice. She was later given her own syndicated column which went to various local newspapers. This led to her landing her dream job on a teenage magazine.
“I wrote the photo love stories on a magazine called Oh Boy,” she says. “It was great training for being a novelist. It taught me to think in scenes and to come up with short, snappy dialogue.”
After a few years spent on various teenage magazines, she finally grew up and got a sensible job as features editor of Prima magazine. She later went freelance.
But all this time the dream of writing a novel never went away.
“I set myself the challenge of having a novel published by the time I was forty,” she says. “Then one day I woke up and realised I was thirty eight, and if I didn’t get a move on soon it was never going to happen. The trouble was I could never motivate myself to get past chapter three.”
Joining the Romantic Novelists Association finally gave her the incentive she needed. They run a scheme where would-be novelists can send in a full length manuscript for criticism and advice.
“I finally had a deadline and something to aim for, which concentrated my mind.”
The result was Waiting in the Wings.
“When I sent it in, all I wanted was someone to tell me if I was on the right track or completely wasting my time,” she says. “But luckily they liked it and offered to send it to a publisher for me. Within a couple of weeks I’d found an agent and landed a two book deal with Orion. After all those years of trying, it finally happened very quickly.”
Waiting in the Wings also won the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writer of the Year award. It was published two days before her fortieth birthday, “So I made my deadline – just!”
Donna now combines writing novels with her ‘day job’ – writing about soaps for What’s On TV and TV Times. She also has her own soaps page in Chat magazine. “I can watch TV and get paid for it!”