Spotlight: Donna Carrick

update 11/23/10

Check out Donna Carrick’s new video channel where she shares about her novels!

Donna Carrick, writer and self-proclaimed ‘Air Force Brat’ joins the spotlight this week. Donna has authored three novels, The First Excellence: Fa-ling’s Map (Sept. 2009), Gold and Fishes (July 2006), and Noon God (July 2006). While she calls southern Ontario her home, her heart is driven to explore murder, kidnapping, organ sales, and a tsunami, in various geographical locations. Kirkus Discoveries describes her latest work, The First Excellence: Fa-ling’s Map as “enjoyably complicated plots with some well-depicted characters” and “the conclusion is pleasantly unpredictable.” Donna spends a few minutes on the hot seat, sharing what’s percolating in her mind and dripping deliciously from her pen.

Q) What are you currently working on, how did this project develop, and what is this I hear about a publishing adventure under the name of Carrick Publishing? 

A) At the moment, Roxie, I’m working on two separate novels. The first and most pressing is the sequel to The First Excellence ~ Fa-ling’s Map. It will feature my protagonist, Li Fa-ling, a Chinese-Canadian adoptee who lives in Toronto. TFE was set in mainland China, but the second in the series will be set in Toronto’s Chinese community.

Like TFE, the sequel will involve plenty of suspense, some murder and mayhem. We’ll also get a chance to see Fa-ling in her adoptive family setting, to get to know her through her most intimate relationships. I believe the reader will relate to her courage — her personal code, so to speak.

The other novel I’m working on is something entirely different for me. It’a a futuristic off-world sci fi featuring a reluctant crime fighter who sets off to avenge the murder of his wife and discovers that his true mission is much, much larger.

It’s incredibly liberating for me, a 5′ nothing female, to be writing a male protagonist. I sense he will lend new breadth to all my future characters. He’s a great guy, on top of being painfully honest, straightforward and deadly courageous.

Ahhhh, Carrick Publishing! You noticed that, did you Roxie? Alex and I have been asked a lot of questions about that, so I’m glad to have a chance to answer publicly.

Initially Carrick Publishing was a little joke between Alex and myself. We were running into roadblocks getting our work recognized on a more traditional playing field, even though we knew it was quality writing. As soon as a traditional reviewer or the organizer of a contest noted our books were self-published, we could often sense an immediate chill.

A traditionally published author acquaintance told me her contacts in the industry were still set against encouraging independent or self-published authors. She assured me that in order to gain their notice, I would have to set up a “front” publishing firm, something like “Beach House Press”, or the like. It would be “the lie that everyone agreed to believe” — in other words, the industry folks would still know our work was self-published, but they would be able to justify paying attention, if they liked the books.

Well, neither Alex nor I have ever been good at subterfuge. So when we decided to put a “front” publisher name on our work, naturally we came up with “Carrick Publishing.”

Just for fun, we went on line to register it as a business. At that point we weren’t taking it very seriously. We just thought — hey, we’re publishing these books, so I guess we are publishers!

Then we realized that what we were doing, even though our tongues were in our cheeks, was exactly what we should have been doing all along. We’ve always been dedicated to helping independent authors — now we can give that help a name.

Through our blog we offer free advice and guidance. We’re always open to discussing the nuts and bolts of the industry as we see it. Eventually we’d like to make the transition to Carrick Publishing as a second career. At that time, if resources are available, we will be open to considering material from other authors to publish under the Carrick name.

On the one hand, Carrick Publishing is a going concern in the here and now. We do offer a wide range of author services, and we do publish books. On the other hand, down the road we can envision this expanding to include other authors in our independent world!

Q) If you could describe a perfect recipe for your creative flow—what would be on the ingredient list and what would the directions dictate?

A) I’m a firm believer that only “life” can produce the level of creative energy that is needed to write good fiction. How can we empathize with our characters, unless we can empathize with real people? How can we understand the nature of conflict and resolution, unless we have endured conflict, and at least tried to overcome and resolve it?

The type of writing each of us creates will depend largely on our own human makeup. I came from a two parent, working class family that moved all over Canada, so my writing is bonded to this country. But there are other elements within my work, of course. My childhood was less than idyllic. That pain is often reflected in my stories.

The ingredients for a strong creative flow include: a) a base in humanity (having lived and acquired experience); b) a passion for storytelling; c) a desire to dig into the honesty that lives within each of us; d) a sliver of time mixed with a dash of focus. Time is the one ingredient so many of us struggle with. It’s important to teach ourselves to focus, so that when we are handed small slices of time, we can use them well.

Q  You’ve written three mystery novels. Is there a common thread in your writing? What drew you to these stories, and what else might we see you pen?

A) Yes, most definitely. There are a number of common threads that run through my work — all of my work. At first I thought it was a coincidence, or perhaps therapy. Now I understand it’s simply who I am. I cannot be someone else. My characters will reflect my own understanding of the universe. That’s what gives the world its variety: the fact that each of us brings our own ‘selves’ to our work.

First of all, there is a love of my country. With the international flavor of my work, there is a general love of humanity. I’m aware of feeling great compassion for the collective “us” — our foibles and our nobilities.

Secondly, you will recognize the ‘injured child’ in many of my characters. I lost a beloved sister to suicide when I was at an impressionable age. This has colored my view of human emotions like grief, joy, empathy… Someone once said to me that with extreme cases of grief, especially when the loss is sudden, unexpected…unfathomable, there are two distinct sides to the ‘time continuum’. There is the time BEFORE the loss, and there is the time AFTER the loss. The two sides of time are unrecognizable to each other.

There are those of us who, through sheer force of will, can live with this grief. There are those of us who cannot. But for those of us who do cope (I say cope, because you never really heal) our sense of understanding and compassion becomes heightened. That’s all I can say about that.

As for what drew me to the stories, well, that’s an easy question. It is always the characters that draw me. I love them passionately. They tell me where to go, what to research. They whisper a theme in my ear, and then show me how to present it. Their movement throughout the tale becomes my plot.

Every writer has his/her own method. Some authors whom I’ve had the great pleasure to know well are brilliant when it comes to plot. Their work is thrilling to read, because their twists are well thought out and surprising.

Some are romantically inclined, luring us into epic tales of love. Others will attach the reader to a place — or to history.

For me it’s the characters. I feel their essence — as Fa-ling would say, I’m in tune with their chi. I want what’s best for them. But, when all is said and done, they have to learn about life for themselves.

Madness? I think not! Mwah hah hah!!!!!

Visit Donna Carrick’s website

Read excerpts from all three novels  

Tweet with her on Twitter  

Friend her on Facebook

Read husband and co-founder of Carrick Publishing,  Alex Carrick’s spotlight  



  1. I am very impressed, Donna. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments regarding characters, and I think the common thread you spoke of is a wonderful aspect of your writing, as it obviously allows you more of bond with your charcters.

  2. This is a great interview, Roxie. You share the same name as my eldest daughter, and spelled the same by the way 🙂 It caught my eye…lol…

    I wish you all the luck in the world, Donna 🙂

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