Today I have the lovely Donna Douglas telling me about her Inheritance Books.
Hi Donna, welcome to my blog. Tell me a bit about yourself:
Hello, my name’s Donna Douglas I’m the author of The Nightingale Girls, the first in a series of stories set in an East End hospital during the 1930s. I was born and brought up in south London, but 20 years ago I moved with my husband, daughter and cat up to the beautiful city of York (quite a departure for someone who’d rarely ventured north of the Thames).
I’ve always loved writing and making up stories, but never imagined an ordinary girl from Wandsworth could ever actually publish a book. Then I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme, which gave me the confidence to achieve my writing dreams. My first novel, Waiting in the Wings, was published in 2000. I’ve since had eight contemporary romantic novels published under the name Donna Hay. But I’ve always been fascinated by the past, so when I was given the chance to create The Nightingale series, I jumped at it!
Which book did you inherit from the generation above? Why is it special?
I was brought up by my grandparents, and my grandmother was a huge influence on my life (the formidable Nanna Winnie in The Nightingale Girls is based on her). She was a typical working class matriarch who was determined that I should have the education and the chances she never had. She encouraged me to read, even though my grandfather disliked books in the house; we’d sneak off to the local library and borrow them in secret!
One book I particularly remember borrowing is A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce. It’s the story of a boy called Ben, who dreams of having a dog of his own. But his parents won’t allow it because they live in the middle of London. Just to make it worse, his grandparents send him a tapestry picture of a dog, a chihuahua, for his birthday. At first Ben is bitterly disappointed, until he begins to bring the dog to life in his imagination. A dog so small, you can only see it with your eyes shut…
I loved the book because it really spoke to me. Unlike the heroes and heroines of Enid Blyton and Arthur Ransome, I could never go to boarding school or have exciting adventures on boats. My biggest adventure was a trip to King George’s Park. Like Ben, I lived in a cramped, overcrowded little London terrace with barely enough room for people, let alone dogs. I could totally understand his frustration, and willed him to achieve his dream!
It’s such a powerful book; while I was writing this I Googled it and found a clip of Judi Dench reading an excerpt on Jackanory. All these years on, it still almost made me cry!
It was a toss-up between this and The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks, but I’m going to go for To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I must confess I hadn’t read this book until about ten years ago, but I’ve lost count of the times I read it since! It’s by no means a lengthy book, but it still packs a powerful emotional punch. It looks at racism through the eyes of a child, so it manages to get a very strong message across in a very simple way. I’d like future generations to read it to so they understand just how incredibly unfair, stupid and ignorant discrimination really is. As well as carrying a message, it’s also touching, warm and full of memorable characters. And forget Heathcliff and Mr Darcy – Atticus Finch is just about my perfect romantic hero!
Thanks very much for sharing your books with us, Donna. I must admit I’ve never read A Dog so Small. It sounds like a lovely book. I might have to hunt a copy down.
I love the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird. How cool to be able to put ‘over 11,ooo,ooo copies sold’ on the cover!
Donna’s new book The Nightingale Girls is out now.