Let me tell you a little more about Sharon. She lives with her family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has certificates in both business and medical transcription. Before her writing career, she was a legal secretary in the Family Division of the Court of Common Pleas where she prepared cases for judges in Domestic Relations.
Due to diabetic retinopathy, she lost her vision several years ago. Painting was her life, her passion. Devastated when she could no longer paint, she took classes in creative writing and memoir workshops. And a new dream resurrected. Today, instead of painting her pictures on canvas, Sharon paints her pictures with words.
Sharon, I'm honoured to have you as my guest today. Oh I see you've brought some freshly made blueberry muffins, how kind, they'll go well with this cup of Earl Grey I've just poured for you. I've already given a little of your background story. Tell us a bit more about yourself
First of all, thanks so much for having me today, Lyn. I’m a simple person with simple needs. I enjoy using my creative talents. Some of the things I like doing are cooking, learning about superstitions, especially gem stone myths and holiday traditions from around the world. I love children and animals and think both make the world a better place. As you know, the JDRF Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is my charity. My latest book, Echo of a Raven is about my struggles with diabetic retinopathy, a condition which causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead to progressive blindness. Unfortunately, I developed this complication of diabetes and I am on a quest for the fight for a cure campaign. A portion of all proceeds from Echo of a Raven will be donated to JDRF. If I can prevent one child from living in fear of losing his or her vision, Echo of a Raven will be a smashing success.
That's wonderful, Sharon, and I'm sure everyone who reads this will join me in praying that your book will not only help those who read it, but that your generosity will help JDRF to achieve this goal. We'll come back to 'Echo Of A Raven' in a moment, but first let's find out a bit more about the 'real' Sharon Donovan. For instance, What do you do for fun when not writing?
I love to read. Before I lost my vision, I spent my free time painting and horseback riding As you know, art was my passion. Because of the terrible words a doctor said to me at the age of twelve, “You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five,” I lived in constant fear of losing my vision. These harsh words echoed in my head always, and the only time I was able to escape them was through my painting. No more heartache. No more pain. Peace and tranquility. And when I put my paint brush down, I went horseback riding in the hills of Pennsylvania. There was nothing more invigorating than galloping through the hills at full speed with the wind whipping in my face. And when I could no longer do either, my world went dark. Devastated, I enrolled in a 16 week program for the blind and visually impaired where I learned mobility, how to deal with anger issues and the use of a computer with adaptive software, changing text to synthesized speech. And after a long and winding road, a new dream resurrected. Writing. I love it and it’s great therapy and a whole lot cheaper than a shrink. LOL!
Oh you're so right about that, Sharon. Writing is great therapy, even if only as an escapism from the day to day routine most authors have to fit into their busy lives. I can relate to what you say about how amazing it is to gallop flat out on a horse too, I can only imagine how devastating it must have been to lose that. So when did you start writing?
Contrary to most writers who say they can’t remember a time they didn’t write, just the opposite is true for me. I abhorred writing with a passion. As I’ve mentioned, my passions were artwork and horseback riding. But I was born with a creative muse and she was not happy when she could no longer channel her talent. When I lost my vision, not only was I unable to work as a legal secretary at the courthouse, a job I adored with all my heart, but I could no longer pursue my dreams and my passions. I was devastated, so much I did not want to live. And with my great love of the outdoors and painting, I was not an avid reader.
After spending all day reading small print on legal documents, the last thing I wanted to do when I came home was read. But after the loss of my vision, I was so bored to tears once the depression wore its course, I started listening to audio books, romantic suspense by Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown and Lisa Jackson to name a few. And I began paying attention to detail, the words they used to describe. And something in my mind sprouted wings, a new way to channel my creativity. I could paint with words, given some training. So I enrolled in as many creative classes as I could find and have never stopped writing since. And thanks to modern technology, a computer that is programmed to reverberate whatever I type, I am able to pursue my new dream. I thank God for the gift of modern technology.
Indeed, and thank God that, as they say, when He closes one door He opens another, so although we may have lost the pleasure of seeing new paintings, we can look forward to the books to come from your vivid imagination, to add to the ones which your readers already enjoy. Talking of which, I always like to know how other writers construct their stories. With you, what comes first: the plot or the characters?
Most definitely the plot. I couldn’t possibly cast a role to a character without knowing the scene, the setting, the storyline.
If someone were to play one of your characters in a movie, which character and what actor would it be and why?
If someone were to play me in Echo of a Raven, I would want Meg Ryan. She is so sweet and down to earth and is looked upon as America’s sweetheart. I think people could relate to her and would be drawn to the emotions she could evoke while riding the tumultuous roller coaster I was on for two solid decades. For over twenty years, my vision came and went, a game of now you see it—now you don’t. Only a truly gifted actress could portray the exuberant amount of heart-wrenching emotions I went through and continue to go through every day of my life.
Oh yes, I like Meg Ryan - and she is quite like you in looks too, what a good choice.
Have you a favourite actor/hunk?
In my suspense novel, Mask of the Betrayer, I picture John Travolta playing the role of Michael DeVeccio. He is a complex but smooth character, very cunning and clever, and I think John Travolta would be the perfect alpha male to portray Michael.
I can't wait to read 'Mask Of The Betrayer', and I'll have John Travolta in mind for Michael, when I do. By the way, guess whose picture I have up on this Blog as 'Featured Hunk'?
What have you learned about writing since you were published that surprised you?
That I’m a better writer than I was yesterday but not as good as I’ll be tomorrow.
Excellent answer, and again, one I think a lot of us will agree with. Do you listen to music when you write and if so, what kind of music – or do you find it distracts you?
I am very easily distracted. I love complete quiet when I write. Now let’s not forget Glen, my cyber space buddy who can be a bit annoying at times, his non-stop chatting. Whatever is on the screen, he joyfully recites without coming up for breath. I’m still trying to program him to do a coffee run. LOL
*Grin* Glen sounds like an interesting cyber companion. I want one! What is your personal definition of success?
Leaving my mark on the world, my footprint on people’s hearts when I leave this earth. I want to leave the message of hope. Never give up on a dream.
I think you're already sending that message loud and clear Sharon, you're an inspiration. OK, now for a fun question, if you were an animal, which one do you think you would be, and why?
A butterfly. There’s an old Irish superstition that when the wings of a butterfly brush you, it’s the wings of your guardian angel. I believe in magical myths, legends and lore. And I believe in angels and the sweet hereafter.
Oh, that's a beautiful story, I hadn't heard of that one. Finaly, is there a question you really, really wish someone would ask, but they never do? If so what would be your reply?
What is your mission, the reason God put you on this earth?
To raise awareness for type 1 diabetes and its devastating complications. With America in the lead, there are more than 230 million diabetics in the world and the numbers are rapidly increasing. More than half of these diabetics will develop some stage of retinopathy, the number one complication. Type 1 diabetes strikes children the hardest. Type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin, a hormone necessary to regulate blood sugars. As a result, for the rest of their lives, they must take insulin injections several times a day, restrict their caloric intake, monitor their blood sugars through pinch tests, and worst of all, live in constant threat of losing vision, limbs, heart and kidney failure and poor circulation of the hands and feet. I want to put an end to this world-wide epidemic for tomorrow’s children. Isn’t it time?
You are so right, Sharon and it seems as if you're already on the way to achieving your mission, with the release of 'Echo Of A Raven. Tell us some more about this remarkable book.
Echo of a Raven is a must read for diabetics, those affected by diabetes and its complications and for intelligent people who want to put an end to this world-wide epidemic. Through an organization for the blind and visually impaired, I found the courage to face a sighted world I was once part of. Some of the curriculum I endured for eight grueling hours every day for sixteen weeks was mobility training with a white cane, group therapy to deal with anger issues and the use of a computer with adaptive software.
It was a heart-wrenching journey filled with endless challenge. Part of the reason I was reluctant to enroll in a program for the blind and visually impaired was because I thought clients would be uneducated. I was a professional, after all. What could I possibly have in common with “Those people?” I was wrong. I met doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, all with one common thread. We were all facing vision loss due to circumstances beyond our control. Some had the extra burden of facing a marital problem because a spouse could not or would not accept the blindness.
We laughed and we cried. We connected in a way words could never express. I was one of the lucky ones. What didn’t kill me made me stronger. And after a long and winding road, a new dream resurrected. Today, instead of painting my pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words. In my memoir, I give a prolific account of my stay at Pittsburgh Vision told from an insider’s point of view when institutionalized for sixteen weeks. Echo of a Raven is not for the weak at heart. But through my darkest hour, I found light at the end of a tunnel. Only when I reached out and asked for help did doors open. And doors have continued to open for me. There is a plethora of opportunity for the blind and visually impaired.
In my memoir, I give the names and addresses and websites for several organizations that have been invaluable to me. Please help me in my mission to find a cure for diabetes and its number one complication—blindness. As I said at the beginning of this interview, a portion of all proceeds of Echo of a Raven will be donated to JDRF Juvenile Diabetes.
As the blind man sweeps the streets with his white cane, I look away. As the blind man jingles his cup of coins on corner sidewalks, I look away. As the blind man sells his mops and brooms, I look away.
“You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five,” a doctor at Children’s Hospital predicted. “Your blood sugars are way too high.”
I began hearing the frightening phrase diabetic retinopathy at the age of six when I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. This condition causes fragile blood vessels to grow and rupture in the back of the eye and can lead to progressive blindness. And at the age of twelve, when a doctor at a routine visit made this prediction, his cruel words changed the entire course of my life, affecting every major decision I made for years to come.
His words haunted me. They consumed me. They devoured me. Wherever I went or whatever I did, these words echoed in my head. The only time I found refuge was through my artwork. Painting became my sanctuary, a place where I could escape to another place and time. Peace and tranquility. No more pain. But one day when painting a picturesque Tuscan landscape, the initial bout of blindness struck with no warning.
Several buses pulled up, hissing and spewing as slush and mud splashed in all directions. People jumped back to avoid the mud-stained snow. It was a 71 and it was going downtown.As I stood shivering, waiting for people to file out, a blind woman approached the bus stop, sweeping the snow covered pavement with her white cane. Her flat, monotone voice cut through my thoughts. “Does this bus go downtown?”
“Yes,” I answered her. I wanted to turn my head as I’d done so many times in the past, but my heart went out to her. It was so slippery out and she was so vulnerable. What if she got on the wrong bus—or got stranded somewhere? That could be me some day. Fear welled up in my throat as I watched her maneuver her way on to the bus. She cleared each step with her cane and stepped aboard.
A man in the front of the bus stood up. “Here, miss. Take my seat.” He tapped her arm. “Behind you.”
She wordlessly took his seat without uttering so much as a thank you. I sat in the seat directly across from her, not wanting to watch her--but unable to take my eyes off her. She wore dark glasses and a blank expression, so isolated in a world of utter chaos. She pulled a book out of her bag and began feeling it. Braille, I sucked in my breath. A foreboding premonition hurled through me and I thought I might be sick. I couldn’t take this. Visions of my future flashed in front of me, filling me with an uneasiness that had me completely undone.
How could she have the patience to read Braille, feeling all those bumps. After reading small print on legal documents all day, I would never have the tolerance to learn Braille. No way. How could a sighted person adapt to an unsighted world? Would that be me some day? Or was I just hitting the panic button. Then to my horror, the words screeched in my head. “You’ll be blind by time you’re twenty-five.”
Precisely one week later, I was down in my garage, putting the finishing touches on my painting. The rich fertile vineyards of the Tuscan landscape shrouded an inland harbor of mirror still waters. Age-old olive trees framed the hillside. Sitting back to admire my work, I smiled in eager anticipation. Just a few more strokes of the brush for fine detailing, and my masterpiece would be complete.But suddenly, a huge splattering of black paint covered my beautiful painting. Confused, I wondered how paint had managed to get all over my masterpiece. I blinked several times, but it was still there.
Slowly but surely, my brain received the message. It wasn’t black paint covering my canvas at all; it was blood covering my retina. My worst nightmare had just come true. I’d had a massive retinal hemorrhage.
Dumbfounded, my paintbrush slipped from my fingers and rolled across the floor. I felt like I was drowning, losing consciousness. I sunk into a chair, clasping my hand over my mouth. Heart-wrenching pain stabbed at my gut. Nausea threatened. Then the tears spilled. “Nooo! Not yet. It’s too soon."
Oh Sharon, that is such a moving excerpt. Thank you so much for being with us today, and for sharing so much of yourself and your work. It's been an absolute privilege.
Echo of a Raven
Available in paperback and eBook
Other books by Sharon Donovan
Touched by An Angel
The Claddagh Ring
Sharon is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and Pennwriters. She has a story in the highly acclaimed Chicken Soup for the Soul, Tough Times, Tough People.
Visit Sharon’s website at:
or write to her at:
Some of Sharon's paintings: