Today we are shining the local author spotlight on Rhonda Lucas Donald. Rhonda has written more than a dozen books for children and teachers including her most recent title: Deep in the Desert. Her articles and stories about science and animals have appeared in “Ranger Rick” and “Your Big Backyard” magazines. As a kid, Rhonda fell in love with science. Now she writes about science, weaving it into verses and songs as a way to make it fun. We’ll be giving away a copy of Deep in the Desert this week to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment on any of the posts this week. On Monday, we’ll choose a random winner.
Rhonda, tell us where the idea for Deep in the Desert came from. Was it something from your imagination or did it come from your life experience?
I always loved music as a child and sang along with nursery rhymes and all the familiar kiddy tunes. This paid off later when I wrote the parent pages for Your Big Backyard. Every month, I wrote new lyrics to familiar tunes about one of the animals in that issue. I really enjoyed it, and the songs were quite popular with the readers. When I was searching for a new book idea, I found that Sylvan Dell Publishing was looking for books about deserts. I thought it would be fun to write about different desert plants and animals in song. Luckily, they agreed!
What about the illustrations? Did you have any input there?
I had no direct contact with the illustrator, Sherry Neidigh, but did see several iterations of the spreads. I saw sketches first, then full-color paintings. Sherry did a tremendous amount of research to make sure every plant, bug, and bird was native to the desert environment she was illustrating. I had a chance to make suggestions or corrections, but I found absolutely nothing to change! She did a fantastic job, and I was truly fortunate to have her illustrate the book. I was terrific to work with the editor at Sylvan Dell, Donna German. She always kept me in the loop.
What was your biggest challenge with writing this book?
The hardest part was organizing the sheet music to go with the songs. Donna (the Sylvan Dell editor) felt that it was important to have the sheet music available online for each song. So I became a composer for a couple of weeks! I know how to read music, but I was rusty and had never really done anything like this before. Thankfully, I have a friend, Laura Scoble, who is a musical genius. She went over all of it with me to make sure it was pitch perfect!
Tell us a little about your next writing project.
I have several books in various stages of completion. A few are circulating, which can take many months. A few are percolating, which can also take many months. One is a picture book, Lop-Eared Lily, about a funny, lovable dog with a penchant for licking. I also have a couple of dinosaur books, which will be nonfiction. I’m always up for writing more songs!
What do you like to read for fun?
I like to read novels, particularly by English authors. Right now, I’m reading The Red House Mystery by Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. Milne. It’s a great period piece. One of my favorite books of all time is The Once and Future King by T.H. White. Of course, I’m also a huge Harry Potter fan, and am mourning the end of the series. Can’t wait for the final movie!
Thanks so much, Rhonda! Later this week, we’ll have a review of Rhonda’s book. Please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy for your bookshelf.