MURDER AND MATURITY
by Robin Leemann Donovan
Please welcome Robin Leemmann Donovan to the Writers Journey Blog this week!
I grew up as a Catholic in Teaneck, New Jersey. The town sign read “Welcome to Teaneck, an up-and-coming Jewish community.” So, I had the benefit of a wonderful, and somewhat experimental education, and I still use more Yiddish words than anyone I’ve met since moving to Connecticut and subsequently Nebraska. Teaneck was diversity at its best.
Although Teaneck was the height of gentility, I was not completely sheltered from the “rougher” areas around Newark and other of northern Jersey’s mean streets. So the dye was cast.
Being in an experimental school system, my love of writing was encouraged to flow naturally and discipline was never a major factor – to the chagrin of some of my later instructors and bosses. I realized that humor was possibly my best tool – my refined education combined with my down and dirty street sensibility made for a unique comedic approach. When I was a kid people still wrote letters. I probably wrote more than most kids.
I was constantly getting feedback from friends and relatives that they loved my letters and I could always make them feel better; I could make them laugh. That was music to my ears. With a love of writing and a love of literature, I became an English teacher. From early on I knew I wanted to write a book, but I kept putting it off because I didn’t have time – at least that was my excuse.
When I was 12 we moved to a small town in northern Connecticut which introduced me to a surprising lack of diversity. It was like getting all four wheels stuck in the mud, but I hung around to see Connecticut evolve into a far more diverse collection of communities.
I graduated from UConn and started teaching English. But, within three years I made a major career shift and was working at an ad agency, wondering how I had survived the, for me, stifling world of faculty life. As an English teacher and a lifelong humorist, the writing bug was already firmly implanted in my DNA.
Growing up my parents had embraced a “joy of life” philosophy, eschewing the more noble pursuits. In their world life was something to enjoy, and they were extremely social people, i.e. our house was party central. My parents went to dinners and plays and jazz clubs, and we were always throwing parties. I learned to make Bloody Marys at the age of 11. It was a specialty very much in demand until today’s mixes made my role redundant – but I still make a world-class gin and tonic. They believed in giving back – but they also believed if you weren’t having fun you weren’t doing it right.
Somehow, I married a man whose parents believed if you were having fun you weren’t doing it right. It was a bit of culture shock for a while – but ultimately we’re still all about making sure there’s joy in life. Luckily, it wasn’t that difficult to bring him over to the dark side. But honestly, I think the key is that we’re dedicated to making sure the folks around us get to share in the joy.
When I realized that teaching English was not the right fit I was at a bit of a loss. It didn’t take long to realize that as a secondary English teacher I was required to share my passion for English literature with a large percentage of students who would have chosen a stint in Sing Sing over a group discussion of Hemingway’s work. Sure, there were students who shared my interest, but they were few and far between. At least as a math teacher, you only get some of the math loathers before being able to concentrate on the future math majors, but with English – every student is required to pass four years of English which can take considerably more than four years in some cases – and that is a challenge not for the faint of heart!
After a heartfelt change of career search I ended up in the media department of a Connecticut ad agency – and I had found a home. 17 years later I was recruited to a global ad agency’s founding office in Omaha, NE, little knowing that one day my partner(s) and I would own that agency.
I first started writing professionally when my business partner charged me with starting a blog on menopause. I didn’t love the idea of being the poster child for maturing women, but she made a compelling case. Women, even very smart women, were in such denial about aging that they virtually all entered menopause totally unprepared. Their doctors were not much help.
These women were making critically important, life altering decisions based on little or no information. My partner pointed out that I could take the most complicated issues related to menopause and articulate them in a way that was funny and fun to read. Thus was born, Menologues. Which I wrote for about 4 years. Menologues won a few awards and was republished on Vibrant Nation and Alltop.
One reader who was sent to the site by a friend I hadn’t seen since high school actually said that it saved her life. And I believe she meant it. Even now I get a discount from my HRT doctor for being a menopause blogger.
Years ago, I went to a psychic. He asked me if I had any questions, and then said “before you ask me anything I have two things to say to you.” One of them was “you know that book you keep saying you’ll write when you have time, well write it.” Holy crap – he nailed it. Even then I didn’t start. One day I woke up and realized: you own an ad agency that can promote books, you write a blog for menopausal women so there’s a bit of a built-in audience and you just got a publisher as a client – this is the perfect storm so it's now or never.
And now, I’d like to introduce you to my protagonist, Donna Leigh:
Donna Leigh is the menopausal owner of an ad agency in Omaha, Nebraska. Sort of like me. She keeps getting involved in murders because of her relationship with the victims. Donna is self-deprecating but has an ego. The various characters around her help to illustrate both the craziness that sometimes permeates the ad business as well as the foibles within Donna herself. Donna fills the niche of a mature, but not terribly old sleuth/sort of heroine. She’s not perfect, in looks or action – but she’s still damn good! Donna helps the readers see the beauty in what’s not traditionally beautiful.
In each of the three books, someone from Donna Leigh’s world has been murdered – and in each case, her connection to the victim propels her into the investigation. Donna Leigh has enabled me to address all of the pet peeves I have collected in years of reading cozy mysteries. I work hard to eliminate red herrings as well as other painfully stereotypical cozy mystery devices, i.e. when a disguised voice phones to invite Donna to a remote area, late at night and alone in order to obtain a lead, unlike other female sleuths, she lets loose a torrent of angry frustration as she explains that she was not born yesterday and she will never fall for that ploy. Donna has read her share of cozy mysteries – she’s no dummy!
Click the covers to read more: Author Bio Below!
How can readers find out more info about you and your books?
On my website: http://www.rldonovan.com/
Or directly on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Donna+Leigh+Mysteries or
Author page: RLDonovan - https://www.facebook.com/rldonovanauthorpage/?ref=settings
Series page: Donna Leigh Mysteries - https://www.facebook.com/Donna-Leigh-Mysteries-279477928760374/
My Ad Agency Website: https://bozell.com/people/rdonovan/
Robin Leemann Donovan is the president of Bozell, a marketing/communications firm. She is also the author of the Donna Leigh Mystery series on Amazon (rldonovan.com). Her first book in the series: Is It Still Murder Even If She Was A Bitch? won an AMA Pinnacle award.
In addition to the Donna Leigh Mystery series, Donovan is the author of the blog, Menologues, a humorous yet informative look at the trials and tribulations of menopause by someone who’s been there. Menologues has been republished on two commercial sites: Vibrant Nation and Alltop, and has won regional honors for social media at the AMA Pinnacles and PRSA Paper Anvil awards.
Donovan was born and raised in New Jersey but lived and worked in Connecticut for a number of years before moving to Nebraska in 1999. Starting her career as a high school English teacher, Donovan moved into advertising in the early 80’s. In 1999 she accepted a job offer from Bozell, an Omaha based ad agency. In late 2001, she and three colleagues purchased Bozell from its New York based parent company.
Donovan lives with her husband of nearly 43 years and her French bulldog, Frank.