This is my Q and A with Author Donna Woolfolk Cross, who has published Pope Joan, which also coincidentally will be hitting the silver screen in the near future. So let the fun begin!
- What do you consider your greatest achievement? Besides Writing? That’s easy. Hands down: my daughter Emily (an only child), a smart, strong, warm and lovely woman. (Warning: proud mommy bragging ahead). She’s also a brilliant veterinarian; no one can diagnose an animal better than she! No book I ever write will contribute as much to the world as having brought this wonderful person into it.
- What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty. Especially now, when so much is going on with the movie version of Pope Joan. They know things about the production that are not yet ready for release. And, bless them, they have maintained a solid front of silence and discretion.
- What is it that you most dislike? Bugs! All forms of crawling, flying, slimy insects–yuk! To paraphrase a line from Mark Twain–surely God’s mind was wandering when he created these!
- What is your greatest fear? The “One Truth”–a religious conviction so intolerant it leads to the belief that all who do not worship exactly as you do are damned. This has pitted Catholics against Protestants, Orthodox against Reform Jews, Sunnis against Shiites, Christian crusaders against Muslim Turks, and on and on for time immemorial. “One Truth” thinking is responsible for many of the most savage and bloody wars in history. And it is also what drove two planes into the twin towers on 9/11/01.
- What is the trait you most deplore in others? Unkindness. The world is tough enough on everyone; why make it any harder?
- What made you want to write about a controversial figure such as Pope Joan? She may be controversial, but she is also inspirational! I had my own daughter in mind as I wrote this story of one woman’s empowerment through learning. In a time when it was believed that women could not reason, that it was “unnatural” to teach us anything at all–even to read and write–Joan defied the odds and became renowned for the brilliance of her mind and the superiority of her learning. Though Joan’s story is ancient, it is also strangely new–and deeply relevant to the world we live in today. Witness the ongoing struggle of women in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries for the simple right to go to school. Sadly, these brave women are opposed by some of the very same arguments used against Joan over one thousand years ago.
- Who are your favorite writers living or dead, and Who out of all of the would you want to meet and why? An excruciating question, Marci, for there are too many to list them all! Any list I provide right now is sure to leave out some that I’ll wish I added tomorrow (or even in an hour!) Off the top of my head: William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Mary Renault, Barbara Tuchman, Cecelia Holland, Gore Vidal, Ken Follett, (stop me, someone, before I go on forever! I’m stopping here just because I must stop somewhere). Of all of them, I would want to meet William Shakespeare. So many questions to ask: did he write ALL of the plays attributed to him? Who is the love object of most of the sonnets? How much did the plays change during production and which of the “folios” does he like the best? Is his sense of humor as well-developed as it appears? (for not many jokes are funny 500 years later–yet so many of his still are). Etc. Of course, it would help if he wouldn’t speak Elizabethan English, whose pronunciation would be somewhat hard to understand–and vice versa for him with regard to my modern English. But hey, if we’re using one miracle to resurrect him, why not one more so he and I can understand each other?
- Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice. Smart, strong, and sassy (“impertinent” in the language of the day), she is not as beautiful as her sister Jane. She charms Darcy not with her looks but with– here it comes again–her mental acuity. Very similar to my own heroine Joan!
- Which historical figure do you most identify with? Can’t think of any. Most of the famous women of history were were either heroes or victims. I am neither. I’m just a simple writing drudge, doing the best I can like everyone else, and hoping to get out of this world without doing any major harm to it!
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I’d want more patience. Actually, even SOME patience would be a help!. I’ve got part one of the “Serenity Prayer” down pat, but not the other two: 1. “God give me the strength to change the things I can…”If I hadn’t had the strength to change things, then Pope Joan, abandoned by its first publisher, would have had a shelf life somewhere between lettuce and yogurt! As this novel was a labor of love (and a labor of over seven years), I couldn’t let that happen. I realized that if this canoe was going to move, I was going to have to paddle it myself. So I began chatting by speakerphone with book groups all over the U.S. and Canada 2-3 times a week, every week–in effect creating a “grass roots” form of promotion that has kept my poor orphaned novel in print to this day (though never anywhere near a bestseller list). 2. “..the patience to accept the things I cannot change…” A complete wipe-out for me. I just can’t accept things I cannot change–and I have little patience with them. 3. “…and the wisdom to know the difference.” Another bust. Which is why my head is filled with bumps, from banging it so often against brick walls that will never give.
Now, Donna has a really great contest going on right now since her book has been made into a movie and will be hitting the silver screen in the next few months, go to her website to find out more or go to my post about it.
Thank you Donna for the great questions, and good luck with your movie contest and premiere!