Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Ryan O'Donnell

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday, and another author interview! I'm especially pleased to introduce today's featured author, not only because he's a local author to my area (NY's Hudson Valley), but also because he's 17 years old and just self-published his first novel! [I can barely remember what I was doing when I was 17, but it sure wasn't writing a complete novel and having the gumption and focus to get it published.]

Draw up a chair and stay a while...and please leave Ryan a comment when you're through!

Hi Ryan...can you tell us a little about your background?

My name is Ryan Michael O’Donnell and I am a senior at Port Jervis High School in New York. I’m seventeen currently, I’ll be eighteen this November. I was born in Port Jervis, New York, and during the course of my early childhood my family and I moved to Cody, Wyoming. We lived there for six or seven years before we returned to Port Jervis and we’ve been here ever since.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I’ve been writing for mostly school reasons for as long as I can remember. However, when I came upon my 8th grade year my English teacher at the time, Mrs. Wooley, gave our class a collaborative assignment in which we broke up into groups of two, then had to write a short story either from scratch, or based off of something we enjoy. Writing the joint story was a wonderful experience for me, but at the same time when it was complete I wasn’t satisfied. It set a goal that lingered within me. Write a novel from my mind, not from the mind of another. My fire to accomplish this task was finally kindled when was walking home from a friend’s house during the late afternoon. I had a sudden explosion of characters in my mind, along with flashes of powerful, emotional battle, all at once. These characters lacked names and one in particular received his name from a street sign I gazed at while this influx occurred: Marcus Holbrook, the mentor to the main character in Turalus. His last name taken from Holbrook Street, which neighbors my own.

How do you go about developing your characters?

Like the majority of writers I take situations, events, and people from what I have encountered, experienced, and met. The main character is myself and his friends are friends of mine whom I’ve known for an extended period of time, and whom I consider close to me. To name a few, Christian is my friend Josh Finan who graduated last year before me, Luke is John Yorke who also graduated, and Morgan is Chris Connor who is in my grade currently. A good majority of those who’ve read Turalus have asked me who Angel is as well. I haven’t had the blessing of meeting her yet.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

I believe two important things I can offer to new writers are for one, don’t be discouraged by the criticism of others. I’ve had all kinds of responses toward my novel, some positive, others, not so much. I’ve had people tell me with beaming smiles how wonderful they think my work is and how much they’ve loved it, and conversely I’ve also had people blow me off just for the sake of my age. I’ve held book signings and had people tell me that before I even consider writing anything I should read such-and-such author’s work or I’ll never be successful. Secondly, don’t rush your work. Get it down on paper if you’re like me and you have all-the-sudden ideas, but once it’s on the scrap paper don’t race to put it into the work. Nurture the idea and allow it to evolve into something more riveting than the original idea. Add whatever you feel necessary and take away what you feel won’t flow with the piece. Do what you feel is right. That is one of many beauties of literature, the variety of different conventions writers use.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

I find the most difficult thing about writing to be deciding on which way would work best in conveying your image to the reader. People are diverse and respond differently, so it’s hard for me to decide how to word portions from time to time. In writing Turalus I aimed for it to be a visual spectacle that is simply written. I’ve always admired how something could be so powerful due to its simplicity, thus I write in that manner. I feel the most exciting and rewarding aspects of writing are seeing your words come alive, but more so seeing the reader’s face in awe as they become drawn in to your own world.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

From time to time I have a writer's block. I’m in the sequence of one now actually. My methods of dealing with it are quite simple really. Let it pass is one way. I think of it like driving a car and coming to a stop at the railroad crossing. If the train is still passing, I can’t go yet. Once it’s gone, I can continue. Forcing writing out I wouldn’t encourage even though I did do it for a portion of Turalus. I feel writing is much better when it isn’t strained out. If that just doesn’t work for some, then slowly ease back into it. Continue where you left off, and go for however long you can comfortably, and then stop. There are many ways of dealing with it I can imagine; those are two that I use.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

When I’m not writing my hobbies include listening to all kinds of music, video games, spending time with friends or family, weight training and running. Pretty much the typical teenager stuff.

Thanks, Ryan! If you're interested in finding out more about this up-and-coming author, or purchasing Turalus, visit this link. (Turalus is available though AuthorHouse as well as Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, etc)

Ryan welcomes correspondence from friends and fans; you can email him at

Enjoy your Wednesday!


Diane Craver said...

What an awesome interview. You're very wise for your years and gave great advice. I hope you sell lots of books.

Thanks Allie for a great interview!

Michael said...

I'm very impressed, Ryan. I didn't even finish a complete draft for a novel until I was twenty-four. With your drive and determination, you may just rank up there with other young authors like Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.

Allie: great interview! Thanks for sharing this with us.

Emma Sanders said...

What an awesome interview! You have your head on straight for someone so young. Good luck with everything!

Thanks, Allie, for introducing Ryan to us.