Donna Schlachter on historical suspense

Donna is a hybrid author. She writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of ACFW, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and CAN; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes online and in person. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges writing contests. 

Tell us about your newest book.

Set in 1880, Becky Campbell leaves her wealthy New York lifestyle in search of her father, only to learn he was murdered in the small town of Silver Valley, Colorado. Unable to return to her mother in humiliation and defeat, she determines to fulfill her father’s dream—to make the Double Jeopardy profitable. 

Zeke Graumann, a local rancher, is faced with a hard decision regarding his land and his dream. After several years of poor weather and low cattle prices, he will either have to take on a job to help pay his overhead expenses, or sell his land. He hires on with this Easterner for two reasons: he can’t turn his back on a damsel in distress. And he needs the money. 

Becky isn’t certain Zeke is all he claims to be, and after a series of accidents at her mine, wonders if he isn’t behind it, trying to get her to sell out so he can take over. 

Zeke finds many of Becky’s qualities admirable and fears he’s losing his heart to her charms, but also recognizes she was never cut out to be a rancher’s wife. 

Can Becky overcome her mistrust of Zeke, find her father’s killer, and turn her mine into a profitable venture—before her mother arrives in town, thinking she’s coming for her daughter’s wedding? And will Zeke be forced to give up his dream and lose his land in order to win Becky’s heart?

What genre do you focus on and why?

I love mysteries, and I think it stems from my strong sense of justice. I always want to see the world set right again.

Why do you write? 

I am constantly asking myself, “What if. . . ?” questions. What if my mother married that other man who liked her? Would I be here? What if I’d said no when Patrick asked me to come to Denver. What would I be doing now?  What if I’d been an only child? What if I didn’t struggle with my weight? What if I was as good a writer as I want to be?

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing a book?

I assume you really mean, “what is your work schedule like when you’re writing a book you’ve actually been contracted to write?” because honestly, I’m always writing. As a hybrid author, I write a cozy mystery series that I independently publish, with two coming out per year. So in between those and my contracted books, like Double Jeopardy, I am usually also writing at least two books a year just to keep my hand in and keep my agent happy. I also wear several other hats: I proofread legal transcripts; I do data entry for a local publishing company; I am our corporation’s accountant and VP ; I am our household’s chief cook and bottle washer; we run a B&B in our home; I am a copyeditor on a large ministry project; and hubby and I are active at our church and in another large international ministry.

Whew! That makes me tired just writing it. Not to mention I am wife, mother, and grandma to eleven grands. Oh, and I’m owned by two cats.

What is the hardest part of being an author? Why?

I think the hardest part of being an author is really two-fold. First of all, delayed feedback. I get this great project idea, I start writing, and it isn’t until the book is done that I figure out if it’s any good at all.

But the flip side of that is receiving feedback (a.k.a. critique). Because, like I said, I love the project. It’s kind of like somebody telling you your cat is ugly. It hurts, even though you know it’s not true.

What’s the best part of your author’s life? Why?

The best part is I get to tell stories that will touch somebody’s life. At least, that’s my goal. And I know that doesn’t happen without one key ingredient: God. Because, as my tagline says, Without Him, no story is worth telling.

What’s one unusual fact about you?

I am a Canadian by birth, an American by choice. And the cool thing is, I’ve always wanted to be an American. And just the other day, I was talking to somebody about my homeland (Newfoundland in Canada) and how in 1948 there was an election to choose whether to join Canada or America, and in a rigged election, Canada got the most votes.

Except for a crooked system and about 6,000 votes, I’d have been born what I’ve always wanted to be.

How have you changed or grown as a writer?

I started out writing devotionals, greeting cards, poetry, and magazine articles because I thought that because they were short, it would be easier. Wrong. Then I switched to novels because, face it, you can’t get much character development in a 40-word poem. One day I complained to hubby, “I wish I could just write and let somebody else do the editing.” To which he wisely replied, “Then you’d just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.” So I think the one big thing is that I’ve learned to edit, which I hate, but which makes me a better writer.

What is your favorite pastime?

Besides reading and watching crime drama on TV, I love to oil paint. I discovered this just over a year ago when hubby gifted me with a Bob Ross-style painting class.

Do you have other books? We’d love to know.

I do have other books. Thanks for asking. I have ten in my cozy mystery series, four in novella collections, and more than a dozen besides that. You can find them at Amazon and Smashwords. Just look under Donna Schlachter or Leeann Betts. 

What are you working on now?

I’m focused on this book release as well as the release of number 11 in my cozy mystery series, Missing Deposits.


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