November 12, 2015

Tour Day: Donna Figueroa and How Her Short Story Became Something Big!

Today, Donna Figueroa is on tour with her new release, Fall Again; Lost Boy. She's dropped by Foreplay and Fangs to discuss how a one-time short story turned into something much bigger.

But I Only Wanted to Write a Short Story…

Or how my little idea became a four part series

by Donna Figueroa
Once upon a time, I had an idea for a short story. I had a clear outline- in my head anyway, and only needed to find the time to sit down and write my story of true love lost, and second chances.

Alas, I am the Princess of Procrastination. Somehow, I never found the time to write my story. That is, my short story.

Before I go any further, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Donna Figueroa. I’m a writer and actor working in Los Angeles, CA.

As an actor my credits include appearances on stage, the big and small screens, voiceovers, audiobooks, and many television commercials.

 I’m a producer and storyteller at Story Salon, Los Angeles’s longest running storytelling venue. I’ve written and performed several stories and one person shows through the salon over the past ten years.

My journey as an author began more than a few years ago with my preferred format being the short story. My work with Story Salon reminded me that not only did I love the spoken word, but also the written word. In addition to my writing at the Salon, I was also writing short stories, primarily for my own enjoyment, never imagining that anyone would want to read them.

That was until I wrote a short story for an event here in Los Angeles. The Legend of Evie Everhart was a ghost story which took place during the golden age of Hollywood. Evie Everhart was a child star who died during a production, but never felt the need to leave the studio that had her under contract. Years later she was still haunting the studio, despite the fact that he studio had tried to erase her memory.

People enjoyed my story. For a few years it became part of the RIP Experience during Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights. The story was published in the literary magazine, Hot Valley Writers. A year later I turned this story into a one person show which I performed through Story Salon.

At this point I started thinking of myself as a writer, and began to write on a regular basis, my preferred format being the short story.

In 2012 I got an idea for a short story which took place in the world of working actors-a world I knew very well. I knew who the main characters were, their backstories, and the general sequence of events.

 My story, Time for Coffee, was to be about two working actors who had known each other in New York.  A chance meeting outside of a casting studio on Sunset Boulevard brings them together for the first time in over twenty years. These two people are very busy, but decide they do have time for coffee. The rest of the story was to be these two people catching up with each other. Of course, it’s discovered that these two people were involved romantically. My two actors would then have a brutally honest conversation on why things didn’t work between them.

I loved the premise for this story and found myself thinking about it constantly.  Unfortunately that’s all I time to do-think about it. Time passed. When I finally sat down to write my story, I no longer knew how to tell this story in a short story format. The story had been in my head for so long that now my two main characters had rich backstories, friends and families. I didn’t know where to begin.

But timing is everything.

In mid-October of 2012, I was reminded that the NaNoWrMo Challenge would begin on November 1. The challenge, to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. Maybe Time for Coffee could become a novel. To be honest, I didn’t know if I had 50,000 words in me. I accepted the challenge.

I began writing on November 1. I completed the challenge by hitting 50,000 words on November 20. I completed the story at just over 80,000 words on November 30. I was thrilled, and put the manuscript away.

In January 2013, I reread my manuscript. I realized that I had a mediocre first draft. I also decided I had a pretty good beginning and end, but I had ignored the bulk of the story. I liked my characters and story too much to leave them stranded in a weak novel and decided to begin work on a second draft, and complete the story.

Months later I did one of the most frightening things I’d ever done. I gave my novel to someone else, a mentor, to read. I asked him to please give me his honest opinion.

Three weeks we met for his critique. I was nervous as he put on his glasses and flipped through notes. “So Donna, I don’t think you have a novel.”

Okay, so maybe I wasn’t a novelist. I had asked him to be honest and I trusted his opinion. At least I’d tried.

But then he continued. “Actually I think you have at least three novels here. Have you thought about turning this into a series?”

That was in 2013. I’m very happy to announce that the second book of my series Fall Again will be published this November. The Fall Again series is the story of two actors, Marc Guiro and Lauren Phillips.

In the first book, Beginnings, Marc and Lauren meet in the optimistic New York of the late 1980’s. While there’s an obvious attraction, decorum dictates that their relationship remain in the realm of a platonic friendship. Over time, this becomes increasingly difficult as Marc and Lauren struggle to maintain the façade of friendship to their closest friends, and to each other. But then, Lauren leaves New York, permanently

The second book, Fall Again: Lost Boy, is Marc’s story where Marc finds himself devastated and alone in New York City.  He’ll be tested and makes choices that will take his life in different directions. On occasion fate intervenes placing Marc at the right places at the right times, providing him with exciting opportunities. Over time Marc becomes a better artist, son, brother, friend and above all, a better man. With the support and encouragement of old and new friends, Marc unknowingly begins a personal odyssey to find himself; an arduous journey that will eventually lead Marc back to a woman whose memory refuses to leave him.

The Fall Again series is not only about Marc and Lauren. The book is also about lifelong friendships as you’ll get to know Marc and Lauren’s closet friends. Fall Again also gives a realistic look into the lives of working actors and artists in an industry that is often misunderstood. Fall Again is about second chances.

The last two books of the series, Fall Again: California Girl (Lauren’s story) and Fall Again: Reunion will be published in 2016.

And to think this series started out as a short story about a chance meeting on Sunset Boulevard. I’d still like to think I’ll write Time for Coffee one day- that is, if I can ever find the time.

Donna Figueroa is an actor and writer living and working in Los Angeles, CA.  She has worked on stage and on the big and small screens. Her credits include appearances on several daytime dramas, voiceovers for animation, commercials and industrial projects, audiobooks and several television commercials. 

She is a producer and storyteller at The Story Salon, Los Angeles’s longest running storytelling venue where she has written, performed and developed three one person shows.
Donna considers herself an athletic shopper always in search of the ultimate bargain.
She lives in Hollywood with her husband writer/comedian Tony Figueroa, and their three neurotic cats.

The Fall Again Series
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What if you met the right person - at the wrong time?

In Fall Again: Beginnings, the first installment of the Fall Again series, actors Marc and Lauren meet in New York City in the late 1980’s. While there’s an obvious attraction, circumstances dictate that their relationship remain within the realm of a platonic friendship. Over time they struggle to maintain the façade of friendship to their closest friends and to each other. Until one night…

Fall Again; Lost Boy
The Fall Again Romance series continues.
When Marc Guiro learns Lauren Phillips is gone, his life shatters.

Lost Boy, the second novel in the Fall Again series, begins as Marc frantically returns to New York, only to find that the woman he loves has left New York permanently. Marc is devastated, but struggles to put his life back together, often making choices that drastically alter the course of his life.

 With support and encouragement from old and new friends, Marc unknowingly begins a personal odyssey to find himself- an arduous journey that brings Marc personal and professional fulfillment, and eventually leads him back to the woman whose memory refuses to leave him.

Two minutes later, when Mel opened the door to the apartment, Marc barged inside. “Where’s Lauren?” This was a frantic demand as opposed to a question.
If Marc had looked at Mel, he would have seen she was deeply troubled, but he hardly noticed her.  The only thing that mattered was seeing Lauren.
 Marc was moving toward Lauren’s closed bedroom door before Mel stopped him by firmly grabbing his arm.
“Marc, stop-I need to talk to you!”
Marc tried to shake her off. “And I need to talk to Lauren!”
But Mel only tightened her grip and angrily raised her voice. “No, I said stop!”
 Mel had never intended to sound so cruel, but at least Marc stopped and looked at her, stunned, as the manic energy that had come over him dissipated.
Mel slowly released the grip on Marc’s arm while making every effort to calm herself down. “Look, I don’t have a lot of patience right now. I’ve had a rough day!”
Marc resented her comment. The only thing preventing him from exploding was fatigue. “That’s funny, Mel, because I’ve had a rough day too! Actually I consider today a continuation of yesterday, since I didn’t sleep last night knowing that this morning I would be breaking things off with Miriam. That task was successfully accomplished before nine this morning. Needless to say she wasn’t too happy about the breakup, and neither were her parents-or my parents! I made my mother cry and my father called me a disgrace to the family.”
Mel remained still as Marc recounted the events of his day. Her day had been smooth and easy in comparison. “Marc…I’m so sorry.”
He took a deep breath and continued to recount what had to be the longest day of his life. “Since I’d already caused enough pain in Montreal, I decided to head back to New York. Three major airports, a four-hour layover in Boston and one trip through U.S. Immigration later, I’m here.”
Mel could see that Marc was under a lot of stress. She took his coat before giving him what she felt was a much needed hug. Her voice took on a soothing quality. “I just wasn’t expecting you back until tomorrow.”
 Marc was hardly in the mood for small talk. “That was the plan but I’m back now-and I need to see Lauren.” He broke free of Mel’s embrace and quickly moved to Lauren’s closed bedroom door. He called to her while opening the door. “Lauren?”
 Marc stood frozen in the doorway of Lauren’s room, confused. All of her belongings were gone. He turned back to Mel as his voice caught in his throat. “Where’s Lauren?”
Mel could see that Marc was worn down, vulnerable and exhausted as she dreaded what was coming next. “Marc…she’s gone!”
For the first time since he arrived, he heard the sadness in Mel’s voice, a sadness that now filled his own. “God, Mel! Where is she?”
As she spoke, Mel saw tears fill Marc’s eyes. “I don’t know!”
 With that Marc brushed past Mel as he headed to the front door. But instead of opening the door, he struck it hard with his fist, and then struck it even harder a second time.
Mel was frightened by Marc’s unexpected and violent display of emotion. “Marc stop. Please calm down. You’re scaring me!” 
Her emotional outburst stopped him. When he turned to face her, he was barely audible. “Mel, I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”
Mel watched Marc shakily sink down against her front door before she heard uncontrolled sobs. At first, all she could do was stand and watch helplessly before her instincts kicked in. She sat on the floor next to him while doing her best to console him.
 All this time she had only been worried about Marc hurting Lauren, never imagining that Lauren would hurt Marc. But as Marc put his head into her lap, she sadly realized that Marc and Lauren had hurt each other.

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