I had what might be termed a very unusual childhood, unless, of course, you’re one of those kids trapped in the TLC series Toddlers and Tiaras or on Lifetime’s Dance Moms.
I experienced both. My mother had always hankered to be a star or a model, someone whose face was splashed across magazines, TV, whatever. Me, I was a timid little kid who wanted to fly under the radar. Maybe that’s why I liked to read. At breakfast, while everyone else was eating, watching TV, or talking, I’d be glued to the back of the cereal boxes. Nothing, not even the list of ingredients, bored me.
That didn’t exactly jibe with the other stuff I was doing. I was only four when I started modeling (a national billboard for a national product). After that, my mom enrolled me in dance classes and entered me in contests for Miss-Little-Whatever titles. I can’t tell you how intimidating that is to a kid who isn’t a natural extrovert or a proven winner. Adults would discuss my looks, my personality, what I was wearing right in front of me like I wasn’t there. Many times I wanted to cry at the harsh comments, but that’s really frowned upon in the modeling/pageant world. I learned that lesson when a photographer snapped my picture while I was in the midst of a crying jag, because I hadn’t even been a finalist in that particular contest. I sensed my mom’s disappointment, especially when that photo was all over the local papers the next day.
I escaped the only way I could…into reading.
At the time, I never thought of being a writer. It was just something I did, beginning with a letter to Santa that I wrote for one of my cousins. She begged me to pen the thing so she’d get this amazing doll that talked, walked, sang and said your name. Wow. Can’t recall its name now, but it was really something.
With my tongue stuck out to the side and my little hand in a death grip around the pencil, I wrote from the heart, telling Santa that my cousin was pretty good when she stayed for sleepovers because her parents had to work. I threw in some stuff about my mom allowing the sleepovers even though she was old and tired a lot. (She was only in her thirties). In any event, I read the letter to my cousin and the way she beamed when I came to the part about her being good made me smile. My very first review and fan!
After that, I told my neighborhood friends that I’d write one for them or their siblings. I got a few takers. What’s more, I saw my mom showing the letter to my three aunts, bragging about how well I’d written it.
Although it wasn’t a pageant win or a new modeling contract, I was soaring. It made modeling, dancing and the pageants that much easier to take. I was able to retreat into myself, making up stories in my head while all the other stuff was going on.
By the time I was nine, I wrote my first book.
Tina Donahue is an award-winning, bestselling novelist in erotic romance, and an admitted chocoholic known to down semi-sweet candy bars in grocery checkout lines. She lives with her family in Palm Springs, California where tires melt in the 120-degree summer heat and an occasional earthquake puts everyone on notice to bolt things down. When she’s not writing her steamy stories, trying to stay cool, or crawling beneath her desk during a trembler, she loves shopping, eating at her favorite Mexican restaurant and meeting other authors. Before she wrote romance, Tina was the editor of an award-winning Midwestern newspaper and worked in Story Direction for a Hollywood production company.