by Kyle Mittan
Tucson author Donna Grisanti’s experience as an up-and-coming novelist isn’t as rooted in a creative writing background as many typically are.
Grisanti, a Chicago native who attended college at Arizona State University, studied nursing, psychology and sociology (and eventually went on to business administration) — not your average precursor for a career as an author. But the transition from being a nurse with an MBA to a fulltime novelist was still quite natural, she says.
“I had always had an interest,” Grisanti says. “People said that I wrote well, and, in a third act of life, after our family was grown, I decided to try to learn how to write fiction.”
Though a natural shift, the move to a life as an author wasn’t a quick one. It took Grisanti 12 years of writing as a hobby before publishers picked up her first book, Wandering Hearts, and put it on shelves in August of 2006. Since then, Grisanti has found her voice, primarily as a historical novelist.
Her second and latest effort, Paths of Promise, follows Ruth Yuell, a black woman “dusting close to her 30s” in 1960s Chicago during the Civil Rights Movement. After being injured during a peaceful demonstration, Ruth tells her life story to a journalist friend as she awaits medical attention. The book winds through a number of sub-stories that explain how Ruth has made it to where she is in the present, detailing each experience’s significance.
The book is framed around key historical events in America, such as Brown v. Board of Education, which declared it unconstitutional for public schools to separate students based on race. The storyline, Grisanti says, is based on her research of the movement and that period of time, adding that her publisher had appreciated her ability to implement the time element with her first novel.
“I thought that there was a particular area that had not been portrayed,” Grisanti adds, “And that was the black middle class and how they and everyone in the spectrum of Africa-America contributed to financing the Civil Rights Movement.”
The book can be easily enjoyed by a variety of readers, Grisanti says. Elements of American history make it an easy read for history enthusiasts, and could even be used as an educational tool. The drama and romance aspects make the book enjoyable for those who like love stories. But with an overall message that emphasizes the importance of having a strong spirit, the book is really geared toward anyone, she adds.
With two historical novels under her belt, Grisanti says she’s toying with the idea of working with contemporary themes, and possibly going as far as starting a small series of books. When she’s not writing herself, Grisanti has been re-reading a number of books, namely Susan Isaacs’ Compromising Positions, along with a variety of Tom Clancy’s espionage novels.
Paths of Promise was released last March, and can be found here on Amazon.