by Latoya Burnham
The wind racing across the St. Thomas hills are a welcomed balm on a blistering hot day, as Donna Every settles into an almost throne-like chair on her back patio.
Her mood is one of nervous energy and she laughs easily at herself as she glances at the camera and entreats, “Make sure you get my good side”.
This is a woman of figures, with an accounting background that she has put to work in producing two books so far. Her latest book though, which we are here to talk about, is something of a departure from the norm and certainly not what most people would have expected – a novel called The Merger Mogul.
It is the story of Daniel Tennant, the top Manhattan merger consultant, nicknamed The Merger Mogul and his encounter with Kathryn Taylor at a particularly trying time in his life.
While it has elements of romance and drama, it is based on accountant principals, which Donna says was a focus in writing the book, because as a consultant herself she wanted people to be able to take something away with them from the book.
“I guess it is easy to write what is in your heart, what you know about… I just felt to write on a business theme. There were principles I wanted to communicate and I was really happy when one of my reviewers said, ‘I found some business principles in there that I can use’. So I wanted people to read and be able to take something into their business as well,” she says, with a strong gesture of the hand.
Blending business & life
It is this blending of business with a bit of every day life, romance and even deep thoughts about spirituality that gives the book somewhat of a unique twist, especially when the main characters banter about business but in a way that indicates it is more what they live and less what they read in a book.
For Donna, who spent 10 years at Ernst & Young, in the latter stages as a consultant in the corporate finance and entrepreneurial services department, this element of the book is important. When she went on to form her own business and accept even more speaking engagements to talk about some of the business principles she holds dear, it was being able to bring those elements across in a way that people could relate to that made her work feel worthwhile.
The Merger Mogul is her first novel, but not her first book – she’s also written two business based books, What Do You Have In Your House? and The Promise Keeper, both of which she said were not hard to produce. The first was published in 2009, the second about a year later, and it was her husband who first put the idea in her head that she could write, not just business books, but a novel.
The cool breeze picks up momentarily as she recalls, “My husband has been telling me for years, why don’t you write a book? I read a lot, I am an avid reader and he is always telling me to write and I always say I am not good at fiction. Then somebody told me they saw me as writing a novel, so I saw that as the confirmation that maybe I could write a novel.
“I started writing this book last year and I really enjoyed it, and it was a stretch because my writing style – although it is fiction – is still pretty conversational. I don’t believe in jargon, so I write pretty simply. So it has always been easy to read. So transferring from non-fiction to fiction was not a huge difference. I wrote this book with a business theme,” she says in rushed explanation.
Donna speaks quickly and the intelligence and excitement shines through in her eyes the more she delves into talking about this book. Mind you, she does not give much of the plot away because once you purchase and delve into the first chapter, it holds you to the end and even in between it gets you thinking about when you can get back to finish. Romance or not, it’s an engaging read.
The story starts in Manhattan, but by midway, Daniel is in Barbados enjoying the west coast, eating at Sandy Lane and the Cliff Restaurant, and even exploring the surf coast of Bathsheba. It’s little details like this that will thrill the Barbadian reader and draw the foreigner in.
But the novel almost did not come to be. After sending out feelers to about 10 publishers and getting back rejection letters, Donna tells that she was starting to feel a bit discouraged.
“I gave it to 10 friends and told them to be brutally honest and let me know and amazingly, none of them said it was bad.
“The ones who don’t like romance said it was good but they didn’t like the romance. Those who do said it was a page turner and they couldn’t put it down. I lent it to a husband and wife set of friends and they were fighting to see who would read it next. After that I started sending out query letters to literary agents and when they did not reply, I got maybe like 10 rejections and I thought, Oh my goodness. You don’t actually send them the manuscript, what you send is a one-page letter trying to describe what’s in the book and hope that it grabs them. So I realised this thing is not happening and a friend was saying don’t let that discourage you, still try and publish it, yourself if possible.”
So she went the route of self-publishing through Amazon’s Kindle, which allowed her to format the book through Word, and walked her through the digital publishing of it free of cost. The only thing she had to pay for was to get the cover designed.
“I published just about two weeks ago and I’ve sold over a hundred copies, which isn’t a whole lot or really huge like compared to Fifty Shades of Grey, but it isn’t too bad either. I’m assuming the majority would have come through my Facebook contacts, but there have been one or two from the US and the UK as well, like there is one person who wrote a review, and based on the buying pattern because you put key words with the book and one of the words I used was interracial although it is not totally interracial, what I realised about it is that most people who bought the book, seem to buy inter-racial books.
“So that’s been interesting because I tagged certain words and when you look for those words my book should come up. I was searching for popularity and when you search for mergers, my book was like number two, which was pretty good. For inter-racial it was like number 14 and for Barbados it was number one because there aren’t a lot of novels on Barbados.”
The next step is the marketing of the book, which she already has plans in mind for, including things like tickets and vouchers to some of the places she mentions in the book, catamaran sails, dinner and maybe even a trip to Barbados for a lucky foreign buyer of the book.
Additionally, another novel is already knocking at the door of her mind – this one historical, perhaps exploring the Barbados/South Carolina connection.
Whatever she does though, Donna maintains: “I want to do things that impact people’s lives. So I don’t want to just write in a vacuum. I want to write and I also want to interact… I still love business and love to help people bringing their business into order. I am always finding myself talking to people like that. My passion is to go into communities and help women become empowered to help them realise there are gifts that they can use to provide for themselves. So that is a passion of mine that hasn’t fully materialised,” she adds as she gesticulates again.