Donna Hill

Donna Hill
If I Could

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
August 21, 2002

1. Who is Donna Hill?

This is probably the toughest question of all. In my mind, I'm a rather simple person. I work hard and try to do the right thing by my friends and family. I take great pride in my work. I'm a real family person and would rather be at home than on the road. I do procrastinate a lot, which always has me in a deadline jam! LOL I'm always looking for another challenge, something new to do within the framework of writing and creative projects.

2. What inspired you to write the novel IF I COULD?

I wanted a different approach to the girlfriend story. But at the same time I wanted to create a story with issues and themes that I believe are very relevant to women. I felt that a trio, all very different and brought together for different reasons would be a good start. In the back of my mind when formulating the storyline I kept thinking that this would be a book about change, the challenge of changing and the consequences.

3. How did you come about the title IF I COULD?

I love the song by Regina Belle and it fit perfectly. Actually, the title was a big part of the inspiration for the novel.

4. How did you come about Regina's character?

Regina was my pivotal character. Everything and everyone revolved around her. She appeared to be the weakest of the trio but in fact she was the one with the strength. Parts of her are like me, I suppose. Especially the whole Catholic school thing. I wanted to show a character who had inner strength and didn't realize it until she was pushed as far as she could go.

5. How did you come about the plot surrounding Regina and Russell?

Russell was the catalyst for Regina's breaking out. He was also representative of what many men feel and believe: that they should run the household and if they provide for you, that's all that you should want. But I also wanted to show WHY he was that way. He had a background and issues as well. Russell was never set up to be a villain.

6. How did you come about Toni and Victoria characters?

When I thought of three woman, I also thought of them as representing issues. Toni was superwoman, they martyr, ready to save the world, change things at the expense of herself and her family. Victoria was the one with the color complex, feeling less than because of it. And doing whatever was necessary to prove that she was worthwhile.

7. How did you come about the plot involving Victoria and Phillip, where Victoria felt marrying a white man would make her feel better about herself and Victoria keeping her pregnancy a secret?

That is clearly part of Victoria's makeup. What better way for Victoria to prove her worth, at least to yourself, than to marry a white man-to validate her personhood, to "show them." Her pregnancy went against everything she made herself believe. It resurrected all of her old fears. She knew how miserable she was as a child, how ridiculed-how could she do that to her own child? She also questioned her value once again-this time as a mother. It was definitely the turning point for her. She had to finally look at who she was.

8. How did you come about the plot surrounding Toni and Charles, their problem with Steven and most of all Toni's affair?

All of that is a direct result of Toni's drive to have things the way she wanted them. To push her past deep into the past. She was so busy with her job, decorating her home, and treating her patients that she became blinded to what was happening in with her son and with her marriage. Toni was the type of character who always need to fix things, to make things better. She'd come to a brick wall with Charles, but found it, temporarily, with someone else.

9. How did you come about the plot surrounding Millie and Ellen?

Millie needed a mirror. Ellen provided that mirror for her, forcing her to see herself. For years Ellen simply listened to Millie, until she too couldn't take it anymore and told Millie exactly what she was doing to her daughter.

10. How did you come about the plot surrounding Regina and Parker?

The old romantic in me wanted Regina to have someone. But this time she would make a mature decision based on the Regina she had become and what she wanted for herself in the future.

11. Why did you choose to let Regina open a bookstore?

I love bookstores.

12. Are there any of your personalities traits in any of the characters?

I think there is a bit of me in each of them. Probably I'm identify more with Regina.

13. How long did it take you to write IF I COULD?

It took about 6 months, from conception to completion.

14. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?

For me, when the mood hits me, it could be anywhere. I've written novels on the train, on airplanes, in noisy apartments. I do know that if it's too quiet, I don't get much done.

15. What message would you like readers to receive from reading IF I COULD? That it is never too late to change, to take a look at yourself and your life and make some decisions. And sometimes you have to be strong enough to walk away from all the things that are familiar so that you can be all that you are destined to be.