Donna Lee Schillinger – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debtfree and Regretfree is about strengthening young women’s faith and preventing the screw-ups that can brand us for life. I draw on my eclectic past and use gender-reversed Proverbs with real-life applications to wave the red flag of caution for young women, warning against the pitfalls of a post-modern, sexually casual, consumer-is-king society that is indelibly scarring youth with cynicism, sexually transmitted diseases and bad credit.

Tell us something about yourself.

When I meet young people who say, “I don’t like to read,” I invariably tell them that I can relate. Until I was in my 20s, I hated to read. I’ve always been a slow reader, the kind who likes to hear the words in my head as I go along. Add that to all the reading you have to do as a student, and I just did not like to read.

Then I all of the sudden had a load of time on my hands and no television! I was in the Peace Corps and after 8 p.m., it was just me and four walls. A friend of mine gave me Lonesome Dove and told me I should read it. It has over 1,000 pages! I thought that if I could stay engaged in that book, it would take me a year to read. I was quite surprised when I began devouring the book and finished it within a month. And that was how I discovered reading. Better late than never!

Now reading is one of my top five leisure activities. I have about four or five books going at any one time and wonder of wonders, nonfiction has become my favorite. I prefer biographies, history, inspirational books, devotional books and I am forever reading the Bible in one version or another.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I was a teenager, I used to read Proverbs religiously (no pun intended). I latched on to some key verses, but to be honest, I didn’t really believe that most of the Proverbs applied to me and my life. King Solomon spends a lot of time telling young men to stay away from prostitutes and I was pretty sure that would never apply to me. And in the literal sense, I was right. It wasn’t until I read Proverbs again for the first time in a long while, when I was 40 years old, that I realized all those warnings to stay away from prostitutes had been for me, specifically for me in my youth, even though I’ve never visited a prostitute and can safely say I never will.

I desperately needed the Proverbs in my young adult years – from the time I left for college through Peace Corps service, and 15 years of “single and loving it!” But I didn’t realize it because I didn’t have the time or make the effort or whatever was needed to extrapolate the lessons behind all those “stay away from prostitute” warnings. Consequently, I’ve had my share of heartache – mostly of the self-inflicted variety. Through a series of bozo moves in my youth, I screwed up big time creating all kinds of problems for myself. Though I’m not proud of my jaded past, I decided to get some mileage out of my mistakes by helping young Christian women.

In retrospect, when I realized how much I could have benefited from some straight talk from the Proverbs, the first thing that occurred to me was that I needed to find a way to convey the importance of the Proverbs for a regret-free life to my own daughter, who at the time was 10. So I started to pick out some verses for her and illustrate them with some stories from my life that were a bit more mature than she could handle at her age. As I wrote on a daily basis, the Holy Spirit started to challenge me with the idea of sharing these lessons with a larger audience and eventually, the book idea spawned a nonprofit organization, On My Own Now Ministries, Inc.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

First of all, you should know that what I do is a surprise to me. Although I have always kept travel journals, when it came to writing for school – I sucked! I had an internship my senior year in college – a pass/fail class. Other than working 15 hours a week, the only requirement was a final paper. I failed the class. My prof, Leedom Lefferts, commented on my paper that it was pathetic and to come see him. He made a deal with me: Go to the writing center and have them help me fix that paper and he would change my grade to “pass.”

The tutor who worked with me at the writing center was a friend of mine, Stephanie DeVance, and she did a wonderful job – better than any teacher or professor ever had – at explaining to me what was wrong with the way I communicated.

Add to my poor writing the fact that I hated to read before I was 24 and who would have ever thought I would be a wordsmith? Not me.

My degree was in behavioral science and I worked in social work for about the next decade. I did some newsletter writing and grant writing and became a decent written communicator.

Then in 2000, I decided to “retire” from professional social work to do some social work at home – my elderly grandparents needed a full-time caregiver. That was a challenging and rewarding experience, but it didn’t pay the bills! I needed some income and I was in a pickle about how to get it – I couldn’t get a job that required me to be away from home any length of time because of my grandparents.

I found a job at a local weekly paper writing feature stories. I just had to leave home about three hours a week to conduct interviews and the rest I could do from home at my convenience. From there, I got another journalism gig and then started freelance writing and editing for a magazine.

I was really enjoying this new venture and I realized I had a sort of talent for editing. A lot of people were asking me to edit their writing. One day while I was on the potty, I thought, “I’d like to be a publisher in five years.” I have a lot of thoughts on the potty, but most of them are flushed away. But not that one.

I didn’t do anything deliberate to advance that goal, but just kept working with words. Then one day, a manuscript landed in my hands and the light went on: I should publish this. That was Walking Man: A Modern Missions Experience in Latin America by Narciso Zamora.

Two years later, my wordsmith business, The Quilldriver, had added publishing to its services. Now I have decided to focus on the niche of inspirational/devotional books for young adults, and On My Own Now is the first book in that direction.

How do you do research for your books?

This is actually a very interesting question for On My Own Now. I did have some light research, fact checking, finding sources for things I had remembered from my psychology classes in college, etc., but the most important source I used was divine. Before selecting Proverbs to be included in the book and then before beginning to write commentary on each one, I prayed a simple prayer that the Holy Spirit would take over and use me as a scribe of sorts to convey spiritual truths in spiritual words. I know this prayer was effective because I often would sit down and read the proverb and say, “Hmm. I’ve got nothing!” So in faith I would just put my fingers on the home keys and listen with my heart. Then an hour later, I would sit back and say, “Wow! That’s good.” If I found myself laboring to write a commentary, it ended up being cut from the manuscript.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

My next project is editing an anthology called Purity’s Big Payoff/Premarital Sex is a Big Ripoff. The format will be a two-faced book: on one side, the cover will read Purity’s Big Payoff. When turned over and flipped upside down, the cover will read Premarital Sex is s Big Rip-off. Think in terms of an instruction manual written in both English and Spanish, where one side is English and then the book flips upside down and other side is written in Spanish. Thus the last page of the purity book is immediately followed by the last page of the premarital sex book, but upside down, and vice versa.

Each half of the book begins with an introduction by me. The intro to the purity book includes discussion of scriptural references to abstaining from sex outside of marriage, as well as the practical benefits of overcoming the strong cultural norm of premarital sex. Eight essays follow, telling personal stories about how the essayists were victorious in this spiritual battle and have reaped practical benefits in their lives as a result. In the introduction of the premarital sex half of the book, I tell how important I believe it is for people who have suffered the results of secret sin to share their heartaches with young adults so that they can understand who is harmed in sex outside of marriage and what the very real ramifications of disobedience to God’s will in this area are. There is also some discussion of the concept of recapturing one’s purity despite past sexual experience. This is followed by 10 essays of personal stories about negative consequences of sex before marriage, and hopefully how God has restored the writer and even given them beauty for ashes.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Part of my motivation for becoming a publisher is a belief that if someone has a strong enough desire to do the hard work of writing a book, that message deserves an audience. That doesn’t mean it won’t need to go through a dozen rounds of edits to make the message readily understandable, but the message deserves an audience nonetheless. Publishers have no right to deny an author that earned merit – they are not gatekeepers. They might be an obstacle, but they can’t keep a writer from entering into the hallowed ground he or she deserves to stand on for having written a book. This is a concept whose time has finally coming with digital publishing and ebooks. Now, anyone can put their work in front of an appreciative audience via places online like, and There’s never been a better time in history for being a writer or a reader.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

Visit me on the Web at and I also have a blog on a new book subject I’m “researching” My books can be purchased at my Web site or online book sellers like Amazon, and B&N.