Henry and Jocco

Donna Barten

Writer… Scientist… Someone who wonders

I first became interested in writing fiction while co-leading writing groups in a women’s prison.  I volunteered with Voices From Inside http://www.voicesfrominside.org/. It balanced my work as a research neuroscientist, where I ran a lab studying treatments for Alzheimer’s disease for over 20 years.  In these small groups of women I not only heard many unexpected stories, but found that I enjoyed writing my own.  I began to embellish, change and create new characters and eventually the characters in Breathing Water and Imprint and Inheritance demanded my full attention.  Over the next five years I invested in learning the craft of writing fiction as I created these two novels and now I can’t imagine a life without this kind of writing.

You may wonder how science and writing fiction could fit together.  As a scientist I am always asking questions.  “What makes a normal nerve cell become abnormal?  How does that cell cause its neighbors and then the whole brain to move out of equilibrium and cause functional changes?”  As a writer I ask similar questions.  “If a character has a significant mental health challenge or an addiction, how does it affect not only their own life and dreams, but also those around them, and then those in the next circle around them?  What becomes embedded in the family dynamic?”  I also like to plant each character squarely in their times and culture and thoroughly enjoy the research involved in adding those historical details. 

In my spare time I garden, cook and do volunteer work.  I live in rural Connecticut with my husband. We have two children and three grandchildren.  I often work out plot points during long daily walks my standard poodle, Jocco. Unfortunately, my beloved vizsla, Henry, who began this writing journey with me, has passed onto another kind of life without pain.