A Look Back: Lara Donnelly

This article was originally published on April 5th, 2015

Lara Donnelly's premiere novel, Amberlough, was published on Feb. 7, 2017. She is now working on her second novel, Armistice.  

She sat across the conference table from me.  Pale, Pocahontas braids, black smudgy-lined eyes.  A high school Junior, she interviewed me for the high school’s theatre productions director.  Adults interviewed me too, but in a town like ours that spawns such professionals as anthropologists, sociologists, and artists, it’s the child’s voice that matters.  I got the job.  Lara Elena Donnelly.  She picked me.

Lara starred in three shows that I directed.  She took my art classes, sang and danced in my art room at lunch, and talked endlessly about her stories.  I hear fellow writers say that writers are quiet so they can listen.  I say art takes all kinds.  I don’t espouse a certain type (sure, there are commonalities in artist types).  Successful artists must first and forever be: talented.  Lara is talented.  As a teenager, she participated in the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers, first as a student and then as a peer instructor.  Of her many art interests, it is her writing that soars with higher skill and deeper love.

A graduate of Wright State University, Lara received a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing, as well as a minor in women's studies. She received the Presidential Commendation for Excellence in Co-Curricular Activities four years in a row, and graduated magna cum laude, with honors.  During and just after college, she was a four-time finalist in the Dell Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, and won the award in her fifth and final year of eligibility.  After college, she attended the six-week Clarion Writers Workshop at UC San Diego.  Lara says, “[At Clarion] I honed my craft beside seventeen other amazing authors. We were taught by Jeffrey Ford, Delia Sherman, Ted Chiang, Walter John Williams, Cassandra Clare, and Holly Black.”  This summer, Lara, with great anticipation and excitement, will return to teach at Alpha and mentor the students as an on-site staff member.

We, art creators, art appreciators, critical viewers of the world, who teach the arts to artists, know one pure truth:  We supply.  We push.  We add sugar to the hunger.  And then we get out of the way.  Every now and again, as an arts teacher, I get to savor a bite of a student’s sweet reward: a lollipop day when I receive an excited call, text or email (all in caps),


Lara Elena Donnelly, braids replaced with a Pixie cut and cherry red lipstick, trading out jeans and sandals for pencil skirts and shapely heeled legs, Lara, the songstress of fantastical stories, the brilliant ruminator, Lara the soon to be PUBLISHED AUTHOR contacted me with the great news!  Her debut novel, Amberlough, is due out from Tor Books in Fall ’16. Here is just a taste:

When the glamorous city of Amberlough becomes a battleground between the corrupt old regime and a nascent fascist party, a smuggler, a stripper, and a spy form an uneasy alliance built on sex and secrecy. 


Faced with a series of bitter choices—faith or treason, fight or flight—Aristide Makricosta, Cordelia Lehane, and Cyril DePaul navigate an increasingly precarious cityscape of prejudice, corruption, and bloody ambition.


Amberlough brings together the high-stakes suspense of John LeCarre and the sex appeal of Cabaret. Fans of James Bond and Jacqueline Carey will be right at home reading this fantastical thriller, rife with intrigue and dripping with champagne.


For more updates, follow Lara online at laradonnelly.com, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.