A native of Bergenfield, New Jersey, Donna Thorland graduated from Yale with a degree in Classics and Art History and then moved to Boston. For many years she managed architecture and interpretation at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, and wrote and directed the Witch City’s most popular Halloween theater festival, Eerie Events. She later earned an MFA in film production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Donna has been a sorority house mother, a Disney/ABC Television Writing Fellow, a WGA Writer’s Access Project Honoree, and a staff writer on the ABC primetime drama, Cupid. Her screenwriting credits include episodes of the animated series, Tron: Uprising. Her short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Albedo One. The director of several award-winning short films, her most recent project, The Night Caller, aired on WNET Channel 13 and was featured on Ain’t It Cool News. She is married with one cat and divides her time between Los Angeles and Salem.
Kristin Centorcelli: Donna, will you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Donna Thorland: I have always wanted to be a writer! I grew up on a steady diet of scifi, mystery, and adventure stories and particularly loved horror and sword and sorcery fiction.
After college I lucked into a terrific job at the Peabody Essex Museum, in Salem, where I managed architecture and interpretation and got to direct a Halloween theater program called Eerie Events. We wrote original ghost stories delivered by costumed actors in historic houses for an audience of 10,000 visitors over six nights. Salem is right in the heart of Lovecraft territory, of course, so we drew heavily on him as an influence, along with Hawthorne, Poe, Le Fanu, Dunsany, and M.R. James and contemporary short story master Gary Raisor.
Later I went to film school and had the opportunity to adapt one of Gary’s best stories, “The Night Caller”, as a short film that’s played at the Chinese and Egyptian theaters in Los Angeles and been broadcast on PBS.
I’ve also written for Disney’s animated series, TRON: Uprising.