(Oct. 4, 2017) -- Meet Deanna Raybourn ’90. She found her voice as a writer at UTSA, and now she’s the author of 11 historical fiction novels.
A San Antonio native and a sixth-generation Texan, Raybourn grew up aspiring to be a novelist. When it became time for her to decide where to earn her degree, she knew she wanted a quality education.
Raybourn’s father, a military veteran, graduated from UTSA in 1980 with a degree in anthropology. The idea of following in his footsteps was attractive to her. She remembered that he had a great experience while earning his degree.
“I knew I could have a valuable educational experience and stay close to my family if I went to UTSA,” she said. “It’s a part of San Antonio, and San Antonio is a part of me.”
Not long after she arrived at UTSA, Raybourn took on a double major in English and history, two areas that she was passionate about studying.
“I went into my history degree with these ideas of what I wanted to study,” she said. “UTSA took me down a path I never could have expected. I had to take things like Russian and African history, which I never would have pursued before. I ended up loving those courses because they forced me to study civilizations and time periods I wasn’t familiar with.”
Raybourn also dove into her English courses, finding excellent guidance as a young writer from professors John A. Stoler and Alan E. Craven, who remain a part of the UTSA faculty today.
“Studying in the Department of English at UTSA was one of my most formative experiences as a writer,” she said. “The faculty taught me so much about writing and reading and how to view the world. Dr. Stoler and Dr. Craven were engaging and demanding, and I learned a tremendous amount from them. They are the two professors who really shaped a lot of what I think about writing.”
While at UTSA, Raybourn also met her future husband.
“My friend invited me to her class because she said there was a really cute guy there,” she said. “And he was. Two months later, we were a couple.”
Eventually, the UTSA couple was married. Coincidentally, that same morning was Raybourn’s Commencement ceremony.
“I went from a black gown in the morning to a white gown in the afternoon,” she said.
Raybourn’s groom came to Commencement to support her, and his best man covered his face so he wouldn’t see his bride as she crossed the stage to receive her degree.
After graduating from UTSA, Raybourn became a teacher at East Central High School, and she continued to write. She completed her first novel when she was 23 years old. Fourteen years later, she became a published author.
“It took a lot of perseverance to stick out those 14 years,” she said. “I finally secured a book deal, and I’ve been published ever since.”
Her novels all fall into the genre of historical fiction, which Raybourn prefers because she enjoys the freedom of interpreting history through the eyes of a character she created herself.
“It’s fun to research periods of history. It never feels like work,” she said. “It feels like complete and utter bliss because you’re being paid to geek out over something you love.”
Raybourn and her family now live in Virginia. Her 11th novel, A Perilous Undertaking, is a mystery that takes place in 1887 London. It was released in January. Her next book is expected to be published in early 2018.
“The one thing I’d like to pass on to other writers, which I learned at UTSA, is that writing is nowhere near as glamorous as you think it is,” she said. “It’s more about putting your tail in the chair than putting the words on the page, and about being comfortable with writing badly because you have to get through that to get to the good stuff.”
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