Today’s installment of 20 Questions is focused on Canadian author, Darlene Foster. Darlene is going to tell us a bit about herself and her inspiration as well as share a bit of her work with us.
Please enjoy this edition of 20 Questions.
Q1) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember and have enjoyed writing them down since I learned to write. I was about twelve when I had a story published in a local paper. That was when I decided I wanted to be a writer. It just took much longer than I thought it would.
Q2) How long does it typically take you to write a book?
It took me three years to write my first book. Now it takes me about a year to write a book. Since I am retired from my day job, I hope to shorten that time.
Q3) What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
What schedule? When I worked full time I made sure I wrote at least two hours a day, usually after dinner with my hubby. Now I write whenever. We’ve been living in Spain since we retired a year and a half ago. Having a schedule is now a distant memory. Perhaps if I made a schedule I would get more writing done.
Q4) What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if this is interesting, but I don’t make much of an outline and just let the story go the way it wants to. Characters appear out of nowhere and say and do things I don’t expect. This is strange for me as I tend to like to be in control. However, I am not in control at all when writing a story. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Q5) How are your books published?
My books are published by a small independent publishing company, Central Avenue Publishing. It took me five years to find my publisher in Canada but I am so glad I found the one I did. I also have a small publisher in Spain, Ediciones Camelot, who translated and published my bi-lingual book Cerdito a juicio/Pig on Trail.
Q6) Where do you get your ideas for your books?
I get my ideas initially from my travels. I discover a place I find fascinating and create a story around the setting. As for the details, many of my ideas come from everyday living. For instance, while half way through working on Amanda in Alberta-The Writing on the Stone, I got stuck. One morning while waiting for the Skytrain, a young man arrived carrying a lacrosse stick. I decided right there and then I needed to include a lacrosse game in my book! I walked into work with a big grin and said, “I just got a great idea for the next chapter in my book.”
Q7) If you don’t mind sharing, when did you write your first book and how old were you?
This is a delicate question. Let’s just say I started writing my first book fourteen years ago and it was published eight years later. (Three years to write and five years to find a publisher) I am definitely a late bloomer. For the past six years, I have published a book a year, so I am trying to make up for lost time.
Q8) What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I am an extrovert and consequently find being around people energizing. So when I am not writing, which is very solitary, I tend to visit with friends and family, attend social events and travel. This is also when I come up with some of my best ideas. A writer never really stops working.
Q9) What is your favorite book?
Oh my! This is like asking who your favourite friend is. I once had to list fifty of my favourite books and had trouble narrowing it down to fifty! One book I loved as a child and still enjoy as an adult is Anne of Green Gables. Another favourite is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I tend to enjoy books with strong female characters who aren’t afraid to speak their minds.
Q10) What do your family and friends think of your writing?
I am so lucky as my family and friends are my biggest fans and supporters. They buy copies of my books, tell everyone about them and encourage me to write more. My dear husband is very understanding and patient as I lock myself away working on a book. He will often bring me a cup of tea or remind me it is time to eat. He is also my official photographer at my book launches and readings. My grandchildren think it’s cool to have a grandmother who writes books.
Q11) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I learned that it can be done! For such a long time I thought it would be an impossible task to complete a book. Once I broke it down to writing two hours every day, it started to come together. Even after six completed books, I am still surprised when it all comes together and a book happens.
Q12) What do you hate most about the writing process?
The time it takes. I don’t think anyone realizes just how much time is dedicated to writing, until you actually sit down and do it. I know I didn’t. I’m not a patient person and constantly wish I could write faster.
Q13) How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written six books so far. Five in the Amanda travel adventure series and one bi-lingual book. The latest, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music, will be launched October 1, 2016. I could never choose one of my children or grandchildren as my favorite. I feel the same about my books.
Q14) Do you have any suggestions to help us become better writers? If so, what are they?
Join a critique group, attend writing conferences and workshops, connect with other writers in person or on-line. You will learn something from everyone you meet and it will help you become a better writer. I know it’s been said before, but bears repeating, read a lot!
Q15) Do you get feedback from your readers much? How and what kinds of things do they say?
Yes I do. Kids are brutally honest and I love their feedback. They tell me they love the character of Amanda and can relate to her. Some readers mentioned they really liked Leah, a secondary character, so I decided to include her in the rest of the books and further develop her character. The kids often give me ideas too. Recently I read a part of my current work in progress to a nine year old who was happy to point out the boring parts.
Q16) What is your preferred reading audience?
My books are written for children, approximately age eight to twelve. But I have many adult readers as well which pleases me. Parents and grandparents like to read my books to the little ones. One adult reader told me she planned a holiday based on Amanda’s travels!
Q17) What do you think makes a good story?
For me, a good story has real characters one can relate to.
Q18) As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a teacher. When I was a child, I would play school with my older cousins, and I was always the teacher. I got married and had children young so my dream of becoming a teacher didn’t happen. Then when I was fifty, I went back to school and got a Teaching English as a Second Language certificate. Later, I also taught job finding and life skills courses to unemployed individuals. So I eventually became a teacher and loved it. Dreams do come true!
Q19) Where can we find your books?
My books are on Amazon sites all over the world as well as The Book Depository, Kobo and Indigo
Q20) Will you give us an excerpt from one of your favorite works?
Here is an excerpt from Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone but please don’t tell the other books as I don’t want them to think this one is my favorite.
At the top of the cliff, the girls gazed over the rail at the sweeping sage-green prairie. They noticed the remnants of the rocks piled up to create cairns thousands of years ago. A guide explained that this historic site was older than the pyramids in Egypt or Stonehenge in England. He pointed out the spot where the bison tumbled over the cliff.
A hot, dry wind blew across the plateau. Amanda imagined the frightened, huge beasts thundering along unaware of their fate, and she felt sad.
The guide showed them the tipis set up in the valley below, ready for the butchering. He described how once the animals were skinned and cut into chunks, the parts were taken back to the campsite for storage. He then invited everyone to walk down to the valley along a trail if they wished.
“You girls can check it out if you like.” Mrs Ross wiped her face with a tissue. “It’s too hot. I’m going to the café for an iced tea. Meet me there later.”
Leah and Amanda followed the guide down a path that lead to the bottom of the cliff.
“Is it called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump because the animals smashed their heads when they went over the cliff?” asked Leah.
“Legend has it that a young boy wanted to get a good look at the buffalo as they went over the cliff. He stood too close and a buffalo fell on top of him smashing in his head. The people then called it Head-Smashed-In.”
“Maybe the parents used the story to warn other children not to get too close,” remarked Amanda.
“Perhaps.” The guide nodded. “Many of our legends have a lesson in them.”
Soon they came upon some tipis in a circle. The tops were painted with black dots and stripes and a single huge buffalo decorated each side.
While Leah continued to ask the guide questions, Amanda examined the nearest tipi. She looked to see if she could spot any more symbols similar to the one on the rock. She ended up around the back of the tent when the same cowboy appeared.
“Where is the stone?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes, you do.” The cowboy put both hands on her shoulders. “I heard you have the stone and I want it!” He began to shake her.
Amanda stepped back. The cowboy moved forward. She took another step back, tripped in a gopher hole and fell flat on her back. The cowboy fell on top of her.
“If you know what’s good fer you, you’ll hand over that stone to me,” he growled through his yellowed teeth.
His breath smelt of stale cigarette smoke and onions. Amanda held her breath.
About Darlene Foster:
Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She has had a desire to write since she was twelve. Her short stories have won a number of awards. She is the author of the exciting adventure series featuring spunky twelve-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Her books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel and Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. Amanda on the Danube-The Sounds of Music will be available October 2016. Readers from seven to seventy enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene and her husband currently divide their time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. www.darlenefoster.ca