I'm happy to welcome one of my good friends, Darlene Franklin, with her first cozy mystery. By the way, Darlene, I like your picture.
Welcome, Darlene. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
Most of my characters include a bit of myself, but none of them are autobiographical in the least.
Cici Wilde, the heroine of Gunfight at Grace Gulch, lives in a small Oklahoma town as I did for a few years. She shares my love of the people and the culture while at the same time feeling stifled by small town life and family expectations. She inherited her self-doubts from me!
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
What a grand question for a cozy mystery writer, since our characters are supposed to be as quirky as they come! I don’t see myself as quirky; of course not, I’m perfectly normal!
Let’s see. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 23. That was weird, because in America a driver’s license is the closest thing we have as a rite of passage to adulthood. During those college years, and in fact until I married and drove my husband’s car, I went everywhere by bus. My parents lived in Maine and I went to graduate school in Texas . I traveled by bus from Mexico City (where I spent the summer) to Maine; from Florida to Texas; and so on. Great memories.
Sounds like fun. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
Does it count that I saved the first story I ever wrote when I was in second grade?
Like many writers, I have written all my life. A girlfriend and I swapped letters with a continuing story about Star Trek (classic Star Trek, I’m dating myself.) I even wrote society news for a small town newspaper when my son was small.
I date the true beginning of my writing career from the days after my divorce. I poured out my heart on paper, and I couldn’t stop writing after that.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I read more mysteries than anything else. All kinds—suspense, cozy, private eye, thrillers. I have to force myself to read other things. I also read quite a bit of romance, a bit of historical and Christian nonfiction, memoirs.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
My first book came out of the pain of my divorce and healing from abuse, God’s Broken Heart. After that, I dived into fiction, developing one of my childhood stories—Strong Medicine, about a female medical student in 1876 Denver.
My first published book, Romanian Rhapsody, came next. (It wasn’t published for years after I wrote it, however.) I wrote a sequel, Plain Song.
Then I wrote my favorite unpublished books. The first one, Calm Before the Storm, is a romantic suspense about a male amnesia victim and the doctor who is trying to help him. After that I wrote Night Burning, a novel about two brothers who took opposite sides during the Montgomery bus boycott, and the woman they both love.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
Sane? Who’s sane? (Can one be quirky and sane at the same time?)
When things get too busy, I freak out, I confess. Sometimes all I need to do is to have a quiet praise time, humming worship songs to myself. That often jolts me out of focusing on my problems and helps me refocus on Almighty God. If I’m feeling too overloaded, I may choose to stay home when I’m supposed to be somewhere else (church, writers group). I make sure I get 8-9 hours of sleep a night. And I keep my commitments to a minimum.
Yes, people have a hard time realizing that writing is a "real job," don't they? How do you choose your characters’ names?
I didn’t think a lot about choosing names when I wrote my first (published) book, Romanian Rhapsody. But since then I discovered a tendency to give all my characters very British sounding names. So I make myself look elsewhere. I may look at the immigrants who first settled that portion of the country. Or if I find a first name that I like (Blaine), I’ll choose a last name that shares the same ethnicity (Irish: Kelvern).
One of the more unusual techniques I’ve tried is using the letters on license plates as my characters initials. “NC” became Nathan Currier; “FM,” Ford Murdoch. I play around with them; FO can migrate into Franz Orbach, Fernando Olivarez, Finola O’Sullivan or Felicity Owen.
I keep an alphabet list to avoid giving characters the same initial.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Are Christian writers allowed to be proud?
I recently published an essay entitled ”Writer’s Pride” (see http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_noveljourney_archive.html). In the essay, I talk about the connection between pride and faith: “Pride recognizes the unique gifts that God has given to me, and single-minded faith pursues the work he has set for me to do …. So I will write. Write out of pride that God has words to deliver through me. Only me. Write out of faith that what God has called me to do is worth doing.”
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
I’d be a cat, no question. Someone who values her independence but who likes being around people (and having my every whim provided).
What is your favorite food?
I love Good Times frozen custard! I pity those of you who have never tasted it. Imagine ice cream, only better.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
I could mention time (a single mother, I have written while taking the bus, on my lunch, at soccer practice—you name it) or believing in myself. There had to come a point where I no longer said “I want to be a writer” and instead started saying “I am a writer”—whether my list of credits agreed with me or not.
But the great roadblock, and one that continues to challenge me, is jealousy. Unless I reach super stardom like Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye or John Grisham, I will always see someone ahead of me, with more books, more sales, more success. And even if I reached that point, I might ask myself, “Well, will anyone read my books a hundred years from now?”
That’s why my essay on a writer’s pride points to my struggle—and the only answer I’ve found. “By writing, I please my greatest audience--the Father who gave me the gift. His delight strokes my soul with all the encouragement I will ever need.”
Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa) defines success this way: “the idea of God, successfully carried through." That’s how I want to view my writing.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
The simplest is the best. Read, read, read and write, write, write. Simply writing every day improves your writing, especially when you start studying the craft and join a critique group.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
Gunfight at Grace Gulch is the first book in my Dressed for Death series. It has been released as part of the second cycle with the new Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! book club (see heartsongmysteries.com). Cici Wilde, vintage store owner, and Audie Howe, theater director, join forces to find a murderer when the reenactment of a famous gunfight turns deadly. Gunfight draws on Oklahoma ’s colorful heritage and the unique land runs that settled the state.
Gunfight is available for sale through the book club or directly from the publisher (barbourbooks.com).
How can readers find you on the Internet?
They can find me at http://www.darlenehfranklin.com/ or they can check my daily blog at http://darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com/.
Darlene, thank you for spending time with us. I can hardly wait to read Gunfight at Grace Gulch.
Readers, check out Darlene's websites. Also go to the Heartsong Presents Mysteries website. Don't forget to leave a comment here for a chance to win a free copy of the book.