Meet Darlene Franklin
LISA: This week we're adding an extra interview, which means you have a chance to win another book! Welcome to Keep Me In Suspense, Darlene! What was your initial reaction in finding out you sold your first book? In other words, tell us about. . .THE CALL
DARLENE: I have just sold my fourth book, plus one novella—and I have yet to receive a phone call!
Tracie Peterson (editor of Heartsong Presents at the time) emailed me the night before Thanksgiving in 2003 to let me know that they would publish my first book, Romanian Rhapsody (July 2005). Ever since that memorable holiday, I have checked my inbox eagerly on Thanksgiving eve to see if it happens again (so far it hasn’t.)
Susan Downs, editor of Heartsong Presents: Mysteries, IM’d me on the computer one morning, telling me she wanted to contract Dressed for Death.
I was alternately delighted and terrified. Delighted, because Susan was offering a contract. Terrified, because Dressed for Death was not the name of my book and I thought she had me mixed up with someone else. I felt so stupid when she reminded me that Dressed for Death was the name of the series; the contract was for the first book, Gunfight at Grace Gulch.
LISA: Tell us some of the background behind the ideas for your stories and about the story itself.
DARLENE: When my first two proposals for cozy mysteries bombed, I knew I needed to come up with a winning idea. I returned to small town America, to the back roads of Oklahoma where I lived for six years, and to the western culture that provides the mythology of American literature. I also hoped to ride the publicity connected with Oklahoma’s recent centennial (November 2007), but the timing didn’t quite work.
Gunfight at Grace Gulch calls on that staple of Westerns—a gunfight—plus Oklahoma’s unique history of land runs. The fictional town of Grace Gulch celebrates Land Run Days every September; this year, they reenact the town’s most famous gunfight, only one of the players actually dies. Cici Wilde, owner of a vintage clothing store, decides to investigate when her sister and both of her boyfriends fall under suspicion.
LISA: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?
DARLENE: Poor Cici feels like the third wheel between her two larger-than-life sisters. In Gunfight, she excels as a sleuth and starts to accept herself when she realizes how much others love her.
I don’t have any siblings, but I often feel invisible. My daughter died recently; we received hundreds of emails, cards, gifts, flowers, from every corner of Denver and the United States, as well as around the world.
I no longer feel invisible. God showed me His loved through His people.
LISA: What a beautiful testimony, Darlene. I know your book will minister to many. What is the number one thing you’ve learned from your writing journey?
DARLENE: My progress has been slow but sure. I’ve been writing for over fifteen years, and now have some modest success.
Many times I have been tempted to quit. At one conference, I prayed earnestly about it. The answer I have received was this: Don’t worry about whether or not you’re supposed to be writing six years from now. What does God want you to do today?
God didn’t give me the entire timeline; He showed me the next step. He led me to write a book that has never been published, about the Montgomery bus boycott. That project took me almost two years. After that came something else. Six years after that conference, I am paid for almost everything I write.
LISA: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share? Any specific dreams you’d like to accomplish in the area of writing?
DARLENE: I hope to continue writing mystery/suspense; I love a good mystery, and now I write stories that others will read. I’ve enjoyed the western milieu of the Dressed for Death series, and hope to continue to mine the western culture for ideas.
My overarching dream is to leave my day job completely before I reach retirement age. I attended an excellent seminar, taught by Chip McGregor, on planning your writing career. He helped me think through what it will take to retire. Praise God, I’ve made an excellent start!
LISA: Because I know there are many aspiring writers out there, can you share any tidbits of wisdom on getting published?
DARLENE: With Gunfight at Grace Gulch, I am doing what I should have done when Romanian Rhapsody came out. In my defense, I didn’t know how. This time I am setting up book signings in several places, seeking speaking engagements, arranging for blog interviews and reviews, and hope to send out a press release.
I have learned most of this how-to from my critique partners (all professional writers) and the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) loop. It’s an invaluable resource.
LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?
DARLENE: Become part of a local writing group—ACFW is a great one! But even a secular group will help you grow as a writer. Join a critique group, whether face-to-face or online. There are many free writing loops with great advice for beginning as well as professional writers. I regularly check Edit Cafe from the Barbour editors.
Sally Stewart’s annual Christian Writers Market Guide is a must. Join the Writers Digest book club and slowly build your library with volumes that speak directly to your interests. I have both “how to” books and reference books.
LISA: Thanks so much for joining us, Darlene! To find out more about Darlene and her books, including her latest cozy Gunfight at Grace Gulch, visit her website. To win a copy of Darlene's latest cozy mystery, be sure and leave a comment on this post.