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Interview with Darlene Franklin

Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin lives in cowboy country—Oklahoma. Oklahoma has the benefit of being the home to her son, his wife, and their four beautiful children. Darlene loves music, needlework, reading and reality tv. She currently resides in a nursing home, which has become a place of blessing. Darlene is the author of twenty-five novels and novellas.

What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
My story, A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas, is only one of five stories included in Brides of the Old West. I hope my readers enjoy a steamboat story!

In terms of spiritual themes, my heroine grew up in a very restricted environment, where men like her father couldn’t be trusted and life in general was dreary. When her mother dies, her father contacts her, asking to meet her—if only she will ride on his steamboat to his home. During her ride downriver, she learns that God gives us lives full of love, joy, and discovery.

I grew up in a very legalistic church—praise the Lord that He came that we may have life to the fullest!

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Persistence. I wrote for fourteen years, publishing maybe one article a year, until my first book came out.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
They play a part because they’re a part of me. I’ve had main characters from anti-God to extremely spiritual. If a character thinks of a Bible verse, or reads something during their quiet time, it’s because I do that. I put myself into their situation, and a verse comes to mind. Or I look for one.

Occasionally I have complaints that there’s too much Bible in my stories. But even the complainers admit the scriptures fit into the story. If the Bible comes alive in our real world, it can in our story world as well. (FYI, I will be teaching on this subject at the at-home conference in September.)

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
That’s a bit of a circular question. Stories are a part of me; ideas come to me almost as easily as breathing.

But as I’m sure everyone here knows, writing is hard work. My health is declining. Writing from a nursing home is difficult; it’s amazing how little time I can carve out for myself. The recent changes in the industry have pushed me into self-publishing, and so far, my income has gone down.

But every time I ask God, “is it time for me to stop writing,” He sends me another assignment. I’ve stopped asking, for now. 

Where do ideas come from?
Since I write primarily historical fiction, I love to find tidbits of little known history to write about: the first female steamboat pilot; the northernmost battle of the Civil War (St. Albans Raid); the Mason County war in Texas. I find inspiration in Bible stories. I see something by the side of the road (a castle in Kentucky, anyone?) Newspaper articles, place names, alliteration.

What is your writing routine? Any quirky habits or must-have snacks?
I used to have a very particular routine; if it got interrupted, I had to start all over again. My poor family.

Now I have one primary rule: write when I can. I rarely write in the mornings—I have my quiet time, then I scan & answer the hundreds of emails that accumulate overnight. Non-writing writing jobs take time: marketing, interviews, mentoring, brainstorming, etc. Group exercise. We get to lunch time.

After lunch, I focus on my writing. I set reasonable daily and weekly goals, with built in catch-up days. I never know when I’ll hit a poor spell and get behind. I do my best to reach those goals. I work in 15-30 minute segments, which is 200-500 words at a time.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?
I say that I used to be humor-challenged. Although I have since developed a sense of humor, I can’t think of anything all that funny.

Coming back after I answered the next question. People think I am an amazing researcher. They say I made them feel like they were right on Lake Champlain or on a steamboat or even that I had been a figure skater. I do some research, yes, before, during, and after writing. But it’s not all that time consuming, really.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
The “voice” question—I’m not entirely sure. People tell me my writing is sweet, yet my books often deal with deeply painful subjects. Readers also expect meticulous research.

I write as it comes from my head and heart. I edit, using skills I have learned through years of practice, and with input from others. At its heart, my style grows out of who I am, how I think, how I respond to people and situations.

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
For years, I wrote everything. I wanted to write for magazines because it was touted as a steady source of income. I discovered my true calling—to write romance—with my third finished manuscript and first published book. I avoided historical fiction for years, for fear of getting details wrong. (And people always say they will notice if you make a mistake.) When I was invited to take part in the Snowbound Colorado Christmas collection, I dipped my toe in historical fiction for the first time. That novella, Dressed in Scarlet, was nominated for Book of the Year. That gave me the courage to write more historical romance.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Reading? I do read, of course. But I also do word searches and take part in group activities like exercise and Bingo. I could easily become a hermit, but I make myself go out and join with others.

Another blessing has been the opportunity to speak Spanish. Forty years after I spent a summer in Mexico, I get to practice the Spanish I learned then.

And of course, any visitors, especially those precious grandchildren, are a welcome distraction!

Any parting words?
One final thought: I tell people that I am not the most naturally gifted writer, like someone whose career skyrockets in their twenties. But writing is a craft that can be practiced and perfected, for the persistent author.

And thanks for having me here!

Thanks for sharing with us, Darlene!

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