DARLENE: I believe that the stories and poems, the ideas and theories, inside me are not just for me, they are for everyone. We all have gifts with which we can encourage others who are on this journey with us. Writing is my gift, and I want to use that gift to inspire, to encourage, to entertain, to make people laugh and cry and feel. I want to help people see the world in ways they’ve never seen it before, sometimes. And sometimes, I want to take them back to familiar places in their own hearts that they might not have visited for a long time. Writing is my way of connecting with others and being published connects me with more people, more lives, more stories. I love people and that’s what writing is to me, touching people, caring about their lives. So, putting it simply, I wanted to be published because I wanted to connect with people.
JAMIE: What kind of book have you written?
DARLENE: When I wrote I Listened, Momma, I kept thinking of how it felt like Little Women, except it was set in Appalachia of the 1970s, rather than the Mid-West during Civil War times and the family is of a Mexican-American, Cherokee and Euro-American blend rather than strictly a middle class White family. So, it’s definitely more connected to modern families. Anyway, you can only imagined how thrilled I was when the first reviewer who read the book, Kate Blackman, said that it read like a modern day Little Women.
It’s a heart gripping kind of story. I confess to crying a lot while I was writing it. These characters and their lives are so engrossing and real to me as a writer and every time a reader emails me and tells me that they couldn’t put it down, that they love the characters, it makes me want to jump up and down because I know that my characters have become “real”. It’s the story, told through the eyes of Chippie Pablo, of one family’s struggle to maintain their unity in spite of heart wrenching struggles and obstacles.
JAMIE: How long have you been writing?
DARLENE: Oh my, that’s a loaded question! Um, I guess I could say since I was big enough to hold a pencil. When I was about nine or ten, the Gideons organization brought some little red Bibles to my school and handed them out. I noticed the blank pages in the back of that Bible and thought that God meant for us each to write on own story on those blank pages, so I promptly picked up an ink pen and began writing a fantastic tale about a boy who had been kidnapped by slave traders. I ran out of pages and was never able to finish my story! I’ve been writing poetry as long as I can remember. I was rather poor as a child so there wasn’t a lot of extra paper around our house. I remember writing poetry on food packages, on Grandma’s squash and even on the sheet where I slept. My mom wasn’t too thrilled with that though
JAMIE: What was your publishing experience prior to I Listened, Momma.
DARLENE: I wrote three novels and kept them for about ten years. Then I decided to publish them POD (publish on demand). I didn’t want to wade through all of the red tape of the publishing world. However, my latest book was picked up by a traditional publisher with all my proceeds going to fight cancer. That’s another story, but I hate cancer as passionately as I love writing and I’m so proud to give my book to aide in the battle. I have seen too many loved ones, including my dad in March of this year, taken from this world by the likes of cancer and I’ll do anything I can to fulfill the dream of a cancer-free world.
JAMIE: What aspect of the book do you think readers find most engaging?
DARLENE: Well, that’s really hard to say. The book is full of dialect and colorful description. It has lots of humor and a ton of drama, but this excerpt from the first chapter is one of my favorite moments. It’s a conversation between the main character, Chippie, and her younger sister, Lou Annie, regarding a boy who has a crush on Chippie.
“One day last summer we was out by the barn feeding Spot, when all at once he said, ‘Look here, Chippie’. I looked up and there he stood with his shirt undone. I swear that Robert had hair all the way down his stomach and clean down into his checkered britches. Then that turd-head asked me did I want to see what he had in his britches…”
Lou Annie slapped her bent knees. “He didn’t!”
“Yes, he did. I told him that if he didn’t button that doggone shirt of his and get back to feeding Spot that I was going to knock that hairy head off his shoulders and go running to the house as fast as I could, shouting out that he was a pervert. I told him that Daddy would beat the snot out of him, too.”
“Then what did he do?” Lou Annie said.
“He said, ‘Oh Chippie, please don’t tell your Daddy. I won‘t do it no more.”
“Robert ain’t got no sense,” Lou Annie said.
“He‘s supposed to be a genius,” I said. “He took one of them IQ tests at school and scored so high that it didn‘t fit on the little bell-shaped graph.”
“If he’s a genius, I’m the president’s secret child,” Lou Annie teased. “I think his brain is turned to mashed taters. A tater head is all he is, a hairy tater head.”
JAMIE: Do you have any hints to share with our readers to help them get published?
DARLENE: Yes, research the market. Start with non-paying magazines, newsletters, newspapers, etc. Tap into local resources. Write an article for your local paper. Write for magazines that support causes you believe in. Write for ezines. Write Wikipedia articles. Write how-to articles. Write blog posts. The main thing is GET EXPOSURE. Exposure connects you to people and people open doors for you. Join a writers’ forum, like Backspace. If you are a poet, find a forum of professional poets and pay attention to what they do right.
JAMIE: Who are your favorite authors?
DARLENE: Sandra Kring, who did the blurb for my book, is one of the most awesome writers out there. She is a natural born writer. I also love the way Silas House uses description in his writing. It is always so literary. Lee Smith is endearing. I am particularly partial to poetry of Elizabeth Oaks, Sherry Chandler and Ann Shelly. I could go on and on, so I’ll stop now. I love literature, both old and new.
JAMIE: Who or what have been your main inspirations?
DARLENE: My parents. My mother was practical and caring. She was living love, manifested in the every day things. Truly, she was the most unselfish person I’ve ever known and the life lessons I learned from her shaped my path. My dad. He was the most spiritual person. Although he never learned to read printed material, he could read a person’s motives and hearts within moments. He was courageous and loyal to his family. He was a dreamer and Momma was a doer. I am a combination of both of them. Every word I write is a tribute to them. Undaunted spirits inspire me. I am encouraged by faith, by hope and generosity, even in the most dire of circumstances. I love the little things in life. Each moment is an eternity in and of itself, worthy of capturing. I love people and I have to say that every person I’ve ever known has somehow helped me to become a writer just by being a part of my existence.
JAMIE: What new projects are planned or in the works?
DARLENE: I’m working on a new novel which I hope to have ready for publication by this fall.
I also write for an online magazine fairly often. It is called Inlightenment: Nourishing the Sacred Within.
Darlene, on behalf of Bluebell Books, thank you for a completely charming interview and for arranging that the proceeds from your book go to fight cancer. Write on ...