Novelspot: What first got you started writing?
Darlene: I've written as a journalist since junior high school, and went on to get my degree in broadcast news from the University of Florida, writing professionally in radio and television news for over 10 years. I also wrote articles for a non-profit drug treatment center, and as a hobby I wrote for a science fiction amateur press alliance, something I still do. It's like blogging, but at the speed of snail mail.
I turned to fiction when I sold my radio station, looked around, and asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. And the answer was, I wanted to write stories that made people laugh, and sometimes cry, and feel good when they closed the cover at the end.
Novelspot: What kind of writer are you? Do you get possessed by your characters? Do you plot carefully or write by the seat of your pants?
Darlene: I'm a pantser. To my regret. I once tried plotting carefully and outlining, and realized a month later I was still outlining but I wasn't writing. It wasn't for me. I like to write in chunks and then string them together like pearls. Ideally, like pearls. Not like the chunks I accumulate when I walk my dog in the morning.
Novelspot: What (if any) writing habits or quirks do you have?
Darlene: I like a quiet space for writing, and have been known to throw my poor husband out in the morning if he's not moving fast enough.
Novelspot: Do you have a philosophy of reading/writing?
Darlene: Never give up on your story. No matter how bad you think it is, you can fix it. As far as reading goes, I consider my reading time extremely valuable. If a writer doesn't engage me, I don't feel compelled to finish the book. The one exception to this over the years was Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles. I tried four times to get into A Game Of Kings. I stuck with it because a friend whose reading recommendations I respect said if I got past the first 100 pages, I'd be hooked. And she was absolutely right.
I also make it a point to read non-fiction as well as fiction, and other genres besides romance. I enjoy history, biography, current bestsellers like Blink, Freakonomics, and Collapse.
Novelspot: Who are your favorite authors and why? Any role models?
Darlene: I love how Mary Balogh gets so much emotion into so few words. And she seems to strike a balance between keeping her characters in the Regency, yet writing for modern audiences. My writing isn't like hers, but I get inspiration from her work. I, of course, love Heyer and Austen, and re-read them for inspiration. I wish Carla Kelly would write more Regencies because she's someone who takes rather ordinary people and makes you see them as extraordinary.
The list of romance writers I enjoy is long, and getting longer as the field keeps growing. Way too many to list here. In terms of role models, I like how Susan Elizabeth Phillips combines comedy and pathos, and Nora Roberts inspires me by her work habits and her ability to keep producing entertaining books.
Novelspot: What is the best writing advice you ever got? What (writing) advice do you give others?
Darlene: When I feel bogged down, I remember a quote attributed to Roberts: "You can fix anything but a blank page." I also re-read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird for inspiration, and Diana Gabaldon's pithy, yet accurate, advice to would be writers: Read. Write. Write some more.
The advice I give to others is, I never thought I would finish Pirate's Price. I didn't show it to anyone while I was writing it, because I wasn't sure I had it in me to write a novel. But once I had that first draft done, rough and full of holes as it was, I knew I could do it. If I could write the bones of the story, I could finish it.
Novelspot: Has your writing evolved? Where do you see your writing going in the next ten years?
Darlene: My writing scares me now. At first, I knew so little about the "rules" of writing that I had a lot of head-jumping POV shifts, continuity issues, things like that. But I finished the draft of the book, then I fixed it. Now that I'm more aware of how things can go drastically wrong, I find myself being cautious during the first draft, and I don't like that, but I'm working on it. My goal for the next ten years is to produce a book a year, but eventually work my speed up to a book every six to nine months.
Novelspot: How do you jumpstart your writing?
Darlene: Funny you should ask. Tomorrow I'm taking a day trip to Fernandina, Florida site of much of the action in my WIP. Then, time permitting, I'll drive down to St. Augustine. I find these road trips away from home add to the color of what I'm writing and help inspire me to write scenes I didn't know I needed until I'm on location.
Either that, or I just enjoy playing hooky rather than writing.
Novelspot: Can you talk about your most recent publication?
Captain Sinister's Lady is the story of Morgan Roberts, AKA Captain Sinister, a man on a mission to settle down, get married to a nice lady, and be a farmer. But when the Zephyr comes across a damaged ship wallowing in the Florida Straits, it's just too good an opportunity for any self-respecting privateer to pass up.
Amanda Stephenson is a widow traveling from Yorkshire to Charleston in the 1820's to set up her soap-making business. It's a grand adventure, just as she's always dreamed—until her ship is boarded by the crew of the Zephyr. Amanda’s plans for her future do not include large, hairy, uncouth pirates.
Morgan Roberts has his work cut out for him, but he's prepared to try his most piratical tricks if it will convince the luscious widow to become Captain Sinister's Lady.
Novelspot: What else do you have in the works?
Darlene: An early 19th C. era "road" book about a couple brought together by a pirate treasure map, searching through Florida for Garvey's Gold. There are likely to be Indians, unscrupulous types, a hurricane, and, of course, pirates in the book, but it's still in the early stages. Fernandina in this era was a center of piracy and prostitution in Florida, so that's why I'm taking the road trip to get a feel for the place myself. Hopefully, not much has changed since then.
Novelspot would like to thank Ms. Marshall for her time in completing this interview.