Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true. It’s no surprise that she’s now an award-winning author of children’s adventure books featuring spunky 12 year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene and her husband divide their time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain.
Time to chat with Darlene!
What is your latest book?
My latest book is Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone
Is your recent book part of a series?
Yes, this is the fourth book in the Amanda travel adventure series. The first three books are, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel. In this recent book, Amanda entertains her visitor from England by showing her the fascinating sites of her home province of Alberta. The fifth book in the series, Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music, will be published in the fall of 2016.
Can you share some of the feedback you’ve received from readers?
From a teacher librarian – Foster has captured a sense of place in this novel. I liked the action and adventure that keep readers entertained at the same time as it will educate them. Through Leah’s visit, Foster introduces readers to Alberta’s First Nations people. At the same time as they are revealed as an historic culture, she also shows them as modern people living modern lives.
From a young male reader – Amanda is a great middle-grade character. She is a friendly person, and a wonderful role model. Leah is a pretty cool Brit. The plot is fun and engaging as are all of the Amanda books. I love how Ms. Foster puts the reader right in the action and kids get to learn about the exciting places Amanda goes. The action and mystery in the book makes it a fun read for kids!
From an adult reader – This was one of the best Children’s adventure books I’ve read in a while. First of all the plot was tight and flowed. There was enough excitement to even keep me interested and would have been the kind of book I’d have loved as a kid. The plot wasn’t written down to readers and also didn’t feel impossible.
What are the special challenges in writing a series?
Consistency in the details can be a challenge. I had Amanda wearing glasses in the first book and I don’t think I mentioned them in the next two. A good memory helps, as do good notes. You also have to be careful not to become predictable. Every now and then a character has to do something out of the ordinary to keep it interesting.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
Like you, I write the scenes in order. The logical part of my brain won’t let me do otherwise.
Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?
I never know the ending until I am almost there. I often start to panic as I near the end and still don’t know how the story will end. Then, miraculously it shows up. For Amanda in Alberta it formulated while I was having a massage. You just never know! The title usually comes to me while planning the novel or while writing the first couple of chapters. I have never changed the title once I decided on it, but there can always be a first time.
Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?
I tend to edit as I go along. I go back over what I have written and edit before moving on. It slows me down considerably but it is the only way it works for me. Of course, I still do more editing after it is completed.
After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?
Yes, this happens to me often. Many times I just want to chuck it in the trash. I stop myself from doing that by having it critiqued by writing partners or readers. Just recently I read two chapters from my work in progress to a nine-year-old and asked for honest feedback. She was great and told me what she liked and what was totally boring. I needed that! The boring bits have been reworked or eliminated.
How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?
For me this is like choosing names for your unborn child. They have to live with it for a long time so it is very important. I chose Amanda for my main character as my second granddaughter, Amanda, was twelve at the time I started writing the first book as was my character. I planned to use it until I came up with another name but it fit my character so well I kept it. Needless to say my granddaughter was very pleased. My other granddaughter, not so much. I guess I better create a main character using her name. To date, I have never changed a character’s name once chosen.
Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?
I love social media, especially blogging. Social media keeps me connected to my network all over the world. I have met the most amazing people, like you Lisette, though social media. What I don’t like is how it can zap up so much of my time.
How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?
When I started writing Amanda in Alberta, I thought I wouldn’t need to do much research. After all, I grew up in Alberta and worked for the local museum at one time. Boy, was I ever wrong. First of all I realized I really didn’t know that much about my home province and second, it would look very bad if I got some details wrong about a place I came from. So, I flew out to Alberta, rented a car, picked up my then twelve-year-old grandson and drove around to some of the sites mentioned in the book. We had so much fun and I collected a ton of material while seeing familiar sites through the eyes of a twelve year old. I also did research on the computer and borrowed books from the library. I did more research for this book than any of the others and learned a lot through the process.
Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?
I allow others to read my WIP, especially my critique group. For me it is very important to get feedback as I write. Now that I am in Spain, we still meet once a month via Skype for a critique session. I also have a friend who has travelled with me to many of the places Amanda visits. She is great at reading parts and giving me valuable feedback. I can’t express the value of critique partners enough. I would not have completed five books without them.
Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?
No one has ever asked me this. I am embarrassed to admit that I can’t type. I have written five books and many short stories using two fingers. I am actually quite fast at two finger typing, but I am sure I could have doubled my production if I could actually type.
We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?
I believe the book cover is important and should reflect the story. I am very pleased with the covers of the Amanda books. My publisher is wonderful at involving me with the design. Amanda takes pictures while she travels so the idea of a collage of photographs works well. I also love the vibrant colours my publisher choses.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
Perogies are my favourite comfort food. My German family lived in south Russia before immigrating to Canada one hundred years ago and brought the recipe with them. I remember my grandmother´s and mother´s perogies when we were growing up on the farm. My daughter-in-law now makes excellent perogies and I often crave them. My least favourite food is meat which is why I don’t eat it.
What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?
Good conversation. I need someone I can discuss books, movies, travels, ideas and life with. I also look for a good sense of humour and a kind heart.
Care to brag about your family?
Of course, since I have the best family ever! I have an incredible son who is a musician and super dad, a talented and beautiful daughter who is an accomplished potter, two amazing granddaughters, two wonderful grandsons and two adorable great granddaughters. I still have my sweet eighty-seven year old mom and two supportive brothers. I feel incredibly blessed to come from a large, loving German Canadian family with many aunts, uncles and cousins who meet for large family reunions on a regular basis. Did I brag enough?
(Darlene with her grandson at Hoodoos in Drumheller, Alberta)
If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?
To be able to type. I know, I could take courses. But, after taking three courses, I still can’t type. I seem to be missing the typing chromosome.
What was your favorite year of school? Why?
Grade three. I had an incredible teacher who introduced me to the world and encouraged me to spread my wings. I will always be thankful for that. I still have the Bobbsey Twins book she gave me at the end of the year.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
Put love first
Practice patience and tolerance with those who think differently
Take care of the earth
Thanks so much Lisette. These were great questions and I enjoyed answering them.
Thank you, Darlene! It’s been an absolute pleasure!
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