Award-winning author and speaker Darlene Franklin recently returned to cowboy country—Oklahoma. The move was prompted by her desire to be close to her son’s family; her daughter Jolene has preceded her into glory. Darlene loves music, needlework, reading and reality tv. Talia, a Lynx point Siamese cat, proudly claims Darlene as her person. Darlene is the author of fourteen contracted books and novellas, as well as several hundred short pieces. Two of her books have finaled in ACFW’s Book of the Year (now the Carol award) contest: her novella, Dressed in Scarlet, and her cozy mystery, A String of Murders. Visit Darlene’s blog at http://darlenefranklinwrites.blogspot.com/ for information on book giveaways and upcoming titles. She is also a contributor to http://thebookdoctorbd.blogspot.com/ .
SDC: Welcome Darlene.You are fast becoming both a well-known and talented writer, Darlene. And this book about Christmas comes to us in plenty of time before that special time. Before you tell us about your newest release please fill us in on what inspired you with the book(s) you’ve written up until now.
Darlene: I’m blushing, Shirley. I could get superspiritual and say “the Lord did.” I was just saying to my son that I’m a creative person. I lack plenty of other qualities, but I am very creative and God made me that way. I’m grateful for that, and for the doors He’s opened for ministry.
But specific ideas? They come from everywhere. From historical events, folk tales, another book, a town name, a natural disaster, a paragraph in a newspaper, an object I see on the side of the street ... I’ve also grown in my understanding of the market, how to find that spark that sets off a story idea that excites me, what settings sell and what stories haven’t been done to death.
I had toyed with the idea of an artist searching for someone to model Mary, and when our novella group for A Woodland Christmas hit upon the idea of an itinerant woodcarver, I knew this was the place to do it. (Our group had formed with the general understanding that we were doing a “Christmas novella collection set in historical Texas.” It grew from there.) My hero paints the figures that the woodcarver fashions, and he discovers Mary’s model right under his nose.
SDC: Tell us about your publisher and the experience your experiences in working with the one you are with. And also a little more about your story.
Darlene: Barbour Publishing has been very good to me. I started with Tracy Peterson, but when she left Barbour and years passed without another contract, I began to wonder if they would ever buy anything else from me! But then Susan Downs bought my mystery series, and since then I have worked with Becky Germany on novellas, JoAnne Simmons on Heartsongs, and Paul Muckley on non-fiction (short pieces, not books). They’ve all been great.
A Woodland Christmas is my third Christmas anthology. An itinerant woodcarver moves from town to town in the woodlands, delivering “sawdust sermons” that hold even more value than the furniture he crafts. Will the advice he dispenses help four couples find their way to the miracle of love at Christmas? In my novella, The Face of Mary, Mary “Polly” Jessup holds onto a promise of marriage made five years ago, but when Joseph “Joey” Carpenter returns from law school with a new outlook and new girlfriend, her future hopes are dashed.
SDC: What is your theme mainly as you write and what kind of response to you receive from readers who have been influenced greatly by your writing?
Darlene: My tag line is “writing at the crossroads of love and grace.” Most of the time, my characters face some traumatic event, and they discover God’s love never fails and His grace is enough—whatever happens. In A Face of Mary, my heroine’s father is suffering from memory loss, with tragic consequences for the family.
I often hear how realistic my characters are, how I don’t create Christian comic book figures who spout the correct answer all the time.
SDC: I appreciate reading about realistic characters. The others just don't ring true for me. I also love, love, love to ask this question. The answers are so varied. How do you make faith, love, and hope work together in your stories, Darlene?
Darlene: Sometimes there is an overt “faith” element—such as in Face of Mary, Joey is looking for a woman with a character like Mary. Other times it simply comes as the characters’ response to their circumstances. That is more the case in my next Heartsong, Bridge to Love, where my farmer hero is battling New England’s Year of No Summer (snow at some point every month), 1816.
I once attended a workshop that talked about the love triangle in Christian romance, between God, the hero and the heroine. If those are the three points of the triangle, perhaps faith, hope and love are the lines connecting them. The human couple cannot truly love each other unless they are rightly related to God.
SDC: How long did you have to wait before getting published the first time?
Darlene: My first published piece—a devotional—came out when I had been writing for two years. After that, publications were few and far between. My first book came out in 2005 (after fourteen years), and since then, things have snowballed until now I am writing full time.
SDC: What’s your favorite Bible verse or verses that sustain you while you write and why?
Darlene: My life verse. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) God has proved that in the crucible of my life, which in recent years has included my daughter’s suicide and my mother’s death. That is the truth I aim to bring to life in my stories. It’s only because of God’s love that I can write of love and hope!
SDC: Where is your favorite place to go and why? Does it often play any part in your story writing?
Darlene: I suppose it’s to go over to my son’s house and spend time with my grandkids! He lives about 15 minutes away, and I love those babies. So far, they haven’t appeared in too many books (a few devotionals, though.)
As far as book settings, I lived in Colorado for almost two decades. I find it hilarious that I now I live in Oklahoma, I am selling stories set in Colorado. (My three mysteries were set in Oklahoma.)
SDC: How does your family respond to your time away from them to write and do research for writing?
Darlene: Since I now live alone, it’s not a big problem. I occasionally have to tell my son “no” and that always makes me sad. But more often I say “yes.” He’s also extremely proud of me. Whenever we go some place together, he introduces me as “my mom. She writes books” and points to a book if it’s for sale at that store.
SDC: He sounds like a great promoter! Home grown. What question would you like one of our viewers to answer to help me select the winner?
Darlene: What facet of Mary’s (the mother of our Lord) character would you like to develop in your own life?
SDC: That will be an interesting question for the readers to answer. Thanks. It’s been a real pleasure having you here at A Pen for Your Thoughts, Darlene.
READERS: Be sure to answer Darlene’s reflection question above to try to win a copy of her book!
Congratulations to Debbie Lee of Centralia WA. I know you're going to love this book.