I cannot believe that it is September already. This year has flown by! This month we have middle-grade author, Darlene Foster on board for our Featured Author. Darlene was hesitant to ask about the feature, because she writes middle-grade, but I jumped right on featuring her. Darlene is one of those authors that is truly supportive of others in the business, and has a true passion for her readers and the books she writes. Even though her books are considered ‘middle-grade’ and appeal directly to ages from seven to fifteen, they transcend that age group and are truly enjoyable for all ages. I have personally read her novels and enjoyed the way she entwined educational pieces with fun and adventure. Those are the best kind of stories–the ones that teach us something while entertaining us. I think this is very important for books in the middle-grade range, so I am more than happy to introduce you to her! Oh, and she’s also Canadian…which I think is awesome!
1) You write fabulous travel-adventure novels for the middle-grade genre. Have your own travels influenced you? If so, what was your most memorable travel-adventure?
My travels have influenced all my books so far. I always wanted to travel as a child but didn’t get on an airplane until I was 27 years old. (To fly to England to get married). So I created a young person who does get to travel and have adventures. My most memorable travel-adventure was visiting a friend in the United Arab Emirates a few years ago. It was so totally different and incredibly wonderful that I just had to write about it. This resulted in my first novel Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask. After that I decided my character Amanda Ross needed to travel to other countries I have visited.
2) Your grandson calls you “super mega woman supreme”—what does he mean by this?
Kids like super heroes and when he was ten he thought I could do anything. I tend to be involved in many activities at the same time and I certainly don’t let my age stop me from doing things. We always did so many things together and had so much fun that he labeled me “super mega woman supreme”. It stuck. I hope I never lose my “super mega woman” status.
3) You’re an indie author with a small press. What do you like best about being published traditionally with a smaller firm?
I was so fortunate to find Central Avenue Publishing (Formerly ireadiwrite publishing). My publisher is extremely supportive, honest and professional. She treats her cast of authors like family. I am always consulted on the cover and other details regarding my books. Her editing is meticulous as she only produces as near to flawless books as possible. I like the fact that I can contact her anytime and she has time for me. I know I would not get this freedom and special attention from a large firm. She deals with the technical side to publishing which I wouldn’t be capable of if I self published. It is a win win for me.
4) You’ve written a few novels in the Amanda series, which is your favorite and why?
Oh my! That’s like asking a mother who their favourite child is. Amanda in Arabia was my first born so if I had to pick I guess it would be that book. But since all the books are based on my travels, they were all fun to write as each one brought back fond memories. As the books continue, the characters develop and we learn more about them so in that way I think each book gets a little better. It is not necessary to read them in order though.
5) Why middle-grade? Have you ever thought about writing for an older audience?
Some may say I never really left middle grade myself. Middle-graders, or ‘tweens’ as we like to call them, are at that stage where things are changing for them. They are not little kids anymore but they aren’t teenagers yet either. They are curious and have a lot of questions. They get excited about new and different things. It is still cool to be happy. In other words, they are neat kids, on the brink of a new and scary world. I have written adult short stories in the past.
I have thought of writing for young adults/new adults, but I know I would never be as good as you at it. (AWWWW! See, super supportive!)
6) It appears this novel also has a bit of a love triangle. Tell use more. (Apparently, I forgot to delete a question from one of my previous interview formats–but Darlene showed her awesome imagination and answered it quite creatively! Go Darlene!!!)
If you mean Amanda in Arabia, the love triangle would be between Amanda, Ali Baba the camel and Princess Shamza. They both love Ali Baba but he is really Shamza’s camel and Amanda has to give him back to her. Besides, she can’t really bring him back to Canada on the plane, can she?
7) The Amanda series really does appeal to all ages. They are fun, quick and educational reads. Do you do a lot of research before writing a novel?
I do a tremendous amount of research before and as I’m writing a novel. I’m writing about another country and I don’t want to get things wrong. I review my notes from when I visited; look at my photographs and brochures. I visit the library and take out books about the area, customs etc and of course do research on the internet. In my most recent novel I describe a lacrosse game. I know nothing about lacrosse, other than it’s Canada’s national summer sport. I did tons of research before writing that chapter. I tend to do more research than actually writing for the most part. I am always pleased to hear an adult tell me they learned something new by reading one of my books, then I know the time spent doing research was worth it.
8) What do you like the most about being published? The least?
What do I like most about being published? Well, I guess the fact that it actually happened! This was a dream of mine for many, many years. Hearing from a child that they read and enjoyed my book brings such joy to my heart. I still have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not just dreaming about being published.
What do I like the least? The amount of time it takes to properly market the book. It does take away from family and friend time. But I feel I have found a balance and I’m so lucky that my family and friends are so supportive and understanding.
9) What advice do you have for your younger audience that wishes to be published someday?
Follow your dream. If your dream is to be a published author, never give up on that dream. Write something everyday because practice makes perfect in anything you do. Dreams only come true if you work hard at it.
10) You visit a lot of schools and do readings. What advice to you have for other authors looking to do these?
This for me is the biggest perk of all. I don’t just sit and read to the children. I bring props, things from my travels that represent the book I’m reading from. I also have puppets representing an animal from each book: a camel for Arabia, a pony for Spain, a Main Coone cat for England and a bison for Alberta. The kids love the puppets and the items I bring along. I actually own the perfume flask from the first book. I ask them questions and invite them to ask me questions. It is amazing the questions they ask, even the very young kids. I feel so at home with them. They inspire and motivate me. They also give me ideas for new books! To write for kids you need to hang around them and what better place than at a school.
Coffee or Tea? Tea
Candles or Fragrance Plug-Ins? Candles
Dogs or Cats? cats
Chocolate or Vanilla? chocolate
Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner? Dinner
Sweet or Salty? Sweet (although I just discovered dark chocolate with sea salt – oh so good) (I totally agree, Darlene!–They have a KIND bar that is sweet and salty nut which is dipped in dark chocolate with sea salt…to die for!)
Darlene Foster is a writer of children’s stories, an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, reading, shoes, cooking, music, chocolate, walking on the beach and making new friends. Her grandson calls her “super-mega-woman-supreme”. She was brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada with her husband Paul and their black cat Monkey. Darlene has always had a desire to write and has won awards for her short stories. She has published a series of travel-adventure books for middle readers, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting and Amanda in England – The Missing Novel. Readers from seven to seventy enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another.
Ebook – Amanda in Alberta
(My favorite TV show takes place in Alberta, CAN–and is filmed in the area! So this is def. going to be an AWESOME book!)