Becky, for having me on your blog. And for providing excellent questions!Darla, please tells us a little about your writing journey. How did you get started?
In the seventh grade, Lois Lane was the only female role model having fun. Adventure. That’s what I wanted. I majored in Journalism at Baylor University, married, became a mother and had more adventure than I ever expected!As I raised five children, I free lanced articles to newspapers and magazines. Thanks to my husband’s company, our family found ourselves on great adventures in South Africa. When I came down with the flu, I turned to an Agatha Christie novel that someone had left behind in our rental home. A new world opened up to me. Making up stuff sounded like a lot of fun.
I wrote my first short story while living in South Africa, and it was published in Fair Lady. A few years later an Australian editor wrote to me and asked to purchase the Australian rights to the story. After all the years of rejection, believe me, that was a treat!Then one afternoon in New Jersey – we were transferred a lot -- I woke up from an afternoon nap realizing my dream was a fabulous story. I felt as if was a gift from the universe. I wrote my first novel and was disappointed when rejections flooded in…
Rejections can do a number on a young writer. I surmised that I must not have talent. Big mistake! But mistakes are what shuttle us to our final goals. I look back now and wonder where I might be if I hadn’t quit.Eventually, I found myself fresh out of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and living in Colorado where I joined the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Sisters In Crime and Romance Writers of America. It threw me into a world of seasoned writers and talented guest speakers who have made all the difference.
Tell us about your writing process. Do you plot carefully or wing it?My writing process changes. For the first draft I write and write until it’s done. But on the side, I am creating bios for my characters, even if later I don’t use all the information. I know my characters better that way and the second draft includes more description and background. If I need to include additional research, I put (RESERCH) and continue pushing ahead. If I come to a fork in the road, I pull info from online and then I continue.
My favorite time to write is immediately when I wake up with my laptop on my knees in perfect darkness. No one calls. No one knocks. No one texts. Just me and early morning. I keep the blinds closed after the sun comes up and the coffee pot close. That’s how I wrote the first draft of Midnight in Malamulele.How do you normally come up with characters?
Coming up with characters and names can be difficult. I’ve cut pictures out of magazines of people who look like the characters I envision. That works. I’ve got one gorgeous male on my wall up stairs (it’s not what you think) and I plan to work him into Book 3 of this series. One of my characters in Book 1 was tailored after Taye Diggs when he was probably19. So you get the picture. And honestly that’s what it’s about. Picture your characters in your head and use your imagination. What fun!
Do you ever model them after people you know or people in the news?Yes, but I use personalities as much as their personal descriptions. And I use real quotes. I spent a recent high school reunion listening for quotes to see if I could use them in my upcoming book. “Soft snooping” comes from being a weekly columnist over the years. The idea transfers to fiction quite nicely.
Tell us a little about the background for your book and what made you want to write it?I have lived in many areas of South Africa. My favorite is Malamulele, South Africa. I only met peace loving people, but I loved the area so much that when I decided to write a murder mystery, I picked Malamulele to put my characters down there. Everyday I write I’m walking the streets there - and honestly, what kind of work could be better than being in your favorite place?
Any words of advice to beginning writers?Do not stop writing.
Do you hear? Do not stop writing. I stopped for a few years and I regret it. But you have to move on. That’s how we learn. Do not let fear of failure get in your way. Embrace the good moments and let them propel you forward! Do not stop!!
How about a blurb for your new book.
Midnight in Malamulele is a mystery/thriller with a touch of romance. Annabelle Chase, an American crime reporter, arrives for her volunteer gig only to discover a murdered nun in a locked down convent and her best friend Sister Bridget arrested. Detective Baloyi asks Annabelle to join in the search, throwing them into a world of machete-wielding muti killers.
I understand it has received some great reviews:“In Bartos’ mystery debut, an American teacher staying at a South African convent uses her skills as a former crime reporter to solve the murder of a nun” … “Appealing characters and settings enhance this unnerving murder mystery.” Kirkus Review
“ …like an African drumbeat … the tale spins and twists toward a gasping conclusion … A MUST READ.” Joan Johnston, The New York Times Best Selling Author
“Strong characterization and a fresh, clearly realized setting lead the reader through this fast-paced mystery based on actual ritual murders in rural South Africa.” Rex Burns, author of the “Gabe Wager” series.How can readers reach you or find you online?
For April 2015, the books can be purchased on Smashwords for $0.00.
1) Sign up for Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/signup
2) Click BUY on the “Midnight in Malamulele” page https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479684
3) During checkout enter the code GJ26Y and click apply
4) Download the book in any format you want
5) Review the book! https://www.smashwords.com/books/writeReview/479684
Thank you, Darla, for being my guest. Any questions or comments for Darla?