Thursday, January 22, 2009

Getting to Know Me! by DL Larson

Since Acme Authors began, we've gained many regulars and hopefully even more stop by to visit us, and we all at Acme appreciate your interest and invite you to read our blog every day. I thought it would be a good day to share more about myself. So I got to thinking ... (scary I know) what better way to share a bit of my writing life than through an interview I gave a few years back when my first novel, Memories Trail came out. The following is the interview posted on the Midwest Book Review website at that time:

Midwest Book Reviews
Shirley Johnson, Senior Reviewer
author of Memories Trail

I really enjoyed DL's work Memories Trail and wanted to know more about this author. I know you will enjoy this interview, let's begin.

SPJ: Would you please tell us, what made you decide to write this book?

DL: I've always been interested in history, more importantly the conflict people faced in colonial/frontier times. Discovering what was here long ago in the midwest fascinated me, especially all the Indian names we use intrigued me to learn more about the many Indian nations that claimed this land as home. When the movie, Last of the Mochicans (based on James Fenimore Cooper's classic) came out in 1992, I felt as if that was the prequel to my book. My manuscript was already written at that time and I thought for sure my novel would get published immediately.

SPJ: What, if any reaction did you receive after your decision to write this book?

DL: Even though my family didn't know specifically what I was writing, they thought the era was interesting. My husband especially liked the concept of my characters being dropped into such a unique time in history.

SPJ: In your writing you put a lot of heart, and I like that. How did you come up with the storyline?

DL: I'm a firm believer in character driven stories. Conflict forces a character to grow or wilt. I wanted my characters to face the serious problems folks have dealt with since the beginning of time and continue to struggle with. I wanted my characters to feel at every level, personal, social as well as political and religious. As for the storyline... this may sound a bit offbeat, but it simply came to me, perhaps because I've been so interested in the past and Indian culture in particular. An old Indian legend says 'that a story will seek a writer and if that writer is found worthy, the story will rest upon the writer's heart. The writer's gift is to give that story life.' And hopefully I have done that with Memories Trail.

SPJ: I love that legend DL, thanks for sharing it. Did you base your characters on real life people? You certainly did a great job in your character development, tell us about it please.

DL: The Indian characters - Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa and Tecumapese are real figures in our history. I did extensive research on each of these characters to find the 'human' side of each. I'm a stickler for creating minor characters as real as possible. I feel it enhances the quality of the story.

The main characters Will, Elizabeth and Devon are fiction. I've done some family genealogy on my mother's family, and the names of Will and Elizabeth were born from that research. As for the development of characters, I poke and prod until I feel I have a 'real' person. Then I treat them as such, by becoming them, thinking as they would, and trying to convey their emotions on paper.

SPJ: You did an outstanding job and it glows throughout your work. How did you chose the location? And did you have to research for your book?

DL: First, the research was done long before the world wide web was a household item. I traveled to many libraries, wrote notes, and notes, and more notes, because many of the books were not available for photo copying. The work was rather tedious but I found it fascinating. Once I realized my time frame, I knew my characters had to live a distance from the real action of the battles yet still find a second Indian tribe that knew about Tecumseh and his calling, but didn't join in for excusable reasons. I really thought that would be an impossible task, but Divine Intervention led me to the Louisiana Territory and behold - there was documentation on the Pawnee not wanting to join Tecumseh even though they had great respect for the Shawnee warrior. And so my locations were found and the setting established.

SPJ: That is really interesting. Tell us, how long did it take you to complete your book?

DL: I worked diligently for two years on this book. I actually wrote it about 15 years ago, and when I searched for a publisher - I kept coming up empty handed. So I set it aside and started writing another book. The next one a family saga, next generation sort of thing to Memories Trail. I have continued with that family up and through the Civil War.

SPJ: What was the most difficult part in writing your work?

DL: The most difficult part of writing was following up on documentation to be sure my characters were where history said they were at that time. Many times I had to stop and dig back to be sure Tecumseh had been where I wanted him to be in my book. I plowed through my notes and other documents till I could verify that he had indeed been where I placed him. What was intriguing was he was always where I needed him to be.

SPJ: That is amazing DL! What was the most enjoyable and memorable part in writing your book?

DL: The most enjoyable part of writing was allowing my characters to develop at their own pace, discovering who they were and what story they wanted to share. I enjoy letting a character flow and move, knowing he/she will take the story in new and unexpected places that enriches the book.

SPJ: Tell us, did you find it difficult to find a publisher and if so what did you do to remedy that?

DL: It was very difficult finding a publisher, that's why I kept writing so I wouldn't have time to grow discouraged. Every few years I would pursue publishing again. The lack of response, the photo copied rejections I found exasperating. I could easily have papered a room with the "thanks, but no," letters.

I used to keep all the rejections, then decided about ten years ago to burn them at the end of each year. That was really a cleansing feeling, as if a great weight had been lifted. Somewhere along the way, I decided if I wasn't published by the time my youngest child graduated from high school, I'd give up on a writing career. Well, that time has come and gone, and my son graduated from college before I found a publisher. My family's support is mostly to blame for my staying the course. I've always told my kids we're not quitters ... and you guessed it, they tossed that right back at me whenever I thought about giving up.

SPJ: DL, I believe we all could paper a room with our rejection letters. Rejections are just part of a writer's life but doesn't that just make the victory so much sweeter when it comes. You are right NEVER give up, never. What advice would you give to authors who are looking for a publisher?

DL: My advice to aspiring writers is to stay connected with other writers. Go to as many workshops and seminars as you possibly can. Keep meeting people in your profession. Eventually you will hook up with someone who values your work. Decide right up front that you're in it for the long haul - however long that may be.

SPJ: Amen and amen! If you could speak directly to publishers, what would you tell them?

DL: The main thing I'd ask of publishers is to extend the professionalism they expect. By that I mean, we, as writers are expected to have everything in perfect order - crisp clean, error-free presentations. Yet I've received dozens of blurry, photo-copied rejections that are far from professional. They don't seem to notice their own misspelled wording, misused names ... all things they can't abide.

I'd also tell publishers that the days of single submissions is a thing of the past. The slowness in response forces writers to send out multiple submissions and publishers and agents above all people should understand that.

SPJ: Publishers! Are you listening? I hope so. Now, tell us do you have an agent? A publicist?

DL: I had an agent for a couple of years and she helped a great deal in getting my work ready for publication. But unfortunately due to ill health she was forced to close her business. I have not had one since, but I cherish the last note she sent to me, 'don't you ever give up!"

SPJ: How much promoting do you do? What is working for you? Any tips for other authors?

DL: Promoting my work has been similar to Catch 22. It has been difficult promoting my book without a professional review ... but now, thanks to you, I can more confidently pursue the avenues where I think my book will sell. Memories Trail has been well accepted locally and now I plan to broaden that exposure across the midwest - to many of the places mentioned in my book.

The one tip I have to offer other authors -- is to pursue reviews before your book is published. I wasn't aware that I was the one who should do that - and now wish I had been more assertive in getting reviews before printing.

SPJ: Do you belong to a writer's group?

DL: In the past I have belonged to writer's groups, mostly classes I attended that also served as writer's group. I always found them beneficial and comforting to be with other writers. At present, I do not belong to such a group - but I'd like to.

SPJ: DL, would you tell us what has writing this work done for you and what do you hope it will do for your readers? What do you hope they will take away with them after reading your work?

DL: Writing Memories Trail has been a life-fulfilling experience for me, one I plan to continue doing. Reading should always be an enjoyable experience and I hope my readers find satisfaction in my book. I also want to educate my readers, make them think in a different way than they're used to. Ultimately, if a reader grows or finds compassion for others while reading my book that would be a great accomplishment.

SPJ: In me, you have achieved that accomplishment, thank you. How supportive were your family and friends in your writing experience and how important do you think this is to a writer?

DL.: My family and friends have been tremendously supportive. My husband Kurt is my biggest fan, my critic, and coach. He's been patiently waiting for one of my books to be published. The support of my family and friends is extremely important and their generous wishes for my success humbles me. It's hard work to write and even harder to stay in the chair if others don't respect what you do. I'm thankful my family has always understood my need to write.

SPJ: Do you have any other works in progress? If so in what genre and when will they be released?

DL: As a matter of fact I do! As I mentioned earlier, I have several more books on the Douglas family that go up to and through the Civil War. Promises To Keep is the next book in this family saga. It's a bit different -- no wars, no Indians, but lots of conflict, betrayal and emotional growth with my characters. Joe Douglas is a gambler, and his wife is tired of his long absences and does the one thing she thought she'd never do. She sleeps with another man. Christine Douglas Frailey is married to an austere, reserved man and she tries to bring them closer to each other only to discover he has a mistress and she can't abide such deceit. Through out the book my characters grow and find strengths they never knew they had.

I also have a science-fiction series that I'm having a great time writing. The first book is called, The Warrior, The Wolf, and The House of Were. The wolf is a werewolf, a prince, and in league with the Lord Almighty to cleanse the evil from the universe. When he and his soldiers are on Earth, they have one small problem ... they're forgetful, but keep forgetting that they are and keeping track of things tends to get confusing. But their instincts carry them through -- in many unconventional ways.

I hope to have Promises To Keep published by summer '06, and The Warrior, The Wolf and The House of Were shortly after.

SPJ: They sound wonderful, best of luck with them. Would you tell us, how many hours a day do you write?

DL: I generally write four hours a day, some of that with editing and re-writing. I always have a few projects going at the same time. If my creative thinking isn't up to par, then I turn to something else till I get in the groove and find myself grabbing paper and pen.

SPJ: Is there a special place that you write, one that inspires you? Has there been a special person who inspired you to write?

DL: I like to write at my dining room table where I can glance out the bay window at my husband's cornfields. I always write long-hand on an original piece. If I don't, my writing style sounds too business-like and I end up rewriting it anyway. I enjoy writing when we travel, in a car, airplane, doesn't matter. There's a comfy chair on my back porch that beckons, stretched out on my bed works well, too. I can write just about anywhere.

As for a special person who inspired me ... I can't say there as ever been that someone. But Mrs. Mattan, my fifth grade teacher taught me to love reading. I remember telling her once that I would have changed the ending to the book I had just finished. It was too predictable. She replied, "Maybe someday you'll write your own story."

SPJ: God bless you Mrs. Mattan! Has having a book published changed your life in anyway and if so please share that with us.

DL: Having a published book has given me a sense of accomplishment. I feel that on a personal level each time I finish writing a book, too. Having one published solidifies my efforts that this was worthy enough for others to read. The sense that this will happen again and again, gives me the feeling that, 'yes, this is what I was meant to do in life.'

SPJ: Where do you hope your writing career will be in 3 years and what are you doing to achieve that goal.

DL: Three years from now I'd like to be on the National Best Sellers List. I'd like to be writing and creating as I have been for the last twenty years. And to achieve that goal -- I'm writing the best I can and will continue to promote my work with enthusiasm.

SPJ: Good for you! Look out National Best Sellers List, here comes DL! And I believe that. A question a little off the beaten track, do you read and if so what genre is your favorite?

DL: Read? As a children's librarian I read quite a bit. On the kiddy level, David McPhail has a sense of humor I admire. On the youngster level, Mary Pope Osborne with her Magic Tree House series is on the top of my list. If your kid doesn't like to read -- read one of hers together with your child -- and you'll get the fever. For Young Adult, I really like Margaret Haddix; her 'Among The Hidden" series is awesome and extremely thought provoking.

But when I find time to read a grown-up book ... I love Janet Evanovich with her Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter series. Book Eleven was just as fun as Book One. I like intrigue but not gore, get bored with espionage and find myself giggling at romance novels -- but keep reading on, some are real page turners. Diana Gabaldon and her Outlander series had me staying up too many nights in a row, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

SPJ: Would you tell us a little about yourself, outside of being a published author?

DL: As I mentioned, I'm a children's librarian, farm wife, mom, grammy, good friend to a few great gals and pals with many. I love gardening but never get enough time with the dirt. I love to read, but disapprove of the late hours I keep. I drink moderately but have on occasion been over-served. I drive too fast, yet I'm chronically ten minutes late for everything. I used to be a blond till I discovered that red is - well, red! I laugh too loud, a nagging habit my kids picked up, so now when we meet for dinner - we're the table that's too noisy.

I grew up in a small town but had dreams of moving to the big city until I met this cute farm boy. I've been married to that same farm boy for thirty-three years and would do it all again - probably the same silly way we did it the first time.

I bruise easily but consider myself thick-skinned. I've been called Miss Manners by my friends and family for a generation, yet continue to spill on my shirt. I was the baby of our family until my brother arrived and ruined everything. I've gone to school and listened to professors, but agree with Albert Einstein, 'that imagination is more important than knowledge.'

SPJ: You're a JEWEL DL and an asset to this world we live in. Please use this space for anything you would like to share with our readers concerning publishing, writing or your publishing experience in general.

DL: Please visit my web-site at and check out my many rooms. I'm a charter member to the National Museum of American Indians at the Smithsonian Institute, and if you're looking for more about the great Shawnee warrior or a simple weekend get-away next summer - visit TECUMSEH, the outdoor drama in Chilicothe Ohio. It's pretty cool. Hopefully my book will be in the gift shop by then! At my web page you can download my free Study Guide or Book Club questions to use with Memories Trail. It's sure to enrich your reading enjoyment.

In closing, I'd like to say "thank you" for the great review and for the interview. It's been a pleasure!

SPJ: Did I not promise you a great interview? Thank you DL for allowing us to know you better. Thank you for writing such a wonderful book and thank you for your outlook on life and the encouragement you bring. Readers, order her work, Memories Trail; I promise you will not be sorry. To you DL, may everything you put your hand to prosper. Thank you again.

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Anonymous said...

I bruise easily but consider myself thick-skinned. I've been called Miss Manners by my friends and family for a generation, yet continue to spill on my shirt. I was the baby of our family until my brother arrived and ruined everything. I've gone to school and listened to professors, but agree with Albert Einstein, 'that imagination is more important than knowledge.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I love the advice for publishers & agents! You're right, their rejection letters are often bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of quality.
There's a website called "Read 'Em & Weep" that features hundreds of humorous rejection letters - I recommend discouraged writers read through that site often!

L. Diane Wolfe

Deb Larson said...

I've been to that site - it's great for boosting your spirits!
Thanks to both of you for plowing through this exceptionally long blog. Stay warm!!!! :)
Stop back and see us soon.

Margot Justes said...

Great interview...thank you for sharing.