Posted on 02/20/2018 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
It’s not every day that an author’s about-me page includes a photograph of him or her on a camel.
But Darlene Jones has plenty of experience with bucking expectations.
As a young woman, Jones signed up to volunteer with Canadian University Services Overseas — an international development organization that places Canadians in emerging nations for two years, so that they can provide technical assistance to citizens there.
Not many young women went places on their own, much less to Africa. But off to Mali she went, teaching school while adapting to an unfamiliar culture, climate, language, and way of life.
In her words, it was time travel — Malians lived in a very traditional fashion, with kerosene lanterns being one of the very few “modern conveniences” available.
Unsurprisingly, the experience made an indelible impression on Jones, who has now published four sci-fi novels, two mysteries, and one humorous travel memoir.
We chatted with her recently about her globe-trotting past and self-publishing present.
SADYE: Of all the places you’ve visited, what’s your favorite?
DARLENE: Mali is dear to my heart. I lived and worked there many years ago.
The people were welcoming and helpful. The wide, warm smiles of the children were heart-wrenching considering the horrendous poverty they faced. Add to that the allure of the desert. Its vast expanses are mesmerizing—much like the ocean—and seep into your soul.
SADYE: What, beyond finally having the time to do it, inspired you to start writing fiction?
DARLENE: Living in Mali opened my eyes to how much of the world lives. I wanted to wave a magic wand to make things “right” for Malians.
I settled for writing Embattled and gave my heroine, Em, the ability to wave that wand with a little help from the aliens of course. That one book grew to a series of four sci-fi/romance books before my characters were satisfied that the story was complete.
SADYE: What other countries, besides Mali, have influenced your writing?
DARLENE: I’d have to say Kenya and Tanzania. Again, not just because of the people, but also the draw of the landscape and of course the animals.
On a safari, there are no buildings and no power lines to abuse the horizon. The driver turns off the motor, the silence envelops you, and you feel a grand sense of peace and well-being.
SADYE: You were an avid reader as a child — who were your favorite authors, and did any of them influence your writing, do you think?
DARLENE: Living on the farm in Saskatchewan with no radio or television meant that books dominated, not that I had many. Little Lulu comics were to be treasured along with the few picture books I had.
Then we moved to the city, and I discovered the joy of the Bookmobile. And the agony! How could I possibly choose just three books at a time?
The Little House on the Prairie series, Anne of Green Gables, Black Beauty — I don’t know how much they influenced me in terms of how I write today, but they saved my sanity.
SADYE: What is the toughest part about being an author, and how have you worked to overcome it?
DARLENE: Marketing! In the sea of books available to readers, how do I get mine noticed?
I’ve tried a variety of advertising, including paid and free, and have not yet found a magic answer, but I refuse to give up.
SADYE: What reader reviews have spoken to you most deeply?
DARLENE: Two stand out.
The first was for When the Sun was Mine. The main character may or may not have Alzheimer’s. One reviewer commented on the accuracy of my depiction as she knew from the experience of her aunt and her brother who both had Alzheimer’s. She thanked me for writing the book with understanding and humor.
The second, for Whispers Under the Baobab, wrote: “As an African currently living in Nigeria, my country, I could relate especially with the African setting. Aside from telling the story or developing the plot, Jones doesn't fail to present the reader with tidbits about the life and culture of Sidu's people.”
SADYE: Do you prefer writing in any one genre over the other?
DARLENE: Not really. Science fiction was the right genre for the story I wanted to tell in the Em and Yves series, and mystery (cozy) worked well for When the Sun was Mine, although when I started writing that book I didn’t think of it as a mystery.
Then, when I wrote the follow-up book, Whispers Under the Baobab, it was automatically a mystery too.
I write for the pleasure of writing always with the hope that my books will bring some new knowledge as well as enjoyment to readers.
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Categories: Author Interview