This week, it is my pleasure to have Darlene Foster for the second time on Mystery Mondays. In her first post she wrote about Location, Location, Location. And you’ll see location is very important to the Amanda series Darlene writes. But just as important is inspiration. So over to Darlene.
Inspiration by Darlene Foster
I am happy to announce the launch of the fifth book in the Amanda Travels series, Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music. This book was inspired by a magical trip I took down the Danube a few years ago. I recall thinking that Amanda would enjoy this as I passed amazing scenery and walked the cobblestone streets of medieval towns. The thing is when you are a writer, you are always thinking of your next book, especially if it is a series. My character, Amanda Jane Ross, is as much a part of my life as my family and my dog.
I enjoyed writing this book as I wrote much of it while in Spain, so it felt more European. I used my photographs to remind me of things I saw and experienced and did a lot of research. My family background is German so it was fun to include a few German words. I also used to sell Stieff toys so it made sense to include a store that sold them.
In this book, the friendship between Amanda and Leah is tested. This is the first book in which all the parents are included and we learn more about the relationships, especially that of Amanda and her mother. Family is important to me and you will see that it is an integral part of this story.
I guess you could say this book is close to my heart on many levels. I hope everyone loves it as much as I do. As my aunt would say, your fifth baby is just as special as the other four. And before you ask, I am busy working on the sixth book.
Twelve-year-old Amanda Ross finds herself on an elegant riverboat with her bestie, Leah, cruising down the beautiful Danube, passing medieval castles, luscious green valleys and charming villages. When she is entrusted with a valuable violin by a young, homeless musician during a stop in Germany, a mean boy immediately attempts to take it from her.
Back on their cruise, Amanda struggles to keep the precious violin safe for the poor prodigy. Along the way, she encounters a mysterious monk, a Santa Claus look-alike, and the same nasty boy.
Follow Amanda down the Danube, through Germany, Austria and Hungary, as she enjoys the enchanting sounds of music everywhere she goes. She remains on the lookout, wondering just who she can trust.
Who is Darlene Foster?
Darlene Foster was brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Canada, where she dreamt of writing, travelling the world and meeting interesting people. Following her dreams, she’s now an award-winning author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky 12-year-old Amanda Ross who has adventures in unique places.Her books include Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel and Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. She is also the author of a bi-lingual book, Pig on Trial/Cerdito a juicio. Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, in Spain. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.
As we continue our journey through Mystery Mondays writing advice, Darlene Foster is here to talk to us about location. Just check out the titles of the four books below, and you’ll see why she chose this topic.
Jane Austen gave us English country villages, Charles Dickens took us along the streets of Victorian London, and Lucy Maude Montgomery made us fall in love with Prince Edward Island. The location of many well-known works of fiction are an important element to each story. Think of one of your favourite novels and I am sure a vision of a place comes to mind.
Real estate agents declare the three most important things to selling a property are – location, location, location. The same applies to writing a story. It doesn´t have to be a real place. In fantasy, writers create worlds of their own. But it still should feel real. The reader should be able to picture the place and to feel they are there with the characters, in order to hold their attention.
A skilled author does this by using all the senses and by weaving action and dialogue within the description. Today’s readers no longer like large chunks of description. Young people in particular are used to a faster pace and get bored by description quickly.
In my Amanda adventure novels, I start with a location and create a story around it. This may not work for every writer but it works well for me. Initially, I wanted children to read about places I had visited that they may not know much about. After writing pages of detailed description, I came to the conclusion that what I wrote was totally boring and kids wouldn’t read it. I started to think about what a twelve-year-old would notice and how she would feel in that location. Then I created a main character and a mystery for her to solve. The adventure developed naturally from there. I continue to use the same main character, but the location changes in each novel of the series.
I have learned to pare down descriptions and write about the location using all five senses. I want the readers to feel the heat as Amanda crosses the desert on a camel, experience the fear as she is being chased through Gaudi´s buildings in Barcelona, smell the musty underground tunnel at Windsor castle and taste the sweet gingerbread in Nuremberg.
One of the best compliments I received was from a reader who used to live in the United Arab Emirates. After she read Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, she told me she felt like she was back home. That is what keeps this writer writing!
Whether I am out for a walk or travelling, I take many pictures, not just of regular tourist sites but of unique things that kids would find interesting. I keep my photo albums close at hand to refer to while I’m writing. They provide me with great ideas and a visual to help with descriptions.
As a writer, I am constantly on the lookout for the perfect location, location, location.
Brought up on a ranch in southern Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of travelling the world, meeting interesting people and writing novels. She is the author of the exciting adventure series featuring spunky 12-year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to unique places. Her books include: Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, Amanda in England – The Missing Novel and Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. Readers of all ages enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. Darlene and her husband divide their time between the west coast of Canada and Orihuela Costa, in Spain. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.
The fifth book in the series, Amanda on The Danube – The Sounds of Music, will be available October 1, 2016