To celebrate her new release, Prodigal Son, Lisa Beth Darling answered some of my questions. Check out her new story here:
Tell my fans a little bit about yourself and your books- especially the Sister Christian series.
There isn’t much to say about me; I’m going to be 50 pretty soon, I’ve been married for 30 years, and have two adult daughters. During the day I’m the secretary/web mistress for a local trades union.
The Sister Christian series is very different from most of my other books in that it’s a fairly ‘clean’ read. The best way to sum it up in the proverbial nutshell is probably to tell you about the title. It comes from the Night Ranger song of the same name that tune is about an older brother watching his sister enter adulthood and knowing that, even though he worries about her, he has to let her go off on her own.
How would you introduce your books to someone that has yet to read them?
For the most part, I’d warn them that my books tend to contain some pretty heavy and dark material but that shouldn’t deter them from reading.
What inspired you to start writing? What age did you start?
I started writing in 4th grade and instantly knew that was what I would do with and for the rest of my life.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
I like to garden, I do it in containers on my deck and in my front yard as an in-ground garden became too much for me to take care of and we have a lot of critters that come into the yard. They were getting more veggies than I was! I also to take photographs and I’m a huge movie buff.
What's the hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
Definitely the hardest thing is the writer’s block we all hate so much. It’s so easy to get mired down in it and start believing that you suck and have no idea what you’re doing and who the heck wants to read what you write anyway! It’s tough to get up, get over, and get on when that happens. The easiest is when that dam finally breaks and I just find a way to put all of my faith in the Muse again. Then we’re flying around in the Zone with no sense of direction or time, we’re just doing it for the fun of doing it. That’s when the story evolves the most and the best lines/scenes are written.
What are you currently working on?
Nothing at the moment, my life has been very tumultuous these last two years and I’m bone tired. I’m hoping to start writing again one day but I’m not pushing myself to do it.
What books did you read as a child?
My grandfather was really into poetry he would read it to me for hours and hours as I sat on his lap in his big red easy chair. I still have two of those books and treasure them. He also loved American legends Johnny Appleseed was his favorite.
How has your life changed since you began writing?
Well, I’m a lot older! I’d have to say that Life actually happened after I started writing all those years ago.
How has your writing evolved over the years?
Well, with any luck at all, it’s gotten better but I’ll leave that up to the readers to decide.
What do you want readers to take away from your books?
That we all face adversity, sometimes on a grand scale, but if you just hang in there and keep swinging even when it’s the last thing you want to do, you can overcome it.
What’s your favorite scene/line from your works?
One of my favorite lines is in “The Heart of War” wherein Ares is trying to help Alena by stitching a big cut on the bottom of her foot. At one point, she looks up and says: “You think you’re cute, don’t you?” He replies: “Cute is for puppies and teenage boys. I am devilishly handsome.” I laughed out loud writing that line. It’s just so him.
What authors or books have influenced you?
Stephen King has always been my biggest influence followed very closely by VC Andrews, Jacqueline Susan, Harold Robins, Judith Rossner, Mary Higgins Clark and a few others.
Do you listen to music while you write?
Yes, my iTunes is always cranking away when I write. Usually I listen to ‘Classic’ Rock. I love pretty much all music from the 60s through the late 80s to early 90s.
Out of all of your characters, who is your favorite?
Ares God of War, I adore him. I don’t think I’ll ever be blessed with another character like him he is truly one of a kind.
How has designing your own covers fit into your author journey? Is it a long process?
PhotoShop is probably the least intuitive program on the planet and one of the largest programs to boot. Learning how to use it was a nightmare! No one helped me I had to learn it all on my own. But now that I’ve done that and I’ve become fairly proficient with the program I think being able to design my own covers has greatly enhanced the writing experience for me. It’s given me another creative outlet not just for the covers but I do all of my own web graphics as well.
You’re stranded on a desert island. What books do you take with you?
The Dollanganger Series by VC Andrews (Flowers in the Attic series)
The Stand by Stephen King
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King…ALL of it! I’ve only been able to read the first 4 books so far so I’d have lots of time to read the rest.
Once is Not Enough and Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susan
What book(s) do you wish you would have written?
The Stand, it’s my favorite book of all time.
Favorite book character?
Randall Flagg a/k/a The Man in Black a/k/a The Walkin’ Dude. Stephen King’s quintessential bad guy.
What is your dream vacation destination?
Greece, I’d love to dance naked on a beach with a glass of Ouzo in one hand until sunrise. When I sobered up I’d go visit the ruins and the smaller islands.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I’ll be 55 and hope to be bouncing a grandchild or two on my knee.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
Her Way. Because that’s the only way I know to do anything and that’s the way I do everything; my way.
Your Sister Christian series and OF WAR series are very different. Was it hard switching to a new genre and a new set of characters?
The Sister Christian series is actually older than the OF WAR series. It had been sitting on my computer collecting digital dust for a very long time. Before the Sister Christian series, I wrote an absolutely massive fanfiction series—Daughter of the Gods—it had something like 6 or 7 novels, 3 or more novellas, and 30 short stories to it. It was big and bold and brash and broke all the rules of its fandom. I’d become burnt out on writing R and even X rated material, I wanted to tone it down, bring it back down to Earth so to speak. I wanted to know if I could write a compelling story that didn’t have all of the sex and violence people had been accustomed to with my stories. I wrote a little book entitled ‘Genesis’ then realized there was more to the story. By the time I finished it, I had the Sister Christian series. I published it, people liked it but not as much as they had liked DOTG. A bit disheartened, I took it down, I wrote the OF WAR series but never forgot about my little brother and sister story. When the OF WAR series came to an end, I dug it out of digital storage. It was a bit difficult going back to it, sprucing it up, adding, subtracting, rearranging and keeping to the original intent of that series which was to keep it fairly clean and as PG-13 as I could. It was also a very refreshing change to get back to some old friends who had been neglected simply because their tale wasn’t as explosive as other stories. BTW, if anyone’s interested, they can go over to my website and download the first half of the Daughter of the Gods series free. (I’ve lost the rest of it over the years to hard drive crashes but it will leave the reader off in a satisfying place) They can see for themselves where our pal Ares got his start with this writer. Anyone out there who’s a fan of Nick Jackson from the Sister Christian series will have their suspicions confirmed. But, be forewarned, it’s rough, it’s unedited, and I don’t care.
How did you get the idea for the Sister Christian series?
Other than needing a change from writing heavier stories, I’d been put in touch with my birth family right around that time. It was not a good experience and it lasted a lot longer than I should have allowed. But the one good thing that came out of it was my brother. Someone once said that writing is really nothing more than one big therapy session that the whole world gets invited to. They were right especially in this case. I felt a lot like Hannah when we first meet her; broken, neglected, dazed, confused, but still hopeful. At that time, there was this particular character on a TV show that caught my eye. He was also broken, dazed, and confused but utterly brilliant. Most people kept trying to give him a love interest and I thought to myself that character doesn’t need a lover, at this point in his life he’s unable to relate to a lover. What he really needs is a sister. So, in my own way, I gave him one. The rest, as they say, is history.
Do you have a favorite line or scene from the Sister Christian series?
My favorite scene in the series is in the second book ‘Sins of the Father’ when Richard Mason adopts the persona of his biological father, James Rice, in order to pull some ugly truths out of Hannah. The scene immediately following that one wherein Mason completely trashes Father Murphy’s kitchen in a fit of rage is my second favorite scene.
Which of your characters are you most alike?
Probably Hannah Rice, our leading lady in the Sister Christian series. I’m always bumbling and fumbling my way through life. Making mistakes. Not understanding things. Feeling out of place or, as in Hannah’s case, a wee bit out of time.
Can you describe your writing process? Do you have any particular writing habits or rituals?
I like to write in the afternoon and I do it in my home office, at my own desk, with my own computer. I know people who can write anywhere but I’m not one of them. I have my windows open, my iTunes blaring, scented candles burning, a cup of coffee, a glass of something potent, and my cigs. If all of those things are in place and I’m not being dragged down by writer’s block then I’m good to go.
How would you describe your writing style?
For the most part, I guess I’d call it ‘gritty’. I’m not an elegant writer, I don’t fill pages with purple prose by going into great detail regarding the color of the drapes in a room or something like that. I tend to trust my readers to be able to fill in such things for themselves if they care to. I am an honest writer. I will always tell the reader the truth of every story and not sugar coat it.
Are you planning on writing any more stories about Ares and Alena?
I am hoping for that with all my heart. I know for a fact that there is an Ares story rolling around in me but I think it will be separate and apart from the OF WAR series. He seems to want to be the star of a new single novel show. After that then maybe there’s just one more Ares and Alena story left to tell.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Write for yourself don’t do it for anyone else. Don’t follow ‘trends’ or try to ‘fit in’. Write stories that you would want to read and that entertain you. When writer’s block settles in (and it will!) know it’s just your own self-doubt that’s holding you back. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to tell a good story. Don’t take criticism to heart or personally, not everyone out there will love what you do. Instead, read it, re-read it, and see if there’s something in there that you can use. That you can learn from and apply to your next story. That’s how we get better at what we do.
Where can fans find you?
I’m not hard to find and I’m rather friendly so if anyone’s of a mind to stalk or better yet actually contact me they can visit:
My website: http://www.lisabethdarling.com
My Facebook ‘fan’ page: http://facebook.com/lbdarling
My Twitter: @lb_darling
Of course they can find my books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks and several other sites.