Jack Rabbit Moon: A Garner Park Story
By Dorraine Darden
Publisher: Cold Tree Press
By Dorraine Darden
Publisher: Cold Tree Press
Welcome back to our little chat about writing. Today we have part two of an interview with Dorraine Darden, author of Jack Rabbit Moon, and her little dog, Lucky. We'll begin in just a few minutes. The Red Queen was so pleased with the excellent turnout we had for our premier, she most graciously sent over her personal barista and pastry chef. When the Wonderland wait staff comes around, please let them know your culinary desires and they'll get your order while you get comfy. For those of you who missed it, here is Part 1.
Well, Dorraine, is your mug warm and full? Are you ready to get the show on the road? Good, we've got a lot to cover today so, here goes...
Jack Rabbit Moon seems to have a lot of fact blended with fiction. How do you balance the two?
Historical fiction does this frequently. Although this novel is not in that genre, historical details and facts still had to be mined carefully. I not only did research on my own, but had help from several of the locals. Of course having correct and up to date information regarding the park was essential, since it is a real place and is used as a setting in the novel. I was required to receive permission to use the park in a work of fiction. The characters, businesses and events were all fiction. Combined it all seemed to flow like the Frio River.
The intricacies of family life, the good, the bad and the ugly are thoroughly explored in this novel. Do you see any metaphors for life in the families you've presented?
Real life is bejeweled with metaphors and symbols. And so it is with this fictional novel. Here’s a few : Dreams and reality knocking heads, a nice place that’s fixin’ to have the heat cranked up, and the beginning of the end. All are from page one. From the get go we know the main character, Marnie Evans, has had a rough ride and it’s going to get rougher.
Metaphors are also expressed through objects and images, which create new experiences. Marnie’s Daddy, Charlie, was fascinated by jack rabbits. He knew the intricacies of their peculiar behavior. He gave his daughter a gold, jack rabbit pendant, which she ultimately buried in the ground. The pendant represented trust. Now you know something dark and foreboding is going to happen, which will involve jack rabbits. Don’t you?
You have such an easy style of writing that feels almost like southern hospitality to me. Does it come naturally to you? How long have you been writing and do any of your family members posses the same skill with storytelling?
Why, thank you, Ronda. It is natural to my southern personality. Would you like some pie, darlin’? Seriously though, a writer’s style or voice is what E.B. White described as that which is “distinguished and distinguishing.” It could be why we relish some books and not others, just as we are more drawn to certain types of people.
I hear many questions among writers regarding how to discover their writing style. Write and the style will find you. It is you, essentially. Your ideas and the way you view the world and convey it.
As far as writing, I didn’t begin putting words on paper professionally until nine years ago, but started long before that with journal writing.
Regarding other writers in my family, yes, all three of our daughters. Our oldest has had a screenplay she wrote at age eighteen picked up by the Alley Theatre and set to stage, through a teen play-writing competition. She will graduate from college soon with an English degree. Our middle child is a singer/musician who writes her own music and lyrics. We’re not sure about our youngest yet, although she is also proficient with words, especially in the sass department. I'd like to add, I'm very proud of those darn kids. They are also very caring individuals.
It would take a long time for me to write a novel. How long did it take you and did you encounter any surprises in researching and writing?
It took two years to complete Jack Rabbit Moon. I wrote the manuscript then tucked it away on a back burner for a month. When I peeked with fresh eyes, I had a clearer picture of what needed added, deleted and tweaked. A manuscript needs to simmer. No stirring. We get too chummy with our work otherwise and can’t taste extra salt or pepper. Does that sound about right? Well, it is, but here is something else I learned. Read work out-loud. Before the manuscript was published, I was asked to speak and do a timed reading at an event, which really opened my cloudy eyes. On reading, I was shocked to discover I still had some serious junk in the roux, so to speak. ONCE MORE, I went through the entire manuscript and eliminated pesky words which cluttered up the creation.
As far as surprises in writing and researching, yes, there are always those. For me, it was the sheer amount of effort, time and determination required to finish. Carving out time to write when life is hollering, that’s it. But I personally don’t feel we have to neglect family and friends to accomplish this. The key is balance. We still need to get out in the world to keep our experiences fresh and wild. Has anyone seen The Shining? I rest my case.
It might be best that we don’t always know what challenges await us when beginning a novel. Each writer floats a different river. Think of jumping in a cold creek and warming up as we swim. That’s fun, yes? Doing something with passion and conviction is all that’s needed. The rest will come.
I've read in Janet Reid, Literary Agent's blog that to get good writing advice you need to hire an editor or locate and participate in good critique groups or attend conferences and workshops. How did you develop your work?
Janet is one wise agent. If you have never written a novel it can be daunting to begin. Writers need the support, direction and connections these opportunities provide. Novel writing is high art and even though one might have an ability to tell magical stories, there is craft at work, too, which takes knowledge, skill and practice to harness.
For that reason, I initially took a novel writing course offered through Writer’s Digest. My kids were young then and I could do my assignments from home. I learned how to write a fifty page outline, which broke me right in. The course covered all aspects of novel writing, and though intense, I learned well. I would highly recommend it.
Regarding critique groups- I’ve been in those as well but found what worked best for me were individual readers. If we are lucky enough to find two or three friends who can also be objective about our work, then we’ve struck gold. But that’s not to say a great critique group can’t work wonders. The key is honesty. We writers really do need constructive criticism to bring out the shine in our stories.
Hiring an editor- If we are serious about our work, we need one. Mine has not only been a godsend in the advice and corrections department but has been a great mentor as well.
Further development of my writing came through Writers’ League of Texas workshops. I have also attended writing conferences in Austin, Texas. My most recent summer adventure was a six day Hawaii Writer’s Retreat, where I worked with gifted author and instructor, Anne LeClaire. This retreat, which wasn’t at all relaxing, didn’t disappoint. I worked hard but my writing has benefited immensely from the new techniques and careful manuscript editing I received.
If we are serious about our writing, we must take writing seriously. Nobody else will, until we go first.
Dorraine, it has been such a pleasure to get to know you and to learn about writing from your perspective. I located a couple of reviews on Jack Rabbit Moon and they were quite favorable. Folks, if you'd like to read them, visit Stacy at A Writer's Point of View: One You May Have Missed and Deanna at Deanna's Blog, The Life of a Working Writer Mommy: Jack Rabbit Moon, by Dorraine Darden: a review
Remember, you can visit Dorraine any time at her blog, Free Ice Cream. Dorraine and Lucky, on behalf of myself and the Red Queen, we'd like to thank you for visiting the Wonderland. Come back any time. Until then, did someone mention pie and ice cream? Let's go, Dorraine!