By Dorraine Darden
Publisher: Cold Tree Press
Dorraine Darden is the author of Jack Rabbit Moon: A Garner Park Story. I ran across her blog, Free Ice Cream, on Blogger a while back and have been a constant reader ever since.
I discovered her book, Jack Rabbit Moon, on her side bar. It is a magical story set in the beautiful, mystical terrain of Garner State Park in Texas. Her story is about eleven-year-old Marnie Evans's search for her place in the world. Like all of us, Marnie yearns for the comfort and stability of a loving family.
Dorraine graciously allowed me to interview her about her experiences with writing. I know that many of you are aspiring writers and those of you who are not, are avid readers. Which ever category you fall into, I believe you'll find Dorraine to be a tasty dip for your literary chip.
Hi, Dorraine, welcome to the Wonderland. Oh, I see you brought your little dog, Lucky, with you! Happy to have the both of you. Take a seat and let's get comfy before we begin our visit. How was your flight from Texas? Great! Glad to hear that the first-class ticket I bought you was worth the extra money. Nothing is ever too good for Wonder Guests. Now, let's see...
Your novel takes place in Texas. What inspired your story, its characters and its location?
The inspiration for Jack Rabbit Moon came from our initial visit to Garner State Park. I’d heard many inspiring stories about the area, regarding history and the families who gather year after year in the park. Cypress trees, their low slung limbs caught with Spanish moss, lace the banks of the Frio River, which captivated the nature lover in me.
The characters seemed as natural to the story as the river itself. Some came right up and introduced themselves, while others were a little thorny and needed to be coaxed with promises of beer and Little Debbie’s.
It is clear that you've done a lot of legwork for this book including the duties of a park ranger and the terrain of Garner State Park. What were the highlights?
The highlights were working with a Park Ranger in Garner State Park, who is also an Interpretive Specialist and yodeling ranger. He was gracious enough to allow me to pattern a main character (Ranger Rick) after his duties as ranger. He answered my endless questions about park history and was one of my manuscript readers. I learned much from his experience about the intricacies of running a state park.
Another highlight was going every summer with friends and family. We got to know the locals, who were interesting and colorful. We also relished floating the river by day and by night sitting outside in a moonlit yard, lulled by a sky swirled with stars.
You've told the story from each of the three main characters points of view, which is hard to do. (Marnie, Rick and Claire). Did you hear each of their separate voices from the beginning? Were there people in your life after whom they were modeled?
Yes, I think every fiction writer hears voices. First person can be a tough choice, though. To get under three unique skins and do it right is tricky business.
The ranger's character was a stretch for me, though, possibly because I’m not a middle-aged guy. I had to think like a man. Talk like a man. Walk like a man. Marnie, the main character, however, came right up and thwacked me on the head, her eyes shiny and mouth sassy. Claire, another character, was like a favorite friend with her cinnamon drenched hospitality.
As far as modeling characters after those I know, I think authors do this naturally. We graft in a laugh here, a nose there, attitudes of liveliness or doom and before we know it, we have the sweet and sensitive, or bitter and broody Frankenstein’s.
More than anyone though, Marnie reminds me of my youngest daughter, Grace. They both climb up forbidden mountains, carrying spunk in their back pockets.
Fairies, religion, Jesus and even an angel wearing a white cowboy hat and sequined boots are woven through this book. Have you had any spiritual or paranormal experiences?
Regarding the spiritual: One powerful memory is the time I gave a checker in my local grocery store a rose. I do this occasionally because I enjoy it. This particular day I didn’t want to. I’d had terrible news myself and needed some good cheer. But the urge to get the rose was so overwhelming, I couldn’t resist. I found a flashy yellow blossom and got in the checkout line. I paid for the flower and handed it to the young cashier. "This is for you," I said.
She smelled the rose and sobbed. When I asked what was wrong, she said her life was a mess. On her way to work that morning, she’d prayed for a sign, anything to show someone loved and cared for her. I cried with her and my own problems melted away.
On the paranormal front: More than a few things here too, but one stand out were pictures I captured, at night, in an ancient family graveyard on a Louisiana plantation. I’m a clucky chicken, the last person you’d expect to find at a pitch black cemetery. But that night I was coaxed. What I caught on film made hair bristle on the back of my neck. Still does. The pictures are unexplainable and will be the cornerstone for an upcoming paranormal series. I’m sorry to leave you hanging but please stay tuned.
I don't see any mention of any other books you've written. Is this your first novel and are you working on any others?
Yes, Jack Rabbit Moon is my first published novel. I’m currently finishing a second work of fiction titled The Passion Diary. The tale is about a pastor, Danny Yates, who finds and reads a woman’s lost journal but doesn’t expect to ever meet her, let alone fall in love with her. Due to synchronistic events, he ends up in the same small town she lives in. This book is about secrets and the messiness of love and how sometimes we must lose everything to find the one true thing. The novel was inspired by my own lost diary and is set in southern Missouri.
Thanks, Dorraine. Let's take a little break, shall we? Can I buy you a cuppa coffee and a cinnamon roll? If any of you would like to join us for a little bean brew and casual talk, feel free. Otherwise, folks, we'll be back on Tuesday, February 2 with:
Author Interview: Dorraine Darden-Part II