Darlene Quinn is an international award-winning author and speaker from Long Beach, California.
A Paul Collins interview.
Tell us about your background. Who you are, and where you are from?
I was born in Long Beach, CA where I’ve spent the majority of my life before and since college. Even though I’ve been an avid storyteller since I was first able to sting words together, I had never envisioned myself as an author. Being taught sight reading rather than phonics, my creativity inevitably spilled over into my spelling. In my childhood, teachers marked every mistake—even in creative writing.
Therefore, my measles-speckled papers did not inspire confidence. Although I’ve compiled quite a checkered resume, being an author is by far the most fulfilling. It has allowed me to write and talk about my greatest passions. I’ve been fortunate in enjoying each and every career move—changing only out of necessity or finding something I liked even better.
My background includes: Public school teacher (K-6th grades), tearoom and runway model, developed and ran modeling & charm school classes, beauty and fashion session for career women through Bullock’s and Robinson’s Department Stores, coordinated the Long Beach portion of the Miss Universe Pageant. Developed and administered programs to help the underprivileged, created a special program for hospital personnel on developing self-esteem and public relation skills, Corporate Training Director for the 26 Bullock’s department stores, Management Team Member (Director of Personnel/Organization Development) for the 7 Bullocks Wilshire Specially Department Stores.
Each of these areas has helped me in creating authentic backgrounds and providing my readers with an insider’s view of the world of fashion retail. My minor in psychology has also been of benefit in creating three-dimensional characters and providing them with realistic problems and solutions. Since we all deal with problems in our own, unique ways, I hope my situations and solutions are stimulating to my readers.
What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the readers will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader?
Along with providing an insider’s view of fashion retailing, each of my novels has strong family values and commitments. I put my characters in situations that have no easy right or wrong answers. Each reader brings their own experiences and values into play as they attempt to figure out what they would do in a similar situation.
What prompted you to be an author and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by an individual, artist, or genre?
I believe that it is not so much what happens that makes for life changes, but what we choose to do with various the bumps in the road. For me, depression has never been an option. While I loved teaching, I resigned when my one-year-old daughter was diagnosed as severely-deaf. Had I not done so I may have retired as a teacher with no regrets. I also loved my position on the management team of Bullocks Wilshire where I had become known as the company shrink. But when my daughter was struggling in high school, since I reported directly to the president and always seemed to be on-call, I resigned. At first I relished having more time to spend with my daughter and late husband.
However, I soon realized I was not ready for retirement. I began writing non-fiction articles on interviewing skills, time management, negotiating skills, etc. for Savvy Magazine and other professional journals. My passion for writing fiction was triggered by the landscape of the world of retail in the mid-eighties when our regional department stores began to disappear, and our values changed to “How much did you save?” Since I am drawn to novels with page-turning suspense, I decided to write the type novel I’d most like to read—one with dynamic characters and an insider’s perspective of an unfamiliar world. I like to feel smarter about that new world without having to work too hard and while enjoying page-turning suspense, in bit sized chapters.
When I began writing fiction, I had no idea I would be writing a series. However, my characters had other ideas, and I have enjoyed the journey, seeing no end in sight. Since we are living in an ADD world, I find it best to tell my stores is short chapters where readers can complete a chapter and get a sense of satisfaction when they need to get a good night’s sleep or have other commitments. However, my readers often complain that I’ve kept them up all night going 3 or 4 more pages. I love that, of course. Not because I am sadistic and enjoy robbing them of sleep, but since it tells me I have ended the chapters with readers unable to drift off until they find out what happens next.
I believe my strongest influencers were Arthur Hailey, with his all about an industry books (Hotel, Airport, etc.) Barbara Taylor Bradley (A Woman of Substance) in the world or retail, and for style, the early works of James Patterson, whose short chapters kept me going. Since writers always strive to make readers eager to know what happens next, for my own reading, I find I will not begin reading a long chapter when I’m tired after a long day. For that reason, I tend to get the audio books by authors such as John Grisham, Sandra Brown and some other favorites who still write very long chapters. It is just not satisfying to stop reading mid-chapter.
If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why?
Reviewers have most often compared my novels to James Patterson and Lisa Scottoline. I believe this may be due to the short chapter and page-turning suspense. I have also been compared to the early books of Barbara Taylor Bradford, Sandra Brown and more recently Harlan Coben, which thrills me since I am a fan of their work. However, I believe those comparisons are more on style than story content since my main characters reside in the world of fashion and department stores. I write fiction—Character driven stories based on real events. However, I never allow the facts to get in the way of a riveting story.
Tell us about your latest work and what inspired you.
While researching my previous novel, Unpredictable Webs, which is set in Chicago and parallels a battle the Fans of Marshall Fields are still waging against Macy’s decision to drop their name in favor of Macy’s. I met with a small group of the Fans of Marshall Field’s and two of Macy’s regional Vice Presidents. During the meeting with the executives of Macy’s in the iconic, Marshall Field’s building, I was impressed with how much Macy’s gives back to the community, and decided to make one of my characters the head of corporate giving. I also wanted to cover some of the family issues in today’s world. Conflicting Webs, the most recent stand-alone novel in the international award-winning Web Series continues in a new direction, exploring love and loss, career and family, forgiveness and redemption. Fast-paced chapters propel unforgettable characters through the turmoil of overlapping and often conflicting commitments.
Readers, young and old, have been held captive by the bold decisions these characters make to take charge of their destinies.