Welcome to the Sunday Interview series, exclusive to the authors in the Cafe and Bookstore.. details of how you can participate and join the other authors in the cafe can be found at the end of the interview.
My guest this week is regular guest to the blog, author Darlene Foster who has recently released another book in her successful Amanda Travel Series. Later in the post she shares an excerpt from Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action
Welcome back Darlene and congratulations on the latest book.. and to start perhaps you could tell us where you drew the inspiration for the character of Amanda?
I draw inspiration for my characters from the young people in my life and somewhat from the child inside me. Amanda simply evolved as I wrote and in some ways is the twelve-year-old I would have liked to be. I created her almost twenty years ago when I needed a character that could demonstrate the excitement I felt when travelling to the United Arab Emirates. I now have a nine-year-old great-granddaughter, who is so much like my character, Amanda, it’s scary. She even talks like her. She recently got on an airplane by herself and flew from Alberta to the west coast of Canada to visit her aunt. Talk about brave and gutsy, just like Amanda Ross. The character Leah, Amanda’s BFF, features in many of the books, including Amanda in Holland, is a combination of many of my friends. I enjoy spending time with tweens and am constantly inspired by them.
How did you conduct your research for Amanda in Holland?
I have always wanted to visit Holland, ever since I read Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates, by Mable Mapes Dodge when I was ten. So when I travelled to this delightful country three years ago, I decided Amanda should go there as well. I took tons of pictures and made copious notes while there. Two of my aunts married Dutch fellows who had been children in Holland during WWII before immigrating to Canada in the 1950s.I recalled some of their stories and was able to ask my cousins questions. One cousin told me about banket, the delicious Dutch puff pastry filled with almond paste I mention in the book. Of course, I use the internet for detailed research as well. I happily donate to Wikipedia every year as it is a valuable resource.
Has writing your books given you personally a different perspective or changed the way you live your life?
That is an interesting question, but I do believe it has. I have become much more observant than I used to be. I pay more attention to details, take more notes and talk to people, especially when travelling. They say writers never take a holiday and it is true, I am always thinking about my books, articles and blog posts. Being more aware makes for a much more rewarding trip. I also make friends by chatting with people, young, old and in between, in the name of research. You can never have too many friends! I believe writing books has added another dimension to my life and has kept it from getting boring.
Do you belong to a writing group and if so what benefits do you feel it offers an author?
I have belonged to several writing groups over the past twenty years and they have been the best thing for me. Currently, I belong to four, three here in Spain and one in Canada that I connect with via Skype. Without writer’s groups, I would not have published eight books so far. I belong to different groups for different reasons but they all provide assistance, suggestions, another set of eyes and ears and most of all, encouragement. Other writers will pick up things you may miss. A good writer’s group is gold to a writer, whether starting out or seasoned. You may recall the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, “It takes a village to grow a book.”
Please tell us about your next project and when we can expect to see the book.
Like most writers, I have a few projects on the go. Amanda in Holland – Missing in Action, released September 3 and I am so excited about it. I am off to Canada to do a book tour in October. I have almost finished Amanda in Malta – The Sleeping Lady, book eight. Those who fell in love with Caleb in Amanda in New Mexico-Ghosts in the Wind, will be pleased to see he is back in this book. Wait until you read about his unique phobia! Amanda may or may not be off to France next. What could possibly go wrong there?
Thank you so much, Sally, for this opportunity to be your guest.
Absolute pleasure having you over Darlene and for introducing us to the background to the Amanda series and the latest book. Sounds like your fans will have plenty to look forward to.
About Amanda in Holland
Amanda is in Holland to see the tulips with her best friend, Leah; as well as travelling the canals of Amsterdam, visiting Anne Frank House, checking out windmills and a wooden shoe factory, and taking pictures of the flowers of Keukenhof Gardens. She is keen to find out what happened to her great uncle who never returned from WWII and was declared missing in action. What she doesn’t expect to find and fall in love with is Joey, an abandoned puppy.
While trying to find a home for him, she meets Jan, a Dutch boy who offers to help, a suspicious gardener, a strange woman on a bicycle, and an overprotective goose named Gerald. Follow Amanda around the charming country of Holland, filled with colourful tulips, windmills, and more bicycles than she could have imagined. Once again, intrepid traveller Amanda encounters danger and intrigue as she tries to solve more than one mystery in a foreign country.
An excerpt from the book
After putting their things in the room, the girls took Joey out for a walk in the huge garden surrounding the house. He went crazy running around the bushes and wooden carvings, dodging the vibrant flowers and rolling on the lush grass.
“I guess he’s happy to be out of the car. This is a perfect place for a dog, so much room.”
Amanda sighed. “You know, it’s not fair. I always wanted a dog, but my parents said we don’t have time for one. I’d have looked after it. They won’t believe me when I tell them. I guess some of my mom’s friends told her they got a dog for their kids and then the parents ended up doing the work.”
“You would be a good dog person.” Leah smiled as she sat down on a bench carved from a massive log.
Amanda joined her. “Hey, how is Rupert, your Maine Coon cat?”
“He’s a crazy wazzock but I love him to bits.”
Amanda chuckled. “Hey, do you still have a boyfriend?”
“No.” Leah shook her head. “Two blokes fancy me, but I’m not sure which one I like. One is funny and smart and has a good imagination. He draws fab pictures and does tae kwon do.”
Amanda’s eyes lit up. “He sounds perfect.”
“Yes, but the other guy is really nice. He’s good at sports and easy to talk to. He’s kind and loves animals. In fact, he has a dog he’s devoted to. But he’s too much into football and doesn’t always do his homework.”
“I like the sound of the first one.”
Leah sighed. “Yes, but the second one is better looking.”
“Looks aren’t everything, you know.”
Leah kicked at a stone. “Maybe, but I want cute children.”
Amanda looked around. “Joey, come back here.” She lost sight of the dog. “What are you doing? Do I hear you digging?”
Joey bounded out from behind a bush with something in his mouth.
“Where did you get that?” Amanda pulled a dirt-encrusted shoe from his jaws. “Oh no! I wonder who this belongs to.”
They took the shoe inside. Ingrid’s face went white when she saw it.
She whispered, “Where did you find this?”
“Joey dug it up behind a bush in the garden. We can show you where.”
Ingrid gulped. “It might have belonged to a gardener we employed who has gone missing.”
She took the dirty old shoe with her fingertips and dropped it into a garbage can beside her.
“He was a bit strange, that one. Imagine burying your old shoe in the garden.” She rubbed Joey’s head. “What else will you find in my garden, you little binky?”
“What’s a binky?” asked Amanda.
“A bink is a big, strong man. He is still little so I call him binky.” Ingrid pulled something out of her pocket. “This biscuit will taste better than an old shoe.”
Joey snapped up the small cookie and licked his lips.
“Would you girls like some Stroopwafels and a cup of hot chocolate?”
“Oh yes, that would be great, thanks.” Amanda’s stomach rumbled.
Ingrid motioned to the girls to sit at a small, round table in the breakfast room. Amanda ran her fingertips over the tulips embroidered on the linen tablecloth. Ingrid soon appeared with two cups of hot chocolate, a round cookie on top of each one. “We place the Stroopwafel on top of the hot drink to soften the syrup inside. Stroopwafel literally means ‘syrup waffle.’ Enjoy.”
Amanda picked up the thin, two-layered, waffle-like cookie and took a bite. “Yum, these are good. I love the caramel syrup inside. Thanks.” She glanced at Ingrid. “By the way, what was the gardener’s name?”
Ingrid sighed and looked down. “He said his name was Tom, but I am not sure it was his real name.” She looked around. “You must excuse me, as new guests are about to arrive.”
After Ingrid left the breakfast room, Amanda leaned over and whispered to Leah, “I think she’s hiding something.”
“Don’t be daft. What would she be hiding? And why would she care about us?” Leah rolled her eyes. “You and that wicked imagination!”
“She obviously didn’t want to talk about Tom, the gardener. Did you see her face when she saw the old boot? Maybe Tom was her boyfriend or something.” Amanda’s eyes widened.
Just then, Leah’s father appeared. “Let’s find something to eat. I’m famished.”
All through dinner, Amanda couldn’t stop thinking about the buried shoe and the missing gardener.
One of the recent reviews for the book
Foster’s latest in the Amanda series follows the heroine, Amanda Ross, as she makes a trip to Holland to visit friends and try to unravel what happened to an Uncle who never returned from WWII–declared missing in action. If you follow the Amanda series, you know that Amanda cannot travel without getting into trouble, causing mischief, or solving mysteries despite her young age. In this story, Amanda rescues a throw-away puppy named Joey, tracks down a missing gardener, and helps to solve the theft of rare tulip bulbs. She does all this while exploring the culture and excitement that is found nowhere but Holland. Besides the Anne Frank house and the famous Holland canals, Amanda enjoys:
“…banket, a puff pastry filled with an almond paste.”
“…Hotchpotch Stamppot, a traditional Dutch dish of mashed potatoes mixed with carrots and onions,”
“…Bloemenmarkt. It is the world’s only floating flower market.”
The story is told in a conversational voice that will draw all readers in and deftly mixes the cultural details with how Amanda engages in and solves the mystery.
This would be a great gift for a child to celebrate the end of summer or a favorite teacher to add to their classroom library (or the school librarian, of course). It’s an uncommon book in that it takes children through the clever bits and pieces of Holland not found in any other nation without feeling like a travelogue.
This book and the entire series is highly recommended for elementary age and Middle School children and parents.
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44025652-amanda-in-holland
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Amanda-Holland-Missing-Action-Travels-ebook/dp/B07L9LVK4J/
A selection of other books by Darlene Foster
Read the reviews and buy all of Darlene’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA
and Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA
Read more reviews and follow Darlene on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster
About Darlene Foster
Darlene Foster is a writer, an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor for children, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her 13-year-old grandson called her “super-mega-woman-supreme”.
She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She currently divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca in Spain, with her husband Paul.
“Amanda in Arabia-The Perfume Flask” was her first published novel. Once bitten by the travel bug, Amanda travels to other interesting places, sticking her nose in other people’s problems and getting herself in trouble. Read “Amanda in Spain – The Girl in the Painting”, “Amanda in England – The Missing Novel”, “Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone”, and “Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music” and “Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind” to find out the adventures Amanda has as she travels the world.
Connect to Darlene via her website and social media.
Thank you for dropping in today and I know Darlene would love to respond to your comments. thanks Sally