I’m Darlene Dziomba. I’ve been working in Fiscal Operations and Financial Planning for the University of Pennsylvania for over thirty years. I’m an animal lover. My parents always joked that from the time I learned to walk, I could not pass a dog without wanting to pet it.
Pre COVID, I volunteered at the Animal Welfare Association, a local New Jersey animal shelter. I hope to return to it when the virus dissipates. I miss the staff and the dogs. I had an idea for a book where the amateur sleuth worked at an animal shelter, and the Lily Dreyfus series was born. I have one dog, Billie, an irresistible terrier mix I adopted from AWA.
I had an idea for a book where the amateur sleuth worked at an animal shelter, and the Lily Dreyfus series was born. I have one dog, Billie, an irresistible terrier mix I adopted from AWA.
Clues From The Canines – Lily, an Adoption Coordinator at Forever Friends animal shelter, learns her boyfriend is dead via a dog surrender. Her pack rallies to sniff out the killer.
What brought you to writing? I was in Toronto, attending Bouchercon, and listening to a panel of writers who all had protagonists in animal-related professions. I thought to myself, “I’ve never read a book with an animal shelter employee as the protagonist. I wonder if I could write that?”
I had never attempted to write a book and had a lot to learn. I joined a Writers Workshop, took numerous online classes, and found a coach to assist me. I’m proud of myself for having brought this idea to fruition.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I work a full-time job besides my writing job. It is challenging to manage writing, editing, revising, maintaining a blog, maintaining a social media presence, promotions, getting enough sleep, exercising, and long walks with Billie.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Yes. I am a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies, and two regional SinC groups, SinC Fl Gulf Coast and SinC Grand Canyon Writers.
I am extremely grateful for the internet and Zoom. I’ve attended informative talks, taken craft classes, built a network, and found professional service providers.
How long did it take you to write your first book? How long to get it published? It took two and half years to have a fully written, well-crafted book. I queried agents for two years without much success. I was reluctant to self-publish because I knew an agent would be able to advise me and help me achieve the most success.
The pandemic influenced my decision to self-publish. More than anything else, I wanted my parents to be able to hold a book in their hands with my name on the cover. They are in their eighties, so I didn’t feel I could wait however many years it would take to find the agent and publisher willing to accept my work and decided to self-publish.
From start to finish, it took four and a half years to bring Clues From the Canines to fruition.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Most of my characters are based on real people. My protagonist is not. Friends ask if Lily represents me and seem surprised when I say no.
The character of Martin is based on the person who was my supervisor at the animal shelter. He was quite the character, and we engaged in a lot of pithy exchanges. Ironically, I had to tone down Martin’s personality. He offended every single beta reader.
I had one friend point blank ask for a character. She plays a major role in the sequel Up Close And Pawsonal.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am not sure “outline” adequately describes what I do. There are psychologists who would love to study my need for the obsessive detail of my plotting template.
I took a course called “Plot Thickeners” with Simon Wood. He showed me a phenomenal plotting method. Then I added to it.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Once the world has conquered COVID, I hope to travel again, and eventually, I will retire from my day job and write full time.
As far as writing, I will keep producing Lily Dreyfus books as long as I can continue to come up with creative plots. For now, getting the first book launched is so exciting. I am basking in being proud of this accomplishment.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Be open-minded. My coach likes to say that she enjoys working with me, “Because you’re smart enough to realize that you need help.” It was important for the process to have beta readers who would be critical and push me to make the book better. One doesn’t need to change their base story, but new writers should toy with the ideas that are offered to them and see if they would enhance the story.
How do our readers contact you?
Thank you very much for hosting me today.