Darlene Foster is the author of several books for children about a peripatetic twelve-year old named Amanda Ross, published by Central Avenue Publishing. Foster divides her time between British Columbia and Spain. Below Foster writes about how she went from being a twelve-year old on a ranch who wanted to be a writer, to an adult author settled in Spain, where she has written more Amanda books over the past few years. -DM
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Hellen Keller, Let Us Have Faith, 1940.
Living My Daring Adventure by Darlene Foster
Sometimes when I sit on my terrace overlooking an abandoned lemon grove, listening to the birds, and feeling the warm sun on my face, I wonder how I managed to end up in this paradise. As a little girl growing up on the Canadian prairies, I never imagined I would one day be living in Spain, ten minutes from the Mediterranean Sea, writing books for children.
I had a good life in Canada. I eventually left the prairies and spent the last twenty-five years on the beautiful West Coast where I worked as an Employment Counsellor. I loved my home, friends, family and job. However, the desire to travel the world and write fiction was always on my mind.
To make extra money for travel I tutored foreign students in English on evenings and weekends. I saved enough money and travelled to the United Arab Emirates to visit a friend where I had an amazing experience. After several failed attempts at writing an adult story based on my trip, I tried writing the story from a twelve-year-old’s point of view. At last, the excitement and wonder I felt at the time came through and Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask was born. Finding time to write was not easy but I was determined. Every evening after work, I would write for two hours. It took me three years to complete the book and five years to find a publisher. While looking for a publisher, I wrote Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting, based on visits to my in-laws. A good thing I did, as my publisher wanted me to write a series of children’s books.
My main character, Amanda, became the young girl I would have liked to be, travelling the world and having exciting adventures. I wrote the first four books of the series based on my travels while working full time. I continued my habit of writing two hours every day, usually in the evening after work. My dream of becoming a published writer came true.
As my husband and I drew near to retirement we talked about warmer places to spend our time. Many of our friends were moving to Mexico, the southern states or Central and South America, but my British husband preferred to move back to Europe. We enjoyed our numerous visits to my in-laws living in Spain and considered that option. On our next visit, we looked at property, found it very affordable and bought in a quiet neighbourhood on the Costa Blanca.
Over two years ago we sold, gave away, and threw out seventy-five percent of our belongings. We packed the rest and moved to Spain to start a new adventure. Making a huge move like this wasn’t easy and many times I questioned my sanity. Missing friends and family, learning new customs, dealing with paperwork and struggling with another language proved to be more stressful than I imagined.
But in spite of the upheaval in my life, I managed to sneak in some scribbling whenever I had a few spare minutes. I completed Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music and immediately started Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind. I believe writing helped relieve the stress of moving to another country and kept me sane.
As wonderful as it is to be living my dream, I miss my family and friends in Canada; and guess I always will. Being connected by social media to children and grandchildren helps. I even Skype with my eighty-eight-year-old mother. My trips back to Canada — to promote my books and to visit — remind me what a wonderful life I have and that I can enjoy the best of both worlds.
I have adapted to the more relaxed way of life here in Spain and have learned to be patient as things don’t get done as quickly here. I’m having fun exploring the diverse geography of Spain, visiting the lively medieval markets, learning about the colourful history and attending the many fiestas. With the rest of Europe in such close proximity, I’ve enjoyed visits to Holland, France, Italy, England, and Malta since we moved here. There are many more ideas for my Amanda adventure series and other stories rattling around in my brain. I am a Canadian writer, living in Spain. Currently working on my next book, Amanda in Holland, I’m making the most of living my dream.