Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Interview with Daron Fraley, Review and Book Giveaway of "The Thorn"

Daron Fraley was born in Powell, Wyoming, but doesn’t consider himself a cowboy. Living in France for a couple of years provided him the opportunity to hone his cooking skills and to become addicted to good food and chocolate. Apart from his loving family, teaching and writing are his two most favorite things in the world. A classic computer geek, he still likes to fish and camp, makes a mean apple or pumpkin pie from scratch, and once fixed a gas clothes dryer using photocopier parts. With all of his interests in music, art, the sciences, and religion (especially religion), he would have been quite comfortable living during the Renaissance. Having toured chilly castles while in France, he is glad he didn’t live during that time. “The Thorn” is his first novel.

After ten total years in the wonderful state of Indiana, Daron, his wife Jennifer, and their six children once again live in the beautiful Rockies, close to friends and family in Wyoming and Utah.

The Thorn, book one of The Chronicles of Gan:

Three tribes are at war on the planet Gan, unaware that the sign of Christ’s birth on an unknown world—Earth—is about to appear in the heavens. During a bloody skirmish with Gideonite troops, Jonathan of Daniel spares Pekah, a young enemy soldier, gaining his trust forever. These two distant brothers from estranged tribes covenant with each other to end the war being waged by a self-proclaimed emperor, and soon discover the intentions of a far more dangerous foe named Rezon—a sinister general bent on ruling those he can bring into subjection and destroying all others. In the end, Pekah’s selfless bravery is the means by which all the tribes are united. But there are dissenters, and Rezon escapes a well-deserved fate. When the promised heavenly signs appear, will there be peace at last, or will the malefactors once again threaten the safety of them all?

My review of The Thorn
"The Thorn" by first-time author Daron D. Fraley is a story that blends a mixture of history and religious beliefs as viewed through the eyes of people living on the planet known as Gan. I have often wondered about the people and places that are referred to as “other sheep I have, not of this fold” and Fraley creates a wonderfully detailed story around this premise.

Gan is inhabited by three tribes who battle for the right to rule. Fraley’s characters and world have been painted with such detail and finesse that the reader will become lost in the story and feel transported to another place and time. I appreciated that the world was similar to Earth and everything that happened could happen in our world. For me, that heightened the believability factor and pulled me into the story without hesitation.

I grew up watching war movies with my father, who fought in the Korean War, and have an interest in battles and war strategies. Fraley did a superb job of staging the war, even down to the details of weapons, particularly the sword which Jonathan used called, The Thorn. Again, Fraley’s use of details layered the story with textures that made it rich and gave it depth. Including symbolism like stones that glowed with light when rubbed reminded me of elements found in the scriptures.

“The Thorn” will touch readers in different ways and especially those who appreciate and enjoy seeing the scriptures brought to life through fiction. I enjoyed this book thoroughly and look forward to Book Two.

I had a chance to meet Daron a few weeks ago and enjoyed getting to know him and feel the great passion he has for writing and for his stories. Here's my interview with him.

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

Daron: I suppose that occurred when I went to a book signing to meet James Dashner and Shannon Hale. It was the first time I had ever had a real, live, published author sign a book. I discovered that authors are cool people! Who wouldn't want to be cool like that—to be able to meet people with a smile on your face and a pen in your hand?

Since published authors are published because they wrote something worth publishing and a publisher's editor has assisted to clean up the manuscript (this sentence would never make it through editing), I need to start at the beginning. For me, that journey started in High School. An avid reader in my teens, I took a creative writing class. That class changed my life because it unveiled a talent which I didn't know I had. The creative urge to express myself through the written word has been with me ever since. A good English teacher can do wonders, can't they?

M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

Daron: It took me a long time to finish my first book, mostly because I didn't know how to get from the initial idea to a finished plot with a great ending. I was writing purely for enjoyment, so when life continued to mozy along, I found there were occasional periods when I didn't write a single sentence for months at a time. Sometimes when I would come back to my project, I wasn't sure where the story was going. Research on the internet usually got me going again.

There are some great blogs out there by other writers! I saw that many of them had the same concerns I did. But, they also had a fierce determination to get published. That is when I decided I wanted to finish my book, if it was the last thing I ever did. After I was done, I went through the story with an editor's hat on . . . perhaps it was more like a child's birthday hat—you know, the pointy ones made of cardboard and and elastic string. Once again, the blogs of writers, publishers, editors, and agents came to the rescue.

There are three things which helped me to get the manuscript ready to submit to a publisher:

1. I gave the manuscript to readers, begging them to be critical.

2. I started reading like crazy. As I read other books, I could see areas where mine could be improved.

3. After fixing everything which my readers marked, I sent the manuscript to a freelance editor.

That was the best money I ever spent. After Danyelle Ferguson got done with it, I had so many red marks that it took me two months to fix them all. Let me tell you something: A good editor is worth their weight in gold. Danyelle's good work, and the suggestions from another published author (Marion Jensen, AKA Matthew Buckley), were the two biggest reasons that my manuscript was finally ready for submission.

The second best money I ever spent: I attended a writer's conference. At the LDS Storymakers Conference last spring, I pitched my manuscript to an acquisitions editor at a large regional publisher, and although they didn't take it, I received some great feedback. Just a few weeks later, I submitted to Valor Publishing and was accepted in July. I can honestly say that without the contacts I had made through blogs and the conference, I would not have been successful.

M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

Daron: Honestly, the editing in preparation for submission was quite discouraging. I don't want it to sound like my manuscript was complete garbage when I started the process, but there were some writing techniques which I needed to improve, and therefore, I went through the manuscript several times. About the 100th time I read the book I was ready to be done. My advice to others: Never give up! It was totally worth the time I invested to make my book the best it could be.

M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?

Daron: Much too haphazard. I really need to get into a schedule!

M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is
good enough to write a book about it?

Daron: Daydreaming. Absolutely. Some people sing in the shower. I tend to have my most creative thoughts when I am doing repetitive things which take no brain power, like taking a shower, brushing my teeth, driving to work, etc. I strongly recommend that anyone wanting to write carries a notebook and pen with them at all times. Except perhaps, into the shower.

One of the short stories I wrote (“WATER”, which you can find on my website under READ), came to me when I should have been paying attention to a power-point presentation at work. I apologize, but the subject was so incredibly dry! And I was tired. My mind started to wander. And then it came to me all at once. I almost couldn't write it down fast enough.

How do I know when it is a good enough idea? Well, if the idea continues to build and I can't stop thinking about it, or if I get all excited about the possibilities in the storyline, it seems to be a fair indication that the idea is a good one.

M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to
have their manuscripts become books in print?

Daron: I think I may have covered this sufficiently, so I will summarize:

1. Have a group of readers who can offer an honest critique. Your mother doesn't count.

2. Get help from a professional editor.

3. LISTEN to what they tell you. Fix everything.

4. Actually submit the manuscript. It does no good in a desk drawer, or sitting on a computer hard drive.

5. Never give up.

M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit
down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline

Daron: My method is a mixture of the two: brainstorm when I have spare moments to think, write like crazy, brainstorm in the process.

M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's
block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Daron: Do you call a period of one and a half years a period of writer's block? Or is that simply a lack of interest? The biggest snag I had in my book was after a scene in the woods where my characters are talking around a campfire. I had no idea how to get them into the city of Ain, how to rescue the damsel in distress, or how to win the war. After that experience, I decided it is far better to plot things out ahead of time with an end goal in mind. I had to decide where I wanted the story to end, and when I did, it helped me to build in the steps to get there.

M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?

Daron: I rarely listen to music. Noisy children or the television distract me. I prefer the quiet.

M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?

Daron: I read. I read in multiple genres. I also read in the scriptures—some of the best story ideas have come to me while pondering a story found in the scriptures. I assume that is because of the type of stories I have been writing.

M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?

Daron: Wow. That is a hard question. I can't choose a single person, however. As a group, LDS Storymakers and the writers who attend their conference—those folks are my heroes. I could not have gotten to this point without them.

M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?

Daron: Yes, but my critique group has changed a little. It started out as a group of friends, then changed to a group of more serious writers. Both have been helpful.

M.B.: Which of your books is your favorite, and why?

Daron: All one of them, of course.

M.B.: Any final words you would like to share

Daron: I came across this just today! “All generalizations are false, including this one.” - Mark Twain (I sure hope Mark Twain actually said this . . . if I find out later it was really Samuel Clemens, I will be embarrassed).

Please don't take my lightheartedness as being a sign that my book is a comedy. I will leave you with this very serious thought:

What if people living on another planet, one of God's other creations, are waiting for Christ to come visit them?

M.B.: Wow, I love that. So, where can our readers go to find your books and order them?

Daron: “The Thorn”, book one in the series “The Chronicles of Gan”, can be pre-ordered at http://www.valorpublishinggroup.com/Books/the-thorn.php In a few weeks the book will also be available on my own website through an Amazon link ( http://www.daronfraley.com ) and through most book stores. Please come to my website and click on “DARON” to find my contact information. If you would like to follow me on facebook, twitter, goodreads, or send me a note by email, you will find the links you need on that page.

1 vote - Follow this blog.
1 vote - Follow Daron's blog.
2 votes - post this contest and interview/review on your blog.
1 vote - Follow Michele on Facebook
1 vote - Follow Daron on Facebook

Good Luck! Winners announced soon.


Krista said...

Yeah! Great interview!

Daron D. Fraley said...

Thanks Michele!

The King and Queen said...

I am looking forward to reading this book. I love the whole idea of another world and perspective. Love fantasy and I'm sure I will love "The Thorn" as well!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

exciting! I'd love to win his book! :) (I sent you an email)

Daron D. Fraley said...


A very sincere thank you for posting up this interview again along with your review of The Thorn. I am glad you enjoyed it even though it is not your typical reading genre.

Thank you for being one of my favorite author people!

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

Fun review and thanks for the info. I've been curious about this book. I'm now following you on this blog. :)