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A dream realized through self-publishing

Angela Darling sits with copies of her books during a recent interview. - Chris Chancellor
Angela Darling sits with copies of her books during a recent interview.
— image credit: Chris Chancellor

Angela Darling knew two things: That she was a good writer, and that she didn’t want to spend the rest of her life waiting for a book deal.

But the 1998 South Kitsap High School grad wasn’t sure how to go about publishing her manuscript — until the economy stepped in.

After losing her job in late 2008, Darling took a job as a recruiter at Amazon.com the following fall. It was there that she learned about CreateSpace, which gives aspiring authors access to printing, eBook distribution and marketing strategies. According to the program’s website, it offers writers “more opportunities than you imagined.”

The concept was intriguing. This could be her chance to share “Fallen,” the story the Thorne family of 1800s Virginia.

Or, she said, “I could wait 20 years for New York to get my story out there.”

“I didn’t want to regret that I didn’t do anything about it.”

She took the plunge, and along the way, found creative freedom. Self-publishing meant that instead of being subject to a publisher’s guidelines, she had total control over plot, characters, writing style.

Now, Darling, 32, is wrapping up her first trilogy. In a unique move, each successive book is not a sequel, but rather a prequel. In “Fallen,” Marion Garver is sent to live with the Thorne family, where she is to assume a fake last name and accept a governess position. The family’s patriarch, Gabriel, is a wealthy tobacco grower known for his fierce temper — and suspected of killing his wife years earlier.

Based on these circumstances, Darling said Garver begins doing research on the Thornes and her own family, where she discovers “disturbing” information.

“It all comes to a head,” Darling said.

After publishing ‘Fallen’ in January 2011, “Dreams of Elysium” followed 10 months later.

“I originally was going to write Fallen as a standalone book,” Darling said. “But I left some secrets in there.”

Darling said her second book answered many of those by detailing the upbringing of Gabriel Thorne. She said the final book in the series, “Aeterno,” is set to be released in November. That story focuses on Thorne’s father to further readers’ perspective on his dysfunctional family.

While Darling feels every family has its quirks, she said the trilogy — of which the two books are available through Amazon — is not a reflection on her own parents.

“They worked hard for everything we have,” she said. “It’s just my demented mind making up stories — but really interesting ones.”

Darling credits her mother for cultivating her interest in reading.

“She always had a book in her face,” she said.

Darling, too, immersed herself in books, and around age 12, she began to contemplate fictional scenarios for her own characters.

“It was cool to me that they could create these characters and do anything they wanted with them,” she said.

While her peers were playing outside, Darling, whose maiden name is Woods, was writing stories on a word processor not much more sophisticated than a typewriter. Her first attempts included several short horror stories, which she used to create her first full-length novel, “War,” when she was 18.

Darling credits her adolescent years for developing her writing skills, and perhaps no one was more responsible for that than her sophomore-year English teacher at South.

Early that year, Darling recalled, she quickly produced a paper for Mary Shuford’s class. Shuford returned it bathed in red ink and with a less-than-desirable grade.

“Her sentences weren’t perfect and she needed a few rewrites,” Shuford said. “Nobody told her that before. I pushed her. She didn’t like it for a bit because that wasn’t the vision she had.”

Darling, who also worked on Shuford’s award-winning yearbook staff for two years, did not always appreciate that no-nonsense style during high school. She now values those experiences enough that they are Facebook friends.

“I really needed that challenge of someone pushing me,” Darling said. “I really appreciate that.”

Shuford, who is now retired, said she read Darling’s books as soon as she found out she was published, and that she enjoys her former pupil’s writing style.

“I think she’s a really fine example of the young people that have grown up on the Peninsula,” Shuford said. “I’m proud of her.”

Darling has no plans to stop writing — or make it a full-time pursuit. Following graduation, she did little writing as she pursued a career as an opera singer. Darling even moved to San Diego to train with a Juilliard-schooled instructor. She performed some shows, including “The Sound of Music,” but said she never enjoyed it as much as writing.

It was not until she lost her job in November 2008 that she began to pursue writing as a serious endeavor, though.

“I needed something to do or I would go crazy,” Darling said.

She always enjoyed history and researching topics ranging from genealogy to tobacco. Since being hired at Amazon, she has worked on her novels while balancing work, family and classes at Green River Community College in Auburn, where she is studying to be a stenographer.

At last count, she said she sold approximately 7,000 copies with the majority of them coming through Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Darling said she imagines holding her printed book for the first time was “comparable to being a mother.”

“Holding my book in my hands for the first time was surreal,” she said. “I was exhilarated and yet terrified to send my baby out into the world.”

Darling said there was a time where she dreamed of making writing a career, but she now prefers it as a hobby, which eliminates some of the pressures.

“I don’t care if I’m a best-selling author,” she said. “I just had stories I needed to get out there.”

 

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