Is It Ever Too Late to Reinvent Yourself?
Successful Corporate Executive Turned Award-Winning Novelist Says No!
Darlene Quinn always knew she was a good storyteller, but she had no idea she'd end up as a novelist at age 73.
Quinn spent most of her career on a winding road that led her from being a teacher, developing self-improvement and modeling programs as a private contractor for a department store and hospitals, and finally a top executive at Bullocks Wilshire department store. So, how is it that she retired to a new career as a writer? For Quinn, it was all about passion.
"When I was a kid I spent Saturday mornings snug in bed listening to my favorite programs and letting my imagination run wild," she said from her writing office in Big Bear, California. "'Let's pretend' became my M.O., and I spent a great deal of time in the worlds I created. But that was as far as it went when I was a kid. I had no urge to set pen to paper at an early age. The stories I composed were in my head, either for my own enjoyment or sometimes acted out with my close childhood friends."
After she graduated high school and then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at San Jose State University, she embarked on a career as a teacher. Nary a thought of being a writer entered her mind.
"Being a victim of the short lived phenomenon, called sight-reading, which did not include phonics, I had always been intimidated by the written word," she said. "Somehow none of my teachers appreciated my creativity when it came to spelling. Therefore, my creative writing efforts were sprinkled with so many red marks, they appeared to have broken out with the measles. But maybe it wasn't actually the school system that caused my lack of confidence. Perhaps all I needed was something to say and a passion strong enough to overcome my fear."
That opportunity came when much later in her career when she was a department store executive during a time of tremendous upheaval in the retail fashion industry.
"Being in department store management during a period of great upheaval, I felt compelled to tell the story of our vanishing departments stores," she added. "Instead of writing a dour tell-all about the business, I decided to chronicle my experiences in one of my fictional worlds, and I filled that landscape with the realistic and dynamic characters that inhabited my daily life. The age of computers with spell checking software helped me get over my fear of a red-inked manuscript, and made it possible for me to satisfy the need to tell that story."
Prior to telling that story, she sharpened her wit and her pen by writing articles for trade journals, magazines and newspapers. Her first attempt at a novel came when she was drafted by actor Buddy Ebsen to help him with his first novel. He began a second novel based on his legendary TV persona Barnaby Jones. After his passing in 2003, Ebsen's widow asked her to finish the book which was published in 2006 under the title Sizzling Cold Case. By 2008, Quinn had finished her story of intrigue in the retail fashion business, Webs of Power (www.darlenequinn.net), and this month she just released its sequel Twisted Webs.
"Unlike other writers, I didn't have childhood dreams of becoming one," she said. "The fear of grammar and spelling instilled in me by my teachers, and my subsequent career choices, conspired against it anyway. But one thing I've learned in my life is that things change. People change, and sometimes, their dreams have to change with them. I've always had an active and vivid imagination, and to be releasing my second novel at age 73 is actually the fulfillment of a dream I never knew I had. Until now."
About Darlene Quinn
Darlene Quinn is an author and journalist from Long Beach, California. Her first novel, Webs of Power (winner of the 2009 Indie National Excellence Award for Fiction), is about the back-room wheelings, dealings and double-dealings behind the scenes of a national retail chain, based primarily on real-life people and companies Quinn encountered during her career in the retail industry. The sequel, Twisted Webs, is set to be released in September 2010. As part of a nine-member management team for the Bullocks Wilshire Specialty Department stores, Quinn has the insider's perspective on the rise and fall of major department stores.