Diane Chamberlain is the author of no less than nineteen books! I came across her books last year, when I read ‘Before the Storm’ . I immediately went look for more books – I was drawn into the book from the first page and didn’t put it down until I had finished it.
Having been touted as the ‘Southern Jodi Picoult’, her books take your breath away. They are intense and twist and turn at any given moment – the ending never what you think.
Diane, thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions for me! And welcome to Australia!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and family?
I’ve lived in several areas of the United States, but most recently in North Carolina, where many of my books are set. I live with my significant other, a photographer who also creates my book trailers, and our two Shetland Sheepdogs, Keeper and Jet. Writing is my second career. My first was as a social worker in hospitals and as a psychotherapist in private practice. It was a great background for writing about people and their problems!
I’m a huge fan of your work – the twists and turns take me on such a journey. Where do your ideas come from?
Ideas come from everywhere! Articles in the news, overheard conversations, dreams and my own imagination. Often I come up with a couple of ideas and then think about how they’d fit together—even if it seems as though they don’t fit together at all. I like creating a puzzle for my readers to figure out. I’m glad you enjoy my twists and turns.
I would imagine that research would take up a huge part of your writing time – how much research do you have to do – especially in a book such as ‘Breaking the Silence’?
I do a great deal of research because I want my readers to believe my stories could really happen. Breaking the Silence (Remembering Me in Australia) is based in part on the CIA Mind Control Experiments that took place in the US during the 1950s. It was fascinating research and I decided to make my character one of the nurses involved in the experiments instead of a patient, to try to understand how a good person could end up taking part in such a terrible endeavor. I do some of my research online, but what I really like is finding an expert in whatever field I need to learn about and asking them all the questions I need answered. Most people have been very willing to help me.
I find that whenever I read one of your books, there is always one sentence/paragraph that sticks out for the whole book – it’s usually the key to the novel (in Before the storm it was: “Because the adult can’t take good care of the child unless she takes care of herself first,” I said.
For some reason that made him laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’d always put my needs before yours,” he said with certainty. “You always take care of me before anybody else.”
Do you spend a lot time thinking about those sentences or are they something that just appear as you write?
That happens to be one of my philosophies—we need to take care of our own needs so we can be there for other people. My characters often speak what I’m thinking, and that’s what happened in this part of Before the Storm.
I have noticed that a lot of your earlier books haven’t been re-printed in hardcopy, but as an E-book. Has this been successful?
Actually, many of my older books that are currently available as ebooks will be reissued in hardcopy over the next couple of years. This includes Cypress Point (which will have the new title, The Shadow Wife), and the trilogy, Keeper of the Light, Kiss River, and Her Mother’s Shadow. My first six books, though, are completely out of print. I am slowly making them available as ebooks, but there are no plans to reissue them in hardcopy. Maybe some day!
Can you tell us how your writing career began, how and when you signed your first contract and how your writing has grown and perhaps even changed, since then?
I started writing as a hobby while I was working as a social worker. The hobby became an obsession though, and within a few years, I had a complete novel. It was a mess and way too long, but I was able to find an agent. She tried to find a publisher for the book for about a year, then suggested I make some radical changes to the story. I rewrote the book and it sold right away. I signed the contract in 1986, but the book wasn’t published until 1989. A long wait!
I think my earlier books had more of a focus on romance than my books do now. My books have grown to include all forms of relationships–between parents and children, siblings, and friends as well as between men and women. I also think that my books are more suspenseful now than they were in the beginning.
It seems to me that you have quite a few new releases happening in quick succession – is that right (and if so, how do you find the time and motivation, so quickly)? Or, is that just the way your books have been released in Australia?
I am writing very quickly these days, turning in a book every nine months. Also, my publisher is reissuing my older books two a year. But I do think Australia has played a little bit of catch-up since A Beautiful Lie (The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes in the US) was released. It was quite popular which created a demand, so then my Australian publisher began bringing out my books a bit more quickly. I love all my new Australian readers!
What’s your most favourite thing about writing?
I love rewriting. The first draft is always extremely difficult and also scary—creating something out of nothing. I’m always afraid I’ve lost my knack. But once I have that first draft I can let out my breath and relax a little, playing with the storyline and getting to know the characters on an even deeper level.
You obviously interact with your readers, very much – I see that you offer to speak at Book clubs by speaker phone, if they are discussing your book. Is that something you enjoy? And do you sometimes find that readers see something in a book, which you didn’t see?
I love talking with my readers and do it every chance I get. That’s why I enjoy Facebook so much—it’s given me the opportunity to chat with so many of my readers. I also love the speakerphone conversations with reading groups. I feel like I’m right there in the room with them. And yes, my readers sometimes point out things about my stories that even I didn’t realize were going on.
Diane, thanks for taking part in my Guest Blog section and visiting Australia!
Helene Young : (www.heleneyoung.com) of Border Watch and soon to be Shattered Sky, fame said this about The Lies We Told: Diane Chamberlain delves deep into our darkest secrets in her latest novel, ‘The Lies We Told.’ As we track Maya and Rebecca Ward through their work as doctors we start to see some of the stresses that have shaped their lives. The title says it all!!
The complex story line kept the pace moving along. Her characters are finely drawn and her settings dramatic. I could almost taste the water rushing past Last Run Shelter 🙂
I was intrigued with the use of Point Of View. The story uses Maya in the first person as the narrator, but weaves Rebecca’s point of through as well. It’s an interesting technique which Diane uses to good effect. I hadn’t read any of her stories before, but I’ll be putting her on my watch list for her next release. A big thank you to Fleur for tipping me off!
Diane is happy to answer questions, so if you have one, please leave a comment here. She will also send a signed book plate, to the best question!
Hi there Diane…sounds like I should be racing out and buying one of your books first thing tomorrow. I enjoy Australiana fiction books, I expect because I can relate to the places in them. Do you have a favourite author or a particular style of writing your prefer to read???
Hi Diane, congratulations on your success. It’s interesting that you like the rewriting process better than the first draft, I am finding that the scariest!
You mentioned you love facebook, how important has it been for you to build an online platform, and do you spend a lot of tme promoting your books online?
P.S – I love the scarf you’re wearing in the photo!
Mandy, I mostly read stories that are emotional and which involve extreme situations that could happen to real people. That’s also what I like to write. thanks for asking!
Juliet, I like rewriting because I have something to work with. When I have a perfectly blank page, I’m always afraid I won’t be able to fill it by deadline time. As for Facebook, I’ve found it both important and fun. I love getting to connect with my readers in a more personal way, but it also can be a terrible time sink! I have to watch that.