Tuesday, December 14, two black mambas attacked Dr. P–, biology researcher with the University of S–, as he was observing the behavior of the reptiles. Black mambas are normally shy, and they will turn away from human contact. When they feel cornered, they can rear up four feet in an attempt to frighten an attacker.
In a rare event, two snakes worked in a tag team effort to bring down a human being. Dr. P–’s assistants, L– and J–, biology students at the university, watched the first snake bite him on the left thigh, then chase the researcher toward them, when they saw a second snake bite his other thigh. Dr. P– first told them to help him to the car, but at the second snake’s appearance, urged them to run.
The two assistants stated that they sat in the car, and every time they opened the door, one of the two snakes would race toward them. The most deadly snake in the world, the black mamba’s bite is 100% fatal without antivenin within minutes. Therefore, it was too late to help Dr. P– when they arrived with help an hour later.
Dr. P– was the procurer of reptile species for the university’s natural history museum. He also produced articles for their scientific journal on reptile behavior, including a recent article on antivenin procedures. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
Jenny Jaeckel is the author of House of Rougeaux, her debut novel, which made Bitch Media’s 25 Must Read Books of 2018 list. Her previous titles includeFor the Love of Meat: Nine Illustrated Stories and Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob. In 2016, Jaeckel published the graphic memoir Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU, which was the winner of the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and a 2016 finalist in the Foreword Indies Book Awards. She has worked as a translator, an editor, a Spanish teacher, a graphic arts teacher, and an illustrator. Jaeckel is currently working on her second novel, yet to be named, a continuation of the Rougeaux family epic.
And she agreed to be on my little blogblogblog! If you haven’t read House of Rougeaux, I recommend you remedy that as soon as possible—must be ready for the sequel. Links to connect with Jenny and purchase her books follow the interview.
Tell me about your writing process, the mechanics of it, schedule, strategies to keep you going, where you write, research procedures, and what inspirations surround you or motivate you.
Wow, where to start… All the aspects of the process, whether internal or external are quite varied. As a writer, I have to have a whole mental “team” going on: the passionate one, the researcher, the emotional digger/investigator, the critic, the cheerleader, the scheduler, etc. etc. My biggest inspirations are my favorite books, the ones I love with all my heart and soul, and have made me want to be a writer in the first place. I always aspire to those literary heroes. They function like my North Star. I may be down in my clunky little rowboat, with my one broken oar, paddling furiously and getting nowhere, but when I look up, at least I know where I’m trying to go. J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison, Merce Rodoreda, Eduardo Galeano, and Edith Wharton are some that I return to again and again.
Tell me about the publishing process, including your publishing team, and your responsibilities as the author.
One of the most key parts of the process for me is working with my editor, Neesa Sonoquie. When I first showed her the manuscript for House of Rougeaux, I thought it was in pretty good shape. I’d already gotten some feedback from readers I trusted and done a lot of revising. But I had not worked with Neesa before. She absolutely demolished it. I’d sent off a book and got back confetti. It was humbling, but it turned out to be a transcendent moment. The revision process transformed the book and made me grow tremendously as a writer.
I am currently in such a moment again, because Neesa has just demolished a draft of my next book—a coming-of-age/love story that will be finished before the House of Rougeaux sequel (I’m still working on a first draft of the Rougeaux sequel.) What a good editor does is see the book you are trying to write inside the draft, which is full of wrong detours and other flaws. The demolition is all about cutting the crap so you can get to the true heart of the matter. It’s challenging but very exciting.
Describe your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders?
I don’t exactly have a cheerleading squad, but I have a small group of friends and acquaintances who have, at one time or another, said, or written some very wonderful things about how my work has touched them. When I get this in an email, for example, I print it out and put in on the wall by my bed, where I have a little collection, and when I get discouraged, I read them over and over. I also talk pretty regularly with three writer friends of mine. Though we all deal in different genres, the process and the struggle are the same, and being able to engage in that mutual support is essential. My lovely family is very supportive too. My partner and child give me regular feedback on my blog posts and written interviews (like right this second).
I know you’ve written about a difficult time in your life through a graphic memoir as part of coping and healing. In what other ways has your life influenced your art and vice versa? How do you choose your subject matter?
Art and life have a complete interface for me, like body and mind, or heads and tails sides of a coin. My first three books were all memoirs, the next two pure fiction, so while my relationships to all those topics varied, it was all deeply personal. When writing memoir, it has been much easier for me to see the therapeutic aspects of storytelling. Curiously though, putting key chunks of my life into these packages called books has made me identify with the stories less, as if these events happened to a human, and that human just happened to be me. It’s very liberating.
With fiction, though I’ve been exploring lives that couldn’t be more different from my own, every choice I make, and the ways I try to connect with my characters and get to know them, has everything to do with who I am. At the moment, working on this coming-of-age/love story, I am blending autobiography and fiction for the first time, and the process is extremely strange. I have to get to know the protagonist, for example, as the fictional person she is, but she is also so like a young version of myself that it’s a real mind-bender.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I am grateful to creativity for being the force that animates me. I think without it I’d be a lifeless hulk, a Frankenstein’s Monster pre-electrification, misshapen and covered in scars and moldy clothes (but smaller). I was lucky that as a child I was encouraged in art (so many are discouraged or even shamed for their efforts,) and lucky that since then I’ve had countless opportunities to grow creatively. Creativity takes infinite forms, I think it’s our birthright as human beings, and I think the more we can bring it to all aspects of our lives the better off we are. Once I heard the singer Krishna Das say in an interview that his music was how he stayed alive. He didn’t say music was his bliss and all that, he said it was how he literally stayed alive. I really appreciated that. It’s survival. Creativity is not the icing on the cake, it’s the cake itself.
Grace Dalton watched her husband die after being struck in a hit and run accident. After a brief period of submerging herself in the grief, she begins to move on, speaking with his lawyer to learn of a secret bank account and life insurance. Then she sees her husband, sending her best friend into conniptions for some reason, and she ends up in several bizarre emergency sessions with her psychiatrist. Much of this story, once you get past the repetition (and the repetition continues throughout the book), lacks credibility, such as Grace’s phone sessions with her psychiatrist, and then her best friend dragging her to so many emergency sessions instead of listening to Grace. Her best friend comes across as more like a mean sister, making the ending even less likely. This story had such potential, and then Grace ended up being more crotchety than the damsel in distress. The reader does not need reminding in every chapter that Grace wallowed in her grief for six weeks. The story is in there if you want to earn it! I was graciously given an early copy by Bookouture through NetGalley.
Brian Barnett is a Central Florida artist and designer who specializes in fine line abstract ink and pencil drawings, painting and other mediums. He is also the SO of my high school friend, and though I only know him online, he’s friendly and interesting, and his work is astonishing. I have to share it. After learning about him, follow the links at the end to contact Brian, scope out more of his work, and purchase pieces.
Tell me about your artistic process, from ideation to finished product, including medium / material, schedule, environment, and inspirations tangible and abstract.
The process for my art can take a second or be meticulously planned for weeks months or even years. For example, if I’m working with pens, the process is almost instant. I don’t have a pre-planned route or image I am seeking when I create using the pens; it’s just free and letting the ink flow as it wants to create the images. But if I’m working on a sculpture, I may have thought and planned it for months, looking through the bins of mixed media for that certain piece that make it perfect. I don’t have a preferred medium. I tend to draw mostly as it is most accessibleof my mediums at any time. I prefer lately to work with my hands, sculpting or building creations, with my next step being woodcarving and the eventual goal of teaching myself and being able to carve my wife’s face out of wood or sculpt from clay. I’m constantly challenging myself with new mediums.
How do you find buyers—short-term and long-term strategies and venues; do you create art from your own vision and / or commission art?
When it comes to selling my art, it’s just not the goal. I do markets and online sales, hang in local galleries. and sometimes I post randoms for sale, but when I found this talent, I didn’t find it for fortune. I found it for sanity. I am always honored to sell a piece. To me, it means that person liked something that came from inside of me enough to spend money on it and hang it in their house. To me, that’s amazing. To me, it means I touched them; they connected with the image or the sculpture. That’s a priceless payday for an artist to see the viewer connect. I have done and am available for commissions—I love to work with a client to reach the perfect piece.
Describe your support system online and IRL—who are your biggest cheerleaders?
Support systems, hmm. That’s an interesting one. I have two support systems online and in real life. Earlier in the interview, I said I found art for my sanity—this is very true. I am a recovered addict and alcoholic for almost 14 years now. I found art as a great filler and escape from life, and the things that make the mind go astray. So, when it comes to my support, my art is my release that allows the people who support me to connect to me in a way they wouldn’t have been able to before. If it weren’t for the Orlando art community’s support, and that of my family and friends, I couldn’t have as much joy on this mission of art as I do.
How does your life influence your art and vice versa?
My art influences my life for sure,. My world and the people in it are filled with canvasses and sculptures and the artists that made them. I’m always in the mix of what’s going on in town, and art is truthfully my air. My art is influenced by the past lives I’ve lived, the people I’ve been, and the things I’ve seen n this 47-year mission around the sun. I hide imagery in my linework, with lots of little stories in many of those pieces. I find art a very healthy way to deal with life now and the recovery from the ones I lived.
What do you love most about your creativity?
The thing I love most about my creativity is where it has taken me, the people I’ve met. The things I get to do and be all because I choose to make art, its almost unfair to those that don’t. I found a community of people from all walks of life, and all races and orientations, with one common core bond—ART! These people are my people, and I hope that once you’ve finished this interview, and checked out my art, you’ll also become one of the amazing folks in my circle of life.
Leiyin learns she has three souls upon her death, souls who explain they are trapped with her ghost until she atones for some egregious transgression in her mortal life. They witness her, through memories, rebel against the patriarchal traditions of her father, suffer the consequences, and live with regrets for her naivety. In the early 20th century, Leiyin controls little about her life, and this during a civil war and Japanese aggression. Epiphanies hit her hard and fast reliving her memories. She must communicate with mortals to appease the gods by rescuing the fates of her loved ones in order to ascend to the afterlife with her souls. Chang’s blending and bending of Chinese culture and history create a compelling narrative of inadvertent espionage and acceptance of one’s place in society. The speculative elements placing Leiyin outside her own story fascinate the reader as they astonish Leiyin. Chang’s novels are educational in many ways, to the anticipated appreciation of readers of historical fiction, speculative fiction, and fans of Tatiana de Rosnay and Laura Spinella.
Israeli author I.V. Olokita has translated his flash fiction “Three Stories” so that I might share it on my blogblogblog. Enjoy! Look for an Artist Interview with this wonderful author soon!
Three stories stand between you and the end of this day. Three more stories, and if everything goes according to plan, you’ll exit the elevator, enter your home within a step and a half, to your prince charming who is waiting for you at the same spot for the last eight years. You married him at the age of twenty and wanted to have a child right away, but this job, this important job, you got in a far-away city forced you to push back the decision to turn the passive into active by making the dream to have children come true. Meanwhile, he’s scratching his balls, and waits for you to come back from work every day, bearing baskets of money. You’re not angry with him, just disappointed in yourself that out of all the places in the world, you compromised for a house in the suburbs, and couldn’t convince him to move to the big city.
Stomping your feet, you think—Just three more stories and this awful day will be over. It’s not the work that’s killing you every day; it’s the drive, the long distances, and the long line for the elevator, especially during the summer. Sometimes you feel like you stew in your own juice. You know there are surveillance cameras everywhere, but it doesn’t bother you. If there’s an unpleasant smell, you’ll make sure that it’s not you, and even if there are zillions of other people at the elevator, you’ll still spray your cologne all over yourself peacefully. They can go fuck themselves; it’s definitely better than their stench.
You smile. Theoretically, the elevator’s screen shows that you’ve reached your story, and the door will open in a few seconds, you know that it’s the end now—you’ve finally arrived. So you smile. The door opens while exciting scripts are running through your mind of how you’ll enter your home, how he’ll run toward you and scoop your body into his arms. Maybe later he’ll take you to bed to make a dream of yours come true, or he’s prepared a romantic dinner to make it up to you for the awful day you had, although it wasn’t his fault. Your smile widens a little more, and your eyes are closing when the elevator door completes its divide for you. Taking one more step with your head bowed, you suddenly stop.
You’ve never loved any girl. In the locker rooms at school, you were always one of those who said “yuck,” but this woman that stands in front of you now—her smile does something completely different to you. For a moment, you can’t take your eyes off her, and you lower your gaze again. I wish I had such a lovely smile—you think to yourself, and fall in love with her even more. It all happens so quickly; she throws a shy “hello,” and enters the elevator in your place, and the door slides closed. You’re left there, standing alone, right at the entrance to your home, and you think if only you had the courage to shoot your hand into the closing gap between the doors and ride down the three stories with her.
But you don’t have that kind of courage. You just go home. He sits there in his briefs on the couch and doesn’t even mutter “hello” to you. The remainder of the shy smile you had is wiped off your face. You remember that during the last few years, there were countless smiles wiped off your pretty face. Once upon a time, it was different. Eight years ago you had an alluring smile, just like the woman from the elevator, and now all you have left are the scripts running through your mind during the three-story ride on the elevator. You think again about the smile of the woman and fall further in love with it, hoping you’ll meet her again tomorrow at one of the three stories on the elevator.
You don’t know, or maybe just don’t care, that this smile she wears, is the smile you lost a long time ago.
Tall Poppy author Heather Webb’s works have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly and more, as well as received national starred reviews. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was selected as a Goodreads Top Pick, and in 2017, Last Christmas in Paris became a Globe & Mail bestseller and was also shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. When not writing, you may find Heather collecting cookbooks or looking for excuses to travel. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.
Describe your writing process, including schedule, environment, strategies / techniques, and inspirations abstract and material.
My daily process changes based on the needs of my household, but I try to sit down at least 3 (but hope for 6!) hours per day to write, edit, plot, or research. Sometimes that means I’m just picking at one paragraph and moving things around, if I’m feeling stuck that day. I do, however, try to aim for 1,000 words per day and 5,000 words per week if I’m in the drafting phase. If I’m editing, it depends entirely on the draft. If it’s a second or third draft, I’m still doing a lot of overhauling and layering, which means I move fairly slowly. Later drafts move much faster once the bigger elements of the story and characters are in place.
I tend to work at Starbucks, my kitchen table, or at my desk, but it’s in my bedroom due to space restrictions so I don’t have a devoted office space, unfortunately. One day! It’s on my bucket list.
Walk me through your publishing process, from final draft to final product, explaining who on your team does what, and what marketing you do as the author. Elaborate upon going international, winning awards, and public speaking, please.
Publishing is a tricky and dangerous process. Ha! Just kidding. Each of my books is very different, including many of the team members who work on them, so I’ll keep this simple. Each book is in process for about a year once it leaves your desk from multiple rounds of edits, to cover design, to marketing and sales materials so the book you read that hits the shelf has been finished for at least a year. If it took awhile to find a publishing home, it may be much older than that, and chances are, the author is either working on something else entirely or may even have another entire novel completed. In terms of marketing, authors do as much as they can to help promote, but at the end of the day, we don’t move the needle all that much unless we’re a very big name. It’s the incredible sales teams behind us, book placement in physical stores, and ads and promotions with online retailers.
Tell me about your support system—online and IRL—and how that may shift during the progress from idea to launch. Who are your biggest cheerleaders?
My biggest cheerleaders (beyond my family!) are my critique partners. They read early drafts and deliver feedback that is sometimes painful but always helpful. I can’t imagine where I’d be without them. I also happen to love them dearly as people. I have to give a shout out to some of my favorite organizations who have been incredibly supportive as well: the Writer Unboxed community, Tall Poppy Writers, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Historical Novel Society, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. I feel incredibly blessed by my community. My colleagues are wonderfully talented, supportive people, and if I started listing names, I’d never finish. The writing community is truly special and unique that way.
Did I read that you had a dream about Josephine, inspiring you to change your career from high school teacher to author? I find that astonishing! How does your life influence your art / work and vice versa? Where does research fit in, and do you have assistance?
I did have a dream about her! It didn’t make me quit teaching, however. I resigned because I was expecting my second child and daycare would have eaten my entire teaching salary. (Pathetic, right?) So I made the choice to stay home with my babes. Before I resigned, however, I did have a persistent dream about Josephine, and I knew very little about her, so it was quite odd. I decided to check out a biography to learn about her and I fell in love instantly. I hadn’t even finished that first biography when I told my husband I was going to write a book. He looked at me like I was from another planet. So whether or not I resigned, I was going to write a book, damn it!
As for research and assistance, I wish I had an assistant! I’m on my own, but I do love it. I try as often as possible to visit locations in person, utilize primary source material, and when necessary, I reach out to experts in certain fields.
What do you love most about your creativity? (You may shamelessly plug your editorial services here as well!)
Indulging my creative side fills me with a kind of peace I can’t attain anywhere else. There’s something about going into your head and letting it riot with ideas and thoughts and dreams. I love the act of doing it as much as the end product, whether it be writing, cooking, or doing fun projects with my kids. Though at times, I have to admit writing can be frustrating when things aren’t working. But this is all part of the growing and expanding and trying new things. The challenge. We writers relish that part of the process on some level or why bother? Living a creative life feels like a gift and I definitely don’t want to waste it.
Author Extra: What’s your next book?
Here’s a little blurb on my next book, Meet Me in Monaco, set to the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s wedding in 1956. It releases in July 2019, and I’ve co-written it with author Hazel Gaynor. We hope to have a cover soon!
Set in the 1950s against the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance and glamourous wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb take the reader on an evocative sun-drenched journey along the Côte d’Azur in this page-turning novel of passion, fate and second-chances.
Movie stars and paparazzi flock to Cannes for the glamorous film festival, but Grace Kelly, the biggest star of all, wants only to escape from the flash-bulbs. When struggling perfumer Sophie Duval shelters Miss Kelly in her boutique, fending off a persistent British press photographer, James Henderson, a bond is forged between the two women and sets in motion a chain of events that stretches across thirty years of friendship, love and tragedy.
James Henderson cannot forget his brief encounter with Sophie Duval. Despite his guilt at being away from his daughter, he takes an assignment to cover the wedding of the century, sailing with Grace Kelly’s wedding party on the SS Constitution from New York. In Monaco, as wedding fever soars and passions and tempers escalate, James and Sophie—like Princess Grace—must ultimately decide what they are prepared to give up for love.
After eight years in a monogamous relationship, Ella expected a proposal at their favorite restaurant. That’s not what she got. So she runs away to Paris to rediscover herself as the adventurer she was before the relationship. Yearning for the most Parisian experience, she falls into a bet to taste all 365 varietals of French cheese, becoming an Instagram sensation. However, she still chooses glamour over substance in men; though the romance is inevitable, it’s still fun to watch Ella grow and evolve. Brownlee creates a character as enchanting and quirky as Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Becky. But she goes beyond Ella’s endearing personality to educate readers on French cheeses, with delectable descriptions and fascinating anecdotes and history, even referencing Napoleon. Fans of Kinsella, foodies, Francophiles, and romantics will appreciate this lovely story that I was fortunate to receive from Amberjack Publishing through NetGalley.
I raise my hand. It was a code yellow years ago at my first elementary school. A man with a gun was walking around the neighboring school. Police had it under control within the hour. No injuries. A domestic dispute. A disgruntled husband.
Evan from HR then explains, “When there’s a lockdown, you’ll hear lockdown, lockdown, lockdown,” as he counts on his fingers, “lockdown, lockdown, lockdown,” and once again, “lockdown, lockdown, lockdown. Nine times to make sure everyone hears and reacts, especially those in noisy environments, such as the cafeteria and the gym.”
No sound, not even one of the squeaky chairs, breaks through his pause for emphasis. We’re rapt.
He continues, “Lock the door. Now is the time to make you and the children. Invisible. Search the room for another egress, most likely windows, should the door be breached. If an active shooter is coming through your door, and you have no choice of flight, you must fight. Pick up a chair and”—here he positions himself to the side of the door, feigning holding a chair over his head—“come hard and heavy. He won’t be expecting it.”
My horror grows with each word. I am now planning to take a self-defense course. Most likely, though, I will take a lengthy nap when I return home, and try to pretend our world doesn’t now include active shooter training for substitute teachers.
And yet there’s more. Evan lets us know that the natural instinct to gather students together must be ignored should we find ourselves outside during a lockdown. “Run, scatter, make a wide range of moving targets. Run into the woods. Hide in the ditch. Hide under bushes. Hide behind houses. Run. Scatter. Hide.”
Then it gets even worse, and I want to walk out, but I know I would be the only one. I don’t need this job. What’s the likelihood, really?
Evan adamantly states, “Once you lock that door, do not touch it. You will hear things. You must remain quiet. Invisible. If you hear me tell you to open the door, don’t do it. If the principal asks you to open the door, don’t do it. If you hear a student screaming to be let in, don’t touch that door. You don’t know who might be behind that employee or student. If you touch that door, you’ve compromised yourself and all the students in that room.”
So I’m really looking forward to working with children again…with just a little pinging in my brain of such current events and unlikelihoods happening. I won’t even allow myself to think about narcan, which I consider the holy grail of fuckening.
I met Diane in person at a book signing in Topsail Beach at Quarter Moon Books. In my overzealous fangirling, I crashed a book club photo and had to be gently shooed away. I’ve been her most awkward fan since, and she’s been the most gracious literary star. I show up for each new book’s signing / reading like a middle-aged stalker who looks so innocent (muahaha), and Diane keeps smiling and signing my new books. If only she could write super fast; I know I will love each new story. I was fortunate to receive an early copy of The Dream Daughter—my review—coming out October 2.
Tell me about your writing process—any tricks / nuances to keep you on track, inspirations material or abstract, where you write (Topsail!) and when.
I usually write either in my Raleigh area sunroom or at my condo on Topsail Island. I generally have a year to write a book. The first few months, I think about my idea and start doing research, often visiting the area where the story takes place. I begin picturing scenes and putting them on post it notes that I move around on a big presentation board until I like the arc of the story, thus creating an outline. At the same time, I think about my characters, specifically what type of person will have the hardest time dealing with whatever dilemma I’ve come up with for the story. If there is no personal struggle, there is no story. I think about which characters will have a point of view in the story and will they have a first person or third person point of view and will I write the story in present or past tense. I sometimes look on the internet for pictures of people who make me think of my characters. I find this a huge help in creating characters who feel very real to me and hopefully to my readers. These are all decisions I make before I start writing.
Finally, I start writing about 6 months before my deadline. I usually listen to movie soundtracks as I write because I like the emotional ups and downs of the music. I’m always doing research as I write. Also, I listen to my characters because they frequently go astray from my outline and I’ve learned to pay attention to them. I write three to five drafts. Finally, often a bit late, I turn in the book. That’s where my dynamite editor comes in. She reads the book, looking at the big picture. What works and what doesn’t? She makes many suggestions, sometimes requiring a big change in the book. I’ve learned to listen to her, and I rewrite. And perhaps rewrite yet again.
Lead me through your publishing process, as in who does what when, and your marketing responsibilities (book tours! What else?).
Here’s how it works. First I write a book. Then I have an agent who is responsible for finding the publisher she thinks will do the best job with that book. She is also responsible for negotiating the contract with that publisher. You can see in my answer above some of the work the editor does with regard to my book. The publisher then, of course, publishes the book. If the publisher feels strongly that they can make the book a bestseller, they will give it a lot of advertising and other support before and during publication. My publisher for the last six books, St. Martins Press, does a great deal of promotion for me. I try to hold up my end by keeping up with social media (which I enjoy), giving interviews, touring to speak to groups and do book signings, where I get to meet my readers, the best part of the process!
Before the Storm series
Describe your support system: groups online and IRL (MKA, another favorite author of mine)—your biggest cheerleaders…
My biggest supporter is my significant other, John. He’s a photographer and understands the creative process and doesn’t complain that once a year, as deadline nears, I disappear from real life into my imagination, 24/7. Aside from him, I have many local writer friends who I get together with often. And then I have my “official group.” We call ourselves The Weymouth Seven because we originally met up at the Weymouth mansion in Southern Pines, NC, where authors are invited to work for up to two weeks each year. Now we usually meet up on Topsail Island. You’re right that Mary Kay Andrews is a big part of our group. She’s our ringleader, the one who keeps us on track during the week that we meet. Other members are mystery writer Margaret Maron, historical mystery writer, Sarah Shaber, horror and thriller writer Alexandra Sokoloff, and mystery writers, Brenda Witchger and Katy Munger. We have fun but we work hard at the same time.
Keeper of the Light series
You’ve always had touches of history in your novels. Recently, you’ve opened up to historical fiction, and now sci-fi / fantasy with your latest book about time travel. How did this come about; in what ways do your life and work influence each other, and how did your previous profession prepare you for fiction writing? Also talk about secrets, their importance to you and your work, and what kind of secrets you like best to weave into your stories.
When I heard about the eugenics (forced sterilization) program in North Carolina, I knew I had to write about it. That meant setting the story during the years of the program, so I selected 1960 and thus wrote my first novel (Necessary Lies) with a totally historical setting and I found I really enjoyed it. Two books later, I decided I wanted to write about the 1944 polio outbreak in Hickory, NC during which the town built a functioning polio hospital in 54 hours (The Stolen Marriage). So I would say, if the idea that comes to me is historical, I will happily write it, but I am still perfectly happy writing contemporary books as well.
When it comes to The Dream Daughter, that is a whole different subject! For years, I had the idea that’s central in The Dream Daughter: a woman is told that her unborn baby will die, but she learns that if she’s willing to take a huge risk and travel to the future, her baby could very well live. I put this idea off for years because it is so unlike my other books, but finally, I talked to my editor and she gave me the go-ahead. The book was tremendous fun to write and the early reviews have been amazing. I’m grateful to readers who dislike time travel for giving this book a try because it’s still “vintage Diane Chamberlain” and people seem to be loving it.
I think your question about my previous profession (clinical social work) and secrets actually go together. I worked in hospitals and then in a private psychotherapy practice with adolescents and their families, and one thing I learned is how destructive secrets can be in a family. I was fascinated by that topic, so it often appears in my stories.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I’m very grateful for my imagination. It got me into tons of trouble as a kid, but now pays off. I might be stopped at a traffic light and see a woman pushing a baby carriage across the street and within 30 seconds, I imagine a car hitting them, and the police discover it was on purpose and there was a connection between the woman and the driver, or maybe even between the baby and the driver . . . it’s exhausting having a brain like this, but it often pays off in the end if it means I can entertain my readers.