Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I love doing research and learning new things!

Interview with Diane Chamberlain 
by Agnes A. Rose

Diane Chamberlain is an American author of adult fiction. Her stories are frequently filled twists and surprises. The stories also tug at the emotions. She focuses all her novels around relationships, whether they are between a man and a woman, parents and their children, siblings, or friends. Her books incorporate a mixture of family drama, suspense, and romance. Now she lives and writes in North Carolina, the state which has become her true home and has also spawned many settings for her stories. For her, the real joy of writing is having the opportunity to touch readers with her words. She hopes that her stories move her readers in some way and give them hours of enjoyable reading.

Agnes A. Rose: Diane, thank you so much that you accepted my invitation to this interview. I am very happy about it! Your books are targeted mainly at women. Why did you decide to choose exactly this group of readers?

Diane Chamberlain: It isn't intentional, but when story ideas come to me, they are usually about relationships, and that appeals mostly to women. I do have some faithful male readers though. I love them!

photo by John Pagliuca

Agnes A. Rose: In 2013 you published your last novel “Necessary Lies”*. Could you tell us something more about this book?

Diane Chamberlain: It's the story of a young naive social worker who is assigned to work with a poor family living on a tobacco farm. She's told she must ask the government to sterilize the fifteen-year-old girl in the family, but she knows the girl wants to have children. She must figure out how to “buck the system” – fight her boss and the government to be sure she's not sterilized. It's really about the relationship about these two young women and they have more in common than they realize.

Agnes A. Rose: What is the story behind the publication of your first book? And what did you feel when it finally happened?

Diane Chamberlain: I started writing my very first book as a hobby, but then I became obsessed with writing it. It took a few years, but once it was complete, my agent was able to find a publisher for it. It was a huge thrill to see it in print. That was twenty-five years ago!

Agnes A. Rose: Psychology is a very important aspect of your novels. Why? Is it related to your prior work as a psychotherapist in private practice in Virginia?

Diane Chamberlain: Yes, I think my former profession is a huge influence on my writing. I always want to know how my characters think and feel in every scene and I know that having been a therapist really helps me with that. Sometimes I just ask them “how do you feel about what's going on now?” I love hearing their answers!

Agnes A. Rose: Apart from psychology in your books you also like to focus on complex relationships between people. Which of relationships between your characters was the most difficult to describe? Why?

Diane Chamberlain: Well, after writing twenty-three books, I've written many, many difficult to describe relationships! Probably one of the hardest to write was the relationship between the women in “The Midwife's Confession”. The book was written from five different points of view, so I constantly had to think about the personality of the woman I was writing about and how it fit together with the other personalities in the story. I won't be writing from five points of view again any time soon!

Agnes A. Rose: A few weeks ago I read “The Bay at Midnight”. One of the main characters – Julie Sellers – suffers from her pangs of conscience. At the end of the book there are several questions about Julie. Why did you decide to put them in the book?

Diane Chamberlain: Many of my books have questions at the end of them to help Book Clubs discuss the stories. The questions are also on the 'books' pages of my website. I hope clubs find them helpful.

Agnes A. Rose: Which of your novel was the most difficult to write? Why? I mean the book storyline.

Diane Chamberlain: I think “Necessary Lies” was the most difficult to write because it required a great deal of research and putting myself into the character of fifteen-year-old Ivy, who came from a much different background than I did. I needed to learn about life on a tobacco farm, while I grew up in a small city. I needed to learn about the old eugenics program (forced sterilization) in the state of North Carolina where I live. I don't usually write historical novels, so it was a challenge, but I really enjoyed it. I hope to write more about history in the future.

Agnes A. Rose: Could you tell us a little bit about doing your research?

Diane Chamberlain: I love doing research and learning new things. A friend of mine grew up on a tobacco farm, so she told me what life would be like for my characters in “Necessary Lies”. She drove me all around the county where the book is set and took me to visit tobacco farms, etc. For “The Bay at Midnight”, which you mentioned above, my research was easy because I set the book in the summer home my family owned when I was Julie's age. It was fun for me to get to revisit the old house I loved, if only in my mind.

Agnes A. Rose: I am sure that you visit various places to meet your readers and promote your novels. Do you remember a funny or thrilling story related to a book tour or book event?

Diane Chamberlain: This happened a very long time ago. I was at a bookstore signing copies of my sixth novel when in walked two disheveled looking middle-aged men. It was clear they were homeless, wearing many layers of clothing. The store manager was uncomfortable with them there, afraid they would scare away customers, but I noticed one of them had a paperback copy of my book “Keeper of the Light”. It was very beaten up. They told me they bought it a few years earlier and had each read it many times, so when they saw I would be at the bookstore, they decided to come get the book signed. I felt honored to sign their well-worn book.

Agnes A. Rose: Some of my blog readers may not have had the opportunity to read your books. Which of your novels should be the ideal one to begin with? Why?

Diane Chamberlain: I'm not sure which ones are available in Poland right now. I would suggest “Necessary Lies”, if it is. Other recent ones are “The Midwife's Confession” and “The Good Father”.

Agnes A. Rose: Nowadays more and more young people dream about writing. What should they do to start creating their own fictional stories? What age is perfect to begin it? Once Ernest Hemingway said that people should not start writing before 30. What do you think?

Diane Chamberlain: I don't agree with Hemingway about this. I think it's important to learn to write well when we're children, whether we plan to become a professional writer or not.  However, the wonderful thing about writing is that we can do it at any age. I never intend to retire. If someone wants to write fiction, the important thing to do is to begin and not stop!

Agnes A. Rose: Do you believe in writer’s block? What do you do when you are stuck?

Diane Chamberlain: I've had writers' block many times but I also have contracts that require me to turn in a book on time, so I've had to learn ways of getting past writer's block. I force myself to write. It's that simple. It won't be fun for a while, but I know I need to push through the block. I've always been lucky to come out on the other side.

Agnes A. Rose: You are also the author of the blog. While reading I saw several recipes for dishes. How important is cuisine for you? Do you have your favourite meal to cook?

Diane Chamberlain: If you look at my recipes, you'll see they are mostly quick and easy! I'm always so busy that I don't have much time to spend a lot of time cooking. I know many women are in the same boat, so I enjoy sharing some of my simple recipes with them. My favorite meals usually involve shrimp because they are so quick and easy to cook.

Agnes A. Rose: Diane, I am sure that you are working on your next novel now. Could you tell us what the book is about?

Diane Chamberlain: “The Silent Sister” will be out later this year. It's the story of a young woman who returns to her childhood home after the death of her father and discovers shocking family secrets as she cleans out his belongings.

Agnes A. Rose: Finally, is there anything you would like to tell your Polish fans of your work?

Diane Chamberlain: I'm so thrilled to be published in Poland! I've heard from a few of my Polish readers and it makes me so happy that my American stories resonate with them. We are all definitely connected!

Agnes A. Rose: Diane, thank you so much for taking the time. I am sure that this interview made your Polish readers happy. I wish you further success and many more great books in the future!

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here 

* In Poland you can buy this book from 10th April, 2014. The Polish title of the book is W słusznej sprawie

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