Thursday, 1 August 2013

Author Interview: Diane Chamberlain

It is my great pleasure to welcome bestselling author Diane Chamberlain back to my blog to talk about her latest book Necessary Lies which is out today here in the UK. 

It's no secret that I have become a huge fan of her books since I first discovered them whilst on holiday in the US for Christmas & New Year 2008/09.  Since then I've bought all of her books, both her back catalogue and each new book that's been published, although all three books in the Keeper of the Light trilogy are currently sat in the midst of my towering TBR pile.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
Necessary Lies is the story of a young inexperienced social worker who has to figure out how to buck the system to save her fifteen-year-old client from a terrible fate.

Where did the inspiration come from to set this in the 1960s and write about forced sterilisations?
Ten years ago, a news article in a North Carolina newspaper shined a light on the sterilization program that ran from the '20s to the '70s in the state. North Carolina was the only state that allowed social workers to refer clients for sterilization. As a former social worker—and a human being—I was appalled by this news and knew that that I would someday create a story inspired by this ugly time in my state's history.

How did you go about doing your research into this practice of forced sterilisations?
A professor named Johanna Schoen was the whistle blower on the sterilization program. While researching a nonfiction book, she was given access to the previously sealed records of the Eugenics Board—the board that decided who should be sterilized. I contacted Johanna and she was extremely generous in sharing her research with me. I also spoke with professionals who worked as social workers and psychologists during that era, and heard the stories of some of the victims themselves as they testified to their experience.

Which comes first in your novels, the characters, plot or destination?
Usually, the story comes first. But very quickly, I determine where I'd like to set the story and what sort of characters will have the toughest time dealing with what happens. I don't want to make the struggle easy for them. That would be boring!

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? 
I loved writing even as a child, but I never thought of it as a way to support myself, so I became a social worker. In the United States, social work is a bit different than in the UK, I've been told. I had a private psychotherapy practice and also worked as a hospital counsellor. I never did do welfare work. I began writing while working in a hospital and eventually, that passion won out.

Have you ever had writer’s block? 
All the time, but I have to write through it. Writing is my job as well as my passion. The worst writer's block I experienced was after a divorce many years ago. For six months, all I could write was bad poetry, but eventually the muse returned.

If you weren’t a writer, what career path would you have chosen to follow?
I would have remained a social worker. I loved that career just as much as I love being a writer.

Being a writer appears to be such a solitary lifestyle, especially when you’re in the midst of writing, so do you consider the influence of social Media, Facebook and Twitter, a blessing or a hinderance?
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. I am very active on Facebook and it's incredible to be able to connect with my readers that way. I love it. But it takes time and attention away from writing and I am not very disciplined when it comes to signing off.

How long did it take you to get your first book published? 
I began writing it (Private Relations) in 1981, finished it in 1985, sold it in 1986 and it was published in 1989. A long time!

Do you have a set daily writing routine?
It depends on where I am in the writing process. Early in the creation of a book, I don't even look like I'm writing. I wander around in a daydream, thinking and imagining. As I get closer to a deadline, I write more and more hours of the day until the final month, when I write every waking hour. Literally.

Would you say that any of your characters are like you?  If so, which one(s)?
Not at all. I learned while writing my first book that if I made a character "like me", I couldn't make her do anything I wouldn't do. So I generally try to make my characters quite different from myself.

If you could write another style of genre, what would it be and why?
Time travel! I'm fascinated by it.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Write, even if you don't feel like it. Even if you're blocked. Even if you know it will be garbage. My friend, author Mary Kay Andrews, always says: "you can't rewrite what you haven't written". I have that quote on my bulletin board above my computer.

If you could invite any three authors, alive or dead, to a dinner party who would you choose and why?
Daphne DuMaurier, because she was such a strong influence on me as a young reader. Stephen King, because I love his non-horror books and I want to know his secret for creating amazing characters with just a sentence or two. And Maya Angelou because I just love to listen to her speak.

Do you prefer to read physical copies of books or e-books?
I've become an e-book addict for sure.

Are there any books you’ve read that you wish you’d written?
To Kill a Mockingbird, because I like the theme of doing what's right, even if it's unpopular.

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
I go out to lunch with my writer friends to celebrate! They understand the joy. But I always know revisions will be right around the corner.

Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat?
This may not sound very glamorous, but my favourite place for a retreat is where I go twice a year with my writing friends: an old mansion in a town about 2 hours from where I live. Many famous writers visited the mansion over the decades and you can still feel their presence in the house—along with the ghosts of the people who once lived there. There's creativity in the air.

I'm in the middle of reading Necessary Lies at the moment so my review should be up on the blog by the weekend but if you'd like a sneak peek before then you can download an extract of the first four chapters on her publishers website here.  There's also a short story prequel, The First Lie, which I would recommend reading too.  

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