Thursday, 8 October 2015

Guest Post: Other People's Skin by Diane Chamberlain

Today on the blog I have something a little different, a challenge for you from bestselling author Diane Chamberlain.  Since I first discovered Diane's books whilst on holiday in 2005 she has become one of my favourite authors so I'm looking forward to reading her latest novel Pretending to Dance which is published today.

I have a call to action for you.

I spend a good part of every day imagining myself inside the skin of fictional people. I see what they see and hear what they hear and I feel what they feel. It’s challenging but so important if I want to create characters my readers will relate to. Once a month, however, I do something far more challenging: I imagine myself inside the skin of the real people I encounter throughout the day. It’s a tough assignment I give myself, but the rewards are great. 

It may sound trite, but I have a firm belief that we’re all connected. I think we’re on this journey together and we need to help each other along the way. Putting myself in other people’s skin is my way of reminding myself of that kinship. Oh, I still get angry at some people or harbor negative feelings about them, but for one day a month, I nurture our interrelatedness.

If you’d like to join me in this exercise, I suggest you start slow. Pick thirty minutes of your day when you’re around other people--at the office or grocery shopping or in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles (the very best place to do this, but it might make you crazy!). Take a look at a nearby person and imagine what it’s like to be her. Imagine being inside her when she goes home and interacts with others. Imagine how she feels later, when she’s all alone with her thoughts. 

My least favorite and most rewarding part of this exercise is imagining myself in the skin of someone I don’t like. Today I shared a waiting room with a few other people. One woman was talking about how much she likes a political candidate I dislike. A man in the waiting room was arguing with her, and I was staying way out of it. But I put myself inside that woman’s skin. I felt her strong sense of right and wrong. I felt her values--which was a challenge because they are so different from mine. Most of all, I felt the fear that drives those values as she tries to hold onto what’s precious to her. I started out disliking her, but by the time I did my little exercise of hanging out inside her skin, I wanted to hug her. 

So, are you game? Pick a half hour today and go for it. It’s simple but not easy, and I’d love to know how you make out. 

When the pretending ends, the lying begins... 

Molly Arnette is good at keeping secrets. As she and her husband try to adopt a baby, she worries that the truth she's kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. Molly ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved. Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a healthy future, she discovers that even she doesn't know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.

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