Diane Chamberlain writes some of the most intricate and interesting characters and relationships I’ve seen in many years. I’m honored to have worked with her and think you’ll really enjoy her writing if you’ve not read it before. Here’s what she has to share with us today:
How long have you been writing?
I started my first novel thirty years ago (!) but it wasn’t published until 1989. The Good Father is my 21st book.
What an intriguing question! The number of times I felt successful in my early years as a published author were matched by the number of times I felt like a failure. I would say, though, that with the publication of my fifteenth novel, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, I truly started flying high. CeeCee was selected by Target as their summer Bookclub Pick, which allowed me to reach thousands of new readers. It’s hearing from readers who are touched by my books that really makes me feel like a success.
Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Oh, this makes me laugh! I started out so long ago that I thought all I would have to do was write stories. That was hard enough, of course, but I had no idea I’d need to also become a master of promotion and social media. Still, Facebook and Twitter and blogging keep me close to my readers and that makes it worthwhile.
The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
I’ve had years where I’ve thought I’d need to go back to my previous career (clinical social work) and I’ve had years where I could handily manage the mortgage on my beach condo. Neither extreme was what I expected. A writing career is always full of surprises!
Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
My focus has not changed all that much. I started writing because I wanted to entertain people and that’s still why I write. Of course, I hope to increase my readership with each book, but again, it all boils down to writing a story that grips the reader. That remains my focus.
How long did it take you to get published the first time?
It took me six months to get an agent and a year of rejections to realize I needed to completely overhaul the book. Once I did that, it sold right away.
Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
I have a fantastic agent. Prior to signing on with her, I truly didn’t understand how critical it is to have an excellent agent. If I had it to do over again, I would have changed agents many years sooner than I did.
Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
I wish I did a better job of “divvying up my time.” It’s a challenge. As far as the writing/rewriting/submitting goes, that has a natural progression and I just take one step after the other. The real challenge is balancing the writing with the other demands on our time: promotion, traveling, maintaining a website, keeping up with social media and taking care of ourselves and our families. I try to address those demands as soon as I think of them (which is why I’m answering these interview questions so quickly after receiving them!) so they don’t pile up and contribute to my stress level.
Even though it was a very long time ago, I think the most exciting thing will always be winning the RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for my very first novel, Private Relations. I’ll never forget how it felt to hear my name called out. I was so shocked and thrilled.
What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Nothing stands out as “the single most disappointing thing,” but I will say that in the early years, it was very painful to work hard on a book and then have the publisher pay little attention to it, getting out so few copies that the book’s failure was guaranteed. I have the rights back to many of those early books and have been able to make them available as e-books, so I guess I get the last laugh as those books are now finding an enthusiastic readership.
What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Years ago, I was doing a signing in a bookstore when two middle-aged men came into the store. They looked like they might be homeless–wearing ragged clothes and appearing unkempt. The bookstore owner was trying to figure out how to usher them out of the store, but the men approached me and held out a dogeared copy of my novel, Keeper of the Light. Joe and Lefty introduced themselves to me and told me they found the book a few years earlier, shared it with one another and loved the story. They were excited when they learned I’d be at the bookstore and asked if I’d sign the book for them. I was happy to do so and will never forget those two guys who really showed me that you can’t judge a book by its cover.
With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
My readers tell me they feel as though they’re a part of the story, they empathize deeply with my characters and they stay up all night reading my stories. I can’t ask for more than that.
What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Make sure your book is the best it can be. I think there’s a tendency with new writers to think that one or two drafts of a manuscript are sufficient. Books need tweaking and polishing. Get feedback from several honest friends and really listen to what they say.
What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
A dynamite website is an absolute necessity. I used to think a website needed to entertain, but now I believe it needs to be a place readers can communicate with me as well as learn more about my books. My books are particularly popular in the United Kingdom and Australia, so I’ve created a special International Page for those readers, as well as a printable booklist to help readers keep track of pub dates, linked books, etc.
What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Twitter. I am not a good tweeter. I love Facebook, however. More and more, the information on my website is migrating to my Facebook page.
Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Here is the printable booklist on my website: http://dianechamberlain.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Chamberlain-Printable-Books-updated-4-2-12.pdf
The Good Father: When a young single father loses his home and his job, he resorts to desperate action to provide for his little daughter.
Where can we buy it?
All bookstores, both bricks and mortar and online, should be carrying The Good Father. It’s also available for all e-readers.
Thank you, Diane, for taking the time. I hope lots of new readers discover the joy of reading the books you write for them!