Inevitably during every interview I’m asked the names of authors I enjoy. Inevitably Diane Chamberlain is at the top of my list.
Diane and I became more than mutual admirers when I moved to Northern Virginia a decade ago and found she lived here, too. We began to get together to chat, then to brainstorm, then to spend time at the beach together writing.
Although she now lives in North Carolina, the home of so many of her wonderful novels, we email frequently. And when I’m not catching up with her in person, I’m reading her delightful blog.
Since we’ve always felt our readers would enjoy each other’s work, I asked Diane if I could interview her here for your pleasure. Her newest novel, Secrets She Left Behind, is at bookstores now. And for fun, we’re giving away one of her recent novels to a lucky blog reader. See details at the end.
I’ll let Diane do the talking from this point. For more information about Diane and all her novels, visit her website, too.
1–Diane, how would you describe your books? Do you have particular themes you really like to explore and explore often?
I think of my books as part suspense, part mystery and one hundred percent family drama. My books always seem to gravitate toward themes of compassion and forgiveness, even though I’m never conscious of heading in that direction. I think we tend to write about those things we struggle with ourselves, whether we set out to do so or not.
A few years ago, one of my Japanese readers emailed me with this comment: “You make me believe that life is beautiful even if it is also filled with pain and rage.” I was so touched by that. She captured exactly what I try to do with my stories better than I’ve ever been able to state it myself.
2–Who are your readers? Who should become your readers for your new book Secrets She Left Behind? Of course I think everybody should read it, but can you pin it down a bit more?
Women of all ages make up the majority of my readers. The youngest reader I’ve heard from was thirteen (I didn’t let my own stepdaughter read me until fourteen, though!) and the oldest reader was 101! I would venture to guess that you and I, Emilie, share many of the same readers, since our books are quite similar. I wonder if that comes from our shared backgrounds as social workers and counselors?
Secrets She Left Behind is written from the points of view of three teenaged characters and one adult woman, and while it’s definitely an adult novel, it will speak to many teens as well. It’s the story of a seventeen-year-old boy, Keith, who was badly burned in a fire. Angry at the world, he pushes away everyone who tries to help him except his mother, Sara, on whom he’s emotionally and physically dependent. One day, Sara says she’s going to the store and never returns. So, it’s the story of Keith’s struggle to find his mother, but it’s Sara’s story as well, since she’s left behind a memoir full of secrets. Ultimately, as with most of my books, it’s a story about family love.
3–Secrets She Left Behind is a sequel to your previous novel, Before The Storm. What drew you toward writing a sequel? Was that your plan from the beginning, or did the characters cry out for an opportunity to continue?
As I neared the end of Before the Storm, I realized there were some threads left hanging that could not be easily summed up in a couple of chapters. That, in addition to the fact that I loved the characters and wasn’t ready to let them go, is why I decided to write Secrets She Left Behind. One of the most enjoyable parts of writing Secrets was looking at certain situations that occurred in Before the Storm through different characters’ eyes. Sometimes we think we know everything about a certain episode in our own family, for example, but then we talk to a parent or sibling and discover their take on it is completely different. Their “truth” is different than our own. That’s a big part of what happens in Secrets. Everyone has a different perspective on the same situation.
4–Some of my blog readers may not have had the opportunity to read your books. Should they begin with Secrets She Left Behind, or with another of your novels? And must they read Before The Storm to better understand Secrets, or do the books easily stand alone?
I would definitely start with one of these two books. Secrets She Left Behind is written as a “stand alone” book, so it doesn’t matter if a reader has read Before the Storm or not. On the other hand, if someone reads Before the Storm first, they will find the revelations in Secrets even more dramatic.
5–You know how much I loved Keeper of the Light, the first novel of yours that I read. In fact I was privileged to explore with you the lighthouse in the Outer Banks that the book is based on as well as the keeper’s cottage. What draws you so often to the North Carolina coast? I know you live in North Carolina now, but why has it always been such a center for your novels?
I grew up in New Jersey, where my family had a summer house “down the shore.” I left New Jersey when I was twenty and then lived for many years in California. I moved from there to Virginia, and while living there, I traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I felt as though I’d come home. Although it’s certainly different from the Jersey Shore, it had the same nostalgic pull on me. I’ve now written eight books set in North Carolina, seven of them on the coast. I guess it’s no surprise that I finally moved to the state that has been in my heart for so many years!
6– What would you like people to take away from Secrets when they’ve finished it?
I guess I’d have to return to my Japanese reader’s comment about life being beautiful despite its challenges, because she said it so well. I’d like my readers to feel lifted up by the story of people who struggle against life’s hardships and who are ultimately healed by the love of family and friends.
7–What’s up next for you? I’ve heard you have some reprints on the way. Can you tell us about those so that readers will look for them?
I’m working on my next novel, The Lies We Told, which is scheduled for publication next spring. In addition, my publisher, Mira Books, has started reissuing many of my older books with beautiful new covers. The Courage Tree was released in April and Breaking the Silence will be out in December. I believe there are two more reissues planned for 2010 and two more for 2011. In addition, some of the older books have been reprinted (with their original covers), though they are still a bit challenging to find. I know they are available through Borders.com, and some of them are now available in e-book format for the Kindle at Amazon.com.
8–And finally, why did you decide to become a full time writer? You had an active, rewarding career in social work, so what drew you toward the contemplative life of a novelist? By the way, I know that I speak for all your readers when I say I’m glad you made that decision.
Even as a social worker, I was the “contemplative” sort. I always had stories running through my mind. One day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to begin writing down one of those stories. Writing grew into a hobby–and then into an obsession. I eventually shifted from hospital social work to a private psychotherapy practice so that I would have more time to write. As I experienced more success as a writer, though, I knew I had to make a choice between two careers that I loved. It’s clear which path I picked, but I will always be grateful that I’ve had two careers that enabled me to touch so many people in a positive way.
Thank you, Emilie, for this opportunity to chat with your readers!
And thank you, Diane, for sharing with all of us.
To enter to win a copy of the recently reprinted The Courage Tree, one of Diane’s many fine novels, just comment here and tell us which of Diane’s books you’ve enjoyed most in the past, or which one you’d like most to read. Emilie will draw a winner on June 3rd with the help of random.org