Monday, December 14, 2009

An Interview with Diane Chamberlain

Thanks, Pamela, for inviting me to guest blog on Mayhem and Magic!

Diane, tell us about your writing schedule?

I’m under contract to write a book every nine months. This is a crazy schedule, let me tell you! My books are fat and complex, and trying to plot and structure an intriguing story, populate it with memorable characters, and then actually write the book in that time frame is a challenge. I usually take a couple of months to outline the story. Then I procrastinate for another couple of months. Then I cram, especially during the two months leading up to my deadline. At that point, I get up at dawn, go to bed around 2am, skip all social events, and am not much fun to be around. Ask anyone who knows me!

Tell us about your latest book?

My stories are always complicated, but my latest reissued novel, Breaking the Silence is one of the most complex of all my books. Like my other books, it’s part mystery, part suspense and 100% family drama. On his deathbed, a man asks his grown daughter, Laura, to take care of a woman she’s never heard him mention before. The woman has Alzheimer’s and has no idea who the dying man was. In addition, when Laura tells her husband about her father’s request, he kills himself and her five-year-old daughter stops speaking. Top all that off with the secret CIA mind control experiments administered to involuntary psychiatric patients in the fifties and you have a little idea of what I mean by “complex”!

How will you spend the holidays this year?

My significant other, John, and I will spend the day with family, but then we’re taking off for our beach condo on Topsail Island, NC. We’ll both be working there (he’s a photographer), but it will be so great to have that uninterrupted time to focus on writing, interrupted only by walks on the beach with our pups.

Tell us how magical it can be to be an author?

Hmmm. . . very interesting question. There isn’t much about my twenty-year career that’s been magical. It’s all been hard work and persistence and grit. Yet, there has been a little fairy dust along the way. In 2008, my novel The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, was selected as a summer bookclub pick by Target, and that allowed tens of thousands of new readers to “discover” me. But fairy dust is hard to find in this business. You need to be in it for the love of writing.

How do you plot your books?

When I’m coming up with a new book idea, my mind is open to everything I see and hear – and that includes overheard conversations in restaurants, newspaper articles and my own crazy imagination. In the case of Breaking the Silence, the idea came to me when I stumbled across a book on the CIA mind control experiments. I then tried to find a way to include them in a contemporary story, bringing depth to the story without overwhelming it. Once I have an idea in mind, I play with it, talk it out with writer friends and John, jot notes on notecards, spread them out on my dining room table, move them around, tape them together, create an outline. . . and then tear it apart and start the process all over again. I am a slow plotter.

For you what is the best and worst part of writing a book?

The best part is getting to know my characters. They always surprise me and I like to give them free reign, at least for a while. I teach workshops on using the subconscious in character development and I thoroughly enjoy that freeing aspect of creation. The worst part is the panic I feel as deadline draws near. I cut myself off from my friends during that time, which makes me feel like a terrible friend as well as very isolated. And which reminds me of what is truly the best part of writing: typing The End.

What would you like to say to readers?

I love you guys! You are the reason I write.

Do you have a favorite book ?

Since I was six, my favorite book has always been Charlotte’s Web by EB White. It taught me about structure and character and the struggles of good people/animals/bugs.

Where do you like to travel and what was your best holiday memory?

I’ve enjoyed traveling throughout the continental United States as well as in Hawaii, Europe and the Caribbean, but quite honestly, I am happiest off season at the beach. I love being by the ocean. As for a favorite holiday memory, I most recently spent a few days with my siblings and their families in New Jersey and it was like going back to our childhoods, when we used to sit around singing and playing charades. We’re spread out geographically now, so it was wonderful to all be together again
What are your 2010 writing plans?

I have a new book, The Lies We Told, coming out in June. It’s about two sisters, both physicians, who work for a Doctors Without Borders type organization after a hurricane. There’s suspense, of course, along with a romantic triangle. I’m very excited about this book! I also have two more books being reissued in 2010. The best way to keep up with what’s going on with me and what books are being released is through my website, blog and mailing list at

Last but never least leave us with some writing words of wisdom.

If you’re passionate about writing, don’t give up! But do make sure you are the best writer you can be. I see many brilliant ideas that are poorly executed, and therefore unpublishable. I believe writing can be learned, so if you have any doubts about your skill, do what you need to do to better yourself. And then persevere!

Thanks again for having me, Pamela. You have a great blog.



  1. Wow, I think you've understated "complex." LOL. This book sounds fantastic and I've just added it to my buying list. Enjoy your holidays.

  2. Diane,
    I will also be adding your books to my wishlist and your interview is very enlighting. I also love the cover of your book. I hopefully will be back to writing my own books in January and yes a nine month schedule is tough.

    Thank you so much for the interview,

  3. Great intervew, Pam and Diane. Loved your comment about knowing your characters. Excellent advice!


  4. Mare, and I left out the part about the commitment phobic hot air balloon pilot!

  5. great interview.. Diane sent me her book this week and I'm enjoying reading it.


Review: Buried in a Bog by Sheila Connolly

Before her grandmother dies, Maura promises her that she will go to Ireland where she was from. She goes to see a woman that was friends...