Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of 20 novels. Her books, frequently set in the southeastern United States, are complex stories about love, compassion and forgiveness with a touch of mystery and suspense.
Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey, and attended Glassboro State University. Diane received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker and a psychotherapist in private practice, working primarily with adolescents.
More than a decade ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: she sometimes types using voice-recognition software. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she is able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy work and travel schedule.
What were some of your favourite books when you were growing up?
The first book that made me want to be a writer was Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. My first grade teacher read it to our class and it was funny and poignant, filled with beautifully developed characters, both human and animal. For the first time, a book really gripped me and also moved me to tears and I knew I wanted to entertain other readers in that way. As I grew a little older, I fell in love with the Gothic novels of Victoria Holt and I think many of my books have a subtle Gothic element to them that was influenced by my early reading.
What led you to your career as an author? Is writing something that you have always been passionate about?
I always loved to write, but I never expected to become a professional writer. Instead, when it was time to select a career, I chose social work. I’ve never regretted that for a moment. As a matter of fact, when young people ask me if they should major in creative writing in college, I suggest they go into one of the helping professions such as teaching, medicine, or social work. They will gain an understanding of people that will help them create believable characters. While I was a hospital social worker, I began writing a book, thinking of the writing as a hobby. The hobby became an obsession and in a few years I had a book and a book contract. For the first several years of my writing career, I split my time between writing and a psychotherapy practice. I’ve been lucky to have had two careers that allowed me to touch people in a positive way.
Which writers do you believe have been the most influential on your writing style?
When I was first writing, there were a few authors whose books I read, loved, and studied. I call several of them my “A-list”: Anne Tyler, Alice Hoffman, Anita Shreve, Ann Rivers Siddons. I can still see passages in my first books that were influenced by these specific writers.
When writing, do you have any quirky or unusual habits?
I allow myself to play with my dogs when I reach a certain word count each day. When I’m traveling and don’t have my “puppy reward” with me, I settle for M&M peanuts!
You have been regularly compared to author Jodi Picoult. How do you feel about this comparison?
I think it’s an honor, even if I’m not quite sure it’s accurate. Jodi has such a strong following and I know the comparison has allowed many new readers to discover my books and for that I’m grateful.
What can you tell us about your latest book, The Good Father?
The Good Father is a bit different from most of my books because the central character is a young man—not my usual protagonist. At first, I was concerned that it would be hard to write from his point of view, but I got so into his character that I actually found it easy. Although Travis does some things I would never do, his love for his little daughter, Bella, is extremely easy to relate to and I believe my readers will find him a very sympathetic guy.
What are you hoping that readers will take away from The Good Father?
I hope readers will imagine themselves in Travis’s shoes, because really, his situation could be ours in a heartbeat. None of us is immune to the hardships that can come from a personal catastrophe coupled with a poor economy. How would each of us respond if we were suddenly homeless with a little child depending on us to keep her safe?
Can we expect another novel in the future?
Oh, of course! I’m working on a story I’ve wanted to write for several years. I can’t talk about it yet, but I expect it to be published in the summer of 2013.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences as a writer?
My first novel was a romance, though quite atypical for the genre, and it won the RITA award from the Romance Writers of America for Best Contemporary Novel the year it was released. That was a long time ago, but I’ll never forget the thrill of hearing my name called out as the winner. I’d taken off my shoes under the ballroom table and I was so stunned that I forgot to put them on before I walked onto the stage to accept the award. In the twenty years since them, I’ve had the joy of making bestseller lists, signing some lovely contracts and spotting strangers reading my books in public places, but to be honest, nothing gives me more of a thrill than a heartfelt email from a reader who’s been touched by one of my stories.
Considering that you’ve had 20 bestselling novels, do you have any advice that you’d like to offer to aspiring writers?
So many aspiring authors have fantastic ideas for a story, but are not good writers. I believe good writing can be taught, however, so if you have some doubts about your ability, take a writing class. Study novels similar to the one you want to write. How does the author handle point of view? Structure? Pacing? How does he or she develop the character in a way that makes you care? Probably the hardest part of writing a book is actually doing it. That’s still the hardest part for me—sitting at the computer and putting words on paper. Set a word goal for yourself each day and hug your puppies when you reach it. Easy!
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