Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Interview with Bloodchained Author, Diana Laurence

You asked & she answered. Here are the answers to all of the burning questions you had for Diana Laurence!

Cindy (aka Peony the House Elf) asks, "How did you get hooked on writing? Was this something that you always dabbled with and one day tadaa your first book?"

Diana says: Cindy, I got hooked on writing when I first learned to scrawl the alphabet with a crayon, LOL. I started writing poetry and short fiction when I was eight or nine, and my first published story appeared in 'Teen magazine when I was thirteen. I wrote for fun all throughout my childhood and youth, and after getting my English degree I started freelancing, mostly magazine articles. I completed my first novel when I was 26 and almost got it published; in retrospect I'm glad it was ultimately declined because it was really bad! My first big break was a book of devotions published circa 1988 that sold something like 25,000 copies. By that time I had four unpublished novels completed, and I still longed to sell a full length work of fiction. The advent of the internet, epublishing, and the rise of small press made my dreams come true: I now have two anthologies and three novels out in paperback.

So it wasn't exactly ta-daa! The publishing business is as hard to succeed at as acting. You can want it, be good at it, and still struggle for success all your life. But if you love to write, you'll do it no matter what!

Maureen asks (regarding my having written Bloodchained "by committee"), "How did take all of the suggestions and come up with a cohesive story and plot?"

Diana says: As you obviously guessed, it would be impossible to take 64 people and have them just brainstorm out a book. Well, Maureen, here's how it worked: I held polls, majority rule, to decided what the genre of the book would be, along with point of view and sensuality level. Once my partners had chosen paranormal fantasy for the genre, I thought up three possible plots and wrote up little synopses. Again, I went with majority vote. Interestingly, although the vote wasn't close, my own favorite wasn't chosen! In retrospect, my partners were smarter than I. LOL At that point, I drew up character sketches for the main characters and took nominations for their names, and again held a final vote. And then, after that, I started writing. I posted excerpts with questions to get feedback and ideas from the partners, and used another couple of polls for more decisions. During the final phase, I had six volunteers edit and critique the entire manuscript.

Asks Maureen, "How do you decide which suggestions stay and which ones you do not use?"

Diana says: I do have final say, although it's always been my policy if someone else suggests something, I take their advice if at all possible. I'll only reject it if there's a problem. That's the way I deal with my editor's comments, so I did the same with my partners in the Bloodchained project. I figure, I only know my own perspective. If a reader has a different view or idea, chances are many other readers will feel the same way. And I also figure editors and readers won't even bring a criticism up unless it's important, so I take those remarks seriously.

"How long have you been writing?" asks Maureen.

Diana says: If you start with my first piece that got public recognition, that would be a short short story I wrote in fourth grade called "600 Yards Under the Shoe," which was read on a radio show. That--choke--was 42 years ago!

Maureen wonders, "What inspires you to write and who or what is your muse for writing?"

Diana says: My basic modus operandi is that I'm in writing mode, pretty much 24/7. There's almost never a time I'm not in the mood. But as far as inspiration and muses, what will really get me fired up to write is a strong male character. (See why I prefer to write romance?)

There have been a lot of actors, book characters, and celebrities that have really captured my imagination and inspired me to write. I'm sure you'll find a few examples amusing: Once there was a guy I stood by in line at New York & Company with dark hair and amazing blue eyes; that guy gave me Prince Edan in "The Queen's Lady and Her King", while the handsome fellow who owns Milwaukee's Planet Bead shop inspired Tom in "The Guy from Beadsville" (both those stories are from Soulful Sex Volume III). David Wenham as Faramir in "Lord of the Rings" gave me Will in "Abigail's Archer" from Soulful Sex Volume I. My one true love in the world of hockey, the Canadiens' Guy Carbonneau, inspired Etienne in "Je t'aime Etienne"; Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi was the spark for Tristan in "As Commonplace as Rain" (both Soulful Sex Volume I). Etrae'u from "Conjugals" (Soulful Sex: The Paranormal Collection) sprung from James McAvoy as Leto in the "Dune" mini-series. Adesteis in "The Chieftain's Man" (The Fantasy Collection) is a spinoff from Edward James Olmos as Admiral Adama on "Battlestar Galactica." And my current Huge Celebrity Crush, Les Stroud aka "Survivorman," is barely disguised as the title character in "Spacewrecked with Joel Fennimore" (The Science Fiction Collection).

Lastly, Maureen inquires, "Do you have a special place that you write? If yes, what is it like?"

Diana says: My little office area is actually in the living room. My husband typically retires upstairs in the evening so I have plenty of peace and quiet, and easy access to the kitchen for drinks and snacks. LOL I love the ambiance of the room: arts and crafts décor, natural colors, plants and stones and such. Our three cats keep me company, particularly Cody, who likes to stretch out in front of the monitor and sleep while I write.

CPS asks, "Do you start with a general idea and then start breaking that down into smaller bits and adding and elaborating on them to create the book? Always thought if I should try writing that might be the way I would try it. "

Diana says: That's one way of describing it all right, CPS. Typically, and especially with the longer works, I start with at least two compelling characters in mind, and a basic theme and conflict. I may have a particular few scenes conceptualized from the get-go, but it impossible to invent an entire novel before you start writing it down, the way you must have a quilt completely planned before you cut the first piece.

The interesting thing about the fiction writing process is that much of it happens subconsciously. What I mean is, you bring the characters to life and they act out the story for you to record. Sometimes the things they do and say really come at you out of the blue. So in a sense the book does write itself!

That said, you also have to apply your rational mind. Bloodchained, of all my novels, was the one that required the most careful planning. I reached a point about midway in the first draft where I had to make a timeline with notes to get my mind around the plot. The book uses a lot of flashbacks and plot twists, and I was worried I was getting lost in the tangle! As I approach the end of a novel, I finally know the rest of the story and will sometimes jot down a summary for myself at that point, to be sure I remember to tie up all the lose ends properly.

And I can't emphasize enough the importance of editing, which is almost a completely rational and deliberate process. Some newbie writers think when you arrive at "The End" you're done. In fact, you have as least as much work ahead of you as the drafting required. You can tell a great story but still have a bad book if you neglect the polishing and perfecting. Personally, I love that part! To me it's like taking a paint-by-number style picture and fixing it up till it looks like a Monet. Then I hand it over to my editor and she helps me make it even better!

Jen asks, "How do you come up with all of the names that you use and the places where your book take place? Are they fictional or based on real places? Are they real places with just new names?"

Diana says: A fantasy writer once told me I have a knack for inventing names that don't sound hokey. That certainly is useful if you want to work in the fantasy genre. I think it's just a corollary "bonus gift" that comes with a wild imagination. I have always found etymology--the origins of words—fascinating. It helps when you have to invent names. Like the Bloodchained town of Seaton, for example, is obviously a city on the ocean. I had the most fun once writing a song in an alien language. I actually did try to have etymological and syntactical patterns in it, so it would seem like a real language.

Of course the places I invent are to one degree or another based on things I've really seen, whether in real life, books, or movies, but adapted for the purpose. Gilder's Inn draws elements from dozens of bars I've been in (particularly Milwaukee's Von Trier!), reinterpreted for the Renaissance-type period. The Temple of Love was interesting to do because it's a hybrid of a palace, a house of worship, and a monument. There's a bit of the U.S. Capitol in it, as well as some things pulled from shows on HDTV!

Inquires Jen, "The pictures in your trailer; how do you decide what a character is going to look like as you're writing?"

Diana says: The process I used for Bloodchained was unique. Because I had to start out by writing character sketches for my partners to read, I deliberately had specific faces in mind for the five main characters, before I started even writing the book. All five are based on celebrities (I'll never tell who, LOL), altered in various respects. This was really useful as it turns out; much easier being vivid and consistent in my description going forward. I'm going to do it that way more often in future.

Usually, though, I may or may not have a look in mind for a character until I get pretty well underway. I'll admit, to me appearance is more important with my heroes, and almost always very certain from the get-go. I have to be in love with them, remember? LOL Sometimes the physical description is more of an afterthought, especially with minor characters.

I should explain about those pictures in the trailer. About a year and a half ago I discovered a pretty cool technique for making portraits. It combines face generation software with working in Photoshop, and makes the process much easier than using pencils on blank paper like portraiture used to be for me. (I'm average at drawing.) So I started doing portraits for my website of all my characters as I released books. Please visit
www.dianalaurence.com/charactergallery.html to view the ones previous to Bloodchained, and www.bloodchained.com/characters.html for the BC gang. I've done 73 character portraits to date; many of them are used in my romance fortune telling card set, "Diana's Deck," which I also sell. I don't know of any other authors that do this, but I have a blast with it!

Kristie wonders, "Do you have plans for another book yet???"

Diana says: I'm waiting on readership response, but I ended Bloodchained with all kinds of possibilities for a sequel. I'll let you in on a secret, I'll be really sad if I don't get to write it! So please buy the book, read it, and then go to the Fan's Tavern area at www.bloodchained.com/tavern.html and vote in my little poll that you want a sequel, 'kay? LOL

Asks Kristie, "And where can I purchase this book??? I very rarely purchase my books new, but I would certainly buy this one."

Diana says: The book is available online, from the publisher as well as lots of online retailers. Just go to the "Buy" page at www.bloodchained.com/buy.html and there are links showing you a bunch of good options. If you prefer to buy in stores, you can go to your favorite bookstore and ask them to order it in for you. It's worth it just for that gorgeous cover, designed by my daughter Katie the professional artist. I hope you'll all visit the site and see the goodies there: an excerpt to read, my portraits of the eight main characters, info on the Bloodchained Marketplace shop, etc.

In conclusion, this was one of my most fun interviews ever! Thanks so much to Jen and the quilting crowd, you guys rock.

If this has brought up any more questions, please feel free to ask them! I'm almost halfway through Bloodchained and I'm hooked!


Maureen said...

Thanks Jen...this was awesome that you interviewed Diana and she gave such wonderful answers. I found the whole entry very interesting!

Diana Laurence said...

Maureen, I thought it was awesome of Jen too! And all the folks who asked questions. So glad to hear you enjoyed the interview.