I asked Dian some questions about her writing, how it has affected her life, and questions for future and current writers. She gives lots of good advice, and she tells us a bit from where her ideas have come from over the years. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did. ~Ashley
1. How old were you when you starting writing Princess Nevermore? Early 20s
2. Did you know you were going to write a sequel?
Yes, I knew as soon as I finished PN that the story was not finished. I'd instinctively planted questions that needed to be answered: Would the princess ever see Adam again? Why was Cam's background so mysterious?
3. How has writing changed your life? Has it impacted it in a large way?
Along the way, writing became an obsession. I am happiest when I'm immersed in the plotting of a book—as long as the story is revealing itself nicely and not being obstinate.
4. Who is your favorite fictional character and why? (It can be one of your own.)
Out of my own "book children," the ones who feel the most real are: Princess Quinn, Cam, Rilla (from the Monster of the Month Club books), and Kaley (from the Kaley series).
5. How old were you when you discovered that you really wanted to write?
In school, I knew I was good at writing because teachers always chose my story to read to the class. But I never really thought about writing for a living until a college professor told me that a paper I'd written for her class was good enough to publish. She introduced me to Writer's Market, which lists places to sell everything from novels to greeting card sentiments.
6. What made Princess Nevermore evolve from being a short story into a full-length novel?
I never thought I could write a novel. All those words. All those pages. Too scary! But the story kept growing, and I kept thinking about it. Once the princess arrived on Outer Earth, I set the book aside for years because I wasn't sure what was going to happen to her. Also, I had to decide what year it was going to be. The past? The present? The future?
What I learned: plot epiphanies do not come when you set a book aside. They come when you stay in the chair with your fingers on the keyboard. You have to trust the process.
7. What advice do you think is the most important when trying to write a novel?
* Stay with the story; stay in the chair.
* As long as the characters and their problems are entertaining you, they will entertain readers.
* The minute your mind wanders, go back and figure out why your mind wandered, then see what you can do to keep the story moving.
*Never try to "teach a lesson." Just tell a good story.*
Throw in lots of twists and unexpected surprises--even if you have no idea how you're going to solve the character's dilemma at the time.
Example: In Cam's Quest, I had no idea anyone was going to follow Cam when he went off on his second quest until, out of the blue, I wrote the line, "His senses were so heightened, he felt as though he were being followed."
Then I had to decide who was following him and why. The answers gave a nice twist to the story.
Once, an editor asked how something I'd put in a book proposal was going to happen. My honest answer was, "I have no idea right now, but when I get to that chapter and that scene, I'll know."
8. How did you know that you were meant to write?
Did I mention that it becomes an obsession? : ) It's difficult to turn off the creative process. Often I will write books while on vacation, or an idea for a story or a solution to a plot problem will come to me while I'm traveling. (Or shopping, talking on the phone, taking a shower, or watching a movie. . .)
9. Do you see Princess Nevermore as movie material?
Funny you should ask . . . PN has been requested for movie consideration in the past. However, having received a movie option on another book, I've learned that options come and go, yet few projects actually make it all the way to the big screen.
Lots of readers have asked if the story of Princess Nevermore and Cam will ever be a movie. Let's all drop Steven Spielberg a request . . . : )
10. You've obviously made an impact on young readers of yesterday and today. How does that make you feel?
I can honestly say that the feedback I receive from readers means the world to me. I'm honored when someone takes the time to find me online and write to me—especially when they tell me that they've read one of my books multiple times. One boy (in Kuwait!) told me that he'd read my book 30 times and almost had it memorized. To me, that's better than any award I could set on my mantel.
11. What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment as a writer?
Having a library in South America named after me is up at the top of the list. Also, signing a contract for my 50th book, and having my manuscripts archived in the School of Education Library at the University of Colorado.
12. Have you ever had "writer's block"? If so, how did you overcome it?
I've never had writer's block. I have the opposite "problem"—more ideas than I can write in a lifetime.
13. What do you love the most about writing?
The creative process--and coming up with original humor. If I can make myself laugh, it's a good writing day—even though it startles and confuses the cat.
14. You've written many novels, but which one is your favorite young adult novel? Which is your favorite children's book?
This is like asking which of your children is your favorite. They're all special to me for different reasons. They all reflect what was going on in my life while I was writing that particular story.
Some books are more popular "out in the world" than others, but to me, they all have special meaning or I wouldn't have invested months or years of my life in the story.
15. How do you prepare yourself to write a book? Is there a procedure you go through or are you just able to let the story flow as you are writing it?
Rituals r good. When I'm ready to roll, I buy a new binder to keep the pages in as the book grows, and to keep notes about the plot together.
I do a lot of "circling": straightening my office, cleaning out the refrigerator, etc, all while my "undermind" is thinking up story possibilities.
As soon as the opening line or scene comes to me, I have to stop procrastinating, sit down, and begin. It's terrible when this happens while I'm in the middle of writing another book!
16. What is one thing that you'd really like to say to all your fans?
I read a zillion books growing up and still remember many of the stories. They impacted my life, affecting the way I view the world.
I am humbled to think that a story I've written can affect a reader's life. How lucky I am to have readers at all, much less readers who want to be in touch with me because they enjoy the stories I've written. I'd like to invite everyone over for high tea and scones to chat about books!
I wish you all lots of good stories to read, and, for those who hope to write someday, today is a great day to sit down and begin. It's a Mandrian truth.