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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Secrets and Somedays: Author interview with Dianne DIxon

Your bio states you were a winner of the Humanitas Prize for Excellence in Screenwriting and double Emmy nominee. How did you first get involved in working in television?
Hmmm… I guess you could say my launch wasn’t exactly traditional. I ended college with a Masters degree in English and no clue about what profession I wanted to pursue. Then, at a graduation party, a friend who was just a little bit drunk told me, “Dianne, know what you should be doing? You should be writing cartoons,” and my totally clueless response to her tipsy career guidance was, “Yeah. Why not?”

The truth is, I was young and dumb, and didn’t know enough to be intimidated. I sat down, that night, and wrote inquiry letters to animation companies. I was lucky enough to get an interview with one of them, and ended up being offered a writing job. There’s no way I’d have the courage to do something like that now…try to break into in such a competitive industry…without knowing anyone in the industry, or having any real track record.

That first job in animation…the thing that put me where I was meant to be, at a writer’s desk…was a miracle, an absolute gift from God.

When you wrote for TV shows did you brainstorm with a group of writers or did you write independently? 
The shows were a collaborative effort. Brainstorming with the other writers is one of the true joys of television writing. It’s wonderful being able to laugh with, and learn from, people who are the best at what they do.

Since you wrote for children’s shows do you think you would ever want to write children’s books?
I get that question a lot. But, no, I’ve never wanted to try doing a children’s book. Writing good children’s stories takes a very special talent, unique skills. And I don’t have those gifts.

The average TV viewer barely notices who the script writers are. How different does it feel now that your name is in the spotlight as an author, front and center?
I’m still getting used to it. But the readers are so welcoming…they’ve made the transition easier than I thought it would be.

What made you decide to move forward and write your first novel?
I had wanted to write a novel for a long time, but always thought I hadn’t found a strong enough story. Then when I was telling my husband that I was trying to come up with a premise for a movie, he mentioned a snippet of an idea—“What if a young man went back to his hometown, knew everything about it, knew everyone in the place, but no one knew him?”

“And then what…?” I asked. His answer was, “Don’t know. That’s your job, you’re the writer.”
I went to bed thinking that the idea was a dead end. But I woke up seeing where it could go. I grabbed a stack of index cards and started jotting down the major moves in the story. When I was finished, I had twenty cards. And I knew, just felt it, that each of those cards was a chapter. I’d found my first book.

How long did it take you to write that book? How many rewrites did you do on it?
It took about ten months to write the novel. And then another four or five to smooth it out and polish it. There were a number of minor adjustments but no major rewrites. And that’s because the framework I was using turned out to be the perfect platform for elements of a story I’d been carrying around in my head for years.
Who helped you with the editing?
Several people. A friend who is a movie producer. And friends who are voracious readers.

Since you’ve also taught writing classes how did it feel to have an editor review your own work. Are you good at taking criticism?
I was amazed by how much my manuscripts were improved by my editors. On both my books…The Language of Secrets, and my new book, The Book of Someday…the editors’ changes made the finished product so much better. There’s nothing more valuable than criticism that’s intelligent and informed. But nothing is more crazy-making and demoralizing than commentary that’s clueless, and snarky.

How did you go about finding an agent to represent you? Did you already have ties in the publishing world that helped you out?
I didn’t know a soul in the publishing world. I found my agent the old-fashioned way. By sending out inquiries. And getting rejection letters…some polite, some not-so-polite. Then finally finding that one, wonderful person who believed in what I’d put on the page.

How long did it take from when you first pitched your book to your agent before your first book was picked up by Doubleday?
About a month.

How do you write? Do you do an outline first? Do you do character bios? How many hours a day do you write?
No outlines, but detailed character bios. When I start a book, I go in knowing the basic layout of the story, and how it’s going to end. Then I spend about six hours a day, five days a week, getting it to play out on paper.

Your first book, The Language of Secrets sounds like a great plot for a movie. Any possibilities for that as yet?
There was some interest in making The Language of Secrets into a movie, when it was fist published. But honestly I’ve never imagined it as a movie. To me, it was always meant to be a novel.

Your second book, The Book of Someday will be coming out in September. What inspired you to write this book?
The story is based on a long-ago nightmare. The image of a beautiful woman in a silver gown who was opening her mouth to let out a scream I knew would be the sound of absolute horror. That nightmare is one of my earliest childhood memories. When I was a little girl, the woman terrified me; I would’ve given anything to make her go away. Then when I was a teenager I wanted to figure out who she was, but I was still afraid of getting too close to her…or whatever she represented. As an adult, I understood that I needed to deal with her, to give her a context. And being a writer, the only way I knew how to accomplish that was to tell her story.

What are your someday dreams?
As for my own someday dreams? Someday I’d like to write a country song. A really good one.

What do you know now about writing/publishing now that you wished you had known sooner?
I wish I’d known how generous and kind the readers are. I would have started writing novels much sooner.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing or that you’ve learned that you would like to pass along?
Don’t spend your time talking about writing. Sit down and write.

That's it for today's interview. Hope you will take her advice and write instead of thinking that someday you'll write that book. Make those someday dreams a reality.

If you would like to learn more about Diane and her writing, here are the links to do just that...  Website        Amazon

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