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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Planning a Book Series: Author Interview with Dianna Wilkes

What made you decide to write your first novel?

The path to indie-publication started during “dial-up days” on AOL, as sci-fi author Lea Kirk called it. We formed a critique group along with another member. The group went idle as life took us in other directions until Lea spurred us back into action several years ago. At that time, I wrote what eventually became Main Street, book 1 in the Providence Island series.

I wrote several novels prior to Main Street. One is a stand-alone mystery romance titled, A Heartbeat Away. The other is an unfinished paranormal trilogy which includes Crystal Journey, Dark Inheritance, and Full Circle. I haven’t looked at them in ages to see if any of them are salvageable. 😊

Are you a big fan of cozy mysteries?

Absolutely! They’re my go-to for relaxation. I just caught up with Colleen Helme’s Shelby Nichols series. I recently discovered Leslie Langtry and have been reading her Merry Wrath series. So many others, too – Denise Grover Swank, Lucy Burdette, Rose Pressey, Jenn McKinlay, Lee Hollis. The list could go on and on, but I’ll move on to the next question!

Was there any particular author you read that made you think, I could write like that?

Not in the sense of writing like that author, but rather having success in the same genres as authors I read – Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, Sherryl Woods, Brenda Novak, and Nora Roberts, as examples.

How long did it take you to write your first book? How many rewrites did you do on it? 

Main Street took over two years. I submitted to contests. Won a few, lost more, but gained insight in how to improve the manuscript through the feedback I received. The breakthrough came when Dana Delamar became my editor. We clicked from the beginning. Her keen eye for detail and structural development has made my work stronger with each book.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? 

Plotting the overall storyline. I create a broad outline for each chapter in a spreadsheet. Usually, there are gaps that I can’t fill in until I’ve written the story to that point and have that “ah-ha!” moment.

Another challenge is managing multiple storylines with multiple points-of-view over multiple books! All that while dropping clues along the way to maintain the suspense. Main Street has three main POVs and two storylines. One storyline is the mystery in Dana’s past which isn’t resolved until the third book. The other storyline is Dana’s zero-to-sixty romance with handsome garage owner Nick Warden. Towne Square and South Pointe also included a romantic storyline in each book. One romance is love-at-first-sight, and the other is slow-but-steady.

After finishing
South Pointe, I felt there were some unanswered questions and loose threads for other characters – ones who’d played important parts in the previous books. Crossroads (book 4) focuses on Joshua Canfield, Dana’s son and a events occurring on Providence Island.

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?

That moment when I held the print copy of Main Street for the first time.

We have all experienced rejection. Give me an example of how you learned to write past it.

I had an agent request a full read of Main Street. At the time, I was wavering between indie-publishing and pursuing the traditional route. I wanted the control that indie-publishing provided, but it was nice to be asked. I sent it off, and, several weeks later, the agent responded along the lines of “I liked it, didn’t love it. Couldn’t warm up to Dana’s character.” So, it worked out for both of us.

There have been some stings from contest feedback. For the most part, the feedback is constructive, though in a few instances it was tough love minus the love. Two things I learned was if several people point out the same issues, pay attention to what they’re saying. Also, some readers are going to dislike the same thing that others love.

What made you choose the indie route? How did you choose a publisher to assist you?

As I mentioned previously, I wanted the control that indie-publishing provided. When I researched for an editor, I kept coming back to a company called By Your Side Self-Publishing which provided editing, formatting, and proofing. I was working full-time with long hours and some traveling. Their ‘turn key’ process sounded like a perfect solution. I contacted Dana Delamar who did a sample edit, and she’d been my editor ever since.

What was the most challenging part about putting together the book?

Dana and her business partner Kristine Cayne handled the mechanics of publishing – formatting, proofing and uploading. Meanwhile, I was scrambling to assemble the parts of the book beyond the story! Front matter, back matter, acknowledgments. Plus a blurb and sample of the next book. All the things that I’ve seen in every book I’ve read, but didn’t think of when it came to mine.

And now I know, and I plan for it.

Most cozy mysteries have quirky covers, but yours has a home town feel to it like you'd see with a Hallmark movie. What led you to choose that design?

I’m thrilled you noticed that! Last year, I rebranded the first three books prior to releasing Crossroads. Cover artist Karri Klawiter did an amazing job giving the series a cohesive look and the hometown feeling with a hint of suspense.

What do you know now about writing that you wished you had known sooner?

More about the business side, especially advertising and marketing.

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?

Find a mentor or a critique group. Check Facebook for writers’ groups. AND, if you’re writing a series, create a series bible with all the details starting with the very first book. Your future self will thank yourself when you get to book five and have all those details right at hand. 😉

Are there any other points about writing that you would like to add?

Listen to the feedback you receive, but stay true to your voice. No one else can tell your stories the way you can.

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

My next book is titled Boardwalk, Providence Island Book 5.

Former hitman Ben Hampshire thought he’d found a peaceful life as Providence Island’s “IT guy.” His romance with a hot redhead erupted with fireworks that have never quit, and almost a year later he’s ready to pop the question. Just not the one Stacy expected.

Stacy Andrews senses Ben has secrets in his past, but she never expect one of them to be a dead fiancée. She’s keeping a secret too. One that might make Ben change his mind about their life together. If that’s not enough, her unruly eight-year old nephew Riley coming to live with them might be the tipping point.

Ben finds himself in the spotlight after two murders occur. He was the first to find both bodies, and he’s holding back evidence that points toward Nick Warden as the perpetrator. Years ago, he vowed to protect the Canfield family, a promise that now includes Nick. Honor wars with protecting his new family as Ben races to discover the killer before he strikes again.

Sounds intriguing! If you'd like to learn more about Dianna's books, here are some links to get you started.





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