In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing
victim author and they choose their own interview by hand picking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Dianne Dixon’s novel, The Book of Someday, is a novel of the love, suspense, forgiveness and a mystery wrapped around a silver dress and three women and what binds them together. Here is what Dianne had to say about reading, writing, and the generosity of fiction readers.
Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?
Maybe the best way to describe who I am is to tell you about the things I love…music, cooking, poetry, being near the ocean, great conversations with good friends, and reading books that are so wonderful I don’t want them to end.
Reading has been one of my passions for as long as I can remember. When I was a child my idea of the magic kingdom wasn’t Disneyland, it was the library. I was a tiny bookworm in glasses who was hooked on words and stories. I was so captivated by them that whenever things were difficult at home or at school, I’d lock myself in my room and write out fictionalized, more benevolent, versions of whatever craziness was going on. It was probably a primitive, little kid, form of therapy—a way of trying to make the world make sense.
I guess you could say that reading was what initially got me into writing. But it wasn’t until I was all grown up that I thought about writing as a career.
When I did finally start writing professionally, I wrote for family and children’s television. It took me a long time to find the courage to write a novel. But now that I’ve finally become a novelist, I’ve discovered something interesting. My debut novel, The Language of Secrets, and my new book, The Book of Someday, share many characteristics with the stories I enjoyed reading as a child…mystery, and love, and suspense, and characters who are as real to me as any living, breathing person I know.
So it all seems to come full circle. Reading got me into writing. And the early stories I enjoyed reading spoke to the places in me that were fascinated by mystery. And now the kind of book I like to write is very much like the ones I still like to read—books that tell a meaningful story, have a mystery at their center and are paced in a way that keeps the reader curious and interested, right up to the very last page.
I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?
Hmmm…this is going to make me sound really dull and boring. But the truth is, my writing ritual consists of Beethoven and Bose headphones.
That’s it. That’s the whole ritual.
I turn on the computer, put on the headphones, and listen to Beethoven for the entire time I’m writing. Why Beethoven…? …don’t have a clue. He just seems to work. And I have no idea why.
People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time? What impact did telling this story have on your life? Did you find that it had changed you?
The story was something I’d spent my life running away from, one of my deepest fears. It was literally, a 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 woman, that nightmare, is one of my earliest 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.
But I could never find a way to do it. Until I stopped running, and let myself come face-to-face with her. For my entire life I’d been labeling the woman in the silver gown as a monster. But when I let go of that label, let it peel away, it took almost all my fear with it, and I was able to see her simply as a woman—a woman, who for some reason had been silenced, and was crying out to be heard. That was when The Book of Someday was born.
Finally being able to confront my fear not only gave me a writing experience that was unforgettable, it changed some part of who I am. It made me stronger, a little more relaxed.
Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?
I love to read poetry when I’m writing. I’m inspired by the music in the language, and by how poets can paint unforgettable pictures, or capture the deepest emotions, with just a few skillfully chosen words.
Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?
Since my early work involved writing cartoons for television, I can definitely say that my style hasn’t just evolved, it has changed completely. I’ve gone from writing for Howie Mandel on a show called “Bobby’s World” (which included a talking zucchini super-hero named Captain Squash) to writing novels that explore some of the most serious and complicated issues that life can present us with.
As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?
Without question the biggest, and most wonderful surprise, was discovering how smart and generous fiction readers are. When you write for television, you rarely interact with the people on the receiving end of what you’ve written. As a novelist, you’re given the gift of being able to communicate with your audience. And I just love that!
Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?
I have friends who write in coffee shops, or sitting on the beach, or on bullet trains in France, or in the elegant reading rooms of old libraries. It seems so writerly and cool. I envy them. I wish I could do it somewhere more interesting but, for some reason, the only place I’ve ever been able to write is at home, alone, behind a closed door. But I’m not giving up without a fight. I’m going to keep looking for new, more exciting spaces!
I’m in the process of finishing the manuscript for my third novel, which is set for publication in the fall of 2014. It’s the story of fraternal twin sisters sharing a strangely intertwined existence that’s blown apart by an act of violence committed by a stranger. Years later, an object belonging to that stranger is found in a suitcase, hidden in the attic of a house that one of the sisters has only recently moved into. The sisters’ lives are forever changed by the question of how the suitcase got into that attic. The answer, which is startling, has its roots in guilt and love—and a heartbreaking search for atonement.
It’s a story that has been incredibly demanding on an emotional level and, at the same time, wonderfully exciting to write.
Thank you so much for letting me do this interview. It was fun!