Monday, September 5, 2011

How DiAnn Mills Stopped Talking About Writing A Book And Simply Did It

DiAnn Mills
It's our pleasure to welcome DiAnn Mills to our blog this week. She was gracious enough to agree to an interview and to provide a book as a giveaway. DiAnn will be visiting the North Texas Area as a faculty member of the NTCW conference, September 16-17th, 2011.
DiAnn Mills is an award-winning  fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. Her  first book was published in 1998. She currently has more than fifty books in print, which have sold more than a million and a half copies.
DiAnn's titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader’s Choice awards. She is a two-time winner of  the Christy Award , winning in both 2010 and 2011.
A founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, she speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

DiAnn Mills on her Journey…

You’ve written over fifty books and you have another book, Attracted To Fire, coming out in the fall. What has this journey been like for you?

DiAnn: Full of adventure.
Challenging - Can I do this one more time? Only by the hand of God.
Incredibly exciting.
Sometimes exhausting.
Always looking for the opportunity to reach a reader with the message of Christ through the actions of a character who reacts, responds, and solves his/her problems from a Christian worldview.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”. How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?

DiAnn: LOL My husband told me in 1996 to “stop talking about writing a book and simply do it.” I never forgot those words and along with it comes my own level of commitment, “How can I make this story go deeper?”
However, I dreamed of writing a book since I was in the second grade. My problem? Lack of confidence until my husband presented his challenge. I haven’t looked back since.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?

DiAnn: My faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. My goal and desire is to show real characters who rely on God to help them accomplish their purpose for Him.

I cannot not write. It’s a calling. An undeniable ministry.

On her book and characters….

Could you share a bit about your latest book, Attracted To Fire, and its characters?

DiAnn: Attracted to Fire transports the reader to a remote West Texas ranch where two Secret Service agents are assigned to protect the rebellious daughter of the vice president of the US.

I love to write about strong women, those who have been motivated to step into uncertain waters. Meghan Connors dreamed of becoming a Secret Service agent and one day being on the team that guards the President of the United States. Ash Zinders has the same goal. Only one person can be added to the team. Meghan and Ash are like gasoline and fire. Volatile. Unforgettable. Stubborn. And passionate about keeping their protectee safe. The latter is what throws the two together, and that’s when they realize they have more than danger in common.

These two characters have detailed backstory that demonstrate their strengths and weaknesses. I enjoyed watching these two special characters grow and change in the writing of the story.

If you had to choose, which scene in this novel is your favorite?

DiAnn: Meghan has a horrible accident, and that’s when she and Ash walk through a doorway with more than one commitment.

You also write historical novels, and non-fiction. What inspired you to write romantic suspense?

Di Ann: In every novel I write, I incorporate suspense. That aspect is a part of who I am. Suspense is timeless, but when woven with romance, the heart and the mind of the characters takes on a higher dimension. Add a shared faith in God, and we have a picture of God’s love for us. Our ancestors understood danger; their suspense took a different snapshot of their times. But it was real to them.
Had you considered romantic suspense paralleling with the Bible? Think about God loving us enough to send His only Son to die for our sins? Then add the suspense of the Old Testament and the promise of a Savior. Jesus’s ministry was on a timetable of three short years, his unjust trial, conviction, death - and then His resurrection. Love for mankind! Definitely a romantic suspense.

What are the challenges/rewards of writing in each of the sub-genres in which you’ve written?

DiAnn: The challenge of meeting the expectations of every reader, providing enough romance, suspense, or historical appeal.

Some authors say their stories are ripped right from the headlines. Has an idea for one of your novels ever been sparked by real people and events?

DiAnn: Absolutely! I am constantly searching through media topics for story ideas. I massage the facts and shape them for a story idea.

On her Writing Process…

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them?

DiAnn: I put on their clothes. :) I dive into each character by playing the role of an actress or actor. I add the character’s psychological traits and play out the scenes in my head accordingly. No matter what POV, nothing within that scene can stray from the character’s perception.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters.

DiAnn: Timing and pacing. Too much too soon isn’t credible. If I wait too long, the reader grows bored.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part with which you struggle.

DiAnn: Prayer. Write another scene. Play with backstory, psychology books, and reading books by authors whom I admire and respect.

Do you have specific techniques you utilize for getting into the heads of your villains? Would you care to share them?

DiAnn: For those times, I have to think dark. How would a character who has no moral base except for his or her own ground zero react and respond to challenges? And yet villains aren’t born bad. They are shaped by their own environment and choices. So backstory and motivation steps in to help guide me.

What are the challenges in developing a layered, plot-driven story of suspense that rivals others in the market?

DiAnn: Keeping the plot tight, pacing (I know I mentioned that before), determining what should be shown and the best way to do it. I also believe a story’s setting should be viewed as an antagonist/villain. Why make things easy for your hero and heroine?
Writer Steven James said, “Create the unexpected, unpredictable, and realistic.”

In some of the reviews, readers mentioned how effectively you plot your story. Do you have any particular plot techniques you’d care to share.

DiAnn: Yes, and my method came from Kathy Olson, one of Tyndale’s copy editors. Here is the formula for every scene:

1. What is the POV character’s goal or reason for stepping into the scene?

2. What does the POV character learn that he/she didn’t know before?

3. What backstory is revealed? (However, I don’t reveal backstory for the first 50 pages.)

4. How are the stakes raised?

I am also a loyal fan of Donald Maass:

Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook

The Fire in Fiction

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?

DiAnn: Rewarding: The sheer joy of entertaining a reader.

Disappointing: My own limitations - time restraints, needless errors. I don’t like to read reviews, either good or bad. But when I read a bad one, I feel like I’ve failed.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?

DiAnn: The words of Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.”

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?

DiAnn: Writing without taking instruction first. It’s much easier developing good writing habits than eliminating bad ones.

On her personal life…

What is a little known fact about yourself?

DiAnn:I’m petrified of dogs and fascinated by lions.

You don’t want me balancing your checkbook.

What book are you reading right now?

DiAnn:I read several at one time.

Lie for Me - Karen Young
Cedar Grove Series - Debbie Macomber
Pay Me in Flesh - K. Bennett
The Most They Ever Had - Rick Bragg

If you could have dinner with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?

DiAnn: Harriet Beecher Stowe - Her determination to write despite family responsibilities and limitations.

What’s next for you?

DiAnn: Working on a series of romantic suspense based on Houston’s FBI solved cold cases.

Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?, Barnes&Noble and other book stores.

DiAnn's question for readers:

What is a setting that you’d like to see in a DiAnn Mills’s novel?


What is your favorite DiAnn Mills’s novel and why?


Marlena Cassidy said...

I love this interview and Diann's advice to aspiring writers. It's an action word, writing, not a passive word, and you need to do it to succeed at it.

I will admit that I haven't read any of DiAnn's novels, so I don't know if she's ever set a novel in rural Pennsylvania, but lots of crazy stuff happens out there and it could make for some interesting romance.

Donnell said...

Terrific interview. I'd say you're grateful for your husband's advice every day. What a keeper. Congratulations on your awesome career!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! It has to be difficult to write inspirational romantic suspense. I've read some romantic suspense where the author intruded a lot with a sermon and it made me lose interest in the story. How do you portray the person of faith?
As for setting, how about New Orleans, San Francisco, or Miami?

Anonymous said...

Great interview!You really show your beliefs in your work. The story of Jesus, a romantic suspense? Never thought of it that way. I saw it as more of mystery.
What setting should you use? How about the Scotland?
Heather P

Ruby Johnson said...

Thank you Marlena, Lena, Donnell and Heather for posting to our blog. DiAnn is truly a remarkable woman and it was our pleasure to have her. Your names have been entered into the giveaway. Come back friday for an extra chance at winning the book.

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