Newbery Honor Author, New York Times Bestseller, Time Traveler
The pensive Ms. Greenwood
One of the things I love about the Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference (you’re too late to sign up this year — plan on attending next!) is meeting writers from all over the country. It was at this conference that I met the warm and fun-loving Diana Greenwood. We’ve e-corresponded for years and she has been a wonderful supporter of my work so I am delighted to be able to return the favor!
In just a few weeks, her debut novel, Insight (Zondervan) will hit the shelves. Watch the trailer below for a taste of what you have in store:
Diana shared a few thoughts about her new book with me:
Kirby: What was the trigger for this book?
Diana: Insight began as a spark of an idea when I heard the first few lines in Elvira’s voice. Writers say this all the time but it’s actually true. I knew right away that she was in a rural setting, a baby was about to be born, and that the bulk of the story would be post WWII.
To show how ideas combine, my mother’s brother, Clifford Rasmussen, was killed in WWII, Royal Canadian Navy, Seaman First Class. His ship was torpedoed and all crew lost at sea. There is a family story I heard growing up that always gave me shivers. One night my grandmother sat up in bed in the middle of the night, awakened by a flash of light and a loud noise. She felt as though she were swaying, woozy. She glanced at her bedside clock and the green illuminated hands showed 2:00 a.m.
This, according to the family story, was the exact day and time her son’s boat was torpedoed. Weeks after my grandmother’s sleepless night, the uncle I never met was declared missing in action. I still have the telegram.
My grandmother’s faith got her through that loss but I always wondered how it felt to lose someone so young and vital, someone missing in action forever. So those first few lines in Elvira’s voice led to the seed of the idea, mixed with that family detail, although much altered, and Insight was born. From there, the characters led the story and I let them do what they needed to do.
Kirby: You are an experienced and successful freelance writer: what’s one thing about the writing process that surprised you as you worked on this novel?
Diana: In freelancing for private clients and magazines, I’m very used to writing on deadline where facts count most and edits are about accuracy, not dialogue or plot or story structure. In writing this novel I’d have to say that the thing that surprised me the most was how much a story can improve with revision. A first draft seems finished. So does a fifth draft. But each time I started again on page one there was a scene to alter, details to add, a character’s motivation to examine, historical facts to check, or a subplot that needed attention. It’s amazing to me that even now I could find something to change. A book is never really finished; at some point you just stop.
Kirby: What’s your writing day like? Are you a page or word counter or neither?
Diana: I typically start my day with a cup of coffee and a fat cat on my lap while I check e-mail, blogs, social media, and current client projects or assignments.
I actually have two jobs—freelancing and I’m also the Director of Rebuild Southern Africa Association, a U.S.-based non-profit supporting orphans and street kids in South Africa. Both jobs require lots of communication so my work days are typically factual writing, interviews, e-mails, phone calls, and drafting articles, newsletters, or blog posts.
Afternoons and early evenings are my most creative hours so I try to devote time each day to a work in progress. I don’t like self-imposed word or page counts because I spend so much time on deadline in my “real” jobs that I’m always afraid writing a novel will begin to feel too much like work if I put myself under that kind of pressure. I find this especially true in a first draft, which to me, is the most delicious part of the process; when the story unfolds word by word and the characters come alive. Consequently, I’m a slow writer and I’m productive in spurts. Plus
I novel-bounce, which means that I might work on a scene in one book and outline a chapter in another on the same day.
Kirby: What are you doing to celebrate your first book?
Diana: Paying a few bills. (giggle) Actually, I’m having a launch party at Copperfield’s Books in Napa on May 22 and then an after-party with a few friends and my lovely daughter.
Kirby: Favorite inspirational quote?
Diana: I have so many but I love this one from one of my favorite authors: “The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.” ~John Steinbeck
Kirby: Would you rather be on Dancing with the Stars or American Idol?
Diana: Actually, I’d rather explore with Dora.
Kirby: Diana, I wish you the very best with Insight — now get busy and write the next book! 😉