Met RWA® Golden Heart® finalist Diana Layne
Native small town Texan Diana Layne is an award-winning published author and an RWA® Golden Heart® finalist. She's a homeschooling mom of six kids who grew up riding horses and motorcycles, practicing the piano and reading every chance she could. As an only child she kept herself entertained with imaginary playmates and now writes romantic suspense thrillers and historical romances.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
I’m not certain any day is typical. In my fantasies, I have created a perfect, typical day, but reality has yet to live up to the fantasy. Since I’ve always homeschooled and I’m on the last two (though two of the older ones, a DIL and two grandkids live with me), I find it’s easier for me to get up early, like at 4 am early, to get any writing done. Our homeschooling could probably be labeled eclectic, meaning it’s a combination of unschooling and homeschooling. Which means I let the kids sleep as late as they can; no “get up at a certain time, start lessons at a certain time.” The longer they sleep in the mornings, the longer I can write. With the first four kids (who are much older) I had an early riser in the bunch. And now with the last two—yep, I have another early riser. He rarely sleeps past seven. Still, if I’ve managed to haul myself out of bed on time, I can get a couple good hours in before he wakes up. In the winter, it’s a LOT harder getting out of bed that early on a cold morning though. (I live in an old house so I have to light the heaters every morning, until it warms up, it’s pretty danged cold! At least cold for this Texan!)
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Growing up as an only child (and only grandchild), many of my best friends were imaginary. These were the days before cable, computers, video games-heck, the TV only had four channels. So I played a lot with those imaginary friends.
While I wrote to entertain myself, it never occurred to me I could write novels for others to read. I thought writers were members of special clubs, were super smart and rich, everything I wasn’t. One day when I put the kids down for a nap (at the time I was running a home childcare business and naps were vital then) I picked up my Romantic Times magazine and read an article about RWA. You mean they let normal people write romance? (okay, okay, normal is probably subjective, how many normal people’s best friends are imaginary, right?)
Is there anyone who really mentored or inspired you to keep writing until you were finally published?
The path to publishing was a long and bumpy one, marred by a very bitter divorce which knocked me off balance for a long time. The characters had deserted me, the silence was deafening. And I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to write again.
As they say here in Texas if the horse bucks you off, get up and dust yourself off and climb back on. That sucker bucked me off and I flew through the air and had the wind knocked out of me when I landed flat on my back and hurt so much I didn’t want to move. But I wanted my kids to see that you never give up if you have a dream. So I pulled myself up, dusted myself off and climbed back on that horse.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
Yeah. Been there a few times. Or twenty. First time it was bad. Scary. What happened, why couldn’t I write?
I read The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, saved my sanity. Morning pages. Hate them. Really. Hate them. Don’t do them anymore but I do something similar, I just don’t call it morning pages. I journal. Write down all I’m feeling, analyze it, figure out where I’m blocked-usually it’s some situation or an emotional reaction to a situation that I’m ignoring and real life has leaked over and destroyed writing life. Writing all that down gets it out of my head so my brain doesn’t have to worry with it like a cat with a toy mouse, and I know I won’t forget about it because it’s all down on paper. At that point, my characters have room to come back and play.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
I do however much research is needed. Usually a lot because usually I’m clueless. Why can’t I pick something I know to write about? Like wiping snotty noses or changing diapers… But assassins? Yeah, that’s something a small town homeschooling mom is gonna know about. Sailing a pirate ship? Um, no, my toy bathtub boats sink. Tanning hides? Well, I got my hide tanned a few times when I was a kid, but…tanning an animal hide like the 1800s Native Americans, no clue.
Cool tidbits? I learned how to kill someone with a hat pin. I learned that the Elm tree I wanted cut down because it’s right in the way is actually quite useful in several herbal remedies. And I learned that I’m not made for the seafaring life, I got seasick just researching.
What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?
I actually write like I homeschool, half and half. What’s that mean? As I mentioned previously, I do a combination of unschooling and homeschooling, no rigid school schedules here and while we cover basics, the kids are free to explore whatever subjects beyond that make them happy.
For writing, while I look super organized, I have scene sentences on notecards in a notecard notebook after all, they’re actually bare bones sentences and the scene pretty much develops on its own after I start writing the story.
Mainly I start each book with the “sentence” that boils the story down to this: Protagonist with a need vs. antagonist with a need in an interesting setting with a twist. I learned this from Holly Lisle’s course How To Think Sideways, which is a really cool course. Next, I work on scene ideas from that sentence ala Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake method (incidentally Randy starts with a sentence too, I just like how Holly’s is structured). I write each scene sentence on a notecard, file them in my notecard notebook and ready, set, go! (Randy’s also got great Snowflake software but since I do my rough draft writing by hand, I prefer having my notecard notebook by me.)
What I did learn when I wrote Pirate’s Proposal is that if I start off with the wrong sentence, the story will not work, no matter how I organize myself. I had to ditch the first three chapters on my first attempt-so much for all my organization.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
This is from a novella that will be out this month. If you’ve read my romantic suspense The Good Daughter, this is the beginning of the love story of two characters who play a prominent role in The Good Daughter, Nia and Sandro. This isn’t a suspense book, it’s strictly a romance; although since Nia’s still in college it might be classified as one of those New Adult romances. If you haven’t read The Good Daughter, no big deal. Red-Hot Italian will stand on its own.
Nia, the heroine, is a world-class soccer player for the American women, while hero Sandro is an international Italian soccer star. Yeah, you could say like Beckham but Sandro is Italian and if you actually go back in history a couple of decades you can say like Roberto Baggio, who was FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994.
Anyway, Sandro is Nia’s soccer hero, she always studied and emulated his style until it developed as her own and by a fluke of unimaginable luck (at least to her) her soccer coach is Sandro’s uncle. When the Italian national team is in town for a friendly match with the American national team, the uncle invites Sandro over.
Here Sandro and Nia are cleaning up the dinner dishes while coach and his wife are having a very loud argument in the other room.
“I know these dishwashers are supposed to clean without rinsing, but it just seems--”
Nia abruptly cut off her sentence when she realized she was chattering to cover her nervousness and the noise in the other room. Noise which could no longer be ignored.
She stopped to listen, dried her wet hands on a towel. “Do you know what’s going on out there?”
“Well, come on, don’t keep me in suspense.”
Sandro’s gaze captured hers. “I asked if you could stay the night.”
Ahhh. Why is Sandro wanting Nia, who he just met earlier that day, to stay the night at his uncle’s house? Is he wanting to be naughty or is it something else?
Do you have a website recommendation for other writers?
Naturally I recommend the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com We’re a group of 2009 Golden Heart® finalists who formed the group the day the finalists were announced. It wasn’t long after we started our blog, designed to help other writers. Our motto is: Your sisters on the yellow brick road to writing success.
How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Nominated for the RWA® Golden Heart® Award
When reality is a web of lies and the truth endangers all you hold dear . . . you Trust No One.Drafted into the nebulous underworld of a secret agent right out of college, MJ Thornberg survived betrayal and attempted murder at the hands of her trusted partner. Instead of returning to the deadly realm of espionage, she chose to retire to a small Texas town and work as a mechanic while raising her soon-to-be-adopted baby daughter.
Ben Walker is a man with his own secrets. An agent with MJ's former
Vista Security, Ben is clawing his way out of a downward spiral from a job gone
wrong when Vista sends him after MJ, with orders to use the threat of halting
her baby's adoption to ensure her cooperation.
Furious and trusting no one, MJ intends on working the job solo until a sniper's bullet alters her plans. With no choice but to work with Ben, MJ must confront ghosts from her past, discover truths of her present, and trust that the future she deserves is in her hands to create.
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