I’m thrilled to welcome author, Diane Chamberlain and her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. Diane is the best-selling author of The Silent Sister and The Dance Begins. Her new novel, Pretending to Dance was released by Macmillan on 8th October 2015.
About Pretending to Dance:
When the pretending ends, the lying begins . . . Molly Arnette is good at keeping secrets. As she and her husband try to adopt a baby, she worries that the truth she’s kept hidden about her North Carolina childhood will rise to the surface and destroy not only her chance at adoption, but her marriage as well. Molly ran away from her family twenty years ago after a shocking event left her devastated and distrustful of those she loved. Now, as she tries to find a way to make peace with her past and embrace a healthy future, she discovers that even she doesn’t know the truth of what happened in her family of pretenders.
To celebrate the release of her book, Diane has shared with us the twenty four things she’s learnt when writing a novel. Over to you, Diane…
- Figure out your ending first. Although it may change ten times during the writing, it gives you a target to aim for.
- Don’t stress about formatting. I once asked an editor what font and margin size she preferred. She responded “I wish writers wouldn’t worry about that sort of thing. Just give me a good story.”
- It takes an hour to sign your name 250 times. When my novel Necessary Lies was a Target Bookclub Pick, I had to sign 5000 copies. It took 20 hours and half a bottle of Tylenol. (But so worth it!)
- No matter how brilliant your novel is, several people will still give it one star on Amazon. Get over it.
- Editors are your friends, not your enemies. They want your book to be every bit as extraordinary as you want it to be. Take their suggestions to heart.
- Basing your protagonist on yourself is too limiting. In the early days of writing my first novel, Private Relations, my protagonist looked like me, acted like me and had the same job as me. I found I couldn’t make her do anything I wouldn’t do. So I decided to make her as unlike me as possible (I made her an athlete). She then truly came to life.
- Remember that you’re building a body of work. So no one notices your first book. Or your second or third. Keep going. When your fourth novel hits the best seller list, readers will be scrambling to find your earlier work.
- A background in a helping profession will serve you well as a fiction writer. I’m grateful that I was a hospital social worker and psychotherapist before I was a writer. The ability to understand people gives you the ability to understand characters.
- Write a character autobiography. Sit quietly with a pad and pen and channel your character’s hopes and dreams and fears and secrets onto the paper. She will surprise the heck out of you!
- Visit your setting with your character by your side. See the world he lives in from his perspective. Ignore the stares of folks who see you talking to yourself.
- Rather than “write what you know”, write what you want to know. You will run out of things you know about eventually, so pick topics that intrigue you and learn about them.
- Do you feel nostalgic for some place from your past? Set a story there. I missed my childhood summer home, so I set The Bay at Midnight in that little old bungalow. Writing the book became a wonderful trip down memory lane.
- Don’t let anyone tell you that something can’t be done in fiction. Five points of view? Alternating past and present chapters? Topics that make people squirm? I’ve done it all and you can, too, as long as it ‘works’. That’s the bottom line.
- Don’t let your publisher change the title of one of your older books. Seriously. You will be dealing with angry readers for the rest of your career. I know this firsthand.
- Develop a hobby unrelated to writing. You’ll need that outlet to feed the creative well. For me, it’s playing the guitar with other guitarists.
- Do not kill the dog. Ever. (Okay, I did kill one dog but really, he needed to go.)
- Don’t imagine your mother peering over your shoulder as your write. She will get over it, whatever it is you’re writing about. When my mother read a draft of my first novel, she was so appalled that she said wouldn’t tell any of her friends about it. But when the book was published, she shouted about it from the rooftops.
- Don’t use character names that begin with the same letter. Your readers will get them mixed up. And so will you.
- Keep a notepad or tape recorder on your night table. You will not remember that brilliant idea you have in the middle of the night. This is guaranteed.
- Nurture relationships with readers on social media. My nearly 19,000 Facebook readers have become my co-workers, my brainstorming partners and my friends. I love my readers and I believe they know it.
- Stop talking about how much you want to write a book. Just do it. There is no way around the fact that to write a book, you must actually sit down and write it.
- Pick critique partners who read the sort of book you’re writing. If one of them thinks you should change something, take the suggestion with a grain of salt. If two of them think you should change something, change it.
- Don’t drown your reader in your research. You’ll learn so much about your subject that you want to share every detail. Don’t. Your reader wants a good story, not a history lesson.
- Be generous to other writers. Promote them, guide them, and lift them up. Fight the urge to compete. Generosity will make you feel good and in the long run, feeling good is what it’s all about, right?
My verdict on Pretending to Dance….
Molly is in her thirties. She is married to Aidan and they are trying to adopt a baby. However, there are things about Molly’s past that she doesn’t want Aidan to know about or anyone for that matter. Through flashbacks, we find out what happened when Molly was fourteen years old.
The premise for this story gripped me straight away and I was hooked from the first page. This was the first book I’ve read of Diana’s and her writing style is compelling. The story goes between each time frame with ease.
Molly is a little bit of a tortured character in that she’s harbouring a lot of anger and guilt over her father’s death and blames her mother for the event and blames herself for not being able to prevent it. She has not been back to her childhood home for years and all of that has just been left to fester. She is so worried about her past that she is scared to tell Aidan the truth.
I felt a little frustrated with fourteen year old Molly at times; at the decisions she was making and how she treated some of the people around her (almost taking things for granted) but I guess a lot of teenagers do that. She is blind to a lot that is going on around her.
However, I was interested to see how things would be resolved for Molly. She loved her father and I think she felt as though the people around him let him down.
There are a few twists and turns and things I didn’t expect. I almost read this in a day (bar the last four chapters – when i reluctantly had to sleep) and had been reading without realising how much time had elapsed. I was so engrossed in it.
It has interesting themes such as trust, love, betrayal and it looks at adoption in a sensitive way and does a good job at showing both sides of the story.
This is the type of book I eventually would love to write. This book is fantastic. Simple. I loved it.
Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of twenty-four novels. Her storylines are often a combination of romance, family drama, intrigue and suspense. She lives in Northern Carolina with her partner, photographer John Pagliuca, and her shelties, Keeper and Cole. Visit dianechamberlain.com.