Tell us something about yourself. A mini-biography of sorts.
My life is not all that interesting. I’m a California girl, born and raised in Northern California. I’ve lived in the Bay Area since college, two or three eons ago. I majored in Liberal Studies, but ended up working in marketing for a large software company.
After being laid off during the dot com bust, I started taking my writing more seriously. I wrote a series of kingdom-based fairy tales that I tried to get published. Eventually, I published the first two myself. I just released my first adult novel, Crucible Heart, as an ebook and am working on making it available through print on demand.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I did, but it wasn’t until being laid off that I gave it any serious thought. Somewhere I have notebooks that I started from college on with the beginnings of the Great American Novel that I never seemed to finish.
What part of writing do you find the most fun? The most difficult?
The hard part is just the time. I write a devotional blog that I keep very active, so finding time to write my novel is always work for some reason. (Here I am answering interview questions instead of working!)
The fun part is the feedback. Who doesn’t love great feedback? And on my blog, where I really want to see people connect with the heart of God, it’s so amazing when someone says that they are blessed by what they read.
How much of your personal life do you incorporate in your writing?
In Crucible Heart, there is literally none of my personal life incorporated, but the locations are very personal. I knew someone used to live in an apartment on Broderick Street in San Francisco, where the story takes place. The apartment in the book, the local neighborhoods, and all the landmarks are real.
Tell us a little about what you’re working on right now.
I’m working on the second book in the Jenna series, Deep Grace. It’s the continuing story of my main character, Jenna, obviously.
Is there anything surprising you’ve learned about the publishing industry that you’d like to share with us?
Besides how hard it is to get published and be wildly successful? No, not really.
There are lots of rules out there, like “show, don’t tell” and “don’t use adverbs”. Are there any rules that you break and why?
I should really stay away from this question. One of the comments in a book review was that I use too many adverbs. Personally, I kind of like adverbs so I use them. But I’m paying attention to the readers. If they really hate adverbs, I’ll edit my work. My preferences won’t necessarily sell books if the readers don’t agree. I don’t feel that I have to do everything the readers say, but if my style annoys them, they won’t come back.
What’s the most rewarding aspect about writing?
I just love it when my editor or critic partners make comments about a sentence that sings. I’ll go back and look at it and smile. It does sing, doesn’t it! Then I wonder where it came from and are there more there!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve learned so far?
Write a lot. It’s like finding direction in life. Once you get moving, it’s easier to make a course correction than trying to guess where to go from a standstill. It’s easier to become a better writer by writing a lot than by reading a lot about writing. Finding honest feedback is crucial. I went a long time without real honesty, and I think it hurt my writing.
Do you feel you chase the market or do you write from the heart, knowing you’re writing the best you can and someone will eventually publish your work?
I definitely do not chase the market. My book does not fit into the typical Christian fiction genre, so I decided to ebook it. My first review of it was that this is not a typical Christian Romance. I really wasn’t trying to write romance, but the romantic element in the story can’t be ignored, so I guess it’s a romance. It’s a very edgy book, so CBA wouldn’t go there. We’ll see if it’s a popular choice or not.
How would you describe your writing style and genre?
I write real. I hear real dialogue in my head, the way people really talk. I don’t want to be sarcastic, but my main character is rough around the edges. It’s contemporary Christian fiction with honest emotion, high and low.
I love character-driven novels myself. Can you tell me where you got the ideas for some of your characters and describe a few of them?
I can’t tell you where the characters came from. I have no idea. The story started out to be about an angel that appears to a young woman in trouble, but morphed into a real man when it became obvious that they would be drawn to each other.
Jenna is a young woman who did prison time for killing a child by texting and driving. Her youthful ambitions were destroyed the moment the child died. Her life after that was about trying to live with the guilt.
Jess is a man who has an angelic look—handsome face and silver hair, despite being in his twenties. (A hold over from the original concept.) It is his persistent faith that God can help Jenna that gets her saved. Jess, however, has his own past that he has to get over.
Everyone’s favorite supporting character is Bats. He owns a tattoo parlor down the block from where Jenna works. He’s covered in tats and looks seedy, but is a great friend to Jenna. His simple honesty is sweet and you don’t want to see him get hurt. I have no idea where his character came from, but I like him a lot.
Do you create challenges for your characters to overcome and why?
I think the challenges are all about good story writing. People have to overcome obstacles to grow. You don’t want to leave them in the problems we find them in. We want to see them walk and fall and walk and get on to a better place.
What challenges you personally in your writing?
I want to be a good writer. I am challenged by feedback to do better next time. I expect that the more I write, the better and better my writing will be because I take feedback seriously.
Do you work on paper or a computer? At home or in an office? What time of day do you write and why? How much do you write a day?
I write on my laptop in my home office. Ok, my bedroom. I blog for about an hour and a half in the morning and maybe another hour at night. I work on my novel in the afternoon for about two hours. At least, that’s my goal. However, if anything pops up in my schedule, the novel falls off first, sad to say.
The inevitable: are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a plonster. I’m training myself to plot more. I started using Scrivener with this second book and it’s very helpful to lay out the chapters on a “corkboard” and see the flow of the story. If I want to add a scene or chapter, it’s very easy to insert it. I found that it was a lot easier to sit down and start writing if I knew exactly where the chapter was going.
Tell us three quirky facts about yourself that we wouldn’t normally find out.
- I keep a slinky on my desk for “thinking”. Whenever I stop typing, I automatically pick it up and start playing with it while I work out my thoughts.
- I am the bane of snails in my garden. No mercy. I will kill them barehanded if I have to.
- I love good tea. I love Assam, Lapsang Souchong, and Keemun. However, my character loves great coffee. I have no idea what great coffee tastes like.
Do you have any favorite websites and/or blogs that you avidly follow?
No, not so much. I read links that other people post that look interesting, but any more, I don’t have time to follow a lot of blogs.
Who is your favorite author in the whole world and why.
I love C S Lewis. I love his conversational style of writing and his honest humility. I love his heart for God and his unique understanding for what that looks like. When I was younger, read him like a starving chick. He was so wise. Now, I read him with a more mature and balanced view. I can disagree with him in the most loving way. He will always be my favorite, though I have to say that I hated the science fiction trilogy.
I also love Shakespeare for his command of language. His writing makes me jealous.
And, lastly, who has impacted your writing the most?
My older sister. She has always loved my writing and has been my biggest fan and cheerleader. Her encouragement was very pivotal in keeping me going. Someone liked my work. It didn’t even matter that the someone was completely biased, her encouragement helped so much.
Jenna Johnson did two years in prison for killing a child while texting and driving. Living with the guilt made her suicidal, until she met Jess. Jess’ constant encouragement that God can fix anything finally broke through Jenna’s thick walls of protection. But the road to redemption was a learning curve, and Jenna had a lot to learn. When she finally understood the truth of the Bible, her hard won victory was shattered in a devastating moment of truth. Only her new found faith could save her from her own self-destruction.
Diana Symons WEBSITE
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