Today on Down to the Core, we have a wonderful guest. She is the dazzling author of Shelter from the Storm and The Fisherman’s Wife.
Heather: Even I must say: very impressive! Let’s start off with the basic question, how did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Dianne: I always loved reading and hearing stories. You know how it is - every family has at least one storyteller, and I was the one in my family from the time I was about five. I didn’t really think about being a writer until I was in high school. We had great English teachers at my school, and they taught us how to plan and write essays. I loved that. Later, when I was a young mother, I started writing stories for my children. The first one was a Christmas story about a tree too fat to get through the door of the house.
Heather: I like the sound of that Christmas story. Has your experience in college helped your writing career?
Dianne: I believe it has helped immensely. I have a broad background of American and world history to draw on from my undergraduate work, and I also learned the art of research. That is really valuable to a writer. My Communications degree involved a lot of writing, and my professors encouraged me to write articles and explore other avenues of expression. And as is true with most graduate degrees, I learned a lot about statistics, probabilities, and the scientific method, so when I write I can include a feeling for what constitutes a “likely” event and what doesn’t. The Communications degree I earned also included a lot of behavioral studies, and that gave me important insights into what people really do in real situations.
Heather: That sounds very helpful indeed. So, kids, go to school – lol! When do you usually write?
Dianne: I’m pretty organic. I do a lot of writing in my head before it ever hits the paper. Then it’s almost like filling a pitcher and needing to pour it out. It just flows. I’m learning how to augment that “unstructured” process with loose outlines and overviews, but even those are only working tools and can change with the message and the deadline. When I’m writing fiction, the story and characters almost take on a life of their own. Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction I like to get all my research done first and then start writing.
I write every day - except Sundays. That’s my day for church and family. My best time for writing is from about 11:00AM to 3:00PM. But I guess I’m a living example of the idea “writers write because they have to.” It seems I always have something going on in my head, either consciously or subconsciously, that demands expression, and sometimes it pops up “paper-ready” at really odd times - like the middle of the night. Fortunately my husband understands!
Heather: Hey, whenever creativity strikes. You never know if it could be the idea that sparked that bestseller, right? So, how about those Op-Ed pieces for the Amarillo Globe-News?
Dianne: I started writing Op-Ed pieces in August of 2001 as a member of a group of six local editorial contributors called The Amarillo Voices. We wrote in a weekly rotation, so my column appeared every sixth Thursday. Two years ago, the paper discontinued that group and asked if I would continue to write as a guest op/ed contributor. I began submitting pieces periodically throughout the year until just recently. I’ve been so busy with other writing projects that I haven’t submitted anything for the past few months – but I sure have ideas to write about!
Heather: That is wonderful; hopefully you’ll be able to start contributing again soon. You’ve recently sold the rights to one of your stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Can you tell us about this experience? Why do you enjoy submitting to anthologies?
Dianne: I’m a visual and tactile learner. When I’m driving down the highway and I see an old, deserted farmhouse in a state of collapse, a story pops into my head. I begin to imagine who might have lived there, what kind of a life they might have had, and what might have happened to them. Another farmhouse, another story. So short stories are a part of life for me. I had several ideas for stories about my children and personal experiences that I was looking for outlets to send them to. A friend of mine in a writing group suggested I think about anthologies. I went on-line and looked for the ones I knew about and Googled for others.
I looked through the prospective titles and deadlines on the Chicken Soup for the Soul website. I made a list of them and put due dates on my writing calendar. I only choose topics about which I know I have experiences that might entertain or help others. I make a list of those story ideas and work on them between projects or as a break from writing books.
The thing I enjoy most about writing for anthologies is that I can feel accomplishment for a shorter piece of work, and that encourages me to keep going on longer projects.
Heather: Very true, anthologies are fun. Now, about your ghostwriting, what kind of genres do you write in? How did all of that come about?
Dianne: A writer-acquaintance of mine who is a member of Panhandle Professional Writers was doing ghostwriting and started getting so much work that she put out a call for freelance editors and ghostwriters. I talked to her about it and decided to give it a try, and I discovered that I not only enjoyed the process but that I also had some talent for it. The books I’m writing at this time are nonfiction “business success and leadership” books concerning issues of human performance, which happens to align neatly with the consulting that my husband and I do. My clients are entrepreneurs, dentists, corporate executives, speakers, men and women in a wide array of professions. I would love to expand into ghostwriting Christian nonfiction.
Heather: That sounds wonderful. So you mentioned that you enjoy attending writer’s conferences, what is your most memorable experience?
Dianne: My most memorable experience was pitching my novel to Rodney Morris, who is now at NavPress. At the time, he was the Senior Fiction Acquisitions Editor for Multnomah Publishing in Sisters, Oregon. (Multnomah is one of the big houses for Christian Fiction.) After my fifteen minute pitch he asked me for a book proposal. I sent it to him, and it made it all the way to the Editorial Committee before it was turned down. I got some good feedback and encouragement from them, though, along with the pleasure of seeing my first novel get so far beyond the “slush pile.”
Heather: That is very neat, thank you for being the guest on my blog today, Dianne, it was a pleasure to get to know more about you.
To find out more about Dianne Sagan and her books check out these awesome links:
Shelter from the Storm trailer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOtgAi4w6pU
Shelter from the Storm available through - http://dgsagan.tripod.com/id7.html
Dianne Sagan's blog - http://www.diannesagan.wordpress.com/
Find Dianne on Author's Den! - http://www.authorsden.com/diannesagan