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A Chat with Romantic Suspense Writer Diana Layne

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Diana Layne writes like nobody’s business. She infuses old school Jackie Collins with a Victoria Gotti twist. Layne is an esteemed writer of historical romance and contemporary suspense. A homeschooling mother of six, she balances her hours between nurturing her children and killing off bad guys straight from the state of Texas!

Ms. Layne was gracious enough to take time out of her demanding schedule to talk to me. Sit back and enjoy!

When you’re deeply connected and immersed in a book, Diana, have you ever had a dream that you felt was not your dream?

No, sorry. I’m not a dreamer; I have nightmares instead. To counter those, I usually sleep with a light on and the DVD player playing Gilligan’s Island. Why Gilligan’s Island you ask? (No, you didn’t, but I thought you might.) It’s such a fun, zany show–seven very different people learning to get along and silly, bordering-on-stupid things happening to prevent their rescue. And it keeps the nightmares away.

Do your characters dream within you? Have you had a dream that was one of your characters?

I wish I did dream my characters or a story that would be so cool. Heck, I would have loved to have dreamed that sparkly vampire story… (wink)

What do you do in your down time to recharge?

Down time would be? A fantasy, perhaps? Remember, I have six kids, I’m still homeschooling the last two, and two of the older kids live at home to go to college, one with his wife and my two grandbabies (who are the cutest grandbabies in the world, of course). I also have three dogs and three cats (though at feeding time, the neighborhood cats descend). If I had down time, I would sleep. Without nightmares, of course.

What is the guilty pleasure you find the most wicked?

Killing people? On paper only—I’m really nonviolent—but I do find make-believe a calming way to unwind. Make me mad and you’re just liable to end up dead in one of my books (ha, ha). In all seriousness, though, I am starting to realize I am beyond boring. I don’t really have a “wicked” guilty pleasure. I’m a teetotaler, don’t smoke, rarely swear, watch mostly kid shows, I don’t like manis/pedis, despise shopping of any kind… ah, wait, I do like chocolate, especially Turtles®–I’ve been known to polish off a box in one sitting. And vanilla shakes with lots of whipped cream on top. (But if I indulge, of course that means I have to exercise more, and I hate exercise.)

This lifestyle is a conscious choice though. I grew up with crazy and lots of drama. Don’t like it. I realized early on in my writing journey that the more calm and organized I can make my everyday life, the more vivid I can make my fantasy world. That’s where I really get my “wicked” pleasures and have my fun–from a vivid imaginary life. And if other people can enjoy my stories, too, so much the better.

Diana, how do you see your writing has evolved since you penned The Good Daughter?

I think The Good Daughter was a tipping point for me. I’ve written nine novels and have rewritten plenty of them, still rewriting some. I learn something with every rewrite. On about the fifth rewrite of The Good Daughter, I finally grasped theme and specificity… and The Sentence. The Sentence, which I learned from Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways course, is huge.

I have subsequently rewritten Trust No One only once, but during that rewrite I started to grasp character arcs. Because of all this obsessive rewriting, I wrote Pirate’s Proposal without any major revisions/rewrites, hurray! See, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

What do you find most rewarding about writing delicious edgy, suspense novels drenched in romance, intrigue, and winky doodles… (laughing)?

Killing people. Oh, wait, that was my answer for wicked guilty pleasures. Um…

Diana, if The Good Daughter was turned into a Lifetime movie or landed on the big screen, who would you like to play Marisa… besides me, of course (winking)?

You, my dear, would be an excellent Marisa! Are you available? If you weren’t and I had to pick… Believe it or not, this question stumped me. A lot. I guess because I mostly watch kid shows. Back in the day, it would’ve been Sophia Loren, hands down. These days… you know while Selena Gomez is still on the young side, I do think she’d do a good job. (Who is Selena Gomez? You know Wizards of Waverly Place, the Disney show? Kid shows, right.)

Wait! Light bulb moment! Maybe all the kid shows I watch could be why I write dark, edgy suspense, what do you think?

What does diligence mean to you?

Diligence. This word brings to mind one of my mother’s favorite songs. Probably because my mother recently passed away. It’s a song from a Broadway Musical Man of La Mancha. I learned to play “The Impossible Dream” on the piano for her because it really is a great song and helps when you’re feeling overwhelmed. It also helps you press forward when the odds feel incredible and that’s what diligence means to me. Press on no matter the odds. Just keep going, do your absolute best, and never settle for less.

Copyright laws probably prohibit me from sharing the lyrics, but you can read them or watch a great performance by Jim Nabors (aka Gomer Pyle–yes, I grew up watching Gomer and who knew that goofy guy had such a beautiful voice!)

What three books in your childhood have nurtured your love of the written word?

I grew up riding horses so I read all the horse books I could find. Black Beauty series, of course, and most of Marguerite Henry’s Misty, Stormy, Sea Star, Brighty. Then, Gone with the Wind captivated my heart. I tried to read it in the fifth grade and it was still over my head. But I did read it in the sixth grade, and eight times in all during junior high. The writing was so vivid, Scarlett was a vivacious heroine (though I really liked Melanie best), Rhett, the bad boy hero with a good heart… and of course, the hoop skirts fascinated me. Why did I read it in the first place? My mom had told me that she’d really wanted to name me Scarlett but the family had a fit; I had to find out about this Southern belle whose name I almost shared…

What three novels are your go-to books to reread for comfort?

I have two stand-alone novels I like to reread and they are oldies. Love, Cherish Me by Rebecca Brandewyne (the original, not the reissue) and Ride the Wind by Lucia St. Clair Robson. I love westerns and Native American stories (yes, I have written some, too, and hope the market is on the way back). I also have two series I reread: Harry Potter and Twilight (yeah, yeah, don’t throw things at me; really, I’m not that big on sparkly vampires, but I love the wolves.)

Yes, I noticed in neither of those questions did I give you just three books… obviously I am not good at reading and following directions.

Thanks, Diane, it’s been fun!

You are welcome and thank you, Diana, it has been a blast.

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About Diane Morasco