A: Since it's the most recently released, I'm going to say that I am most proud of CHOKE. I took on a topic, the choking game, but the book is really about friendship. I'm proud of it because it applies to situations all of us must face--the moment when friends encourage us to do something wrong. In this novel, the wrong things are the choking game and lying and betraying another friend, but if you think of CHOKE as a novel about friendship, then you can see how it applies to other situations as well.
Q: Patty Campbell talks about the germ for a piece of writing being like the sand in the oyster. What is your grain of sand? Do you begin with character or setting or something else?
A: I begin with a voice. I can't really start writing until I hear the story's voice. I do a lot of freewriting. At some point, I have an "aha" moment where I hear the voice and where the story takes on its own life. I may not know all the details about the characters --like their ages, conflicts, family and friends--but if I can hear the narrator's voice, I can start having an imaginary conversation. That's when the story starts to take shape.
Q: What do you hear from your readers?
A: I receive email from both adult and young adult readers, but the people who email most frequently are girls between the ages of 10-14. They tell me which characters they like best or offer suggestions for sequels. They often share ways they are similar to my characters. Now that CHOKE is out, I've received a few letters from readers who have lost someone to the game or who have tried other dangerous things like cutting. So far, they agree that books need to address these issues so that others can learn how risky these behaviors are.
Q: Why do you write for Young Adults or Children or Adult?
A: I write adult and young adult fiction, but lately, I've been more interested in the young adult, especially the middle grade, audience. Maybe it's the teacher in me. I love reading so much and think of it as a fundamental part of living a rich life. Children are naturally drawn to books, but something happens when they become teens. Many of them lose interest in reading, so I try to write stories that keep the interest alive.
Q: Who is your favorite character you have written or read about?
A: I have a favorite in each book I write. So far, my favorites have been supporting characters. In Sofia's Saints, I love Chimuelita, a funny, toothless woman who is very superstitious and wise. In Confetti Girl, my favorite character is Ms. Cantu. Her obsession with cascarones (confetti eggs), her suspicious nature, and her I-hate-all-men attitude make me laugh. In CHOKE, my favorite character is Elena because she's funny, smart, and her own person. I secretly want to be Elena when I grow up.
Q: What is one thing you would like your readers to know about you?
I want them to know how truly grateful I am. I couldn't be a writer without readers, so they make it possible for me to continue doing something that I love.
Q: In high school, where did you fall? (Prom Queen/King, Gamer Geek, Brainy/Book Nerd, Jock, Shy/Quiet Scholar, Skate Rat, Stoner, Class Clown, etc.)
A: Brainy jock. I worked very hard to make good grades, but I also ran cross country and track. Running was a huge part of my identity. My identity today is somewhere between quiet bookworm and gamer, only instead of video games, I play board games.
Q: Do you have a pet (pets)? Tell us about it (them) and how they help/hinder your writing.
A: No pets for me. I have trouble keeping plants alive. When I master that, I'll get a goldfish.
Q: What is the hardest part of waiting for a book from the end of your writing to when it is released?
A: The toughest part is not having a project. Once your book is accepted for publication, it's mostly out of your hands. The best way to pass the time is to start a new book. When CHOKE was accepted for publication, I started a new book right away, finishing it before CHOKE was released. It's called ASK MY MOOD RING HOW I FEEL, and it'll be available the summer of 2013. But now I'm between books again, searching for the next story. I feel like I'm wasting time because I'm not at the keyboard writing, but the truth is that I'm brainstorming and hunting for the next voice.
Q: How often do you dream about the writing you are working on?
A: I dream every night, but my dreams aren't about the stories I'm working on. When they relate to writing, my dreams are about being stuck or trapped. But dreams are figurative, so I have to journal and try my best to solve the puzzle of the dream. For example, a few years ago, I was having a recurring dream about whales in pools. There was always an ocean nearby that the whales were trying to reach. I was supposed to help them find the path, but I always failed. At some point, I told myself, "the next time you have that dream, you will successfully lead the whales to the ocean." I don't know enough about psychology to explain this, but I remembered my promise the next time I had that dream and was able to free the whales. I'd been stuck in my writing, and even though my story had nothing to do with whales, releasing them freed me to continue the story. Strange, huh? Yet dreams like this happen over and over.
Thank you so much for your time, Diana. We look forward to seeing you at the festival!
Learn more about Diana at her website.