Interview with fellow author Diana Simmonds

DianaSimmondsToday’s guest should really write her autobiography—I bet she would have some interesting things to tell! Diana Simmonds was born in London, lived in Kenya, and now enjoys the theatre world in Sydney, Australia. The photo shows her in Ubud, Bali.

Diana has published three novels with Bella Books—Forty Love, Heart on Fire, and her newest one, Silver Lining.

Here’s what Diana had to say about her life as a writer.

How long have you been writing full-time?

Oh lordy…I wrote my first book when I was 8 (it was an autobiography: I was a smart-mouthed brat and thought I was REALLY interesting). I’ve been writing obsessively ever since.

What was the process of moving into full-time writing for you?

When I was 12 I wanted to be an architect, but I was hopeless at math – end of that idea. Then a really gorgeous stripper moved in next door and I fell hopelessly in love and thought I’d be a stripper like her. Years later I wrote a story about her. At 15 I became the yachting correspondent for the Mombasa Times (did I mention I grew up in Kenya?)

heafir_lgDo you write every day? Do you give yourself weekends or days off or vacation time away from writing?

I totally LOVE to write. If I don’t write I get twitchy and cranky and feel like I might start to itch. If I’m not physically writing, I’m reading and scanning the world for subjects and ideas. I’m a nightmare to live with. Ask my long-suffering partner.

What does a typical work day look like for you?

Wake up early, turn on news radio and immediately go back to sleep. Be woken up by the poodles (where the hell are you – how could you not come down and play with us, we are bereft and badly treated). Breakfast with my partner of 15 years, depending on the weather we take the boys – Harry and Rupert, just turned a year old and toy poodle twins – to the park. We live in inner Sydney, in Paddington, and about 3 minutes from Centennial Park, so they love it and I mooch along in a daze. We also live about 10 minutes drive from a perfect harbour beach – Nielsen Park – so a swim is most often on the cards. I write or sulk for the rest of the day – depending how it’s going. I’m a theatre critic (have a look at stagenoisedotcom) and we’re in a theatre as often as four nights a week. I write the reviews either overnight or next day. I love late nights in bed with the MacBook Air and either Facebook or emailing faraway friends (especially Clare Ashton who’s a fabulous writer and a hilarious and good friend). Sleep – about 1am.

Do you have a daily word-count goal or a set number of hours you spend writing?

I’ve been a journalist forever so my word count is whatever’s called for in any given day, and that depends on what’s happening. When I’m writing a book I’m obsessed and word counts don’t mean much.

Where do you write?

As mentioned, I have a MacBook Air and it’s pretty much surgically attached and Suzi (my partner) thinks I have an unnatural relationship with it. It goes where I go and wherever there’s a sofa or somewhere to loll – that’s where I write. I’ve been a journalist so long I don’t need a special place or peace and quiet to write. I can be in the middle of a room where people are talking and a TV is on and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on beyond the screen. This can drive people bonkers (why don’t you pay attention to me?/why don’t you listen?)

How did family and friends react to you giving up your day job to become a full-time writer?

They didn’t notice, because I was a journalist and critic and no one realised I was doing something else in my “spare time”.

How much time do you spend promoting your books, including blogging, social media, etc.?

I love Twitter and Facebook – but both are largelFortyLovey political and humorous outlets for me and I’m pretty hopeless at self promotion (ask Clare Ashton, she’s always after me with an electric cattle prod). I love to laugh, I love to share laughter and I love even more to make other people laugh – that’s my main goal with social media, as well as getting people involved in things I care about. Aside from Australian and world issues, I am devoted to raising awareness of the plight of elephants in my homeland (Kenya) through the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. (Just $50 a year will keep a baby elephant in milk and blankets – please do have a look at their wonderful work at www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org – if you can resist helping a baby elephant, then I’m sorry for you.) If you can’t afford $50, then at least write to the Chinese and Thai ambassador in your country and plead with them to stop the ivory trade which is going to make elephants extinct in our lifetimes unless they stop making their horrible trinkets.

What’s the best thing about being a full-time writer?

Writing.

What’s the most difficult thing about being a full-time writer?

Writing.

Is there anything you wish you would have known before becoming a full-time writer?

Um…no, because that means I’d have to have known I was becoming a full time writer and I never did, because I always was.

What advice would you give a fellow author who wants to write full time?

Make sure you have very strong teeth so you can hang on. And make sure you enjoy what you’re doing – there’s no point, otherwise. And DO try to do it as well as you possibly can. There is so much crap out there – it’s our duty to rise above it!

Can you tell us a bit about your latest novel? 

Silver-Lining_lgSILVER LINING (Bella Books) is contemporary in that I deliberately set it around a real event: the global financial collapse of 2009-onwards. The two main protagonists – Amanda MacIntyre and Clancy Darling – are caught up in high finance, Amanda as a banker on Wall Street, Clancy as a financial journalist in Sydney. How they clash and come together is, of course, what it’s about as it’s a romance, but how they get there and resolve their huge differences are the bones of the book. I was also interested in current things and how to introduce them into a romance, so Amanda has a girlfriend who is a total shit and treats her very badly (something to which a reader reviewing on Amazon took great exception!). But I thought – well, this happens, life isn’t fairy floss and it’s boring to pretend it is, so let’s see how Amanda reacts. I’m never quite sure, of course, so it’s always interesting from my point of view too! I also like to try to make secondary characters rich and interesting (one of my favorites is the cleaning lady who works for Eliot Bancroft in FORTY LOVE, and Grace Davanzo’s nonna in HEART ON FIRE, who falls in love with Jody before Grace does!). And I also like to make settings authentic; I’ve had very kind responses from readers about how they feel about the Australian locations; and as no one has complained about the American settings – all of which I know well – I’m hoping I haven’t offended any Americans!

What books can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’m 12,500 words into a new romance, which I aim to have finished and out in time to make it the excuse (reason?) to attend the GCLS hoedown in Portland, Oregon next July. I’m also planning to incorporate that into a trip across the USA to say hi to people. I did it years ago – from east to west, by road – and I’d love to do it again the other way. The new book, btw, features two generations: an older pair who are sexy and gorgeous: one looks like Nigella Lawson and can cook and the other looks like Gillian Anderson; and a teenager, daughter of one of those two, who gets herself into strife because her lover is 22 and therefore in danger of prosecution because the teenager is legally under-age. This bit is autobiographical and proves that I have a very long memory!

After that I have a thriller on the backburner – murder and intrigue. I hope I can pull it off; it will feature a lesbian heroine of course. A journalist. Surprise surprise.

Thank you, Diana, for telling us a bit about your life and your writing. I still say you lead a fascinating life!

If you have any questions or comments for Diana, please leave a comment on this blog or contact her via her website or Facebook.

Dear readers, please check back on Sunday for an interview with British author Kiki Archer. I promise it’s going to be interesting.

Have a great week!

Jae

The Romance Bet by Jae

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