Interview With Author Diana Howell
Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Diana still has the copy of MADELINE awarded to her in the second grade. Reading Period was always her favorite part of the school day, and spelling bees, which she usually won unless Frankie Doetsch was present that day. Then they were the last two standing, and if she didn’t choke, Diana won.
Diana waited until her fifties to act on a lifelong dream of becoming a writer. She knew this is what she was meant to do. Her poems, essays, and short stories have been published in online and print journals. She has been a regular contributor to Northwest Prime Time Magazine for fourteen years.
Her first novel, Wishes Are Free, is strong on feel-good warmth and humor, healthy family relationships, and moments readers tell her gave them goosebumps. Joyful goosebumps, the kind you get when you experience something beautiful.
Diana drew on her experiences growing up in the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco. It was known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight then and now we know it as The Silicon Valley.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
Wishes Are Free began life as a bunch of short stories. When I began writing fiction, I saw that I enjoyed writing for children.
I would read my children’s short stories aloud to my next-door neighbor and BFF, April. She is a high-functioning developmentally disabled, and loved the stories.
I thought I might have something here. I added more stories and strung them into a novel. It takes place in 1959 and draws on my childhood experiences, funny and goofy, and sad and touching.
Grandpa, however, is made-up, except to say, he is a lot like me. Life experience has made him wise and gentle. My main character, Rose, turns to him in times of trouble.
I have rewritten my childhood as I would have liked it to be. My hope is that children, whether they have a healthy home life or not, will see themselves in how Rose navigates life as a ten-year-old.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I write slowly. I don’t know if that is unusual.
I begin with dialogue and add the setting, and the physical and mental reactions of the characters later, adding layer upon layer.
If I don’t have an emotional reaction to what I’ve written, or if my mind wanders as I read, I know it needs work. It needs life. It needs humor. It needs conflict or drama.
Or maybe, it needs to be deleted. But usually, multiple rewrites will bring a scene to life.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Barbara O’Connor Wonderland
Kate DiCamillo and Because of Winn Dixie
Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird
What are you working on now?
I am writing the sequel to Wishes Are Free entitled Be Careful What You Wish
Wishes Are Free is set in the spring of 1959. The next book is summer.
I hope to write four books in the series…we’ll see. Four books is a huge investment of time.
I am also putting my poems together for a collection.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I’m so new to this. I don’t know yet.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
For me, writing poetry taught me the power of words. In poems, you are limited by space. Every word has to count. Finding just the right word strengthens your vocabulary, your understanding of words, and their power.
Poetry also teaches you rhythm. We don’t often talk about the rhythm of sentences or paragraphs. But I think the rhythm of prose is just as important as the rhythm of poems.
I am a lyricist also, and that practice helps me to create, hopefully, rhythmical prose that flows nicely.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Never be satisfied. Strive for the best you are capable of. You probably won’t be Capote, Bronte, or Eliot, but be the best version of you.
What are you reading now?
Black Elk Speaks
Hattie Big Sky
What’s next for you as a writer?
Finish the sequel to Wishes Are Free. Parts I and II are completed.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
The Power of Now
In Cold Blood
The Ultimate Peter Rabbit
Author Websites and Profiles
Diana Howell’s Social Media Links