Diane Chamberlain

7 Books

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story.

Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University.

Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.

More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works:

She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliacci, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole


Interview: Diane Chamberlain

Q: I’ve just read The Stolen Marriage, and was absolutely blown away! What inspired you to write this book?

A: When I moved to North Carolina thirteen years ago, I heard about “the miracle of Hickory”—the building and outfitting of a polio hospital in 54 hours. I loved what that said about a community pulling together and wanted to write about it.

Then I had to come up with who would tell the story. Once I created Tess, her saga of marrying a mysterious man she really didn’t know nearly took over the book!

Q: Is there any truth in the storyline that relates to your own life?

A: Only that I had a dear friend who suffered from polio as a child and who spent nearly a year in an iron lung. Also, I was raised Catholic and was of Italian heritage, like Tess, and it was interesting to me to learn about 1944 in North Carolina and how poorly a young woman like that would fit in.

Q: What have been your favorite moments of being a published author?

A: My first novel, Private Relations, (now re-released as Secrets at the Beach House) won the RITA award from Romance Writers of America in 1989.

That was an incredible thrill for a firs time novelist even though my aspirations had never been to write romance.

I think having The Secret Life of Cede Wilkes (The Lost Daughter in the UK) selected as a Target book club pick was also a wonderful moment.

And meeting some of my wildly passionate United Kingdom readers in London a couple of years ago has to rank right up there as a favorite moment.

Q: What motivates you to keep writing?

A: Besides the mortgage? I love creating a novel. It’s overwhelming and exhausting but when I think of not doing it . . . well, I can’t imagine it. I don’t think I could stop.

Q: How do you come up with the plots of your books?

A: In many different ways. When I’m getting ready to begin a new book, I open my mind to whatever the universe throws my way.

It might be a news story or an overheard conversation or a bit of history, as with The Stolen Marriage and Necessary Lies. My upcoming The Dream Daughter came straight out of my imagination.

Q: You have written an incredible number of books, all extremely successful. Which would you say is the most special to you or your favorite and why?

A: I think my third, Secret Lives, which was published long ago (1991). It’s my favorite because it’s the first book I wrote where I felt as though I’d truly found my voice as a novelist. Plus, it’s an intriguing story that I loved writing.

Q: Are there any characters that have felt so real to you that you feel you could keep writing about them?

A: Yes, Kate in Secret Lives. Her chapters are presented as journal entries which made me feel very close to her.

Plus she dealt with some psychological issues I’d also dealt with (agoraphobia). She dies during the story (this is not a spoiler), and it was extremely painful for me to have to kill her off.

Q: If you could choose to have an exclusive book club with three authors, dead or alive, who would you choose and what would be your ideal discussion to have with them?

A: Oh wow, that’s tough. I think I would pick three writers I greatly admire who are no longer with us: Victoria Holt, Pat Conroy and Anita Shreve.

Victoria Holt was an early influence and I’d love to know what the actual business of writing was like way back when, before computers. Pat Conroy would be a joy to talk with.

I love Southern Fiction and he’d regale us with tales of his low country childhood. I’m still not over the death of Anita Shreve, whose books I’ve read from the very beginning and whose early writing strongly influenced my own. I’d love to talk process with her—how she created her novels from idea to finished book.

Q: What books do you currently have on your bedside table?

A: I’ve just begun Barbara Davis’s latest, When Never Comes and I recently finished Chris Bahamian’s The Flight Attendant.

Super, as usual. I also recently read Elaine Neil Orr’s beautiful Swimming Between Worlds, since I was needed to prepare myself to interview her at a bookstore event.

These are three very different books: women’s fiction, thriller and literary novel. I like to mix it up.

Q: Lastly, something fun that our readers might not know about you?

A: Let’s see: I played the accordion as a kid, I now play guitar weekly with a song circle, and I sang with an interfaith gospel choir when I lived in Virginia.

I’m not a good musician by any stretch of the imagination, but music is a wonderful release from work for me.


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