Diane Dickson is author of several women’s thriller fiction books, including the best-seller LEAVING GEORGE. We asked her about her approach to fiction writing and what goes into writing a great thriller.
TBF: What started your passion for writing fiction?
DD: I have been a lover of stories and storytelling ever since I can remember. There were always “story books” around when I was a child, and I was read to regularly. I think it was probably a natural progression from reading fiction to writing it.
TBF: How did you find this transition from reading to writing fiction? Do you still find enough time for reading books you enjoy?
DD: I read all the time, I always have at least one book on the go on my Kindle, I often pick up a hard copy book from our huge collection and I help to run an online short story site and that requires a great deal of reading. I always enjoyed writing when I was at school and just never stopped. I find it amazing that small marks on paper (or screen) can, if done well transport you into a different place, a different time and it just seemed natural that I would try to do it myself. Of course it is a huge encouragement when people read your stuff and fortunately they always have done, even when it was just pencil and paper which I would pass around my friends.
TBF: What are the main challenges you have found in creative writing?
DD: Quite simply punctuation and to a lesser extent grammar. I find the story part much easier than the more technical creation of the work. Looking back I think I was probably pretty lazy at school and I attended a rather mediocre secondary modern which didn’t really do a very good job of teaching the “basics” and that has an impact to this day. I have bought a couple of punctuation and grammar books but I know that I still get it wrong and thank heavens for editors!
TBF: Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write your most recent book Pictures of You?
DD: I never know really where the stories come from, but I do find the interaction between generations fascinating. I think it is intriguing the way that social behaviour which is totally unacceptable to one age group is often of little or no concern to the next. I am also very aware that a great many of us worry too much about what others think of us and I suppose that comes out to an extent in this particular piece. Quite a few of my stories touch on the subject of domestic violence which is of course totally unacceptable in all its forms, I do believe that it is something that must be acknowledged and discussed in the hope that openness may help in the battle against it.
TBF: What is your writing process? Do you wait for inspiration for stories and then write, or do you write regularly at fixed times?
DD: I don’t exactly “wait” for inspiration but it just comes and grabs me – thank goodness, quite often just as I’m falling asleep and then I have to make a few cryptic notes so that next morning I can recall the ideas. I don’t write at fixed times because there is so much else I need to do, housework, gardening, etc. And so I just try to fit it in when I have the chance.
TBF: What do you value in a good crime thriller novel?
DD: I enjoy a thriller that is rooted in the everyday. For example the “In Death” series, although they are set in the future, reference everyday living and I think the juxtaposition of horror and evil set against ordinary happenings such as meals and shopping is what makes for a great read.
TBF: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider as a mentor?
DD: I am in awe of a couple of writers who I would love to meet but I reckon I would be so overcome I would probably become a blithering wreck. Lee Child, J D Robb, Sue Grafton are just a few – for me their stories are totally convincing, even though I know of course that I am reading fiction the events are believable and the characters are “alive” for me.
TBF: What did you learn from writing your books?
DD: I would say that I have learned more from having had my books published. I do take far more care now to make sure that the events are logical and that where possible everything is explained by the end of the book, although I am not a great lover of happy endings per se, endings in life are often less than idyllic, aren’t they? I am not a great one for putting in physical descriptions of my characters and like to leave a lot to the reader’s imagination but I realise now that some readers like an idea of age, height, hair colour and so I am trying to find a middle road with that. I know that there is always great room for improvement and I do try very hard to make each work better than the last.
TBF: What do you have in store for readers to look forward to in your next book?
DD: If it works out the next work is somewhat of an experiment in that I have two parts of a story running in parallel for quite a long period at the start of the book. One side is a rather simple story of everyday interaction between two quite different people but there are other events taking place “off stage” as it were. Later as the two parts come together I hope that the twists in the plot work. Of course I have to finish it first and then cross my fingers that The Book Folk think that it is something that they want to take on. It has been fun writing it and quite challenging and I do hope that if it makes it into “print” it’s fun to read.