Since I’ve decided it’s time to do an interview or two for this column, I wanted to start with a friend who has a career and an outlook I wouldn’t mind mimicking. She’s also, interestingly, the very first person I ever met at an RWA meeting. So I figured she should be the very first writer I ever interview for a column.
Diane Perkins, also writing as Diane Gaston, has won the prestigious RWA Golden Heart award for unpublished writers, as well as the RWA Rita for Best Regency Romance. A member of a number of RWA chapters, she started in WRW, or Washington Romance Writers, the chapter that encompasses our nation’s capitol and its suburbs. (Also where I met her.) Diane lives on the Virginia side of the Potomac.
She has a wonderful story of writing, getting published, and gaining cherished friendships along the way, and you’ll find much more than I can include here on her web site, www.DianeGaston.com, .
Interviewing Diane was a nice opportunity to catch up with this lovely friend – and of course, introduce you to a successful writer who lives by some themes that may sound familiar, if you’ve read a few of my columns!
When did you decide to write a book?
It was around 1994. I’d achieved everything I’d wanted to in my career as a mental health social worker, my kids were older, and I suddenly had time on my hands. I read a national best selling book (not a Romance) and I thought it was the worst book I’d ever read. I won’t name it, because multitudes loved the book. I thought, “If this awful book can be a best seller, then maybe I can write a book.” I never wanted to write anything but Romance.
How long have you been writing?
Since 1994. I really didn’t write much in my younger years. I was never one of those kids who wrote stories in kindergarten. From an early age into adulthood, I did, however, make up stories in my head. Always.
Why Historicals? How do you feel when “people” say the historical genre is dead?
I love the escape to another time, another place. Regency England was such a fascinating period; I never aspired to write in any other period in history.
I see red when I hear “Historicals are dead.” At the time this idea erupted, Historical sales dipped about as much as book sales in general, hardly a demise. I think Romance has merely expanded to embrace a larger variety of sub-genres—including Historicals.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I love to escape into a different time and place and to write about characters I love. Nothing’s better than that.
Is there a least favorite?
Writing is difficult when the ideas don’t come fast enough; when you can’t think of what should happen next in your story.
What was the biggest factor, in your opinion, in your journey to being published?
Without a doubt, the biggest factor in my becoming published was joining RWA and its chapters, especially my local chapter, Washington Romance Writers, and the Regency specialty chapter, Beau Monde. Through workshops and articles and conferences, I learned the craft of writing Romance and the business of writing. I also actively used RWA contests to bring my work to the attention of editors and agents. I credit RWA with my first sale, because my first book, a Golden Heart finalist and ultimate winner, sold to the editor at Mills & Boon who judged it in the contest. I never would have thought to submit the book to Mills & Boon, the UK branch of Harlequin. I mean, who would think a UK publisher would want to buy an American author writing about the English Regency?
Anything else important you’d like to mention about the journey?
My advice is to “Never, never, never give up” (Winston Churchill). You never know when, where, or how your first break will come. If you are writing Romance or romantic fiction, join RWA. Also, stay true to your own vision of your writing. Don’t change something just because another person said so. Only listen to advice if it makes sense to you, if it gives you that head-slapping moment—“Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?”
(Bobbi here: Thanks, Diane! I would also add that, as I’ve said before, plenty can be learned from RWA even if you’re not writing romance, and the support and resources are great for any writer. From both of us, “Happy writing!”)