Bonnie S. Calhoun
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
Interview One of Our New Columnists...DiAnn Mills
This month, I’m featuring an interview with author DiAnn Mills. She’s published over fifty books and teaches at writing conferences around the country, and now she’s going to write a new column for CFOM on the craft of writing. I thought our readers would enjoy an introduction to this extremely talented woman, and I have lots of questions for her, so let’s get started.
Did you always plan to be a writer?
I wrote my first book on a Big Chief tablet with a #2 pencil. It was a Western. Each chapter had the hero facing overwhelming odds and ended with him riding off into the sunset. In response to your question—yes, I always wanted to be a writer. What stopped me was lack of confidence.
What changed in your life that pushed you to begin?
I have to admit that I sensed God calling me to write, but fear paralyzed me. He had to use my husband to give me a push. We were married less than two years when he said, “Stop telling me that someday you’re going to write a book. Quit your job. See if you can get anything published. If you can, you don’t ever have to go back to work.” Whoa! I’m a stubborn gal, and that was the challenge I needed to get started. I began writing and submitting devotions, articles, short stories, and working on my book. My first book was published two years later. But I worked hard. I looked at my writing as a full-time job. I studied the books about writing. I read and studied the books from authors I admired, and I evaluated why I liked or disliked certain passages. I attend conferences and workshops. I participated in writing groups and passed on to other writers what I learned.
Are you a seat-of-the-pants writer, or do you plot in detail?
I love this question. You’re asking me if each morning I face my computer screen and say, “Okay, where are we going today?” Or am I detailed plotter with every scene and sequel documented in blood? In truth, I’m both. I do have a technique to plot every scene. But I’m not married to it. Because I create the characters and plot lines, I’m free to delete and add the scenes necessary to make my book the best possible.
What is the easiest, plot or character?
Both are difficult. Both are easy. I think in terms of “what if.” I consider scenarios that seem insurmountable—trials, tragedies, and tests of character. Then I think about the characters. What is in their backstories that prepared them for my story problem? At this point, the plot and character develop together, each one building momentum and strength. John Gardner said, “Create the best possible characters and allow the worst possible things to happen to them.”
I notice that regardless the genre, you always include suspense. Why?
Most people do not like confrontation, conflict, stress, or tension. But we want to read about it in our characters. We want to cheerlead those characters who use their strengths to solve
problems and overcome villains. Perhaps we want to see how our favorite characters manage the turmoil in hopes we can learn to handle our own struggles more effectively. In our contemporary lives, suspense banners media headlines. Our historical heroes and heroines faced suspense on a different level. Think about the armed villain who stood outside their doors. Consider disease, financial ruin, survival, thieves, killers, natural disasters.
Why would a Christian write suspense?
Reality. Christians are not immune to predators, stalkers, robberies, and violent crimes. A character who solves his/her problems according to a Christian worldview shows the reader an appropriate way to respond to tragedies. In turn, I learn a new truth that I can apply to my life.
What is your biggest challenge?
My goal is to make each book better than the previous. In truth, that’s every serious writer’s aspiration. Are the characters deeper, more dynamic and real? Is my plot so intricately woven that the reader doesn’t see the threads or who is responsible for the story problem? When I begin a new book, I’m scared, ready to quit, and on my knees.
What is your newest release?
The Fire in Ember is a January release from Zondervan. This historical is about a young woman who is running away from a secret that threatens all she holds dear. The story is set at the foot of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. My characters ride the whirlwind of cattle thieves, betrayal, and ruthless killers.
What are the changes you’ve seen in the publishing industry?
Obviously the popularity of e-books. E-readers have become a staple—like bread and milk. So instead of fearing the unknown, we writers need to use this new wonderful venue to bring readers to our work.
What is the best advice you can give new writers?
Keep up-to-date on both facets
of your writing:
Where can we find you?