Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Author Interview-Diana Francis
Diana Francis, the author of Bitter Night, has so graciously answered some questions about herself and her writing for my blog. After learning more about her, please go to the giveaways and enter to win her new book.
I was raised on a cattle ranch in Northern California (outside a town called Lincoln which is now part of an enormous sprawl). I taught myself to ride a horse at the age of six, as no one had the time to teach me—they were all busy learning how to irrigate, how to cajole an angry bull into another field, how to pull a calf… Afraid of heights, and absolutely sure I was going to die, I managed to scramble up on the back of a very patient and lazy strawberry roan destrier, and plod off into the sunset.
Thereafter, I spent much of my early life on horseback, or so far buried into a book that the rest of the world ceased to exist (much to the annoyance of my family—it took several attempts to get my attention). We all had very specific jobs on the ranch and mine was horses and cattle—out rounding up at dawn. And since I rode bareback, my standing request was to wake me up 5 minutes before everyone else headed for the barn—time enough to dress and eat my Wheaties, and no sleep time wasted on saddling.
After high school, I attended college after college, racking up a BA and MA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in literature and theory. My very patient and supportive husband traipsed across the Midwest and back to Montana for me (though my husband insists that he’s been running and hiding and I just keep finding him), where I now teach at the University of Montana-Western. We also a son Q-ball, who in our humbly unbiased opinions, is the most wonderful son ever produced, and a daughter, Princess Caesar, who is the most wonderful daughter ever produced.
I have a fascination for the Victorians, weather, geology, horses, plants and mythology, I like spicy food, chocolate and cheesecake, and I have an odd sense of humor. (Or so I’ve been told. Often.) Incidentally, the Pharaoh is in fact my real name, and oddly enough, is of British origin.
Some of my current favorite sf/f writers are Ilona Andrews, Carol Berg, C.E. Murphy, Patty Briggs, Lynn Flewelling, Rachel Caine, David Coe, and Anne Bishop.
What path did you take to become a writer?
I was always a storyteller. I used to construct these elaborate stories for me and my friends—early role playing games. I grew up on a cattle ranch, so we had ample space for epic stories and we could use real horses.
I didn’t actually start writing until I was halfway through high school, and then it was poetry. Awful poetry, I might add. Really bad. But I had caught the writing bug. Still, it didn’t occur to me to write my stories. I read voraciously, but actually writing myself was too alien a concept to even enter my mind.
When I went to college, I decided on a lark to take a fiction writing course. It was a disaster. One of those where everyone is out to attack attack attack (I teach those courses now at a university and mine are much more positive if you ask me). Despite how awful it was, it taught me that I wanted to write. They hated my fantasy stories (not very literary), but I didn’t care. I wanted to write them.
So I wrote a lot. It was bad, too. Not as awful as the poetry, but very purple. Lots of adjectives and adverbs and grandiose language. But learning is in the practice and in reading, so I kept going. I wrote a trunk romance novel (I don’t know why romance at that point. I was reading a lot of it probably). And then I embarked on a fantasy epic.
I went to grad school and got an MA in creative writing and learned a lot of skills and I also learned I needed to write. I needed to just finish a novel and practice a whole lot more. So while I was working on my PhD., I wrote another novel and took literature classes. I wrote a few short stories, a few of which were published (check my website out under free stories for some of those).
Then I got a job in Montana, so we moved. I decided to take my nearly completed novel to Wiscon and participate in the writers workshop there (okay, only the first chapters). I got some encouragement there, and I also got a new idea for a book. So I came home and was thinking about submitting the novel when my friend called and said, do you want to do a book in a week? Um, what? It’s a strategy from the romance writers community and it’s very much like NanoWriMo, except you write in one week. The idea is that you can get time off from work and family for a week and pour all your energy into a book. By the end, if you don’t have an entire book done, you at least know if it is going to be worth pursuing, or if you want to work on something else. In the end, you’ve only invested a week, so it’s worth doing.
I started writing Path of Fate in that week and finished it about seven months later. I so desperately wanted to send it out to editors, but I knew that was a bad idea. It needed polishing. So I sent it to two beta readers who gave me feedback and then I revised. When I was done, I wanted to send it right out, but then I realized I had to master the art of the synopsis and coverletter. These are crucial. So I spent a couple of months perfecting them, and then started submitting to agents and editors. I was able to meet with one editor at World Fantasy Con and make a personal pitch, and a couple of weeks she made an offer on the trilogy.
Wow. Sorry about that. It got long.
Did you always want to be a writer?
Well, see the long-winded answer on that above.
How do you come up with story ideas?
Writers are magpies. We see bright shiny bits everywhere and we collect them. They might be historical facts, images, events—anything. We also are always wondering. Why did that happen? What would happen if? Why did he do that? What would make a person do that?
All the questions and shiny bits start to coalesce into stories and then we feel the need to write them down.
How do you balance teaching college courses, academic writing, and fiction writing?
It’s a mad juggle, quite honestly. I’ve learned to be fairly disciplined, though I wish I had better planning skills. I frequently panic and stay up later at night than I’d like. I have a family, too, and they get priority, so it means I’m frequently behind the eight ball.
Tips you have for aspiring writers?
Keep working at your craft. Read a lot and pay attentions to how writers do what they do. Study the industry. Know how to submit and to whom. There’s a lot of great info on the web. And last of all, persevere.
I don’t have a lot time for hobbies. I used to have some, but anymore, there’s just no time. Though whenever I can, I go geocaching with the family.
Do you have any hidden talents? Guilty pleasures?
My hidden talents involve being double jointed and being able to pick things up with me toes. Sad, huh? I can cook pretty well, though, and I make great foccaccia bread.
Fave author? Fave book? How many books do you read a year?
I don’t really have one favorite author or book, though if I had to pick one, I’d go with Jane Austen and either Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion. I read a fair bit, though not nearly as much as I’d like. I read a lot of my teaching, and then squeeze in all I can. My TBR pile is more like a mountain and I may never get to the bottom of it. Sigh. As they say, so many books, so little time.
Thanks for the wonderful questions and I appreciate you having me here today!
If you want to try out any of my books, you can read chapters and free short stories on my website: www.dianapfrancis.com
You can follow me on twitter: dianapfrancis
On Myspace: www.myspace.com/difrancis
On facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Diana-Pharaoh-Francis-Fantasy-Writer/163098893459?created