Whenever I read Diane’s blog, Life on the Border, I smile or laugh right out loud. Once I even splutter coffee out my nose. That’s the way she makes me laugh. I wonder to myself, how do we have such similar memories, so far away from each other.
Diane lives in Beaumont, Alberta Canada. She says it’s the sweetest little spot on earth. She could be right, but I grew up in a pretty sweet part of Michigan. Diane could have been one of my little sisters. Well, anyways, she is a little younger than me.
Diane is waaay ahead of me in writing. I counted 24 books on Goodreads!
I am so very pleased she agreed to tell me more about herself and her writing.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your childhood and early adulthood.
I was born in Southern Alberta and raised on one of the last of the great old cattle ranches to a family of storytellers. I learned to tell ‘big windys’ long before I needed to. My daily life was an adventure of riding, swimming, chicken-avoiding, hired-man teasing, and hanging out with the best family ever!
Oh yes, chicken avoiding. I can relate to that. No details needed. The memories come flooding back. From gathering eggs from “sitting hens,” to rooster attacks, I know what she means.
Q: What is your life like now? (Family/marriage/career. Anything you’d like to share.)
When growing up–if someone asked–all I ever wanted to do as a career was become a veterinarian like my dad. But truly, all I ever wanted to be was a wife and a mom. And, following Mrs. Hainsworth’s advice in grade 6, a writer.
I’ve been happily married to my sweetheart for nearly 45 years now. We are the parents of 6 and grandparents of 21. I never went the ‘vet’ route, but rather took my degree in journalism. Before marriage, I worked in magazines. After, I free-lanced and wrote stories. Tons and tons of stories. And chased my kids. The best of all worlds!
Diane seems to be a bit more prolific in the family area, too. Me with four children and 12 grands.
Q: What has 2020 been like for you?
Okay, admission time–I’ve frankly enjoyed the down time! When everyone was locked down, I was happily at home, pegging away on the computer. Nowhere I had to be. No meetings to attend. It was actually quite peaceful. Of course, Husby is retired, so our income didn’t change and we didn’t have that worry. Still I find the slower pace much more to my liking. The only down to it all is worrying over everyone else who is suffering. I tend to do that…
Yup. I didn’t notice that much of a daily change. Although, I miss visiting family, nuclear and extended.
Q: What was your career path to author?
Journalism. I worked in several daily and weekly newspapers as a reporter. Though, always, I hated the hard news. I loved the puff pieces. The family stories. The good stuff. As a journalist, I reported the news. Everyone else’s news. It fed my love of writing, but just enough to keep it from becoming anaemic or out-and-out starving to death. Now I get to tell my stories my way!
I didn’t get into journalism until I retired from the pharmaceutical industry. I loved the personal interest pieces, too. So many interesting people out there!
Q: Tell me a little bit about your writing process
Many times, I have been, for want of a better word, plagued by a thought or a scene. It plays over and over in my head until I put down whatever my current WIP is and write it down. From there, I just have to see what is going to happen. I usually don’t work from an outline. (That would just be organized, wouldn’t it?) But most of the time, I know where my book is going before I even start writing.
Q: I see you have several novels. How long does it take you to finish a novel?
I can usually finish a novel in six weeks. The shortest has been three. The longest 2 months. Like a book I am reading that I simply can’t put down, I really like to find out what is going to happen next!
Now that’s where we diverge. It takes me years to get a novel finished. The characters just won’t follow the path I think they should. They are like naughty children refusing to stay in bed.
Q: How did you choose the genre?
I love fantasy and SciFi because one can, to a certain extent, make up one’s facts. Of course there must be a grain of ‘authenticity’ about your writing, but you can get away with much more than if you write–say–a biography! Historical fiction is fun and I love it, but oh, the research! But best of all is Biblical fiction. Tons of research, but so much inspiration!
Q: Did you have any fears about writing Christian fiction?
Absolutely none. I love Christian fiction because, as a Christian who begins and ends my days with scriptures and prayer, and spends much of each day speaking to my Heavenly Father, it’s who I am. I don’t have to pretend. I can write about things that are important to me and in a way that is normal–like breathing. I have always felt that, if I have a modicum of talent, it is my Heavenly Father who gave it to me and I owe it to him and to my Saviour to use it in ways that will please, and perhaps glorify, Them. And uplift any who read my writing. I know there are others out there who are the same. That pick up a book, not for the shock value, but for the REAL value. I write for Him. And I write for them.
I am learning to trust that path. Maybe my stories would get out of me faster if I didn’t resist the flow.
Q: How do you describe your faith? And how does it guide your writing?
My faith is at the core of my being. The rock I built my house on and that I stand on each day. I think every book I’ve written reflects my faith in some way. Either through the core values of my characters. Or the spiritual solutions to the situations.
Q: What was your biggest challenge?
Closing my quotes. I always remember to open them. but far too often, leave them unclosed. Unfinished. I have two editors. One is my eldest daughter, whom I call my ‘Quotation Mark Sheriff’. She has her work cut out for her!
Q: How did waiting until this stage in your life influence your writing?
I have a broader outlook now. I’ve seen more. Experienced more. I’m painting with a wider brush. Let’s face it–there’s likely more of my life behind me than before. I think it gives me a better–more eternal–perspective.
Q: What are your thoughts on writer’s block? Have you ever experienced it?
Ohmyword, yes! And, strangely enough, the worst has been while I have had all this writing time during COVID! I think, at the back of my mind is the unsettled nature of the world right now. But in order to write at all, I have to give myself assignments. Otherwise, I find myself just sitting, playing solitaire. I fight it by reading. Fulfilling said assignments and writing small pieces. I think it keeps the machinery lubricated at the very least!
I’ve had a more difficult time, too. I think it’s because I want to focus on the positive. There’s so much positive out there.
Q: Tell me about your path to publication. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
My story is glorious–after the years and years and years of trying…
For thirty years, I was sending out manuscripts–with a SASE–and getting little form letters back. ‘Thanks but…’ It was always a blow. Rather becalmed me and I’d have to wait a while to try again. I remember thinking I’d have to change my writing to make it more appealing to a publisher. Husby was a huge voice against that. He told me I needed to find a publisher who liked what I had to say and how I said it. And not one who tried to change me into their idea of a writer.
With the internet and more and more publications taking online submissions, things were vastly easier. I started sending out more manuscripts.
When it finally happened, it happened quickly!
My first published book, Carving Angels, took me three weeks to write. Virtually no editing. and 1 week to find a publisher. I know this is an unusual story, but it was, I guess, an unusual book!Since then, I’ve had 14 (actually 17 including e-books) novels published, some traditionally, some self. It has been so fun!
Q: How does blogging help your writing career?
Blogging keeps me writing. Through the good days and bad. Through the blocks. And, I think, it gets my name out there. If everyone who follows my blog told two friends, and they told two friends and so on and so on, in no time, I’d be a household name. I once Googled my name and the first thing that popped up was my blog. That is how important blogging is!
Q: How can someone grow their writing career?
Keep on writing. Start a blog. And enter contests. Lots and lots and lots of contests. And write to agents and publishers. If nothing else, you will improve your letter-writing!
Q: Tell me about your first day of school. There was no kindergarten in Milk River, the nearest town to our ranch. So my first day of my school career was the start of Grade One. September 6, 1960. I remember it so clearly. Finally being able to join my brothers and sister on the school bus. (Small kids immediately behind the driver. Big kids further back.) The smell of the new school. Meeting (and immediately loving) Miss Woronoski. Especially when she handed me Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat. Renee’s puffy pink dress and my first (and last) effort at teasing. Doing arithmetic with little bundles of sticks. (I loved saying ‘bundles’!) Learning the school rules and traditions (Infractions were punished by having to eat a lemon in front of the whole school during Friday assembly–true story.) Morning recess and having bona-fide playground equipment to play on. Meeting new kids and making new friends. Opening my lunch pail for the first time and discovering what treasures Mom had tucked inside! More classes. Afternoon recess and learning the a girl named Kathy and I were the fastest runners in Grade One. Trying to remember my lunch pail and book bag, then climbing back on the bus for the loooong ride home. Falling fast asleep and being awakened by Mr. Sabey at Nine-Mile Corner. Falling asleep again in the car to the ranch and once more at the supper table. Then too excited to sleep when actually in my bed. Yep. It was a good day.
My first day of school is as memorable. That’s why I like to ask this question. So many people dreaded that first day. I like, Diane, anticipated school with an excitement that did not disappoint.
Q: What were you like in high school?
I was fairly quiet. Studious. The total opposite of what I was when at home. I had a good group of friends–bookworms, much like me. I usually had some ‘guy’ friends as well, but definitely nothing serious. We spent a lot of time walking downtown at lunch and sitting in the library at school. Interestingly, I always got along with my teachers, especially my English teachers and I received the English Honours medal for our county. I played baseball (my personal favourite), basketball and volleyball. Even helped my teams make it to Provincials on more than one occasion.
Q: Compared to when you were a child, are you doing what you thought you would be doing?
I am doing EXACTLY what I hoped I would be doing. Being a Mom. And writing. Heaven doesn’t get much better than this!
I gave up my goal of being a nun when I realized I couldn’t be a mother, too. Like Diane, that is my vocation, and the most important thing I do.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who has the same background/childhood/aspirations as you?
Carry on. Stay strong. Make good, supportive friends. Don’t let anyone tell you you haven’t the brains to do something. (Like my high school counselor, may-he-fall-in-public) Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing.
Here are some more places you can find Diane:
Website: Diane Stringam Tolley – Home
You can also find Diane’s books at “Chapters” stores in Canada and “Seagull Books” and “Deseret Books” in the States.
Some of my books are available at Chapters stores in Canada. Seagull Books and Deseret Books in the USA.
All of Diane’s books are available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca
One more book before you go. Kris Kringle’s Magic is free for the Kindle! Just in time for my Rez Reads December book club assignment.Tweet