Guest Author Interview: Diana Duncan by Susan Lute
Good morning SJP’ers. I hope you have coffee at your elbow and are ready to be entertained. Today we welcome Diana Duncan to See Jane Publish. I’ve known Diana from the time we both wrote for Harlequin. She’s funny, determined, and always has a smile for everyone. Her journey through this crazy business is amazing!
Here’s a little bit about Diana… When her dreams of becoming a ballerina were quashed by early-onset klutziness, Di took up the safer vocation of writing. Her first thrilling masterpiece—written in orange crayon—was titled “Perky the Kitten,” and became an instant bestseller with her grandparents. Growing up as a military brat gave her the ability to leap into a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime…and she always discovers a new friend in the process. This gift of gab perfectly equipped her for a career that involves making stuff up. Di is famous for using seven words when one will do. She wields smart-assery like a samurai sword, loves her job as an author, and claims writing is the most fun she’s ever had while wearing her sock monkey pajamas. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, and adopting abandoned curbside furniture to refurbish into treasures. She published six award-winning books with a traditional print publisher before going rogue with Indie publishing. You can find Diana at her website and on Facebook.
Tell us about your publishing journey.
I’ve always loved reading and writing. I wrote articles and short stories all the way through school until graduation. I got married right afterward and put my husband through college, followed by the birth of two daughters. During those years, I had no time to write.
After Daughter #2 was born, I began having a dream. Over and over. The same dark-haired kilted warrior. The same scene every time (which I can’t reveal b/c of spoilers! *G*). That dream haunted me for five years…until I wrote it down and tucked it away.
Finally when my daughter went to first grade and I had a few free hours during the day, I started writing my first manuscript – a Scottish paranormal which ended with the scene from that dream.
Almost the moment I finished it, the paranormal market tanked. So it got stashed for “some day.”
I switched to romantic suspense, because I also loved to read those. Nine full completed manuscripts and five long years later, I finally sold “Bulletproof Bride” to Harlequin Romantic Suspense. It was based on the real-life event of being robbed when I’d worked as a bank teller. The robber was cute and charming (YEP!) and my writer’s brain said… “Hmmm. What if…” Which made Gabe, my cute & charming bank robber hero, spring to life.
I didn’t sell any of those other eight pre-sale finished manuscripts. After “Bulletproof Bride,” my editor wanted all new stories, so my “Forever in a Day” 24 hour series was born. I wrote four books featuring my sexy SWAT team heroes, and then another, separate, romantic suspense. A total of six books for Harlequin, two of which were nominated for RITA awards. My sales numbers were strong and growing with every book. One book won a “Best Continuity of the Year Award” and another won “Best Category of the Year Award.” I had all 4 and 4 ½ star reviews, and reader emails told me they were really relating to my stories and characters. I was at the top of my game.
Then everything crashed and burned.
A little later, I’ll talk more about hitting the wall, falling into the pit, and then finally climbing out again.
What’s the funniest thing to happen to you along your road to publication and what was the most exciting?
The most exciting thing is definitely the same answer I’m guessing almost all authors have: When I got “the call” to tell me I’d sold my very first book. OMG! I was jumping up and down and shrieking into the phone. My poor new editor probably thought she had a lunatic on her hands. lol!
Funniest thing…ah…there have been a lot of odd goings-on here since I became an author. *G* It’s a well-known fact I will do just about anything for research. Including asking my hubby to duct tape me up and put me in the trunk of our car so I could see what it was like. Our neighbors got quite an eyeful, and I’m really surprised nobody called 911. Luckily, they all know me and the crazy things I write about.
What has been the most challenging thing related to publishing you’ve had to deal with on your journey?
Ah. The crash and burn. Just after I completed my sixth book, the romantic suspense line was assigned a new senior editor, who had a completely different vision for the line. My sales record and street creds suddenly became worthless. Nothing I wrote fit her vision. She rejected 18 story proposals (3 full chapters and a complete synopsis) within a 12 month period.
I finally got a clue (took me long enough, didn’t it? *G*) and realized I wasn’t going to sell at that house anymore. I was heartbroken and adrift. Didn’t know what to write, where to go next. Not to mention the financial devastation to our family at a time when my youngest daughter developed very expensive health problems.
I started to try to write to the market, instead of writing the stories my heart was passionate about. I fell into the trap of trying to please editors and agents instead of myself and my readers. Over the next two years as I flung stuff at the wall to see what would stick, and rejection after rejection poured in, I grew more and more desperate.
Writing was no longer fun and fulfilling, it was an agonizing chore. My dream was on life support, and dying a little more every day.
My amazing critique partners convinced me to forget the market and write what my heart wanted. And that haunting dream sequence from long, long ago came instantly to mind. I tossed out my entire first manuscript based around it…except for the ending…and started over with an entirely new premise based on the mythology surrounding Morrigan, the Celtic goddess of prophecy and war. It took me another wretched fourteen months to reinvent myself and write my paranormal romance, “Sword of the Raven.”
Every word was like yanking pieces from my soul with pliers. On those pages, I worked out my angst by forcing my heroine to stand up to her fears and doubts. Forcing the hero to face his loss of control over his life. And I killed a bunch of nasty fictional bad guys in creative ways, and cried a whole lot.
When I was done, I knew “Sword of the Raven” was the best thing I’ve ever written…because it was born from genuine soul-deep pain and passion.
And guess what? The “best ever” story of my heart got rejected. Over and over, for another year. My snarky heroine scared editors and agents! They only wanted “dark, dark voices and dark, dark stories.”
Meanwhile, Indie Publishing had taken off like a wildfire. I joined Indie Publishing loops and groups and absorbed every bit of info I could about how to bypass editors and agents with their “dark, dark expectations,” and sell my stories directly to readers.
A light came on inside me, burning away the darkness. Hey! I can be true to myself and give my readers all the humor and quirkiness and adventure and sexiness—and yeah, the SNARK—they expect from a Diana Duncan story. I can do this MY WAY!
“Sword of the Raven” still needed major editing, so I rewrote one of those early manuscripts. I polished and published “Deal with the Devil,” the first book in my Devilish Devlins series. Readers loved it, and it started selling far better than I ever expected.
I spent another month of seventeen-hour days honing “Sword of the Raven” to perfection.
On October 27th, the day it came out, “Sword of the Raven” climbed to #14 on Amazon’s “Hot New Fantasy Romance” list! Directly beneath authors like Mercedes Lackey and Sherrilyn Kenyon! ::faints::
Baby, if that isn’t validation, I don’t know what is. *G*
Who is your favorite author, and what are you currently reading?
Oh, you would ask! lol! I read in every genre of romance and I own over a thousand books…so there’s no way I can pick just one favorite! However, if you twisted my arm really hard and forced me to choose my “go to” author, it would be Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb. I know when I pick up a La Nora book, I’m getting a fantastic story that transports me to another place, with “real” characters that I’ll like and root for. Her stories are a sure ticket to escape my worry and problems, and banish whatever is getting me down or stressing me out. I can just relax and enjoy myself, and isn’t that exactly what we want from a book?
I have a TBR pile that is higher than my head…no exaggeration. The wonderful news about Indie publishing is that I have total control. The bad news is that I have total control. Not only do I have the responsibility to write a killer book, I also have to design an enticing cover, write selling blurb copy, and format, then upload the completed files so readers can buy it. My two incredible critique partners, authors Susan Gable and Jennifer August, keep me sharp with proofing and edits, and vice versa. Which means we also have to make time to read and critique each other’s work. With very little time & energy left over for taking care of my home & family and/eating/sleeping/breathing.
I’ve had to give up watching TV (except for my favorite HGTV shows!) and leisure reading is also drastically curtailed. But as soon as I get a few moments, the next novel on my list is J.D. Robb’s newest Eve & Roarke story: “New York to Dallas.”
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m so excited! Daughter #1 has been brainstorming with me on Morrigan’s Legacy, my Celtic mythology-based contemporary paranormal series, and she’s decided to write young adult books about the paranormal world we’ve created. She’s very independent and self-contained, so working with her will give us something special in common. I’m looking forward to a whole new adventure! “Shield of Thorns” is the 2nd book in the series, and it will follow my current October release, the 1st book in the series, “Sword of the Raven,” hopefully by next summer.
In the meantime, “Devil May Care” (the 2nd book in my Devilish Devlins fun, sexy contemporary romance series) will be out in late November or early December, followed by “Taken by the Highlander,” a smokin’ time travel, in late December. Followed by two connected romantic suspense novels: “Laws of Attraction” in January and “Big, Bad, Wolfe” in February.
You see now why I’ve been wearing the same shirt, both to wear and sleep in, for four days in a row? lol!
I’ve never been busier, more productive…or happier.
Thank you for hosting me today. It was so much fun. : )
When her dreams of becoming a ballerina were quashed by early-onset klutziness, Diana Duncan took up the safer vocation of writing. Her first thrilling masterpiece—written in orange crayon—was titled “Perky the Kitten,” and became an instant bestseller with her grandparents.
Her childhood growing up as a military brat gave her ability to leap into a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime…and she always discovers a new friend in the process. This gift of gab perfectly equipped her for a career that involves making stuff up.
Di is famous for using seven words when one will do. She wields smart-assery like a samurai sword, and will be the first to volunteer in a catastrophe. Of course, she was probably the one who caused the catastrophe. She’s fiercely loyal to her friends and family…but in the event of the upcoming zombie apocalypse, she won’t hesitate to use them as human shields.
She loves her job as an author, and claims writing is the most fun she’s ever had while wearing her sock monkey pajamas. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, and adopting abandoned curbside furniture to refurbish into treasures.
Diana published six award-winning books with a traditional print publisher before going rogue with Indie publishing.
And feel free to stop by and ogle her kilted hunks — or to peruse or purchase her books — on her website http://www.dianaduncan.com