Dianne Blacklock is working on her 9th novel as we speak. She has recently released her 8th novel, The Secret Ingredient, and even after this long it’s still a time of great excitement when a new book is released.
With all of these words running around in Dianne’s head we asked to her to come up with a few more and answer some questions for us.
How did you get started as a writer?
I always loved writing, but as a hobby. I didn’t seriously consider it as a possible career, I didn’t have the audacity! However, many years ago a friend proposed that we knock out a Mills & Boon to make some money. Long story short, we were promptly rejected, it wasn’t as easy as we thought! So after that, we proceeded to write what we wanted to write, not for a specific publisher or audience. That manuscript became a very long-term project – enduring through having babies, building a house, returning to paid work, and my writing buddy moving overseas – but was never finished. I finally decided I needed closure, and spent six months finishing it and editing it, and then sent it off to two publishers, thinking that would be the end of that. Much to my shock, Pan Macmillan got back to me two weeks later. And that’s how I got started!
Where do you get your inspiration?
From all around me. I write about people and relationships, so I am never short of material – I make my friends nervous when we go out for a girls’ night! But I’m also an avid reader, and a huge fan of films, theatre, and some of the exceptional TV series from the last decade or so. Basically, I love stories and strong characters – that’s what inspires me.
How do you find the time to juggle it all and find the right work/home balance?
It is difficult to find a balance when you work from home. It’s very hard to clearly delineate the line between work time and free time. It helps that my office/study is upstairs in a loft on its own. I don’t have any reason to go up there if I’m not working, and I try to avoid it at least one day of every weekend. However, when I’m close to deadline, I’m working day and night, seven days. I can only do this because my kids are older now – I actually had a much more disciplined and regular routine when they were all at school, because I had no choice!
What was the most interesting job you had before you started writing full time?
I’d have to say my last job – teaching communications. I really love teaching – even now I accept any invitation to run writing workshops. And I was passionate about the subject. We covered everything from interpersonal communications to business writing, which might sound dry, but in fact, so many principles cross over into fiction writing. In the end it’s all about communicating.
Before you started writing full time you had a variety of very different jobs. If you weren’t writing full time what do you think you would be doing?
I guess I would have continued with the Master’s degree in Adult Education I had just started when the call came from the publisher. At the time I was hoping it would help me get into corporate training, perhaps human resources – though I probably would have graduated right about the time of the GFC, so who knows if I ever would have found a job?
Your new novel, The Secret Ingredient, is about to be released, what can you tell us about it?
The story centres on Andie, who gave up her dreams of being a chef when she married Ross. He left a wife and three kids for her, so Andie feels she must put their relationship first – but in reality that translates to putting Ross first. After ten years she’s feeling restless and dissatisfied, Ross seems distant, and not a little secretive … After her marriage implodes, Andie sets about to take back her life, and fulfil her original dream, whatever the obstacles – one very large one being Dominic Gerou, the head chef in the restaurant where she finds work.
You have recently started a blog. Can I ask, how important do you think interaction and social media is to modern writers?
Well, I’m hoping it’s very important! But as you say, I only recently started a blog, so I don’t know yet if it’s time well spent – and as you would be aware, it does take a lot of time! I’m still working on how to best divvy up my available time. But I must say the immediate connection that Facebook, for example, gives me to my readers has been wonderful. With the new book barely on the shelves, people were posting when and where they’d found it, and the first feedback has come in, which is so exciting, and reassuring!
Most writers seem to also be voracious readers, what are you reading at the moment?
I’m just finishing Ahn Do’s The Happiest Refugee, which has been a delight. It was for book group, so I had to interrupt The Book of Rachel by Lesley Cannold, which I’m looking forward to getting back to. After that, my TBR pile is as long as most writers’, though I heard a wonderful podcast about Sense and Sensibility the other day, so I might not be able to resist re-reading it, it has been many years!
The Secret Ingredient is about to hit shelves and you are already working on your next book, is there anything you are willing to share with us about it at this early stage?
As it is still very much evolving, there’s not a lot I can say, but perhaps I can offer a few teasers. It revolves around a feisty, activist single mum of a young daughter, who is herself the daughter of a similarly feisty, activist single mum. She has a supportive partner, a decent, earnest man, but at this stage there doesn’t appear to be much passion. Her work is going to lead her into conflict with the owner of a vineyard … That’s all I can say for now!
I have to admit, I’m a little behind on current events because I don’t follow the news or newspapers. Even so, I have managed to hear about the great chick lit debate. What is your stand on the issue?
I’m undecided about the label itself – there were responses on my blog post which made a good point that ‘women’s fiction’ might sound too politically correct, perhaps even boring! Some don’t mind what their books are called, as long as people are reading them. Others feel ‘chick lit’ diminishes women’s writing, and probably cuts out a proportion of the potential audience. I totally accept that marketing demands a label, I only wish, whatever label it must wear, that the genre was given more respect. It seems most other genres are given due credit for what they are – crime is a good example. No one is claiming ‘literary’ status, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of engaging, compelling stories out there, that are well-written by women, about women. When men write about love and relationships and domestic matters, it is received very differently than when women write about the same things.
E-books are another hot topic and seem to be gaining great popularity. What is your opinion on e-books and does it differ depending on whether you are thinking as a reader or a writer?
I don’t think it differs, no. Ebooks are fantastic. As a reader, they’re convenient, you can have a small library with you wherever you go, which is particularly good for travelling. You can download a new book as soon as you hear about it with the touch of a button – great for anyone who is a long way from a bookshop. And the print can be adjusted, a boon for readers with eyesight problems. Of course I love paper books; I have all the sentiment for them that booklovers do – the smell of them, the feel of them – but I think they’ll be around for a while yet, and I also think that both forms can co-exist. As a writer, I see only benefits – ereaders are simply another means of delivering content, and my content can now be effortlessly delivered to people across the world, which is great for us authors down under!
What does being a woman mean to you?
Wow! That’s a big question! How long do you have? I guess the most important and essential part of life to me is relationships – that’s why I write about them. I have four sons, so being their mother is a huge part of my life, and although it can be draining, and thankless at times, it is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done. They’re all but grown now, but I love that we have a special connection that they don’t have with anyone else, because I’m their mum. I love the close and intimate friendships women have so effortlessly – we can talk about anything and everything. I’ve tried hard to instil that openness in my boys, so they’re not afraid to communicate their feelings. It’s definitely a strength of being a woman.
Thanks for stopping by to chat Dianne, I love getting a little further into the heads of the authors I read.
Thank you for having me!
To learn more about Dianne and check out her blog I’m sure she’d love you to head over and visit her at: http://dianneblacklock.wordpress.com/