This interview by Lori A. May appeared in the International Thriller Writers "Big Thrill" newsletter.
Dianne Emley escaped a career in business middle management and the cubicle warren and now writes the Detective Nan Vining thrillers published by Ballantine. The debut, The First Cut, was an LA Times bestseller. Publisher's Weekly called Cut to the Quick "compelling" and "edgy." The Deepest Cut, a Romantic Times TOP PICK, received a starred review from Booklist. Love Kills was released in May 2010. The series has been translated into several languages. A Los Angeles native, Dianne has a BA and an MBA from UCLA. She lives in Pasadena with her patient husband and two willful cats.
Dianne was pleased to chat about writing, life, and her latest in the series--Love Kills.
Q: Congratulations on Love Kills, the fourth book in the best-selling Detective Nan Vining series. When you started writing the debut in the series, The First Cut, did you imagine Nan would take you for such a ride?
A: Thank you! I can't wait for Nan's fans to reconnect with her in her newest adventure, Love Kills, which is jam-packed with twists and turns. When I started writing The First Cut, the series debut, I wanted to keep readers turning the pages into the wee hours of the night. I have to say that Nan has taken me to some unexpected and exciting places that neither I nor she could predict. In her obsession to trap the man who ambushed her and left her for dead, whom she and her daughter have dubbed T.B. Mann (short for The Bad Man), she's danced on the line between right and wrong, scaring even herself (and me).
Q: Perhaps more than ever, Nan has some serious personal stakes within Love Kills. What sort of struggle do you have, as Nan's creator, to keep her balanced between peril and pursuit?
A: Love Kills takes Nan disturbingly close to home when she learns that the seemingly unrelated murders of a Hollywood P.I. in a seedy East L.A. motel and the mysterious drowning of Pasadena socialite in her backyard pool do, in fact, have a connection--Nan's mother. Even though Nan faces daunting challenges investigating these new homicides, she must stay grounded and balanced as she is a single mom to her fifteen-year-old daughter, Emily. No matter the perils of her day job, Nan has to make sure that Em gets to and from school, eats well, does her homework and chores, and stays out of trouble.
Q: You have quite an impressive tour schedule this summer! Some might say the book tour is on a decline--in part due to the economy and partly since there are more online marketing opportunities than ever for writers. What do you like most about touring and why do you think there is still value in meeting readers face-to-face?
A: The writing life is solitary. Contact with fans and other writers online is a form or connection, but there's no comparison between sharing Twitter tweets versus a handshake, a face-to-face smile, and real conversation. I enjoy the discussions that arise at book signings. Plus, I love chatting with booksellers, finding out what they're reading, and poking around genuine brick-and-mortar stores.
Q: When you were eleven, you asked for a desk and a typewriter for Christmas. Do you still have these items of nostalgia? If not a Smith Corona, how do you prefer to now write out your works-in-progress?
A: That desk and typewriter were given away long ago. The desk was tiny. Don't miss it, but I do miss the Smith Corona portable for sentimental reasons. I typed many college papers on it, scads of letters, and my earliest fiction. I still have the Brother portable electric that replaced it and I also have two antiques, an Underwood and a Royal, both from the 1920s. They are impressive--big and heavy. I sometimes tap their keys just to hear that typewriter "clack." Now I mostly write on computers, about which I'm not sentimental. They get traded in regularly. For revisions, I print out the manuscript and handwrite with Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils, sharpened with a manual sharpener that's bolted to the back of a door. I reach a point where I need to touch the words and handle the manuscript.
Q: It took several career changes and some far-reaching travel to finally settle in as a writer. What would you say to others who have realized they have done everything else they want or should--go to college, get a job, get married--and still feel that desire for writing, but perhaps wonder if it's too late to start?
A: It's never too late, as long as there is breath in your lungs, ideas in your mind that you'd like to put on paper, and a fire in your belly to write. That's the charm of the writer's life--youth and beauty aren't important! Wisdom and perspective make your work richer. On the other hand, you don't need to wait until you've attained that great college degree, job, relationship, family, etc. to begin. All you really need is to start. And don't stop, no matter what. Set a routine. Make writing an important part of your day. Carve out just one hour, five days a week, put your butt in the chair, and do it.
Q: Earlier in your writing endeavors, you signed up for a writing class and now you're a published member of International Thriller Writers. How has ITW benefited you and why is it important for writers to connect with others via classes, organizations, and writing groups?
A: ITW and Thrillerfest are terrific. I always learn something at Thrillerfest and reading The Big Thrill. At Thrillerfest, it's great to connect with old pals and make new friends. As I said earlier in this interview, the writing life is solitary. It's easy to get bogged down and in a rut. Sometimes talking with another writer is just what I need to work through a rough plot point or a rough career patch. It's nurturing to connect with folks who understand your career and craft challenges and joys. I started my first book in a writing class, where I also found my first mentor. I got that book published and my mentor became a trusted colleague through the years. I don't know if I would have finished that first book and set about finding and agent and a publisher without the support and the nudging of other writers.
Q: Finally, what's the future for Nan? Will we see a fifth book in the series?
A: I'm giving Nan a break for the time being and am working on a new book, a thriller, that I'm very excited about. There will likely be another Nan Vining. For now, I'm putting all my effort into this new book, hanging on for what is shaping up to be quite a ride. Thank you for inviting me to participate in this Q & A and for sharing your time with me.