Last week I reviewed the wonderful The Midwife's Confession by Diane Chamberlain. Today I am please to share with you our interview with Ms. Chamberlain.
GJR: I love that ultimately, The Midwife’s Confession is about friendship. What is the difference in writing friendships of adult women compared to that of teenage girls?
Diane Chamberlain (DC): What a super question! First of all, I’m an idealist when it comes to friendships. I rarely write about cattiness and backstabbing and I’m very turned off by the representation of friendships between women and girls when they’re presented that way. So whether I’m writing about women or teenagers, the relationship between them is usually based on caring and love. Although there are inevitable conflicts, there’s also a deep desire to make things work out. The major difference, I think, is in the issues they’re dealing with. With women, I often write about motherhood and marriage, with teens I write about guys and putting up with parents. The level of love and caring is generally different between women and teens as well. In The Midwife’s Confession, grown-ups Tara and Emerson have a solid love between them that nothing can harm. Their daughters are only discovering that sort of love and that it can exist with people who are outside their own family.
GJR: I love Grace’s strength. Is she modeled after anyone?
DC: I really like Grace, too. I tend never to model characters after real people, because it makes it harder for the characters to “grow” into themselves in my imagination if I’m trying to fit them into the mold of a real person.
GJR: What was the most difficult part in writing this novel?
DC: The hardest part came after I’d written several drafts. I thought I was finished, yet I felt as if something was missing in the story but wasn't sure what it was. It took my editor to point out to me that what was missing was the midwife, Noelle, herself. She dies in chapter one, so it hadn’t occurred to me to give her a point of view. I then added eleven chapters from Noelle’s point of view and the novel really took off. Noelle revealed secrets to me even I didn’t know she had.
GJR: What motivates you to write? How do you overcome the dreaded writer’s block?
DC: My first four novels flew out of my fingertips, but then my first marriage fell apart in one of those horrible, sickening, sudden ways and I believe I’ve had writer’s block ever since (although, I hasten to add, the end of that marriage turned out to be a gift, as those things often do). So since The Midwife’s Confession is my 20th book, I can say I’ve written 16 of them with writer’s block. How do I do it? I just do. There’s no easy way around it. I put words on paper. They are usually pretty bad in the beginning, but then I revise and revise. My good friend, author Mary Kay Andrews, says “You can’t revise what you haven’t written,” and it really helps me to remember that.
GJR: Are you currently working on another novel? If so, what is the premise?
DC: Actually, I’ve already finished another novel, called The Good Father, which will be published June 2012. My editor has it now, and I’m sure she’ll have some suggestions, so I’ll be revising in the coming month. Then it’s on to the next one.
GJR: Who are your favorite authors?
DC: So many! Luanne Rice, Kristin Hannah, Elizabeth Berg, Alice Hoffman, Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Rivers Siddons, Mary Alice Monroe, Emilie Richards. . . I could go on forever!
GJR: What are you currently reading?
DC: I’m reading my own book, Kiss River, because it’s to be reissued in the fall and I need to see if I want to make any changes. Kiss River is the second book in the Keeper of the Light trilogy, and Keeper of the Light was just reissued a few weeks ago. I have a list a mile long of books I want to read, though, and I hope as soon as I’m done with Kiss River, I can dig into one of them.
GJR: Once a novel is complete, are you ever tempted to revisit past characters and shake up their lives a bit?
DC: Very rarely. The one exception is with Keeper of the Light. It was originally published in the early 90s, and readers kept asking me about those characters. So twelve years later, I decided to see what they were up to. It was so much fun to revisit them and see what had happened during the intervening years. The teenagers were now grown up with their own sets of problems. I absolutely loved seeing them again, but I usually like to leave my characters alone once I’ve written 'The End'.
GJR: When you write, do you have total quiet or background noise? How has that changed over the years?
DC: It’s strange. At home, I listen to soundtracks that have no lyrics. I’m very distracted by lyrics, but I love soundtracks that are highly emotional. Some of my favorites are Blood Diamond, Out of Africa, Braveheart, and Dances with Wolves. However, I often spend my mornings in Starbucks where the music is quite loud and usually does have lyrics. Somehow I’m able to tune the sound out there and still get a lot done. Must be the caffeine.
GJR: How do you decide to whom to dedicate a novel?
DC: It often depends on the subject matter or on something that happened in my life during the writing of the story. I dedicated The Midwife’s Confession to a ten-year-old girl who inspired me during the writing. One of my characters has childhood leukemia, and I followed her father’s blog as the girl underwent treatment. I became friendly with the family and remained so even once my research was finished. The girl lost her fight with leukemia just as I was finishing the book. I’m still heartbroken for her and her wonderful family.
GJR: Something Different: As a fellow Jersey girl, I have to ask…You can take the girl out of Jersey, but can you really take the Jersey out of the girl?
DC: No, you certainly cannot and who would want to?? I left New Jersey at age 20. Since then I’ve lived in California, Virginia and North Carolina and I loved every place I’ve lived and totally adore the south. But I will always have a place in my heart for diners and Taylor pork roll and Springsteen and the Jersey Shore. Getting misty-eyed just thinking about it!
Thank you Ms. Chamberlain for taking the time from you busy schedule to answer our questions.