I am pleased to welcome author Diane Farr. Diane and I met through a mutual writer friend on Facebook, who was also a guest of mine here.
Thank you, Tonette. I shall try not to embarrass myself.
While I was considering future guests, you jumped to mind since I can’t resist encouraging a fellow poet! (Our Hound is also a poet.) Your first published work was poetry, when you were young. Can you tell us a little about your poetry?
Oh dear. I wrote my first poem at the age of five:
Is so gay
I wish it would always
Be like May.
Fortunately for my future career, I quickly moved on to prose — although it’s true that my first published work was a childhood poem that tickled the fancy of a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian. In the interest of full disclosure, I shall reproduce it here and let you judge its merits for yourself:
The lightning flashes! The thunder roars!
The whole house shakes, clear down to its floors!
The rain is pouring so thick and so fast
That I sit here and wonder how long it will last.
But one thing is certain, be it near or far,
The cause of this rain is a newly-washed car.
It is a sad commentary on the state of our culture that my youthful attempts at light verse were rewarded with publication, when so many actual poets languish in obscurity. If you are among them, please comfort yourself with the knowledge that I received neither fortune nor fame for my efforts —which is possibly the only feature my verses share with the work of real poets.
My father served as my literary agent in those days. He used to rummage through the trash and extract the scribblings I threw away, unaware that my judgment of their worth was the correct one. I actually have a framed letter sent to him by Barbara Walters. It thanks him for sending her his daughter’s “very amusing poem” and assures him that she will read it aloud on NBC’s Today Show someday, if time permits. Did time ever permit? Alas, we do not know. The VCR was yet to be invented.
Most of your novels are Regency Romances. What made you choose this setting for your stories?
“Choose” is an interesting word. I had little choice in the matter, since the reason why I began writing The Nobody was that Georgette Heyer had been dead for nearly two decades, and seemed likely to remain so. I was a Heyer junkie and needed a fix. I’d read all of her books, most of them multiple times, and wanted a new one in the worst way. In my desperation, I sat down and wrote the book I wanted to read: A Georgette Heyer novel with kisses (which are normally missing from her books). Did it supply the needed fix? No. I am not, and never will be, Georgette Heyer. But if you’re a hardcore smoker and Nicorette is all that’s available, you can “make do” with Nicorette. Or so I am told.
Like many new authors, I began by imitating an author I admired and discovered my own voice along the way. The Nobody is highly derivative and, in my opinion, tries a bit too hard. This is because I wrote it for my own amusement and deliberately tried to recreate, to the extent I could, a voice that was not my own. I even wrote it using English spelling (all changed to American by my publisher, because that’s the way they rolled). But in the places where I sounded least like Ms. Heyer, I discovered I sounded most like myself. So I learned. The book was a double RITA finalist — Best Regency and Best First Book — so I must have done something right. But if I had really channeled the Grand Georgette, she surely would have won!
Do you write in any other genre?
I was a theater major so, logically, my first “real” publication —the kind where they pay you — was as a playwright. (I still tell my stories largely through dialogue.) Although I am writing another Regency at the moment, my most recent books were contemporary tales. Young Adult Paranormal, I believe is the classification. You know, teenagers with powers.
The Spellspinners is a Young Adult supernatural series. Why did you choose to do a YA series?
My agent asked me to. Really! I am such a wimp.
About ten years ago, the market for historical romance narrowed. Indie publishing had not yet taken off, and the Big Six (I guess they are the Big Five now, more’s the pity) were only interested in publishing “hot” historicals. As I said at the time, and still believe, adding sex scenes to my books is like pouring mustard on ice cream. Nothing wrong with mustard; I’m fond of it. But it adds nothing to the ice cream experience and, in fact, can ruin the effect. So my agent said, okay, if you don’t want to put sex scenes in your historicals, try writing YA.
How did the idea for The Spellspinners come to you?
My agent said, “How about a teenage witch?” (Note: It’s not an agent’s job to be creative.) I had the sneaking suspicion that “teenage witch” had already been done. Was, in fact, well-traveled territory. But sometimes an idea that leaves you cold can spark one that grabs you. I started thinking “What if…” and Wicked Cool was born.
I see there are three in the series. Is this a complete trilogy, or are you planning on writing more?
The trilogy is complete (Wicked Cool, Scary Cool, Epic Cool) but there are certainly more books to be written. I hope someone else writes them. I am the world’s slowest writer. In my dreams, Amazon picks up The Spellspinners as one of its “Kindle Worlds” and other people write books set in the world I created. I’d love to read Raina’s story, for example, or Rune’s, or even Amber’s … and since there are fifty spellspinners in the world at any given time, there could also be historicals that feature spellspinners. The sky’s the limit. I just don’t think I have enough years ahead of me to write all those books!
Will you be doing any more YA?
I admit, there are at least two YA books among my “starts.” (Every writer has folders full of “starts,” I’m sure.) One is a Regency-set spellspinner book, and the other is a book called Twinset that features a pair of far-from-identical twins. But as I think I may have mentioned, I am the world’s slowest writer. So these books may or may not actually get written!
I read a lot of YA, as do many of my adult friends. Do you hear from your ‘mature’ readers?
I do indeed. It seems there are a lot of mothers out there who screen books before giving them to their kids — and, I’m happy to say, many adults who (like you and me) read YA for pleasure.
I just finished the first Spellspinners book and I have to say, I am really into finding out what happens. You are very good at dialogue, I must say! You have a good balance of describing without over-detailing. Without giving anything away, I am so pleased that you didn’t fall into some of the plot pits that so many writers do; the relationships are much more natural than most. I am not a big Regency reader, but I really want to check into yours since I see what you can do.
Thank you! I’m very pleased to hear that, and hope you enjoy my other books if you pick them up.
How do you do your research on the Regency era? Do your readers ever try to catch you in a mistake? (I hear hardcore Regency readers are notorious for that!)
You are right! Diehard Regency readers are seeking a time-travel vacation, and if you make an egregious error you jolt them rudely out of the fantasy. Thank God for Google — and Webster’s. (Webster’s Dictionary tells you the first recorded instance of a word being used. This helps you avoid anachronisms — like having someone in 1818 greet someone else with “hello.”)
Once I had a situation where someone had to carry a leather bag with handles, like a Gladstone bag. My book was set in 1807 and William Gladstone wasn’t Prime Minister until 1868. So I called it a “Glastonbury bag.” There is no such thing as a Glastonbury bag, but neither my editor nor my copy editor caught it — and, to date, no reader has called me on it either. Sometimes it’s better to make something up than use a term you know is wrong!
Diane, you are a native Californian, right? Looking at your bio, I see that you worked for Hanna-Barbera. How cool! You HAVE to tell us about that!
I was basically the idealistic young actress who went to Hollywood and got a job in the industry while waiting for her big break. Hanna-Barbera was a great place to learn the ropes, especially since I was, at the time, concentrating on voiceover acting. What better place to study than an animation studio? My job was hectic, exciting, high-pressure and studded with celebrities — and I loved it. But any job connected closely to the TV networks is cyclical, and after the mad rush to complete any series there’s a lag where you wait to see whether your series will be dropped or renewed. Most of the production staffers were laid off, but I was promoted to work directly in Joe Barbera’s office. (Although I enjoyed the production assistant work more!) I hoped to return to the production side of things, but received a higher-paying offer to go elsewhere. Since production work is precarious, I took the other offer. Lesson learned the hard way: If you’re happy where you are, stay put.
Thanks for your time, Diane Farr! Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
I’d be delighted to connect with you and answer any questions you may have on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/dianefarrpage. I practically live on Facebook. Or you can send me a tweet at @DianeFarr. And I wish every one of you — happy reading!
How can they learn more about you and your work?
My Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Diane-Farr/e/B000APO0CY/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
My Smashwords author page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/dianefarr
I want to thank Diane for one of the most fun interviews ever! If we had done it in person, it would have gone on forever!
Diane welcomes comments and questions, but she will only be able to check in afterward because, (cue the violins!), she is on a cruise in the Caribbean at the time of this posting,
(and I am green with envy.) I hope you will stop and drop us a line.