Monday, April 04, 2011

Q&A with Diane Haeger

I'd like to welcome author Diane Haeger to P.S. I Love Books!

"Writing is a career that found me when I had actually given up looking for it. In the middle of a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology 15 years ago, and quite by accident, I came upon the true, breathtaking story, which spanned over two decades and began when the legendary Diane de Poitiers was 31 and her lifelong love was the scandalously young second son of the King of France. That story, which unfolded for me on several research trips to France--- and which became my first published novel Courtesan, really changed the course of my life. I grew absolutely driven to accurately tell to an American audience the true story of Diane de Poitiers' strength, love and commitment to a man she loved but could never marry.

Being willing to adapt my writing to changing times has also been integral for me to staying published, and it is the thing about which new writers seem to ask me most. My best advice is to stay true to yourself and your goals, but be willing, if necessary, as it was for me, to "pay your dues" to get where you want to be. Every book, no matter how different, is a learning experience and a chance for you to grow as a writer."

...taken from the Biography page on Diane's website

Welcome Diane! I appreciate you taking the time out to visit P.S. I Love Books.

Delighted, thanks very much for the invitation. I too love books. I’m so happy that good books are still finding an audience out there with all of the changes.

Can you tell us a little bit about your newest release The Queen’s Rival?

The Queen’s Rival is essentially the story of Bessie Blount, mother of Henry VIII’s only acknowledged natural, or illegitimate as people once said, son, and her enduring relationship with the king because of that bond. Or that was what I thought it would be when I began to write it. But in the end, the book really became more a story of one woman’s journey toward self-discovery and personal growth through challenges and adversity. That, and finding new love in the shadow of the loss of an old one. I liked that part for Bess.

What was one of your favorite and least favorite things about writing it?

One of my favorite things about writing the book would definitely be bringing forward a more little-known story from the Court of Henry VIII. I have heard from several readers that they didn’t know the story before reading The Queen’s Rival, or if they did, they knew very little about Bess and her son, Henry Fitzroy, and what became of them both. One of my least favorite things... hmm... that’s more difficult. I would have to say, as a mom myself, getting in touch with that part of Bess that had to deal with the loss of a small child was my least favorite thing about the writing process in that story. For me personally that loss is unfathomable so those scenes were tough for me to pull forward and put on paper.

Which of the characters did you enjoy working with the most?

Definitely Bess, naturally, since I usually end up really relating with, and internalizing the female characters I spend a year or more with during the research and writing of a novel. But I also absolutely fell in love with Gil, who was just this steady, tender soul, a real source of strength for Bess that at first she could not even see for the great presence of Henry VIII.

If you had the chance to do it all over again would you change anything in The Queen’s Rival?

Such good questions! You know, I don’t honestly think I would change a thing. I have the most incredible editor at Penguin who is as dedicated as anything I have ever experienced in twenty years of writing. She is someone who literally went with great care through every line and word in the book along with me and, by the time it was done, she had really helped me craft it into the exact vision for it I had.

What do you think of the cover?

I love the cover! It is definitely one of my favorites. The colors are beautiful and eye-catching. I hope you like it.

When did you first realize that you wanted to write?

As a teenager, I used to noodle around with writing the way some kids draw or paint. I hand- wrote a ‘novel’, if you could call it that, when I was in high school but it just for fun. I certainly never thought doing that might one day make a career. But I always loved the escape of putting the people and situations I saw in my head down onto paper, even if no one but me ever saw them. It was ten years, two degrees, and a near career in clinical psychology, later that I found the love story between Diane de Poitiers and Henri II that became my first published novel, Courtesan.

If The Queen’s Rival were made into a movie who would be your ideal cast for the main characters?

Ooh, let’s see: I always see actors in my mind when I begin to put characters onto paper. It helps me make them more concrete so, when I was writing The Queen’s Rival, Bess in my mind was Emily Blunt. Beautiful, gentle, alluring for the part. Natalie Portman is also stunning and has that vulnerable, naive, quality Bess had. And in my books, Henry VIII (at least the young one!) always resembles Eric Dane. Kristen Stewart would make the perfect Anne Boleyn, in my opinion when she pops in. And the wonderfully steady and strong Gil Tailbois would simply have to be the Scottish actor, Cillian Murphy. So there is my “dream cast” for The Queen’s Rival. That was fun!

If you could write a book about absolutely anything with any other author (dead or alive) what would it be about and who would you choose?

An author who has passed yet was not only brilliant but inspirational to me was Irving Stone, author of epic classics, The Agony and the Ecstasy and Lust for Life. He was an icon I was fortunate enough to have met early on, one who taught me about slipping into the lives of his characters as much as possible to bring forth an experience for readers where they feel transported in writing the historical novel. If I could have worked with him– even just have watched him work, I would have been tremendously blessed.

I’m always looking for books to add to my ginormous TBR (to be read) pile. What books are you currently reading or have read recently? Any good recommendations?

I am all over the map on that one. But in the historical genre, most recently I very much enjoyed Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed, Wolf Hall, and I love anything by Karleen Koen and Philippa Gregory, the queen of the modern, popular historical novel, in my opinion. If I’m on a contemporary turn, I can say that I enjoyed Chris Cleave’s Little Bee and I found Paul Harding’s Tinkers thought provoking. Next up on my own TBR pile is The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.

What are some of your favorite things to do when given a break from the writing life and other work-related things?

First and foremost is to spend time with my kids. They are teenagers, so I savor every single moment I can grab or steal. I know those moments are fleeting. Then I try to keep up with my French. It’s a second language and so I have to work hard to maintain it. I’m not fluent but I love everything about the sound of it, and the history behind it, so I do try to stay with it.

Are you currently working on any projects that we may see from you in the future?

I am, in fact, thank you for asking. I have a 4th In The Court of Henry VIII novel that I am working on right now and hopefully readers will enjoy a little different slant on the story before me. I truly hope so. I know I am enjoying writing about it!

Thank you so much for stopping by Diane! Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

Please, do feel free to check out or friend me on Facebook. Thanks so much, this has been a pleasure.

Be sure to stop by the next couple of days for my review of The Queen's Rival, a guest post from Diane, & a giveaway!


Blodeuedd said...

Nice interview.
I like the Eric Dane choice ;)

Carol N Wong said...

That must have been so difficult to write about Bess loosing her small child. My mother lost my oldest brother to SIDS when I was only four. I remember grieving for long.


Vivien said...

I loved the interview. It's great that she wanted to bring this story to life.

Soft Fuzzy Sweater said...

Iam so glad the Bessie Blount's lifeis getting the notice she deserves. Thank you, Ms.Haeger.


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