Today, I am thrilled to have Diane Chamberlain, the NYT, USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 26 novels talk to us about her most recent gem, the genre-spanning The Dream Daughter.
Heather: I was absolutely immersed in the story of Carly Sears, a young widow pregnant with a child that has a heart defect. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but what was the genesis of the novel?
Diane: My previous career, decades ago, was as a social worker in a maternity unit in a large hospital. I would see babies born too early or too sick to survive. Over the following decades, I kept thinking about those babies and how, if only they’d been born later, their conditions would have been treatable. From there, my mind made the leap: What if a woman is pregnant in 1970, learns her baby has a fatal problem, but then discovers she can safely travel to the future where the problem can be treated? Crazy idea, but I couldn’t resist exploring it.
Heather: Why did you decide to set the novel in the Vietnam war era?
Diane: I could have picked any number of time periods, but I knew I wanted Carly’s husband Joe to have been killed in a war, and given the needs of the story, Vietnam made the most sense. It’s also a time period I lived through and was familiar with, which helped.
Heather: What kind of research did you have to do in order to inform your writing? What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Diane: Oh my gosh, so much research! First, I needed to research what sort of problem Carly’s unborn baby would have that couldn’t be treated in 1970, but could be treated in 2001. I needed to research fetal surgery, and the geographic areas where Carly would live or visit. But probably the most grueling—and surprising—research was figuring out the technology of each era. What sort of phone Carly would have in different time periods, for example. What the Internet was like—if it existed at all. Etcetera. It’s incredible how far we’ve come over a short span of time.
Heather: The novel is told in dual points of view. Why did you decide to structure the novel this way?
Diane: I wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the two characters who had the most at stake, Carly and her brother-in-law Hunter. I wanted the reader to have a sense of not only the stress Carly was under, but the difficult situation Hunter was in as well. He grew into one of my all-time favorite characters.
Heather: I always love hearing about how other writers work? Describe a typical writing day for you? What does your writing space look like?
Diane: Well, my office has a lovely desk and a very nice computer, but I rarely work there. Instead, I write on a computer in a recliner or a lounge in my sunroom, on my porch in nice weather, or sometimes in a coffee shop. I am usually surrounded by dozens of sheets of paper with lots of scribbles on them, and a calendar of the time the book is set in. For The Dream Daughter, needless to say, I needed a few calendars to keep myself straight.
Heather: What book(s) do you currently have your nose buried in?
Diane: My favorite right now is Pam Jenoff’s The Lost Girls of Paris. I love Pam’s writing and am glad to be able to lose myself in another of her books. What I’ll be reading next is anyone’s guess!
Heather: What do you have next for readers?
Diane: My next book, The Disappearance of Anna Dale, will be out in early 2020. In 1940, a young female artist is hired by the government to paint a mural for a small North Carolina post office, but as she nears the finish line, she disappears. Then, in 2018, another young female artist is hired to restore the mural and as she does so, she begins uncovering clues to the first artist’s disappearance. Plenty of research in this one, too!
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