The Writing Life of: Diane B. Saxton
Diane B. Saxton
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Diane B. Saxton. Diane will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Peregrine Island‘, which was released on 2nd August 2016, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Diane
As a journalist for Vanity Fair, Holiday Magazine, and Greenwich Review, Diane Saxton covered everything from torture victims to psychics, animal rights activists to the famous daughter of Hollywood royalty, exotic travel to movie producers. Carrie Fisher, Peter Benchley, Stephen Birmingham, and Ed Sherin were just a few of the personalities she captured using her keen eye and unabashed candor. She brings the same gift for storytelling with illuminating subtext to her first novel, PEREGRINE ISLAND, which explores the mystery behind an heirloom painting and what it reveals about the contradictory relationships within a troubled family.
A new chapter opened up for Saxton after interviewing Amnesty International U.S., founder Hannah Grunwald. Alarmed that the stories of such incredible and influential lives, such as Grunwald’s, could be lost as the Greatest Generation passes, Saxton began capturing their histories. Eventually, she compiled a prodigious biographical collection of 1,000 pages, which became the inspiration for her next novel. This historical, multi-generational story spans half a century of familial conflict between self-fulfillment and altruism.
Saxton is deeply committed to supporting the arts, which in the past has included the Berkshire Theatre, the Mahaiwe Theatre, Barrington Stage, Close Encounters with Music, Community Access to the Arts, Shakespeare & Co., Tanglewood, and today includes the Writing Program at Hunter College and the 150th anniversary of The Mount, the home of Edith Wharton. She divides her time between New York City and the Berkshires, where she lives with her husband, dogs and horses.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
I wanted to be a spy!
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
Without question The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
About 10 yrs old
4) How did you go about following that dream?
I read constantly…
After college I worked as a journalist for a number of magazines, including Vanity Fair in London and New York.
I wrote short stories then went on to write two novels, one in print, the next one in print within a year, two max.
By the way, PEREGRINE ISLAND is being made into an audiobook right now; the three narrators are 3 actors from film, theatre, and Shakespeare & Co. Two are well-known. It should be out by March.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
No, I never never aim for a certain amount of pages or words. I work and write late at night. When I’m on a roll I can work for 8-10 hr stretches. When I’m not it’s cut in half. I don’t plan; I just write, never knowing what comes out. That’s the fun of it.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I considered writing with initials so that gender wouldn’t be an issue. My agent talked me out of it.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
Just the time of day/night that I work. It’s very very quiet at 3 am and I can actually hear my thoughts.
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
When I started out as a journalist I started in longhand then graduated to a computer.
However I carry a notebook and I constantly take notes.
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
Well, there’s this book, PEREGRINE ISLAND, and I’ve finished a second novel that I’m editing right now. It’s historical fiction. And of course I’ve written many many articles as a journalist.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I start out with an idea or ideas then wing it. For PEREGRINE ISLAND it was a 19th century painting by Luigi Loir. I was curious as to who the subjects were in the painting, why he chose that scene to paint, etc. And I was inspired by the ocean where I had lived for years. From there the story grew into the book, which included other themes such as “Who really owns art?”
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
Yes, I try to read all the reviews. I can remember only one really negative review — most have been excellent — that I ignored. Thankfully, I’m quite confident in my work.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – She Writes Press
Pages – 267
Release Date – 2nd August 2016
ISBN 13 – 978-1631521515
Format – ebook, paperback
The Peregrine family’s lives are turned upside down one summer when so-called “art experts” appear on the doorstep of their Connecticut island home to appraise a favorite heirloom painting.
When incriminating papers, as well as other paintings, are discovered behind the art work in question, the appraisal turns into a full-fledged investigation. Antagonism mounts between grandmother, mother, and child, who begin to suspect one another, as well as the shady newcomers in their midst, of foul play.
As the summer progresses and the Peregrines discover facts about their past in the course of the investigation, they learn that people―including them―are not always who they appear to be.
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
With PEREGRINE ISLAND about 3 years.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
They just appeared late at night. Seriously. It’s something I have trouble explaining. I once wrote a series on Psychic Phenomena when I interviewed a number psychics. The more involved I got in the pieces the more strange things happened to me — such as dreaming when someone I knew died, the exact time. I pulled away at that point. But I find the same thing in my writing. When I let myself go, I come up with extraordinary subjects.
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
Winter is an elderly lady who is socially withdrawn and lonely. She has stepped into her imagination to the exclusion of reality and relationships. In this novel we see her wake up. Her daughter, Elsie, was an only child, over-protected by both her mother and father. Tripping off happily to college she learns the pitfalls of life and is disillusioned and close to bitter. In this novel we see her change to become the woman she once was. Her daughter, Peda, is a precocious child who loves life, loves nature. She encompasses all good and positive in life. Lonely, however, we see her grow and come into her own in the novel.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
The scenes with the cops and detectives. A means to an end for me, those scenes were a bit annoying at first but necessary and in the end I enjoyed writing them.
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I had other more complicated titles. But I thought PEREGRINE ISLAND was the simplest. Also, PEREGRINE incorporates the aura of the book. The island peregrine is a falcon who is a lone alien bird, usually without friends. I thought it incorporated the thrust behind the isolated family on Peregrine Island.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
No. I left it for about 6 months then re-read and thought it was very good, good enough to submit. After signing I had a talented copy editor who went through it.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
First I had a literary agent who submitted it. Then I took it over and submitted it myself. It was accepted by 3 small publishers. I went with the publisher who I though represented the most intelligent, literary, and interesting novels.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
Of course I was thrilled but then again thought I’d need to edit once more. I believe in editing and editing and editing.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
As I mentioned, I’m editing my historical novel, which I’ll then start to submit — with or without a literary agent, I’m not sure right now.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Cheese and salad!
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
Gone with the Wind (so gloppy romantic) or Gigi (makes you feel good) or Howards End (love the period).
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
Amazing Grace (because it is).
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
Worldwide Dog and Animal sanctuaries.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
‘I’m here to tell you that ducks can now talk. How great is that?’
You can find out more about Diane by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Diane B. Saxton for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.