For my review of insight – go here: “Insight” Book Review
About the Author
Diana Greenwood is a full-time wine and food writer, whose work has appeared in publications such as California Visitor Review, The Napa Valley Register, The San Francisco Chronicle, the American Booksellers Association Newsletter, Napa Valley Life Magazine, and Wine Country This Week Magazine.
As much as Diana enjoys freelancing, her leading love is writing stories for teens, traveling through the eyes of her characters as they embark upon life-changing journeys. She is a member of SCBWI, a member blogger with the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors, and can be found on Facebook. Diana is a college football fan, loves to ski, dabbles in mixed media collage, and collects illustrated antique children’s books. She is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa, California, where she is Youth Group Leader and active in many facets of the church community. She has a thousand favorite books but if she could only pick one that influenced her along the way, she would choose I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven. Diana’s tattered copy lives on her nightstand in case she needs it in the middle of the night. Insight is her first novel.
Interview with the Author
TM: Tell me about your path to publication for Insight.
DG: Well, it was a long and winding road, for sure. I’ll give you the condensed version. I wrote two middle-grade novels before I wrote one that I thought might sell, and that novel was Insight. Writing fiction is a combination of ability and training like any other art form and people don’t always realize that lots of practice and intense study is the only way to improve. I’m a firm believer that you have to write a novel to learn how to write a novel.
It took about eighteen months to write the first draft of Insight, another six months to polish it with reader and critique group feedback, and six additional months from pitch to signing with my agent. The manuscript first went out on an exclusive, which took almost a year and ultimately ended in rejection. That rejection resulted in a revision that improved the story and my agent sent the manuscript out on a first round to editors. Insight got positive comments along with the rejections from some amazing editors so I jumped back into the story and did a complete re-write. During that revision the story changed, became more of a spiritual journey for the main character, and the family dynamics and conflicts deepened.
When it was ready, my agent sent it out on another round. One editor that I highly respected requested a revision, sending editorial notes that made perfect sense to me, so we accepted the revision request. This meant that Insight couldn’t be sent out to anyone else until that editor had seen the rewrite. As I began that revision, the very same week, actually, my husband and I split up so I made the decision to put aside writing and focus on raising my daughter alone. Sometimes what’s good for the author is bad for the book. I had to get a second job and life was busy with little time left over for creative endeavors. During this time my church, Covenant Presbyterian in Napa, was extremely supportive and I think that without my church family I may never have picked up this book again.
I did finish that cover to cover revision although it took a year and a half. I added a character, grounded the story in detail, changed scenes and added scenes, and then it went back out to the requesting editor. It took her about three months to reject it.
I quit. *laughs*
But my agent had another editor in mind for Insight. The second editor to see the final version, the right editor for this story, bought it. We have no control over the timing; we only have control over the quality of the work. The timing is up to God. That final revision made Insight a better book and now, looking back, thank goodness this was my path to publication because Zondervan is amazing to work with and I can’t imagine this book with any other publisher.
TM: What’s your best advice for getting past writer’s block?
DG: Writer’s block is really about fear. It’s an internal censor that lounges in the brain with its feet up, intent on messing with your mind. The censor constantly whispers, “you’re not good enough, you’re too old, you can’t really write, you’ll never be able to speak in public anyway, so give up this fantasy now.”
You have to kill the censor. You have to acknowledge that the fear is real and write anyway. Anne Lamott writes down these little fears, puts them in a jar, screws the lid on tightly, and hides the jar away. Whether a writer does this metaphorically or physically, the censor needs to die.
Working with a good critique group is critical because the support from other writers who “get it” is so valuable. Read a lot but read critically from a writers’ viewpoint. Stay active and creative in other ways, crafting, painting, sewing, gardening, wherever you feel most at home. Trust that if you’re supposed to write a book, the words will come if you do the work.
TM: Did you have to do any special research for the book?
DG: I love research and I also very much dislike research. For one thing, I tend to go off on tangents, finding new story ideas in the strangest places, which does not improve one’s daily word count. (Not that I actually do a daily word count.)
I’m a collector of vintage books and magazines, in which I can get lost, but are invaluable for advertisements, fashion, popular products, pricing, and other period information as well as language of the day. One of my most well-used research books is Look at America, Houghton Mifflin, 1946, a “look” in big, bold pictures at every region’s industry, landscape, history, landmarks and people. For Insight, I spent hours in the reference section of the library checking WWII timelines, rationed items, when rationing was lifted, and general details of the time period.
For help with Wisconsin terrain and 1947 Portage city and street details, I used a primary source, a friend who grew up there. Her mom once worked with the historical society and had saved maps, newspapers, and photos, which brought the town to life for me. Although much is fictionalized in this story, street names and landmarks are real.
In Insight, there’s alcoholism and since I didn’t grow up in a family dealing with the disease I had to interview adult children of alcoholics in order to ensure that the details of a character growing up in an uncertain environment were consistent and truthful, yet also portrayed compassion.
You can never do enough research. Trust me here. When the book was in final review, my editor pointed out that a car model I’d mentioned had not been introduced until after the story took place. Oops. I thought I’d fact-checked that. Thank goodness my editor caught that mistake and also has a sense of humor.
TM: What are your upcoming projects?
DG: I’m currently working on two projects. Another historical fiction called Three-Penny Poet where the main character in the untamed Chicago of 1933 is forced to confront mental illness in his family, and the second project is a Sunday School at Home series of picture books. The first book in the series is ANY DAY RAINBOWS, which is just about ready to go to my agent. Wish me luck.
I was not compensated in any way, nor did I receive any review copies of the book for writing this review post.