*Excuse me while I fan girl not so quietly in corner*
Today I’m chatting books with Australian author Dianne Blacklock. I’ve been a massive fan of Dianne for years; in fact I’m almost certain that when I transitioned from teen to adult books years ago, it was one of Dianne’s books that I first picked up. I’ve never looked back since. With that in mind, to be hosting this chat with Dianne Blacklock today on the blog is kind of a dream come true. Not to mention my mind has reverted to giggly school girl; I’m that excited!
When she’s not writing she goes on rampages through the house, cleaning and emptying out cupboards and making everyone do extra chores. Needless to say, the family prefers it when she’s writing.
Before we jump right into the interview here, I highly recommend that sign (if you haven’t already) up for Book Chat. A newsletter Dianne Blacklock and her two writing pals, Ber Carroll and Liane Moriarty run. It’s brilliant and a fantastic way to keep up to date with three of Australia’s fantastic authors! Click here to be taken to the most recent newsletter.
What are you currently reading?
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, the first of the highly acclaimed ‘Neapolitan Novels’. I’ve had it for a while and have been trying to get into it, but to be honest, it hasn’t grabbed me yet. However, these books have so much buzz around them, I’m going to persevere for a little longer.
What’s the last book you bought?
A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler. Loved it.
Do you prefer to read books in print or electronically?
I like both. I like how I can press a button on my ereader and have a book moments after I’ve read a review, or heard a mention, and had my interest piqued. But after I’ve read a few books in a row electronically, I crave a paper book. Not for the smell or the feel of it, or other nostalgic reasons, but because I like the architecture of a book – that you can make your way around it easily, know how far you’ve got to finish a chapter, or how long the next chapter is, to decide whether you’re going to stay up and keep reading! You get a better feel for where you are in the story.
What do your bookshelves look like? Do you have an organisation system (genre, colour, author…) or are you just happy to go with the flow?
Definitely go with the flow! I guess I do put books by the same author together, but that’s about as far as my organisation goes. I’m actually not keeping as many books as I used to, since I moved from my long-time family home that had abundant bookshelves, and downsized to an apartment. I had to cull a lot during the actual move, and I’ve realised lately that it’s time for another cull – the shelves are starting to overflow. I have to be honest and accept that no matter how much I enjoyed a book, if I’m not likely to read it again, there’s no need to keep it. As an author, I’d rather my books were out there in the world … even though I get no further remuneration if they’re shared or sold secondhand. But readers can’t always risk spending money on a book they don’t know if they’ll like, so I’m happy for them to come across them in other ways – as long as they buy a copy sometime in the future!
How often do you read?
I’m reading all the time, because I’m an editor as well as an author. So sometimes when I’ve been working intensively on a manuscript, right into the evening, I’m not as inclined to read in bed that night, which is my favourite time to read otherwise.
Describe what you would expect to find in your dream book?
Characters I instantly relate to, or am intrigued by, and want to spend time with. Some humour, lots of heart. I love when I read a book that says something about human nature, something that’s so right, so obvious, but you’ve never thought about it that way until that moment.
How do you choose what to read next?
I’m a bit of a mood reader, so as I said above, that’s why I like my ereader – I can strike while the iron’s hot and be reading a book right after I’ve heard about it, which may have been through word of mouth, or a review or article, mostly online.
So you’ve started a book and discover it’s not for you. Are you more likely to discard it or finish it?
I used to think I had to slog through a book no matter what, once I’d started. Now I know life is too short, and there are too many books to read! I’ll give it a fair chance (see Question 1!), but I certainly don’t feel I have to persevere with a book when I’m it’s not engaging me.
If you could read any book again, for the first time, which book would you choose?
The first book that popped into my head was Pride and Prejudice. After mulling it over, I still think it’s the one. When I’ve reread it over the years, I’m always struck by how fresh and relevant it still is. It may be about the vagaries of the marriage market in 18th century England, but it contains sharp, enduring insights about human nature. It’s also very very funny.
What is about books that appeals to you so much? What is your favourite part about reading?
Reading a book is a totally individual, unique experience. No one else will read a book the same way I do, or any other reader. You create the world of the novel in your own head – that’s why readers are often disappointed with screen adaptations of their favourite books, because it’s not how they pictured it. I love movies, but I love that books provide something no other medium can. I love that readers will pick up entirely different things in my books, and see things from their own perspective, so it’s like I’ve written a different book for every individual, because of what they bring to it. It’s a little bit magical.
Can you tell us a bit about your blog and how long have you been blogging for?
My blog is a disgrace! Seriously. I started in September 2011 – that’s 5 years ago! – but I’m afraid it’s too far down my list of priorities, behind writing books and editing. I have all these plans to start regularly blogging, but I never follow through for very long. A couple of years ago I decided to run a series of conversations with writers to guarantee interesting content for my followers, but that has since fallen by the wayside as well. It’s all about time, and I just don’t seem to have enough of it.
Do you have any advice to other bloggers out there?
I wouldn’t dare. Do any of them have advice for me?
And now on to your writing, can you tell us a bit about your writing style. Are you a pantser or a plotter?
A bit of both. I start off with a few characters and a premise, and go from there, by the seat of my pants. The writing actually gets the story going. The end comes reasonably soon after, of its own accord, I don’t work on that. It may change as the novel progresses, but at least I have an end point in mind. Then at a certain stage I realise I have to plan out the remainder of the novel – it may be a few chapters in, or it may be halfway through, but at some point, I have to plot out what still has to happen, how I’m going to get there, how I’m going to fit everything in.
Do you prefer to write in 1st or 3rd person?
I’ve never written a book in 1st person, so I guess that means I prefer 3rd person! I wouldn’t mind trying 1st person, but it would have to be a very compelling voice, and a story that suited being told in that limited perspective. I often like to include more than one perspective, so that’s why I use 3rd person – it’s much more flexible.
Are you an early riser writer or a late night owl writer?
Definitely not an early riser, it’s not my natural time of the day. My most productive working hours are probably from sometime in the afternoon until about 8 in the evening. If I’m on a roll I’ll work on, but I know myself that I lose coherence if I work too late.
Was there any particular author/book that inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always written, since I was a little girl, so I suppose all the books I read back then inspired me. However, in high school I remember being totally in awe of Charles Dickens – the richness of his characters in particular. I still have a picture perfect image of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, my favourite of his.
Do you have any advice to other writers out there?
Read, read, and then read some more. If you want to be a practitioner in any area, you have to keep up on your reading to stay informed and relevant. I’d suggest that’s even more on point for a writer. That doesn’t mean that you only read in your genre, in fact, I’d recommend you read widely, well out of your comfort zone. Until you have absorbed in your bones what good storytelling is, you can’t be expected to reproduce it yourself.
And lastly, what are you currently working on?
Hm, can’t say a lot about it right now, but it’s set in and around the vineyards in the Hunter Valley, and involves three generations of women. Funnily enough I’m toying with a 1st person voice for one of the characters, but it’s early days yet, so we’ll see if it takes!
To learn more about Dianne Blacklock, visit the following social media sites:
Dianne Blacklock’s website | Facebook | TWITTER | Goodreads | PAN MACMILLIAN WEBSITE | BOOK CHAT WITH BER CARROLL, DIANNE BLACKLOCK AND LIANE MORIARTY