Thanks for visiting my blog again! I wanted to try something different today. Most of my interviews are with people in the science fiction community, but I also enjoy a good mystery. Our guest is Dianne Emley and she’s a Los Angeles Times bestselling author who writes a variety of mystery novels. She’s the author of the Detective Nan Vining thrillers, the Iris Thorne mysteries, and some stand alone works. Welcome aboard, Dianne.
Q: Why did you become a mystery author?
A: First off, thanks so much, Stephanie, for having me on your blog. It was delightful to have met you in person. My roots in writing mystery stem from my early love of the genre. Mystery and suspense have always been my favorites in books, movies, and TV shows. It was natural for me to seek to write something that I’d like to read myself.
Q: Did your education in philosophy, French, and business help your writing style or help you build ideas?
A: All my education and business experience and the personal relationships that resulted have influenced my writing because they expanded my life. They all gave me exposure to people and worlds beyond my family and the neighborhood where I grew up, which had the most significant impact on my writing by far. The more writing I did, whether in school or for work, the better I became at it. It all contributes.
Q: Many writers want to publish their work, but publishers reject them. How did you get picked up by Ballantine Books?
A: My initial path to publication wasn’t difficult, nor was it typical. Long before I started the Detective Nan Vining series, I wrote a series about an amateur sleuth named Iris Thorne. She’s a young, sassy, single business woman in Los Angeles. Those books were set in the late 1980s (the era in which I started writing them). The first in that series, Cold Call, was the first novel I’d written. Amazingly, I sold it at an auction to Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster. Several books and years later, I wrote the first Nan Vining novel, The First Cut. My editors at Pocket Books had since moved to Ballantine and they picked up the series. In spite of my easy entry into publishing, my path hasn’t always been strewn with roses. Trust me, there have many bumps in the road!
Q: Every successful author needs to bring something unique to the market. What makes your work different than other mysteries?
A: We can discuss plots, characters, and settings—I believe I have a distinctive spin on those—but I think it comes down to the writer’s voice. To me, voice is the personality a writer brings to her work, that special sauce that’s uniquely hers.
Q: Aside from your own books, what are your favorite mystery series? I’m a huge fan of Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.
A: My absolute favorite series is Tom Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. I love all her books. She wrote many standalones apart from the Ripleys. She is the master of psychological suspense.
Q: What is the premise behind the Nan Vining thrillers?
A: A police detective, who’s also a single mom, becomes obsessed to find the madman who stabbed her and left her for dead. She comes to believe that man is a serial killer of female law enforcement officers and in her pursuit of him is drawn into his dark world.
Q: Would you mind explaining some details about your protagonist named Iris Thorne?
A: As I mentioned in #3, she’s a young, single business woman in Los Angeles in the late 1980s. She’s an investment counselor, working in what was then a male-dominated profession and endures a lot of sexual harassment. She’s no shrinking violet, stands up to the bullies, and claws her way up the corporate ladder all while having a complicated personal life. Oh, and she has a tendency to stumble over dead bodies and involve herself in death investigations.
Q: Mysteries usually have a realistic setting. How do you make the characters relatable to readers?
A: I give them characteristics that people can relate to. I make them human, even the bad guys.
Q: What kind of research is necessary for your books?
A: For the Nan Vining series, I did a lot of research into law enforcement and the lives of street cops and detectives. I volunteered with the Pasadena Police Department for several years and was invited to sit on a couple of citizen oversight boards, which provided a great window into the behind-the-scenes workings of a police department. I did many ride-alongs with cops. I also visit any locations I’m writing about, walking around and soaking up the sights, sounds, and smells.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: Seek mentors and good advice. Keep writing but remember that it’s not all about the writing, it’s about the rewriting too. And never give up.
Q: I want to throw in a whimsical question. My book series takes place in a steampunk and post-apocalyptic environment. Do you have any characters who would survive very long in that type of setting?
A: Some of my characters are tough and cagey, especially in my Nan Vining series and especially Nan herself. She’s a survivor. She’d be able to navigate any situation.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: When I’m not writing, I like to cook and work out. I love yoga. I’m a fan of movies and many of the great TV series that are on now. Speaking of post-apocalyptic environments, I’m a huge fan of the Walking Dead. Thanks again, Stephanie, for having me on your blog. Best of luck with your writing.
That concludes another interview. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Dianne. It sounds like you’re a very creative writer who’s maintaining a successful career. I’m currently reading The Deepest Cut. Best wishes and I’m looking forward to future works.
I'm leaving a link to Dianne's official website. You can find a variety of resources on her website, including an author bio, a full bibliography, blog posts, upcoming appearances, and more. Her books are available at major book retailers, including Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I would like to interview more mystery authors during the year. Sometimes it's nice to have a change of pace. Leave a comment if you have anything to say about this post. Be safe and have a good week.