Diane Marquette is the author of five published books: In Over My Head, Too Close For Words, and Suitable For Framing from her Chesapeake Conference Center mystery series, as well as two stand-alone novels, Good Fridays and Almost Mine. Part 2 Interview
Diane Marquette was born Diane Merryman in Baltimore and grew up in Howard County, Maryland. Her first boss was James Rouse, visionary and designer of the city of Columbia, Maryland. Later she worked as a freelance writer for Patuxent Publishing Corporation in Baltimore before she and her husband moved to Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1987. She has five published books and more are on the way.
Part 1 of this interview was published as Entry # 126 on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at blogsite: http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com
Diane says, “If you're looking for information about the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, which I help coordinate each February at Chesapeake College in Maryland, please go to www.baytoocean.com. You can watch the You Tube video made at the last conference and register.”
“My website www.dianemarquette.com contains plenty of information about my five published books -- In Over My Head, Too Close For Words, and Suitable For Framing from my Chesapeake Conference Center mystery series, as well as my two stand-alone novels, Good Fridays and Almost Mine. You can read the first chapter, a synopsis, interviews, and reviews for each of my novels, as well as links to my blogs. All of my books are available in both e-book and print versions online and in bookstores.”
Jan: What are some of the problems authors face when they deal with small publishers?
Diane: My five books were originally published by a small publishing company, which consisted of one and a half employees. In my experience, I found this publisher took on too big a workload, causing numerous and lengthy delays in moving my books through the publishing and marketing process, and into the sales arena.
There are similarities whether an author is published by a large traditional publishing house, a small publisher, or even self-published. Gone is the time when large publishers would pay to market a book, set up and pay expenses for an author to do book signings, and pay travel expenses for authors to do television and radio promotion for their book. With downsizing and budget cuts, large publishing houses are completely re-structured and they can’t afford to take authors by the hand and lead them down the road to success.
Each author is responsible for promoting their own books, and is generally most successful when using a variety of methods. Purchasing advertising in newspapers and magazines can be successful. Having an appealing and entertaining website is also a must for most writers, as are blogs. But what’s made the most dramatic change in marketing anything at all is the online social network, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Jan: So tell me about your involvement with the annual Bay-to-Ocean Writers Conference in MD. How did you get involved?
Diane: In 2000, I attended my first writers conference, the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference on the Easton Shore of MD. I had done some writing for newspapers in Baltimore twenty-five years earlier. While at the conference, I kept waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell me I wasn’t really a writer and that I needed to leave. Of course, that didn’t happen. Instead I left there so motivated and inspired and enthusiastic that I went home and wrote the drafts for my first two novels. I also began writing freelance articles for several local and regional publications. This was an ideal way to build a “fan base” that became part of my marketing platform after my first books were published.
Jan: What do you do at the conference?
Diane: Since that first Bay-to-Ocean Writers Conference about thirteen years ago, I’ve been involved in coordinating this annual event, which is held every February near Queenstown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For most of those years, I’ve been the sole coordinator, but as the conference has grown, one of its co-coordinators. We have a wonderful committee of volunteers who have grown with the conference. There are now about 230 participants each year, who come to the conference from a six-state area. Being involved in the conference is my way of giving back and sharing with others the information and inspiration that paved the way for my serious writing career.
The next conference will be held on Saturday, February 23, 2013, at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD. Registrations are still being accepted, but the conference always sells out early. For more details and information on how to register, visit www.baytoocean.com.
Jan: You’ve spoken at conferences about your Oprah epiphany. What was this experience and what was its impact on your life?
Diane: In 1999 Oprah asked me (and zillions of other viewers) a very simple question. What one thing would I regret not having done for myself if I knew I was going to die soon? My answer surprised me. I said it was to write a book.
I hadn't realized writing was so important to me. I hadn't even given it any serious consideration in more than twenty years, but Oprah's question ignited a fire in me - what Oprah would call a passion. I soon attended a local writers conference to see what opportunities were available, and was soon on my way to the serious writing career I have today. Thanks, Oprah!
Jan: Recently you’ve written a number of screenplays. How does writing and marketing screenplays compare to the process for novels and mysteries?
Diane: It’s said that getting a book published is extremely difficult. It’s also said that getting a screenplay produced is twice as hard as getting a book published. Books and screenplays are both about stories with conflict and characters (good or bad) that the reader or viewer cares about.
The format for a screenplay or script is totally different from the manuscript for a book. Books are generally several hundred pages long. A screenplay is rarely more than 120 pages long. Much of a book contains description about the setting, the characters, and the action. A script is almost all dialogue, centered on the page, with lots of white space surrounding the words.
Jan: So who really controls how a screenplay or script is interpreted and evolves and what it ultimately becomes?
Diane: In a book, the author is in charge of what the characters look like, sound like, and how they dress. If you’ve ever paid close attention to the credits that roll at the end of a movie, it’s abundantly clear that each of those people had some input in how that movie looked and sounded. Unless the writer has provided details vital to the story (such as a blind character or a person with a speech impediment), individuals working on a movie set will determine how a character will look, sound, behave, and even dress. Others will design the sets where the filming takes place, either outdoors or on soundstages. The directors oversee every aspect of a movie and obviously want the end result to be what their own interpretation of the story is.
Jan: What truly amazes you about screenwriters?
Diane: It amazes me that screenwriters don’t get more credit. There are awards given for writing achievement, but even with the dozens of people it takes to produce a movie, there would be no movie in the first place if the writer had not written the story.
Jan: So lets talk about agents. Who needs one and why?
Diane: Getting an agent for a book is important, but nearly impossible. Thankfully, today, there is the self-publishing book option, which eliminates some of the need for literary agents. But there really isn’t an option like that for screenwriters. So, getting an agent for a script is important, but perhaps more impossible than getting a literary agent for a book. Personally I’ve had better luck contacting directors, actors, and actresses through their agents or managers. My screenplays are being read this way, so I’ll continue using that route, as well as attempting to locate a suitable agent. If a writer is unsuccessful getting a screenplay produced, there’s always the option of turning that script into a book. Many movies began life as books.
Jan: And tell us about your next book. When will it be available and what excites you about this one?
Diane: I’m working on two books right now. One is in the draft stage and one is in the research stage. I’m writing mystery #4 in my Chesapeake Conference Center mystery series. This one is called Stop the Car, which brings the protagonist, Deputy Jill McCormick, to the conference center to investigate a disappearance during a college reunion being held at the prestigious facility. Jill is working with her lover, Sheriff Mitch Garrett on the case, which brings some of Mitch’s relatives into the story. In the case of Stop the Car, not everyone and everything is what they seem to be. I expect this book to be available before the end of 2013.
The other book is not part of the mystery series, but is a “stand-alone” book, as are two of my other novels, Almost Mine and Good Fridays. Titled Out of Order, it’s the humorous book I’ve wanted to write since I began my career as a novelist. It’s about a dysfunctional family (isn’t that redundant?), three middle-aged sisters with different styles of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and how we fool ourselves into thinking we’re in control of our lives. This story is about how the little things in life can make us smile and get us to offer thanks. Or little things cause us to lose it, like just leaving the spoon in the box of ice cream in the freezer! Out of Order should be available in spring 2014.
Jan: What advice has helped you grow as a writer?
Diane: The most important lesson I’ve learned is that each of us is a product of our upbringing and our unique experiences, and that’s what makes one person’s writing different from anyone else’s. It’s important for a writer to find his or her own writing “voice,” and that is something that shouldn’t be forced. Letting it happen naturally will make all the difference. If a writer writes for the sheer enjoyment of it, that writer will be successful. If they write for fame and fortune, they are setting themselves up to fail.
Jan: What would you say to young writers just starting a writing career?
Diane: My advice to beginning writers is to attend writers conferences and join some local writers groups. Writing is a solitary business, so anytime you can be among other writers is helpful. Other writers relate to issues you’re having with your own writing and can genuinely appreciate any success you’ve experienced. Being with other writers will recharge your batteries.
Jan: Finally, what well-intentioned advice have you chosen to ignore?
Diane: I made the decision not to write for the marketplace, meaning what’s “hot” and selling right now. Readers are fickle and no writer has a crystal ball to determine what genre is going to be on the best-seller list this time next year when their book is finished. The wizards blend into the vampires, which are conquered by the serial killers, who are replaced by the sweet dog story. Books and movies go in cycles, but before a writer can get on the bandwagon and write what's currently hot, the next great subject matter has already been written and is coming out.
When writers find a genre and style that suits them, they’ll know it. Story ideas present themselves and unique characters that readers will care about will be born in a writer’s imagination. It will feel “right.” You'll know. Go with it.
Jan: Thank you for sharing your insights with readers and writers. I appreciate your time.
Diane: My pleasure, Jan. Thank you for the opportunity!
Additional Background Notes and Information:
Diane says, My librarian mother shared her love of books with me. During my school years, I was an avid reader and a good student, even surviving nine years of nuns. My big problem in school was math, I simply didn't get the arithmetic gene from my engineer father. I loved grammar and literature and excelled at spelling, so wanting to become a writer shocked no one. I wasn't sure what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I majored in a variety of subjects during college. Art, history, biology, and English were my favorites.
My first boss was James Rouse, visionary and designer of the city of Columbia, Maryland. After four years, I changed jobs and began working as an administrative assistant at an industrial manufacturing facility. One of the benefits was meeting my future husband, Jim Marquette.
My love of animals led to a two-year position with the Humane Society and then a stint as a veterinary technician for ten years. I worked as a freelance writer for Patuxent Publishing Corporation in Baltimore before my husband and I moved to Maryland's Eastern Shore in 1987.
I was a visual merchandiser for a retail store in Easton, Maryland for ten years. A two-year job at the world-famous Aspen Institute/Wye River Conference Center in Queenstown was my next career move. This experience gave me the ideas for some of my most successful writing, my Chesapeake Conference Center mystery series. The first three titles in the series are In Over My Head, Too Close For Words, and Suitable For Framing.
On my website www.dianemarquette.com see "Behind the Story" on the menu under In Over My Head.”
Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2011 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a recent story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.
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