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
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
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.