Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m Diana Stevan and feel so blessed to have written three very different novels and a novelette.
A Cry From The Deep, was my debut novel, a romantic mystery/adventure with some time slip. This one’s about an underwater photographer who’s assigned to cover the hunt for one of the lost ships of the Spanish Armada off the coast of Ireland. But before she goes, she buys an antique ring and begins to have dreams and visions of a woman from another time. Why this woman’s haunting her becomes as compelling as the hunt itself.
The Rubber Fence was my second novel, inspired by my work on a psychiatric ward in 1972. I was so traumatized by what I witnessed, that I had to express all that I felt in this story about a psychiatric intern who becomes obsessed with the treatment of two patients—a young woman who’s been accused of trying to kill her baby, and an old woman, who’s been shocked too many times. The time period of this story is fascinating because it takes place when women were beginning to assert themselves in the workplace and at home. It threw the whole dynamic between men and women upside down.
The Blue Nightgown, is a coming-of-age novelette, about the changing sexual views in the 1950s. A landlady of a rooming house finds a blue nightgown in a tenant’s trash and gets some romantic ideas. The negligee has an impact on not only her but also on a few of her relatives, including her own teenage daughter.
Just published, Sunflowers Under Fire is a family saga/ historical fiction based on the stories my mother told me about her family’s life in the old country. It starts with her birth and follows my grandmother’s trials during WWI, the Bolshevik Revolution, the civil wars, and the Polish occupation in western Russia (present-day Ukraine).
I spent the first fifteen years of my life sharing a bedroom with my grandmother who never talked to me about her life. Having discovered the horrors she faced, I’ve begun to believe she kept her struggles under wrap because to bring them out into the open would’ve meant reliving the pain. Much like soldiers who’ve gone to war. They return home and keep what they’ve seen and heard hidden.
Why have you written such diverse stories?
Prior to devoting my time to writing, I worked as a family therapist, teacher, model, actress and sports reporter for CBC television. Like I did in my eclectic work life, I’ve followed my curiosity in my writing. I would become very bored if I wrote in a formulaic way or if I wrote a series. I haven’t lived my life that way, so it’s natural for me to pursue variety in my writing.
What Inspires your creativity?
So many things. I get a lot of inspiration from nature. I am constantly amazed at the diversity in my back yard. I love gardening and when I’m puttering—whether it’s planting, pruning, or weeding—I’m in awe of nature’s power and beauty. Also, I get inspired by other writers. There are so many wonderful books. Art is another draw. To get one’s mind thinking outside the box is a constant challenge.
How do you deal with creative block?
I don’t suffer from creative block. I suffer from being too interested in too much, which means I’m constantly getting distracted by news, social media, and whatever else I encounter daily. I work at keeping my focus. Sometimes I win; sometimes I lose.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
I think the biggest mistake an author can make is losing sight of the story. Either taking too long to tell it through too much description and boring passages or not taking long enough, leaving too many questions unanswered.
The biggest mistake I make is spending too much time rewriting a story. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I could’ve done without all the revisions. Revising is key but I went overboard. The Rubber Fence was a screenplay first. It was called Shrinkproof. I had an agent in Toronto and Vancouver. I had some Hollywood interest but I gave up pitching the script when it didn’t look like anything was going to happen with it. I recently re-read my rejection letters and was surprised to read all the wonderful comments. Perhaps, I should’ve kept trying but I gave up and I re-wrote it as a novel.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I am thrilled when a reader tells me how much they enjoyed my book. I especially enjoy book club meetings and hearing how readers have interpreted what I’ve written. But as far as worrying about pleasing them, I don’t until a book is published. Then of course, I’d love it if they enjoyed the read and got their money’s worth.
Firstly, I work solely to please myself. But being an avid reader, I bear some responsibility in telling a good story. I don’t think it’s fair to throw something together without proper attention to details and good editing. Though I’m an Indie Author, I do everything a traditional publisher does, which means making sure my novels are professionally edited, formatted and are published with a professionally designed book cover. I’ve also been a member of a writers’ critique group for over twenty years. They’ve kept me on track and I’m forever grateful.
What are your plans for future books?
I have three in the works. A sequel to Sunflowers Under Fire and a collection of short stories. Also a non-fiction book, Along Came A Gardener, combining thoughts from my 25 years as a family therapist with my love of gardening. Subscribers to my newsletter get the first chapter free. I’ve also sent them other chapters of this work-in-progress.
Thank you for inviting me to tell you about my work. It’s always a pleasure.