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Friday, September 07, 2007

Not only was DiAnn my first writing mentor, she also has a deep love for Africa and it's people, something we both share. Since I could never pass up the opportunity to interview her, and I'm excited for the chance to not only read her latest release, When the Nile Runs Red, but to gain some valuable insight from her as a best-selling author. (As a bonus, read on to find out how you could win a free copy of her book!)

DiAnn Mills launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold more than a million copies. She believes her readers should “Expect an Adventure.” Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story. Six of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents. Five of her books have won placements through American Christian Fiction Writer’s Book of the Year Awards 2003 – 2006. She is the recipient of the Inspirational Reader’s Choice award for 2005 and 2007.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she’d own a Harley, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

LISA: Tell us some of the background behind the idea for this series and give us a blurb for your latest release, When the Nile Turns Red.

DIANN: First of all, I have a passion for the Sudanese’s plight and a deep love for Africa. This began in 2002 when I was asked to write a nonfiction book Lost Boy No More. It continued into When the Lion Roars, and the characters would not let me go.
I do want the reader to know that the proceeds for all three books are given to nonprofit organizations to aid the Sudanese.

My mind works in a “What-if” mode when I’m considering a story idea. The characters in this new novel are unlikely friends, more likely to be enemies. I wanted the crucible of their friendship to be something bigger than any of them.

Paul Farid was once a member of the royal family who openly persecuted any Sudanese who failed to practice Islam. Now he’s a Christian who puts his life on the line to aid the persecuted Sudanese. His wife, Larson, is a doctor committed to giving her life for peace.

Colonel Ben Alier has fought for twenty-one years against the government’s mandates to control the oil, religion, slavery, and politics of Sudan. He neither trusts nor rests any hope in the newly formed government.
Ben’s health deteriorates while Larson finds out she is going to have a baby. Their worlds collide, and as the relational tensions escalate so does the physical danger.

LISA: Could you tell us a bit about the research you had to do for this story, and what you learned in going to Sudan?

DIANN: I knew what I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, touched, and intuitively sensed would place the reader in the heart of Sudan - right where I wanted the reader to be.

On this research/mission trip, I took pages of notes, snapped photos, and conducted personal interviews with the people I met. More importantly, I wanted the Sudanese to know that Jesus loved them, and I would take their plight back to the States so others would know firsthand about their critical needs. The burden of the job settled like a heavy yoke on my shoulders.

The sights moved me, sometimes to almost tears. I saw poverty that I will never forget: women drawing water from the Nile and using it without the benefit of boiling it, a lack of sanitation, and thin bodies. I saw a mixture of hope and pain in the eyes of the Sudanese, children at play, and colorful African clothing. A weathered sign indicated an Islamic children’s hospital where before the war ended, boy babies never left the building alive. I saw more goats than I ever wanted to see again.

I heard children laughing and the pop of a gun firing at night. I heard praise and worship to God and witnessed frustration in the voices of those who wanted more for their country. I heard government officials talk of their commitment to southern Sudan and their faith in God. I asked questions and listened to stories of survival and dedication.

I smelled a city with little sanitation, and I longed for them to embrace fragrant flowers and the sweet scent of true freedom. I witnessed men and women pounding goat dung into the ground of their “church” so they could hold services.

I tasted the dust and dirt and noted the Sudanese diet of ugali (cornmeal), vegetables, goat, and fish. Malaria was a part of life, and cholera broke out in the more poverty stricken areas.

People touched me with their joy and their sorrow. I once heard someone say: talk to me and I will get to know you; touch me and I am forever changed. For me, this meant brushing my finger across the vegetation, petting an animal, or embracing someone different from myself. The power of touch pulled me outside of my comfort zone and into the world of the Sudanese. Sometimes it was difficult, but it was never without reward. Instead of my ministering to them, I was blessed beyond imagination.

True research meant giving of myself to benefit others. Sudan will always be a part of my heart, and I look forward to a return trip.

LISA: What advice could you share with fellow authors on doing research?

DIANN: To be immersed in it. To use every fiber of their being to develop an understanding of their book, it’s theme, and the goals to be accomplished in writing the story. As I stated above, use all of your senses.

LISA: What do you see as the essentials elements in a suspense story?

DIANN: Anticipation. Courage. Breathless action. Choices that affect lives and people. A stretching of the character to go beyond what the reader would dare.

LISA: What is the process you use when writing a mystery/suspense?

DIANN: I mentioned this before, but my mind spins in a “what-if” mode. For example, I’m driving down the street, and I see a neighbor has a roll of old carpet by the curb for trash pick-up. Most people would remark that someone just had new carpet installed. My thoughts go directly to a body buried deep inside that roll or blood or etc – what-if? I don’t believe in stories in which a protagonist saves the world single handedly. The story must come from the heart of the character who on his/her way to reach a goal finds him/herself in the middle of a challenge that can’t be forsaken.

LISA: What is your system to keep the story, clues, and characters organized?

DIANN: My “vitals” are kept on computer files. But honestly, most of the clues and outcomes are in my head.

LISA: In developing your characters, are there any key elements you see as essential in the process?

DIANN: Motivation by establishing wants and needs. Internal and external struggles with problems to solve on the way to reach their goals.

LISA: I find in my own writing that I often grow alongside my characters, especially spiritually. Is there a character who you relate to and who made an input on your life?

DIANN: Absolutely! I’m a firm believer that the writer must grow spiritually while writing a book. A writer will discover an awareness about themselves, which is essential not only in his/her personal life but also in how the story will impact the reader.

LISA: Any writer’s resources you could recommend?

DIANN: Always Donald Maass – Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
Sol Stein – Stein on Writing and How to Grow a Novel
Jim Scott Bell – Plot and Structure

Thank you so much for being a part of our blog, DiAnn! DiAnn is also offering to give away a copy of When the Nile Runs Red. This will be a bonus giveaway, not a part of our regular contest. For a chance to win a copy of her book, leave a comment on this blog. We will hold the drawing on September 12th.

Be sure and visit DiAnn's website for more information about her books!


Anonymous Janice Olson said...

I enjoyed reading the interview. Anytime I have heard DiAnn speak, I've been enthralled by her enthusiasm and her knowledge. I love her books immensely. Keep up the good work DiAnn. Janice

6:10 AM  
Blogger :-)Ronie said...

So kewl! I didn't know she was your first writing mentor. How neat!

Please enter me to win DiAnn's book. :-D

6:55 AM  
Blogger Ginny said...

Enter me please, I'd love to win this :)

9:30 AM  
Blogger tetewa said...

Would loveto win a copy! tWarner419@aol.com

10:41 AM  
Blogger Deena said...

Oh, I hope it's not too late...please, put me in:-)

thedeena63 at hotmail dot com

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Stacey Schmid said...

I loved reading this interview and this book sounds fascinating. "What if" mode...I do that too, it's good to know I'm not alone. :)

11:38 AM  
Blogger Claudia Blanton said...

Loved the interview! I am looking forward to reading this book, and more of this blog!

Peace and Love

5:12 PM  

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