Q. Do you ever watch TV and if so what’s your favorite show?
A. Unless I’m on deadline, I watch either TV or a movie nearly every night I’m home, but I’m pretty picky about what I watch. I love a great series with intelligent writing and a gripping story. My current favorite: The Americans. Recent favorites: Downton Abbey, Homeland, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black. I rarely watch sitcoms or reality TV these days, although I love the Sing-Off, the a cappella competition, and wish it was on right now! How about you? Have any TV suggestions for me?
Q. Why is it that you always include a key piece about “coloured” people in most of your books (love that by the way)?
A. Your spelling gives you away as one of my UK readers, and I wonder how our different countries’ racial histories impact the reading of my books. That would make an interesting essay! You are right that my stories frequently involve African American characters. Often, it’s not intentional. As I imagine a scene, the person who pops into my head might show up blond or skinny or Asian or black. I may or may not let you as the reader know that, depending on how the description of that character impacts the story. Sometimes, though, it’s intentional–Lita Jordan and her family in Necessary Lies, for example. They helped me illustrate what life was like in 1960 Jim Crow North Carolina for both black and white. In several books, I’ve written about interracial relationships, and of course the race of both partners and the way they relate to one another is critical to the story. Race relations has always been an important topic for me. I was raised during the civil rights era in a New Jersey town that was, at that time, half black and half white. When I view the world, it’s through the lens of my growing up years, and I’m grateful that lens is so colorful.
Q. What do you still hope to do in life, both personally and professionally?
A. Yikes, there’s no way to answer that question in a few sentences, but I’ll try.
Professionally: I’d like to continue writing entertaining stories for as long as I’m having fun and my readers want more. After that, I’d like to write a memoir, and I also have a few ideas for novels that are different from my usual. I hope I’ll be writing my crazy time travel novel when I’m in my eighties!
Personally: I want to spend more time with my family and friends. I’d love to fly around the country visiting all the people I miss.
Problem: My personal and professional longings don’t mesh together very well, as one doesn’t allow much time for the other. I imagine that’s true for most of us.
Q. Did you always know you wanted to write? Were there always characters in your head?
A. I knew I wanted to write when I was in the first grade and our teacher read us E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, a chapter each day. What excitement and pathos and heroism in that story! Even now, I remember being struck by the realization that a human being could write something amazing and that since I was a human being, maybe I could do it too. I became much more practical when it came time to pick a career (social work), so even though I had that very early yearning, I set it aside for a long, long time.
Yes, there were always characters in my head. If I’d allowed anyone into my six-year-old brain back then, I probably would have been rushed into therapy. I loved going to bed at night so I could spend a couple of hours thinking up stories before drifting off to sleep. My parents probably wondered why I was always so tired in the morning after eight hours of “sleep”.
The other thing I did constantly as a kid was narrate my life. You know: “Diane reluctantly climbed the stairs to her room. Peering out the window, she thought longingly of the puppy she wanted for her birthday.” Et cetera. I think I may have read way too much as a kid. Is that possible?
Thanks for your questions! I welcome more of them, or any thoughts of your own that these questions raise for you.