An Oldie but Goodie: Rereading Myself

secretlives150[1].jpgA writing friend is working on a book with a rural mountain setting. As she told me about her story, I was reminded of the Shenandoah Valley setting for my third book SECRET LIVES, so I suggested she take a look at SL for the atmosphere. Not, I hasten to add, that my friend needs any help with her writing, but it’s often helpful to immerse yourself in books with similar settings.
So I was thinking about this last night and picked up one of the very few copies I still have of SECRET LIVES. I wanted to read the beginning of the book with a fresh eye, as my friend will. I bet I haven’t looked at this book in fifteen years. I remember adoring it. It has a pathetically boring cover, and it’s long out of print, having been published around 1990 or so, but it was special to me because I felt as though I was truly finding my voice and my niche as I wrote it. It’s a story with intense relationships of all sorts and it’s full of secrets and twists.
Imagine my surprise then, when I squirmed in discomfort as I read the first chapter.
Chapter One opens in the point of view of a famous actress, Eden Riley, as she’s preparing to be interviewed by a similarly famous interviewer-of-the-stars. It reads soooooooo much like a slick, chick-litty, Jackie Collinsy kind of romance. I hasten to add (once more) that I have nothing against chick-litty romances, but SECRET LIVES isn’t one. Yet if I were a reader in today’s world reading the first few pages, that’s the sort of story I’d think I was about to get.
That all changes, thank heavens, in Chapter Two, when Eden becomes a down-to-earth woman searching for her roots in the Viriginia mountains. Once I got into the second chapter–and better yet, into the third, which is the start of her mother’s diary–I relaxed. It’s a good book. It garnered wonderful reviews back in the day. Publishers Weekly said “The brisk, atmospherically evocative narrative is absorbing reading.” I am grateful to the reviewers for making it through Chapter One.
Although SL is no comedy, I found myself laughing as I read. For example, Eden arrives at her uncle’s home with her Word Processor. There are no computers or cell phones or any of the trappings we take for granted in the twenty-first century. Why, it’s practically an historical novel now!
I’m going to keep reading it. I’m finding the journey back fascinating, akin to looking through photo albums of your early childhood and thinking “Wow, I was a dork” as you look at one picture and then “How did I ever get my hair to look so cute?” in the next. Best of all, rereading one of my older books encourages me as I start a new one: I did it before; I can do it again.


  1. Ann on August 4, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Diane, I have that book with the very same cover – I loved it!

  2. Diane Chamberlain on August 4, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Glad you loved it, Ann. i think you have one of the very few remaining copies in existence.

  3. NancyJ on August 4, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Diane, I read that book years ago and forgot it was even yours! LoL..Now I want sooo much to read it again..I adored it and was sad to have it end…Thanks for reminding me!

  4. Diane Chamberlain on August 4, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Hi Nancy J,
    just skim over Chapter One. 😉

  5. Joyce White on August 4, 2007 at 9:58 pm

    Hi Diane, I have read all of your books and have loved every one. I went in the library one evening, years ago near closing time. someone asked me if I was looking for a good book. She took me right to “Keeper Of The Light”. I signed it out and that is when it all started. I wait patiently every year to read your next one. I would love to re-read Secret Lives. Please let us know if and where we can ever buy a copy. I will continue checking Amazon, to try to purchase it. I guess I will check the library and see if they might still have a copy. I am now reading a book by Anne Tyler, “Saint Maybe”. I read that you liked her books. Thanks! Joyce W.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on August 4, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Hi Joyce,
    Thanks for popping into the blog! I’m grateful to that person who led you to KEEPER of THE LIGHT.
    Anne Tyler was one of those writers I devoured back when I was first writing. I haven’t read her latest (I think it’s called DIGGING TO CHINA?) but I do remember enjoying SAINT MAYBE. She creates such real, sympathetic characters.

  7. Rob Lopresti on August 5, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    Secret Lives is my favorite of your books, Diane (with Bay at Midnight a sentimental favorite too).
    Have you been to People go there to list and review books they own or have read. When I went there I found that Secet Lives had been tangled up with Secret Life of Ceecee Wilkes, so I seperated them. Anything to help.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on August 5, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    Hey, thanks bro!

  9. Julie on August 6, 2007 at 1:39 am

    I’ve been out of town for a week, visiting with my brother and helping him through a crisis. (Thus, the post from your brother made me smile…thank goodness for those family relationships that truly work.) Before I left, I read The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes and I think it was my favorite so far. Still have several more to go!
    Enjoyed reading about your journey back through the older book.

  10. Margo on August 6, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Diane, I have an original hardbound copy of SECRET LIVES also. I found it after reading KEEPER OF THE LIGHT around 12-14 years ago and devoured it over 1 weekend. It was an amazing story that I LOVED and I remember wanting to reach out to Katherine and be her friend. This was such an original, powerful novel and I found myself wanting to return to the cave. I’ve read this book twice and indeed, I think I’ll return to the cave for a 3rd time. And by the way, I disagree with the Chapter 1 idea…I was hooked after the 1st chapter.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on August 6, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Julie, you are so right about the value of family. Mine has been in crisis mode off and on for years, and it’s pulled us all together and made me realize how lucky I am to have my precious siblings. I hope things work out for your brother.
    I’m glad you liked CEECEE. That book is a bit different for me in that it has no real twists, but I really enjoyed writing the suspenseful unfolding of her story.
    Margo, Katherine is probably my all-time favorite character (though Annie’s made me more money 🙂 ). I love Katherine’s kookiness, yet I feel such pain for her because of how her fears and strangeness impacted her life. This is the book of mine I’d really like to see made into a movie.

  12. Margo on August 6, 2007 at 10:30 am

    SECRET LIVES would make an incredible movie. My favorite character is Annie from KEEPER…she impacted so many lives and altho she had her burdens to carry she was also about love and generosity…a complicated individual at best. Another character I love is Shelley from SUMMER’S CHILD…she is beautiful in her innocense and I would love to see her reappear in a future novel.

  13. brenda on August 10, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    When I was working on Master’s Project-chose hundreds of my columns to put together (still haven’t finished putting ALL together and retyping…) I couldn’t believe the earlier ones…compared to the later ones.
    I quit writing for the paper, and at the funeral home recently, I had dozens of folks wanting to know why. I just feel “written” out for now…with classes beginning…I want to take more classes so that I can work toward Master’s Plus 45 (teacher pay) instead of the Master’s Plus 30 that I think I have…I want to learn Spanish now that my son is living in Florida…So much to do. Don’t know about the columns…
    Diane-when I reread your books-they are timeless, and I am transported back to that time. As I sit by the ocean, I remember one of your books that had a girl in it who watched the ships during the war=that was one of yours, RIGHT? Or am I losing it down here?????

  14. Diane Chamberlain on August 10, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    I think that was from Bess Poor’s diary in KISS RIVER, Brenda.
    I know what you mean about feeling “written out!” I definitely have those days.

  15. brenda on August 11, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    It was KISS RIVER-how could I have forgotten? Old age I guess. Diane-let’s assume from reading this plethora of emails that you have touched many readers’ hearts…we have also become friends on this BLOG and care about each other-when I started my online bookclub-the only thing others had in common was that they knew me…thus various women from around the country have become friends-just as you have done. THus, you keep touching lives…

  16. brenda on August 11, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    I am pretty sure I do not have Secret Lives. I will check when I get home-How did I miss it???

  17. Diane Chamberlain on August 11, 2007 at 10:24 pm

    It’s the woman who lived (mostly) in a cavern, Brenda. I think you’d remember it if you read it. Though you read so much!

Leave a Comment