A Good Story Never Goes out of Style . . . I Hope.

woman rollers.jpgOne of my older books, Breaking the Silence, will be reissued in December, so my editor recently asked me to take a look at it to see if it needed updating. It was originally published in 1999, and it’s been a looong time since I read it. I’m enjoying the story (as I try to remember what happens! This plot has so many twists even I can’t remember them all). As I read, I’m keeping my main purpose in mind: how does the book need to be changed to fit 2009? Cell phones? Fashion? Car models? Laptops? I thought it would be simple to zip through the book and update it, but I’ve discovered I have quite a dilemma on my hands. 

You see, Breaking the Silence took/takes place in both 1999 and in the fifties. It’s the story of Laura Brandon, whose father’s dying wish is for her to take care of an older woman who is a complete stranger to her. The story moves back and forth between Laura’s current day relationship with the older woman, Sarah, and Sarah’s life as a psychiatric nurse in the fifties. The problem is that I can’t move the scenes from the fifties into the sixties because the story rests on the CIA mind control experiments which took place in that earlier decade. And I can’t make Sarah any older than she is because. . . well, just trust me. I can’t. So it looks like the book, while being reissued in 2009, will still need to be set in 1999. Would that bother you as a reader? I’d really like to update it, and plan to create a meticulous timeline this weekend to see if there’s any way I can tweak the story to make that happen, but I don’t think it will be possible and still make it believable. So what do you think? Does a good story go out of style? 


  1. Ann on March 6, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Diane, I don’t think you need to change that book at all. I work in a library and from what I observe the good old books do not go out of style! I am sure that if you do make changes the story will still be a good one but why go to the trouble to change something that is already “good”?

  2. Gina on March 6, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    Diane, I think you should leave it the way it is. I loved that book. I wouldn’t change a thing.
    Who’s the woman in that picture? LOL!

  3. Denise on March 6, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    I read BTS last year, and it is one of my favorites. I suppose you could do a bit of updatin, such as the cell phones or laptops you mentioned, but I wouldn’t tinker with it too much. I don’t recall feeling that it was sorely dated when I read it.

  4. Julie on March 7, 2009 at 2:32 am

    Chiming in — I just read this one last year and it’s one of my DC favorites! I don’t really think you should touch it. The only thing I can see working is to add another POV from present day, or maybe a prologue or epilogue, but I really don’t think it’s critical.
    Or … maybe a cozy letter to the reader from you at the front of the book so people understand the time period and that it’s a special edition? I like stuff like that. That would actually be kind of cool combined with an “extra chapter” or epilogue at the end, or diary entry or something from one of the characters circa 2009.

  5. Anna Adams on March 7, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Diane, I wonder if you couldn’t just add a note that pretty that’s pretty much this post. If the time change breaks the story, you can’t really afford to do that, so why not let the reader in on your dilemma?
    I haven’t read this one so I’m pretty excited!

  6. Diane Chamberlain on March 7, 2009 at 9:57 am

    These are interesting ideas! I particularly like just adding a note from me at the start of the book. Will do some more thinking on it. Thank you!

  7. Ann on March 7, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    That is a great idea – to add a note/letter at the beginning. I don’t think you could make the story better – just different. It was/is a favorite of mine.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on March 7, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Denise, you referred to Breaking the Silence as BTS, which made me laugh. Remind me never again to give a two books titles that create the same acronym! I have many files on my computer that use the letters BTS and I’m lost as to whether they refer to Breaking the Silence or Before the Storm!

  9. brenda on March 7, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    I love that book. I think the main thing that dates the books I read–no cell phones or computers…when one is typing…that is a clue…but how can an author change that to fit the time period? I am so glad that book is being released again-a real winner.
    I don’t think that MHClark would change hers or other FAMOUS authors as yours truly…a note at the beginning-this is a rerelease…
    On another note-I love love love Delinsky’s latest…get a tissue and as you read it, know that I have been there…done that…and I’ll bet some of you have too…

  10. brenda on March 7, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Dilemna: Diane–someone in the powers to be has got to get your books into the mainstream…You cannot imagine what a time my students have finding your books-they go to stores like KMART, WALMART…Kroger’s (they sell books)…etc…I made so many trips to buy Delinsky’s book that I was nuts…I don’t like to order her books or yours from Internet because I want them the DAY THEY ARE RELEASED…I am willing to drive to Target-30 miles and Borders-30 miles (all Interstate of course) but many of my students (if they read at all-which as I said is unusual) will buy the books readily if they are in paperback in the stores they frequent…You two are authors they like…This also applies to my friends across the country…everyone does not live close to Target and Borders…That being said, the Borders that I do go to has to FIND your books and hers for me…they need to be out there where the customer walking through sees it…I know I have written about this before…but it is so aggravating to me that two of the most popular authors (and the best as far as I am concerned) are not recognized in the stores…
    Okay-I had to say that-I hope you can talk to your publishers…etc…

  11. brenda on March 7, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Lest one think this happens just in my area (not finding the books)…I have been where my kids have lived or live (Cleveland, Indy, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Austin, etc. etc.) the day Diane’s books were released-same problem…However…I must say that the Barnes and Noble in Myrtle Beach, S.C., (where I lived for 5 years) had your books prominently displayed!!!! Yea for them!!! Maybe that is what I miss…

  12. brenda on March 7, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Am rereading B. the S. as we speak…LOVE IT as usual…I wouldn’t change ANYTHING…
    Perhaps my age is showing, but I do teach tons and tons and tons of literature…can’t imagine changing the books and stories…your books are CLASSICS…

  13. Diane Chamberlain on March 7, 2009 at 11:21 pm

    See the problem with the title Brenda? I don’t know if you’re reading Before the Storm or Breaking the Silence. Lol.
    After 20 years, I know all about how difficult it can be to find my books, and believe me, if I could do something about it I would. Most of the grocery stores only carry mass market paperbacks, so my trade paperbacks don’t show up there. I appreciate readers like you who go out of their way to find me. Thank you!
    Is Delinsky’s latest While My Sister Sleeps? I’ve been looking forward to that one.

  14. Denise on March 8, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Diane, do you know if your last three books will be released in mass market paperback format in the future or will they remain in trade paperback?
    Brenda, I understand your frustration about the bookstores, particularly Borders. Unfortunately, in an effort to ‘economize,’ Borders has cut back on the number of books it carries. It is often the case that when an author’s book sells out, the corporate office doesn’t reorder it unless they are a top-selling author (think Grisham…).
    My particular store initially received five copies of BEFORE THE STORM. Once they were gone, we didn’t get any additional copies. We are also out of CECE and BAY AT MIDNIGHT. It is so frustrating for me because although I constantly recommend Diane to customers, I don’t have any copies of her books to sell them.
    Another example that comes to mind is TETHERED by Amy MacKinnon, an excellent recent mystery. It was one of Borders Original Voices when it was released and is still garnering great reviews. Regardless, after we sold out of it, we did not receive any additional copies.
    Maybe if more people complained to the powers that be, this would change somewhat. Of course, times are tough so maybe not…

  15. Diane Chamberlain on March 8, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    So frustrating, Denise, but not all that new. Can your store reorder or does that have to come from higher up? I know that customers can order books through you, though, correct? I often have to tell my readers to do that.
    I’m shocked, though, about MacKinnon’s book. If a “Borders Original Voices” is not reordered by Borders, what hope is there for the rest of us? I do understand, though. There are so many books published and so little room at the inn.
    I don’t believe my recent books are scheduled to be released in mass market paperback. Wish they would be!

  16. brenda on March 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    Denise–how sad…such a great book–but the good news is that many are just going to AMAZON…
    Titles-yes-I see Diane-I was talking about Breaking the Silence.
    You are in for a real treat with Delinsky…One of her best stories-I could relate to it in so many ways-also with the marathons-as I have been to those with Nathan-at those places…thank goodness he does a JOB/Career and his marathons and Ironman triathalons are for FUN!!!!
    Let me know what you think when you read it.
    Can’t wait for the release of your book-I don’t care where I have to go-I will be there the day it is released…usually a Tuesday…

  17. Margo on March 9, 2009 at 8:09 am

    I don’t think an author should ‘update’ an original novel that was written years before. Even tho we have progressed, the magic of the moment was caught by the author at that time…it does not bother me to read a book that was written even 20 years ago and does not talk about modern conveniences of today. I actually think it would bother me if the original novel was altered. I really like the idea of an ‘author’s note’ at the beginning of the novel and possibly the end if needed…I can’t imagine a book such as KEEPER OF THE LIGHT being changed…
    The last few years our Border’s has displayed Diane’s new books on the FRONT TABLE which thrilled me! Also, I’ve noticed her other books such as CEECEE are along the literature wall FACE OUT! If they aren’t face out, I PLACE THEM THAT WAY!!!!!
    I always pre-order Diane’s book and I’m called the moment it arrives at Border’s!
    Brenda, my friend Laura, my mother and I all meet at Border’s EVERY Wed…I would travel an hour if need be to go…I think it’s great you do too. (-O:

  18. brenda on March 9, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Margo-it is worth traveling anywhere to get Diane’s books…

  19. Lorene on March 11, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Don’t update. I am looking forward to reading it for the first time and the setting is fine with me.

  20. Hope on March 11, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Diane, you should stay true to the timeline you’ve already established in the book. Could you imagine updating Francis Parkinson Keyes? Or Anne Rivers Siddons?
    I agree with the comments about the difficulty of buying your books locally. Occasionally, here in Lower Alabama, I’ll find one of your paperbacks; however, since I prefer hardback or trade paperback, I usually have to order through the local bookseller or online.

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