Breaking the Silence is Here!

Breaking the Silence 2009 coverI’m thrilled that Breaking the Silence has been reissued so that my newer readers get to enjoy this suspenseful story. It should be available today, November 24th, online and in stores, and you can read an exerpt from it here. (If your book store doesn’t have it, remember that they can order it for you at no charge). This book is one of my favorites and I love the new cover. I thought I’d share an interview I did for this special reissue with you. Note to readers groups: This book is a particularly great one for discussion, and a readers’ guide is available on my website. I’ll be posting a bit more about the research that went into Breaking the Silence over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!

Q. How would you describe Breaking the Silence?

A. Like most of my books, Breaking the Silence is part suspense, part mystery, part romance, and one hundred percent family drama. The plot is complex, with seemingly unrelated threads: a five-year-old girl who suddenly stops talking, an elderly woman who was involved in the CIA mind control experiments during the fifties, a commitment-phobic man who flies hot air balloons for a living, and a female astronomer who gradually pulls the threads of the story together.

Q. Who would enjoy reading Breaking the Silence?

A. My audience is generally made up of women of all ages, including young adults, who I believe will love the intergenerational story, the mother-daughter bond, and the romantic elements. I also have a faithful contingent of male readers, and they particular seem to enjoy Breaking the Silence because of the strong element of psychological suspense.

Q. How did you come up with the storyline for Breaking the Silence?

A. When thinking about ideas for a new book, I like to wander through the nonfiction stacks at the library to see what jumps out at me. I stumbled across a book on the CIA mind control program on one of those forays through the library and became fascinated by the devastating human stories inside. As I began reading about the toll the MK-ULTRA project took on its victims and their families, the idea for Breaking the Silence began to take shape in my mind.

While the mind control experiments gave me the idea for the book, the main focus in the novel is the relationships between the characters. I try to create characters who will have the most difficult time coping with the events in a particular story in order to increase the tension. In Breaking the Silence, I created Sarah, an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, and Emma, a little girl who doesn’t speak. They are two people at different ends of the age spectrum who have one thing in common—they can’t communicate about the secrets each of them carries.

Q. There are some heavy topics addressed in Breaking the Silence: Alzheimer’s, mutism, suicide, mind control. Can the book possibly have a happy ending?

A. Breaking the Silence ends on a realistic yet upbeat note that I think will satisfy my readers. I personally don’t care to read books that end tragically or with too much of the story left unresolved. That’s why I try to give my novels satisfying endings. Some things—Alzheimer’s, for example—are unfixable, but as long as my characters meet the challenge of handling their problems with courage and integrity, I think readers will cheer them on.

Q. What themes do you explore in Breaking the Silence?

A. One of the strongest themes in Breaking the Silence is the value of every human being, whether he or she has Alzheimer’s, is a psychiatric patient, or a five-year-old child. The destructive nature of secrets, the bond between generations as well as between mothers and daughters, and the enduring power of love are other themes explored in the story.

Q. What was the most difficult part of writing Breaking the Silence?

A. It’s always a challenge to move back and forth between the past and present when writing a novel. Three quarters of Breaking the Silence takes place in the present, but the rest of it is Sarah’s story from her days as a psychiatric nurse. When I write a book set in two diverse time periods, I often write the entire past story first so that I don’t lose the sense of time and place or the voice of the character. I wrote Sarah’s story in its entirety. Then I built the current day events around it so that the pieces of the story flow together—seamlessly, I hope.

Q. You have a background as a psychotherapist.  How did that influence this story?

A. As a psychotherapist, my first concern was to “do no harm,” so it was hard to imagine psychiatric workers taking part in something as horrific as the mind control experiments. That was one reason I wanted to write the story of the past from the point of view of a nurse rather than a patient. I believe it’s clear in the book how the charismatic psychiatrist in charge was able to persuade his staff that his approaches were at the cutting edge of the field.

I was also interested in how the therapist in the story would work with Emma, especially when Emma and Sarah are brought together during a session. Emma and her selective mutism intrigued me, but my heart went out to Sarah. There’s a tendency to forget that Alzheimer’s patients have a world of memories locked deep inside them. I liked creating a character who was still able to give something to the people around her in spite of her illness.

Q. What do you enjoy most about being a novelist?

A. I love being able to touch thousands of people around the world with my stories. One of my Japanese readers emailed me to say, “You make me believe that life is beautiful even if it is also filled with pain and rage.” Her words mean so much to me, and that is the message I’d love my readers to take away with them from Breaking the Silence.



  1. Ronnie on November 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Diane, congratulations on the reissue of Breaking the Silence. This was one of my favoirite books (along with all your others!). I hope the sales really take off and I love the cover.

    If you have the time I would love for you to read (if you haven’t already) Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It is an amazing journey of a female Harvard professor who is 50 years old and diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers. I believe the therapist, educator and writer in you will love it.

    Hope you have a wonderful, joyous Thanksgiving.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on November 24, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    Ronnie, I’m glad you liked Breaking the Silence. I’ve put off reading Still Alice. Yes, the therapist, educator and writer in me would love it, but the woman wondering where her nouns have gone would hate it!

  3. Margo on November 25, 2009 at 9:03 am

    I’m so excited to know BREAKING THE SILENCE is out today!!
    Quess what’s on my Christmas List to give friends…THIS BOOK…I remember loving the story and the intricate plot…I’m buying a copy for myself because I love the cover and will reread the book this winter.
    Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

  4. Diane Chamberlain on November 25, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Glad you’ll be giving Breaking the Silence as gifts this year, Margo! If anyone wants personalized bookplates for B the S, send an SASE to me at po box 98543, Raleigh, NC 27624. Be sure to let me know to whom you’d like the book autographed.

  5. Denise on November 25, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Breaking the Silence is definitely one of my favorites. There are SO many interesting subjects and the usual Diane twists and turns that we all love so much!

  6. brenda on November 25, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Still alice-wow…don’t read over the holidays…
    Just finished the book by P. Swayze and his wife-a tear jerker too.
    Part of my family arrives tomorrow…i thought I would get through one week without an emergency…no such luck…hot water heater went today-luckily my plumber likes me and he came on holiday weekend.
    All of you-have a great holiday…I am up to my elbows in pie crust.

  7. brenda on November 25, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    Diane-is your time with your fellow authors over? Sounds great.

  8. Diane Chamberlain on November 25, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Sorry about that water heater, Brenda! Always something. . . Yes, we ended our time at Weymouth yesterday. It was so special to get together with this great group of authors and brainstorm our silly heads off!

  9. brenda on November 25, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    have a great T’giving…
    Diane-are we “into” the next WIP???? I have had such a really rough fall-healthwise and otherwise…I am out of the loop.

  10. Diane Chamberlain on November 25, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I’m working on the rough draft of The Midwife’s Confession, due May 1. =:-0

  11. Joann on November 28, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Meant to congratulate you on getting your new fabulous picture on your website. You look like you’re youthening instead of aging, like in Camelot,
    Lots of love, Joann

  12. Diane Chamberlain on November 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks, Jo. It helps having a resident photographer good with PhotoShop!

  13. brenda on November 29, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Midwife’s Confession? Do we know anything yet?
    I am buying the new Breaking…I have the old one-want to have a “new” D. C. to read over holidays…

  14. Diane Chamberlain on November 29, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I’ll blog about The Midwife’s Confression, of course, but not for a few months. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about The Lies We Told first, since that’s what will be out next (June) and I can’t wait! Thanks for buying the new Breaking the Silence.

  15. Kim on January 28, 2011 at 12:09 am

    I just found your blog through searching for selective mutism and found your posts about this book (which I’m going to buy!) and your own experience with it. I’m a writer and mom in northern Virginia with a son with selective mutism. Thanks for doing your part to bring it to light, and in a creative way.

  16. Diane Chamberlain on January 28, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Hi, Kim, I wish you and your son all the best!

  17. Emma on August 27, 2012 at 6:36 am

    Firstly, I loved Breaking The Silence – it was one of the best novels I have read for a long, long time. The writing was just brilliant – but more than anything I loved the way you weren’t afraid to write about taboo subjects such as suicide, mutism, Dementia, and things like mind control and lobotomies and the old psychiatric methods of the past.

    Something that really intrigued me was the relationship you had with Ray. Having committed suicide, most people would have had him as the victim – and to a point Laura did stick up for him for a while, until she realized just how wrong it was – but eventually he played out as the “villian.” Was that a deliberate thing, or did it just play out that way?

    Breaking the silence is the first book I’ve read by yourself, but I’m looking forward to reading many more!

    All the best.

  18. David C on December 22, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I have been listening to the audio book you wrote and found it very moving! I’m glad I took the time to experience it!

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