A Conversation with Emilie and Diane

Emilie Richards, one of my best friends as well as one of my favorite authors, is going to join me for a chat on our blogs. To celebrate Emilie’s new book, One Mountain Away, we decided to have a conversation about characters—specifically characters who might not be all that sympathetic, at least not at first blush. We’ll start our chat here on my blog and then move it to hers very soon. I hope you’ll enjoy our little give and take. We’ll be giving away copies of Sunset Bridge (Emilie’s) and Summer’s Child (Diane’s) to randomly selected commenters on each of our blogs. Good luck!

Diane: Emilie, I loved One Mountain Away and found it moving and uplifting. Before we start talking about our characters, can you tell my readers a little about the book?

Emilie: One Mountain Away is the first book of the Goddesses Anonymous series, set in Asheville, NC. The theme running subtly through all the stories is the way that women reach out to other women who need them. Friends, strangers, family. This is a tough time, and I strongly believe that the only way some people are going to get through it is with the help of others who reach out to them. I want to explore that in all its guises and disguises. One Mountain Away is the story of a woman who, after looking back at her own life, realizes she has valued all the wrong things. Charlotte Hale has lost her family and has never bothered to cultivate real friendships. Suddenly her life seems very bleak. Charlotte knows she can’t change everything she’s done or been, but she can choose the things that are most important and try to change them. And so she sets about doing so. The novel explores her past, but for the most part, it concentrates on what ensues when she opens her heart.

Diane: As you know, I absolutely loved One Mountain Away (and the whole Goddesses Anonymous concept) and thought it was a truly touching story. But Charlotte. . . wow, I wasn’t crazy about her in the beginning! The story was engaging enough that I kept reading, but I frankly didn’t like her. I’ve had unsympathetic characters in my novels and it’s a fine balancing act to keep the reader engaged while also keeping the character true to the story. How did you feel as you were writing about Charlotte?

Emilie: You and I share a desire for new writing challenges, don’t we? I’ve always known an unsympathetic character can send readers screaming into the night. However I love writing about the way people grow, and how can they grow if they don’t have any place to go? So all characters by necessity must have something about them that needs to change and hopefully does. There is, of course, more than one way to make that transition palatable for the reader.

In this case Charlotte has a lot of room for growth. She’s made a lot of mistakes in her life. After struggling with that, I decided that we should meet her when she’s already begun to change, when she’s already more sympathetic. Of course we also see her through the eyes of people who’ve known the unsympathetic Charlotte and don’t trust her. So we get a good look at that Charlotte, too. But I tried to make it clear that she was on a different path. I hope readers will wonder about both the old and the new woman and what brought about the changes.

Which of your characters was most unsympathetic, do you think, and how did you make them appealing to read about anyway? Because, of course you do. I’m thinking of Annie in Keeper of the Light and Noelle in The Midwife’s Confession.

Diane: What you said about growth really resonates with me. When I first think about a character, I ask myself, “How do I want this character to grow during the story? How do I want her to end up?” Then I have that end point as my goal. It does mean, though, that the character has to start from some not-so-wonderful place. I think the best thing we can do is help the reader see bits of herself in those characters, so they can truly cheer them on as they change and grow.

Annie and Noelle are unique cases, though, in that they’re both dead when the stories open. Thus, change is limited! I think then it’s important to understand why they are the way they are. It’s the same with living characters, too, like your Charlotte. Once we understand their life experiences, we feel for them. Very early in my schooling as a counselor, I worked in a halfway house for teens. It was my first experience working with teenagers and honestly, they got under my skin. My supervisor asked me one simple but profound question: “why do you think they are the way they are?” Once I thought about their lives and their upbringing, my sympathy for them increased, along with my tolerance and desire to help them. I’ve learned to ask that question of my characters as well.


Thanks for reading. . . Emilie and I will be continuing our conversation on her blog on Friday. Be sure to watch for it there, and please leave a comment for a chance to win our books.




  1. Donna Maine on August 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    I just finished Emilie’s book One Mountain Away. It was awesome and I can’t wait for her next book!

  2. Valerie Jaafari on August 15, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    thx for this conversation
    i’ve just finished the keeper of the light and it was awesome thx diane

  3. Emilie Richards on August 15, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Diane, readers can find part two at my blog on Friday: http://www.emilierichards.com/blog.

    This is so much fun.

    • Sharon Pearce on August 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Wow, this is exciting! I am anxious to read One Mountain Away. I love this concept.

  4. mary hay on August 15, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    that’s very interesting. I often wonder why people are the way they are. It helps to know the background before judging them.

  5. […] books, how to make characters come alive, and lots more.  Diane began it today and you can find it right here.  Tune in at my blog on Friday for the second […]

  6. Karen Blake on August 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I’m currently reading Secret Lives. The characters and their stories are making me smile, laugh and cry. Diane, you always write about challenging subjects that I can’t put down.

    Emily, not read any of yours but I love Diane’s books so a recommendation from Diane means i’ll add you to my to-read list.

    Look forward to following ladies.

  7. Melinda on August 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Oh I loved this. Will definitely be checking out One Mountain Away and can’t understand how I’ve missed Keeper of the Light. Guess a visit to the book shop is required tomorrow.

  8. Deborah Tyson on August 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Emilie and Diane, my two favorite authors, chatting. I love it!

  9. natalie mitchell on August 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    So fun to have stumbled onto this conversation 🙂 I really enjoyed the first books that I picked up by each of you – Emilie, yours was “Prospect Street” and Diane, yours was “the Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes”. Needless to say, I have read many, many books by both of you since having picked those up!! 🙂 Keep them coming!! 🙂

  10. Marie on August 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I think readers do occasionally enjoy an unsympathetic character because we usually try to find the good in everyone, so it’s interesting to find out what made them the way they are and to watch the story unfold as the true person behind the facade emerges. Also if there is no good to be found we do tend to wait for them to get their comeuppance. Well that’s my opinion anyway! Loving Diane’s books and now looking forward to trying Emilie’s. x

  11. Gem on August 15, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I have only just got into Diane Chamberlain books from a recommendation from a friend, I’ve loved absolutely everything I’ve read so far. I think of the characters in the book I am reading throughout the day and I can’t wait to read more. For my birthday in June, my Mam saw how much I loved ‘The Midwives Confession’ and immediately bought me 5 of Diane’s books, of which I’m devouring. Absolutely loving them, currently reading ‘Before the Storm’, was reading it in the bath this evening and was holding it and reading it when walking from the bathroom to my bedroom…just can’t put it down! Took my Mam shopping today and was hoping to buy ‘The Good Father’ as it’s in the Tesco charts but it was sold out! Devastated isn’t the word – will look online soon! I’m so happy that Diane has put Emilie Richards name into my brain, I’ll be looking online to buy some of her books if Diane has recommended them. Can’t wait, so excited to be looking forward to some fantastic books from you both 🙂 xxx

  12. Debbie Hearne on August 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I love that the two of you are doing this. Emilie, Women reaching out to help other women. The world would be a better place if this happened more often. Diane you are right, to know how a person (woman) became who she is, you have to know what brought her there.

  13. Ann Hilton on August 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    I have loved every Diane Chamberlain book, so now I am thrilled to find another author to try!!

  14. Martha Franks on August 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    This sounds like my kind of book. I like current times novels featuring strong, independent women who encourage me. Thank you both! Would love to win this book or any of either of your books.

  15. Marie on August 15, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    I know some of you may love it and some of you may hate it but this is the exact reason I loved Fifty Shades of Grey. Christian Grey is the most prime example of an unsympathetic character I have read in a while, he is self-admittedly “fifty-shades of f**ked-up” due to a horrendous start in life (I hated him at the start of the book) but as the story unfolds he turns into the person you know he can & want him to be. The trilogy is perhaps a book too long and of course the writing itself nowhere near the standard we have come to know & love here but an enjoyable story nonetheless.

  16. Jean O Gorman on August 15, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Love reading this. It is amazing to be in touch with your favourite authors. I just need lots more time to read. My old teachers would be so proud of me if they saw all I want to read now. Pity I didn’t do it in school !
    Thank you for my escape time while reading your books. I have 3 young children and we all need to escape.
    Thank you from Ireland.

  17. Jeannine on August 15, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I am enjoying this conversation for many reasons. Can’t wait until Friday.

  18. kelly English on August 15, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I can’t believe I missed part one of this conversation. Have to catch it on Friday. I have bookmarked to download this book – I love all your books Emilee. diane already knows I wait impatiently for hers but yours are also tops on my author list. I especially love your quilting series. I really miss it.

    I love it when I hate a charactor. For me if I hate someone then that means the author has grabbed my attention and is a great writer. I am reading a book right now and I couldn’t even tell if I care about anyone in the book. That is not my favorite kind of story and I probably won’t give the author a second try which is unusual for me. I also love seeing a charactor grow and change. people are not static – not 28 forever and this to me is important.

    So obviously you can see why both of you are on my great author list. Keep writing. I keep buying.

  19. kelly English on August 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    To the people here who had not read Emilee’s books you have a treat in store. she makes them come alive. try to find the mysteries too – they are terrific. Another must on the same line – mary Alice Monroe ),

  20. Patti Cummins on August 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I have read books by both of you and love all of them! Keep them coming!

  21. Martha O'Quinn on August 16, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Emile, I recently began reading your books. I have completed three and am currently reading “One Mountain Away.” I live about 20 minutes from Asheville . . . . Need I say more?
    I think I’m current on Diane’s books. Two of my all time favorites are “The Midwife’s Confession” and “The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes.” Thanks so much to both of you for this exchange. I love character development, especially when I benefit from the realization of how easily I can become judgmental. Continued success to both.

  22. Ann on August 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Combining these 2 blogs is a wonderful way of showing how these 2 very talented women are sharing and supporting each other. This is friendship!

  23. carolyn on August 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I just finished reading ‘The Escape Artist’; my first Diane Chamberlain read. I really liked it! At first I did not like the character Peggy at all; but as the book progressed she became more likable and in the end I was proud of the decisions she made and her actions. I can’t wait to read more of your books.

  24. michelle on August 16, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I love your books DIANE, I have read lots of them and i think the way you bring the characters to life is great. I am gripped when i read your books, i always look forward to reading them. If you have any copies of your new book to give away i would love one.

  25. A Conversation with Diane | Southern Exposure on August 17, 2012 at 7:08 am

    […] who might not be all that sympathetic, at least not at first blush. We started our chat  on Diane’s blog and today we’ve moved it to mine.  Look for more at Diane’s on Monday.  I hope […]

  26. Holly Moon on August 21, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I am really enjoying this conversation.
    I have read every one of Emilie’s books after being introduced to her writing with Prospect Street.. Sometimes it is just so much fun finding a new writer (well, new to me) after they have a few under their belt. Then you get the pleasure of reading several their works in a short time period, which firmly seats them in the MUST HAVE category. I am always checking out my favorite authors to see what is new, and when is something new being released.
    Now it looks like I may have found another soon to be favorite.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  27. Dale Harcombe on August 22, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    look forwrd to reading One Mountain away. loving the dialogue.

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