Part Three: A Conversation with Diane and Emilie

Emilie Richards and I have been chatting back and forth on our blogs for the past week. This is the third of four installments. Hope you’re enjoying our conversation! Be sure to comment  for a chance to win one of our books. Emilie will give away Sunset Bridge and I’ll give away Summer’s Child to randomly selected commenters on each of our blogs. Good luck!

Emilie: Do you have a favorite way of making a character sympathetic, a way that draws the reader in immediately?

Diane: One surefire way to make an unsympathetic character more sympathetic is to give them someone they love deeply. Tim in The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes had a sister he would–and did–do anything for, so even though he is manipulative and breaks the law big time, most readers will understand him better because of that human emotion. Another way is to know they grapple with right and wrong. Savannah in The Good Father is torn between her hunger for money and her love of a little girl. Vulnerability is another great way to help readers fall for a character. In One Mountain Away, I remember being drawn in instantly by Harmony’s vulnerability. Everyone can identify with being vulnerable.

Taking our conversation in a slightly different direction, how real do your characters become to you? I like to go the geographic area where my character lives and pretend I’m in that character’s skin or at least hanging out with her there. After a couple of days of doing that, I feel like she’s a friend of mine, and when I finish the book, I don’t want to let her go. What’s it like for you?

Emilie: You’re asking at the right moment.  I just sent in my newest book after working steadily on it forever.  So after the initial elation, I realized I felt so lonely.  Where did my friends go?  I no longer have an inside track on their lives.  But it’s not always true.  Some characters, like some friends, are always a bit mysterious, a bit harder to fathom.  Even when the book’s on the shelf, I wish I knew them better, that I’d gotten them to “fess up” all their secrets.

Marjorie, one of our readers and commenters here asked several good questions.  One, on characters, was this:  “How do we choose which character should change and also choose the events that lead to it.  Care to offer any insight on that?

Diane: For me, it’s the character or characters I’m asking the reader to invest in the most. I don’t ever write from a formula and neither do you, but I can say I a) create a character with flaws and a dilemma b) make life so difficult for her (or him) that she is near the breaking point, and c) have her discover on her own not only how to survive and become a better person for the experience. So the events usually come to me organically from the character’s circumstances. In The Good Father, Erin has lost her little daughter in an accident. Now I’ve thrown a little girl her daughter’s age smack into her path. What she chooses to do helps her grow.

Meredith also asked a “non-character-specific” question I’ll turn over to you, Emilie: “How do you get started on a book?” Since you and I are nearly ready to start our next novels, that’s a good question!

Visit Emilie’s blog on Friday for the last installment of our chat!






  1. carolyn on August 20, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I just recently ‘discovered’ both of you. I finished ‘The Escape Artist’ last week and I am almost finished with ‘Whiskey Island’. You both have done an excellent job with the characters in these two books. I love how you have made them all so authentic. I look forward to reading many more books by both of you.

  2. Audrey Curlee on August 20, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I have thoroughly enjoyed the blogging. I find it fascination to hear about how and why you “do what you do”. Thank you Diane for the introduction to Emilie. I hope to win a book as well. Thank you both!!

  3. Wanda Zerangue on August 20, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I just discovered this blog through Diane’s post on Facebook. I thoroughly enjoyed both of your comments. I’m a big fan of your work, Diane. Emilie, I’ve never read one of your books but I’m on my way to pick one up today!

  4. Diane Chamberlain on August 20, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I’m so glad you all are enjoying our conversation! We’re having fun with it. Carolyn, thanks for the compliments!

  5. Ann Hilton on August 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Just wondering when you are writing one book, do you have your next book in mind or do you wait until you have a finished project before thinking about your next ?

    • Diane Chamberlain on August 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      Emilie’s writing a series, so I bet she has her next book in mind. I don’t have a clue!

  6. Sheree on August 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    My question to both of you is Do you ever worry when you are reading for pleasure that a particularly strong character will creep unwittingly into the book that you are writing? Great Blog. I am really enjoying it. Thanks

    • Diane Chamberlain on August 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      It hasn’t happened to me yet, Sheree. (That I know of!)

  7. Ola Norman on August 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I’m enjoying the questions in the blog. I’m amazed at some characters just “grab” me and won’t let go.

  8. Beverly Silvestre on August 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    It’s so interesting to learn how your characters are developed,. I am always intrigued how characters can become so real to me when I read a book. I am glad to know that happens to the author too!

  9. Marie on August 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Really enjoying the blog ladies, a great insight into how you create your wonderful characters. No wonder that you (and your readers) actually begin to care about these fictional people as though they are real acquaintances!

  10. Mandi on August 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    I am finishing the last of Diane’s book list now (insert sad face here), so I am excited to discover a new author like Emilie. I am headed to my favorite local bookstore tomorrow to decide which one. Eeee!

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and processes with your readers. It’s so interesting to hear all that goes into a story and I am happy that you are including us in your conversation.

  11. Ann on August 20, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Both of you do such a good job of making your characters “real”. I think that is so important in making a book memorable – I don’t finish your books and forget the characters. That is what is so nice about sequels or trilogies [sp?]. Don’t have dictionary nearby.

  12. Emilie Richards on August 21, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I love everyone’s comments here and on my blog. So glad you are discovering our books by reading along and glad to have your questions to answer, too. That makes it even more fun.

  13. Lisa Helms on August 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    I am currently reading my first Diane Chamberlain book, The Lies We Told. I am loving it. I also have copies of secrets she left behind, keeper of the light, kiss river, cypress point and the secret life of ceecee wilkes. I have just discovered Diane and am so enjoying my first book. Great work Diane. I have been pulled right in and love your style!

  14. Dale Harcombe on August 22, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Loving reading about this.

  15. Cindy on August 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    This information you have shared is very helpful and inspiring. It seems for me as a “new” writer, I am having trouble knowing how to steer all the information that comes in. What to do with it all and how to sort it. It is good to know others processes. Somehow it makes everything I do or think not seem incredible or stupid….but lets me know that everyone has there own process and there isn’t a right or wrong way..there is just your way…

  16. Diane Chamberlain on August 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Carolyn is the winner of Summer’s Child. She was randomly selected from all posters on this blog post and the last. Emilie will be selecting a winner from her own blog. Congratulations, Carolyn!

  17. carolyn on August 30, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Thank you!! I look forward to reading it!

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