New York Times  Bestselling Author

Why this Box Made Me Cry (and a Give-away)

box In the days before e-books, here’s how it went for most authors: you spent a couple of years pouring your heart and soul into a book, which was then published, sat in the bookstores for a few months and then quietly disappeared forever. This was a typical scenario for most novels (and still is for the print version of most books). Secret Lives was first published in 1991. It didn’t do well. Although it was my third novel—absolutely the book of my heart—and it received beautiful reviews, I wasn’t well known (understatement) and it sort of tanked. And that was it. The end of Secret Lives.

Or so I thought.

Fast forward to 2010, when authors discovered they could make their backlist books available as e-books. I decided to give it a try starting with Secret Lives, teaching myself how to format it for the various e-readers. After publishing twenty+ novels, I was better known by then, but I was still shocked when the sales started rolling in. Well over 100,000 sales and 150 five-star reviews on the US Kindle site later, I knew Secret Lives had finally found its audience.

Still, it hadn’t been in print book format since 1991. That is, until now, thanks to my publisher in the United Kingdom, Pan Macmillan. As of today, it will be available in print in the UK. When I opened that box and saw my ‘baby’ back in print . . . well, it got to me.

SL inside box

Can I tell you a little about this book’s early road to publication?

I had the idea for the story (more about that in a moment) and it was all I could think about. It was a bit of a risky idea in a few ways (no spoilers here!) and I was passionate about it. I attended a writers’ conference where I had an appointment to sit down with the editor from a publishing house and ‘pitch’ my story in the hopes she would want to take a chance on the as-yet unwritten novel. I desperately wanted to convey to her the wonderfulness of my story. I was still a nervous newbie writer, though, and I was such a wreck as I told her the story that I had trouble breathing and had to excuse myself in the middle of the meeting to go outside and gulp air (I am not making this up. I’m sure she thought I was insane). When I was done pouring my heart out to her, she said something like “I can see you feel strongly about this story, but I don’t think it’s for us.” (typical publisher rejection language). I was crushed, but not surprised after my performance as a crazy woman.

Once I’d written the novel, though, it sold to the first editor who saw it (I will always be grateful to Karen Solem, then at HarperCollins and now with her own agency. She really ‘got it’). But as I mentioned, despite editorial enthusiasm, Secret Lives slid quietly into oblivion. . . until its rebirth in 2010.

Even though I’ve written twenty novels since Secret Lives, this story will always hold a special place in my heart and I’d like to tell you why.

I loved my first two novels, Private Relations and Lovers and Strangers, but I didn’t truly discover my “voice” as a novelist until Secret Lives. With Secret Lives, I began to understand how important structure, pacing and revelations are to a story. They can make the difference between a slow-moving novel and a book that’s hard to put down.

As is often the case with my books, this story has its roots in several different areas. First, I read a newspaper article about an old acquaintance of mine who had been accused of molesting his young daughter. Having worked professionally with him, I couldn’t imagine the accusations were true and I assumed he was being set up by an angry ex-wife. But it started me thinking. How could you ever be sure about a man who’d been accused of something like that? How could a woman—a woman with a young child and a lot to lose—ever completely trust him? I knew that dilemma would be part of my story.

Around the same time, I visited the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. On a hike, I stumbled across an archeological dig and was quickly caught up in the tales the archeologist told me about his findings. The characters of Kyle and Ben were born that day as I listened to the archeologist speak. On that same trip, I visited the Luray Caverns and was mesmerized by their beauty and mystery. I knew from the moment I set foot in the caverns that I wanted to use them in the book. I was determined to make the cavern a character in its own right and by making it the “home” of the quirky children’s author Kate, I think I succeeded in doing that.

I fell deeply in love with my characters, particularly Kate. Kate’s chapters are written in first person, since they’re all in the form of journal entries. Although I often write in first person these days, that was new to me when I created Secret Lives and for the first time I discovered how incredibly close I could feel to a character by putting myself so deeply inside her heart and mind.

Another reason Secret Lives touched me was Kate’s agoraphobia. I didn’t set out to make her agoraphobic–she simply became that way over the course of the book. I, too, suffered from agoraphobia as a child and young adult, which is another reason why I related to her so strongly. I understood Kate very well.

I chose not to update Secret Lives because Kate and her journal belong to a specific era. The contemporary portion of the story takes place around 1990, which is why there are no cell phones or personal computers or iPods…and definitely no e-book readers! But the novel is full of the one element that’s crucial to any good story—human emotion. That has never changed and I doubt it ever will.

I’m giving away four copies of the print version of Secret Lives. It doesn’t matter where you live. Just leave a comment below and on Friday evening at 10 pm, EST, I’ll use a random number generator to pick four of you to win. I hope you enjoy the story!

Note: Although Secret Lives is not available in print (yet) in the US, it is available as an audio book and e-book.

65 Comments

  1. SharonH on February 26, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I’m so glad that Secret Lives found it’s audience! I can’t wait to read it!

  2. Heather Donovan on February 26, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    I have been in love with your books since I read The Midwife’s Confession on my e-reader – I couldn’t put it down! Your books are simply amazing, and I can’t wait to read this one!

  3. Jill on February 26, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I just love reading and your books are fabulous. Even though I love my kindle there is no replacement for getting a beautiful book cover in your hand.

    Thank you for hours of escapism you have given me and all your other readers

    Take care

    Jill

  4. Michelle Saltamachia on February 26, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    I loved reading about this journey of “Secret Lives”! I look forward to reading it!

  5. Rob Lopresti on February 26, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    As you know, Diane, it is my favorite of your books. Glad oter people are finding it.

  6. Teresa Royall on February 26, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    I am enjoying reading your books, especially the Kiss River series.

  7. Ron Staley on February 26, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Diane, I met you first as a singer in our choir and only later found out you were a successful author. i have enjoyed watching your literary career.

  8. Ann Hilton on February 26, 2014 at 9:08 pm

    You are such a fantastic author. I hope you always have your next story in your mind just waiting to be told.

  9. Laurie Picillo on February 26, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    I have not yet read “Secret Lives”, but have read almost all others of yours and loved everyone of them.
    Every time I finish one of your books and think “This is my favorite”, I read another, and think the same thing.
    Thank you for all of your books. 🙂

  10. katie on February 26, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    Love all of your books, & this one is a real gem on my kobo app! Would love to also add it to my Diane shelf of actual books 🙂

  11. Stacie on February 26, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    This is the only book of yours I have not read yet and after reading about all of the emotions you poured into this, I can not wait to start reading tonight!

  12. Joan on February 26, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Beautiful cover!

  13. Cindy Kyle on February 26, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I have been a fan of yours since I picked up one of your books a year ago. Since then I have read several and I cannot choose a favourite as I love them all. It is so nice to read how you came to write Secret Lives and it is on my to read list now. I hope hope hope I get to read this one in print. 🙂

  14. Bonnie Franks on February 26, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Thank you for this chance. It sounds like this book has great meaning to you, and I’m sure that is passed to the reader. Can’t wait!

  15. Diane Lamprey on February 26, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    I read Secret Lives and also fell in love with the Kate character! I too have and still do suffer with agoraphobia, it’s not an easy thing to get over, I have come a long way from where I once was but it’s an everyday battle. I truly believe we have kindred souls! It’s all in the name because the more I learn about you the more I am believing it! You are amazing Diane!

    • Diane Chamberlain on February 27, 2014 at 12:06 am

      I’m sorry to hear you suffer from agoraphobia, Diane. It can really shrink your world. I’m glad you’re doing better!

  16. Kathy Maher on February 26, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    Diane it’s do funny you Twitted about this book because after saying with you tonight I told my book club they all had to go and read this book. I live the whole story and I’ve read it twice already – which I don’t normally do. I’d love a copy

  17. Amy Sadlee on February 27, 2014 at 12:32 am

    This is one of my favourite of all your books, although love them all.

    I love a paper copy of my loved books as well as kindle copies.

    Thanks to amazon to letting me find one of the best authors.

  18. Donna Burfield on February 27, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Diane I love the story about how this book became published/ I would love to win. Thank you.

  19. Jill Burkinshaw on February 27, 2014 at 2:02 am

    I absolutely loved this book so pleased it is to be available in print. My partner is agoraphobic and i think he always will be so I especially related to Kate. That said all your books are so good I remember every one (even if i get the titles mixed up) Keep writing

  20. Marie on February 27, 2014 at 2:03 am

    Thought I was going to have to wait for your new book but here’s one I’ve missed. Can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

  21. Heather on February 27, 2014 at 4:34 am

    I found Secret Lives along with Fire and Rain and Reflection in Kindle. It felt like such a treat knowing they were there waiting for me! I loved Secret Lives and Fure and Rain but kept Reflection until a couple of weeks ago. This time last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, only a very small lump which was removed but I had to have chemo and radiotherapy and reading has been my lifeline. Especially your books

  22. Katt Olsen on February 27, 2014 at 5:49 am

    OMG how could i have missed this book?!! I am downloading it to my Kindle straight away. I love this post, it made me cry but happy tears 😉

  23. Jennie O'Donnell on February 27, 2014 at 5:52 am

    “Secret Lives” is now in print here in the UK!! This has made my day. I become so engrossed in your books, I feel as though I know the characters personally. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Thank you x

  24. amy feld on February 27, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Since I’m not in the UK, where they get all the bargain books, I’d really love to win a copy. Necessary Lies was a masterpiece, and I love all of your books.

  25. Holly M on February 27, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Diane Chamberlain is the best author ever! I’ve bought and read ill of her books… Yes, the real deal-books!

  26. Colleen Richardson on February 27, 2014 at 7:02 am

    I have read Secret Lives on my Kindle and I really enjoyed it. You are one of my favorite authors so I would love to win a signed copy of this book.

  27. YM Wightman on February 27, 2014 at 7:17 am

    I love all your novels, almost through with (I think) is the last one of yours…I did not go in any order, as they came in at my local library I would read it, always a few of you on order as my library is so small, but my ‘to read’ list is now down to nothing…needing a new one soon, LOL. I would so adore a signed copy from you! Keep up the excellent writing!!

  28. Lisa Cooper on February 27, 2014 at 7:25 am

    I am looking forward to reading “Secret Lives”. I love all your books!

  29. Jayne Jageler on February 27, 2014 at 7:27 am

    I must say I never read this book. But from this blog I intend to read it. I like knowing this book has a special place in your heart. I like the settings of Virginia and the Luray Caverns. I have been there and truly enjoyed my time spent there. The third thing I can relate to is Kate’s agoraphobic problems. So this book has captured my attention without turning one page. I’m looking forward to reading this book. I also appreciate that you left the settings as the 1990’s. I dislike it when authors try to update books to a newer time. Some how it changes the feel for the books. I truly think we are over indicated with too much technical gadgets. Some things are better left back before the new and improved items.

  30. Debbi Johnson on February 27, 2014 at 7:30 am

    I love that story of how it was published and now is finding it’s readers many years later! I love all your books and can’t wait to read this one!

  31. Virginia on February 27, 2014 at 7:38 am

    I found an ancient copy of this book from an used bookstore and loved it. Read it in two days. It’s amazing. I could tell by all the emotion put in it that you really, really loved the story.

  32. Kathy on February 27, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Haven’t seen this one yet. Will have to give it a go!

    • Peg on February 27, 2014 at 9:23 am

      I am nearing the end of my list of your books. What will I do then? You are an amazing writer!

  33. stephanie on February 27, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I would love to read this book!

  34. Melinda Ashby on February 27, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    I have to admit I’m usually weary of reading early books by my fave authors (you being one) as I worry that the quality won’t be as good as books I have already read. You have however convinced me that this will be a good read so I will have to add it to my collection (plus my bookshelf will look odd without it)

  35. Samantha on February 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I would love to read this book! It is one of the few that I can’t get my hands on because I am not a big E-Reader fan. I am only missing 3 of your books and it makes me sad to know I haven’t read them all.

  36. Diane on February 27, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    All of your books are fabulous and it is impossible to choose a favourite…. I love the way that you find time to talk to your readers, the blogs, recipes, story weekends etc. How beautifully you write. I am currently reading Secret Lives on my kindle and last night I had to read one of the paragraphs over and over again…. ‘She was suddenly aware of the danger, hanging like a scent in the air, mixing with the honeysuckle………’ I felt that I was actually there, watching over the characters!

  37. Nancy Kimpel Boma on February 27, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Reading about Secret Lives in this post assures me that this is another of your books that I will absolutely love!!! As I continue to read your books, I am NOT looking forward to finishing all of them! What will I do when I have to wait for each new release!! LOVE YOUR BOOKS!!!!!!

  38. Carole Bishop on February 27, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    I still love to hold a print book in my hands. I’d love to have a copy of Secret Lives!

  39. Jodi on February 28, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Thank you so much for the chance to own another one of your books.

  40. Nancy Richardson on February 28, 2014 at 10:24 am

    Really really enjoy your books!

  41. Ann Ellison on February 28, 2014 at 10:25 am

    I would love to win a copy of Secret Lives. It sounds like another good one. Thanks for the chance.

  42. Lori Mock on February 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I absolutely loved Secret Lives and would love to gift this to a dear friend! You are an amazing author……my favorite!

  43. Raeanne Knull on February 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    I just started reading a few years ago. I never thought I would read enough to find a favorite author. It took ONE book of yours to realize it was you. I have tried to read all of your books and have a few left. I need to keep a few for in between the others! 🙂 You always have me by the first chapter, if not the first page. And I tell everyone that. That is hard to do!!! Thank you so much for being so “real” and friending all of us on facebook, etc. It’s so awesome to know you more than just your words!

  44. Joy Cook on February 28, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I have loved all of your books that I have read. I can’t wait to read Secret Lives.

  45. Louise Bailey on February 28, 2014 at 10:38 am

    It sounds like a very good read. I am reading The Courage Tree at the moment and can’t put it down.

  46. Claire Warby on February 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Feel a little left out in the UK as not all of your books are available in print (I once had a Kindle but did not like it! I like a good, old fashioned hard copy). I’ve read all your books so far, the Kiss River trilogy is probably my favourite but so difficult to choose!

  47. Erin Hassler on February 28, 2014 at 10:40 am

    E-books and audio are fine, but I LOVE actual books! It would be great to read this book.

  48. Wanda Z on February 28, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I read one of your novels a year ago and I have been a fan since. I thoroughly enjoy your work and would love to win a copy of this one to read and then share with my daughters.

  49. Sandy Mason on February 28, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I absolutely loved Secret Lives. I could not put it down. Thanks for the opportunity to own a copy of this great book.

  50. Stephanie S. on February 28, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I have been reading your books since I first discovered them in the mid nineties in my local used bookstore. I was lucky enough to get my hands on all of the books you had written up until that point, including Secret Lives. I took it with me when I moved to attend college in another state. I can remember sitting on the couch in my grandparents house (I was living with them for a brief time) on rainy Sunday and reading it non stop from cover to cover in one sitting. From then on I was completely hooked on your books. I would love a copy to re-read. The cover is beautiful!

  51. Heather on February 28, 2014 at 11:14 am

    I would love to read Secret Lives!!

  52. michelle prevatte on February 28, 2014 at 11:21 am

    wow to see your baby again after all these years in paper that you can feel and to be able to give some away thank you so much for sharing in your good luck

  53. Grazina on February 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

    The first your book I have got one year ago when I lived in England. I always love to read and still love so much but that time I had not been reading long time so I was missed books. Because of that I asked my friend to by one book in my country in Lithuania and sent to me. And she sent your book which called “The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes” and I loved it from the first page I couldn’t stop to read it. And still cannot stop to read your books because they are amazing! Every sentence in them are very close to me and make me thing about life, about people’s relationships and let me better understand what is the most important things in our lives. I see that this book is very close to you and I would like to have an opportunity to read it because I have already read all your books which are printed in Lithuanian language but they are not all which you are published and I do not have an opportunity to read all of them what is very sad because I love your books, your writing style an all your minds which I always rewrite in my notebook.
    I want to wish you the biggest successes in your writing way and I hope that I will find more your books in Lithuania soon. 🙂

    P.S. Sorry of my English grammar.

  54. Jane Fraser on February 28, 2014 at 11:41 am

    This is so inspirational! Your such an amazing author, I love your books so much, I love treating myself to reading one of yours! I’d love a copy! This is so honest and your so fab! I’m such a big fan, read most of yours and so excited to read this because I’m sure everyone will be able to see your passion for this book! I’m currently a student and study English and I just can relate to your characters so well, once I start one of your books I can’t put it down, you make it feel so real!

  55. Angela Cahill on February 28, 2014 at 11:54 am

    My mom and I love your books. I would be thrilled to get a copy of Secret Lives

  56. Dana Harold on February 28, 2014 at 11:57 am

    I have read all of your books and love them! Can’t wait to see the next one up!

  57. Suzy on February 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Wow! I’d be honored to win one of the copies.

  58. Kristy Padilla on February 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    The first Diane Chamberlain book I read was The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. I asked my sister who reads hundreds of books a year for a recommendation and that is what she told me to read. I was hooked and have been reading your books ever since. No one can tell a story like Diane Chamberlain can..she is the best!

  59. Melanie on February 28, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I’ve been lucky enough to find some of your older books second-hand on eBay (I’ve just started to read “Summer’s Child” today), but it’s great that they are being re-released.

  60. Martha O'Quinn on February 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Diane, what a poignant story. The Kiss River Trilogy was the beginning of my love for your books; then came The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes and on and on and on. I am so happy for you and your success and most happy for your readers, including me. Thanks, I know it is not an easy journey but you make it seem effortless.

  61. Diane Whitworth on February 28, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    How interesting to know the origins of Secret Lives. I appreciate very much all the “inside stories” you share with your readers.

  62. Diane Chamberlain on February 28, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    We’ve got our winners! Congratulations to Katt Olsen, Carole Bishop, Michelle Prevatte and Kristy Padilla. Your comments were selected by a random number generator. I’ve emailed you for your snail mail addresses. Thank you to everyone who played!!!

    • Kristy Padilla on March 4, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Thank you! I was so excited to see an e-mail from you and can’t wait to read Secret Lives.

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