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Timestamp: 2011-09-26 02:53:57 UTC
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DiAnn Mills is an author that I had the privilege of meeting in Dallas back in 2009. I had enjoyed several of her books and we immediately hit it off since she lives in Houston and we have some commonalities, plus she writes books set in Texas! When I found out I had the opportunity to go to Atlanta in July, I immediately set up an interview to reconnect with her. At first, I thought, "What should I ask her? I've asked the standard author questions about her writing journey, etc." Silly me! There is never enough time to talk to someone who is as vibrant and fascinating as she is! Grab a cup of your favorite brew and enjoy this chat with DiAnn Mills!
I still laugh when I remember meeting and interviewing in 2009 in Dallas when you told me that most people drive through their neighborhood and see a roll of carpet at the curb and think someone’s remodeling but you immediately think “there’s a dead body somewhere!” (She laughs!) Tell me about your recent novel, Under a Desert Sky, which is set in New Mexico -- a change from your series about the Border Patrol.
Under a Desert Sky. Two years ago I was supposed to teach an advanced fiction class at a writer’s conference. I flew into Albuquerque and it’s 2 ½ hours by bus to even get to Ghost Ranch. It’s desolate. (Remember the movie City Slickers? It’s filmed there.) It got its name honestly. There are some fabulous tales there. Georgia O’Keefe, the famous artist, lived several years there. We pulled into this ranch, kind of an adobe kind of setting. I got off the bus and I said to the driver, “Just give me my luggage and I’ll pull it to [my room] as soon as I sign in.” And he said, “Oh no. We have to get someone to drive you there.” I said, “Oh, I can walk!” And he said, “No, where you’re staying is not even here.” So I looked around, and the sun was starting to set, and it was the most desolate place I’d ever seen in my life! In truth, it was 2 ½ miles down a back road and over a cattle guard to get to this home that was built in 1935, and by then it was dark! There were no locks on the house, my cell phone didn’t work, and all I could think was, “In the morning, I’m going home!” That was my horrible attitude! The next morning I opened the blinds and it was absolutely the most beautiful view I had ever seen. The sun was glistening off the rocks, and I thought, “Wow! This is stunning!” And I fell in love with the whole area.
It’s unusual in that the heroine is in first person and the hero is in third. The reason for that is because I knew her. She spoke to me. I understood her lifestyle a little better. But the hero is a Navajo Indian who is also a medical doctor. I couldn’t get that intimacy in first person, so I wrote in third, as close to first as I could, but in third, so it’s a little different. I loved the way it turned out.
It’s very good. Being from Texas, when I think of New Mexico, I think of what you saw that first day, and I don’t see the beauty. I think of flat and desert, although I know there are some pretty areas, such as Albuquerque and the mountains.
Mountains, copper colors and blonde blending in together, and when the sun glistened off them it just sparkled, the deer – it was November so I didn’t see any snakes or I’d have been running! – everywhere you turned, it was just gorgeous. It is a trip worth taking. I’m going back the first part of November this year to teach a beginner class and I’m so excited because I’ll have my book with me. They have a library and I donated a copy to that. It was just fun. It was out of my normal realm. It was 1935, which was a nice transition from historical to contemporary suspense.
What do you have in the works right now?
Attracted to Fire. The hero and heroine are Secret Service Agents. Their protectee is the rebellious daughter of the Vice President. They whisk her off to a remote ranch in West Texas thinking they can keep her safe because she’s been threatened, but someone on that ranch has betrayed them. It’s fun. I enjoyed that; I loved the suspense and the Secret Service – how they do things and how they think and how they would step in front of a bullet for someone they don’t even care for.
So how did you research that?
It was difficult. I know a couple of Secret Service agents and basically what they would say is “No, DiAnn, you have it all wrong; go back to the drawing board” or “Hmm, that’s pretty close” – that sort of thing. So I did have a little bit of help, but it was in such a way not to go against Secret Service protocol but so I could write with a little accuracy.
I’m currently writing a series called Crime Scene Houston. And I love it! I love the characters; it has the same characters all the way through. My heroine is a writer, and my hero is an FBI agent. In the course of writing Pursuit of Justice, I became friends with the media coordinator in Houston’s FBI office. She was instrumental in securing me a pass that I could write from their solved cold cases. So the novels in that particular series are based on solved cold cases. And then I massage it and fictionalize it. They’re set in Houston. My FBI agent, the media coordinator, reads every word to make sure I have the right terminology. There are some things that are a little stretched and we work on that, because it is fiction and it’s like a movie – not everything is going to be exactly the same – and I’m really enjoying that. My husband says I live in a fiction world and that’s pretty true!
The first book is about gang warfare and I have a fabulous story about that. I finished the first one and it’s based on a case that was originally called Beloved Doe. It was a child who was found in a dumpster and the child had been starved and it looked like the child, because of physical problems, had had a feeding tube at one time. It was really sad and it took five years for it to be solved. The first quarter of the book I sobbed all the way through because I knew it was true. I had the news media reports on DVD to watch. The other part of the story is that my FBI agent is trying to bring in some gangs. It’s gang warfare mixed with this other situation; they overlap and you'll have to read it to find out how that happens! I finished the first draft and sent it in and my editor said, “You know, we really would like to have the point of view of the villain.” The villain is the leader of the largest Hispanic gang in Houston. Now, I’ve gone to Sudan to research, researched FBI, ridden the line with the Border Patrol – I’ll do just about anything to research! But I’m not going to go to a gang and say “Hey! Tell me how you do things!” But a fabulous thing happened. In our church on Easter we had one of those presentations where people walked across the stage with signs that said what they used to be. Well, there was one fellow whose sign said, “Used to be in a cartel, and saved by the blood of Christ.” Everybody clapped. I called the church’s Spanish ministry and got in contact with the guy right away. He’s the sweetest, nicest guy you’d ever want to meet! He told me everything I needed to know about the villain’s view, Spanish phrases, all kinds of cool things. And I was able to help connect him with a published writer to do a biography for him. Obviously he can’t use his real name, but he’s had two cartels, done everything from street crime to white collar crime. Anyway, we just became friends! So I got my point of view and didn’t have to go down on the south side and wait for something to happen!
I’m very happy with how my career is going. There’s always the social media. You could spend all day long doing nothing but social media, and I don’t want to do that. I write in the mornings, and I have my craftsman students, the Christian Writer’s Guild that I mentor, in the afternoon. I highly respect, admire, and understand all the work that has to happen through social media. So I’m doing it but I hope that I’m doing it sensibly – more of a power punch than a scatter gun.
I love your Monday question on Facebook. I’m just overwhelmed with how kind you authors are. I’ve met “famous” Christians who don’t have time for the little people. It means so much when I make a comment and you "Like" it.
I have to go in with the mindset of “There’s a friend, there’s a new friend, there’s a friend I haven’t seen in a while,” instead of “Oh, how nice this person is, maybe she’ll buy my book.” That’s what I enjoy about social media, Facebook, etc. Our grandparents purchased their supplies from the fellow with seven kids who sat on the pew in front of them in church. They purchased from those with whom they had a relationship, not that the relationship was supposed to get them a better deal, but because they liked them. That’s the way I look at Facebook. I want to have relationships. If you’re in the market for a book and if you want to read mine, that’s great, but that’s not why I’m on FB. I think that maybe some people don’t have that mindset and then they wonder why things aren’t going the way they want them to. And that’s my view. We’re just bringing back traditions our grandparents had and putting them in a different form. That’s my sermon on Facebook!
To me as a reader, it’s just that much more fun to read a book and meet the author and make connections and discover you went to the same church as my brother-in-law and that you live in Houston!
Any last words for your readers? What will I remember from this interview, like the carpet at the curb?
Maybe my friend who used to be in two cartels who loves Jesus? Oh my! He works in Spanish ministry, and he's a great dad! He understands the power of forgiveness -- just amazing! You and I live in our comfortable worlds. I just have so much respect and admiration for this man and who he is and what he’s doing in the midst of some dangers. We either think some lives can never be redeemed or we think “oh that’s a movie; that doesn’t really happen.” It does. It really does.
Look for me on Facebook and let me hear from you!
Thank you so much DiAnn! It's always a treat to spend some time visiting with you!
Sworn to Protect was released. (You can see that interview and review here.) So it was an extra-special delight to be in Atlanta in July and see DiAnn receive the Christy Award for this same novel! So of course, I went by the Tyndale booth the next day where they were giving away autographed copies and got one for a giveaway! For a chance to win, just leave a comment on this post by 8:00 pm CDT Sunday, 9/25/11. You must include your name, as well as an email address if you don't have a blog, to enter. Leave a second comment telling me you linked to this post via email or FB for a second entry. Limit two entries per person. US Residents only, please.
Tomjorrow, I'll share my review of her just-released novel, Attracted to Fire!
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