A Letter From Diane
A Few Words to the Audience…
Dear Gentle Reader,
I have always dreamed of writing a novel –the kind of tale I wish I could read: one which appeals to both young and old, women and men, exquisitely written though easy to read, with characters that inhabit you while simultaneously coaxing you to think about your own life and what you want out of it; a story that makes you laugh out loud, cry, and gives you goose bumps; something that doesn’t take too much of your time–but just might stay with you for a lifetime.
And I have had a true love of words for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s a word search, crossword puzzle or scrambler at the back of a children’s menu, I delight in playing with words. When I was growing up my father, whose own vocabulary is extensive, would use a word at dinner, such as ‘pugnacious’, and then refuse to tell us its meaning; rather insist we leave the table, grab a dictionary and look it up for ourselves. Naturally I never forgot its meaning, and in fact used it on a playground bully the following school day.
I majored in English Literature in college–so obviously I have done my share of reading– and while I generally have always loved a good book, I think I was really there more for the words. When I went to lecture, I would listen very keenly to my professors’ dialogues, eager to jot down a new word or two I could adopt as my own. Now I have Google!
Many years later I fell in love with, and then stumbled into teaching, a form of hatha yoga. Because of circumstances that were quite by ‘accident’, I had no formal training and as such, I was forced to learn how to be an instructor on the fly. What I quickly discovered was how important it was for me to use my words selectively, compellingly, in order to teach the most efficient and inspiring ninety- minute sessions possible–that is, to tell the best story.
When I teach a yoga class I also use music to its greatest effect and am extremely fussy about my playlists, and I devised a similar technique to assist myself in the writing process: I’d choose a contemporary, upbeat song, such as “La La La” by Naughty Boy with Sam Smith and then listen to something quieter, more soulful, like “Youth” by Daughter, just to be sure a scene I was constructing worked with both moods. I wanted my novel to have a timeless feel despite its being mainly a period piece. (In fact, you may want to re-read the final page of OFF HER ROCKER while playing “Youth” in the background–and I highly recommend Sam Smith’s acoustic version of “Latch” for the love scene; if this book is ever turned into a film, I will insist upon its use for Hadley and Ari’s night of passion).
I want to share with you here that I am a survivor of one of the rarest forms of pancreatic tumors, (the same kind of tumor as Steve Jobs had; coincidentally, I taught hot yoga on several occasions at Apple), and throughout my health scare and lengthy convalescence I had a lot of time on my hands, but not much energy. Books became some of my best friends and partners in healing. The odds of surviving a neuroendocrine tumor to the pancreas are sobering–worse than surviving an airplane crash; after this brush with death, I’ve tried to never take my life for granted, and writing a book absolutely went to the top of my bucket list.
So when I thought I had conceived a hauntingly beautiful, layered story, I sat on a stool, lotus-style, at the desk in my den nearly every day for six months writing…and writing. When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing; too often I’d be in the shower and have to dash, dripping wet, across our house to jot something down before it was lost to me, or gotten into bed anxious for a good night’s sleep only to find the characters swirling over my head, summoning me back up to play with them. Many times the bills were paid late: there was no way I was getting up from something this much fun just to go off to the Post Office for some stamps, and I virtually lived in one pair of black sweats. My husband bought me a lounging outfit for my last Birthday and the pants of it now have holes throughout and are frayed at the ends; I’ve literally worn them out while writing.
Hadley, Ari and Perry have become a part of me; they are as real to me as the fingers of my own hand. Now that I have finished my novel I am going to miss each of them–terribly. I hope you enjoyed OFF HER ROCKER as much as I enjoyed writing it, because it was the most fun I have ever had on my own. The experience felt very similar to reading a fantastic book, where you simultaneously can’t wait to find what happens–yet never want it to come to an end. I hope you found the themes of devastation, mental anguish, moral dilemma, and true love resonating; my version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” meets “Splendor in the Grass” with shade of “Stairway to Heaven”. I hope I left you, by the very last word, utterly satisfied, yet panting for more. And I thank you, most humbly, for your time; I have no doubt it is precious.
Oh–I recently purchased a soft black jumpsuit; perhaps it is time to sit down and begin writing novel number two!
Diane Lynn Collman appeared at Village House of Books on May 2nd as part of our California Bookstore Day celebration! Thank you to everyone who came to say hello to Diane and our other local authors!