Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Diane Whiteside

Diane Whiteside's many books include Kisses Like A Devil, a new chapter in the Donovan family saga (also known as her “Devil” books), which comes out in February, and The Devil She Knows, due out in June 2010.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I read a ton of ebooks because my iPhone is with me all the time. (As an author, I know all the arguments for and against digital publishing but I do find myself grinding my teeth when a book I want to read isn’t available in that format.) At any rate, more and more of my “light” reading is done this way simply because it’s hugely convenient. I normally have about forty ebooks on my iPhone at any one time, with another five hundred or so stored on my computer.

I’m always reading at least one novel, usually a pure romance or romantic suspense this way. I just finished Remember Summer by Elizabeth Lowell, which was previously published as Summer Games in 1984. Elizabeth Lowell is a favorite author of mine; I own all her books and I’ve dissected more than one. Nobody writes better romantic suspense and her Tell Me No Lies made Romance Writers of America’s Top 100 Best Romance List. Remember Summer is set during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Today’s world is more cynical about terrorism and I know exactly how those equestrian events ended. (Boy, was I hooked on every second of their coverage!) Yet I still found myself desperate to find out what happened and worried lest anything happen to the characters I’d come to know and love.

As a historical author, I read a lot of non-fiction. But I like to hunt down the “I am not making this stuff up, you know!” stories which startle outsiders, while somehow encapsulating an entire culture in vivid anecdotes.

For The Devil She Knows, my upcoming historical novel, I stumbled upon Spies, Scandals, and Sultans, translated by Roger Allen. It’s the first English translation of Ibrahim al-Muwaylihi’s Ma Hunalik, an insider’s devastating attack on the foibles and follies of the late Ottoman Empire. Incredibly detailed and vivid, it’s eye-opening and shocking to a westerner. The original created such a scandal that every copy was ordered to be destroyed. It’s one of those books where the truth is far stranger than fiction – but portions came in very handy for my tale.

For my next historical novel, I’m reading The French Quarter: An Informal History of the New Orleans Underworld by Herbert Asbury, the author of The Gangs of New York. I could not make up the stories which are in this book. As a mere fiction writer, I am limited by the requirement to be believable, something real life laughs at. They’re vivid, they’re human, and they make vice in nineteenth century New Orleans come so brilliantly alive, together with the ever-evolving morals of the day.

I try to read one book on the writing craft whenever I finish a novel. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell is the latest of these. It’s a truly fabulous little book, based on her editing course at New York’s New School’s graduate writing program. Frequently, books on writing tend to focus on their author’s approach and skip over other alternatives. This book has the delightful virtue of treating all writers, fiction or non-fiction, speedy first-draft or deliberate pacer, as equals. Instead, it breaks down the editing process into three phases and offers alternatives from other authors’ work and work processes. The discussion of how The Great Gatsby was edited is worth its weight in gold.

I found it so incredibly helpful that it’s one of the few craft books I’ve used on more than one book. I’ve also recommended it to other authors, including some who have very different processes than myself.

Those are just a few of the books that I’ve read recently and all ones I’ve definitely enjoyed.
Learn more about the writer and her work at Diane Whiteside's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue