I learned about author Diane Barnes over at the Lost Books of Lockdown, when I listened to an interview of her. Much of what she said resonated with me, especially the part about promoting our own work and how difficult it can be. But this interview exists as a way to help promote the work of others, so I eagerly reached out to her. A fellow lover of chocolate and ice cream, Diane began writing when she was “old enough to hold a pencil,” and she hasn’t looked back. Three of her books are currently available: Waiting for Ethan, Mixed Signals, and More Than. and readers love the realism and honesty in Diane’s work. Author Claire Matturro wrote, “Barnes has a sharp eye for the telling details that make a book worth reading, and she doesn’t ignore the realities,” and one Amazon reviewer praised Diane’s “astute, intelligent, life-in-all-its-ups-and-down, ironic sort of humor.” Those sorts of compliments feed the soul of an author, so I’m sure Diane is very proud. Diane loves to hear from readers, so feel free to reach out (see information at the end of the interview). And many thanks to Diane for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.
Christina: Welcome to the blog! You write stories “about women and the power of female friendships.” What draws you to the topic? Do you rely on life experience to inspire the stories? Do the stories always focus on the positive side of female friendship, or have you covered toxic relationships too?
Diane: Friendships are platonic love stories. More often than not, friendships are more enduring than romantic relationships. They deserve the same attention as romances. I’m really blessed to have a crew of great female friends who I’ve met during all different times of my life— elementary school, college, my first job, my current job, and in writing workshops. They’re people I can count on in good and bad times. So I write about friendships because of how special they are.
I haven’t written about toxic relationships between female friends, but my debut, Waiting for Ethan, has a toxic romantic relationship in it.
Christina: Your most recent book, More Than, was named “one of the best feminist books to curl up with” by Ms. Magazine. Did you begin writing with the intention of writing a “feminist” book. And what does that word mean to you?
Diane: I definitely did not set out to write a “feminist” book. To me a feminist is a woman who has the confidence to do whatever it is she wants to, whether that’s run a Fortune 500 company or raise kids as a stay-at-home mom. She’s someone who doesn’t think about how society defines her. She defines herself. She doesn’t buy into what society says she should be doing. She does exactly what she wants.
Christina: In an interview at Dead Darlings, you mention that you were cooking dinner when the title Reshaping Peggy (eventually changed to More Than) and an image of Peggy (the main character) surfaced in your mind. I’m a little curious about that first title and the purpose it served in your writing process. Did it keep you on track and guide you while you wrote? Do you normally have a working title that shapes (pun intended) your narratives?
Diane: I loved the title Reshaping Peggy. I think it fit the book perfectly. More Than also is a great title for the book. After readers finish the book, they understand where the title More Than came from. The working title Reshaping Peggy absolutely did serve as a guide and kept me on track as I was writing. It reminded me that Peggy was going through a metamorphosis.
I can’t work on a book unless I have a working title. Sometimes I don’t like the working title, but having it makes the book real to me.
Christina: More Than tells the story of Peggy Moriarity as “she undergoes a transformation from someone who lives only for her kids and eats her feelings to a woman who finally starts to open herself to the friendships and world around her.” That idea of living for the kids probably strikes a chord with many parents, mothers especially. Do you have any tips for parents who might be feeling that way?
Diane: In the book Carmen says, “Spending time away from your children helps you be a better, more present parent during the time you spend together.” I believe that. I’m not a mother, but my friends who are moms have said similar things to me.
Christina: You recently attended a writing retreat. Is that a standard practice for you? Do you have a favorite setting for a retreat? Do you set goals for yourself while on retreat?
Diane: I try to go on at least one writing retreat a year. My favorite place for a retreat is Cape Cod. There is just something special about being by the ocean. It clears my mind and my creativity flows. Sometimes I sit on the beach with a notebook and brainstorm scenes. Other times, I bring my printed manuscript and read through it, thinking of ways to revise it.
I used to set word count goals. I don’t do that anymore because during editing/revisions, I could absolutely tell the parts of the manuscript where I was trying to pad the word count. So, now I go with a list of scenes and try to work my way through it.
Christina: We absolutely must talk about your Golden Retriever, affectionately known as #GoldenBoy on Instagram. How old is he? Any good stories to share with our readers? Do you share your home with any other animal friends?
Diane: #GoldenBoy, also known as Oakley, recently turned four. He’s the only pet I have, except he’s more of a muse than a pet. He sits under my desk while I write. Every now and then, he comes out, and I roll my chair back. He takes over the spot where I was and stares at the monitor like he is reading my manuscript. Sometimes he wags his tail, and sometimes he doesn’t. If the tail isn’t wagging, I need to revise. LOL. Seriously, he’s the best. I feel like I won the dog lottery.
Christina: Along with being a writer and a reader, you’re a self-proclaimed “Ridiculous Amount of Chocolate Eater.” What constitutes a “ridiculous amount”? Do you have a favorite brand? Do you favor dark or milk chocolate, and—now for the controversial question—what do you think of white chocolate?
Diane: Let’s just say chocolate is not safe when I’m around. Seriously, my husband hides it away because I’ll eat it all. Every. Last. Piece. I love Cadbury, especially the Mini Eggs. I like milk chocolate the best, but I pretend to be healthy by eating dark. I don’t think the word “white” should ever be put in front of chocolate. I don’t know what it is, but it sure isn’t chocolate!
Christina: What’s next for you?
Diane: I recently sent my agent my fourth book, tentatively titled ALL WE COULD STILL HAVE. It’s about a couple struggling to have a baby and the impact on their marriage. The book is out on submission so please think good thoughts for me! In the meantime, I’m about 25% into my fifth book and having a ton of fun writing it!
Thanks to Diane for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.