Monday, April 11, 2011

Interview with Sci-Fi novelist Diane Compagno

This week I am interviewing sci-fi novelist Diane Compagno who has also written a nonfiction book about her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, Stolen Memories, under the pen name Marie Cloud.
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Diane, it’s a pleasure to have you here.

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1) When did you realize that you wanted to write novels?

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I always loved to write, mostly poems and short stories but while I was working full time and a single mother of three, I had not time nor thoughts of doing any type of professional writing. It was after I worked for a large corporation for over 17 years that I began to think about writing again. I had often been in charge of writing and preparing newsletters for work as well as for our condo association. Once my mother, who lived with us began to have symptoms of Alzheimer's and I quit my job, I began to do a lot of freelance writing for women's magazines, articles on Alzheimer caregiving, as well as for seniors and family publications. I found I was beginning to enjoy writing so much that I started taking classes on writing and in particular I enjoyed the classes I took in novel writing. After my mother died in 1996, I was feeling very tremendous grief and began to immerse myself in even more classes and writing. As I began to address my feelings, sadness and regrets about my mother and her illness, I started to write down moments and thoughts that I had gone through during her long fight with Alzheimer's disease. I remember only being able to write about a chapter before I would be crying so hard I would have to leave the computer. Little by little these words seem to evolve into my first book, Stolen Memories. I think it came from a deep sense of healing on my part. I guess you could say it was the catharsis I needed to be able to move forward with my life in a meaningful way. I wanted to help other caregivers who may have gone through some of those same feelings, problems and issues as I had. Once the book came out, I began to work closely with a wonderful woman who later became a dear friend from the Alzheimer's Association. I began to volunteer as a facilitator for the Alzheimer's Caregiver meetings and did that for several years. This too helped me to gain perspective and move forward. We would go to Senior Fairs and she worked to promote my book to other caregivers.
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2) Did you always want to write science fiction and do you know what prompted that interest?

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Having worked in the computer operations area as well as technical areas of a large corporation, futuristic technology fascinated me. I loved Science fiction movies and watching Nova. Often as I would watch these things a story line would pop into my head. I had a feeling at some point, I would begin to write that genre but actually surprised myself when I did write my first science fiction novel, Deadly Rains.

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3) When reading for pleasure do you read only science fiction or are there other genres that interest you also?


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No, I love reading a wide variety of genres. My favorite types of books are mystery, conspiracy thrillers. I love political type thrillers such as the Camel Club series written by David Baldacci.
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4) Who are your favorite authors, past and present?
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I also enjoy Patricia Cornwell, Dean Koontz, Clive Cussler and many, many others. I also enjoy an occasional Romance novel by Tricia Lee as well.
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5) Are there any authors who have inspired you to write and, if so, who are they?
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I would have to say Dean Koontz gave me my inspiration. I think I have read all or at least most of his books. I love his use of words and the characters he develops. From there I would have to say every book I have read and enjoyed is yet another form of inspiration for me to write.
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6) How do you choose your characters’ names?
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Some are chosen from people I know but most come from a sense of who the character is and how a name will suit that character best. I have even gone though the phone book looking for possibilities a few times. Once I even came up with a name through two characters I liked from television or movies. One was the first name and the other the last name of a male character in my last book Mind Games.
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7) Do you plan your novel from beginning to end either in your head or by outline or jotting down notes? Or, are you a “pantser”?
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I am definitely a pantser. I have a story line in mind. I do however interview on paper each of my characters before I create them. I find out what they like, what they don't like, what political affiliation they might be, if they are frugal, and many other things to help me develop them in my head. Then I start to write. I try not to do more than two chapters at a sitting. I seem to have better focus when I get up, move around and then go back to my work. That might just be that I am not so young anymore and walking around gets the kinks out both physically and mentally.
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8) Do you have a set writing schedule or do you write whenever the muse strikes?
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Now that I am retired, I do not. I used to schedule writing time but these days I write more as a hobby and only do it when I feel like doing it. I no longer push myself like I used to when I was younger.
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9) How do you choose your titles? Do you have a title in mind before you start writing or does something occur after you have begun to write or after you have finished?
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My titles evolve. I usually start with a working title and rarely end up with that title by the time I finish the book. I seem to need to process the story to a certain point before I can fix in on a permanent title.
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10) Do you base your characters on real people or are they completely from your imagination?
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I would have to say a little of both. Sometimes they are purely fiction but more often they are developed from characteristics from several people I know or have known in the past. My favorite line is "Be careful what you say or you could end up in my next novel." It has happened. Perhaps they would not even recognize themselves because I may intermingle two different ideas and make one character from those ideas.
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11) Have you used real life experiences in your novel or is everything from your imagination?
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Stolen Memories is all based on my life but my other two books are totally taken from a combination of experiences that have happened to others I know, myself or an image of what I perceive could happen. On several occasions they have come from research I happen to be doing at the time. I will come across some really interesting subject and my mind seems to funnel through ideas and thoughts to add to the story line. I think that is why I love research so much.
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12) Stolen Memories is a true story about how you dealt with your mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. This must have been an emotional story for you to write and it must have been difficult to put those feelings aside to tell such an important story.
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As I mention previously in our interview, at times I could only write a page and have to remove myself from my writing. It was gut wrenching and I don't think I have ever cried as much as I did when I was writing this book. I know now what others go through when they write about such things and I have a new found respect for anyone who can actually complete a book written about such a difficult and personal subject. I will say it helped me to move forward with my life. I'm honestly not sure I would have been able to, had I not written and completed Stolen Memories.
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13) Where can readers find your books?
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My books are available at nearly all online book stores such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Alibris for used and out of print books and as well as many others.

4 comments:

Joan Conning Afman said...

What a great interview, Diane! I really enjoyed reading it and getting to know you better. I think Dean Koontz has been a jumping-off point author for many of us. I remember reading your "Mind Games" and enjoying it so much. Keep on writing, Diane--I'll be waiting to see what comes next!

Palmaltas said...

Thank you, Joan. I found Diane's comments truly inspiring.

Jan said...

I enjoyed the interview. I LOVE this line: "Be careful what you say or you could end up in my next novel." :D
Thank you Diane and Pat.

Jan

Palmaltas said...

Thank you, Jan, I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.