Author of the Month
Authors of Secrets, Fact or Fiction? [November 2005]
Chosen by reviewer Carolyn Howard-Johnson, MyShelf.Com
When Diane Newton isn't busy writing her own books and avidly promoting them she does what she can to help other authors reach for their dreams. Lucky for readers that she does! She brought a group of eight writers together for an anthology called Secrets, Fact or Fiction? released by Oxcart Press. Based on its success, she is planning Secrets, Volume II.
After reading the first Secrets, I can hardly wait for the second but in the meantime, I thought I'd like to try an interview that is a bit different, one that borrows from the idea of anthology--that is a sort of anthological (is that a word?) interview. Why not question Diane and that brood of expert writers (and secret-keepers) she has assembled? That is exactly what you will find here:
Carolyn: So naturally, I am curious Diane. With published
titles like Paradigm, Unusual Destiny , and Children of the Sun that must
be promoted, two more books in progress, the work you do with your Authors
Guild of West New York, and that great e-group (Publishing and Promoting)
you moderate, how did you find time to come up with the idea for Secrets,
let alone edit it?
Carolyn: So naturally, I am curious Diane. With published titles like Paradigm, Unusual Destiny , and Children of the Sun that must be promoted, two more books in progress, the work you do with your Authors Guild of West New York, and that great e-group (Publishing and Promoting) you moderate, how did you find time to come up with the idea for Secrets, let alone edit it?
Diane J. Newton: The idea for a book about secrets, kept or revealed, came about as a writer challenge on an online group. I was so fired up by the juicy prompt, I had a story written edited and ready to go in a week — only to discover the project had fallen apart! I wasn't about to let the idea disappear into the inky void. Anthony Hernandez, an author from Oregon encouraged me to reprise it. I did, adding the reader challenge and making it a full share project with fewer authors.
Gathering the authors from across the US and Canada was a snap. As I explained the premise and the book's mission and purpose, their excitement matched mine. Eight were on board in a matter of days. As often happens, two fell by the wayside for personal reasons; one of them was Anthony who had been offered a business opportunity, but I'd planned ahead and had replacement authors waiting in the wings.
A.P. Fuchs was the last to join us in the fall. Between the time we'd first talked about the book in summer, to the fall when I told him he was in, he'd become involved in Oxcart Press, a new arm of Oleander Press UK and his Coscom Entertainment, Canada. I didn't know about that and had Keith Pearson at Aventine Press excited about publishing us. Once Oxcart got wind of the book, we went on their 'must have' list. They offered us a contract so favorable it came with a privacy agreement. The rest is history.
Editing the book was a joy, not a job. The different ways the authors came at the prompt amazed me and their stories blew me away, as they have reviewers. But, cutting edge work results when creative minds are set free to go where the muse and motivation takes them. Handpicked, these authors are extremely talented and skilled in the craft. Each one is also personable, highly motivated and has strengths we've put to good use.
So, to answer your question, there have been no difficulties and time was less of an issue than it might seem. Getting the book together, publishing it, and the marketing projects we’re still working on together, have been some of the most pleasant experiences I've had as a writer and editor. We've had fun from day one and it's been heartening to watch the birth of a close, cohesive group. The friendships formed will likely last our lifetimes… a good thing, because we have sequels planned through 2010! ?
Carolyn: Tell me about your story in the book, "A Life Interrupted." I know the reader is supposed to guess as to which stories are truth and which as fiction. This one felt like such a reflection of the human condition, I was sure it was a true story.
Diane J. Newton: When we first meet Laura, she has hopes and dreams, but seems resolved to a life of tragic circumstance.
Carolyn: In any good story, there is a moment when the character or circumstances change. If it isn't giving away too much, pinpoint the moment you feel that mindset changed for Laura.
Diane J. Newton: Well, in order not to ruin the ending for readers, let's just say that happens through the kindness and generosity of strangers. She finally feels she belongs to something larger than herself.
Carolyn: I'm moving to C. W. Gortner because his story is so very different from yours, Diane. I mean one rarely sees historial fiction in an anthology, particularly a piece like this which is reminiscent of some of the best like Mary Stewart's work. C. W. I'm sure that your MFA in writing, with an emphasis on renaissance studies and the fact that you keep fresh by teaching university seminars on the 16th century is instrumental in your choice of material. What lead you to it--you know, in the beginning?
CW Gortner: I was given my first historical novel at the age of ten. It was by the grand dame of the genre, Jean Plaidy, and I was enthralled. Having been raised in the south of Spain, I'd been surrounded by history all of my life, but Ms. Plaidy made people I'd only heard and read about three-dimensional. One of my teachers at school took a special interest in my voracious questions about historical events, and I soon developed a fascination with the Renaissance. I devoured every book I could find that featured the 16th century, and, I suppose like every writer, eventually wanted more. I wanted to live, taste, touch, smell, and feel the era in the only way I knew how: to re-create it.
Carolyn: So you feel writing in this genre is very nearly time travel? I certainly felt that way reading your story in Secrets, "The Queen's Sin!"
CW Gortner: Historical fiction allows us to travel into the past, yes, but it also reflects and heightens our contemporary sensibilities. It's not that we re-create the past as it truly was; we cannot do that with 100% accuracy. Rather, we mold a vision of the past and breathe life into it, using the known facts and events as framework for our canvas. I could have easily gone the other direction and written nonfiction, but it's the personality of the time, and the universal themes of the human condition, that captured my imagination. When it's done right, historical fiction illuminates our world in a way no other art form can, because it allows us to experience our past through the prism of the present.
Carolyn: The Historical Novels Reviews said your book, The Secret Lion, "Captures the very essence of Tudor glamour and depravity." What's it about?
CW Gortner: It's a novel of suspense in the Tudor Court.
Carolyn: Ha! Not giving anything away, huh? Well, once readers have sampled your work in Secrets, they're sure to want to read it.
Larry Pontius, another Secrets contributor often embroiders the truth as he did for Waking Walt, his award-winning speculative thriller about Walt Disney. Larry, what in your past inspired you to write this book?
Larry Pontius: Well, I was director of marketing for Walt Disney World in Florida and then served as vice president of marketing for Disneyland and Walt Disney World at the headquarters in Burbank, CA.
Carolyn: Well, as a Disney fan I can see how you would be inspired by that kind of work--and your advertising experience as well. What about your inspiration for “A Creature of Habit” in your contribution to Secrets. Your main character, Frank Teasley, recalls a story he read when he was younger about a man who goes into the past and with one small misstep crushes a single plant and changes everything in the present. That seems familiar.
Larry Pontius: Actually, yes. That’s basically what happened in “A Sound of Thunder” written by Ray Bradbury.
Carolyn: I recently presented at a book fair where Ray Bradbury appeared. I should have rubbed his sleeved. Hoped that some of his magic rubbed off on me as it has on you. Of course, y our point that the simple act of reading can do better things for a writer than rubbing sleeves is well taken.
Our next author takes his inspiration for the world of politics for his contribution to Secrets, "Crawfish Braud." Hill Kemp is a former member of the Texas House of Representatives and a US Congressional candidate. He's put his experience to work in his political thriller Capitol Offense. Hill, your story made me wonder, who really controls and regulates the huge gambling and casino empire in the state of Louisiana?
Hill Kemp: No one. Its influences flow through the back channels and hidden crevices of government.
Carolyn: : Reading "Crawfish" made me paranoid about government in general. I understand that this story is a preview of your future novel set in the steamy cauldrons of Louisiana government in Baton Rouge. I have a feeling our readers will be watching for it.
Carlene Reed lives with her family in Tacoma, Washington and
is originally from Tennessee. Her first book was Coffee Table Tales. She
is the editor of the Humor and Fiction department at http://www.ritro.com/
where she has worked for two years. Carlene is working on two novels and
nonfiction as well. Carlene, what is your favorite part of the story The
Carolyn: Another contributor, Kathy Strelow, is a rock novelist
with a two book start on a series, Head Case - A Rock and Roll Novel,
and, Whiplash. Kathy, I'm surprised. Your story "Josie,"
has nothing to do with the music business. What inspired you to write
Carolyn: Thinking about the theme of this anthology, wouldn't
it be easier for people in the long run if they just told others the truth?
Carolyn: Yes, I found some great life lessons in that story. I'm going to move onto another Cathy, Cathy Clamp also contributed to this book; this time note that Cathy is spelled with a "C."
Cathy your wide experience in the legal field and the sheer number of books--many award-winners-- you have published ( the EVVY award winning Road to Riches, The Great Railroad Race to Aspen, Hunter’s Moon, Moon’s Web) leaves me breathless. I understand you have three more coming from Tor publishing in 2006. I'd like to ask you how you do it but I'd rather ask you about your story, "A Matter of Taste." You take your state prosecutor beyond the scope of trying the case he’s presented into someone who seeks the truth, regardless of what appears in the file. Is this realistic?
Cathy Clamp: I think most District Attorneys and, in fact, most prosecutors, try very hard to find the person who actually committed the crime. I worked in law for many years, and saw a number of cases where the prosecutor dismissed a case or refused to bring it to trial because they didn’t feel the evidence backed up the charges. I enjoyed presenting a prosecutor who was more than an automaton of the system — one who thinks like an investigator and ties the facts to the rules of law for the benefit of the public. It’s easy to get attached to a character who is a "real" person when he has a burning passion for the truth.
Carolyn: Ahhhh. Truth. Ties in with the theme of this book, Secrets, very nicely.
A.P. Fuchs, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, makes Secrets an international anthology. He has published in both print and electronic form including The Way of the Fog, A Red Dark Night, and Magic Man. So, A.P. what is it about the dark side that appeals to you?
AP Fuchs: At the end of the day, it's that hint of the unknown, what goes on secretly in one's mind that I find interesting. For Secrets, Fact or Fiction? I wanted to find a story that had that hint of the unknown to it and, in the case of my story, "Not There," I wanted to explore unknown aspects of a murder that occurred at the turn of century. And murders, especially, are all about unknowns and whodunnits. Just seemed to fit, you know?
Carolyn: Sure do! And perfect for Secrets.
2005's Honorary List