Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Do I have to write what I know?


RHYS: I meet the most interesting people when I do book signings around the country. It was in Scottsdale last spring that I met Dianne Freeman who told me about her upcoming book. It sounded just like my cup of tea so I was sent an advance copy and really enjoyed it. And when the book came out I invited her to come to Jungle Red Writers.

And her blog really strikes a chord with me. How many of us write about what we know? Most of our own lives (except Hank's) are boring. We go to the supermarket. We cook for family. We sit at computers. So I want to escape to somewhere much more thrilling in my writing life... and so does Dianne... don't we all?

DIANE FREEMAN:

Do I Have to Write What I Know?
I’ve never liked the adage, “write what you know.” My debut novel is a fun whodunit set in London in 1899. The main character is an American heiress who married an earl, nine years earlier. When the story opens, she’s a widow struggling to live independently.
This has no relation to what I know. While I’m all about fun, I’ve never been involved with law enforcement, nor have I ever committed or solved a murder. I’ve never lived in London, certainly not in 1899. I’m neither an heiress, nor an aristocrat, nor (thankfully) a widow. So, what am I doing writing a story with this premise?
It fascinates me!
First, the mystery part. I love a good mystery. After all, I was an accountant for thirty years which is a lot like solving a puzzle or mystery. I had to collect data, piece it together, and try to determine if people were telling me the truth. They were almost never telling me the truth. (Really, that trip to the Bahamas was solely for business purposes?)  I could have written a mystery with an accountant as an amateur sleuth, but I read to learn something new, to take myself to another place. Why shouldn’t I write for the same reason?
The second element is the era. I love history in general, but something of a phenomenon happened from the mid-1870s through the early 1910s that makes this a period that really brings out the history geek in me. This was a time when nouveaux riches Americans discovered they would not be allowed to take what they considered to be their rightful place among the upper crust of New York society. Neither could they buy their way in. Imagine being stuck in junior high school forever. That’s what it was like.
It didn’t take long for these outsiders to learn they’d receive a warm welcome across the Atlantic in Europe. At least their money and their young daughters would be welcome. What started as a trickle soon became a flood of intercontinental marriages between cash-strapped European aristocrats and American heiresses.
I doubted this type of arrangement would make for a very happy marriage, but it had all the ingredients for an intriguing murder mystery. A story took shape in my head and resulted in A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. I had much more fun researching and writing this novel than I ever would have had my sleuth been an accountant. There’s nothing wrong about writing what you know, but there’s a lot to be said for writing about something you want to know better.  




 
  








Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona.




And Dianne will give away a signed copy of her new book to a lucky commenter today!


78 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your debut novel, Dianne. It sounds like a great deal of fun and I’m looking forward to reading it.
    I’m curious to know what sort of adventures you have planned for the Countess . . . .

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    1. Thank you, Joan. As to adventures, I think Frances considers them more as intrusions. Without giving away too much, in book 2, A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder, she learns more than she ever wanted to know about her peers and what goes on behind the veneer of gentility and good manners!

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  2. Your book sounds intriguing, Dianne, and that cover is so cute! I think researching and learning new things is one of the perks of writing. If I only wrote what I knew, I would have been out of material after one book!

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    1. Thanks, Marla. I'm not sure there would have been a book 1 if I'd stuck with what I knew. Adventures in Finance would probably have a very limited audience!

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    2. Oh....my husband would read a book titled Adventures in Finance for sure :=)

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    3. Haha! So there is an audience!

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    4. Having worked in a finance office, I'm sure I could relate to some of your stories!

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  3. The book sounds like great fun, Dianne! In fact, as a woman who was born in Rolla, MO, the Route 66 book sounds like great fun, too. I think, as long as you write what you know about human nature, the rest can be filled in by research and your fertile imagination. Good luck with your new writing career!

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    1. Thanks, Gigi. The Route 66 book was the best road trip ever! That we all write about the human experience is so true. I couldn't have said it better.

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  4. I also love writing historical mystery - so fun to get lost in the past!

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    1. I couldn't agree more. And I love reading your historical mysteries!

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  5. Congratulations, Dianne.

    As for writing what you know, I suppose it is easier regarding a lot of the fine details. As a nurse I never thought I had to have cancer to take care of someone who did, but maybe that's a poor analogy.

    On the other hand, I can get very irritated when I come across something that is just wrong, most recently at Stephen King who had a character breathing and talking and making sense after having half his head blown off with his brains leaking. That just doesn't happen. Maybe I'd better learn to suspend disbelief?

    Rhys, Julie asked me to tell you again how much she is enjoying The Royal Spyness series. It has been stressful few months for one reason or the other, but between Lady Georgie and those little easter eggs you've planted, she's found total relaxation. We thank you.

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    1. Actually, that's a pretty good analogy. It's a matter of putting ourselves in someone else's shoes and understanding their needs and wants--or at least coming close. Thanks for your comment.

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    2. Thanks, Ann. I'm glad the books are providing an escape for her.

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  6. Dianne, I love your blog post here! And I've already purchased your new book. I read a great review of it on Lesa Holstine's blog and had to have it. Hope to read it soon. Your thoughts about being an accountant hit home with me. In another life, I too was an accountant/auditor. And yes, I agree, people don't always disclose the truth. I love how you took yourself away from that and went to topics and times that interested you and that you could research and add to your stories. Well done!

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    1. Hi Kay. I"m glad you enjoyed the post! As I corporate accountant I worked with lots of outside accountants. Almost all of them had hobbies that were either creative or physical, and had nothing to do with numbers--roller derby, hockey, music. We must have a need to offset our analytical selves.

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  7. Congratulations on the publication of your mystery. It combines elements of the types of books I enjoy reading.

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    1. Thank you, Grace. I hope you enjoy it!

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  8. Congratulations on your new book! I love the time period you write about.

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    1. Thank you, Margaret! It is a fascinating era, and close enough that there's an abundance of information out there about the time and the people.

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  9. I think thats's a great idea, Dianne, to write about something you want to know about! Learn as you write - what fun! Can't wait to read the book!

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    1. Thank you, Judi. Good luck in the drawing!

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  10. This looks so great! Welcome! And I was just at an event last night where the author--William Martin--said almost exactly the same thing. His new book is about the gold rush, and he said instead of writing what he knew--he wrote about what he wanted to find out! And such a great analogy about accounting. Got to love numbers!

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    1. Thanks, Hank! I think digging in and learning something new just makes me more excited about writing the books. I love being thrilled to go to work! (didn't happen a lot in my past life)

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    2. Yes, that is so wonderful when it happens...

      And did you read Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers? Or, my fave, Custom of the Country? I so agree with you--such an amazingly interesting time--and you are right, perfect for a murder!

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    3. I'm a big fan of Edith Wharton and the Buccaneers is probably my favorite, although Glimpses of the Moon (I think) might be the only one with a hopeful ending. It's that angst that made me decide to do something a little more fun.

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  11. Congrats on the book, Dianne, and you chose a wonderful time period. So much change happening--social, financial, technological. As for writing *only* what you know--too limiting.

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    1. Thank you, Ramona! The time period is wonderful, and gives me so much to write about!

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  12. Congratulations on your first book. An exciting time, isn't it? It sounds delightful and I can't wait to read it. As to writing what you know? Best comment I ever read, years ago ( and with I could remember who said it) is similar to Hank's quote of William Martin: write what you want to know.And it helps to dig deep into your emotional connections- you haven't had THAT experience but you can know how it might feel because of ???

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    1. Thank you so much, Triss. It is an exciting time. I love that comment.

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  13. Rhys, thank you for inviting Dianne.

    Dianne, welcome to Jungle Reds and congratulations on your new book. Now I want to read your book. My grandfather was born in 1899.

    Do you feel like you travelled back in time via a time machine when you research history for your books?

    Diana

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    1. Thanks, Diana. Yes, I definitely feel transported through time when I'm researching and writing. I sometimes have a difficult time shaking the historical voice when I walk away, which has made for some fun conversations with my neighbors!

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  14. I have already down loaded and read the book. Enjoyed it immensely and look forward to many more. I love reading about that time of history and I would be bored reading about what I know. That's why it's called fiction.

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    1. Thank you! I'm so happy you enjoyed it. I agree, I want a novel to take me someplace else.

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  15. Congratulations and best wishes on the release of this intriguing and compelling mystery set during an extremely fascinating era which interests me greatly. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy it!

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  16. If nonfiction writers only wrote about what they know, nothing would ever get written! I've often thought that was poor advice.

    That time period, and the phenomenon of wealthy American women getting married to the waning European aristocracy, fascinates me. It's at the core of the Downton Abbey saga, right? Clearly, we are not the only ones charmed and drawn to that situation.

    The cover of your book is enough to make me want to read it, Dianne!

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    1. Thanks, Karen. Yes, it was Cora's dowry that saved Downton from financial ruin. Edith Wharton also wrote about this phenomenon. It really captures the imagination! And thank you! I love the cover too!

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  17. The era and the story is unique many wealthy Americans crossed the pond to marry off their daughters. Love this history and your novel would be enjoy very much.

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  18. I'm another reader of Lesa Holstine's blog, and when I read her review of your book, I immediately put it on my to-be-read list. Your description of how you came to write it makes it sound even more intriguing! Best of luck with your fiction debut.

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    1. Thank you, Margie! I'm also a fan of Lesa's blog and was thrilled to see she'd reviewed my book!

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  19. I love reading books set in the Gilded Age and still marvel at Mrs. Astor's 400. A Ladies Guide to Etiquette and Murder sounds like a wonderful book, and is set in my favorite city -- London. I would love to read about Frances and how she manages her situation. Thank you for visiting Jungle Reds and for your giveaway!

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    1. Thanks, Celia. Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you enjoy the book!

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  20. Hi Dianne, and welcome to Jungle Red. I am right with you on "writing what you don't know." I've compared my career as a novelist to earning several master's degrees :-) I always pick subjects I don't know anything about or want to know more about. That's what makes a book fun for me.

    You've picked a fascinating period, and I love that your heroine is a widow with life experience. Going to look up your books now!

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    1. Thanks for the warm welcome, Deborah! I like the comparison! I couldn't afford several master's degrees so this works much better for me!

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  21. Congratulations, Diane! A LADY'S GUIDE TO ETIQUETTE AND MURDER sounds exactly like the escapist romp I crave these days!

    I always told my writing students to write what you know about being human. As long as you have the core of it right, you can be anyone from a Neanderthal to a Bug-Eyed Alien.

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    1. Thanks, Julia. That sounds like good advice!

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  22. I agree with what everyone else has said. I just wanted to add that I think your titles are perfect! Both of your Ladies Guide titles are compelling and clever. Kudos! They are sure to snag a few readers all by themselves.

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    1. Thank you! Titles are hard and this book went through several titles before I finally landed on this one.

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  23. This sounds like a good summer read.

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    1. Hi, Sandy. It does have summer feel. Good luck in the drawing!

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  24. I've been hearing such great things about this book that I really can't wait to read it!

    I've also heard authors say it should really be "Write what you are willing to know." Sounds like you've found that sweet spot yourself.

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    1. That's so great to hear! I hope you enjoy it!

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  25. Sounds like a delightful read in one of my favorite eras of Anglo/US relations! Looking forward to it.

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    1. One of my favorites too. Hope you enjoy it!

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  26. Hi Dianne,

    I saw the book at the library yesterday, and knew that I must add it to my TBR list. And then you showed up here today, which is a sign that I should move it to the top. I love reading about that time period.

    DebRo

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    1. It's great to see so many libraries are carrying it. Thanks for adding it to your TBR!

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  27. I'm in complete agreement with you, Dianne. It would be much more interesting to expand your knowledge base and pursue topics you want to know more about than just writing about what you already know. Not that I'm opposed to writing what one knows, as there are many writers I read for their expertise in Sherlock Holmes and such. I'm also a fan of turn of the century history (19th into 20th), especially incorporated into fiction. So much changed going into the 20th century. My father, gone now for twenty-one years, was born in 1901, so that's another reason it's interesting to me. There's a non-fiction book entitled America, 1908: The Dawn of Flight, the Race to the Pole, the Invention of the Model-T and the Making of a Modern Nation by Jim Rasenberger. I have read bits of it, but I'm intending, and now that you've brought it up, to go back and read it from cover to cover. What changes indeed!

    So, it's no surprise that I am intrigued by your book, Dianne, and the title so appeals to my sense of whimsy. The setting of England is a favorite for me, and Frances sounds like a great character to get to know. I like that she moved away from her "money-grubbing in-laws." It shows spunk and an independence that will bode well for her. Thanks for visiting the Reds today. A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder is now on my TBR list.

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    1. Hi, Kathy. It was definitely a fascinating time and the people who lived then were dealing with a world in transition. Thanks for adding my book to your TBR. I hope you enjoy it!

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  28. I read your book a couple of weeks ago and I loved it! I want to see more adventures from those two. And you know which two I mean!

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    1. Hi, Pat. I'm so glad you liked it. I do know which two you mean and yes, their adventures will continue!

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  29. Congrats, Dianne! I agree with you. I've always liked the "write what you want to know more about" version of that saying better.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. Thanks, Mary. It also has the benefit of being more fun!

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  30. Hi Dianne,
    Saw your book on the new books list at the library, and signed up. Read your book last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Humor, a good pace, and lots of interesting characters. Congrats!

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    1. Thank you! That makes me so happy! :)

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  31. The setting in London, the time in history, the joining of wealthy American young women and British aristocracy,and a mystery to be solved....what's not to love! Added to my must read list. congratulations on your book!

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    1. Hi Helen. We probably have very similar reading lists. Thanks for adding my book to yours!

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  32. Congrats on the book, Dianne! I'm impressed by writers who dive into history with their books; there's so much you could get wrong! Do you know what you're going to write next?

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    1. Thanks, Ingrid. This is the first book in the Countess of Harleigh series so for the next little while at least I'll be plotting murders for her to solve!

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  33. Even Dick Francis who had a pretty exciting life as a jockey didn't stick with only jockeys as his heroes but expanded to all aspects of the horse world. I enjoy historical mysteries and have already read about Consuelo Vanderbilt.

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    1. Love Dick Francis! Consuelo was a bit of a muse for me. She had a very interesting story.

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  34. Congrats on your new release! I just love the cover!

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    1. Thank you! I do feel like I won the cover jackpot!

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  35. Oh my, I am in love with this cover! And the premise sounds fab, too! Congrats, Diane. Looking forward to reading it!

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    1. Thanks so much Jenn! I hope you enjoy it.

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  36. Thanks Jungle Reds for hosting me today and thank you, Rhys Bowen for the invitation!

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