Who is your favorite author?
In addition to the ones named in the last question, I like Jody Picoult, Karen White, Anita Shreve, Rosamond Pilcher, Scott Turow, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy. (Kind of an eclectic mix.)
What book genre do you adore?
Real romantic suspense - the ones that Mary Stewart wrote, where you have a complete mystery and a complete love story in the same book. I think a love story should be about the development of the characters as they discover each other. I’m not a fan of books where it’s just all sex. That’s too shallow for my taste. I want to get to know the people in the story, what they feel, and why they wind up together.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?
My children have been extremely supportive. My daughter was my earliest reader though all the versions of the book. My youngest computer genius child created my website and advised me about online marketing. My second son has encouraged me to keep writing. And my friends are just the best. They support my internet marketing efforts and make me feel great when I see their “likes” on Facebook. I count myself blessed to have such wonderful family and friends.
What else to you do to make money?
In my “day job” I am an appellate attorney. I work at home in my living room writing briefs for the court of appeal. When you lose in the trial court, you come see me. I do a lot of court-appointed work which means I do a lot of criminal appeals. It’s ironic because criminal law was not my favorite subject in law school. I never meet these clients. I just read what happened at their trials and write about it.
I only own one suit and I actually only have to go to court about once every three years to do oral argument. Since telling people I am a lawyer sounds really intimidating (and I am anything but intimidating), sometimes I just say I’m a legal writer. That best describes my job, anyway.
I wanted to be a university professor and teach writing, but there were no jobs when I got out of graduate school. So I went to law school. Law is a great education for a woman on her own. You can really take care of yourself if you have a law degree. And now it gives me great story ideas. So it has all worked out well.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
I taught writing at university before I went to law school, and I worked as a technical editor for scientists working on nuclear energy. The training as an editor turned out to be invaluable. I’m really good at editing, including my own work, and I enjoy that part of the process. My scientist authors used to request me as their editor because I can improve manuscripts without interfering with the authenticity of the author’s own voice. I don’t think an editor should make the work the editor’s. I think an editor’s job is to bring out the best in the writer. I can do that, and I love doing it. When I get through, the draft is bright and tight and clean but it still belongs to the author, not me. The best editors get in and out and don’t leave themselves behind.
I also loved teaching writing in a non-critical way that helped my students gain confidence in themselves as writers. Too much criticism shuts off the creative flow. First you write. Then you edit. The two steps are separate. I loved seeing my students gain confidence in themselves.
Do you plan to publish more books?
Absolutely, yes, yes, yes. I have finished a second novel that needs editorial work. The working title is Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks. I am currently putting chapters of my third novel Dark Moon up on my blog, http://dhawkins.net. I am thrilled to get new followers every week. I’ve always been uncomfortable with being a lawyer. It’s not the real me. I like to laugh and play too much to fit the legal stereotype. I’d rather crack jokes in court than argue the law. (Although I stick to the script and do my job, of course.) I’m really a writer and an artist and a free spirit. Now that my children are grown up, I have promised myself to devote the rest of my life to writing and publishing. (And becoming a better musician.)
What is hardest, getting published, writing or marketing?
I think marketing is challenging. There is no one formula that works, and I realize I am often stabbing in the dark, trying to figure it out. But I promised myself at the beginning to forgive my marketing mistakes because I’m just learning. I was disappointed initially when people reacted to Dance for A Dead Princess as an exploitation of Princess Diana. It isn’t. I respect Diana too much to do that.
The book is actually the story of the fictional Carey family and how it manages to survive because Taylor Collins shows up and figures out Nicholas Carey. They are people who’ve had horrendous pasts, and together they heal each other. Diana is a background figure who helps to develop the character of Nicholas, my modern duke and captain of industry. I loved Diana so much when she was around in the 1980's. I took my first bar exam on the day of her wedding, and I got up in the wee hours of the morning to watch her get married before heading off to a full day of writing the exam. And then her children were just barely older than mine, and I loved her because she loved being a mother the way I did. And I also was inspired by the way she brought compassion to a job that can be stuffy and remote. I put a lot of my feelings for Diana into my hero, Nicholas. I can just imagine the two of them together, talking and comforting each other.
How often do you write? And when do you write?
For my “day job” of writing appellate briefs, I write every day. Usually six hours spaced between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. In between I have to run errands and look after my Golden Retrievers.
But the real fun begins at night. After I spend an hour practicing clarinet, I pull out the laptop and start on my fiction writing. I don’t use the laptop for anything else. The “day job” gets done on the PC, so having different equipment helps me mark the transition from lawyer to writer/creative/artist. I aim for writing fiction every day, but sometimes the well is dry and I have to wait for it to fill up. When that happens, I read what I’ve written, go over my outlines, and wait for the moment when I know what happens next. And that moment always comes. I also think a lot about plot and pacing the story. I want to keep the reader involved and guessing. My favorite novels are the ones you can’t put down, and I aim to write those.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
Writing a novel the reader can’t put down. Creating characters a reader cares about, and evoking a strong sense of place and atmosphere in the story.
How did you come up with the title?
Many years ago, I heard pianist Lorin Hollander play Ravel’s Pavane Pourune Infante Defunte. Later I heard the orchestral version and thought the French horn solo was enough to break any heart. It is one of the most ravishing melodies on earth. When Diana died, I wondered why no one thought to play the Pavane for her. It seems so perfect. My hero Nicholas, the duke who wanted to be a concert pianist, sits up nights playing the Pavane for “all the lost princesses in his life.” So it was the absolutely perfect title for the book. I did “market research” at a party one evening and discovered Americans don’t know enough French or classical music to recognize Ravel or the piece’s title in French. So I went with the English translation.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I really identified with Princess Diana because we had children about the same age and loved motherhood. I am an attorney and I do criminal appeals in my “day” job, so I read about murder constantly. (I know how that sounds.) Because I was interested in Diana, I read about the tragedy in the Place d’Alama tunnel quite a bit. I felt something wasn’t quite right with the accident stories, although I have never been a “conspiracy” sort of person. One day I read that she received a threatening phone call in January 1997 foretelling her assassination. She made a video tape naming the killer and gave it to someone in America for safekeeping. It has never been found. The fiction writer in me took over from there, and I created Nicholas Carey, Eighteenth Duke of Burnham, and Diana’s close friend who has dedicated himself to finding that tape.
What books have influenced your life the most?
I couldn’t really name all of them. There are too many. As a writer, I have always wanted to emulate Mary Stewart. I grew up reading her romantic suspense novels set in exotic places, and I loved the stories and her beautiful writing style. I liked her Merlin books, but I missed the original romantic suspense novels when she turned exclusively to the Arthurian legend.
What are your current projects?
I have finished another novel and have outlined my third which I am going to begin writing any day now.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No. I discovered writing two stories together was quite difficult, but I’m really happy with the way the modern romance and the Tudor romance work together. The details of each had to parallel the other to keep the book from being disjointed. The stories have important parallels. Thomas Carey, who became the first duke near the end of his life, was the son of a well-to-do and ambitious sheep farmer from the village of Burnham in Kent. He sent his son Thomas to Henry VIII’s court to train as a knight. Eventually Thomas and Henry would fall in love with heiress Elizabeth Howell; and Henry would circulate rumors Thomas murdered his wife to be free to seek Elizabeth’s hand. Similarly, Deborah Downing’s death under mysterious circumstances at the Abbey in 1994 and the coroner’s inquest led to gossip Nicholas was responsible for killing his wife. That gossip reaches new heights when his ward Lucy is found dead on a night when Nicholas has no alibi and when Taylor, who by now has fallen in love with Nicholas, has just discovered he cannot sell Burnham Abbey to her client as long as Lucy is alive. Both Thomas and Nicholas are accused of murdering those who stand in the way of what they want.
In January 1997, Princess Diana received a phone call telling her she would be assassinated. She recorded the information on a secret video tape, naming her killer and gave it to a trusted friend in America for safekeeping. It has never been found.
Diana's close friend, Nicholas Carey, the 18th Duke of Burnham and second richest man in England, has vowed to find the tape and expose her killer. After years of searching, he discovers Diana gave the tape to British socialite Mari Cuniff, who died in New York under mysterious circumstances. He believes Wall Street attorney Taylor Collins, the executor of Mari's estate, has possession of it. He lures Taylor to England by promising to sell his ancestral home in Kent, Burnham Abbey, to one of her clients, a boarding school for American girls. Nicholas has dated actresses and models since the death of his wife, ten years earlier, and has no interest in falling in love again. But he is immediately and unexpectedly overwhelmed with feelings for Taylor at their first meeting.
Taylor, unaware that Diana's tape is in her long-time friend and client's estate and nursing her hurt over her broken engagement to a fellow attorney in her firm, brands Nicholas supremely spoiled and selfish. She is in a hurry to finish the sale of the Abbey and return to New York. But while working in the Abbey's library, Taylor uncovers the diary of Thomas Carey, a knight at the court of Henry VIII and the first Duke of Burnham.
As she reads Thomas' agonizing struggle to save the love of his life and the mother of his child from being forced to become Henry's mistress, she begins to see Nicholas in a new light as he battles to save his sixteen-year-old ward Lucy, who is desperately unhappy and addicted to cocaine. But just as Taylor's feelings for Nicholas become clear and at the moment she realizes she is in possession of Diana's voice from the grave, she learns that Nicholas may be Lucy's father and responsible for his wife's death at the Abbey at the time of Lucy's birth. When Nicholas is arrested for Lucy's murder and taken to Wandsworth Prison, Taylor sets out to learn the truth about Nicholas, his late wife, and the death of the Princess of Wales.
Dance for A Dead Princess is a the story of two great loves that created and preserved a family that has lasted for five hundred years.
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Genre – Contemporary Romance,Mystery
Rating – G
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