As promised in my last post, today I’ll be revealing what happened when I was invited to afternoon tea with my absolute favourite author – USA Today and Sunday Times Bestselling novelist, as well as all-round lovely lady - Diane Chamberlain.
So why exactly is Diane my writing heroine? Quite simply, she writes fantastic women’s fiction stuffed full of family drama and suspense or, as it says on her novel covers, ‘she gets to the heart of a good story.’ And it’s true. She’s the best at taking everyday characters, putting them to the test, then telling their anything but ‘everyday’ stories.
So how did my dream of meeting Diane happen?
At the end of 2015, Diane announced on her Facebook Readers Page that for the first time in twenty years she was to visit the UK and three book groups were to be given the opportunity to hear her speak. But there was a major problem - I wasn’t a member of a book group. How was I to meet her?
Well fortune was smiling upon me, as several non-book-group, like-minded Diane fans felt similar crushing disappointment at being unable to apply - until we came up with the inspired suggestion of setting up an online book group, entering – and won!
So I did what I advise my teenage sons never to do - I set off to London, alone, to meet friends I’d only conversed with on the Internet! Thankfully, when I arrived at a coffee house just outside Kings Cross Station, I was met by a great bunch of excited ladies who love Diane’s books as much as I do.
From there, it was a five minute stroll to the shiny offices of Pan MacMillan publishing, where we finally got to meet Diane, who was friendly, charming – a joy to listen to.
First she read from her latest novel ‘Pretending to Dance’. The story of Molly Arnette and her husband, who hope to adopt a baby but the adoption process terrifies Molly. We learn the reasons for Molly’s fears are linked to the death of her adored father, Graham, which sent her running from the small community of Morrison Ridge – never to return.
Diane went on to explain how her own beloved, older sister, Joann Scanlon, was the inspiration for Graham, as they suffer the same form of multiple sclerosis. She also made clear that although many of her novels follow characters facing difficult challenges, she likes to leave the reader feeling better for having known them.
After the reading, Diane fielded questions, when it was interesting to hear how the empathy she’d employed during her time as a hospital social worker and psychotherapist, working with vulnerable babies and teens, helps with character development.
Questions over, we all got a chance to talk with Diane when she signed my precious copy of ‘Pretending to Dance’. She was warm and genuine, even taking the trouble to greet each of us by name, putting us at ease and preventing us from feeling star-struck!
In all the excitement, I almost forgot about afternoon tea but can recommend the strawberry maroons, as I tried several - to ensure they were as light and airy as I first thought!
And so what did my fellow book group members make of the day?
Well on arrival, Diane kindly gave each of us a gift of a ‘lucky’ stone. If you haven’t yet read ‘Pretending to Dance’, then I won’t spoil the significance of this. However, everyone agreed we’d already enjoyed a mountain of luck in winning the competition to meet her and take part in a very special day – thanks to Pan MacMillan and The Reading Agency for arranging.
When we first met online we were strangers but now I regard each of my book group ladies as a friend. Through our love of her work, Diane has done what she does best - taken a circle of characters and brought heart to the story. The perfect ending.