Monday, November 21, 2011

Q & A with Diana Ballew

Q. Thanks for being here today. Would you please share a short bio about yourself?
A.First off, I would like to thank you for having me today, Becky.

I was born in Okinawa, Japan. After spending my early childhood years in Alaska, I moved to Virginia, where my passion for Civil War history began. As a child, I read and wrote poetry. During college, I began filling pages with the characters and stories flooding my mind. While my husband and I raised our three boys, I found a creative outlet devouring American history, reading the classics, and genealogical research.


I’m actively engaged with Romance Writers of America and a member in my local chapters in Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona. Additionally, I’m a founding member and vice president of Evergreen RWA, located in Everett, Washington.


My writing combines my active imagination with my love of history and research to create vibrant characters in sizzling tales that blend vintage vixens with haunting heroes.


My debut novel, Thorns of Eden, is a steamy and suspenseful tale set in the American Civil War during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862.

Q. Do you consider yourself a shy and/or introverted person? 
A. I’m definitely shy, but most people don’t know that about me. I remember sitting at my desk in school, my stomach twisting in tight knots, hoping and praying the teacher wouldn’t call on me for anything. As I think about how I felt back then, it still makes my stomach twist and turn. Sadly, even as an adult, I’d probably still feel like that under the same circumstances.


Q. In what ways has being shy or introverted hindered your writing career?
A. Actually, it’s probably helped my writing career. Because I’m shy, I naturally gravitate toward solitary endeavors. For instance, it turns out that I absolutely adore research; something I discovered over twenty years ago when I began doing genealogical research for my family as well as for other people. I was in heaven! I would spend hours at libraries, at the National Archives, as well as many other places that housed genealogical and historical records. That was the perfect situation for me. I could research by myself all day long and report my findings to others later.


What’s interesting to me now is that I can see how all that research prepared me to be a writer of historical romance. With each historical or genealogical record I uncovered, my imagination would go wild . But with genealogy, facts and accuracy are an absolute must, and while you may imagine all sorts of stories unfolding, unless there’s a valid paper trail documenting the story, you cannot truly say it existed. Enter my imagination: Writing historical romance was a natural transition for me. I could research historical events with accuracy and blend it with my vivid imagination. Writing historical romance was something I could do all day . . . at home . . . and all by myself.


Q. In what ways has being shy or introverted helped your writing career?
A. See question 3 : )


Q.What’s the hardest part of this business for you?
A. That’s a tough question. I’ve found that I enjoy almost all aspects of writing but if I had to pick one thing, I would have to say the waiting game is hard. You finally write your book and then you send it out to agents and editors . . . and then you wait. Promoting my book is a lot of fun but it also takes up a lot of my time. I guess I gave two examples.


Q. Tell me about a time that you had to step outside your comfort zone either in your writing career or in your personal life?
A. There have been many times I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone. That’s just part of life. I’m really working on tackling my shy demons and forcing myself into more and more uncomfortable situations— like pitching my manuscript to an agent or editor in a group setting. UGH! Just the thought of doing that makes my stomach flip-flop. Well, I finally decided to bite the bullet and pitch my manuscript at a conference. I was terrified, and I felt those same horrible feelings bubbling away inside my stomach that I’d felt while in school all those years ago. But guess what? I survived AND they all asked to see my work. Most recently, I was an author on an author panel at a conference, and I presented a workshop at my local RWA.


Q. What’s one tip you could share with shy and introverted people that’s helped you?
A. I learned long ago that when talking in front of a large group, cast your attention to the people in the last row and convince yourself you’re talking to only them. By doing that, your voice will be loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, and the physical distance makes you feel more comfortable. All in all, I’m getting much better at talking in front of a group. I’m sure most of us are more confident as adults than we ever were as children. Accept the challenge of stepping out of your comfort zone, learn from the experience, and move on to the next challenge.


Q. Would you please share a short blurb of your book and where my readers can buy it?
A. Sure!

Blurb: Sometimes fate has other plans . . .


Major Rayce Hampton is the Confederacy’s final hope to turn the tide of war. Haunted by heartache of generations past, love is the last thing he has on his mind when he meets Eden Blair. The emerald-eyed beauty is as headstrong as she is tempting, but Rayce must keep his wits – and his secrets – as he executes his dangerous undercover mission to save the South.


Accomplished nurse Eden Blair has secrets too . . . only she doesn’t know about them yet. Stung by her fiancĂ©’s betrayal, she has no reason to trust the scandalous Major Hampton. But as Yankee troops close in, Eden must take refuge in the major’s mysterious ancestral home, leading her into the shadowy corners of deceit and desire, where endless love lurks within every soft whisper.


Thorns of Eden is available in print and e-book format at most e-bookstores.


For Kindle and Print
For NOOK
The Wild Rose Press


Q. Where can my readers find you on the web?
A. Come visit me at http://www.dianaballew.com/


Facebook ~ www.facebook.com/diana.ballew


Twitter ~ www.twitter.com/#!/DianaBallew


Thanks for having me!!!

29 comments:

  1. Diana, thanks so much for coming on today. I started your book a long time ago, misplaced it (grrr) and just found it when I cleaned out my car this weekend. Can't wait to get back to it. :)

    I love your public speaking suggestion of picking people in the back of the room to focus on. That's a great idea. I always pick a few friendly faces to talk to, but always near the front.

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  2. Becky, the trick really works! I focus on the back row when I'm nervous and slowly move forward as I feel more and more comfortable. I tend NOT to focus on friendly faces because I'm afraid I'll laugh!

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  3. Wow, I would never have described you as introverted. The things you learn about people you think you know!

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  4. Hi Elizabeth! Well, it's funny how people mask their shyness in different ways. One way I have tackled being shy—I can be a clown! Trust me; most of my friends think I’m outgoing and that I have a funny, twisted sense of humor. Really, I’m not outgoing at all, but I DO have a pretty good sense of humor. Once a shy person figures out that they can mask their discomfort by making the people around them laugh, watch out!

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  5. Hi, ladies. Diana, I really enjoyed reading Thorns of Eden. It's interesting you mention how shy you are because both the heroine and her step-mother were anything but! The banter between them was wickedly funny.

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  6. Thanks, Shelby. I absolutely loved the relationship between Eden and Ann. I had to be careful when writing the book not to let Ann upstage Eden—which would have been very easy to do because Ann has no filter. Here’s our lovely heroine Eden Blair; sheltered, sensible, but a bit hot-headed. Then you have her stepmother Ann who is also lovely, not at all sheltered or reasonable but equally hot-headed. Add one yummy hero named Major Rayce Hampton into the mix, who initially thinks the two women are sisters (Ann is a widow and only three years older than Eden) and you can see how cat fights might occur . . . and they certainly do happen! Then, when you added sweet Lucy into the mix, well, let’s just say it reminds me of Little Women with attitude and libidos.

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  7. Hi Diana,

    I like to research in the library too. You never know what you can find. I thought for tip for speaking was excellent. I'll have to remember that.

    All the best with your new release.

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  8. Hi Shelley. The tip works--try it! Once you learn what works for you, it makes all the difference in the world.

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  9. Great tips on public speaking, Diana, I have not heard those strategies before. I'll definitely be talking to the last row from now on, LOL! I know it works for you, because even though you always say you're nervous, you speak like a seasoned pro.

    :) Chassily

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  10. Hey guys. I enjoyed this interview. Good suggestion about speaking to the back of the room, but I'd rather not speak at all. I also enjoy research when I'm not disappearing up my backside with promo.

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  11. Hi Chassily. If you think I look like I’m a seasoned pro up there then my strategy must be working! And that’s my point; find what works for you. I also have some note cards handy with my target points. If the butterflies get the better of me, I glance down, take a breath, and go on.

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  12. Hi Beth. You're a promo queen, my dear. I love your blog and seeing your posts.

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  13. Hi Diana! I really enjoyed this blog posting. That is such a great idea about talking to someone in the last row in the room. And, no, I would have never guessed that you weren't an extrovert.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Shannon in Tucson

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  14. Hi, Diana. I so agree with you on the waiting game being one of the toughest parts of the writing business. Patience is not my strong suit. lol
    Have a happy Thanksgiving!

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  15. Hi Shannon. Thanks for posting. Have a wonderful holiday!

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  16. You're certainly good at public speaking. :) Enjoyed your talk at ECWC. So what do you have for us in the gotta-have-new-book department?

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  17. Hi Laurie. We write our books, polish them until they shine, and then we send them off to be judged by others. And then we must wait . . . and wait. The publishing business is not for the impatient or the faint of heart, that’s for sure. But we must remember our end game, for there truly is one. When the first rejection slips begin to arrive, think about this: We all have varied tastes and different opinions. Is the publishing world really any different? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Remember that and you won’t fear your in-box or the mail carrier ever again!

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  18. Hi Jacquie. I think everyone should read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the two sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Why? Several reasons. The highly anticipated movie comes out in March. Read the books first. Besides that, I think it’s some of the best work out there. Her simple style of world building amazed me, and I think she’s the master of the end of chapter hook.

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  19. Thanks for sharing, Diana. Yes, looking back I remember being told by a professional speaker to do just what you suggested. It really helps with projecting your voice!

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  20. You shy? I never would have guessed! :-) You always seem so sure of yourself and poised.

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  21. Hi Lori. You’ll never have to worry whether you're speaking loud enough if you talk to the people in the last row. It works. Now, if you’re in a huge room with loads of people, you'll probably have a microphone. In that case, you’ll need to adjust your voice, but keep eye contact with the people in the last row and you won’t give away your nervous jitters. I had a microphone at the last conference. Before it was my turn to speak I was SURE I was going to croak out my answer and come off like an idiot. What did I do? I sat there downing two glasses of water because my mouth went bone-dry. Guzzlin’ water like a parched camel likely drew more attention than anything else. Thank heavens I didn’t think about that then : )

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  22. Hi Joan. It’s certainly nice to hear you say that! Honestly, if I’ve been able to pull off appearing self-confident and poised while presenting, then that’s GREAT! Still, something tells me you would have guessed my nervousness had you seen me drink all that water. Ugh!

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  23. Great interview and LOVE that back row strategy! Diana, you are one of the funniest people I know so it's really hard for me to think of you as shy. I think your best feature is your ability to make people feel comfortable because you're so down to earth & genuine. OR-it could be that down-home southern charm-lol! Thanks for being such a great writer-I can't wait for future releases!

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  24. Ah, now you've got me blushing. Thanks so much, Marianne!

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  25. Loved this! Authors often have trouble speaking in public but these days, more than ever, have to rise to the challenge. Focusing on the back row is a great trick as is not reading your audience. Take off your glasses and forge ahead. Imagine they love you because no one wants to watch you squirm. Channel your inner rock star and call on her for all your public speaking needs!

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  26. Nice interview Diana. Thanks Becky for hosting her. Wishing you the best of success with your book.

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  27. Thanks Kim. Love the idea of channeling your inner rock star : )

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  28. Wonderful interview. My brother is the genealogical guru in our family. Happy sales to you!

    *waves* Hi Becca!

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