I met Diana in a class that I teach for writers on website design. As we were working, I was struck by the beauty of the writing in her blog and the snippets of stories that she shared. When I tried to buy them, I discovered that they were all peacefully waiting in a drawer for the right time. I encouraged her to publish them, and was delighted when she decided to go with us!
Each book in the Heart Ally line is a passion project with a powerful story behind it. I'll let Diana tell you about her writing in her introductory interview.
HA: Why did you choose Heart Ally for your publisher on this book?
DD: At least ten years ago, I decided that for the type of books I write, independent publishing would be my chosen path. However, the technicalities of the process continued to intimidate me, so my project had stalled. Then I met Lisa Norman of Heart Ally through my website and realized that the opportunity she offered was exactly what I’d hoped (and prayed) for! The unique combination of circumstances leading to my involvement with Heart Ally can only be described as divine serendipity. I relate the full story in a blog post here.
HA: I was delighted when we met. I could see the challenges you were facing and realized that your goals fit perfectly with what I strive for in my company. Your books are a blessing for me to work with. One of the biggest challenge for anyone in the industry is to be able to read and enjoy a book. We are constantly editing and questioning everything. That's our job. Your work challenges me, because I get pulled into the story. That is a surprise and a treasured gift. What was the most surprising experience you had during the process of becoming an author?
DD: I can mention a couple of surprises, I think. One is how helpful everyone from editor to artist to publisher was! I was able to make so many personalized choices and I’m thankful for your encouragement along every step of the way. The other surprise 😊 is the sense that even though Destiny at Dolphin Bay is now published, it’ll never be completely finished. I wanted to launch it into the world and get “done” with it, but now I find I still want to improve it. I guess I need to let it go and put my efforts and attention onto the next books instead.
HA: Ah — I know that feeling well. But you have other treasures that we want to see! Do you have a favorite or least favorite part of being an author?
DD: I thoroughly enjoy every part of the writing process—planning, creating, editing. The best part of writing for me is the emotional connection between characters and readers. I want to write stories that will touch people’s hearts, challenge their minds, and make a positive impact in their lives.
The hardest thing for me in the writing life is carrying around so many unwritten stories without sufficient time to work on them. I know, I know, I’m supposed to prioritize my writing. Not always easy when my day job/ministry absorbs me pretty much 24/7. At least, with a head crammed full of ideas, I never suffer from writer’s block. And at any rate, my job will one day come to an end, but I don’t ever plan to retire from writing. It’s my greatest fun!
HA: That fun comes through in the power of your writing! How much of your book is based on real life?
DD: That’s hard to nail down to a percentage. The overall plot is my own invention, although it’s definitely a “could-have-been.” I don’t know of anyone who faked the Caleuche ghost ship, for example, but beyond that, most of the people, places, and events in the story are composites or even have completely real counterparts. Since I lived with my family in Chile’s Chiloé Islands for eight years, I can confirm that the island culture portrayed in Destiny at Dolphin Bay is totally based on real life.
On the other hand, I don’t consider myself a character in the story. Many friends assume I’m writing about our personal experience of missionary life in southern Chile in the ’80’s and ’90’s. That’s true to some extent, but good fiction is “life with the boring parts taken out,” right? Reality was perhaps never so dramatic. But the underlying elements remain solidly rooted in fact.
(I have to add here that my three daughters have an ongoing debate about whether they are the Peterson girls in Destiny at Dolphin Bay! Not really, but from where else would I draw children’s reactions?)
You have to realize also that Destiny at Dolphin Bay pictures a world that’s now more than 30 years old, so it’s almost a historical novel. The ultra-conservative Chile of the waning days of the military dictatorship was very different from present-day “post-modern” Chile. Even rustic Chiloé has seen great changes.
HA: You've experienced the changes first-hand. I look forward to reading more about the area in the following books. I know you have a mission for your writing. Would you like to talk about that?
DD: To quote the songwriter, “To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of (my) mission...” My vision for everything I write is to entertain as well as inspire Christian women and girls to live lives of joy, purpose, and fulfillment.
It may seem like an ambitious goal. Originally I aimed my books at teens/young adults struggling with issues of identity, significance, and decisions about life choices and worldview. I was in my thirties when I wrote my first four books. These days I more include the moms, grandmas, and other mentors who influence the next generation. I think in terms of how I can redeem the wealth of experiences (even hard times) I’ve lived through to help and heal others. What did I learn, what stories can I share that will resonate? It’s my way of serving.
I desire to pass on hope and encouragement and to empower readers to grow and change their world. To make a difference now and possibly for eternity. My ministry medium is what I perceive as the transforming power of a story.
My writing also calls for a return to romantic heroes who fight for goodness, beauty, and truth and a return to truly Christian books. A common misconception (IMO) in the Christian niche today is that “inspirational” books shouldn’t include any overt message. Only fanatics and old people care about God, 😊 and heaven forbid our protagonists should come across as too “righteous.” I guess I’m a little subversive here. Without being preachy, I had the extraordinary idea I could write an interesting adventure story with a serious underlying theme.
I’m a huge advocate of reading in many genres. There’s nothing like the enjoyment of a good book. But while I do love fantasy and escapist fiction, in my own works I feel called to take quite a different approach. In Latin America “magical realism” features big in much of the literature. I find that fascinating—but bleak. Hope is missing, and so is the prospect of change.
In every book I write, I envision a setting that feels magical yet is grounded solidly in “real-life” earth. Perhaps that’s why I weave some of the myths and legends of Chiloé into some of the stories. And mainly I want my characters to become heroes and role models—and even friends—for the readers. I believe God is the greatest Hero and faith the ultimate magical realism.
HA: I'm also a big believer in books not being preachy. When someone picks up a book that I've published, I want them to be drawn into the story, to feel the love that goes into each page. Your book can be read and enjoyed for the adventure that it is. The message is there, a part of the fabric of the words, but without being intrusive or feeling "tacked on." Christianity and faith is a part of these characters' personality, something they live and walk and breathe every day.
We're looking forward to the next book!
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