Welcome, Dianne. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I hope that the themes in my books reveal more of my soul than my individual characters. They do possess genuine traits and feelings of the Mennonite people. I was raised Mennonite, and that is one of my goals with this series, to give readers a glimpse of the Mennonite heart. But I work hard to keep my characters fictional. The way I do this is by indentifying a character’s personality and making a chart of what motivates their personality type and how they should react to situations and to each other. I believe the better I become at writing, the less my characters will resemble me. The personality charts I use are based on the Enneagram theory.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I just returned from a sister trip and asked them this question. They mentioned my perfectionist fixations…continually raking the footprints out of our desert landscape or offering not only birdseed, but oranges and hamburger to coax in the roadrunners and more unusual birds. I was rather shocked. I thought those things were normal. My husband claims it’s a little snort-sniffle thing I do during allergy season.
But I’d like to think it’s my creativity. When we built a new house, I came up with the idea to put my husband’s classic car inside the house. We used glass to make it visible from our office and entryway. We went antiquing for memorabilia to make the car room into something special. Everyone that entered our home was surprised to see the car in the middle of the house. (Something a Conservative Mennonite would never do—but we’ve been attending a nondenominational church for many years. At the time, we didn’t think we were prideful, but we probably did need an attitude adjustment. That came when the economy crashed.) We sold the house and the car. And with our recent move, I’ve been too busy to be quirky. Except for the snort-sniffle thing.
When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I always expressed myself through writing. As a child, I kept a diary. When dating, I kept a scrapbook of love poems.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love nonfiction and learning about many topics. I read a lot of inspirational nonfiction and use nonfiction for my research. In fiction, I enjoy romantic comedies and adventure books. I force myself to read some classics. The perfectionism thing?
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I meet with God first thing in the morning. It helps my perspective and attitude. At least for a few hours. As the day escalates, I grasp for the humorous or hopeful until I can snatch a moment alone to recharge.
I have a personal philosophy that keeps me afloat. Everything, except God, changes continually. Situations. Seasons. If things are good, enjoy to the fullest and embrace it as a wonderful gift. If things are bad, it will pass. Time will heal. I thank God for creating day and night and the blessing of new beginnings. When I miss the mark, the next day is an opportunity for a fresh start.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I use baby-naming books. Choosing names and titles is hard for me.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Definitely my books. Sometimes a writer can feel so alone in the journey. Thank God for agents and editors, writing groups, the internet and personal support, but there are still many long lonely hours at the computer, staring at blank pages. When the book is done, I feel a great deal of personal accomplishment.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
A bird. I’d like to fly and soar and sing. Maybe a parrot—they live long. Or a wise owl. Or a bright red cardinal.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza and Italian subs. Creamy desserts. But my husband and I started a heart healthy diet six months ago. We allow ourselves to splurge on special occasions and at favorite restaurants. This helps us keep on track.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Facing rejection and self doubt. Attending writer workshops provided inspiration and encouragement. I clung to the knowledge that all writers experience rejections, and I made relationships with other writers. My biggest breakthrough was finding an agent who believed in my writing. When I saw that he wasn’t giving up on me, I determined not to give up on myself. Since I like to learn, I kept reading about writing technique and practicing. One editor urged me to write daily, and that has improved my skills and confidence.
Tell us about the featured book.
The Plain City Bridesmaids series takes place in the close-knit
community where my husband grew up—where we met. It is about three little Mennonite girls who make a pact to room together and become each other’s bridesmaids. Katy strictly follows the rules, Lil bends all the rules, and Megan is their peacemaker. In Something Old, the three girls renovate an Amish doddy house and move in together. Lil tries to match make, hiring her cousin to do the renovations. Jake is Katy’s old flame, who broke her heart by leaving the church to sow his wild oats. At the same time, when Katy’s dad finds out that Jake is back, he makes a stipulation. Before he gives her his blessing to leave home and move into the doddy house, Katy must promise to give David Miller a try. Katy finds herself fending off two pursuers as well as the unwelcome desires of her traitorous heart. Ohio
Personalities clash when Katy and Lil move into the doddy house without their peacemaker, Megan, who first needs to finish
. Besides that, Katy feels like a fish out of water when she takes a temporary nanny job for a manipulative outsider. Always the black and white thinker, Katy’s job forces her to make gray area decisions. Should she take her little charge to dance lessons when Katy doesn’t believe in dancing? Can she really help with a homework assignment that involves television? And if the church doesn’t allow television, why is the congregation voting on the prayer covering issue—an old tradition that Katy holds dear to heart? And the biggest question, will Lil and Megan ever get the chance to become Katy’s bridesmaids? Something Old is Katy’s unique journey to love and faith. Bible College
Please give us the first page of the book.
Katy Yoder skimmed a white-gloved finger across the edge of the fireplace mantel. The holiday decorations, such extravagance forbidden at her own home, slowed her task. It wasn’t just the matter of working around them, it was the assessing of them. Feeling a bit like Cinderella at the ball, she swiped her feather duster, easing it around the angel figurines and Christmas garland. A red plastic berry bounced to the floor and she stooped to retrieve it, poking it back into place with care.
Her mother, like most members of her Mennonite congregation, shunned such frivolity. Gabriel of the Bible, the angel who visited the Virgin Mary, probably looked nothing like these gilded collectibles. Nevertheless, the manger scene caused warm puddles to pool deep inside her heart, a secret place of confusing desires, which she kept properly disguised, covered with her crisp white blouse and ever busy hands.
The pine-scented tree occupying the corner of the room moved her with wonder. Not the ornaments, but the twinkling white lights, little dots of hope. The cheery music jingling in the background was not forbidden. She mouthed the words to Silent Night. They often sang the hymn at her meetinghouse in December. But her singing was interrupted mid-stanza, as her employer’s gravelly voice brought her out of her reverie. Instinctively, she lowered her arm and whirled.
Mr. Beverly’s lips thinned and his white mustache twitched. “Katy. We need to talk.” Bands of deep wrinkles creased his forehead. “I have bad news,” he said. His petite wife stood at his side, twisting her diamond ring.
Apprehension marched up Katy’s neck. Could it be a terminal illness? The couple in their late sixties, kept active for their age, always off on golfing vacations. Katy had grown fond of them. Smiles softened their conversation, and their hands were quick to hand her trusted keys and gifts. They even bought her a sweater for her birthday, made from some heavenly soft fabric. Katy gripped the duster’s handle with both hands. “Oh?”
“We’re going to have to let you go.”
Her jaw gaped. Never had she expected such news. “But . . . but I thought you were pleased”—her mind scrambled for some slip up, some blunder.
Mrs. Beverly rushed forward and touched Katy’s white sleeve. “No. No. It’s nothing like that. Our son wants us to move to
.” She glanced at her husband. “At our age, it’s overdue.” Florida
Katy propped the duster against an arm chair and smoothed the apron that covered her dark, A-line skirt. “But is this what you want? Is there a problem with your health?”
Mrs. Beverly glanced at the beige shag carpet and back to Katy’s face. “Just the usual, but we’re not getting any younger.” Mr. Beverly squeezed his wife’s shoulder. “We’ll give you a good reference.”
Katy didn’t need a reference. She needed a job. This particular job. Her best paying, two-day-a-week job. To Katy, the tidy, easy to clean house classified as a dream job. Fast becoming a nightmare, losing it just when the doddy house came up for rent. Forcing a smile, Katy nodded. “I appreciate that. When will you leave?”
“Right away. We’re turning the house over to a realtor. Our son is coming to help us sell some things. There’s really no need for you to come again. I’m sorry we couldn’t give you more notice. But we are giving you a Christmas bonus.”
Katy patted Mrs. Beverly’s manicured hand. “Thank you. You have enough to worry about, don’t concern yourself with me.” She bit her lip, thinking, I do that well enough for the both of us.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
http://www.diannechristner.net I have a blog on my website where readers can connect with me.
Thank you, Dianne, for sharing some of your life with us.
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