Who Does Emilie Read? Diane Chamberlain For One

Inevitably during every interview I’m asked the names of authors I enjoy.  Inevitably Diane Chamberlain is at the top of my list.

DianeChamberlainforwebuse.jpgDiane and I became more than mutual admirers when I moved to Northern Virginia a decade ago and found she lived here, too.  We began to get together to chat, then to brainstorm, then to spend time at the beach together writing. 

Although she now lives in North Carolina, the home of so many of her wonderful novels, we email frequently.  And when I’m not catching up with her in person, I’m reading her delightful blog

Since we’ve always felt our readers would enjoy each other’s work, I asked Diane if I could interview her here for your pleasure.  Her newest novel, Secrets She Left Behind, is at bookstores now.  And for fun, we’re giving away one of her recent novels to a lucky blog reader.  See details at the end.

I’ll let Diane do the talking from this point.  For more information about Diane and all her novels, visit her website, too. 

2009SecretsSheLeftBehind.jpg1–Diane, how would you describe your books?  Do you have particular themes you really like to explore and explore often?  

I think of my books as part suspense, part mystery and one hundred percent family drama. My books always seem to gravitate toward themes of compassion and forgiveness, even though I’m never conscious of heading in that direction. I think we tend to write about those things we struggle with ourselves, whether we set out to do so or not.  

A few years ago, one of my Japanese readers emailed me with this comment: “You make me believe that life is beautiful even if it is also filled with pain and rage.” I was so touched by that. She captured exactly what I try to do with my stories better than I’ve ever been able to state it myself.  

2–Who are your readers?  Who should become your readers for your new book Secrets She Left Behind?  Of course I think everybody should read it, but can you pin it down a bit more? 

Women of all ages make up the majority of my readers. The youngest reader I’ve heard from was thirteen (I didn’t let my own stepdaughter read me until fourteen, though!) and the oldest reader was 101! I would venture to guess that you and I, Emilie, share many of the same readers, since our books are quite similar. I wonder if that comes from our shared backgrounds as social workers and counselors?  

Secrets She Left Behind is written from the points of view of three teenaged characters and one adult woman, and while it’s definitely an adult novel, it will speak to many teens as well. It’s the story of a seventeen-year-old boy, Keith, who was badly burned in a fire. Angry at the world, he pushes away everyone who tries to help him except his mother, Sara, on whom he’s emotionally and physically dependent. One day, Sara says she’s going to the store and never returns. So, it’s the story of Keith’s struggle to find his mother, but it’s Sara’s story as well, since she’s left behind a memoir full of secrets. Ultimately, as with most of my books, it’s a story about family love. 

3–Secrets She Left Behind is a sequel to your previous novel, Before The Storm.  What drew you toward writing a sequel?  Was that your plan from the beginning, or did the characters cry out for an opportunity to continue?   

As I neared the end of Before the Storm, I realized there were some threads left hanging that could not be easily summed up in a couple of chapters. That, in addition to the fact that I loved the characters and wasn’t ready to let them go, is why I decided to write Secrets She Left Behind. One of the most enjoyable parts of writing Secrets was looking at certain situations that occurred in Before the Storm through different characters’ eyes. Sometimes we think we know everything about a certain episode in our own family, for example, but then we talk to a parent or sibling and discover their take on it is completely different. Their “truth” is different than our own. That’s a big part of what happens in Secrets. Everyone has a different perspective on the same situation. 

4–Some of my blog readers may not have had the opportunity to read your books.  Should they begin with Secrets She Left Behind, or with another of your novels?  And must they read Before The Storm to better understand Secrets, or do the books easily stand alone? 

I would definitely start with one of these two books. Secrets She Left Behind is written as a “stand alone” book, so it doesn’t matter if a reader has read Before the Storm or not. On the other hand, if someone reads Before the Storm first, they will find the revelations in Secrets even more dramatic. 

5–You know how much I loved Keeper of the Light, the first novel of yours that I read.  In fact I was privileged to explore with you the lighthouse in the Outer Banks that the book is based on as well as the keeper’s cottage.  What draws you so often to the North Carolina coast?  I know you live in North Carolina now, but why has it always been such a center for your novels? 

I grew up in New Jersey, where my family had a summer house “down the shore.” I left New Jersey when I was twenty and then lived for many years in California. I moved from there to Virginia, and while living there, I traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I felt as though I’d come home. Although it’s certainly different from the Jersey Shore, it had the same nostalgic pull on me. I’ve now written eight books set in North Carolina, seven of them on the coast. I guess it’s no surprise that I finally moved to the state that has been in my heart for so many years! 

6– What would you like people to take away from Secrets when they’ve finished it? 

I guess I’d have to return to my Japanese reader’s comment about life being beautiful despite its challenges, because she said it so well. I’d like my readers  to feel lifted up by the story of people who struggle against life’s hardships and who are ultimately healed by the love of family and friends. 

7–What’s up next for you?  I’ve heard you have some reprints on the way.  Can you tell us about those so that readers will look for them? 

I’m working on my next novel, The Lies We Told, which is scheduled for publication next spring. In addition, my publisher, Mira Books, has started reissuing many of my older books with beautiful new covers. The Courage Tree was released in April and Breaking the Silence will be out in December. I believe there are two more reissues planned for 2010 and two more for 2011. In addition, some of the older books have been reprinted (with their original covers), though they are still a bit challenging to find. I know they are available through Borders.com, and some of them are now available in e-book format for the Kindle at Amazon.com. 

8–And finally, why did you decide to become a full time writer?  You had an active, rewarding career in social work, so what drew you toward the contemplative life of a novelist?  By the way, I know that I speak for all your readers when I say I’m glad you made that decision. 

Even as a social worker, I was the “contemplative” sort. I always had stories running through my mind. One day while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to begin writing down one of those stories. Writing grew into a hobby–and then into an obsession. I eventually shifted from hospital social work to a private psychotherapy practice so that I would have more time to write. As I experienced more success as a writer, though, I knew I had to make a choice between two careers that I loved. It’s clear which path I picked, but I will always be grateful that I’ve had two careers that enabled me to touch so many people in a positive way. 

Thank you, Emilie, for this opportunity to chat with your readers!

And thank you, Diane, for sharing with all of us.

To enter to win a copy of the recently reprinted The Courage Tree, one of Diane’s many fine novels, just comment here and tell us which of Diane’s books you’ve enjoyed most in the past, or which one you’d like most to read.  Emilie will draw a winner on June 3rd with the help of random.org 


  1. Ashley on May 27, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    AHH! Both of my favorite authors.. on the ‘same page’.. in the ‘same place’… This may just be too much! 😛 Emilie, I love your writing.. as well as Diane’s; and have been waiting for both new books- her “Secrets She Left Behind” (which i’m currently reading now) and your “Happiness Key” as I’ve already devoured any book I’ve been able to find by both of you.
    Just wanted to say that! And that my favorites by you have been Fox River, and Whiskey Island/The Parting Glass… and Diane’s have been Breaking the Silence, Summer’s Child, and Before the Storm.

  2. Lori Carley on May 27, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    I am a big reader of Emilie’s books. I love reading them. I have never heard of Diane. But I am so thrilled because now I have another author to buy books and read. I am going to go to Barnes and Nobles this weekend and the first book I see with Diane’s name is the one I will read. I am really excited. Thank you so much Emilie for introducing Diane. I can tell by the description I will love reading her books.

  3. Di on May 27, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Another lovely author to explore – thank you so much, Emilie! I think I would enjoy any of Diane’s novels, but if I had to choose, maybe I’d start with Before The Storm. Thank you for pointing me in her direction.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on May 27, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Hey, Ashley, I’m glad to share your “favorite author” status with Emilie.
    Di and Lori, I hope you’ll enjoy my books.
    And Emilie, thanks so much for a chance to meet some of your readers. You have a wonderful blog.

  5. Debbie Haupt on May 28, 2009 at 9:03 am

    Wow, Emilie now I have to add another to my growing list of authors that I must read. I loved her interview with you and I know from just reading the words she spoke there that I MUST begin reading her novels. I’m going to start with the current Secrets She Left behind because I’m so intrigued by the blurb.
    Thank You Emilie
    And Diane I can’t wait to add you to my list of favorite authors because I just have this feeling that you’ll be on it soon.

  6. Emilie Richards on May 28, 2009 at 9:19 am

    So many great comments. Keep them coming. I’m delighted to see all of you here.

  7. RobynL on May 29, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Her Mother’s Shadow is the one I’d love to read. I love that the brother trains dogs and she helps.

  8. Marilyn Seitz on May 31, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I have read all of the Shenandoah series and can’t wait until the next one. I missed you last year at the quilt museum in Harrisonburg and hope you’ll do a repeat sometime. I guess it’s time to branch out and read some of your other series now.

  9. Robin on May 31, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Wow, a new author to explore. I love Emilie’s books and have read them all. I am always looking for recommendations of what to read and this interview spurred my interest Now I will read all of Diane’s books. Yay!

  10. Marj Coldiron on May 31, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I loved your interview with Diane. I will probably start with The keeper of the light, but may have to start with what is available at my local book store. Thankyou for expanding my reading list. Keep up the good work, can hardly wait until your latest book arrives at my local book store.

  11. Margi Borck on May 31, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    What a great interview Emilie. It is so nice to get to know Diane a little better. I fell in love with her writing when I read “The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes”. I think this one fits her description of writing style of part suspense, part mystery, and total family drama. I can’t wait to read “Secrets She Left Behind”.

  12. Diane Chamberlain on June 1, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    I’m looking forward to seeing who wins a copy of The Courage Tree.

  13. Monica Weingate on June 2, 2009 at 10:46 am

    I absolutely LOVE Secrets She Left Behind. Diane Chamberlain did a fantabulous job and I adore it. It’s easy to relate to because it’s “family drama” and “forgiveness” and I believe we all encounter that in our lives in one way or the other. I cannot wait to read more of her books, they truly are inspiring and ones that you can’t put down! Thanks Diane, and thank you Emilie for this interview with such a prized author! (I’ll have to read your books as well!!!)

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