DIANNE GALLAGHER: TALENT DOESN’T ALWAYS WIN
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Dianne Gallagher’s first line of her introduction is “Life is Never a Straight Line”. The prove of the sentence is hiding into her debut novel Too Dark To Sleep. The readers loved the thriller. “Great nod to classic noir”, “Excellent read”, “Scary, edge of my seat” are just a few of reviewers’ opinions. With average 4.7 stars in Amazon the novel is one to read.
– How did you decide to write your book Too Dark To Sleep?
– I guess the catalyst was wine and a bunch a friends. After the proper amount of wine was consumed, someone asked the question, “What if you lost everything?” I was completely surprised by the answers. Several people thought it would be very freeing. They could start over with a blank slate. For me, well… I realized if I lost most elements of my life, I would survive and just rebuild my life with a few changes. Even if I lost my husband… who I love and would miss. The thing is… we had time together and, even though it would be tragic and sad and very difficult, I would still be able to continue my life. If I lost my kids. That would be another story. I’m not sure I could go on.
And that’s how Too Dark to Sleep started. That kernel. And a lot of research and rewrites.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– Finding time is a big one. Also, I’m a very private writer. I don’t show the manuscript to anyone until it’s done and that’s a tough thing. It’s hard to know if you’ve taken the right path, if you’ve built the character effectively and if the plot can stand by itself. It’s also horrible to realize you have to cut some of your best writing because it no longer fits with the story. I’ve got a file full of scenes that I love, but don’t fit. Hopefully, I can find a place for them in other books.
– Tell us something more about your main character Maggie Quinn?
– I love writing Quinn. She’s complex, capable of anything, unpredictable. At the opening of the book, Quinn is in a very bad place. She’s lost everything that makes her who she is. She has to reconstruct herself so she can make it through each day. The best thing about seeing characters fall is you get to see them pick themselves up. That process for Quinn is very interesting. And she is so utterly damaged. Life doesn’t treat her well and seeing her response to that gives us a taste of who she is. She has more strength than she thinks she has. She is more violent than she imagines. She is more dangerous than anyone probably guesses. And I love her relationship with the dark. It limits her in many ways, but also reveals what she’s made of. And it’s always going to be with her. She won’t be able to escape that part of her… which makes for a pretty wild character arc.
– Is she close to someone from your life?
– No. She’s bits and pieces. And since I wrote her, she’s going to have some of me in her. That’s the way it should be for all writers. For every character. Quinn is what I would hope to be and what I’m afraid of becoming. The best and the worst. The strongest and the weakest. She definitely swears more than most people I know and is more kick-ass than just about anyone I’ve met. I wanted to write a female character who wasn’t like every other female character you meet in the crime genre. I wanted her to be equal parts of male and female. Smart. Dangerous. A parent. A spouse. Capable of doing what’s right… and what’s clearly wrong. I hope I succeeded. All I know is she’s great fun to write.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– An embarrassing amount of time. I was working and had kids, so I wrote at night after everyone went to sleep. Initially, I took the conventional route to publishing and after another embarrassing amount of time found representation with Trident Media Group and nearly had a sale to Random House. But “nearly had a sale” still means no sale. With the book dead in the water, I had to decide whether to move on and basically abandon my best piece of writing or seek other options. Apprehensively, I decided to seek other options.
– Who are you?
– Wow, broad question. I majored in theater in college. Was an actor who switched to playwriting. Then I moved to screenplays when my husband went to film school in Los Angeles. Then to novels when we came to the Chicago area. I was a freelance editor for over ten years, then started ghosting. After my clients saw success, I decided to write for myself… so, that’s my background.
Who am I? Honestly, I’m just someone trying to tell a good story. That’s really all that matters.
– What are your writing habits?
– I write when I have something to write about. I’m not a daily writer. I ruminate for a very long time, walk around with the lead character until I know him or her. While I do that, I really immerse myself in research. For Too Dark to Sleep, I used Practical Homicide Investigations by Vernon Geberth and Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation by Barry Fisher and David Fisher. The DSM-IV and some forensic psychology articles were a huge help. Once I have a pretty good handle on the protagonist and the research, I sit down and pop out a rough draft as quickly as I can. I always write with music. Like Maggie Quinn, I make playlists and listen while I write. It lets me get into the groove much faster, especially when I’m caught up in other things. I over-write, so that first draft can be 800 pages… or more. After that, the real work starts. Having been a freelance editor for a very long time, I really embrace the rewrite process. I spend a very long time rewriting, adding layers, developing subplots… and cutting, so the writing is clean. Really, it’s the best part of the job. I have never been able to relate to writers who can put out product the first pass. Honestly, I think it’s kind of impossible.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of the book?
– I don’t think any author is ever satisfied with the sales of their book… unless they are sitting at #1. Without a big publishing house behind you, sales are always an interesting nut to crack. I will say this. I’ve very satisfied with my readers. Very satisfied with the book clubs and groups I’ve visited. Hearing what they have to say is always amazing… even when they don’t like something. I get to hear their point of view, see what played well with them and what didn’t. It doesn’t really change my approach to writing or how I develop a character (Many have given me suggestions as far as where Quinn should end up… and with whom.), but I like to hear how they interpreted the character. What resonated with them.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Initially, I made big push to get it reviewed. Crime Fiction Lover in the UK gave me my first really huge review and that helped. Once there were some good blurbs, I started spreading them. Using them in a variety of venues. I still push to get reviews in as many conventional outlets as possible. I’ve done the PLA and given away a lot of copies to libraries and librarians. As a new author, my goal is to build readership more than count cash… so I give away a lot of books. I give away book club baskets to organizations to use in fundraising. I always offer to attend book club meetings. This has been invaluable. One book club lead to another half dozen connections… which led to more connections… which led to more. Readers want to talk to authors and there is no better way. If they are too far away or I can get away, I skype with them.
– When we will see your next novel?
– Indigo is the first book of a new series. One that is not quite so dark… and it’s been kicking my butt. It took a very long time for me to loop into the main character. Now that I have, I’m hoping to be done by this summer. If I get no bites from agents, I’ll be putting it out by fall. Then I get to move onto the next Quinn book.
– You lived in LA. How would you describe the Hollywood rush for glory around you?
– Frenetic. Everyone is looking for a connection. Everyone thinks they have what it takes to make it… Everyone has a screenplay. And everyone is fighting for the break or the job or the role. It is highly competitive. Often it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Talent doesn’t always win.
– Why you wait for so long being in the writing business before publishing your own novel?
– I wanted to try the conventional route… and nearly succeeded. I’ll be very honest. It’s not easy to promote books. It often takes more time than the writing takes. That’s great if you love marketing. It stinks if you love writing. I waited because I wanted to be sure I was making the right choice. I did research. Discovered the best options. I’m glad I did publish through my own company. However, my next series, I will try the conventional route again. The main reason… I’m a writer. I want to spend most of my time writing.
– As a long time editor and reviewer, give us your Top 5 advices to new authors?
– 1. Write. Write. Write. You only get better the more you do it. The highest praise I got was from an agent who said he couldn’t believe it was my first novel. Secret. It wasn’t. As a freelance editor and ghost, I did plenty of writing on other people’s dime. Not everyone is so fortunate. But everyone can write. The more you write, the better you write.
2. Write the story you want to tell, not the one you think people want to read. Writing for a particular trend or market never works. The trend will die or the market will be dry (or glutted) by the time you finish.
3. Make sure your tool box is full. Know grammar. Know punctuation. Know the rules so you can break them well.
4. Break the rules well. Sure there’s formula, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow it. Formula can sometimes work for you, but a lot of times it’s boring.
5. Don’t give up. Great stories are lost because people get discouraged. Toughen up your skin, put your big kid pants on, and keep at it.
Take a look at her book
Too Dark To Sleep