Thank you Christoph Fischer for the wonderful interview on your beautiful blog: http://www.christophfischer.com
Today I have the pleasure to present the complete works of Dianne Harman and an interview with this wonderful and upbeat writer.
“Blue Coyote Hotel” by Dianne Harman has at its heart an excellent idea and an intelligent concept that is very well presented and told with irony as well as compassion.
The main character Jeffrey is an idealistic scientist very much in love with his beautiful wife Maria. Working on an anti-ageing drug initially he compromises his work life for Maria, loses his job and ends up pursuing his dream of making the world a better place by other means at the Blue Coyote Hotel. The book actually begins with the story of one of the visitors to the Hotel and how his stay in their specially ‘air conditioned’ rooms positively affects his life. Throughout the book Maria and Jeffrey’s story is interspersed with segments about visitors whose lives miraculously change after staying at the hotel. For me this concept worked extremely well as we get to see the potential of Jeffrey’s dream and almost accidentally get to know some of the characters that will become more important for the plot later.
Harman has created two very interesting main characters with a lot going on in their lives and heads and she takes us honestly and compassionately through their changing circumstances while adding some other very colourful and entertaining people to the mix: A catholic priest, a Native Indian Doctor and an overweight business executive to name some of them.
With all the care that was put into the story and the people populating it, the book does an excellent job at making us feel for the characters, even if they bend the rules or are involved in ‘drugs’. You get to see where each character comes from and how their motifs are quite often benign and honourable. Told with wit and a great sense of irony this is a complex and engaging read that stayed with me for a long time after I finished it. With romance, idealism, moral aspects and even some suspense in the story this is a remarkable debut novel by a confident and compelling new writer. Harman tells her story with a perspective changing, confident voice which translates into a great narrative. I read the book in almost one sitting, completely involved, taken in and curious were the story would end.
Original, fascinating and very well written this is highly recommended.
Hi Dianne, thanks for taking the time for this little interview.
Thank you for having me!
Tell us a little about yourself. Have you always written?
No. I entered the game pretty late. Actually I was 68 when my first book, Blue Coyote Motel, was published. Had always thought about writing. Who doesn’t? But I didn’t feel I had the necessary credentials such as critique groups, workshops, etc. I happened on Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and he more or less says “Just Do It” and so I did!
How did you have the inspiration for your stories?
Blue Coyote Motel was a curious thing. We were at a boutique hotel in Palms Springs, California, for a wedding. Our son was the best man and the family had taken over the hotel for the event. It was 106 degrees in October. The air conditioning was wonderful and so quiet. The old hotel had recently been refurbished. I remember turning to my husband and saying, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone put a ‘feel-good’ drug in the air conditioner and everyone felt good all the time?” He responded, “There’s your book.” And so it was.
My recently published sequel “Coyote in Provence” came about because so many people asked me what happened to Maria. The continuation of her story needed to be told. And am in the process of doing the final editing for the third book in the Coyote series.
Tea Party Teddy came about because my husband was in the California Legislature for twelve years and we entertained Governors, Congressmen, and people of every political persuasion. I had a front row center seat watching the political world unfold, and so I satirized the experience. It was an interesting time!
Is one of your books more important or personal to you and if so, why?
Whatever I’m writing is my favourite. It’s as if the characters dictate where the story goes. I just sit back and write what they tell me.
Do you have personal experience with politics or the pharmaceutical industry?
Pharmaceutical, no, politics, yes.
Did you do a lot of research for the books?
I research when the events call for it. For instance, in Coyote in Provence, California Impressionist paintings are stolen and smuggled into France. I was on the phone with the Los Angeles Art Fraud Division and Interpol finding out if the US could get the paintings back and what their policy was.
Would you say you have a political or personal message in your books?
I have been told there is a theme of good vs. bad in my stories, but I don’t write the story with a message in mind.
How much of the storylines was fixed before you started writing and how much changed during the process?
My writing is totally organic. I start with an idea, but I never know exactly how it’s going to come out.
Tell us a little about your writing and editing process.
I am very fortunate that I don’t have to work outside the home and I have far more time to write and edit than most people. I’m usually at my computer marketing and writing from about 7 or 8 in the morning until 5 at night and I usually write in the mornings on Saturday and Sunday. Of course, family and other things certainly cut into that time. Marketing is a big part of it, and I believe in digital marketing. As far as editing, I have a copy editor I usually send my books to first. Then I send them to beta readers. My husband is an excellent editor and reads everything two to three times. It’s amazing what you miss when it’s your own. My copy editor places a lot of emphasis on emotions, dialogue, etc. while my husband is much more plot oriented, so there’s a good balance.
Have you always written?
I wrote a book when I was nine about a little girl who goes to China. What was up with that and what did I know? Nothing! No novels until I was 68, but I wrote for newspapers, etc. during those years.
What is your writing environment like? Can you tolerate music or noise or are you a reclusive writer?
I guess I would be a reclusive writer. I don’t have music on. I sit at my computer to write and often in the morning I’ll wake up early and do marketing and email on my iPad while I have a cup of coffee in bed.
Which of your characters was most fun to write?
Slade Kelly, without a doubt. He’s simply a fun reprobate and everyone asks when I’m going to make him more of a major character. Haven’t quite worked that out.
Who would play them in a film?
I don’t know.
Are you like any of the characters?
Some have said that I’m somewhat like Nina in Tea Party Teddy, a politician’s wife. I don’t really see the resemblance, although a couple of the events in the book did happen to me. One which I still remember was being at a Boys and Girls Club dinner at the head table when a woman came up to me and told me how great it was a politician’s wife would wear the same outfit that she wore last year! Who remembers things like that?
What is your life like?
I live the dream life. I’m doing what I love and close enough to the Pacific Ocean I can walk to it. I have a great family, good health, and a husband who has taken over most of the household work so I can write. What’s not to like? I consider myself extremely fortunate!
Who are your literary influences? What are your favourite books/ films/ albums?
I seem to be influenced by whatever I’m reading. I remember years ago when I made the decision not to finish a book because I wasn’t interested in it. Now I probably only read about 10% of what I pick up. Ayn Rand made a huge impression on me. I remember picking it up the first semester of college during final exams. Not smart. I couldn’t put it down and my grades that semester reflected it! I never would have thought I would be writing a lot of thriller/suspense books, even romantic suspense, but certainly Michael Connelly, Dennis LeHane, and Daniel Silva are three that come to mind. I’m a fan of Woody Allen and love his movies!
What are your views on independent publishing?
Pro and con. I see a lot of books that are self-published that have gross errors in them and have obviously not been copy edited. That’s a shame because it certainly bears on how a reader regards the writer and the story. An excellent story can be completely ruined by sloppy editing. The great part about it is that an author doesn’t have to wait by the mailbox for years hoping for a letter of acceptance.
Can you recommend any indie books/ authors?
I love B.R. Snow. I think his books are absolutely comically wonderful. I’ve read everything he’s ever written and am anxiously awaiting his next one. John Dolan is a brilliant author who writes great stories, primarily centered in the East. He’s an extremely erudite man, and I love his references to things. And Christoph, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that your book, “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” was one of the best literary fiction books I’ve read.
What would your friends tell us if we asked for your best and your oddest qualities?
Best – I really care about people. Oddest – even though I’ve been in the public eye because of past businesses I’ve owned, antique & art appraiser, yoga studio owner, international yoga teacher, and credentialing yoga teachers, as well as having a husband in politics for 18 years, I love to be by myself. At heart I’m an introvert, not the extrovert everyone thinks!
What are your favourite animal/ colour/ outdoor activity?
My favourite animal is my 90 pound brindle boxer, Rebel. My favourite color is probably rust. As for an outdoor activity, it’s changed over the years. Used to love backpacking and have trekked in the Himalayas. I love the ocean, so probably a walk on the shore!
What would you take to a remote island?
I’d hope it has WiFi because I have become quite attached to my iPad!Yes.
Who would you like to invited for dinner and why?
Buddha. I’m fascinated by Eastern philosophy.
What are you writing at the moment and where would we find out about your next projects?
At the moment, I’m editing two and three in the Teddy series as well as a boomer novel that interests me. You can find me on facebook (Dianne Harman) or (Dianne Harman Author), twitter @DianneDHarman, or on my website, www.dianneharman.com
What else would you like us to know about you and your books?
I’ve never had so much fun in my life. Every book is a challenge, will this work? Will that? Does it make sense? Would a character do that? I write for the Huffington Post, over 50, and recently wrote a column entitled “Oh Wow.” As we get older, we tend to have fewer and fewer of those moments. Writing keeps my mind and opens me up to a multitude of new things and a lot of “Oh Wow” moments!
I couldn’t wait to read “Tea Party Teddy” by Dianne Harman ever since I finished her debut novel “Blue Coyote Hotel” to see where this promising and sharp minded writer would take her creative career. Tea Party Teddy is a perfect follow up, playing once again with themes of corruption and political ideals. Cleverly set up and plotted the book follows a Republican politician on his evil, ruthless and harmful campaign trail, the enemies he makes and the debt he builds and the impact of his career on his private life.
Harman does an excellent job at creating great suspense by planting plenty of plot seeds in the beginning of the book that push the story forward at perfect pace. As the story unfolds the author writes with insightful details and competent manner about the party politics, the lobbyists and corruption, infidelity and revenge.
You love to hate Teddy and with so much going on and emotions and politics going wild this is great entertainment and a fascinating and educational novel written with excellent sense for irony and dry sense of humour.
A very compelling and rewarding read with a moral component and a lot of bite.
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of “Coyote in Provence” by Dianne Harman, the long awaited sequel to her excellent novel “Blue Coyote Motel” and I am pleased to have found it just as remarkable and enjoyable as the first one.
Maria, the ageing Mexican beauty and widow of an American scientist, is hiding in France under a new identity. Harman did a splendid job at tying everything up at the end of the last book but manages to unravel the story again easily. Maria is still ambitious and somewhat of a loose agent who won’t be satisfied with a boring and secluded life and therefore attracts people and problems. Of all people she falls for a detective from Southern California on a field trip to locate stolen art.
A separate narrative introduces a filthily rich Afghan business woman with a big heart. I don’t want to give away much more of the plot to avoid spoilers. All I will say is that said woman is an amazing character and a great and intriguing addition to the already well composed and wonderful cast. Harman really knows how to write entertaining and thoughtful stories with characters caught in the grey areas of morality and legality. With clever juxtaposition and sharp dialogue Harman makes several important points about those (too often contradictory) concepts.
I was impressed how the narratives then come together and how the themes from book one returned so naturally and organically into this story. As far as sequels go this is masterfully crafted and particularly pleasing as the plot is not predictable and the book contains a lot of new elements, yet retains the original character of the series / trilogy (Maybe we can persuade Harman to go beyond the third book?).
I found this a gripping and compulsive read and – although I really hate to use this worn out phrase in reviews – I cannot wait for the next book to find out more about how the remaining issues will be resolved.
A great equal to book one and a real treat.