Good morning, everyone! Just about a year ago I 'met' today's spotlight author - online, through the Heartbeat Chapter of the RWA. Dianne Drake writes some of the most emotionally riveting medical romances I've read - and she's a busy freelance/magazine writer, as well. Today, Dianne is going to tell us a little more about medical romance (and gives us the scoop on magazine writing, too)! On with the interview!
I love medical romances – I'm such a geek for ER re-runs, Grey's Anatomy…even the really old Quincy re-runs when I can find 'em on cable! What is the draw to medical stories – on TV and in books?
That’s a good question because I’m like you, always looking for medical TV programs. My all-time favorite is Doc Martin. Can’t even begin to express how much I love that show because it has an esthetic in it that simply draws me in. And I’ll admit a certain interest in House - love him, hate him, sad to see the program coming to an end. As for my favorite authors, let’s just say that I never miss a book written by doctors Robin Cook, Michael Palmer or Tess Gerritsen. So even though I write medical romance, I’m definitely one of those who is drawn to it outside of what I’m doing. Of course, I used to be a critical care nurse, so I do have a professional fondness there.
But the draw for others - I think it’s the familiarity of the medical world. In some way or another, we all come into contact with it, and can relate to it. I love a good novel about an F.B.I. hero, but truth is, there are no F.B.I. heroes in my life and while I might enjoy the literary escape reading about one, I don’t have the personal experience with one the way I do my doctor and all the doctors in my past. In other words, I can relate to a medical setting better than almost any other settings common to TV, movies and books because it has a place in my everyday life. I think, too, there is also a certain group of people who look for answers in the medicine they see on TV or get in books. Every now and then I’ll get an e-mail from someone who has read one of my books and sees one of their symptoms in something I’ve written. That’s probably a far smaller groups of med-followers than the people who just like the familiarity, but they’re out there.
How do you know where to draw the line between the medicine and the love story?
I write romance first. In fact, I outline the romance before I even begin to think about the medical elements of the story because the story is a romance set in a medical background, not a medical story set in a romance background. That said, I do plan the medical setting at the start - put them in a jungle hospital or a small town clinic, for example, because that will have a huge bearing on the way my story flows and, to some extent, the way my characters develop. I don’t write large city hospitals or medical centers, don’t write what would be considered mainstream medical settings, which makes it essential to establish my setting at the outset since it’s not in the normal medical understanding, sometimes for me, and almost always for my readers. For example, when I set a story in a Hawaiian beach town, I did have to frame my hero to fit into that setting - he wore sandals, no socks, baggy shorts, Hawaiian shirts and had the casual attitude to fit the casual attire. I just finished two books set in Argentina and my characters had to work within a jungle village setting which ultimately aided in their internal conflicts.
But as far as writing in the real medical elements of the story - while I don’t have a prescribed balance, I do try to keep the character development and romance in the foreground all the time and it seems like the medical elements simply fall into place when I do. I would always draw the line if the medicine overtook the romance in any aspect, but for me personally, I work hard to make the medical aspects fit into the romance by keeping hero and heroine together in some way for all the important medical scenes. If there’s an emergency appendectomy, they’re in it together. If there’s a cholera outbreak, they’re working it side-by-side. For me, keeping the romance first no matter what I’m writing keeps the rest of the elements in their proper place.
With all the changes in publishing right now, what are your tips for new writers?
Oh gosh, I have so many tips because one of my favorite things to do is teach new writers. I could go with the tried-and-true and say write what you love, stay true to your vision, but in such an ever-changing industry these days, that kind of encouragement doesn’t really say much. So maybe my best advice is to get yourself smart about the industry before you approach it. In other words, study what’s going on. Know the various publishing options out there before you choose one. And give a lot of thought about where you ultimately want to be inside the publishing industry. Why? There are tons of options, and just about anybody these days can get a book published in some format, somewhere. But I think where is the huge question. Self-publish? E-publish? Small press? Major press? Fact is, the choice you make at the start is most likely the place you’ll spend your writing career. Some writers are able to hop from place to place and succeed, and if you’re one of the lucky ones who can do that, you’re a marketable gold mine. But the reality is, most writers find their niche and get comfortable, and stay there. So if your true goal is to be print-published by one of the biggies, you have to ask yourself if starting out e-publishing on any number of the platforms that support it is what will get you there?
I’m a big advocate of going for the goal. It’s how I’ve always managed my writing career. Back in the day when I was writing magazine articles, the so-called experts and lecturers consistently said nobody can write for the big magazines, that the odds of getting accepted in one of them was virtually impossible. Yet my goal was to write for the big ones, the slicks as they’re called. It was my gold, and I went after it. The first article I ever queried was accepted and published by one of those magazines I was told I’d never get published in. Goals. Know what you want, know where you want to write, and keep that focus. Doesn’t matter if your goal is to self-pub a book on one of the various platforms out there or shoot for a major contract. Keep your focus on what you want to accomplish as a writer, and work toward that. To that end, stay informed about the industry. Read. Subscribe to free online publications like Publishers Weekly and Publishers Lunch. The more you know about the publishing industry, the better choices you’ll make for yourself inside it.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to change your goals, or re-direct them, once you’ve achieved the goals you set. That’s called growth.
What is the best part of the writing life, for you?
The best part is the writing itself. When I started writing, I went at it as a full-time writer and worked hard to get my career off the ground. I was lucky I didn’t have to get an outside job, that my husband was able to support me in the lean years when I was building my career. But at the point my career really started to work for me, by husband got tired of working for the “other” guy and started a small business. I had to support him in that because I’d already discovered how much I loved the freedom that came with my writing. The thing was, my intention was to spend a minimum amount of time helping my hubby with his business and still keep to my full-time writing schedule. But over the years, as the business expanded and we became responsible for the livelihood of other people, my position in the business grew to the point that it became full-time. I run it, manage every aspect of it. So now for me, the full-time writer, the schedule is tough because I’m still a full-time writer who works another full-time job. So the best part of the writing life for me is when I can actually sit down and write without interruptions, and simply get lost in the story without having to think about anything else.
I love to write. More than that, I have to write every single day of my life because if I don’t, I don’t feel right, or normal. It’s not as easy now, because I do have another life, but maybe that’s good because I’m finding that I look forward to my writing hours, can’t wait to get everything out of the way so I can have them. In other words, now that they don’t come easily to me, I don’t take them for granted. The very best, though, are those days when I say to heck with everything, shut my door to the business and the world, and simply write until I run out of ideas or energy. I don’t do that too often, but when I do...that’s the writing life I like best.
Write what you know vs. write what interests you – which 'rule' do you follow?
When I teach magazine writing, I always tell my students to start out by writing what you know because it’s easier. Once you get that done, and have a writing career started, then you can write what interests you. It works well in a non-fiction magazine career. But for writing romances - I don’t go by either “rule.” I write what inspires me first, and sometimes I write what just comes to me, which may be a form of inspiration, actually. I was inspired to write a story featuring a character with Asperger’s Syndrome because one of the people I care most about in my life has Asperger’s Syndrome, and I see, every day, the way he lives his life. I knew there had to be a story in that, something that would lend itself to a romance. As it turned out, The No.1 Dad in Texas (out now from Harlequin Mills & Boon), features a child with Asperger’s who is set on getting his mom and dad back together again.
I observe people, I observe the world, and that’s where I find my inspiration. Sometimes it doesn’t interest me, though. And yes, just because I write it doesn’t mean I’m really interested in it. For example, I just wrote about a creepy little disease called Chagas, which gives me the chills just thinking about it. It’s where this bug sneaks up on you in the night and, well...look it up if you’re interested. Anyway, end result could be death if not treated. I don’t know Chagas, and it sure doesn’t interest me, but I read account after account of how people in South America have struggled to survive it, and that’s where I drew the inspiration to use in my book.
I always tell my students that if I write only what I know, it’s going to be a pretty slim volume. Same goes with what interests me. I have lots of interests but, again, they’re pretty limited in comparison to what inspires me. Inspiration can be limitless and that’s where I find my ideas.
When you need a break from the busyness of work and life, do you read? Watch a favorite show?
I do read, but not as much as I’d like because at the end of my day my eyes are usually pretty tired. I thought I’d give audio books a try, and I do enjoy that, but I’ll admit that as often as not, they put me to sleep. As for TV - not a huge fan, actually. There are no shows on that I just have to sit down and watch (except Doc Martin and Midsommer Murders, which I catch at my convenience either on Hulu or Netflix). And here’s my big confession - I bought my husband a really nice system last year - big screen 3D HDTV with all kinds of gadgets, speakers, amplifiers, woofers and who knows what else. It takes four remote controls to operate it and I don’t have a clue how to even turn the darn thing on. So unless I have someone at home smarter than me, I can’t even watch TV. But what do I do? I’m a huge movie fan - as in, go to the theater to watch it on the huge screen (and eat popcorn!!!). My husband and I have a favorite little jazz club we like to go to in the evenings. I attend the symphony in Indianapolis, have season tickets. I also cook, and in the summer I garden. Oh, and talk to my kids (all adults) and play with my pets (three dogs, two cats).
Now, about me -
In my fiction life you can find me at www.DianneDrake.com You can Like Me/Friend Me on Facebook, and I do have a current release out from Harlequin Mills and Boom - The No.1 Dad in Texas.
In my non-fiction life you can find me at www.DianneDeSpain.com/ You can Friend Me on Facebook, and if you’re interested in writing for the magazines, my current release, A Writer’s Guide to Getting Published in Magazines is available in e-format at Amazon, B&N, and all the usual e-outlets.
No. 1 Dad In Texas releases June 1, 2012 in the US:
Hot-Shot Surgeon…Full-Time Dad?
When Dr. Belle Carter moves to a new Texan town her only thoughts are whether her son will fit in…. Until her gorgeous ex-husband turns up, cowboy hat tipped over his eyes!
Surgeon Cade once chose success over family, but now he's back to prove he can be a father. Especially to his very precious son…