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Interview with DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills always dreamed of becoming a writer, but she didn’t have the courage to take her first step. In fact, she tossed many of her first writings in the trash. Since that time, she has written in three different genres: contemporary, historical, and non-fiction. Her latest novel, The Chase, is the first book in her Crime Scene: Houston series. The story focuses on a cold case from Houston’s FBI files, and Houston’s FBI assisted her with the research for this novel. With numerous books to DiAnn’s credit, not to mention the myriad of awards she’s received, this once timid author has blossomed into a force to be reckoned with.

After researching your background, it’s evident you have many passions: encouraging others, communicating through the written word, mentoring serious writers, and the critical situation with the Sudanese people in Sudan. Had you not of taken that first step with your writing, the lives of many would have missed the talents you now share with them today. How did you finally find the courage to do so?

When God called me into the writing ministry, and I believe writing from a Christian worldview is a ministry, I promised God whatever I learned, I would pass on to a serious writer. Teaching writing to those who are willing to commit to the hard work is part of who I am.

Since I mentioned the Sudanese, and I know they are dear to your heart, would you care to share with us about them?
Answering that question would take a book, but I’ll do my best to focus on a brief but poignant response.

Several years ago I was approached by volunteers from to write a book about the Lost Boys of Sudan. I refused until I met several of the young men and heard Abraham Nhial speak. Through the writing of Lost Boy No More, interviewing refugees and those who worked with the Sudanese, and establishing a relationship with Abraham, I became aware of the tragedies and suffering of the Southern Sudanese. Abraham visited me in Houston during the edit stage of the book. He showed me how the little boys fought lions and helped each other make the journey to safety. We both shed lots of tears. He left Houston calling me mom and I call him son.

A trip to Juba, South Sudan increased my desire to let the world know of their plight. I met so many wonderful Christian people from all backgrounds, all committed to making sacrifices to ensure their children walked in freedom. Currently Abraham has completed Bible college and seminary. He’s the Archbishop for the Aweil province in South Sudan, but his wife and children live in Nairobi, Kenya. The situation is dangerous and innocent people are still being killed. I encourage readers of this interview to investigate the plight of the Southern Sudanese.

Talk about the power of story! Speaking of which, I’d like to switch gears now and talk about The Chase. What grabbed you to tell this story?
Many things: :)

Shauna Dunlap, Media Coordinator, FBI Houston Division - a good friend who reads every word I write for FBI accuracy. Any mistakes in that area are mine. :) She suggested solved cold cases from Houston’s files as foundations for novels.

My love for TV’s Castle and Cold Case.

My love for romantic suspense and the desire to create the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the realistic.

And how my heart ached for the real case - Beloved Doe - that became Precious Doe in The Chase.

Sounds intriguing. And after viewing the video clips for The Chase at your website, which are great, by the way, and hearing how much research has gone into this novel, can you tell us how you’ve been able to balance this project with the other responsibilities in your life?
I’m scheduled to a fault. :) I know how many words must be written each day to have my book finished three months before due date. If my life becomes a race, I simply climb out of bed earlier. I write in the mornings and usually finish by noon. The afternoons are devoted to writing students, marketing and promotion, preparing for teaching events, writing blogs, etc. Weekends belong to my husband and family.

Scheduled to a fault? You juggle all those balls in the air quite well. I’d like to ask you about one ball in particular, one I know other writers struggle with when writing their own stories. There have been many debates regarding preaching about faith in our writing. How do you balance this delicate subject?
I believe faith comes out of character, not beating someone over the head with a Bible. Here is how I feel about Christian fiction: We all have family, friends, and neighbors who will never attend church, a small group Bible study, or a church social event. These people may not accept an invitation to our homes for fear we’ll say something about our faith. But we can hand an unbeliever a novel in which one character reacts and responds to his/her life happenings from a Christian worldview, and the reader begins to understand. Christian writers are farmers; we plant seeds of hope. And those writers are CBA and ABA.

I agree. And I wouldn’t be surprised if your principles have had much to do with your success. You’ve published more than fifty novels and claimed at least a dozen awards. Throughout all of these accomplishments, what has been the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Accepting the Christy awards, not so much for me but for my husband who has always believed in me. Even when I wanted to give up. He’s my behind-the-scenes man, working and praying in my behalf.

I, too, have a great husband who supports me, which actually gives me great ideas for heroic characters. In your stories, you combine an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed suspense-filled novels. Where do your story and character ideas come from? How do you get the readers to keep turning those pages?
My ideas come from everywhere! Media headlines. Family stories. Real-life characters. Movies and TV. Listening to conversations. Observing people at the mall or the airport. Even dreams.

And I have to ask, are you a plotter or a pantster?
I’m a mix! I have an idea of where I’m going with a story by doing extensive characterization and understanding my character. I also have a few special scenes that I’m excited to write. But how I get from scene to scene and how my character reacts and responds according to assigned personality traits is an adventure!

I have so much more I would love to ask you, but alas, our time is nearly over. Do you have any parting words, any further advice for aspiring novelists?
1. Read the bestsellers in your genre. Study them like a textbook. Highlight those passages that appeal to you.
2. Read and reread the how-to books.
3. Take a fiction writing class - and I recommend the Christian Writers Guild
4. Pray about the journey. Our most important job as a follower of Jesus Christ is to be onboard with His plan, not our own.
5. Attend conferences to learn more about the craft and network with other writers, agents, editors, publicists, to keep motivated.

I hope all of you join me on Facebook. This is where we get to know each other: have discussions, contests, and share lots of laughter.

You truly are an inspiration, DiAnn. Thanks for taking the time to share with us!

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