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Interview with DiAnn Mills

Having a fictional story idea come to you about a new type of deadly airborne virus released on an international flight, over three years before real headlines are made about a fatal novel virus transmitted primary through respiratory droplets, really begs one question. Did author DiAnn Mills hear the theme music from the TV series The Twilight Zone play in her head when news first spread about COVID-19?

"I didn't hear any weird music, but the many accredited movies, documentaries, conversations with my doctor friend who is a microbiologist and immunologist, the valuable information offered by the CDC and FBI, airline protocol, and online research showed me not if but when a pandemic occurred. In March 2020, I believed I'd been preparing for the coronavirus since I'd first had the book idea three years prior."

The 2011 movie Contagion has a plot concerning the spread of a virus transmitted by respiratory droplets. This was one film DiAnn's friend, Dr. Karissa Cubreath, who is a microbiologist and immunologist, recommended DiAnn watch as part of her story research. Dr. Cubreath also suggested other shows, like The Hot Zone, a series on National Geographic, which she considered to depict lab protocols accurately.

"The search to find experts who were willing to give me accurate information took nearly two years. Along the way, God placed the right people in my path," DiAnn says.

Dr. Cubreath was one of these individuals. Others include: a man who trains flight attendants for the airline DiAnn envisioned in her story; a pilot who not only flies for DiAnn's designated airline, but is also a suspense and thriller writer; the "amazing people" at CDC; and those at the FBI who offered wisdom and guidance.

Sometimes authors just want to "tell a really good story," but other times there is a distinct message authors want to get across. Does DiAnn always have one, certain theme or subject in her novels?

"I find forgiveness is a common theme in all my books. Many times, the forgiveness is of the character, and a reaching out to God. In Airborne, I wanted to show the power of God with an emphasis on good overcomes evil. My prayer for this novel is readers will experience God’s presence and hope and will have a greater appreciation for those on the front lines as they serve people in crisis."

DiAnn says there also are a lot of underlying themes that occur in her novels, it just depends on the book. Some of these are: faith, family, relationships, love, priorities.

These themes are incorporated in the different genres she writes, including historical romance such as her Texas Legacy series set in the late 1800s and early 1900s; a middle-grade fantasy, The Eye of the Lariloth, that she co-wrote with her middle-school granddaughter Grace Egert; and nonfiction books like The Dance of Character and Plot and Walking With God.

While she has enjoyed penning stories within those genres, her favorite genre to write, and the one she writes in the most, is contemporary romantic suspense – which is the genre for Airborne. What pulls her toward writing this genre over the others?

"We live in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Cruel and evil people scheme to attack the innocent. I want to show how courageous and trained people step up to the challenge of stopping and preventing crime. I believe my genre is a calling, and I believe those who are trained to protect us are also called by God."

No matter which genre she writes in, it always falls into the category of Inspirational / Christian – and there's a very good reason for that.

"By creating a story in which one or more characters solve their problems in a Christian worldview, I’m able to plant seeds of faith in the readers. That makes an inspirational writer a farmer. However, I will not preach to the reader. The Christian character's behavior is a natural outflowing of the person's faith."

"Farmer" DiAnn has planted a lot of seeds in her lifetime, as Airborne marks published book number 80! She said she never would have started writing if her husband hadn't challenged her in 1996 to stop saying that one day she'd write a book, and to just do it! Her first novel was published in 1998, and it was a historical romance set in West Texas.

Does she have a favorite out of those 80 books? No! She says that's like asking her who is her favorite son or grandchild. She says her "favorite" book is the one that needs the most attention at the time, be it the book she's writing, or the book that's the subject of a book launch, or the book she's editing.

"Those characters grow close to my heart. I will say that Airborne is a story that will always be at the top of my list."

This "list topper" was published by Tyndale, who DiAnn says is her "dream publisher." She values the quality and professionalism of their fiction and nonfiction books. DiAnn is impressed with not only her long-time publisher, but with her long-time agent, Janet K. Grant, as well. Janet is the founder and president of Books & Such Literary Management.

"We've been agent and writer – and friends – for years. I value her sage advice and handling of my books. Janet was recommended by a good friend, Wendy Lawton, who is now Vice President of Books & Such."

Something DiAnn has been doing for almost as long as she's been a published author is being engaged with American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) since 2000 – because she is one of the founding members. The name of the organization at first was American Christian Romance Writers (ACRW), but the name changed in 2004 to better reflect its members' scope of writing.

"We had a dream to bring together Christian writers to provide community, instruction and encouragement. Look how God exploded the organization! I love being involved with ACFW: watching writers grow spiritually and move forward in their writing goals."

Another area of Christian writing that DiAnn is involved in is being the director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) and the Mountainside Publishing Retreats, along with social media specialist Edie Melson. In 2015, Edie asked if DiAnn would like to direct the conference with her. During the first year, DiAnn was mostly behind the scenes and learning.

"We are a good team and those we've brought onboard the leadership team are amazing. The retreats are part of our dream / goals to bring in small groups of writers to a specialized, more learning-focused retreat."

One of the retreats concentrates on marketing. Several writers struggle with the marketing aspect of their writing life, not only because of the amount of time marketing takes away from writing chapters in a book, but also because a lot of writers feel uncomfortable in a "salesperson" type of role. DiAnn says it might help authors if they look at marketing differently.

"I believe a writer needs to understand social media as a ministry. It's not about us; it's about our readers. Our brands and platforms must reach out to those who have needs and require encouragement that we can address. I recommend the 80/20 rule, or no more than one post in five should be about the writer. The most important tip I can offer writers about building a brand and social media platform is to know who your reader is and hang out where they hang out."

Aside from marketing, DiAnn being the seasoned author that she is, has a long list of advice for writers, particularly for newbie authors.

Some of this advice is:
-Keep God first place in your life
-Surround yourself with a close-knit group of writers and friends who are sincere encouragers
-Read everything you can get your hands on, including bestsellers and those in your genre
-Read and reread the how-to books, and blogs from those who are established in the industry
-Write every day
-Be active with a physical or online writing group
-Never, never give up

That last part of advice might be the best for a lot of struggling authors, and it definitely did DiAnn well to follow her own advice in that area. When talking about the best and worst experiences in her writing career, DiAnn says the worse experience came from a person who said DiAnn didn't know how to write.

"That hurt, and if not for my husband, editor, and agent, I would have quit!"

Support is an important ingredient in the life of a successful author, and DiAnn is so thankful for all who do provide that encouragement and assistance, particularly Dean, her husband of 27 years. He reads every blog post, article, and book that DiAnn writes, and she says he's an excellent editor. He used to work as a technical team leader specializing in computer-related technology, so Dean is her "in-house computer guru."

"I couldn't do half I do without him! He's my nightmare editor, best cheerleader, arranges travel and speaking events, designs ads, perfects my weekly blog posts, and a myriad of other things. He claims to have the title of Executive Director of Whatever It Takes."

Dean's support has done wonders over the years for DiAnn's writing career – and so has black coffee. That's right, coffee. Some think there's nothing better than a good ol' cup of Joe to help keep a writer alert, productive, and in a great mood. DiAnn has been called a coffee snob, and roasts her own beans. Her favorite beans come from Costa Rica, and she also enjoys some from Ethiopia and Kenya. She always drinks her coffee black, "like God made it."

No doubt DiAnn will be enjoying coffee as she sits down at her computer to continue writing her work in progress, a novel titled for now, Shadows of the Past. And with this book, just like her tagline tells you, readers should expect an adventure!


Melinda Freeland wrote her first "novel" at age 8 about Mr. & Mrs. Texas Toast, and their struggle to get off the plate before someone ate them. Today, Melinda writes fiction you can relate to—about humans—and their real struggles, not only in relationships, but also with understanding and trusting God. Love, Texas – Population 2 is her debut Christian contemporary romance novel. It was inspired by Melinda's reunion with her first love, her life as a small-town reporter, and her faith journey. Melinda lives in Texas with her handsome husband, two great kids, and her lovable Pug. She'd love to connect with readers at and on social media @authormelindafreeland and @melindafreeland.

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