An Interview with Diana Marsh
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
I participated last year and thought it was such a fantastic, creatively energizing experience that I didn’t have to even think twice about participating again. There’s just something amazing about getting a group of people together, under the auspices of a shared project, a shared world, and seeing what they all do with the people that inhabit it.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project Speak Easy? What challenges you about them?
I am a tremendous history buff, and an avid researcher (I do it for fun!), so the idea of a story with a historical bent that allows me to put my yen for research and history to use? Is fantastic to me. The challenge, whenever you have characters with a past somewhat staked in the history of a specific time or location, is being as true to the real events and time period as possible while still maintaining the integrity of the characters and story.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
Joy, because Marian did such a fantastic job providing structure to the revelations that had come in the previous two chapters.
What is your favorite and least favorite addition that you contributed to this novel in your chapter?
I had to go with a jewelry heist angle as soon as Julia pulled out the ring Billy gave her. There was a fantastic jewelry heist in New York in the 70s that remains unsolved. I read about the case during a Criminology course at Washburn – the Pierre Hotel Robbery. I’ve been looking for a reason to play around with something like ever since and was just giddy at the chance. So I love the heist angle I brought in. I am maybe not as giddy about my thwarted car chase attempt, but Dennis more than makes up for my fumble there in Chapter 11.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I hope there are endless madcap adventures still to come for Ronni, Julia, and Pete, and I hope we find out that there is a spectacular, sinister side to Charles that plays directly into all of this. I also hope we find out more about Julia’s sister, Rosie. There’s more story there, I think!
How did you write your chapter – in a burst of inspiration or carefully outlined?
When I write my own fiction, I am all about outlines and character profiles and pages of notes and grids and all manner of organizational tool. With both this chapter and with chapter two of last year’s novel, my degree of preparation started with the previous authors’ work, a review of the premise, and five notecards. I made a notecard for each of the principle characters, outlining what I knew about their story, their appearance, and their motivations. I used the last card to chart out any loose ends or interesting plot points I wanted to attend to/possibly nudge along. With those spread out in front of me, I tapped out “Chapter Ten” on an open Word document screen and set to work.
Any memorable stories to share about your writing experience?
I don’t know if it was necessarily memorable, but trying to write while also trying to ward off the world’s most inconsiderate and ill-timed head cold did make things interesting!
What have you learned about writing fiction from participating in this project?
Never to have too many preconceived notions about where a story will or should go. At the first meeting, when the story was discussed, the brief was for a slightly different tale than what I think we’ve come up with so far. And that’s okay. You have to go where the story takes you and be willing to leave behind what you wanted it to be in favor of what it’s chosen to become, because sometimes what it has chosen is amazing.
What is your writing background? What do you usually write? How was this project different?
I typically write novel-length fiction and have a long-term infatuation with the mystery genre that has since bled into an affair with urban fantasy. This project was a return to my purer mystery days, and I was very glad for the change. Especially since I’m still plodding through one modern urban fantasy and an alternate history/steampunk novel that seem to be doing their best to drive me insane.
What one expectation did you have for this novel/story/experience/characters that was blown straight to hell?
I never expected Ronni to be revealed as anything but a simple, slightly nutty (as all grad students are) academic. That reveal threw all my thoughts on where I would take my chapter out the window!