Thursday, July 24, 2008

Featured Author: Diane Fanning

I’m so excited to have Diane Fanning stop by today. She’s a friend of mine and the hardest working writer I have ever met. The woman has a whole slew of true crime books and two mystery series! Plus, she’s a sought after speaker and expert, a blogger and an activist.

The Trophy Exchange, the first in her Lucinda Pierce mystery series, is hot off the presses. Kirkus Reviews said:
Fanning has produced an exciting, emotionally intense story with a complex heroine whose future adventures will be widely anticipated.
Booklist called Fanning the “one to watch.”

Welcome Diane. Let’s get started!

Helen: You are the author of seven true crime books, a nonfiction book, and now you have two mystery series going. So far this year, if I'm counting right, you have two new True Crime Classics coming out, the first in your Lucinda Pierce mystery series premiering this month, a new true crime book, The Pastor's Wife, coming out in November, and you've already turned in the second in the Lucinda Pierce series to your publisher. Then there's the marketing and speaking engagements. Have I missed anything and how in the world do you juggle it all?

Diane: Helen, I wish I knew. It really makes no sense to me. Most days, I accomplish less than I want or expect. When I look at my daily output, I don't know how I ever managed to finish one book--let alone ten. Day-to-day, I am a big disappointment to myself but when I look out over the last six years at the body of my work, it blows me away.

And, by the way, the second Lucinda book, PUNISH THE DEED, is written and scheduled for release in the UK this December and in the US in March 2009

Helen: You recently signed a movie option for your 2007 true crime, Out There: The In-Depth Story of the Astronaut Love Triangle Case that Shocked America. (That may be in the running for the longest book title!) This is not the first time you've jumped into the media pool, though, since you've been on TV many times talking about the crimes you research. Tell us a bit about how Hollywood came a'calling.

Diane: It used to be that the books of true crime writers were in high demand in the Movie of the Week arena. Now, with the blossoming of reality television, few books are optioned with that purpose in mind.

When OUT THERE was optioned by the company that made THE QUEEN into an acclaimed movie, I was thrilled. The option itself is nice because it is like found money--not a lot but definitely appreciated. Of course, if is actually does become a movie, I'd get a lot more. But I think I'm even more excited about the prospect of seeing how my book is interpreted on the screen than I am with the cash.

Helen: You put a lot of effort into marketing your books. You sign, you speak, you have a page on MySpace and Facebook as well as an extensive website plus you blog. What advice can you give other writers on marketing and book promotion?

Diane: Sometimes I resent the time I spend on marketing because it takes me away from my writing and research. Then I remind myself that being a writer is part art and part business. When I approach it with a positive attitude, I find I actually enjoy a lot of what I do.

Most of all, I like speaking to groups large and small. I love the interaction with my readers and I love the opportunity to share what I've learned along the way with other writers or aspiring writers.

Blogging would make me nuts if I were engaged in a solo venture but I have been lucky enough to find the perfect niche for me. Women in Crime Ink is a blog with a team of other women--prosecutors and a defense attorney, cops and a private investigation, true crime writers and crime novelists, and even a psychologist. I get a lot of the benefits of having a blog without having to keep on top of it at all times as you do.

The most important thing to remember about being an author--particularly in the beginning--is that your name is your brand. Creating awareness of your brand is essential. Channel your energy into having fun with marketing yourself and your books instead of griping about the marketing tasks you need to do.

Helen: Your latest mystery, The Trophy Exchange, came out this month. I think the heroine, Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce, breaks the mold on protagonists. Unlike some lead characters who are "beautiful but don't know it," Lucinda has a "flaw" for all to see. She's been in an accident and is blind in one eye and her face is scarred, yet she keeps going. Most leads have a flaw, but they can usually be kept under wraps. What made you decide to put Lucinda's on constant display?

Diane: It wouldn't have worked any other way with Lucinda. If her flaw was not obvious, she would be able to hide it from others and deny it to herself. With damage that she can't conceal, she is forced to deal with it in her relationships with others. She can't run from this problem but has to actively work to overcome obstacles and defy any limitations it imposes on her.

Beyond that, there is a personal answer to the question. Like a lot of people I know, I'm not pleased with my physical image. All my adult life, I've battled weight gain. When anyone looks at me, it is pretty obvious that I am not at the ideal. I know that there are people who meet me and immediately make the assumption that I must be lazy. They don't know that I work out at Curves three times a week, go to yoga class twice a week and do additional exercise on my own. They simply look at my excess weight and assume that I sit around stuffing my face all day. Because of that, I could relate to a character with a flaw that she could not conceal, with receiving advice she did not want and with assumptions that are not true. It made Lucinda more real to me.

Helen: It seems to me that you were brave to write her that way. If you had one bit of advice for aspiring writers, what would it be?

Diane: Never, never give up. Persistence is your ally. While you wait to find the right agent/publisher at the right time with the right project, continue to polish your craft.

Write, write and write some more. And save it all. You never know when you'll be able to pluck the perfect phrase out of the scrap pile and use it elsewhere.

And read. Reading is vital. Read from every genre. You can learn from it all. What you learn in other genres can be brought to your own work and used to create a unique voice, style or technique that will make your work stand out from the others. To get an idea of the scope of my reading, visit my website,, I have pages for my favorite reads of the last three years along with a page for my favorite books for writers.

Finally, always write to your passion. Don't write about something or in a specific genre just because it's popular. If you are not passionate about what you are writing, it will show. As Joseph Campbell said, "If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.

Helen: I like that advice – both yours and Campbell’s. Thank you very much, Diane.

Here are a couple of things you may not know about Diane Fanning. She has a degree in Chemistry. And she’s won over 70 Addy Awards for her work in advertising.

Oh – she’s also very generous. She’s giving away a copy of her book.

To enter the drawing for a free copy of THE TROPHY EXCHANGE, go to this page on Diane’s website:

Find the last word in the first paragraph and place it in the subject line of your email to

In the body of the email include your mailing address.

Winner will be announced on the home page of her website on August 1, 2008.

If you have any questions or comments for Diane, post them here in the Comments section. Thanks Diane for stopping by!


  1. What a great interview! I must read "Out There" - it's one of those stories I could hardly believe at the time. And the mystery series(s) sound compelling.

  2. I would love to hear back from you after you've read one of my books.

  3. Writing mysteries involves a lot of research, but I would think researching a true crime like Out There would be practically mind-boggling. Just trying to get inside NASA, wow!

  4. Excellent informative and inspirational interview!!! Now off to enter the drawing. If not, added to my list of books to buy...

  5. Good luck on the drawing! I wish everyone could win because I really like the book.

  6. I'm on for the Pierce series, too.... can't get enough mysteries in my life! I would not have known about these books without this interview, so thanks to both of you.


  7. I should have asked Diane about her Molly Mullet mystery series. [Thump!] That's me popping my own forehead in a V8 moment. I like that series as well. Diane creates memorable characters. Maybe that's partly due to the years she's been interviewing and writing about true crime characters!

  8. The first book in the Molly Mullet series is BITE THE MOON. It is a Texas Hill Country mystery. Unlike Lucinda, Molly sometimes makes you laugh.

    The research for OUT THERE was mind-boggling. And most of the people connected to NASA only talked to me on the condition of anonimity. NASA makes the FBI look open and communicative. LOL

  9. I went to hear Diane speak at the University of Texas about her true crime books, the killers she's researched and visited in prison, and the crimes that were committed. She gives an amazing talk. If she ever comes your way, go hear her.


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