Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Interview with Diana Peterfreund

UNDER THE ROSE, the sequel to her fabulous debut SECRET SOCIETY GIRL, was released yesterday.
I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of the book and let me tell you, it was fan-freakin-tastic! I couldn't put it down!
So today I'm chatting with my WRW buddy Diana Peterfreund.
Amanda: Welcome Diana! Congrats on the release. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Diana: I have blonde hair and blue eyes, and I like puppy dogs and long walks on the beach... LOL! I grew up in Tampa Bay, Florida, and went to college at Yale, where I studied geology and literature.
After I graduated, I worked as a food critic and events editor for a alternative weekly newspaper in my hometown, and traveled extensively through Australia and New Zealand (often by thumb). Now I live in Washington D.C. with my partner, code name Sailor Boy, and write full time. (We don't have a puppy dog because our apartment complex won't let us, and
the last time we went to the beach, there was a hurricane.)
In my spare time, I'm addicted to Netflix, I love blogging(, and I volunteer at the National Zoo watching Golden Lion Tamarins. If you stop by, say hi!
I'm also on the board of two RWA chapters: Chick Lit Writers of the World, and (soon to be) Washington Romance Writers. Let's see, what else? I'm going to three weddings this summer...
Amanda: Sounds like you're "at that age" where every time you turn around, there's another wedding! LOL! Anyway, how did you begin writing?
Diana: I'm one of those folks who was always writing. back in grade school when we were given "put this vocab word in a sentence" assignments, I wrote short stories with vocab words instead. After I graduated from college, I decided to actually write a novel instead of just thinking about doing it "someday." I knew about organizations like RWA, but decided that before I invested what little money I had into membership, I needed to prove that it was worth it by actually finishing a whole book.
Which I did.
It... wasn't very good, but completing it was one of the most amazing feelings I ever had. For me, finishing a WHOLE NOVEL was the real challenge. After that, I knew that the only thing that stood in my way was writing a good one. So I joined RWA to help me learn how. I wrote four novels before I got it right.
Amanda: Well, having read both your published novels, I can say you definitely did get it right. Speaking of your novels, UNDER THE ROSE has a sex scene, whereas SECRET SOCIETY GIRL didn't. Why the change, and how did you prepare for writing this scene?
Diana: SECRET SOCIETY GIRL didn't have a sex scene because it wasn't an important part of the story. It was never an active decision on my part not to include sex in that story. It just wasn't the interesting part of her interaction with her lover. In UNDER THE ROSE, sex is a far more important part of the relationship, so it made sense to include it.

I teased my editor that it was "a glass of wine and Prince on the iTunes" that helped me write it. Though I'd written four (unpublished) romance novels, all of which had sex scenes, I'd never written a sex scene from a first person POV before. It poses an interesting challenge. There was some danger, I thought, of it sounding a little bit TMI to hear "and then he did this to me, and then I did that to him" which is something I never thought of in third person. The key for me was to keep it in Amy's voice, and in the confessional tone of the book. Even in those circumstances, there are things that Amy won't say, and there are ways that she'll say certain other things. For instance, Amy's mind works in lists, always, so there is even a list in the sex scene.
Amanda: Yeah, I found that particularly hilarious! So, how do you find your inspiration?
Diana: Everywhere. I love playing "what if" in different situations. Sometimes, a line from a song or a movie or just something I overhear on the street will lodge in my mind, like grit in an oyster, and a story idea will start from there. I got the idea for SECRET SOCIETY GIRL because one night that movie, THE SKULLS, was on TV (we used to make fun of it in
school) and I wondered why no one ever wrote a book about secret societies the way they REALLY were. So I decided to do it.
Amanda: Spill close to reality is fictional Eli University?
Diana: Pretty much everything except for the names! The geography is almost identical, and the culture and lifestyle at "Eli" is pretty much exactly the same as it is at Yale. It's one of those "change the names to protect the innocent" deals. And of course, calling it Eli instead of Yale means that I CAN Change things for the purposes of fiction without feeling guilty about corrupting my beloved alma mater. The mix of fact and fiction is one of my favorite things about being a novelist, and I've gotten letters from folks saying that XYZ I wrote about is clearly
not true (when it is) as well as comments from secret society members wondering who told me about ABC when I made it up! But my favorite letters are the ones from people who said I made them feel nostalgic for their college days.
Amanda: And you know what? Besides the sharp observations and witty writing, that's probably what I love best about your books. It makes me feel like I'm back at Duke, even though we clearly didn't have secret societies or anything like in the book, but you totally took me back there anyway. Good job!
Anyway, switching topics, you recently sold a young adult novel to Harper Collins about a teenage virgin descendant of Alexander the Great who slays killer unicorns. Talk about high concept! How did you get the idea?
Diana: I don't actually have a good answer for you on that one. It's not an idea that came all at once, but slowly, over a period of years, with each little piece clicking into place after much thought. I know I was interested in the concept of virginity and who decides what that means, and I was also interested in the different myths of the unicorn worldwide, but I don't know what the original piece of grit was, though, that started me down that path.
Amanda: Well, I'll definitely be looking forward to reading it when it's released! So, what's next for you?
Diana: I've published two novels with Bantam Dell: SECRET SOCIETY GIRL and UNDER THE ROSE, as part of a four book series about Amy Haskel and her adventures in the Ivy League secret society Rose & Grave. The third book, tentatively titled RITES OF SPRING (BREAK), will be out next summer, and that takes up the bulk of my writing time.
In addition, I'm in the non-fiction anthology EVERYTHING I NEEDED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A GIRL I LEARNED FROM JUDY BLUME, edited by Jennifer O'Connell and out
now from Pocket Books. And then the unicorn book is due next year, and oh, yeah. I'm getting married this fall.
Thanks so much for having me, Amanda!

And thanks so much for being here, Diana! You're definitely busy, that's for sure! So, readers, buy UNDER THE ROSE. You won't regret it!

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Posted by Amanda Brice :: 9:11 AM :: 6 comments

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