Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Awaken My Heart by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn is another good friend of mine whose book we are highlighting today. I first met DiAnn nearly four years ago when she was in town for the ACFW conference. She had time before the conference to meet with writers groups or other people. I was teaching at a Christian school in the Denver area, and I set up a time where we brought all the seventh grade through seniors together for an all-morning writing workshop on characterization. And it was fun! The students responded well to DiAnn's teaching, and we English teachers reaped the fruit of that workshop all year long.

So today, I'm very pleased to introduce you to DiAnn Mills and her latest book. After reading about her and Awaken My Heart, DiAnn answers a few questions I asked her.

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Awaken My Heart

Avon Inspire (February 5, 2008)


DiAnn Mills


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. She is the author of numerous titles including novels, novellas, and a nonfiction. In addition, she's written several short stories, articles, devotions, and has contributed to several nonfiction compilations.

DiAnn believes her readers should "Expect an Adventure." Her desire is to show characters solving real problems of today from a Christian perspective through a compelling story.

Several of her anthologies have appeared on the CBA Best Seller List. Three of her books have won the distinction of Best Historical of the Year by Heartsong Presents, and she remains a favorite author by Heartsong Present's readers. Two of her books have won short historical of the year by American Christian Fiction Writers both in 2003 and 2004. She was named Writer of the Year for 2004 at the 35th Annual Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference and is the recipient of Inspirational Reader's Choice Awards for 2005 in the long contemporary and novella categories.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, ChiLibris, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and a mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops. DiAnn also belongs to Cy Fair Women's Networking, an exclusive professional women's networking organization.

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas, the home of heat, humidity, and Harleys. In fact she'd own one, but her legs are too short. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.


1803, the colony of Texas

Awaken My Heart is set in 19th century Texas and tells the story of 18 year old Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, Weston Phillips. Weston is involved in a hostile struggle with Armando Garcia, the infamous rebel leader of the 'mestizos' who claim to own the land that Phillips has settled.

Marianne Phillips, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, has never agreed with her father's harsh treatment of the poor mestizos who first inhabited the colony of Texas. When rebels kidnap Marianne, in hopes her father will trade back their land for her freedom, she realizes her loyalty lies with her abductors, not her father, who plans to marry her off to the don of a nearby estate.

Armando Garcia is the locals' reluctant leader, but his people revere and depend on him. Knowing that without his leadership they'd be forced from their land, Armando accepts his role, but does not approve of the latest attempt to manipulate their enemy. When he learns that Marianne actually speaks his language, of her loyalty to his people, and of the faith that keeps her strong, Armando is faced with a difficult decision. Will his newfound love keep him from letting her go? Or will he set her free and risk losing their land forever?

How did you get started writing, and where has that journey taken you that you may not have expected starting out?
I had always written stories and poetry—yes, poetry. But I didn’t have the confidence to do much more than be a “closet writer.” I was a single mom of four boys for a lot of years. During that time, I wrote stories for them: birthdays, holidays, etc. Then in ’96, my wonderful husband said, “Stop saying one day you’re going to write a book. Just do it. Quit your job. I give you one year to see if you can get anything published.” That’s all I needed! I was challenged, and I was not going to lose.

How do you balance family life with writing?
My sons are grown, and my husband and I work at home. I must admit that I’m a workaholic, but I do believe my family comes first. Weekends are great family time. I love to cook; it relaxes me. So I combine that hobby with visiting with those I love.

How does your walk with the Lord affect your writing? And how do you balance time with the Lord with your writing schedule?
I view my writing as a ministry. It’s defined to writing and teaching writing. And with that mindset, I rely on God’s guidance and wisdom. My early mornings begin with Scripture reading, a devotion, and prayer.

Since my blog is geared to writers who want to improve their self-editing, could you briefly take us through your process of writing a novel—from conception to revision?
I could write another book on the process! Let me try to simplify the procedure below.
1. A story idea . . . This can come from a media report, a movie, a story from a friend or family member, or a dream. What if?
2. Characterization comes next. This is a lengthy process. I use a character sketch, several reference books - from psychology to body language. I live with my characters through a variety of settings and experiences.
3. The plot is developed by learning the character’s wants, needs, and goals. Motivation drives the plot.
4. Actual writing. I’m not a seat-of-the-pants writer or a detailed outliner. I’m somewhere in between. Sometimes I use note cards or an excel spreadsheet or whatever strikes me at the time. I establish a few big scenes and write them in random order. When I feel like the story has taken form, I begin arranging the scenes in chronological order, like a puzzle.
5. I use critique buds for grammar, plot, characterization etc.
6. Edit
7. Let it rest
8. Edit
I utilize the Micro-Soft Reader program. This is a free download that allows the writer to hear his/her manuscript audibly. This process is like a critique bud.
What kinds of things do you have to revise once the editor at a publishing house gets done with your manuscript?
That depends on the publishing house and the genre. Revision varies from adding motivation to clarity.

Would you tell us a little about your future projects?
I’m currently working on a romantic suspense series for Tyndale. It’s an exciting project!

Finally, would you discuss Awaken My Heart? The research, the idea, and the scope of the project?
Actually, I can best discuss it through an excerpt from an article that I wrote about my passion for this book.

Awaken My Heart is set in 1803, when Texas was Tejas, a colony ruled by Spain. Indians, Mestizos (native-Spanish lineage), and the elite ruling class of the Spanish lived and died here. The priests living in the Catholic missions helped educate and train the people in various crafts and how to serve God. From this culture was born my story of forbidden love.

Which brings me to one of my greatest heroes—Zorro. Who can forget the handsome, daring masked man who championed the poor and fought the injustices of his people? His flashing sword, generous smile, and chivalry would bend the strongest woman’s resolve. It also helped Zorro’s cause to be portrayed by Antonio Bandera in The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005).

Is it no wonder that I call Awaken My Heart my Zorro book? My hero, Armando Garcia, is passionate about the cause of his poverty-stricken people, but his passion also extends to Marianne Wharton, the daughter of a wealthy American rancher. The wealthy and the peasant. The Diablo and his angel. And her daddy ain’t happy. Oops! I mean Marianne’s father is out for blood.

This isn’t the first book I’ve written about historical Texas. The Texas Legacy Series was set in the period of the Old West when lawlessness and unscrupulous characters crawled out from under rocks and attempted to claim the state. I chose unlikely heroes and heroines who made a courageous stand for what they believed in.

Hop into the saddle and grab the reins. This ride will keep you up all night.

www.diannmills.com Let me hear from you!

Thank you so much, DiAnn! We appreciate your time and the opportunity to spotlight your work.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 20–22; Mark 5:21–43

1 comment:

Sue H. said...

This sounds like it will be a fantastic novel. I love all of DiAnn Mills' novels. Can't wait to read it!!