Interview with Author Diane Weiner by Melissa Brooks
Diane Weiner is a veteran school teacher, which she uses as inspiration for her Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries. I interviewed her to find out more about her writing, what inspires her, and what she is currently working on.
1. Have you always been interested in writing?
I have always had an interest in writing. When I was five, I remember walking around with a “poetry book” where I wrote simple poems.
2. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I was inspired to write mysteries by the joy I got from reading them. I grew up in a small town in New York and the winters were often filled with snow, and we were stuck in the house. I remember reading back to back Nancy Drew mysteries on weekend afternoons, and later Mary Higgins Clark books (Where are the Children had recently come out and I loved it!)
3. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?
When writing a book, I start by figuring out who the murder victim is and how they have been killed. I also jot down personal struggles or events the characters will grapple with, or how the main character will grow. Then, I make a list of four or five suspects and their motives. Next, I make an overall outline, being careful to include a surprise after each third of the story. I try to have a good twist and a dramatic scene at the end where the murderer is revealed. From there, I outline clues or information that needs to be revealed in the upcoming chapter, write the chapter, concentrating on getting the plot out, then either revise, or move to the next chapter. When I’m done writing, I go through each section carefully to rewrite and edit…several times. I get a lot of ideas while running, too. Running helps me work out plot details also.
4. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
When I get stuck, I use the writing time to rewrite or edit and usually that gets me back on track with the story. Sometimes, I scan the local paper (I live in Florida where lots of bizarre news happens!) or watch Brit Box or Dateline to get in the mood to write.
5. What kind of experiences from your career as a teacher contributed to writing the Schoolhouse Mysteries series?
My experiences as a teacher have colored my writing. Mostly, I’ve used the interactions between myself and colleagues, colleagues toward each other, or administration dealing with teachers. I worked under a horrible assistant principal who shows up in one of my books, and a wannabe principal who plied our principal with baked goods, giving me the opening scene of Murder is Elementary.
6. How did the character of Susan Wiles develop as you wrote her?
Susan Wiles started out not thinking so much about who her sleuthing was affecting. She especially had conflicts with her detective daughter. As she grew, she became more conscious of respecting the police investigations and not jumping into trouble without thinking about how she was potentially hurting her family by either interfering, or causing them to worry. Of course, it hasn’t been a smooth uphill climb, but more like one step forward, two steps back.
7. Are you working on anything right now?
I am in the middle of writing Murder is Medical. Susan and Mike go to St. Louis for their son Evan’s “Match Day.” That’s the day medical students find out where they are going to do their residencies. Of course, there’s a murder at the reception afterwards, and a personal medical emergency causes Susan and Mike to stay in St. Louis for a while. Susan becomes friends with the mother of the St. Louis detective assigned to the case and together, they snoop where they shouldn’t, but eventually help solve the murder.