A warm Behind the Pen welcome is extended to today’s guest, Diane Demetre, here to talk about her latest release, Retribution. Over to you Diane…
What inspired your most recent novel?
This book is my way of paying tribute to the people who have endured more than most. Those who have lived hellish childhoods, those who have fought for our freedom, those who have experienced unimaginable trauma and those who may never recover from their suffering. With the overarching theme of forgiveness and redemption, Retribution pays homage to the human condition in all its glory and misery.
What did you do when you finished this novel?
After celebrating with some French fizz, I started my next book which is a sweeping, multi-generational love story, Island of Secrets.
How would you best describe this novel to a new reader?
Retribution is a gripping romantic suspense about a talented ballerina, a damaged soldier and the dog that saved them both. Although it includes the usual conventions for this genre, there is an unexpected twist toward the end.
How much research do you do? How do you balance the demands of getting the facts right and telling a good story?
Having trained in ballet and worked as a professional dancer, choreographer and director, I knew my protagonist had to be a ballerina, as they possess the qualities I needed for my story. Tough, disciplined and ambitious, she had to be driven to achieve her dreams, even against the worst odds. Retribution delves deeper into the human psyche and explores how people deal with their emotional past. As such, I wanted to set Jessie’s past in the context of a real location. I needed a small rural town within a six to seven hour driving distance from Melbourne, where the Australian Ballet Company is based. I also needed this town to be quintessentially Australian, with an historical bed & breakfast on its outskirts and a believable lair nearby for the antagonist. My husband, who has travelled by road throughout most of Australia suggested a little town called Yass. A place I’d never heard of. Bingo! Not only did Yass look like the town I imagined when I began plotting Retribution, it had a nearby homestead, perfect for Jessie’s childhood—Coodravale Homestead. So, my husband and I set off on a fourteen-hour drive from our home on the Gold Coast to the gateway of the Yass Valley. When we finally arrived, I hung out the window taking photos while he drove up and down the streets. We visited the hospital, police station, RSL Club, coffees shops, the cemetery and a variety of other places that feature in the book. We stayed at Coodravale Homestead for three nights and my thanks go to its owners John and Rosemary Robinson for all their help during my research. https://www.coodravalehomestead.com/
I always do as much research as I can for my stories. I believe adding the smaller details which come from actual experience adds flesh to the bones of the story.
How much planning do you do? Do you plan/plot the entire story from beginning to end, or let it evolve naturally as the writing progresses? In terms of characters, are they already a firm picture in your mind before you start writing or do they develop a personality of their own as the story progresses?
The plot and characters beam in virtually formed. I know who my characters look like and I set about finding images to match those in my head. Then I begin my character folder which is a comprehensive record of the main characters and in a lesser degree, the secondary characters. This exercise gives me a deeper insight into who they are and how they think. Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot Structure is the template I use to nail the main turning points. Once I have all this and know my timeline, I begin. I’m a highly intuitive yet organised writer, willing to go where the story leads and at the same time, supported by a strong foundation of structure.
Where do you normally write? Is it in the same place every day or are you an all over the place writer?
In my new office. It’s an airy, inspiring space in which I spend most of my life. I love it.
What other genre would you like to try your hand at writing and why?
My next books are a series of murder mysteries with an amateur female sleuth as my protagonist. As a child, I loved Enid Blyton’s stories and then as I grew older, Agatha Christie. I think those books have inspired me to write my upcoming murder mysteries.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I endeavour to mediate every day and go to the gym at least 5 times a week. These two activities are critical to my well-being and health. I live by the adage…use it or lose it.
What is your favourite childhood book? Did reading as a child have any bearing on your decision to become a writer? My favourite book was Alice in Wonderland. I used to read it every year for decades. It has a wonderful mystical element to it.
If you could sit down for an afternoon with an iconic person from history, who would you choose to spend that time with?
Jesus. I would love to hear his side of the ‘greatest story ever told’… Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Who would you kill to escape your past?
Jessie Hilton is tough. Since the age of fifteen, she has dreamed of being a principal dancer with the Australia Ballet Company. Now at twenty-four, she stands on the brink of fulfilling her dream unaware of a secret buried deep within her.
Ex-military officer, Brad Jordan is rebuilding his life with the help of his boisterous Border collie, Whiskey. After helping Jessie out of a tight spot, he discovers a kindred spirit in the ambitious ballerina.
But with the sudden attention of an unwanted admirer, Jessie’s life begins to spin out of control. Called back to her family home in country New South Wales due to her father’s unforeseen illness, she is torn between career and family. As her dream of being principal dancer fades, her stalker edges ever closer. But there is more to overcome than a lurking psychopath. Can Jessie and Brad confront their own past demons and finally be free?