NQ: Welcome, Dianne Neral Ell! I appreciate you taking the time from writing your current novel to spend a little time with us here at Words Count!
Dianne: Thank you for making space and time for me to talk about my writing.
NQ: You’re welcome. You and I are both short story readers and writers as well as novelists. You had great short stories published in the Snowbird Christmas collections. What is it that you love about writing short stories? What do you dislike about writing them?
Dianne: I have many ideas for novels, but each one can take a year or even much longer than that to write. I can convert those ideas into a short story, and even with all its complexities, it will not take as long to complete. So time is an important factor. The other thing I like is the variety. One story can be a mystery. The next, sci-fi, fantasy, or have a historical setting. You can sell to whoever you want. With novels, you are pretty much held to the type of book your contract is based on.
For short stories, however, the biggest challenge is the word count. Know that in the beginning. Some publishers are very exact in their requirements.
NQ: They sure are. Following the instructions is a big part of submitting for publication. This year you started out with a home run, right? Your short story, “Incident at Puerto Angel” was just published in the 24th issue of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. I bought my magazine through Amazon and enjoyed your story very much. Loved the twist at the end. Can you share with readers a little about the process of getting from writing a story to publication with a major international magazine? How long did that whole process take?
Dianne: This story took longer than usual because I didn’t have the ending to start with. In fact, I didn’t have much at all, just a premise. Someone steals twenty million dollars. Who? And why? With nothing more than that, I’m not sure why I pursued it except that it intrigued me. I came up with several avenues to follow, none of which led to a conclusion but at least I had the bones of a story, (a Wall Street investment banker discovers twenty million has been taken from one of his accounts). Without an ending, I went with it anyway, playing the part of the investigator who follows the money in an attempt to understand why the theft took place. The story unfolded as I wrote it. And the conclusion surprised me when I got there – so it wasn’t just you that was surprised. It’s not something I would have thought of when creating the storyline, but it came as a logical conclusion in the series of events.
NQ: Your novel, The Exhibit, is a very interesting tale of intrigue and irony. I enjoyed it. Made me think of Hitchcock’s tales, actually. Where did the plot for that story come from and how did you develop it into the twists and turns that make that book such a good read?
Dianne: I’ve always enjoyed tales of ancient Egypt, its history, and the remarkable treasures created by the early craftsman. The Exhibit is about an exhibition of ancient Egyptian art and artifacts that comes to a New York museum and a collector’s need to steal one of the pieces. Our protagonist, who also works for the museum, comes up with a unique, foolproof plan to commit the theft, however, it takes the help of three people who are working with her to publicize the exhibit, to pull it off. Anytime you have more than one person committing a crime, there’s a chance that something will go wrong, and it does. Our protagonist doesn’t live up to her end of the pact, leaving the three ‘helpers’ to seek retribution. The story as it unfolds plays to the weaknesses of each of the characters, and the issues in their lives that lead to the unavoidable outcome.
NQ: Who are a couple of your favorite authors and why?
Dianne: My favorite is Daniel Silva. I love his plotting and most of all his writing. I’m also a fan of C.J. Box. And I follow his adventures as game warden with great interest. In his latest, I didn’t see where the conclusion was going to be anything other than ordinary, but he pulled it off so that it wasn’t. I’ve also followed Mary Higgins Clark over her many years as an author. I’m also a fan of Eric Ambler and Graham Greene.
Probably one of my favorite books is Thomas Cook’s Red Leaves. When I think back on what books linger, that’s one in which the story, the writing, the choice of words, resonate over time
NQ: What kind of research do you do and do you finish all your research before you write or research as you go along?
Dianne: I research up front to get everything in place and know what’s feasible and what isn’t. But there’s always research that goes in along the way. The plot changes. New characters and places appear that I hadn’t thought of originally.
NQ: I’m sure readers can get your books wherever books are sold, right? Can they find them in any of the local stores? If so, which ones? And where can readers find out more about you – maybe sign up for a newsletter or blog?
Dianne: I know The Exhibit is available in print online from all of the major bookstores, and it’s on Kindle, too. Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine is sold at Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and at their website. As well as mine. And, you mentioned you bought it on Amazon. For more info on me and what I’ve written, go to dianneneralell.com.
NQ: Thanks so much again, for being here with us today. And best wishes on your next project! Looking forward to reading it whether it’s long or short!
Dianne: Nancy, thanks so much for giving me this time. I hope I’ve been able to give some insight into my work, and writing in general. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you about writing which is near and dear to both of our hearts.
Readers – see you next week!