A Conversation with Diane Chamberlain

The best-selling author spoke to us about her engrossing mystery The Silent Sister.

Diane, congratulations on the release of The Silent Sister! Whenever I speak to a prolific author, and you’re certainly one of those, I always ask whether the excitement of publication has dulled over time, since it has effectively become routine, a novel every year, or whether it has morphed into something else
What a great question! The Silent Sister is my twenty-third novel, and while I won’t cry when I hold that shiny new hardcover in my hands the way I did when I held my first book, I’ll still feel a thrill. But my reaction now is less emotional and more pragmatic. I think about how I can help the story find its audience. I love that social media allows me to have a wonderful give and take with my readers, and when I hold that new book, they will be on my mind.
Where did the idea for The Silent Sister come from?
Well, the truth is, I stole the idea from my brother. Sort of. He is a mystery writer (Robert Lopresti) and he sent me one of his short stories prior to publication. In the story, a young man’s sister disappears. The way my brother resolved the disappearance—very much in keeping with his style–was completely different from the way ‘Diane Chamberlain’ would have resolved it . . . which gave me the idea for The Silent Sister.
How important is the first line in a novel? The Silent Sister starts with, “I’d never expected to lose nearly everyone I loved by the time I was twenty-five,” which pulls the reader into the story immediately. Was that always the first line?
Oh heavens no! I probably worked with five or six other first lines before that one. I think first lines are extremely important. As a reader, I want to be hooked right away. I assume my own readers feel the same way.
Has your writing process evolved over the course of your twenty-three novels? Are you a more comfortable storyteller now, or does every new manuscript wipe the slate clean?
I wish I could say I am a more comfortable storyteller now, but that’s not the case. Since I nearly always write stand-alone books, I am starting fresh with a new idea, new characters and a new fictional world every time. In the beginning, I’m overwhelmed and—to be honest—frightened. Can I do it again? That thought is always in the back of my mind and there are times during the process that I am sure I cannot. Then somewhere scarily close to my deadline, I begin to find my way and the pieces miraculously fall into place.
I know you love book clubs, and you’re very open to speaking with readers. Why do you think The Silent Sister would be a great selection for a book club?
I do love speaking to clubs and Skype has brought me into living rooms not only in the US but in the UK, Ireland and Australia as well. It’s so much fun! Readers seem to react to The Silent Sister on two very different levels, both of which can generate great discussions. There is the mystery in the story—the challenge of figuring out what is really going on during the twists and turns, and then there is the human side of the story—the sibling relationships, for example, that so many readers can relate to.
Moving onto your reading habits, are you still able to immerse yourself in books despite being engaged with writing your own? If so, what are you reading now?
Oh yes. I always have at least one book going, though I only get to read at bedtime, I’m afraid. Right now I’m reading Jane Green’s latest, Saving Grace. I love it so far and can’t wait to see where Jane is taking me with the story.
Tell us about your favorite book of the year, so far.
That’s tough. One of the books that has really stayed with me is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. So clever, so funny and so refreshing. 

Diane was speaking to Simon McDonald.