Welcome to One on One: Insights into the Writer’s Life! Today’s interview is with Dianne Schwartz, author of Whose Face Is in the Mirror?: The Story of One Woman’s Journey from the Nightmare of Domestic Abuse to True Healing (Hay House), Hay Foundation Book of the Year and one of the top 100 sellers on women’s issues on the online dictionary of mental health. (Schwartz can be contacted at email@example.com.)
Tell me a little about yourself. What type of writing do you do? If you do more than one kind, what type is your favorite?
DS: I lean toward self-help and issues that will possibly cause someone to explore a different thought process that could make their lives better. I also like to journal.
How long have you been writing? When did you start?
DS: I remember writing short stories in the seventh grade, which always included a lot of bling and fun clothes! I seriously began writing in 1998, when my inner voice wouldn’t stop nagging. Day and night, on and on! Yes, I had a message to share but didn’t consider myself a writer. This was during the OJ Simpson tragedy and I was hearing a lot of advice on television that could get a battered woman killed and this was when the urging became very strong.
When did you first know that you were a writer?
DS: Shortly after being told Hay House was publishing my book, I was shopping for a piece of luggage for my husband and the clerk asked me if I’d like to apply for a store credit card and receive a discount. Why not? When I came to the line that asked for my employment information I wrote, “Author.” Being published somehow made me feel legitimate!
How do you define success as a writer?
DS: Anyone who sits down five days a week and writes at least 300 words per day. It’s the act of doing that defines success to me.
Where do you do most of your writing?
DS: At one time, before my husband’s retirement, it was the home office. Because he doesn’t understand that the words, “I’m writing” mean I don’t want to be disturbed, I’ve moved to another room, which I have deemed my sanctuary. If the door is closed, he knows to leave it that way!
What stimulates your creativity?
DS: Yoga followed by meditation and prayer is my best release. My mind is calm and open to hear whatever messages are meant for me. I’m amazed at what I learn just by listening instead of trying to guide my mind.
Conversely, what creates a major writer’s block for you?
DS: Any kind of stress causes writer’s block.
Who are three of your favorite authors and why?
DS: I’ve always been fascinated by Doris Kearns Goodwin. What amazing research! She can take any dry politician and make them fascinating. I love anything written by David Sedaris because he makes me laugh until I cry. F Scott Peck because of his inspiration.
What is your most recent book or published piece? What inspired this?
DS: Whose Face is in the Mirror? published by Hay House. I was involved in a brief but very violent marriage and started volunteering at a local battered women’s shelter. I noticed that my words helped the women during the support groups so I thought I would write my story and place it in the refuge for them to read while staying there. A miracle began to happen at this time.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Was it easier or harder than you expected?
DS: With editing, about 15 months. The creative part of writing became a labor or love. I believe with all my heart that my book was Divinely Inspired. I would be lost in sharing thoughts and ideas that I wasn’t sure where I had learned, just that they were completely honest and open. That time stands as one of the most beautiful, spiritual and educating periods of my life.
Did you have an agent at the time? If so, how long did it take you to find one?
DS: I did find an agent to represent me and actually, very quickly, which was yet another miracle. I attended a writers conference and so many people were there who wrote so beautifully and still, had no representation. I started wondering, what’s going on? I’m a novice and have an agent and these wonderful writers don’t. And, my agent, Marc McCutcheon, was always telling me what a hopeful spirit I had because by this time, I knew my story was meant to be out in the world so when he would tell me that a huge book had just been released on men who batter, etc., I would tell him it didn’t matter because books like that wouldn’t help abused women. Mine would.
What is the next project you have in the works?
DS: I’m currently developing a blog for women that deals with spirituality, loving ourselves and taking charge of our actions—both good and bad.
What do you find the hardest part about the “writing business”?
DS: For me, book signings. I’m outgoing, can talk to anyone, have done tons of radio and television interviews but sitting at a table autographing books makes me uneasy. It’s too ego-related for me and smacks of “look at me!”
What’s the worst advice anyone gave you about being a writer?
DS: I never received any bad advice and if I had, I wouldn’t have listened to it. I’m too opinionated about my topic.
What’s the best?
DS: Several stand out in my mind as worthy.
- If you want to be a better writer, read good books.
- Write what you know.
- Always listen to your inner voice and allow it to guide your words.
What advice do you have for other writers who are contemplating writing a book?
DS: Find a good editor. Don’t send your manuscript to agents that don’t represent your genre. Learn how the writing world operates because it’s important to know this. Take your book topic and make it different and set apart from others.
Thanks, Dianne, for sharing your thoughts and experiences at One on One: Insights Into the Writer’s Life!