Interview by Shirley Wetzel
June 19, 2007
Diana Driver became a geophysicist when she decided she wasn't "smart enough" to be a writer. Lucky for us, she changed her mind. She is the founder and first president of Houston's Sisters in Crime chapter, The Final Twist. She and her husband live in Spring, Texas. They have two daughters and three cats. She has a green thumb, and a talent for flower arrangement. Her first novel, NINTH LORD OF THE NIGHT, a mystery set in Guatemala, has just been published
Your first novel, NINTH LORD OF THE NIGHT, was just published by L&L Dreamspell. Talk about the process leading up to this point.
I felt fear, excitement, and trepidation. I was afraid they wouldn't like it and at the same time scared that they would and that I wouldn't be able to make it a financial success. It's difficult being a first time author and someone who isn't famous.
In the end, having L&L Dreamspell pick up my novel is a dream come true. Linda Houle and Lisa Smith have to be the kindest and most considerate publishers in the whole industry. They took me out to lunch for the contract signing and afterwards, Linda turned on her laptop and showed me the wraparound cover for the NINTH LORD OF THE NIGHT. It was so beautiful that tears came to my eyes!
Lisa not only did the editing, but designed an interior layout specific to the story. She looked at hundreds of fonts, before making her selection. She even included little temples for the chapter breaks! Since that day, I've been on a roller coaster ride. It's a wonderful experience to have a publisher who's supportive and who believes in your work.
Is there anything special you'd like to mention about the book?
Wow! NINTH LORD OF THE NIGHT optioned for film! I still can't believe it! Cash Anthony is the screenwriter who holds the option on the book and she's serious about getting this project to film. I'm amazed by her skill, knowledge, and determination.
In your bio, you say that you felt you weren't smart enough to be a writer, so you became a geophysicist instead. Do you still feel that way?
(Laughs) No, of course not. About not being smart enough that is. I do think it takes more brainpower to be a writer than to be a geophysicist. One is simple training and the other is training PLUS creativity. When I was younger, being a writer was like being a movie star. Lots of people had talent, but only a few actually made it. Plus, I didn't know anything about the mechanics of writing. I could plan a career as a geophysicist and I knew it would happen. There was no way I could plan a writing career. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have ditched the geophysical and concentrated on my real love - which was writing.
NINTH LORD OF THE NIGHT is a book that can be enjoyed by both adults and teens. How did you come to choose a seventeen-year-old boy as your protagonist?
There are several reasons I chose Zack as the protagonist. I needed someone who could do the wrong things and not have the reader turn away. In the beginning of the book, Zack witnesses a murder and doesn't notify the authorities. Not a noble action for a hero, but in Zack's case an understandable one. An adult would have notified the police and the story would have ended there.
Also, the character had to be young enough that he wasn't free to come and go - or he would have been on the first plane out of Guatemala and still old enough to make his own decisions and not want to rely on an adult. While he couldn't possess the insights that come with maturity, he still needed a hero's character traits.
I also needed someone who could physically hold his own against the bad guys and get roughed up a bit, so the protagonist had to be a boy. I just couldn't bring myself to have a teenage girl beaten up. Shot at and hit? Yes, but not beaten. There were and still are limits to what I'll have my teenage characters experience. One of the most important reasons for having a teenaged protagonist is that teenagers still possess the magic of childhood. If an adult experienced what Zack experienced they'd be in therapy ASAP. But teens still believe in magic. I also think that's why adults enjoy this book as much as teenagers. We all remember what it was like to be young and wrapped in the mystique of myths and legends.
Will we be seeing Zack in future books? If so, where will he go next? Will any of your other characters be on-going in the series?
Zack is in the next book and so is Maria and they are still in the land of the Maya, although in Mexico and not Guatemala. This next book focuses on the Maya Calendar as well as a crystal skull. Ah, now I must say no more!
The setting for your novel is at an archaeological site in modern day Guatemala, and the mystery involves ancient and modern Maya culture. Why this place and subject? What was your research process?
I'm fascinated by all ancient cultures, especially the Maya. The Spanish burned thousands of their books and so much information has been lost. The Mayanists are incredible at deciphering the monuments, but our picture of Classic Mayan life will never be complete. If we look at Mayan art, we see scary stuff - demons, sacrifices, and war murals. Did these people spend their whole existence living in fear? For some reason, and I don't know why, I think not.
As for my research, I read everything I could find about the Maya and in doing so began following the careers of certain epigraphers, Mayanists, and field archaeologists. In addition, I read books like I, Rigaberto Menchu, an Indian Woman in Guatemala for information about the contemporary Maya. In 1992 Rigaberto Menchu was awarded the Noble Peace Prize for her work. Unfortunately, she's had to live her life in exile because of death threats.
My most exciting research was done in Guatemala - specifically Guatemala City and the Tikal National Park. In Tikal, I climbed the massive temples, explored the ruins and walked the jungle paths during the day as well as at night. I went in May when the flowers were blooming in the tops of the jungle canopy and the sights, smells, and sounds of my experiences are recounted in the novel. Tikal is an incredible place, a place full of beauty, power, and mystery. It's also the perfect location for an action-adventure story.
You were the first president of the Houston Sisters in Crime group The Final Twist, and remain an active member. How has this influenced your writing career?
Everything that has happened to me has happened as a direct result from meeting people who are now members of The Final Twist. These incredible women gave me the support, encouragement, and guidance I needed to go forward and realize my dream of being a published writer. The members of The Final Twist are people who don't just talk about doing something - they do it. They're also willing to share their knowledge and experience. What's that old saying? If you want to be successful, then surround yourself with successful people? Well, that's true. Nothing is more inspiring than being with people who share the same dream and act to make it a reality.
What are some of your other projects, present and future?
One of my other projects is an action-adventure set in Egypt and the Middle East. The protagonist is an archaeologist who has a sidekick like Brandon Frazier of "The Mummy." It has lots of action, adventure, and humor, plus information about Egypt and the Middle East that isn't common knowledge. My only fear is that by the time I get the book done, some of the sites, like Balbaak in Lebanon, will have been blown up.
Is there anything you'd like your readers to know about you?
Wow this is a difficult question.
I'm the kind of person who finds knowledge exciting. I'll read just about anything - except erotica - for the information it contains. I like history especially because I'm fascinated by "how" ancient people thought and the "whys" of their beliefs and knowledge.
I also like to look at things from different and unconventional viewpoints.
For instance, I never believed that the ancient Egyptians actually believed that their mummified body rose from the dead to journey to the Duat. The Egyptian religion lasted over 3,000 years and it wouldn't have taken them long to realize that...duh...the remains never left the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The only things missing were the treasure. Did the kings know about tomb robbers? Or, did the priests keep this bit of information a secret?
Or, take the temples and it doesn't matter whether you use as an example the Maya temples or the Egyptian ones. Imagine the very first conversation between the king and his priest. The one where the king tells the priest he wants a pyramid...
The priest is horrified. "You want me to do what?" he sputters. "And, you want it, uh, how high?"
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