By Amy Lignor
From the Old West to contemporary romantic suspense, this incredible author throws herself into all projects she creates. The powerful emotions, excitement, passion, and friendship that exist in her novels invigorate readers—causing them to crave nothing more than a quiet corner where they can sit and get lost in her words and characters without being disturbed. Here, DiAnn Mills has been gracious enough to speak with The Big Thrill about her “full plate,” which even involves being a well-respected mentor to others focusing on the craft of writing.
Your writing is so varied—from the historical to the suspense, and beyond. Where do the “new” characters spring up from (so to speak)? Do you create using people around you, or do they spring from imagination?
Characters spring from every place imaginable with me: the people I meet; the people I hear or read about; strangers, and my imagination. My jumping off point continues to be “What if?”
Your long career includes so many accolades. But (and I know this is difficult), if you could pick only one of your works, what would be your favorite?
That’s like asking which one of my sons is my favorite! But I will pick the romantic suspense titles listed in the FBI: Houston series: Firewall, DOUBLE CROSS, and the third book to be released in October, Deadlock. These are the freshest in my mind, and I’ve worked the hardest to create the best stories possible. Houston’s FBI is amazing and are always available to answer questions. And then there’s the setting—Houston! My city!
I know you have climbed to the apex of many literary categories, but is there one that you have not yet attempted that you would like to in the future?
Great question! I have a romantic suspense idea simmering in my heart and mind. It would be the most difficult of any writing project I’ve ever attempted. The twist of plot is my biggest concern and I am still working on how I can weave it all together. In short, I have research to confirm.
Christian fiction has expanded over the past decade. In this time of such war and discontent, what do you hope readers will gain from having “religious” aspects in books?
My goal is to entertain readers with a character who solves his/her problems from a Christian worldview. I peddle hope in a world which can be dangerous and unpredictable. And I would love readers to understand that we don’t have to face peril alone.
Along the same lines, you have an interest in the Sudan and the expansion of Christianity there. What is the passion that brought you to visit there and then write books regarding their people and area? Could you also tell readers a bit about the organization, “Every Village,” which you are a proponent of?
“Every Village” is a nonprofit organization that aids the Southern Sudanese and ministers to their needs. Some years ago, volunteers from “Aid Sudan,” now “Every Village,” asked me to write a nonfiction book about the Lost Boys of Sudan. I declined, but the more I read and heard about the plight of these young boys, the more I realized I should write the book. I interviewed hundreds of Sudanese refugees and those who worked with them from all over the world. The proceeds from the book go back to “Every Village.” I traveled to Juba, Southern Sudan, before the country gained its independence. What an experience; a bit dangerous. The Southern Sudanese continue to struggle in a war-torn country. I also wrote two novels from that research.
You are also a “Wordsmith Coach” helping other writers. You must be extremely proud of the ones out there who work so hard to create and share their imaginations with readers. Can you tell us more about your services and what brought you to working with others?
I began mentoring with the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild, and later became the Craftsman mentor for fiction and nonfiction book writers. Helping serious writers work toward their publishing goals gives me tremendous satisfaction. The method of mentoring Craftsman writers remains with me today. Students apply learning skills, send me their work, then we meet via Skype to go over every word. This is a learning opportunity for the writer, and I learn a lot too. I’m a bit tough on my students. One of them received feedback and thought he’d been hit by a truck. But it’s more important for me to point out problems upfront than to have the writer deal with rejection from an agent or editor.
Can you give us your outlook on the ever-increasing world of self-publishing? There are many debates regarding whether or not publishing a work without a traditional house behind a writer could ruin a career or begin one.
Writers want to sell books. Their passion for communicating through the written word moves them to spend long hours laboring over the craft. Self-publishing for writers is a viable option, but the key point to remember is the writer has to sell books for a traditional publisher to look at a potential manuscript. Marketing and promotion become the writer’s responsibility which is more difficult, of course, than working with teams already available through traditional publishers.
Research is key to historical books. Your various “Brides” collections bring back the past in Technicolor. Living in Texas, you certainly have a great deal of history at your fingertips. But do you actually visit locales in order to research your works? How much does history excite you?
Research is what excites me. I want to walk the same paths as my characters, be the story historical or contemporary. And, yes, I do my best to visit every location. For a writer to be credible, he/she has to be the character or the character will never express themselves in that Technicolor feel to the reader.
Your new title DOUBLE CROSS is coming out this month. Can you tell readers a little about this new contemporary work?
In DOUBLE CROSS, a female FBI agent investigates an elderly scam case and discovers key evidence that leads to a known felon, a man she put into prison. To make matters worse, she’s placed on a task force with him and a Houston Police Officer who’s entirely good looking. While fighting her attraction to the police officer, the danger rages on. How can she trust the felon when he might be leading her straight into a double cross?
I have to say, I love this story. My hero and heroine became my friends, and the hero’s grandmother is a spunky woman who gets herself into the crime scene a little too deeply.
I always end with the same question: If there was one author (past or present) that you could sit down and have lunch with, who would it be, and why?
Harlan Coben. I’ve never read one of Coben’s books when I didn’t get lost in the story. He writes in language I understand with characters I can identify with. I so value the intensity of character emotion and the unique motivation for good guys and bad guys. And Coben is a master at both.
And as readers and fans of DiAnn Mills will tell you…so is she! This author continues to be a craftsman of the written word, and we will continue to look forward with excitement as to what comes next.
FBI Agent Laurel Evertson’s investigation into a scam targeting the elderly takes an unexpected twist when key evidence leads her to Morton Wilmington, a felon she arrested five years ago on her first undercover assignment. That case has haunted her since, and though she’s vowed to forget Wilmington—and what she sacrificed to put him away—he is now her best lead. Houston Police Officer Daniel Hilton fears his grandparents may be the scammer’s next targets, and he’ll do anything to protect his family—even force interagency cooperation. But he’s quickly drawn to Laurel’s empathy and zeal and agrees to follow her lead . . . even if it means teaming up with a felon. As the unlikely trio uncovers evidence suggesting the scam is more extensive and deadly than they imagined, both Laurel and Daniel find themselves in the crosshairs of a killer. Together they must decide if they can trust Wilmington’s claims of redemption, or if he’s leading them straight into a double cross.
To learn more about DiAnn, please visit her website.