By Basil Sands
DiAnn Mills’s titles have won two Christy Awards, been shortlisted for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol Awards, and appeared on the Association for Christian Retail and Evangelical Christian Publishers Association bestseller lists. She’s a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and the Blue Ridge Novelist Retreat. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
Mills’s latest release, LONG WALK HOME, centers on a kidnapping in South Sudan that brings three very different characters together: an Arab Christian pilot who runs supply flights for a humanitarian relief organization; an American doctor who has spent years practicing in Sudan; and a colonel with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. When the doctor’s young assistant is abducted, the three work together to plan an unlikely rescue, only to find themselves tested in ways they never anticipated.
Mills took some time from her pre-release schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her own experiences in South Sudan and offer some advice for new writers.
DiAnn, tell us about LONG WALK HOME.
Southern Sudan has held a soft spot in my heart for years. LONG WALK HOME makes media headlines come alive with passion, love, and strength in people who have experienced oppression for decades. This story takes three unique characters who have nothing in common but a love for South Sudan and a young girl who’s been kidnapped. They are forced to put aside their differences and work together—no matter what the cost. This is a love story, a suspense, a mystery, and insight into the turmoil.
Why the story of Sudan?
After visiting Juba in South Sudan some years ago, I vowed to never forget the courage, bravery, and determination of the people who continue to struggle for survival. I made lasting memories and dear friends.
Illiteracy is rampant there. All royalties are being donated to a Christian non-profit group called Every Village, to help distribute solar-powered, hand-held radios in local communities.
Where did the characters come from in your mind?
I looked at the diversity in the area: opinions of how South Sudan should be governed, opinions of how South Sudan should strive for freedom, and religious beliefs. From there, I created three unlikely people who’d otherwise destroy each other.
As I read the story I was impressed by the tightness of the writing. How do you recommend new writers achieve good, clean script like that?
Edit. Edit. Edit.
I write in the same manner as my reading preference: less description and flowery language, every word written in the POV character, and always high stakes. I may not always achieve those goals in my stories, but I do my best.
When did you first think you wanted to be a writer?
Second grade! I wrote my first book, a western, on a Big Chief notebook with a #2 pencil.
What other genres do you write?
For the past several years, I’ve written romantic suspense. Before that I wrote a few historical romance novels, but my preference is contemporary suspense.
Who are your favorite authors?
Joel Rosenberg, David Baldacci, Charles Martin, Steven James, Jerry Jenkins, and Harlan Coben.
What advice would you give to a new writer, a few chapters into their first draft?
To continue writing your story until halfway through. Then go back and reread and edit. By the time the writer is ready to gain momentum with new material, the story will be fresh, and the character and plot will take on new dimensions. This is my process, and it allows me to dig deeper into the goals and motivations of my characters.
Read the bestsellers and figure out why they are the best of the best.
Read in the genre of the book [you’re writing].
Read marketing and promotion guides.
I heard that you are known to be somewhat of a coffee snob. How does one qualify for such a lofty title?
That’s funny! I am particular about my coffee. Black and strong. I roast my own beans, so I have no one to blame but myself. I do judge a restaurant by the quality of their coffee. If the management cares enough to provide the best coffee, then their food will receive the same quality treatment.
And now for the question that leads us to the deep inner soul of DiAnn Mills. You get up in the morning on a lovely summer day and walk to the front door to take a morning walk. When you open the door, instead of your front yard there is a gaping hole that descends farther than you can see, and a narrow spiral staircase leads down into the darkness. Distant voices whisper up out of the abyss. Some do not sound happy. What do you do?
I grab my phone for the flashlight, camera, and recording. I start down the spiral staircase to see where the darkness leads. Shining the flashlight, I move forward to find the source of the intensifying voices with the goal of who can I help. I believe God wouldn’t have placed the gaping hole outside my front door unless He wanted me to investigate. I could be in a dream, given an opportunity to create a powerful story; a means to learn more about myself by facing darkness about myself that needs to be addressed; or rescue from pain.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson, where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.
DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social media platforms listed on her website.