AWW Feature: Dianne Blacklock, does it get easier?

Welcome Dianne Blacklock!

Dianne Blacklock was born in Sydney and grew up in the St George area, completed a bachelor of arts degree at the University of NSW, then married, raising four children. She has been a teacher, trainer, counsellor, check-out chick, and even one of those annoying market researchers you avoid in shopping centres. Dianne was 39 and a part-time TAFE communications teacher when her first novel was chosen from the “slush pile” of unsolicited manuscripts at Pan Macmillan in 2000. She has since had eight novels published, Call Waiting, Wife for Hire, Almost Perfect, False Advertising, Crossing Paths, Three’s a Crowd, The Right Time and The Secret Ingredient. When she’s not writing she goes on rampages through the house, cleaning and emptying out cupboards and making everyone do extra chores. Needless to say, the family prefers it when she’s writing.

Published in late 2011, Dianne’s most recent novel, The Secret Ingredient is due for paperback release next month. I have read several of Dianne’s previous novels and enjoyed them all so I was eager to read  The Secret Ingredient. This contemporary ‘women’s fiction’ novel  is the story of a woman who, when her marriage falls apart, rediscovers her hopes and dreams for her future. You can read my review, posted earlier today, HERE.

Today, Dianne answers a question she is often asked about writing, does it get easier? Read on…

The Secret Ingredient is my eighth novel. People often ask if it gets easier, and I’ve had to really think about that. The answer is unfortunately no, it doesn’t. In fact I think I’d have to say it gets harder.

The mechanics of writing probably do get easier. There is no doubt I have picked up and honed skills along the way that have now become second nature. The voices of my editor and publisher are always in my head – in a good way. I catch myself up when a character behaves out of character, when my writing is ‘flabby’ (an early comment from my publisher that I’ve NEVER forgotten!), or when I’m repeating myself and not advancing the narrative. And I have developed a pretty sharp internal cliché barometer to save me the embarrassment of my editor pointing it out for me instead.

However, finding new storylines and developing new characters has become more and more difficult. I often say – to the amusement of whoever may be listening – that after the first three books I had to start making them up. As I write fiction, haven’t all my books been ‘made up’ essentially? Well yes, of course, but for the first three I could write about everything that had ever intrigued me, any scenario, any character, without fear of repeating myself or treading the same old ground. I didn’t have to come up with ideas, the ideas were all there, milling around in the back of my mind, waiting for their chance to be put to good use. Funny lines, observations, anecdotes … all the scribbled notes I had made over the years were there for the taking.

But after those three books were published, I knew that if I wanted a long-term career as a writer I had to work at coming up with new ideas, they weren’t just going to land in my lap. I would need to consistently find a premise that interested me and that could carry a novel; characters that were unique, but still relatable. I have had a lot of ups and downs and false starts, but it has stretched me as a writer, and taken me to places I never would have imagined at the beginning.

When I was approaching my eighth novel, it occurred to me that I had never written a stereotypical ‘cheating husband’ character. I certainly had characters who had cheated on their wives, but I had always tried very hard to explore both sides, to show the breakdown in relationships that might lead to infidelity (not excuse it, mind, just explain it). I don’t believe things are ever black and white, and for a writer, it’s the grey areas that are most interesting anyway (and I’m not talking fifty shades here). So it was new territory for me to write a philandering male who goes through a midlife crisis and leaves his wife and family for a younger woman. The challenge was to bring a fresh perspective to that scenario when, let’s face it, it’s been done to death – both in fiction and in real life!

Then I remembered an exchange that happened between a friend and her husband. It was* the second marriage for both of them, and while at a work function he introduced her as his ‘current wife’. Rightfully she was a little taken aback, and typically, he didn’t know what was wrong with what he’d said! That was the spark I needed. Their exchange forms the basis of the brief opening chapter of The Secret Ingredient, which originally had the working title ‘The Current Wife’. Ross left his first wife for Andie, and now, after ten years, Andie is beginning to wonder if he’s going to leave her for a younger model. Is she just being paranoid, or is Ross lying to her, the way he must have lied to his first wife? This provided more than enough grist for the mill, giving me a complex web of relationships to explore, which is what I really love to do more than anything. Ultimately the story I am writing has to keep me interested, has to unfold in unexpected and fascinating ways, has to provide insights or truths about human nature I haven’t considered before. If it does all of this for me in the writing, then there is at least some chance that it will do the same for the reader.

But before I go sounding too worthy, primarily it has to entertain. If I’m not absorbed and engrossed in my own story, and care about my characters, then how can I expect anyone else to? And how would I ever get to the end of it? Fortunately I did get to the end of The Secret Ingredient, and leaving it – as has been the case with all my books – was bittersweet. But then again, I have new characters to look forward to, and new paths to follow. And that’s what’s exciting about being a writer.

(* I should say ‘is’! My friends remain happily married.)

Thank you Dianne for participating in the AWW Feature here at Book’d Out. I very much look forward to meeting you in August during your visit to my local library!

You can find Dianne at

Website I Facebook I Twitter

The Secret Ingredient is available to purchase

@Pan MacMillan I @BoomerangBooks I @Booktopia

via Booko

@Amazon {Kindle} I @Google Play

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mirjam
    Jul 12, 2012 @ 17:18:08

    I think no matter what genre you write in, coming up with something entirely new or a fresh look at something that has been done before, will always be a challenge. The mid-life crisis male leaving his wife for a younger woman is a cliché, but I like Dianne’s starting point on this old story. I also hope her friend’s husband has erased the word current in combination with wife from his vocabulary! That’s really awful!



  2. Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 11:43:50

    Wonderful post, and on a topic I’m presently struggling with. An author obviously wants to build a particular platform/brand, but balancing that line between familiarity and derivativeness can be a challenge, particularly as one’s oeuvre grows.



  3. Dianne
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 12:49:33

    Thanks for the comment, Mirjam. What do they say? There’s only 7 stories in the world, or maybe it’s 12, or maybe 4? I dunno, but it’s a finite number. But I’d like to believe there are infinite ways of telling a story, and that’s where the challenge lies. And yes, I think my friend’s husband has learnt his lesson!

    And thanks, Stephanie, I’m glad this strikes a chord – I’d hate to be the only writer this happens to! I always seem to be reading about writers who never stop having ideas.



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