I find that books are like potato chips – you can’t seem to stop with just one. I feel the same way about their authors. If you’re longing to add spice to life, ask someone where the writers meet! Not every chip in the bag will suit your taste, but you’ll definitely experience a variety of flavors. I’ve savored every moment I’ve spent with author Diane Yates.
I met Diane through a series of coincidences. I believe that’s what I’ve heard it called when God chooses to remain anonymous. Smuffy happened to do some work for a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in years and happened to mention that I’d been writing a novel and my friend happened to mention that she had a writer friend who might be able to provide me with some good resources when it came time to publish and that friend just happened to be Diane Yates, author of “Pathways of the Heart”.
Diane’s name didn’t ring a bell, but the captivating book title somehow did. I suppose it had already been calling to me from bookstore shelves. Let me introduce you to both of them.
Gracious to her core, Diane took me under her wing, listening to my ramblings and assuring me that my story was worthy of being told. Honest as well, she told me I needed to edit, edit, edit and polish, polish, polish. Little did I know what that entailed when she said it. She’s helped me more than I can express and I am grateful for it. I went home from our first meeting with a copy of her book.
“Pathways of the Heart” is the story of Diane’s mother, Clella. For all of us, life takes twists and turns, leading us at times into pleasant places and at others into frightening scenarios from which we long to escape or worse – a never-ending drudgery that leaves us feeling that it’s all for nothing.
Cella’s story is a memoir written as a novel and it couldn’t be more real or, shall we say, just plain human. It’s as frustrating as it is touching with its genuine love story that keeps you hoping for the best and fearing the worst as you walk through life with this strong-willed woman in a time when women weren’t supposed to be.
Although there were ways that Clella’s story didn’t mirror my own mother’s story at all, there were certain strong similarities, including the time frame and general locale, that had me rooting for her, nudging her forward and shedding a tear for her as if she’d been my own mom, making it an emotional read.
I appreciated the way in which Diane related the story just as it was, piecing her own experiences together with accounts shared by her parents and other family members.
The common thread of “Pathways of the Heart” speaks to all of us that we all have hopes and dreams, we all fall far short of the ideal, we are all disappointed by those we love most and by ourselves and we all must find our way back to the right path.
Diane’s careful, yet candid, re-telling of real people making real mistakes is done in a way that makes “Pathways of the Heart” something that you can share with your teens without concern that it might be too graphic.
All in all, this story of a woman and her family, beginning in the Ozark hills of the 1920’s and leading you through the Great Depression, love, betrayal and on into new locations, joys, desperation and relationships, left me wanting to know more.
Diane is happy to oblige with the sequel, “All That Matters”, a book that takes us on a journey through the remainder of Clella’s life.
And now, a little about Clella’s daughter, Diane:
Diane Yates is a published author who lives in Fayette, Missouri with her husband, Rick, of forty-seven years. She has three children and eight grandchildren. Her first published works, “Pathways of the Heart” and its sequel, “All That Matters” are published by W&B Publishers. Both these memoirs serve as tributes to her mother and touch the reader with the joys, struggles, heartbreaks and new beginnings. You can look forward to Diane’s upcoming works of fiction. “Melissa’s Fate” is now being considered for publication while she continues work on “My Brother’s Eyes”.
Diane is semi-retired from a career in medical clinic practice management and is a past president of Ozarks Writers League. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Ozarks Writers League, Columbia Writers Guild, Boonslick Creative Writers, and Clean Fiction Writers.
I asked Diane several questions so we could get to know her better.
Barb: Many things compel us as authors to write. Why do you write, Diane?
Diane: My answer to this question remains consistent no matter how many times I answer it. I write to be read. I want my readers to laugh, cry, and rally for my heroes and heroines, and when they read the words “The End” and close the cover, nothing would please me more than if the book they’d finished would inspire them to be an even better person.
Barb: Did you write stories or create characters as a child? When and how did you begin?
Diane: From the sixth grade, I wrote stories and skits that we acted out in school and the neighborhood.
Barb: Do you believe that, for you, writing is a gift or a calling? What is your source of inspiration?
Diane: Writing is both a gift and a calling for me. I pray about my work and God uses various avenues to inspire me.
Barb: Do you have other creative outlets besides writing?
Diane: I don’t draw or paint or sew. I have done crafty things, but I wouldn’t call them talented!
Barb: Do you remember the first thing you wrote “just for fun”?
Diane: In the second grade I wrote a story about my big brother. I drew a picture of him flexing his bicep, showing me how strong he was.
Barb: Why did you decide to write Clella’s story as a memoir and not fiction?
Diane: “Pathways of the Heart” is a tribute to an amazing woman, and it needed to be accurate with real names of family members. This story takes place about twelve miles from the home of an elderly Laura Ingalls Wilder where she read her stories to my siblings.
Barb: Most of this story takes place before you were born. Do you feel like you were able to tell it factually?
Diane: My mother and siblings told me all these stories over and over. They were corroborated by my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Other facts and details were verified by county records and historical societies.
Barb: How did you fairly examine both of the main characters without apparent judgment?
Diane: Mine is not to judge Kenneth or Clella. It’s easy to walk down the aisle and say “I do.” But then, life happens, and in their case, that life included the Great Depression. Their relationship is the picture of what can happen as a result of neglect. Marriage takes work. Don’t let the love you found slip away in the hustle and weariness of everyday life.
Barb: Clella’s story covers a whole lifetime! How did you choose what details to put in and what to leave out?
Diane: I didn’t exactly outline, but I did make a list of all the stories I felt needed to be included; the adventures, mishaps, tragedies, and heart-wrenching events that were pivotal to the pathways they chose.
Barb: “All That Matters” is the continuing story. Why was it not part of the first book?
Diane: I only ever intended to write Clella’s story from 1928 through 1957, which is the time era at the end of Pathways. After it released, I started hearing from readers that they wanted to know the rest of the story. I prayed and eventually decided to write “All That Matters”, which continues Clella’s story as well as my own. Both books span an era of almost a hundred years and are a testament to the strength, courage, and character of the people whose lives touched one another.
Barb: I know as soon as I closed the last page on “Pathways…”, my first thought was, “and then what happened?” How is the sequel different and how is it the same as the first?
Diane: The first book is a little bit of Little House on the Prairie meets The Bridges of Madison County. Clella’s true grit and resourcefulness help her provide for her family during difficult times. She struggles to remain faithful after being abandoned by her husband, but a chance meeting with a younger man complicates her life in ways she never imagined. It is a book of choices and speaks to the importance of marriage and family. “All That Matters” is a book about consequences. It begins amid the craze of Rock’ n’ Roll and travels through many destinations and problematic events. We all have things that are important to us, but in the end, these characters must examine the reality of what really matters.
Barb: Since then, you’ve written a novel. Tease us with the plot!
Diane: My first two books are memoir, but my passion is fiction. “Melissa’s Fate: The Untold Story” is my third work and is currently being considered for publication. When Beth, an accounting assistant, discovers that Phil Davis is actually Phil Drake, the president of the company where she works, and he is in love with someone else, she flees New York City without telling anyone she’s pregnant. Two years later, she must return and recruit his help to rescue their little girl whom she had placed for adoption. Sparks fly as Phil will not forgive Beth, but he’ll do anything to save his little girl. They must both put aside their own feelings and marry in order to win custody of Melissa. Danger lurks as they fight each other, the difference between their two worlds, and a love long denied. While Beth knows that success and wealth are measured by more than material things and money, Phil is learning that he can’t always be in control despite his position and wealth. New York City and rural Connecticut are the setting of this story. My husband and I flew into LaGuardia and visited New York before driving on to Connecticut and the covered bridge at West Cornwall. I couldn’t have picked a more idyllic setting for this book.
Barb: I love the story line! Tell us about your current work-in-progress.
Diane: I’m working on “My Brother’s Eyes”, which is set in the Minnesota Territory in the middle of the nineteenth century. Maggie and her father nurse back to health a wounded Indian brave they found in the field. Only after Maggie falls in love with the Indian brave, Nahkeetah, does she realize that their relationship is plagued by more than cultural differences. It is surrounded by danger and evil. Maggie’s father is the country doctor; Nahkeetah’s father is the chief of the Chippewa tribe. Nahkeetah is next in line to be chief. Can their love survive the prejudice of his people and a hatred that boils beneath the surface?
Barb: Ooh! Love versus hate – now that’s drama! I can tell you keep busy. Are your family/friends supportive of your writing and do they ever fear being “put in a book”?
Diane: I’ve already put my family and friends in my books! I love all of them. My husband’s support and encouragement are endless and a tremendous blessing to me.
Barb: Have you ever found yourself falling in love with or being frightened/shocked/surprised by a character you’ve created?
Diane: I love my protagonists – all of them! They are each different. Beth from “Melissa’s Fate” is down-to-earth, loves a simpler way of life, despises money and those that are driven by it, including Phil, the man she inadvertently falls in love with. Maggie, in “My Brother’s Eyes”, is gutsy, smart, willing to take on difficult tasks and face odds that are seemingly unsurpassable in the Minnesota Territory of 1857. She must fight like crazy to overcome the hate that is in her native brother’s eyes, but she will prevail because of the love she has for the son of a Chippewa tribal chief. But, the character I love most of all is my first character ever – my mother, Clella, in “Pathways of the Heart” and “All That Matters”. None of us are perfect, but in real life she was a picture to me of the Proverbs 31 woman. Also, it surprised me that when I wrote about the men in her life, Kenneth and Francis, I was able to empathize and see things from their perspective, which of course was what needed to happen.
Barb: What would you say to someone who wants to write, but either doesn’t know where to start or perhaps thinks no one would want to read what they’ve written?
Diane: It’s rare that a writer knows where to start. You just have to start. You can go back later and rearrange or revise the writing. Some people write and don’t want anyone to read it. I write to be read. Will others want to read what you write? There’s no way to know until you first write it, so get started!
Barb: So, a person says, “OK, I’ve written it – now what?” What are the first steps they should take if they want to be published?
Diane: Take your writing seriously. Join with other writers in groups to get connected and network. Let your manuscript rest and then go back and edit, edit, edit. Then, consider hiring a professional editor. It’s money well spent.
Barb: Have you ever dealt with rejection or delays with publishers and how do you handle it (or how have you learned to handle it)?
Diane: So, after all the edits, you’re ready to submit to agents or publishers. Prepare yourself for rejections. You will get them, lots of them. Everyone does. There are many reasons why your writing might be rejected and it may not mean that your writing is bad. You may have submitted to an agent that doesn’t represent the type of story you’ve written. If you’ve written a romance and that agent is having more success with mysteries, then the agent might not choose your romance at that time. Remember, publishing is about business and money; what is selling, what is not, the current trends, etc.
Barb: How do you connect with other writers? How vital is that? Would you recommend beginners join writers groups and/or attend writing conferences? Give the wannabes your best advice!
Diane: Yes, yes, yes! It is extremely vital. Whatever stage your writing is at, there is always something else to learn. Writers groups and attending conferences are a necessity, not only for education but for networking, and opportunities to meet industry professionals like literary agents and publishing editors.
Barb: You’re talking about literary agents and publishing editors. These are the people writers have to face in order to “pitch” or promote the idea of their book for publication. For most people, the very idea brings them closer to pitching their lunch than their book! Give us a glimpse of what that was like for you when you started out.
Diane: I remember the first time I pitched to an agent. He was from the William Morris Agency in New York and was the agent for a published author in a writers’ group I had joined. I was so nervous I couldn’t complete a coherent sentence! Heat rose in my face and my palms were sweating. What saved me was he had asked for ten manuscript pages to be sent to him before he arrived. According to the published author, when the agent got off the plane, he had my pages in his hand. “I want to meet this lady,” he told him. So, after my interview and me fumbling my words, he asked for my complete manuscript and told me what he liked was that I hooked him from the first paragraph.
The second time I pitched a manuscript. I was at a writers’ conference and I had several appointments to pitch to literary agents and publishers. I had heard that I needed to be able to explain my book in one to two short paragraphs, called an elevator pitch. That’s easier said than done! I hadn’t been able to figure them out. My first appointment time arrived and I met with a publisher. I couldn’t talk, couldn’t complete a coherent sentence, but I tried to explain my book. My palms were sweating and my heart was pounding. He didn’t seem interested, so I finished with, “but, it’s a really good book!” I think he felt so sorry for me because he gave me his card and asked for the first three chapters. That was my only interview that night. I knew before I went into the next one tomorrow, I needed to have my elevator pitch down. I went back to my room by myself and worked until four in the morning. I finally gave up, prayed and told God I was leaving it to him, and went to sleep. At six o’clock I awoke with the words flooding into my mind. I knew I needed to get up and write those words down right then. I did and the rest of my appointments went much better with several requests for the manuscript.
Barb: Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into your life and your books! How can readers contact you?
Diane: I love to hear from readers. My email is Diane@DianeYates.com. They can visit my website at www.DianeYates.com and go to the contact page. I, also, welcome readers to follow me on my social media sites:
Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/author.dianeyates/
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Diane and I hope that her thoughts and experiences inspire any of you who have a story burning within you that is waiting to be told.
Visit her blog at Diane’s Ponderings for more from Diane Yates.
To hear a more detailed audio interview with Diane, click here.
I’ve shared some thoughts about my own mom here on the blog. You can see some photos and get to know her a little better here.
Questions? Comments! I’d love to hear from you, so please give me your thoughts.