Friday, 4 March 2016

An Interview with Diana Stevan

Fresh from celebrating the release of her latest book, The Rubber Fence, Diana Stevan has agreed to join me today for an interview.

Diana was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the only child of immigrants from the Ukraine.

She married at 19, and together with her husband, Robert, Diana has been fortunate to travel extensively throughout North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. They have two children: Karen and Robyn, and three grandchildren.

Now, in Campbell River, British Columbia, Diana enjoys meeting with her fellow writers twice a month. She’s written a stage play, some short stories and many poems.

Thank you for joining us, Diana, and congratulations on the release of The Rubber Fence.
I'll start, if I may, by asking where the idea for The Rubber Fence came from?

The story was inspired by my work on a psychiatric ward in 1972. I was hired as a psychiatric social worker and worked closely with other psychiatric interns doing family therapy.

Would you describe your favourite scene or chapter in The Rubber Fence and tell us why it’s your favourite?

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when young mother, Teresa Boychuk, is confronted by her mother-in-law over the care of her baby. It leads to a disastrous outcome. I don’t want to say more as it gives away one of the key events in the novel.

And tell us which scene or chapter was the hardest for you to write?

One of the hardest scenes for me to write was a scene involving shock treatment. There was so much technical information and medical terms I had to learn that involved the psychiatric team.

Please give us an insight into your main character.

Dr. Joanna Bereza is a psychiatric intern who’s married to a university professor. They are childless and part of the reason she goes back for further studies is to fill that void. She is a doctor who finds it hard not to get emotionally involved with her patients and that caring blinds her to problems at home. In her drive to do what’s right, she risks both her career and marriage.

Did you develop characters from your personal experiences or draw from that of others?

A number of the characters were created from my personal experience, but there is not one character that is solely drawn from one individual. Many are composites or are characters with traits of people I’ve known. And a number are from my imagination. In the end, it is fiction and none of the characters portrayed are real.

And which, if any, of your personality traits did you write into your characters?

That’s a very interesting question. I think Dr. Joanna Bereza is like me in her passion for her work, and her compassion for others. Her naivety about what can be done to change a system is also a trait we share.

So which of your characters do you relate to the most?

I relate most to Joanna. I hold many of the same beliefs, but she has the courage I wish I had in a few of the jobs I’ve held.

I think I can guess who your favourite character is, but tell us anyway... and why?

My favorite character in the book is Joanna because she’s principled but she’s also flawed. She doesn’t see how her bull-headedness creates problems both at work and at home.

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

Another wonderful question. Names are very important to me. I have changed names a number of times. Joanna had a couple of different names before I settled on Dr. Joanna Bereza. I wanted her to have some ethnicity that wasn’t Anglo-Saxon, only because the city in which she practices is such a multi-cultural place.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

Love this question. For Dr. Joanna Bereza, Blake Lively. For Dr. Myron Eisenstadt, Stanley Tucci; for Michael, James Wouk; For Sam, Michael Huisman; For Jerome, Khleo Thomas.

Tell us about the cover and how it came about.

Jun Arles, a book cover designer in the Philippines, designed the cover for my debut novel, A Cry From The Deep. Since I was very pleased with his work, I went to him again. I gave him the synopsis of the story and this is what he came up with.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

I think the cover plays a very important part in the buying process. I know they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I wanted it to reflect some of the tough stories inside. There’s a figure on the cover, which for me indicates someone stuck, trapped, trying to get out. Like the people on a psych. ward.

Can you tell us anything about any of your current work(s)-in-progress?

I’m writing my grandmother’s story, set in Czarist Russia from 1915-1929, in the part of the world that is now western Ukraine. It’s been a labor of love as my grandmother and I shared a bedroom until I was fifteen. While writing about her, I came to understand why I never saw her cry. I think by the time she came to live at our house, she had put a stopper in her bottle of tears. I now know that if she had taken it out and let the tears flow, there would’ve been a flood.

The Rubber Fence is available to buy on Amazon

Moving on, let's get to find out a bit about you.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I first realized I wanted to be a writer in my early 20s. By that time, I was married and had two children. With my husband wanting to go back to university for his Master of Social Work, I put my writing on the back burner. It’s not an occupation you can rely on for a steady income.

And what motivates you to write?

I think it’s a calling. I’m compelled. It’s an obsession in many ways.

Do you like to get up early or stay up late?

I’m an early riser. It’s when I work best. I’m usually in bed by 10 with a good book.

What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?

A visit with my family, a walk in the woods, some writing and a quiet evening with my husband reading.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

The ability to get more done in less time. I have so many writing projects in mind. I also love gardening, sports, painting, and travel.

If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future, or anything else, what would you want to know?

I’d want to know that our world will be okay. That what we leave behind for our grandchildren and future generations is a cleaner greener world and a gentler one. And I would love to know if I will see my father and mother again.

You've travelled a lot, what foreign country would you still most like to visit? What attracts you to this place?

There are many countries I’d still like to visit. India would be the one I’d like to visit most of all. The people are wonderful, as is their food and culture.

What is your favourite holiday? Why?

That’s a tie. My favorite holidays are
1) New York City. Loved the art galleries, Central Park, all the walking we did, the theatre, the people and
2) Ireland, touring around the shores, the folklore, the pubs, the music, the narrow roads, the greens of the landscape and the stone circles and Celtic crosses.

What is the last concert you saw? And do you have any of their albums?

The last concert I went to was a house concert that our granddaughter Chloe and her friend Ava held in Toronto. They are both wonderful singers, songwriters and musicians. They have yet to record.

Who is your favourite actor of your own gender?

Meryl Streep is my favorite actor. I love her in Mama Mia.

Can you tell us the funniest thing that ever happened to you when you were a small child?

I’m not sure how funny it is, but when I was about four, I ran to my grandmother complaining that some boys had hit me. She took me by the hand, gathered the neighborhood children around in a circle, put a stick in my hand, and asked me to point them out. When I did, pointing and saying, “that boy hit me and that boy hit me,” she told me to hit them. I just pointed my stick more emphatically and repeated what I had said louder.

And finally, If you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss the most and which three books would you take along?

If I was stranded on a deserted island, I’d miss my husband the most. He’s been the rock in my life, my love and soul mate.
And the three books I’d bring would be: You Went Away by Timothy Findlay, a book of short stories by Alice Munro, and Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Thank you very much for joining me today, Diana, it's been fascinating.

Thank you so much Rainne for the interview. It’s been a pleasure.

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  1. Thanks again for the interview, Rainne. It was a pleasure answering your very interesting questions.