Saturday, October 23, 2010

Interview with Diane Dryden-Hometown Author in the Spotlight

Interview with Diane Dryden: Hometown Author in the Spotlight.

  1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I lived in Chicago for 28 years and now I live in the little City of Shell Lake, population 1,400. My husband and I have three children and eight grandchildren. I adore reading, gardening and cooking and all the things required of a true country woman.

  1. What is the inspiration behind the story of The Accidental King of Clark Street?
The Accidental King of Clark Street oddly enough reflects life in the country. When my family and I moved north, we were lulled with the promise of ‘Five Acres and Freedom,’ or at least that’s what one of the most popular books said we’d have. It was the end of the sixties and many people were leaving city life and going back to the land to be self-sufficient. It was hard work with no money but we made it and I think that’s why many of my homeless people in all three books make it too. There’s just something in the human spirit that steals itself, grits its teeth and makes the worst circumstances work, especially if someone reaches out and gives them a hand up, not just a hand out.

  1. Why did you decide to place your novels in Chicago and particularly on Clark Street?
Every Christmas the women in my family would venture to the section of Chicago’s Clark Street that was called Andersonville due to the vast amount of Swedes and Norwegians who settled there after coming over on the boat. I had a great aunt and uncle who lived in the narrow streets behind the shops in Andersonville, and we visited the area to buy the special foods that graced our Swedish Christmas Eve table. I grew up with the sights, the sounds and the smells of Sweden, right there in the city. They always say write what you know, and I knew Chicago.

  1. What is Clark Street like today in 2010?
Because Clark Street is located in a large city, it looks pretty much today as it did then because there is no place to build anything new. The last time I was there this past March, all the Swedish shops and bakeries and delis were gone. The area is now replete with Greek and Indian owners. The Swedish Children’s Museum is still there and as much fun as ever. It’s very sad, but the memories are even sweeter now. Kind of like an old boyfriend.

  1. Why did you decide to use the issue of Homelessness as a theme or backdrop in your book?
I believe that all some people need is a helping hand to help turn their lives around. Not everybody, but some. There are people who like their troubled circumstances, whatever they are, because it evokes sympathy for a while and some people are not willing to do the hard things to change their lives. Cop out is easy and after a while, no one expects anything of you. It’s a choice to succeed or not and I would imagine everyone knows someone who always acts like the preverbal victim.

  1. What are some of the other issues in the book that you hope your readers will interpret as integral to the story?
The most important thing I want to convey in all my books is a sense of companionship. The circumstances of life are constantly changing; fellow employees move on, neighbors come and go and today even family members come and go. But there is something special when you can connect with others, even if it’s just for a short time. Everyone leaves an impression on someone else and small acts of kindness can make a bigger impression than we will ever know.

  1. This is your first book.  Can you tell us why you decided to become a writer?
After a life of playing around with writing, stories I never pursued to publish and things written for my own pleasure, our county newspaper, a ma and pa operation, hired me on a story to story basis because they didn’t have time to cover events or interview the public. Shortly thereafter the paper was purchased by a larger paper and they asked if I wanted to stay on. I’ve been writing feature stories full time since then. I also realized that if you delved beneath the surface of others, everyone has a story. I decided that I would like to make up my own people and give them stories of their own.

  1. What did you do before your career as an author?
I’ve been one of those people who love working but I like a variety. I’m a certified optician from my Chicago days and I still work in the optical field when a local ophthalmologist’s office needs me. I also owned a catering service for over 20 years and a restaurant for four and I’ve probably made over 400 wedding cakes. This proves I like to cook!

  1. Your characters strike me as regular people.  Did you model your characters after people you know?
All the characters in the books are either like people I know or a composite of people I’ve met. Writing also takes a life of its own and sometimes I have characters walk into a book that I don’t like, and I get rid of them as soon as possible, others I keep. The odd balls remind me of people in my own life who drove me nuts. I like regular people’s stories because they’re more interesting that rich people who have the tendency to talk on and on about themselves, while patting themselves on the back. Regular people struggle, and that’s what makes them who and what they are. Because both Mayor Daley’s have played such a huge part in Chicago’s history  for over 40 years, I had to write in Richard J, the first mayor, into the book. I sent a copy to his son, Richard M, and he sent back the nicest note of thanks. I mean, the mayor of Chicago sent me a thank you note? Way cool.

  1. Is this book a part of a series or does each of your books stand alone?
There are three books in the series. They all take place in Chicago, the city I still love with a passion and visit as often as I can. The first two books take place on the north side, which are, The Accidental King of Clark Street and Double or Nothing on Foster Avenue, and the last one takes place on the south side and its titled Scott Free in Chinatown. It would be best to read them as a series, but they’re all stand alone books too. Each book ends with a twist, so you might not want to read the last chapter first.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about your 2nd book and give us an idea on what your 3rd book will be about?
The second book carries through with several of the main characters while adding others. It’s a strange analogy, but the first book was like putting long hair up in a pony tail; grab it in one bunch and tie it up. The second book was more like braiding. Divide the hair into three sections and weave them together. The third book was more like French braiding. Start at the top, weave in some side pieces to the main braid and keep repeating the adding of the side hair to the main braid until you reach the bottom. The books got harder to write because I didn’t want to drop off key characters from the previous book so I kept weaving them in. Believe me; it’s not easy to do. A few key characters were introduced in book one and they are still in book three.

  1. Please tell us in one sentence why we should read, The Accidental King of Clark Street.
The nicest compliments I’ve received came from a number of people who all said the same thing when the book was over, they all wanted to stay on Clark Street and live with the characters forever and be a part of their world.