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DiAnn Mills Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"I love suspense and strong women who step forward to face challenges that are often left for men." --Diann Mills

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. DiAnn's first book was published in 1998, and she currently has more than 40 books in print, with combined sales of over one million copies.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive; Romance Writers of America's Faith, Hope, and Love chapter; and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins's Christian Writers Guild. DiAnn and her husband live in Houston, Texas.

You’ve said that you distinctly sensed God calling you to write. Could you describe to us how you knew this and the thoughts going through your head about whether to pursue writing as a career?

I remember sitting in choir one Sunday morning listening to the sermon when I sensed a “I want you to write.” I argued with the voice in my head stating:

1. I’m not qualified
2. Ask someone else

Then the same little voice said, “I didn’t ask them, I asked you.”

Why do we argue with God?

Anyway, I never forgot the experience, and I don’t mean to make light of it either. But I could not bring myself to even begin to write. I was afraid. I’d toyed with it since I was a child, but never a serious, committed task. Four years later, my husband challenged me to write a book. He insisted I quit my job, and he gave me a year to get anything published. His push along with the memory of God asking me to do the same propelled me into taking my writing seriously.
I never went back to a day job. :)

Many of your early works were straight romances for Heartsong. What was it that drew you to the romance genre and why do you enjoy writing romances?

Years ago, I heard Robin Jones Gunn answer this question quite appropriately. I’ll paraphrase her response: The Bible is a love story from the beginning to the end. God pursues His bride with a beautiful courtship in Genesis. All the way through His Word He woos and loves her, forgives her, and extends mercy and grace. On the final pages, Jesus rides across the horizon on a white horse to take His bride home. That’s true romance.

And now you’re writing romantic suspense with your Call of Duty series. Could you share with us how the idea for this series germinated? Did you know ahead of time you’d be writing multiple books? How did you decide which professions to cover?

I love suspense and strong women who step forward to face challenges that are often left for men. Now, I’m not a feminist; I simply believe in equality for both sexes.

For Breach of Trust, my husband and I were driving to visit family in rural Oklahoma when I thought: this is the most unlikely place for a CIA operative to hide out. The longer we drove, the more the story grew.

When I proposed Breach of Trust, I had the idea for two other books and slipped them into the proposal.
Sworn to Protect is about a woman who is a Border Patrol Agent. This idea came from living in Houston and knowing a Border Patrol agent.

Pursuit of Justice is about a woman who is an FBI agent. I have friends who are FBI agents, and their work interests me.

Sworn to Protect by DiAnn MillsSworn to Protect features a Border Patrol agent. I love the concept for this book. How much did your being a Texan influence you deciding to write about the Mexican/US border and the issues surrounding it?

I once had a young man babysit my four boys. He later became a Border Patrol Agent. That job probably was his training ground.

In addition, the Border Patrol is often in the news and usually the coverage is something not so favorable. I wanted to show how the BP are dedicated men and women who risk their lives to protect our borders.

Living in Houston provides many story ideas using the problems surrounding illegal immigration and smuggling drugs and weapons.

With any series like this I’m sure much research is required. What facts did you uncover about Border Patrol agents that particularly surprised you?

I was fortunate to obtain permission from Washington DC to ride the line with Border Patrol agents in McAllen, TX where the story is set.

Some things that surprised me:

1. Many agents change into their uniforms after they arrive at the station, and change back before driving home. This is done to protect their families. Many of them do not tell their young children what they do.

2. The isolation of their jobs means friendships and socialization are usually among their own peers.

3. The sincere compassion of the agents for those crossing illegally who may be ill or have spent all their life earnings in hopes of a better life. There are proper ways to enter access into the US, but those promising to lead the illegals safely into the US make it sound easy.

It used to be an uphill battle for a woman to prove herself in the police field. Luckily that’s changed a lot over the years, but has this same phenomenon happened in the Border Patrol? How unusual is it for a Border Patrol officer to be female, or isn’t it unusual at all?

I learned that although women are a minority in the Border Patrol, many of the men want a woman to prove herself. Sometimes it’s the woman who needs to prove she can handle a role that is traditionally a man’s job.

Share with us, if you will, how you came to choose the spiritual issues in Sworn to Protect. Did you have your take-away in mind at the start or did it come about more during the actual writing?

I wanted a story in which the heroine’s back story was filled with bitterness and actions some might term as “unforgivable.” I wanted to subtly show that God is always there for us; He simply wants us to ask. I also wanted to show God can and does call us into roles that others might not understand or appreciate.

How do you know when you’ve researched enough and it’s time to start writing a novel?

When the urge to write is driving me nuts. :)

A guideline is to research more than the writer will ever use. My goal is to research enough that I can write the story in the character’s POV as though I’m in his/her shoes. I dislike stories in which the writer simply puts words into a character’s mouth that are unrealistic or are there to show how much research was completed. Breach of Trust by DiAnn Mills

Not only are you a writer, but you’re a church librarian! I bet that gives you a great pulse on the Christian fiction marketplace. What most excites you about the changes we’ve had in Christian fiction over the past, say, ten or fifteen years and what would you still like to see change (if anything)?

More realistic stories that are unpredictable and life-like. We are called to live in a world as salt and light. But this world is full of crisis, stress, and tragedy. I want to know how a character responds to our world with a Christian worldview.

I’ve heard it only takes you three months or so to write a book. Is that just the actual writing or the research too? How do you keep up such a fast pace?

Three months of hard writing allows me to finish a book. When I receive a contract, I take the number of words needed to complete the manuscript and divide it by actual writing days. By writing days, I mean weekdays that are not holidays or filled with conferences or vacations. Then I subtract two more months. The answer gives me my word count for the day. In this way I know I will meet my deadline and have four weeks for my story to “cook” before a final editing. I write pretty clean copy as I go.

Ever had any unusual or embarrassing moments at a book signing or while performing research?

I suppose when a woman, with a rather loud voice, came up to my book signing table and said, “Oh, my goodness, a real live arthur!”

Another time a writer friend thought she was doing me a favor when she walked into a Barnes and Noble and said - rather loudly, “It’s DiAnn Mills. Oh, I’ve got to have your picture. I love your books.” etc.

What would you love to write someday but haven’t yet?

More suspense themes: Secret Service, FBI series, Police work. I also enjoy writing historical suspense. :)

What was the lowest point in your writing career, and how did you get out of it?

I wanted to move from writing only romance to suspense, which meant almost four months without a contract.
To keep my mind busy, I took online and distance learning college classes and read constantly.

When the Nile Runs Red by DiAnn MillsWould you call yourself a Christian fiction writer or a fiction writer who happens to be a Christian? Why?

Interesting question. I’d say I’m a writer who is Christian. I may someday write a story that does not have one word about God, but Truth will always be there.

Anything else you’d like to share with TitleTrakk.com readers?

I love to hear from readers! If you are a reader, thank you for supporting writers by purchasing and reading books. If you are a writer, keep writing! If you are both, then you have been given a gift and a passion for communicating with the written word for a wonderful reason. So use it!

What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

Somewhat of a daredevil.

I’m afraid of dogs - which contradicts the above. I went to Sudan by myself, and yet the neighbor’s dog frightens me. I’m sure there’s an app for that. :)

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

Reading, cooking

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Steel Cut Oatmeal and lots of black coffee

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

apples, bottles of water, grape tomatoes

You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?

Grande coffee of the day - no room for cream.
And maybe an oatmeal cookie. :)

What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?

A trip to the Holy Lands
To see revival in our country
To spend Christmas In Ireland

When was the last time you cried?

Yesterday. One of my writing students won the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel.

Three words that best describe you:

Dramatic, feisty, and disciplined.
The above came from my husband.

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

Celtic Music - contemporary and traditional Christian

Thank you!

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C.J. DarlingtonC.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.