Tag Archives: women’s fiction

Character descriptions: About Tilla

Characters are a vital part of any novel. And the more you know about a character, the more a reader becomes invested in the story. For better or worse, we care about the characters. We love them, hate them, imagine them, root for them — they become as real to us (if the book does its job) as the people in our lives, if only for a time. So I’ve decided to give character descriptions of the people who inhabit Bridey’s world in 1967.

In What You Don’t Know Now, Tilla McKenna is the 38-year-old mother of the main character, Bridey. Tilla is a loving, overprotective mother of three, a stay-at-home mom (many were at that time in the late ’60s — young women married just after the Second World War, producing the Baby Boom). She’s still in her own prime — a strawberry blonde with a trim figure who is far less aware of her appeal than she is concerned about the attention her tall, shapely 18 year old is getting from men along their tour in Europe.

Tilla becomes increasingly afraid and suspicious of the unfamiliar in their travels. She has good reason to be, in a sense — they are about to experience the less savory side of Europe.

Here’s a little piece from an early version of the book — it got cut, but it’s a good example of what Tilla was thinking before a scary incident in Germany:

     Tilla McKenna chewed on a caramel from the bag she bought at a candy shop. She offered one to the girls. Caramels were the only thing she liked as a substitute for the cigarette she really wanted. She’d only packed a carton of her Pall Malls; she’d have to make them last. Unlike her sister, Corinne, she couldn’t find a joke in their trip so far. There’d been bumps in the road: No tour guide appeared until they reached Bonn. They were staying in third-class hotels not listed on their itinerary. They were lost on the road. Lost a lot. There were the roaches in the girls’ room the night before. It was just one thing after another.

There weren’t any names for vigilant moms back then, but there are now: Helicopter Mom, SmotherLove. If you’ve read the book, what did you think about Tilla? (My editor wanted to strangle her at times.)

Let me know what you thought!


Tonight’s talk at the library

Writer- Be careful orThis is the press release for my talk and signing at a local library tonight 5/21/15. The question is (and it’s a common one for unknown, debut authors) — will anyone come?


“How much of this is real?”

The background for magazine writer and editor Marci Diehl’s debut novel What You Don’t Know Now could be set in 2015: Unpopular wars. Racial and cultural divisions. Heightened tensions between Russia and the West. Military actions in the Middle East. A generation navigating change. But the historical background is set in 1967, and an journey takes place “within and without” an 18- year- old American girl in Europe.
Since the release of her book in November 2014, Diehl says she finds readers intrigued especially by two topics.
“I get asked all the time: ‘Did this [story] really happen to you?’ and ‘How did you get your novel published?’ ” Diehl says. She’ll discuss the answers to these and other questions Thursday, May 21, 2015 at the Wood Library in Canandaigua, N.Y.
“Marci Diehl captures a nuanced tone in her writing of historical accuracy, the move to adulthood during a tumultuous time, and cultural beliefs of a small-town educated family in the Vietnam War era,” says Melissa E. Travis, PhD, MLS in a review. “The accuracy and cultural awareness in Diehl’s [novel] is stunning.”
Diehl used details from a real travel journal she kept years ago in the book – and based one character on her own uncle, the late Jack O’Connell, CIA Chief of Station for the Middle East during the late 1960s through 1971. O’Connell is the author of King’s Counsel: A Memoir of War, Espionage, and Diplomacy in the Middle East (W.W.Norton & Company).
The coming-of-age commercial novel is from Merge Publishing, based in Syracuse, and is available at the Wood Library, 134 North Main Street, Canandaigua NY. The talk and signing is 7p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

A reviewer & the complexities of genre

1967 Johnson with Kosygin

President Johnson meets with Russian Premier Kosygin 1967

I don’t think What You Don’t Know Now should be considered a romance novel. It’s really commercial women’s fiction. But these days, genres are getting more complex. Two reviewers have pointed this out so far.

Twitter has always been good to me. Years ago, I became connected with a peep and enjoyed her smart tweets and interaction. It turned out she’s a PhD MLS [a professor and a librarian], and when I asked for reviews on Twitter, she responded.

What I loved about both reviews (the other was from Carol White Llewellyn, who hosted me on her TV show Conversations With Creatives watch it here) was that each recognized that WYDKN contains elements of history and cultures, woven into a plot that included a romance. But it went deeper.

The 1960’s – via shows like Mad Men and certain movies — are starting to be called “period pieces.”

1967 – the year for this novel’s setting – is nearly 50 years ago. So among other things, WYDKN is also a period piece, but without the corsets and bustles.

Maybe a simple, clear-cut genre helps a book’s sales. Or a more complex genre-crossing helps. I don’t know. I just wanted to write a great story. So far, reviews have been favorable.

Here’s the latest review, by Melissa E. Travis, PhD., MLS — and I thank her for reading my novel and giving me her thoughts:

Marci Diehl’s book, What You Don’t Know Now, was fun and enjoyable to read. The setting in mid-1960s sifts through cultural and historical questions of the time.

Writing a review for it was a bit more complex for me because I had to think about the audience reading this book. The book isn’t quite suited for a young adult readership though the protagonist, 18-year-old Bridey, is coming of age and struggles with young adult challenges and some sexual circumstances. The struggle is especially significant because it reflects the struggle and questions of the era. It is also not quite a history book yet the accuracy and cultural awareness in Diehl’s is stunning.

Set in the Vietnam War period in the late 1960’s, it invites readers a peek into the secret worlds of spies and foreign opera singers. Author Diehl balances this coming of age romantic fiction with the political international complexities of the time. Diehl highlights cultural perspectives, and what it was like to tour through Europe only relying on travel agents before the era of ratings and online discussion forums.

Soldiers who volunteer for war pit their views against the young “liberal” views of the protagonist, who is determined that American soldiers shouldn’t be dying. These perspectives might be echoed today.

The backdrop of Bridey’s elusive uncle, who works for some embassy in the Middle East and requires a bodyguard, sets a tone of international upheaval. His concerns are even more global than the current Vietnam War. All the while, our protagonist Bridey flirts and comes into her own sexual freedom.

Marci Diehl captures a nuanced tone in her writing of historical accuracy, the move to adulthood during a tumultuous time, and cultural beliefs of a small-town educated family in the Vietnam War era. Diehl’s characters bring you in and her narrative captures the essence of the time.

Blog Tour: 20 questions with Mary Pat Hyland

Mary Pat Hyland newcoverportrait2_750x1000

At the end of this post — look for a great giveaway to enter!

Welcome to a blog tour! What’s that? It a bit like a virtual “appearance” of an author on another author’s blog. We do this so our readers can find other authors whose books you might like — and I think you’re really going to like Mary Pat Hyland’s fiction. She’s also someone I consider a role model for her prolific, quality writing and knowledge of publishing. And she’s the only person I know who can tweet in Gaelic!

Mary Pat Hyland is an Amazon Top 100 bestselling author and has published
six novels and a collection of short stories. Her short stories have
appeared in the anthologies Seasons Readings and Lost Love Letters: An
Indie Chicks Anthology. In 2013 the Arts Council of Yates County selected
her as an Artist in Residence. She is a graduate of Syracuse University
and has worked in the commercial/fine art, journalism, education and
culinary fields. Mary Pat resides in upstate New York, the setting for her
novels, and enjoys organic gardening, gourmet cooking, visiting the Finger
Lakes and teaching the Irish language.

You can find Mary Pat’s books on her website, Amazon.com, The Author’s eStore, and at Barnes & Noble.

I’ll be appearing on Mary Pat’s blog today answering my own 20 questions, so come on over and visit! And thanks, Mary Pat, for offering this chance to a debut author.

Today we’re asking Mary Pat 20 questions about herself and her latest book, In the Shadow of the Onion Domes.

Mary Pat Hyland oniondomes_cover_kindle

1) What’s your name?
Mary Pat Hyland

2) How long have you been writing?
I started writing a novel when I was in my early twenties. Never finished it. My first completed novel took ten years to write. Finished the first draft in 2005, published it in January 2008. I worked as a newspaper journalist for fifteen years, writing columns and editorials. The daily practice of writing for that job helped me immensely.

3) What genre do you write in?
I like to mix it up. I have a three-book chick lit series, a parody, a suspense novel, a family saga and my latest book is a short story collection.

4) What’s the name of your latest work?
In the Shadows of the Onion Domes

5) Why would these stories interest a reader?
The book is like a Whitman’s sampler of my writing styles. There’s drama, there’s humor. Some drift into Twilight Zone-ish magic realism. Others deal with real-life issues in a poignant way. The connecting factor is that each story is set in the same river valley along Upstate New York’s Southern Tier.

6) Where is the book available?
You can get the paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The eBook version is available in Kindle format now. Other formats will be available on Smashwords in late January 2015.

7) Who’s your favorite character in the book and why?
I get a kick out of Rosie, a fearless and spunky 80-year-old barmaid in The Rose of The First Ward. I’m also very fond of Maria and Angelo Caravita, a married couple whose love for each other is strengthened through an unexpected challenge in their lives.

8) What’s your website address?

9) Name three authors who have inspired your work.
Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and John Irving

10) What do you do to get through writer’s block?
Go for a walk. There’s something about the fresh air and change of scenery that helps re-charge the imagination.

I don’t do recommendations to follow people on social media easily — they have to be quality — but I love following Mary Pat’s entertaining, smart and fun posts, which often include some great music. Find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter as @cailinAolain. She’s also on Goodreads.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway contest to win an autographed copy of In the Shadows of the Onion Domes, copies of her ebooks or a piece of original art created by the author.
In the Shadows of the Onion Domes Rafflecopter giveaway