My debut novel, THE YEAR THE MUSIC CHANGED, published by The Toby Press in 2005.
Give us a one sentence synopsis.
Set in 1955, it is told as a year-long correspondence between a shy teenage girl who wants to be a poet and a young country singer on the way up, whose name is Elvis.
Who are the main characters and who would you like to see portray them in a movie?
The main characters are Achsa McEachern, a 14-year-old Atlanta girl whose mouth is disfigured by a scar from an operation to correct her congenital hare lip, and Elvis, a young Mississippi singer on the way up whose name is Elvis. Yes, that Elvis. I would like them to be played by two unknowns in a small, independent film.
Tell us about the story, but please don't reveal too much.
The year is 1955. Isolated at school by her intelligence and a disfiguring facial scar, troubled at home by disturbing undercurrents in her parents' marriage, 14-year-old Achsa McEachern seeks solace in the tunes and rhythms on her radio. After hearing a record by an unknown 20-year-old country singer named Elvis Presley, she fires off a deceptively self-assured fan letter, probably his first, telling him he is going to be a star. Insecure in the world he is entering and burning with a desire to succeed, Elvis answers her and enlists her to teach him how to "talk good." The ensuing correspondence chronicles their coming of age as artists (she wants to be a poet) and individuals. Able to confide in no one else, they share with each other their most private dreams and fears. Elvis becomes Achsa's sounding board as she watches her beautiful, emotionally distant mother and her sternly religious father lurch toward tragedy, confronts her own scarred mouth and faces a shattering loss. The young singer's responses reveal his fierce, aching innocence in the year before his star burst forth and offer a glimpse into the grassroots history of the early days of rock and roll.
What inspired you to write this book and how long did it take?
The novel was inspired by my parents, although they are mostly not like the parents in the book, except that my mother was heartstoppingly beautiful and my father was deeply religious. Obviously I exaggerated these characteristics in the book, and invented the difficulties in their relationship.
My second novel, IN WILDERNESS, involves a doomed relationship in an isolated mountain setting between a 20-year-old boy who was a soldier in Vietnam and is suffering from what would be diagnosed today as PTSD and a 38-year-old professional woman with a mysterious and devastating illness, which would be recognized today as pesticide poisoning, who has fled to the mountains to die. It is currently with an agent. My novel-in-progress, FINGER COVE, takes place in a mountain resort/retirement community that is running out of water.
Which authors inspired you, your style?
Books that inspired THE YEAR THE MUSIC CHANGED included To Kill a Mockingbird, for tone and atmosphere; The Diary of Anne Frank, for depth of character; and Catcher in the Rye, for teenage angst.
Where can we learn more about you and your books?
You can find out more about me and my books at www.dianethomas.net
How can we follow you? Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.
I am on Twitter @dianethomaswrit and also on Facebook and LinkedIn
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
My writing is like meditation. I value it for the process of doing it and would continue to do it even if I knew I would never again get published in my lifetime. I am so pleased to have found it.