A hybrid author who also coaches aspiring authors, Dianne G. Sagan was on the Amazon Best Sellers list for 42 weeks with Rebekah Redeemed and The Fisherman’s Wife from her Women of the Bible series. She has ghostwritten 10 books for an international clientele, six of which were bestsellers. Sagan has published mysteries and books—The Hybrid Author, The Hybrid Author Companion Journal, and Tools and Tips for Writers—with tips for writers to hone their craft.
When did you get started as an author, and how? What was your first success?
My first marriage was a disastrous pairing. My husband was quite abusive, to a point approaching homicide, and when I left, it was on the run, three small children in tow, to a women’s shelter.
As a therapeutic exercise, I wrote down the story of my marriage and divorce. It was far too painful to write it in first person, so I wrote it in third, printed it, and put it on a closet shelf, where it stayed for 10 years. About seven years after my divorce, I met my current husband, who was also divorced and the survivor of an abusive relationship. When I finally mentioned to him the manuscript sitting in my closet, he asked me if he could read it. Then he told me that I should write more. This was a new vote of confidence for me. After numerous rewrites I finally pitched my “third-person autobiography” to a number of small publishers, and the third one accepted it.
The small publisher who accepted my first book, Shelter from the Storm, turned into a disappointment for me, but my creative rights were, and still are, bound to that publisher. When I realized that my first book was not going to reach the market, I decided to explore a different path, which included a change of genre, and that decision produced my first commercially viable novella, Rebekah Redeemed.
Why did you choose Christian fiction as the genre in which to write? Is it difficult to do research to create your stories in this genre? What do readers like best about this genre?
Like most authors, I suppose, I love to read. My reading experience inevitably includes some Christian fiction. But one of the things that disappoints me about what I call “typical Christian fiction” is the homogeneity: one “true” faith, one kind of hero, one kind of villain. My husband, who has followed a path of spiritual variety and exploration, constantly asks me thought-provoking questions like, “Do you believe God can be surprised?” He is an excellent sounding board for all kinds of things, and one of the lines of thought he stimulated for me was, “What might it have been like for a Jewish woman living at the same time as Christ to meet him and have him counsel her on a problem common to her day?” Hence Rebekah Redeemed and the others in the series. I should mention that I don’t consider myself to be a “Christian fiction” writer. I consider my Women of the Bible series to be historical fiction with a Christian message.
Tell us about how you got into general women’s fiction and now mystery. How has writing in one genre helped you with the others?
I started writing general women’s fiction out of the conviction that not everyone understands life from a woman’s point of view. That conviction is matched by another equally compelling conviction that it’s still “a man’s world” when it comes to how women are treated in fiction even today. Over time we seem to have traded one stereotype of women—weak, silly, and sexy—for another stereotype of women—strong, serious, and sexy. My own interest is in portraying women with no stereotypes permanently attached to any of them. I spend a lot of time reading mysteries, watching mysteries on television, and contemplating mysteries in my own life and world, so writing about them is a way to reach the kind of resolution that is so often missing from reality.
Why did you decide to self-publish?
I realized that the extraordinary advances in technology made it possible to self-publish works approaching the same standards of quality that traditional publishing offered. Once I realized this—and it was not easy overcoming my prejudices about self-publishing—it only took one more development to motivate me, and that was the realization that I could write faster than my publisher could produce.
To the beginning author who is deciding about self-publishing vs. traditional publishing, what are three tips you would share?
My three tips for any path to publishing are editing, editing, editing. There is simply no substitute for quality work. I would tell any aspiring author to erase her biases for or against any path to publication. It works better, in my opinion, to objectively consider the advantages and disadvantages of every path and to suit the path to the work.
Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor with a passion for books.