Interview with Diane Van der Westhuizen

What motivated you to become an indie author?
Publishers tend to follow trends to try and net readers of a popular genre, for example the Twilight series spawned a plethora of other vampire novels. My book, on the other hand, is quirky and doesn't fit into publishers' 'pigeonholes' of what they perceive to be the Next Big Thing. So, I took my book, my future as an author and fate into my own hands and traveled this path (mostly on my own) over a number of years. The result? A polished, tight story written with attention to every aspect of the storyline and character. Writing what is in one's own heart gives authors the freedom to give life to their story without trying to second-guess the publisher or agent's opinion.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The power of Smashwords lies in its ability to spread the word about my book into every nook and cranny of the internet. As an author, it gives me the freedom to do what I do best - write, without having to spend as much time marketing my book as I normally would. Thank you Smashwords!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
My greatest joy, as a young adults author, lies in weaving the magic I discovered in books I read in my youth into my tales. I can let my imagination run rumpant with crazy, wonderful characters and exotic, imaginary locations. However, the adult in me absolutely adores being able to show young adults the wonderful potential that lies within them. I would definitely say that inspiring young people to live a fear-free life is my number one joy.
What do your fans mean to you?
Without my fans, this solitary journey would be meaningless. Authors spend long, lonely hours (with my beloved cat, Muffin at my side :-)) hoping that, what they are writing is worthy and will be well-received. So, after a book's release, just the contact with one happy reader makes the often difficult path so worthwhile. I treasure every single message or feedback I receive. And, as a natural born teacher/writer (in my head anyway :-)), I happily correspond one-on-one with my readers to encourage them to read more and give them the benefit of my experience as a writer if they wish to write.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on another young adults book (although I have adult readers who have had a 'taste' of it and love it), The Friendly Desert. It is a story based on the real life experiences of a friend who lived in Dubai. My friend and her son saved a badly-injured seagull, Nelson. They took him back to their apartment (which is against the tenant's rules) and kept the beautiful, noisy in their bathroom. They fed Nelson on prawns and bacon and egg and had to keep prying eyes away from their 'secret' as they would have been evicted if he had been discovered. The result is a funny, witty story about a young boy's love for the Great Black-Backed Gull and how he taught the bird to walk and, finally, to fly once again.
Who are your favorite authors?
In middle age, I have gravitated towards books that attempt to explain the meaning of life; books that inspire and help to overcome the fears that may have been instilled in us as children. As a result, I mostly read Dr Wayne Dyer (over and over again), Neale Donald Walsh, John DeMartini and John Kehoe.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The excitement of discovering that my book has reached more readers and the feedback I receive is as thrilling to me as opening a gift on Christmas morning. That, coupled with the satisfaction of doing my best every day to entertain others, is my greatest gift.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I would say I mostly read, do research or spend time with dear, close friends who have supported me during the moments of doubts about my writing skills. These friends have been instrumental in me not giving up (over almost of decade of trial and error), tears, frustration and now, finally, satisfaction and accomplishment.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
My greatest source would be the release by an author I currently read and recommendations by others reader and authors.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do! And it was horrendous! As an introverted teenager I read cheap romance novels. Needless to say, that inspired me to try and write cheap romance novels. It is fortunate that I only began writing later in life in earnest, otherwise I most probably would have continued writing romance novels. However, these novels definitely have a place in the market, but I find writing inspirational stories fulfilling and so very satisfying.
What is your writing process?
I don't really have a writing regime. I calmly wait for inspiration or an idea (I always carry pen and paper with me - especially next to my bed at night). I find that putting pressure on myself to achieve a word count is counter-productive and, if I try to force the process, what I write is 'padding' and uninspired. On days like that I find that most of what I write I will have to pare down or even downright delete. I am a perfectionist and I will give my readers the best of what I am able to write and nothing less.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I cannot remember the first story I read. However, as a result of the fairy tales I read as a very young child, the child in me still wonders if there are fairies at the bottom of my garden. That sense of magic has never left me and, by association, it opens my mind up to possibilities that perhaps would be more daunting if 'real' life is all I wrote about.
How do you approach cover design?
I tend to look at the main theme of the story holistically and choose a scene from the book that best encompasses the storyline.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
My top five books would have to be: Being in Balance (Dr Wayne Dyer); Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien), As I Walked Out One Midsummer's Morning (Laurie Lee), Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) and The Power of Now (Eckardt Tolle). The mixture of wisdom, magic (Dyer, Tolkien and Tolle) and beautiful writing and wit (McCourt and Lee) have the ability to put me in front of my laptop and write on days that I didn't think I would have it in me to write.
What do you read for pleasure?
For pleasure I tend to read biographies and autobiographies. I enjoy reading the life stories about people who have succeeded when all seemed to be lost. However, my cherry on the top would be anything by P J O'Rourke. His ability to write tight, descriptive sentences using the most unusual analogies often leave me breathless, making me read the sentence over and over again in awe. For the sheer beauty of the use of the written word, I love Laurie Lee. I have seldom read someone with his fantastic ability to paint with words. One short sentence from Mr Lee can be crammed with images, tastes and smells that defy imagination.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I don't have a kindle; I download to my laptop.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I would have to say that Smashwords, facebook and radio interviews have been the most advantageous. I was recently interviewed by Cyrus Webb (Conversations Live) in the United States, and that interview has sparked a phenomenal interest in my book, Wild Avengers. Cyrus is also a top Amazon reviewer and he gave my book a fantastic 5 star review!
Published 2015-01-03.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Seagull and the Sheikh
You set the price! Words: 101,130. Language: English. Published: April 4, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
A family's determination to save the life of an injured seagull draws them into a web of industrial espionage and royal intrigue. More than the seagull's feathers are ruffled when they find themselves in the cross hairs of a crooked boss, a scrotty private eye and a royal family.
Chilli Bites
You set the price! Words: 23,860. Language: English. Published: November 13, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Crime thriller
Dark humour spices these twisted tales of love, betrayal and revenge; where the innocent have the pleasure of watching Karma deliver the coup de grace to the unsuspecting guilty.
Wild Avengers
You set the price! Words: 99,120. Language: English. Published: December 19, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Action & Adventure / Survival Stories, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
A whale has beached itself on the shores of the River Novus. The world watches, willing her to live, as she struggles to survive. But a dark force wants the whale to die. Morbidius Ultimatum, a diabolical creature who draws his power from humanity’s negative emotions, knows that the whale’s death will generate so much sorrow for him to feed on that he will become invincible.