Diana Biller’s debut The Widow of Rose House recently launched from St. Martin’s Griffin. I was excited to catch up with Diana to find out what has gone into the making The Widow of Rose House.
What was the pitch for
The Widow of Rose House?
I think it was something like “a gothic Victorian romance perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn,” which was all my agent’s work, because I am terrible at pitching my own books. I only recently figured out how to describe Rose House; for several years people would ask me what my book was about and I’d say “it’s a historical romance? With ghosts, I guess? Set in the Gilded Age?”
Do you have a story about how you started writing The Widow of Rose House?
I have a wonderful critique partner, Rachel Lyn Paxton, who wanted to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2015 together. I was struggling to edit a book I’d written a few months earlier, and was going through one of those writerly cycles where you’re convinced you’ll never have a good idea again (or even a mediocre one. Writers are the worst.) So, it was the day before NaNoWriMo was set to start, and I went off to pout in the bath about what a braindead failure I was, and then…poof. The story landed in my head. It first appeared as “Edith Wharton, ghost hunter,” but I think 75% of the elements that made it into the book came within 15 minutes. I’ve since realized how rare moments like that are!
What motivates you to put words on the page. Do you have a ritual when you sit down at the computer/notepad?
Probably the most important thing I do while writing is setting a timer. While the timer is running, I’m not allowed to check social media. I find my attention (and frankly, my mental health) is so much better when I’m deliberate about my social media time.
What are your favorite writing tools? Computer? Pen?
Both! I love my computer. I use Scrivener, which I know is not for everyone, but I’m very bad at holding my whole book in my head, and I love the way it lets me see my whole manuscript. But when it comes to thinking, I always use pen and paper.
Do you have a time of day that’s a sweet spot for words?
I try very hard to get my writing done in the morning. I’m at my freshest and my calmest, and then the rest of the day usually goes better because I’ve already written.
Advice for novice writers?
Remember, you and your writing are the same thing, and treat yourself accordingly. Keep your creative well stocked with new experiences.
Let’s Talk about Diana
I know you recently got a tattoo which I believe was your first?
It was my first! It’s of a vintage lightbulb, which has been a symbol of The Widow of Rose House for me (although technically not historically accurate…lightbulbs came along a little later). The tattoo is on my wrist, with three dots, like an ellipses, leading upwards from it. The idea is to add a symbol for each book I publish, to remind myself during those braindead failure moments, of the books I’ve already created.
I spied a pile of extra-loved Georgette Heyer on your bookshelf and it appears that you read widely. Any favorites you’d like to share?
Georgette Heyer was my first introduction to the historical romance genre—a friend lent me one of her novels when I was fourteen or fifteen and I proceeded to inhale her entire collection. I find some of the books difficult to read now (the anti-Semitism in The Grand Sophy, for example, is quite something), but they were very formative.
As for favorites, there are too many to list! Or at least too many to gush about in the way they deserve. I adore Sherry Thomas, I think her My Beautiful Enemy is one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. I’ll buy anything Talia Hibbert or Lucy Parker or Jenny Crusie write. I just read Jen DeLuca’s Well Met and loved it so much I bought a second copy on audiobook.
I’m slightly obsessed with Jo Walton (everyone, please read The Just City and get back to me). And I’m still recovering from Terry Pratchett’s death—Granny Weatherwax may be my favorite character in all of literature. Oh! And I just read Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and have not stopped thinking about it. Okay, this answer is now three paragraphs long so I’m just going to end it here! Books are awesome and I love them.
Is it my imagination or do you harbor a love of ill-kept gardens?
Well, I’d never realized it until now…but that’s clearly true. What could be more magical? Who knows what you might find underneath that overgrown rosebush?
Tell us about your furry family member!
Well, I just adopted a cat so now I have two! My dog, Valentino, is the best writing dog in the world. He has a bed underneath my desk and every morning when I head towards my office to write he just runs to it immediately. And I think my cat, Giselle, might be a moon goddess who has decided to briefly take the form of a cat, but I don’t have all the info yet.
Favorite Festive Food or Drink?
All of it. Give me a holiday-themed beverage and I will both drink it and Instagram it.
Favorite Non-Writerly thing to do?
I love my adult ballet classes! I started them about two years ago, after a long bit of “staring longingly” time. There’s something so wonderful about spending an hour-and-a-half doing nothing but focusing on moving your body beautifully. I’m incredibly grateful for them.
What are you reading/watching on TV right now? Recent Film you’ve seen?
I’m mildly obsessed with On Becoming a God in Central Florida. It’s like Twin Peaks if Twin Peaks was set near Disney World and was about a multi-level marketing scam. And the last film I saw was Hustlers, which was 100% incredible and definitely my favorite movie about the 2008 financial crisis to date.
You may invite two famous people living or dead to a fabulous catered brunch. Who do you choose and why?
Britney Spears and Terry Pratchett. I have no justification but I feel like really good about my choices.
What are you writing now? We can keep a secret.
I’m working on a book set in 1878 Paris, which has been a wild trip.
One last question before I let you get back to work. First thing that pops into your head - no cheating - A strange experience you’ve had…
Last year, my husband and I were watching Roswell and a meteorite flew past our window, in a trail of green fire. We both just kind of sat on our couch going, did that really just happen?
You can find Diana Biller’s The Widow of Rose House in bookstores everywhere!
Link to The Widow of Rose House
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