Today we’re featuring Diana Leagh Matthews on the blog. I love the lesson she wants readers to take away from her books.
Diana Leagh Matthews’s Book & Writing Process
Table of Contents
Q: What is the title of your book and what is it about?
A: Carol of the Rooms. Hardened and angry, Terri Neely has shut everyone around her out. Until an out-of-body experience forces her to hear the soundtrack of her life as she visits her past, present, and future. Can she change her course before it’s too late?
Publication date: November 7, 2023.
That’s interesting. I’m getting A Christmas Carol vibes.
Q: What genre is Carol of the Rooms?
A: Christian Christmas Women’s Fiction
Q: What inspired you to write your book, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
A: “Carol of the Rooms” is a spin on “A Christmas Carol.” I began writing after being betrayed by a friend. Early in the manuscript, I recognized the similarity of Terri (my main character) to Ebenezer Scrooge. This provided the basic format of the story (visiting the past, present, and future). But there are a lot of twists and turns and differences to the classic story as well.
I’m sorry to learn a friend has betrayed you. That’s always a difficult thing to experience. But this is a case where God used to create beauty from pain.
Q: What are some themes and tropes that are included in your book?
A: It’s never too late to make a change. There’s still hope for those we love, so we should not give up on them. The soundtrack of our life helps us understand who we are.
I love that. I wonder what the soundtrack of my life would include.
Q: What’s the one thing you want readers to take away from reading your book?
A: No matter what you’ve done or how bad it may seem, God still loves you and is waiting for you with open arms.
That’s a powerful message, and one we often need to be reminded of.
Q: Share a favorite quote or two from this book.
A: Dead. At least that’s the way Terry Neely felt. Her heart had died long ago—which was exactly how she preferred to live her life.
God had helped her discover contentment and unconditional love.
Wow! I believe these two quotes do an excellent job of showing the character’s growth. In the first one, it’s evident that she hasn’t yet learned her lesson. There’s a complete turnaround in the second quote!
Q: Plotter or pantser? Share a bit of your writing process.
A: Definitely a pantser. I may know the general direction I plan to go, but the story reveals itself during the writing process. Often, the characters decide to go in unexpected directions.
I’m a pantser as well, so I understand those characters who refuse to do what you tell them. LOL.
Q: How long does it take you to complete a writing project?
A: It really depends on what other time commitments I have. (I work full time.) A book has taken anywhere from three weeks to two years (but I took a break from that project and wrote two other books in between.) On average, I’d say about six to nine months.
That’s a good average, especially with a full-time job.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing? How did you (do you plan to) overcome it?
A: For writing, learning how to show vs. tell. Critique partners and editors have been invaluable help. For publishing, learning the industry and processes of what works and what to expect.
Those are things many writers struggle with.
Q: What do you do when you’re stuck or have writer’s block?
A: Step away from it for a while. It depends on how stuck I am. Sometimes it’s a few days away as I go for a long drive or immerse myself in music. Other times, I may work on another project for a while and then come back to it.
Excellent advice. Sometimes, a break is all we need to give us fresh insight into a piece we’re struggling with.
Q: Why do you write?
A: Writing is my form of expression and how I work through my feelings and emotions. There are times when words consume me and beg me to get out.
I love that—the idea that the words need to come out of you. That reminds me of the prophet Jeremiah who said the words became like “fire in his bones”
Writing Advice from Diana Leagh Matthews
Q: What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting?
A: There’s a lot to learn. Don’t be in a rush. Take time to learn the craft and the business of writing. Attend conferences and join critique groups. Make connections. Never give up, no matter how long it takes. Above all, pray, pray, pray.
This is all wonderful advice, but I love the emphasis on prayer. As Christian authors, we need to remain connected to Christ, who is the Source of our creativity.
Q: What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received? How has it impacted your life?
A: To write from the heart. It took a while to find my voice and what I’m passionate about, but as I found my voice, it became easier to write from my pain and my place of healing.
Yes. It’s easy to read a favorite author and not realize how much time and effort it took for them to become that author we love.
Q: What’s the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Why do you think this was not good advice?
A: That I had to do it all. It’s just not possible, especially with a full-time job and family. Instead, it’s finding our strengths and strong suits. Once those are mastered, then we can learn more and find ways to strengthen our weaknesses.
I couldn’t agree more. If we had to do all the things, we’d need to hire an entire team! And yes, working on improving our weaknesses is how we’ll become better writers.
Q: If you could go back and change one thing in your author career, what would it be and why?
A: When I first started, it was drilled into me that I had to have a blog, a business license, etc. Then nothing materialized for years and years and years. I’d have gone at a more natural pace for myself to see where my niche and heart were and what doors opened.
I had a similar experience. I started with a blog and there were so many things we were told we should do that it quickly became overwhelming.
Q: What is one writing resource that you couldn’t do without?
A: Edie Melson’s thewriteconversation.blogspot.com has a wealth of information.
I’ll need to check that website out. Thanks for recommending it.
Just for Fun
Q: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?
A: Time travel. History is fascinating and it would be amazing to witness some events firsthand.
Time travel could be fun.
Q: If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why?
A: Ebenezer Scrooge after his transformation. I’d love to hear how his change of heart had impacted his outlook and attitude on life and the ways he found to give back and make his community a better place. (Okay, maybe I’ve spent too much time with “A Christmas Carol” lately. :))
LOL. I wonder if hearing Ebenezer’s story would change the one you wrote for Carol. Or maybe there’d be parallels between the two.
Q: If you were not a writer, what would you want to be and why?
A: I’ve been a genealogist for over thirty years. Sometimes I wish that I’d pursued it on a more professional basis, particularly as genetic genealogy has evolved into a career.
Genealogy is a fascinating field. I’m certain it has impacted the stories you write.
Let’s Connect with Diana Leagh Matthews
Q: What are you working on next?
A: Forever Changed will be released this spring. One tragedy sent her running, another pulled her back. Danielle Davis is on the verge of all her dreams coming true until a tragic accident forces her back home, where she inherits her sister’s seven children and two elderly grandmothers. Can she find a way to balance her dreams and responsibilities?
Oh, dear! That’s a lot of people to inherit. LOL. I’d love to find out how Danielle navigates the changes in her life.
About Carol of the Rooms
Terri Neely is propelled by greed and ambition. She refuses to let anyone—except for her beloved Gramps—past her hard exterior.
Long ago, her faith wavered, and her love of music turned to hate. That is until an accident forces her to view the soundtrack of her life as she visits her past, present, and future.
Can the songs in Terri’s life change her heart and restore her faith before it’s too late?
About Diana Leagh Matthews
Diana Leagh Matthews shares God’s love through her story from rebel to redeemed. Her day job is as a volunteer coordinator, but at night she writes and hunts genealogy. She gives programs as a speaker, teacher, and vocalist. She also presents historical monologues.
Leagh (pronounced Lee) is the author of Carol of the Rooms, History Made Real, 90 Breath Prayers for the Caregiver, and others in the Breath Prayers series. She also writes the history behind hymns at DianaLeaghMatthews.com. While there, you can sign up for her monthly newsletter where she shares all her news first.