This week’s interview is with Diane Zinna. I got to hear her speak recently about her book THE ALL-NIGHT SUN and was enthralled by her journey as a writer and some of the themes in her book. Read below about how she writes in her car, books that have guided her, and how she overcomes writer’s block. And don’t forget to share this interview (on Twitter – see link) or comment below for a chance to win a copy of Diane’s book!
Diane Zinna is originally from Long Island, New York. She received her MFA from the University of Florida and went on to teach creative writing for ten years. She was formerly the executive co-director at AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, helping to match more than six hundred writers over twelve seasons. The All-Night Sun, her first novel, was recently longlisted for The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize. Diane lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter.
What’s something about you that most people wouldn’t know?
I wrote almost all of THE ALL-NIGHT SUN in my car, with my laptop propped against the steering wheel! When my daughter was born, I had a hard time separating from her to do anything for myself. My husband would encourage me to go write at a café across town, and I’d try to go there, but I’d usually only get down the block before getting too nervous that something would happen that would require me to come home quickly. So I started pulling into the parking lot at a shopping center around the corner and just wrote there, with the motor still running. Over the past eight years it’s become where I feel most comfortable. I guess the muse knows to find me there. She floats out to me from the storefronts of CVS and Ross Dress for Less! But really, I’m away from Wi-Fi, so there’s less distraction for me; I am in a space where I can adjust the view and the temperature; and if I’m stuck, I can drive around and think a scene through while in motion, which always helps.
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
As a teen, I remember having a formative experience with The Once and Future King, a novel by T.H. White based on the Arthurian legend. The first part of the book shows young Arthur interacting with nature and animals, and then when it finally comes time for him to pull the sword from the stone, the animals from his earlier experiences come to encourage him, and he uses all the lessons they taught him to produce this one action. I remember realizing how the author had worked to make that moment have power, how he brought all of these details “home.” That is something I have never forgotten, that a homecoming of resurrected details can give an ending a sense of closure.
Tell us about the title of your book. What is the story behind it?
The original title of my book was, for a long time, MIDSOMMAR. I was encouraged to change it because people thought it might look too unfamiliar and be too hard to pronounce! Most people know that turned out to be the title of a horror movie that was released last year, and that wow, I was so nervous when I first saw the trailer. I was afraid that Ari Aster would own the idea of Midsommar in the minds of everyone, and whenever someone thought of my book they would imagine scenes from his movie. I was so afraid to see it, but I forced myself to go–and I wound up loving it.
Are your characters based on real people?
Yes. I had a Siri in my life, someone who wasn’t afraid of the kind of grief I was experiencing, when most other people didn’t know what to do with me. And when Lauren speaks of grieving, she is doing so in my voice.
Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
When I experience this feeling, it’s usually me “blocking myself” because subconsciously I know I need time to rest or time to let the ideas come together in my mind. I’ve gotten better at accepting that as part of what’s necessary and healthy to good writing. But I do know how to jump-start it when my battery feels dead. If I set a timer for one minute and tell myself I will write for just that one minute–even if it’s just my own name over and over–good words come. That has always worked for me, and I always wind up smashing the timer off and writing for much longer.
WHAT REVIEWERS ARE SAYING
“[An] unsettling, mesmerizing debut . . . In gently hypnotic prose, Zinna beautifully explores the transformative powers of grief, loneliness, intimate friendships, and the hunger we have to be understood.”—Refinery29
“Diane Zinna’s The All-Night Sun is an unexpected love story—about rebirth after loss, about the human connections that art and literature enable, about the adventures we undertake and the tales we tell ourselves to get by. It’s also about risk and sorrow, about how our stories can fatefully mask reality. This is a memorable and meaningful novel.”—Claire Messud,New York Times bestselling author of The Burning Girl
“This stunning debut novel explores the space between dreams and nightmares, life and death, the brilliance of the midnight sun and the darkness when you shut your eyes. Diane Zinna has given us a tender, aching, and unforgettable story.”—Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth
“Zinna renders all the vivid saturations of grief, but not just that: she also traces the complicated fretwork of young friendship. This book shows how coming-of-age and elegy can be the same story.”—Emily Fridlund, author of History of Wolves
GIVEAWAY ALERT!!! Retweet or Share for a chance to win a copy of THE ALL-NIGHT SUN by Diane Zinnahttps://t.co/TlyO2U60RH
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) September 23, 2020