LaToya: Hi Dionne, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Dionne: Hi, LaToya. Thanks for having me. I’m an attorney, but started writing fiction about five years ago. I was born in England to Jamaican parents and grew up in Canada, so a lot of my writing is influenced by my heritage - most of my stories are set in the Caribbean or feature Caribbean characters.
LaToya: What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Dionne: I really enjoy writing and would love to do it full-time. I have several novels in various stages of development and it would be great to have the opportunity to just focus on writing.
LaToya: Which writers inspire you?
Dionne: I’ve loved Toni Morrison since I discovered her books while in university. Right now I really like Marlon James, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, and Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie.
LaToya: What are you working on at the minute?
Dionne: I’m working on my third novel, which is based on a figure in Jamaican folklore. It takes place around the late 1950s and deals the tensions that ignite within a parish around some unexplained crimes and deep seated resentments.
LaToya: What genre are your books and why?
Dionne: I write contemporary fiction. I think it allows me a lot of flexibility to write the stories as I see them.
LaToya: In 10 words or less can you create a quote that describes you and your writing?
Dionne: My writing is a reflection of me and my culture.
LaToya: Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Dionne: Great question. I think Anika Noni Rose or Naomi Harris would be great as Attorney Sydney Lincoln.
LaToya: When did you decide to become a writer?
Dionne: I really became serious about it around 2009. I’d finally gotten back into reading for pleasure and tried my hand at a couple of short stories before challenging myself to write a novel. It took a while to get to this point, but now I can’t imagine my life without writing.
LaToya: Do you write full-time or part-time?
Dionne: At the moment I write part-time, as I still practice law during the day.
LaToya: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Dionne: I prefer to write in the morning before I get to work. Even on the weekends I still prefer to write in the mornings. I’m most productive at that time of day and I want to make sure that I get my writing time in before the day gets away from me.
LaToya: Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
Dionne: It depends. Sometimes I aim for a word count and sometimes I focus on trying to complete a scene or two.
LaToya: Where do your ideas come from?
Dionne: As a writer you become more observant of the world around you and a simple phrase in a conversation or a moment can spark an idea. Since many of my stories take place in the Caribbean, I like to take lots of pictures when I visit to see what captures my interest. I also like to learn about and visit different places. Sometimes just standing somewhere will be enough to bring a story to mind.
LaToya: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you
Dionne: For my first novel, Somerset Grove, I didn’t prepare an outline, but for Butterfly, I did use one. For this third novel, I wrote a very detailed outline, because I thought the story was more complicated, but I find myself straying from it as the story evolves.
LaToya: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Dionne: I think I’m willing to take more risks writing about subjects that might make others uncomfortable. I’m really enjoying the stories I’m writing and the process of writing has really become a part of my life.
LaToya: What is the hardest thing about writing?
Dionne: For me, it’s finding enough time to write. Even though I make time for it every day, I wish I could fully immerse myself into writing a story. I need a sabbatical!
LaToya: What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Dionne: This is my third attempt writing the novel I’m working on now. I lost the original manuscript when I had completed about 20,000 words. The second time I started it, I just didn’t like the way it was going. I’ve reworked it and I’m trying a different writing approach, so hopefully the third time is the charm.
LaToya: What is the easiest thing about writing?
Dionne: Finding the motivation to do it. Even if I’m feeling stuck, it just makes me determined to figure it out and get past it.
LaToya: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Dionne: It’s all over the place. Somerset Grove took me over two and a half years to write. Butterfly only took me about 15 months. This third novel has been in development since 2013 and it’s still not ready yet!
LaToya: Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Dionne: I can see myself writing full-time. I’m also a literacy advocate, so in addition I will be promoting literacy and writing in the Caribbean.
LaToya: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Dionne: I’m a very cautious person, so I weigh out the pros and cons of everything. I would tell my younger self to worry less about the consequences and focus more on enjoying the moment.
LaToya: Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Dionne: Bob Marley. His music is timeless and he was so insightful about human nature, spirituality, and what really matters in life.
LaToya: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
Dionne: That’s a tough one. I think Their Eyes Were Watching God. I’ve read it a couple of times and will probably read it again. It’s a story that endures and I like how the story follows the main character who develops from a teenager that accepts what happens to a woman that determines her own fate.
LaToya: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Dionne: Write every day. Read every day. Surround yourself with other writers and people who will encourage and motivate you.
Connect with Dionne:
LinkedIn: Dionne Peart Hayes
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1Md2S0E
LaToya: Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
Dionne: Thanks, LaToya!