Diane Merrill Wigginton began writing after retiring from two careers. From 1983 to 1998 she was an Registered Dental Assistant and decided to retire before the birth of her last child. Then upon moving from San Diego, California to Herald, California, a small rural community in the Sacramento County in 2001 she began caring for children after opening a daycare in her home in 2002. She completed writing and producing her three historical romance books in the Jewelled Dagger series: Angelina’s Secret, Isabella’s Heart, and Olivia’s Promise, while simultaneously working full time, and only recently decided to retire from the daycare business and close her doors at the end of April, 2017.
Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome Diane. In what time period do your books take place and why did you choose that setting?
Diane Merrill Wigginton: The series begins in 1763, with each book picking up with the family and their dynamics approximately 20 to 21 years later. I chose this time by random and completely by chance, but felt that this was a very rich period in time, fraught with Pirates, secret societies and the opportunity to spin an exciting tale.
Ferrante: You have a large family, five sons and one daughter. How have they influenced your writing?
Wigginton: I married my husband, David Wigginton almost 20 years ago and we are a combination of “His, mine and ours.” It’s funny to say this, but I remember watching the movie, “His, Mine, and Ours,” with Lucile Ball years ago and thinking how cool it would be to combine a family and then it happened to me. Dave had 3 sons, I had a daughter and a son and then ended up getting pregnant on my honeymoon. The little bundle of joy was born 37 weeks later, a whole 3 weeks early, and hasn’t slowed down yet. I feel blessed to have such a large brood. We are currently up to 6 grandchildren, with a seventh due next March. It is an exciting time in my life and I count my blessings every day that we stuck it out through the tough times so that we could enjoy the fun times. In the early years, it was very hectic and busy. Fortunately for me, Dave’s boys were mostly grown and well established when we wed. My children were 10 & 6 when we had our youngest. I guess I have always been curious and driven, but in the early years I was too busy and exhausted to explore what I really wanted to be when I grew up. When I turned 50 in 2013, I had an “Aha,” moment. I had always liked writing and expressing myself, but had never pushed myself to see what I was capable of. Our youngest son was the only child home and he was busy with his friends and being a teenager, so with no formal training, I sat down one day with an idea in mind of what I wanted to accomplish, I began to write a story. One chapter turned into two chapters and before I knew it, I had written an entire novel. It took me about six months and it felt amazing. Things just poured out of me onto the keyboard and there it was. I went through and did a rewrite then sent a copy to my best friend, Gigi in Idaho and printed out a copy for my Mom, and asked them both to proof read it and give me their opinion. They both loved the story and were very encouraging.
Ferrante: What processes do you go through to receive feedback on your work in progress?
Wigginton: First of all, no one sees the product until I am through and have done at least one rewrite. Then I always pass my work off to Gigi and my Mother, because they are both professional readers, devouring anything with pages and a cover. Plus, if the story stunk, Gigi would tell me straight up, but so far, she has loved everything I’ve written. My mother would just avoid talking about it for awhile until I pressed her for an opinion if she didn’t like the story. When I gave my mother a copy of my second book, Isabella’s Heart, she called me the next day to tell me that she stayed up to 3 a.m. reading it, until her eyes wouldn’t focus anymore. That made me feel really good.
Ferrante: Angelina is not a product of her time. Her beliefs and behaviour run contrary to societal norms. Why did you choose to make her so out of place?
Wigginton: I think that there has always been forward thinking, strong minded women among us, they just haven’t always been spoken of. I wanted my character, Angelina to be one of those women. Someone who thought outside of the box, kind of like me. I can be saucy and sassy myself, just ask my husband, Dave. I wanted to create someone that women could relate to or even just aspire to be like. Angelina is strong, opinionated and flawed but she grows as the story progresses. She learns to think about the welfare of someone other than herself and her immediate needs. She was fun to create and imagine.
Ferrante: I understand you have written two picture books. Would you like to share a little about that?
Wigginton: I had this idea, years ago about three best friends, who get together and have an adventure, using only their imaginations, but their imaginations transport them to another place. Then in the end, they are walking home with the spoils of their adventure, and it leaves the reader wondering if it was all imagined or was it real.
The second book involves the Sand Man and the Tooth Fairy and how they came to be who they are. My daughter, Nicole, challenged me to create a story about the Tooth Fairy, and so I did. It was a blast.
Ferrante: I have a tooth fairy story as well. I love that mythology.
There is a pirate in your Jewelled Dagger series and one in your picture book. Why are you drawn to pirates?
Wigginton: The time in history when pirates roamed, is filled with possibilities, and as an author it allows one’s imagination to go in so many directions. Plus, what woman hasn’t been drawn to a bad boy at some point in her life.
Ferrante: Are there any authors or books that influence your writing? What gets your creativity flowing?
Wigginton: I love Diana Gabaldon’s, Outlander Series. I read only 4 of her books in her 8-book series over 20 years ago and am so thrilled that she is doing well with her books being turned into a mini series on Starz. She waited a long time for it to happen and deserves everything she has worked so hard to achieve.
Sometimes the thing that gets my imagination going is as simple as a turn of a phrase in a song ling, or a television show or movie. Something as simple as a line or a few words and off I go.
Ferrante: Do you have recurring themes or messages in your writing?
Wigginton: I try to bring a thought or message of growth. Maybe it is a spiritual thought I had or read. Sometimes it is an idea that we can all change and grow stronger emotionally from a terrible situation. A gleanable moment that can be reflected upon and pondered over. A “Aha,” moment that my character is going through that maybe someone reading my story can relate to.
Ferrante: What advice would you give a writer starting his/her first novel?
Wigginton: Keep it simple. Don’t get too fancy with words, because you might lose your reader. Create a vivid picture in the minds of your readers, with your words, that transport them to another time or place. Do your research and never give up on your dream. Even if you aren’t very good at first, take the time to educate yourself and follow that dream.
Ferrante: What was your favourite childhood game?
Wigginton: Hide and seek. I could play it for hours.
Ferrante: If you were a rock, what Rock would you be?
Wigginton: I would be an ordinary piece of coal, that has the opportunity to be turned into a diamond.
Ferrante: If you could go into a fiction book and participate in the story, what book would you choose and who would you want to encounter?
Wigginton: I loved the movie, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of The Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. It would have been an honor to have shared a cup of tea with anyone of those three women and picked their brain for awhile.
I love stories of over coming the odds. I grew up in the “60s” and remember the prejudices that took place and find it still just as shocking when people see the color of someone’s skin or judge them by the clothes that they wear, rather than on their merit as an individual. The world is full of beautiful, positive, wonderful people. Everyone should take their blinders off and expand their horizons, and judge every person individually rather than as a whole.
Ferrante: Hear, hear. Hidden Figures is a great example of how incredible potential that could further all human development can be wasted by curtailing people’s opportunities and gifts. It also boggles my mind that people still try to keep others down. I try to make my books as diverse as possible without misappropriation. Recent political/social events with regard to sexism and racism have left me gobsmacked. I’m happy to see writers like you trying to open people’s minds and hearts. Thank you for participating in my Three Random Questions Interview series.
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34318579