Y'all pull up a bar stool and put in your order for a glass of wine or one of Sven's fabulous cocktails. I've poured myself a glass of California Cabernet, and I want to celebrate a new--and very different--project by lair favorite--and my long-time friend, Dianna Love. She's just launched something that's *cue valley girl squeal* totally awesome, and I want her to share it with you, and the reasons behind it.
If you're a lair regular, you know by now that Dianna's first book won a Rita Award, and she's gone on to co-author two successful series with #1 NYT Bestseller, Sherrilyn Kenyon. The first was Sherrilyn's original BAD Agency series. The lastest is Dianna's brainchild--the rockin' Belador urban fantasy series.
Many of you have read my interviews with Dianna in the past, and been inspired by her drive, determination, and what seems like a bottomless well of energy, which she draws on when pursuing something she cares about. I recently learned that she gives her mom a lot of the credit for encouraging Dianna to go for her dreams and follow her heart--first into art--and later into her newest passion, fiction writing.
As we head into the weeks before Mother's Day, I asked Dianna if she'd share a little about her mom, what that encouragement meant to her, and how that's led to her sponsoring a national art contest based around her latest book.
Dianna: *lifts her glass of Australian Shiraz* Thanks! It's always great to be back here in the lair!
Cassondra: You’re an inspiration to a lot of people because you’ve basically had two very successful careers. Many of the Bandits and Buddies know that you were an artist before you were a writer. But that's key to your latest project, so for those new to the lair, will you tell us briefly about your “past life?”
Dianna: Sure. My life revolved around art pretty much from the first time I picked up a crayon. I was blessed with the ability to draw photo-realistic art and by the time I was in middle school, I was selling detailed pencil portraits for $5 each to earn money for art supplies. My parents had five kids and no extra money for frivolous use of school supplies like paper and pencils. I have never forgotten an uncle who worked in a paper mill and brought me a ream of paper once when he came to visit. The memory of that gift has stayed with me since grade school.
Cassondra: What a great gift for a budding artist.
Dianna: *nods* Over the next few years as I grew into my teens and on into adulthood, I went from drawing portraits on 18” paper to painting them 20 feet tall way up above the ground. When I was first living alone at seventeen, I used my art to do side jobs between three “regular” jobs I held during the week. By age twenty, I was building a business in painting signs and murals. Over the next thirty years, I expanded to creating massive three-dimensional objects for unusual marketing projects and eventually created unusual high-tech advertising pieces for events like the Olympics and companies such as Coca-Cola.
(Cassondra interjects: That Coca Cola sign on the left is in downtown Atlanta--it's an example of the kind of projects Dianna's company built.)
Cassondra: I’ve known you for a long time, but only recently came to understand the roles your mom, and her encouragement, played in your art career. We’re coming up on Mother’s Day, and we've got a lot of moms in the lair with us today. I think they'd love to hear a little about your childhood and your mom. I especially love the story about the tv station interview. Will you tell that one?
Dianna: *takes a sip of Shiraz* Yes. My mother was no wallflower, but she was a wife during an era when the man had the last say in a house. With five children, there was no doting on any one, but I remember my mom coming to first grade just to see something I’d drawn. I thought I was in big trouble *grin* – that was the only reason a parent was asked to come to the school back then
Dianna: Yes. We had two six-week sessions of art that year. I was in heaven. Free art materials and time to draw--but more about that later.
I had never heard my mom naysay him, but she said yes. She dressed me up and drove me to that interview. The first and second place winners were seniors who t
That was a memorable experience to be sure.
But more than anything it made me realize that my art did count because my mom said so. Never underestimate the power of believing in your child.
Cassondra: How did you use that belief and encouragement—how did you transfer it into something concrete as you moved through your teens and into y
Dianna: My mom would do anything for her children for the short time we had her (she had a heart attack and died when I was seventeen). She patiently listened to every story, helped with everyone’s homewor
Because of her encouragement and pride in what I’d created, I never considered giving
I never walked around thinking I’d be the next Rembrandt painting portraits all day, but neither did I enjoy working in an office, so I gravitated to painting signs and murals. Living alone at seventeen is a two-sided blade of positive and negative. Every day was a struggle to survive back then, but the positive is that the only voice I heard was my own and that one told me to follow my heart.
I have always felt as though my mom is nearby watching over me and I still feel her spirit with me in everything I accomplish.
Cassondra: *swirls wine in glass* I want to talk for a minute about passing on the encouragement your m
Dianna: It goes back to my mom's influence. She would stop to help any child anywhere. I remember her saying that she hoped someone would help her children when they needed it if she wasn’t around to do it at some point. She was the original “pass it up the line” person who helped others because that’s who she was.
I’ve never thought about how often I do it, because helping others is just a natural part of my being. I never considered my competitors in business or art to be my opponents or enemies, and I feel the same way about writing.
My philosophy is that the better job we all do in whatever field we’re in,
Cassondra: When you made the switch from painting to writing, did it feel as though you were giving up one dream to pursue another? Did you have any moments when you wondered if it was the right thing to do? If so, how did you make your decision?
Dianna: I loved painting, but I’d spent so many years away from home working, in everything from cold to suffocating heat, that my urge to write came at a good time for me. I’d been making up stories in my head, so when I reduced the amount of time I was climbing to paint and build, I started writing these stories down in between times I spent painting in my home studio.
But the writing really captured me. My husband kept telling me I couldn’t continue to paint huge walls and write books, because the schedule was killing me. I work every day, but my writing was demanding so much I couldn’t keep up the pace. So I finally made the decision to go full time into writing. It was a difficult decision because I’d spent my life building a business in art, but this is where I refer back to the question about helping others--back to what I le
I had so many friends in the sign business by that point that I was able to place all my clients in good hands and h
Cassondra: You've shared how art competitions played a role in your development as a young artist. When did you first get the idea of sponsoring a national art contest, and what’s your purpose in doing that? And why the focus on high schools in particular?
Dianna: I kept thinking I wanted to create an image of Feenix, our sweetheart gargoyle in the Belador series, and started sketching on it when it hit me that this would make a fun art contest.
I had the opportunity to enter art contests from 3rd grade on, and those played a part in building my confidence in a field everyone considered a waste of time. I can’t tell you how often you hear that you can’t make a living in that field – I proved them all wrong. *grin* I think confidence-building is especially important for young artists who might let naysayers talk them o
When I came up with the My Feenix Art Contest, I wanted everyone to be invited whether they hand -drew pictures, created on the computer or made stuffed animals, so the contest has three categories-- Flat Art
Cassondra: You’ve spoken before, here in the lair, about your dogged determination to remain true to whatever you’re passionate about. I’ve heard you say “A bad day painting was better than a good day doing anything else.” How does this art contest play into that, and how do you see it encouraging others to follow their passion?
The contest has no entry fee and all of the initial submissions are sent as jpgs. There’s a category for digital art, but even the hand-drawn and three-dimensional art is submitted as photos for the first round. We did this to make it as easy as possible for anyone to submit.
Sometimes just the act of doing one thing to move your craft forward is all it takes to get you thi
Cassondra: Our Bandit Buddies run the gamut from late teens to parents to grandmothers, and everything in between. What would you say to our visitors in the lair today about pursuing their dreams at any age, and how would you suggest they encourage others in their lives to do the same?
Dianna: That’s a great question, and I have a story about how important that is.
Years back, I attended a social event at the home of a female business associate. I commented on the beautiful still life and landscape paintings in her home by one particular artist whose name I couldn’t decipher.
Her mother, who had come to live with her that year, was from Puerto Rico and spoke no English, but the woman loved to watch Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting television shows where he gave art classes. Her mother was in her mid 80s when she picked up a paintbrush for the first time in her life and shocked everyone with her talent. It been a secret passion of hers forever, but she never had the opportunity to try. Now her family has these amazing paintings to remember her by.
A lot of people have t
I think we have to stop once in a while and ask the people closest to us, “Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to do that you haven’t and you’d like to do now?” Or just listen—pay attention-- when we hear that new or different sound in their voice when they’re telling us about something that has caught their attention.
Have an open mind about listening. That’s all it takes sometimes to encourage someone to pursue a dream.
*Bandits and Buddies shift to make room as Sven and Paulo set trays of snacks on the tables and bar*
Cassondra: If someone is an artist—or KNOWS an artist—who might like to enter the My Feenix Art Contest, how do they get more info?
Dianna: You can
Help me spread the w
What about you Bandits and Buddies?
Have you gone for something that scared you, and been encouraged in doing so by either watching someone
What have you gone for “against the odds,” or what are you going for right now?
Have you taken a moment to encourage someone else in the pursuit of an important dream or goal? Who was it? Your child? Brother or sister? Critique Partner? Friend?
Who has made a difference in your life with a touch, a card or phone call or a word when you most needed it?
Sven is passing another round of drinks, so eat, drink, and tell us how you've helped spread the encouragement, or been encouraged at just the right moment.
Oh...and tell us what drink Sven is mixing/pouring for you. *grin*
Dianna is giving away two signed copies of BLOOD TRINITY and one of the coveted Belador t-shirts!