Q&A with Author Diane Zinna

Q: What was the first book that you have published?

My first novel was The All-Night Sun (Random House, 2020). The story follows Lauren Cress, a young adjunct professor who has long been grieving the deaths of her parents alone. After an international student named Siri joins her class, the two bond quickly over loss, and the girl invites her to travel home to Sweden with her for the summer. Lauren thinks that Sweden at Midsommar will be an escape from her depression and isolation, but her past comes along for the trip, and her friendship with Siri begins to fall apart. 

Q: When did you get started as a writer? 

I got a degree in creative writing in 1998, and was believed I was ready to start a life of writing books and publishing at 24. All through school, I got attention for inventive stuff I was doing with language and the dark stories I told. I was one of the only women in a writing program with all male teachers, and I think my writing changed a lot to please the people in the classroom. But on my graduation day from my MFA program, my mother passed away, and what followed was about a decade of not writing at all. Every time I sat down to write, the stories would become grief-stricken tales of mother loss. For a long time, I couldn’t face it, so I focused instead on teaching. When I was finally able to come back to the page, it felt like my writing voice was my own again. I was no longer interested in being clever or impressive. All I wanted to do was get to in story was speak in a true, clear voice that felt like me.  

Q: What are the pros of working as an author? I don’t know a lot of writers who can make a living with their writing full-time. I’ve always done other things at the same time, and I think, at least for me, that makes for a richer life. But having my book out in the world has allowed me help a lot of aspiring writers. For a long time, I ran a mentorship program where I matched up-and-coming writers with established authors, and it was exciting to make those special connections. But now I am in a position where I can help others with their writing and their understanding of the publishing world. I can be the mentor and help people imagine a publishing life that feels right for them. 

Q: Did you always want to write? Oh yes. I remember the little books I made as a child. I remember, as a teen, trying to decipher how a book was making me feel the way it did. What steps did I need to replicate to make such magic? I went to college for something that felt more practical, but once I made the decision to be a writer, it seemed the universe conspired to help me all at once. It has always felt that way with writing for me. I dip my toe tentatively into the ocean and then a wave pulls me in faster than I could ever imagine.  

Q: How many more books do you have planned? My first book took so long (more than 10 years!) so many good ideas had to wait a while. Now I’m working on a new novel, a memoir, and a craft book. 

Q: What three words would you use to describe your writing style? Dreamy, lyrical, and true. 

Q: Tell us about your main character, Lauren Cress. 

I just love her so much. Maybe the best way I can describe her is that she was the kind of person who deserved a happy ending. I wrote and rewrote the ending of The All-Night Sun to give her a sense of closure, a future, and a beautiful new life. But I couldn’t. She was honestly still in pain and making bad decisions and it was going to be a while until that future could come to her. All I could do was show her coming up to the surface and taking one deep breath after being underwater in confused, painful grief for so long. I needed to trust that the reader would understand that there would be another deep breath after that one, and another, and this loving, lonely person was going to be okay.  

Q: What advice would you give to writers? If you love to write, it’s in you to do it, and you know it. Believe it. Even if you have had lots of spurts and stops along the way, lots of letdowns and rejections, if you still find yourself coming back to the page after all of that, this was given to you. Protect that dream. Nurture it. Never deny it. 

Q: What themes can readers find in your latest release, The All-Night SunIt’s a beautiful and raw account of grief, but the story is also about transformative friendship, the way travel and time change us, and how deep listening can bond two people forever. 
Q: Where can readers find you and your books online? The All-Night Sun is shining its light everywhere. You can find it at your local bookstore, Barnes & Noble, and on Amazon. Learn more about the classes I teach at www.dianezinna.com, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram for inspiration, Wordle graphics, and photos of the world’s cutest doodle.

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