Wearing Two Hats: An Interview with Lucienne Diver

Photo courtesy of Lucienne Diver
Photo courtesy of Lucienne Diver

Lucienne Diver’s first career was as a literary agent, but she launched a second career as a writer in the early 2000s. She is the author of the Vamped young adult series—think Clueless meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer—and the Latter-Day Olympians urban fantasy series, which Long and Short Reviews calls “a clever mix of Janet Evanovich and Rick Riordan.” Her first young adult suspense novel, Faultlines, was released in 2016. She has also published short fiction in several anthologies.

Daily Dragon (DD): Who is Gina Covello?

Lucienne Diver (LD): Gina is the star of the Vamped series of young adult novels. She’d describe herself as the fashionista of the fanged. She’s that girl in high school who always has the perfect hair and make-up, the most on-point style… until she wakes up dead after an accident the night of her senior prom. Or, rather, undead. She has to claw her way out of her coffin, totally ruining her manicure, and realizes that she’s facing an eternity with no reflection, no tanning options, and an all-liquid diet… and not those skinny mochas she so loves.

DD: Why vampires?

LD: I didn’t set out to write vampires, though I’ve always loved them. My novels begin with characters talking in my head and the need to figure out who they are and what story they have to tell. Gina is a force of nature. She took my mind by storm and wouldn’t let go. Her story isn’t really about adjusting to unlife after death, but about transformation, which is what vampirism is all about: leaving the old behind and facing the new. It’s about overcoming, either your new nature or your old. In Gina’s case, there’s a bit of both. She has urges she’s got to master, and without her social cabal and with a new nemesis in the form of a rival vampiress who wants both her man and her classmates as fodder for her undead army, she’s got to reinvent herself. We only know who we are when we’re tested, and wow, is she ever!

DD: What draws you to writing for this age group?

LD: It’s such a pivotal time in life. You’re figuring everything out from who you are to who you love. You’re starting to take on adult roles, but the world doesn’t yet see you that way, and there’s a vulnerability in not being given the benefit of the doubt or the legal independence. But more than any of that, it’s the immediacy of the emotions, because you’re facing so much for the first time without the hindsight to know it’s all survivable.

DD: You also write urban fantasy aimed at adults. Please tell us about your Latter-Day Olympians series.

LD: I grew up with stories of the Greek gods. I took Latin for five years in junior high and high school. In college I was an anthropology and writing double major, which is relevant only because one of my fascinations was comparative religion, and it’s really amazing how many stories appear across cultures: the flood, the immaculate conception or resurrection, twin stories and brother killing brother… The Latter-Day Olympians, like the Vamped series, started with a character talking in my head. I didn’t know yet that her name was Tori Karacis or that she was a fledgling PI whose family line may or may not have started when the god Pan beer-goggled one of the gorgons. I only knew that she’d witnessed a murder by something she couldn’t explain, a killer who looked like The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s Hollywood, she sees that sort of thing all the time, but not generally wrist deep in the chest cavity of the agent to whom she’s supposed to deliver a message.

Things went on from there. Apollo becomes a client. Hermes becomes a thorn in Tori’s side, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering. (Who doesn’t love a good trickster god?) Others come and go throughout the series: Zeus, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Hera, Athena, though sometimes as their counterparts from another pantheon. I didn’t want to play just with the Greek gods, but with the idea that these beings have been many things in many cultures. They’re shaped and powered by belief. Of course, due to waning influence, many have had to get day jobs. Apollo, for example, is a former adult film start transitioning into mainstream theatre and management!

DD: What do you see as the benefits and the drawbacks of writing continuing characters?

LD: The benefit is that you’ve already established their backstories. You know these characters like the back of your hand. There’s a comfort and familiarity that means you can jump right into the writing. The drawback is that you’re locked into their history. If there’s something new and exciting you want to do, you’ve got to make sure that it fits into what you’ve set up for them, which it doesn’t always!

The other downside is that some of your characters don’t have a shut-off valve. For example, Gina from the Vamped series was with me so much that she had her own blog for a while (https://ginasgems.livejournal.com/). She’d go shopping with me, commenting on my fashion choices. When my husband brought home his little red T-top Camaro a few years ago, I told him Gina would date him just for that car, because I could hear her squeezing in my head. Yup, I know. Makes me sound certifiable!

DD: What is Faultlines?

LD: Faultlines is a book of my heart. It’s a young adult suspense novel, but with some really serious issues at its core. My heroine, Vanessa, is dealing with the suicide of her best friend Lisa, who’d pushed everyone away several months prior. Vanessa is lost. Lisa was the strong one; she was the one who’d generally go along to get along. But now someone is taking revenge against those perceived to have driven Lisa to her death, and everyone thinks it’s Vanessa, as the former best friend. There’s retaliation, and a one-upmanship of threats and “accidents” until it’s likely Lisa’s funeral won’t be the only one. Vanessa has to act. She has to reconstruct what led Lisa to take her own life and who’s carrying out her revenge.

DD: After writing two series with paranormal elements, did you find staying away from them a challenge?

LD: It wasn’t losing the paranormal that was the challenge, it was the mystery/suspense angle. I’m a pantser generally, but you can’t do that with a storyline like this! You have to layer in clues, motives, false leads. There’s a ton of plotting involved. I ended up creating my own murder board to help myself along.

DD: You had been a literary agent for some years before you started writing. What led you to become a writer?

LD: I’ve written since I was eleven, when my incredible fifth grade teacher Mr. Hart inspired us all with writing prompts and creative assignments. My first finished piece for his class was supposed to be a short story. It came out to 111 pages. (I remember it to this day.) Writing became my addiction. If I go a day without writing, I go through a kind of withdrawal. I can accomplish a million things that day, but if writing wasn’t one of them, it feels wasted.

Because I’m an agent, I didn’t submit my work for the longest time, afraid that I’d embarrass myself with editors whose respect was all-important to me. When I finally thought I was ready, I sent my work out under a pseudonym so that I wouldn’t play on my position. My first published novel, long out of print, was a romantic comedy called Playing Nice by “Kit Daniels.” Then, for my Vamped series, I sought out an agent, who convinced me to use my own name. I wanted my work at a remove from me, because as an author I’m neurotic. I doubt my own worth; I go through the same Imposter Syndrome most artists do. I’d be a terrible negotiator on my own behalf! But I know the value of agents, and I know how much confidence and experience they bring to the table. I wanted someone to do that for me so that I could focus my work time doing that for others.

DD: How does your perspective as an agent influence your approach as a writer?

LD: My agenting helps me understand the market conditions and realities. My writing helps me not only pinpoint problems in a novel, but help suggest or brainstorm fixes with my clients. I think both sides work well together.

DD: What do you think is the single biggest mistake beginning writers make?

LD: Rushing work out the door. It’s exciting to finish a novel! When you’re in the love stage with your work you can’t imagine that it can be any better. You think it’s the greatest thing ever and you can’t wait to share it with the world. I get that entirely. However, writing and even rewriting are only part of the process. It’s important to solicit feedback before you ever go out on submission, and to get it from people you can trust to be critical and not just cheer you on, though cheerleaders definitely have their place in writing. You’ll be too close to your work to see the flaws; you’ll know what you meant to say. Having someone else read and respond will let you know where you’ve accomplished what you set out to do and where there’s work still to be done.

But the short answer is overuse of adjectives and adverbs.

DD: What’s next for you?

LD: I’ve got a new YA suspense novel, The Countdown Club, coming out from Bella Rosa Books sometime soon, and my agent has a new, very special young adult novel out with editors now. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, and I’m nervous as all hell to find out whether the world will agree! In the meantime, I’m working on an adult horror novel tentatively entitled The Cat Came Back.

DD: Thanks for your time.

LD: Thank you so much for yours!

For more information about Lucienne Diver and her work, visit her website, https://www.luciennediver.com/.

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is the Comics Track Director for ConTinual. She's also a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. Her published works include the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy and the Arachnid Files romantic suspense series. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she also writes the Outcast Station science fiction mystery series.