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Jackie DiamondJacqueline

Diamond

When you read an author's biography, sometimes it appears that everything went smoothly.  Well, I'm here to report that it took ten years of rejection slips (that's starting when I graduated from college--I also collected a few earlier) before I sold my first book, and that was just the beginning. [Photo by Corey Fox}

My first successful novel, the Regency romance Lady in Disguise, sold in 1982 to Walker and Co. for $2,500.  Not exactly a fortune even thirty-five years ago! The good news is that I've reissued it as an ebook, along with four other light-hearted Regencies set in Jane Austen’s era.

It all started in Menard, Texas, where I was born in 1949. My father, Maurice Hyman M.D., was the only doctor in town. He delivered me and my older brother, Paul, at home. When I was six, we moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where Dad did his residency in psychiatry, and five years later, we moved to Nashville, Tennessee. With a psychiatrist for a father and a ceramic sculptor (Sylvia Hyman) for a mother, I grew up in a creative environment.

I wrote my first story at age four or five.  By six, I knew I wanted to be a writer. My early publications included an essay in the old American Girl Magazine as well as stories and poems in my school literary magazine. I attended Peabody Demonstration School, now University School of Nashville. 

After graduating from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, I spent a year in Europe on a writing fellowship from the Thomas Watson Foundation. The play I wrote about Lorenzo de' Medici was never produced, but I learned a lot about writing, culture and myself, as well as improving my French and Italian.

My next move, at age 23, was to Southern California, where my brother lived.  I worked briefly in public relations, then for two newspapers and The Associated Press bureau in Los Angeles. I covered a variety of news stories as well as theater from 1980-1983. In 1993-1994, I wrote a nationally distributed TV column for AP. Along the way, I had the fun of interviewing stars including Debbie Reynolds, Dick Van Dyke, Pearl Bailey, Lily Tomlin, James Garner and many more.

All this time, I was writing plays, scripts and books. Except for a couple of plays produced locally, they came back with painful rejection slips. 

In 1980, I fell in love with a PBS series based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  Reading her books led me to discover Regency romances. 

A year later, I sold my first two Regencies (the second was Song for a Lady, also now available as an ebook). Over the next few decades, I sold a paranormal suspense novel (Echoes), a fantasy novel (Shadowlight), two mysteries (The Eyes of a Stranger and Danger Music), a paranormal romantic suspense (Touch Me in the Dark) and romances in subgenres ranging from medical romance to screwball comedy.  My publishers included William Morrow, St. Martin's Press, Berkley, Five Star, Walker and Co., and Harlequin.

I've written under the names Jacqueline Diamond, Jackie Hyman, Jackie Diamond Hyman and Jacqueline Topaz, as well as one book as Jacqueline Jade (romance publishers used to demand exclusive names for an author). In reissuing my books, I've put them all under the Jacqueline Diamond name, since it’s better known. I’ve also retired some titles that I consider too outdated to revise.

For many years, my mainstay was writing for Harlequin, which bought and published a lot of books for modest advances. In 2009, I proposed three books set in a small California beach town at a hospital specializing in fertility and maternity care. The Safe Harbor Medical® series launched in 2010 with The Would-Be Mommy and grew to 17 books. The last of them was—referring back to the first title—The Would-Be Daddy, in 2016.

In case you’re wondering about that R in a circle, it indicates that I’ve legally registered the phrase Safe Harbor Medical as a trademark. 

I’d been eager to return to writing mysteries. In addition, since 2010, I’d been reissuing some backlist books on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks and Smashwords.com. However regaining the contractual rights to books is complicated, which is why you’ll find much of my backlist being reissued by Harlequin.

Longing for creative independence and the freedom to rise or fall financially based on my own efforts, I decided to self-publish a mystery series. As a reader, I’d been looking for cozy contemporary mysteries featuring a doctor. While I found plenty of medical and forensic thrillers and some older books such as those based on the TV show Diagnosis Murder, I couldn’t find much that was published recently.

Why not use Safe Harbor, where I felt at home? I enjoyed researching obstetrics and fertility treatments, so it felt natural for my main character to be an obstetrician.

Gradually, I shaped the characters and storyline for the first book, The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet. I’m grateful for the support of friends and fellow writers who critiqued for me, including retired Orange County Sheriff’s Investigator Gary Bale, who also reviewed my initial plot outline.

It took nearly a year to research, write, revise and launch the Safe Harbor Medical® mystery series. It’s been an exciting process.

On the personal side, my husband and I live in Southern California. Our younger son teaches in Tucson, Arizona, while our older son works for Google in the Los Angeles area. Our family also includes one terrific daughter-in-law and a wonderful future daughter-in-law.

Here are a few q-and-a responses:

What is the easiest part of writing for you? 

Scenes in which two characters have an intense confrontation. Sometimes the pages just fly.

What’s the hardest part?

Weaving in exposition, or background so the reader doesn't get hit with big boring chunks (known as a data dump), but isn't left clueless with inadequate information.

Do any of the celebrities you’ve interviewed stand out in your memory?

I'm a big Star Trek fan, so it was a thrill interviewing actors from those TV series, including Patrick Stewart, George Takei, LeVar Burton and Rene Auberjonois.

And, having grown up watching Perry Mason, I was honored to have lunch with Raymond Burr. Sadly, he died only a few months later. 

Two of my "lasts" stand out—the last theater interview I did for the Associated Press was with the delightful Donald Sutherland. The last TV interview of mine that AP ran featured Michael Caine, who was so much fun to talk to, I'd love to do it again!

Which of your books would you describe as your favorites?

Besides The Case of the Questionable Quadruplet (definitely on the list!), my favorites include my self-published science fiction novel Out of Her Universe and, among the Safe Harbor romances, The Baby Bonanza. I also love Danger Music, an offbeat mystery that took me ten years to sell. Many of the rejections I received indicated the editor enjoyed it, but that it didn't quite fit the mold.

Among my favorite romantic comedies are Cindy and the Fella, Designer Genes and Yours, Mine and Ours.

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas spring up everywhere—from news stories, from conversations, from chance comments in TV shows, books or movies. But developing the germ of an idea or a single plot twist into a full-blown novel is the challenge.

I ask questions such as: Why would that happen? What would happen next? Who would do that and why?

The next step is outlining the characters and plot. Then, finally, comes the actual writing, creating scenes in which the reader can immerse herself or himself. Much of what I’ve learned about writing, I’ve assembled in a short ebook, How to Write a Novel in One (Not-so-easy) Lesson.

Writing is always a voyage of discovery for the author. Thanks to my readers for taking the journey with me!

The Safe Harbor series consists of books that stand alone and can be read in any order. You can find a complete list at Safe Harbor Series Page.

What do you recommend for aspiring authors?

  • Read a lot of books in the genre you want to write.

  • Write, write and write some more. Rewrite. If necessary, start over. Some books are best considered a learning experience.

  • Take classes, join a critique group, find an online loop or site and listen carefully. Not all advice is good, but authors have to be prepared to learn and revise.

  • Read blogs and learn about the publishing industry. A great source of information is Romance Writers of America. 

  • Books about writing can be helpful, although there's no substitute for individual feedback. I put together some insights and encouragement in a short ebook called How to Write a Novel in One (Not-so-Easy) Lesson.

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Last updated on April 25, 2016