Della’s Diary: Interview with the Author
Bright Little Light Press: Della’s Diary launched last week, and we’ve sat down with Renee Darcy to discuss her rather interesting fiction novel.
BLLP: We asked you this about America’s Favorite Couple, Renee – should we assume your inspiration for Della’s Diary was similar? Where did this idea come from, exactly?
Renee: You caught me! This was another story inspired by a reality TV show. (This one’s not a romance, though!) My husband and I are actually – in a very mild way – preppers ourselves. We carry an emergency kit in our car in case we break down, and we keep emergency rations at home in the event of a power outage, snowstorm or other serious issue. After hearing the horror stories about Hurricane Katrina, and the fact that Superstorm Sandy affected so many people up and down the East Coast, a serious storm causing a temporary hiccup in infrastructure seems like a reasonable possibility.
Renee: Because we’re mildly interested in prepping, though – we watched a reality TV show about prepping on the National Geographic Channel. The folks on that show took things a little farther than we do. And I thought – how do people end up going to that extreme to prepare for these unlikely scenarios? I don’t think they’re mentally unbalanced or delusional. I think they’re normal people who have just taken things farther. So in Della’s story – spoiler alert! – I wanted to explore how a normal, reasonable person might start down that path.
Renee: And also, I want to point out that I sincerely don’t think the people who do go to extremes to prepare for – even very unlikely scenarios – are crazy. I understand them. They just want to protect themselves and their families. There’s something really comforting about the thought that you can take control of a situation that would otherwise be beyond our control, and that’s what prepping is really about. I tried to honor that with Della’s story. I tried to really get inside her head and show that she’s not crazy, and that she’s doing what she believes she needs to do to take care of her family.
BLLP: So you said you and your husband are preppers. Did you write yourselves into the book at all?
Renee: *Laughs* Busted! Was it that obvious? Della is based, in no small part, on me. Writer who works from home, grinding away for clients with an ok career, but maybe not what she’s always wanted to do. Her relationship with her husband definitely draws a bit on my relationship with my ex-husband – but also reflects the challenges that every working woman faces. Della’s friends were also entirely my real life friends in the first draft – I’ve basically just changed their names. Helping friends put a roof on their house, being a member of CERT – all that stuff is real, and drawn directly from my life. They say write what you know!
BLLP: So talk to us about how Della’s character evolved. You said the last time we spoke that she was an empowering character – what makes you say that about her? And how does she go from normal work-at-home mom and housewife in the beginning of the story – to who she is at the end?
Renee: Oh, this one’s tricky without spoilers. I do love Della as a character, though. I do think she’s really empowering, and that’s my favorite piece of feedback to get from my readers. It was tough to balance her growing self-reliance and badassery with keeping her still a believable, relatable character. Basically, I tried to keep her as true-to-life as I could, while still telling her story. If I wasn’t sure about something, I’d think: “What would I do in this situation? What do I wish I’d do? What would someone I know do?” As long as her reactions were somewhere in that intersection, I knew I was on the right track.
Renee: Also, I did a ton of research. I researched the crap out of this story. The settings in the story are all real places. I looked up local laws when applicable, and tapped my background in the legal industry for some of the law enforcement elements.
Renee: One of my favorite examples of the research that I did was this: in the book, Della references a website where you can run scenarios and see how various types of disasters would turn out. This is a passing reference – basically just a sentence or two – that doesn’t feature heavily in the story. But that website is actually real!
Renee: I used it to calculate what the fallout plume would be from a nuclear blast aimed at strategic targets in the greater Boston area. I researched historical nuclear armament yields, as well as public information about current nuclear yields – and speculation about classified capabilities – and picked a yield that was in the high-moderate, but still realistic, range. Then I picked a time of year (weather patterns make a big difference in how a fallout plume would spread!) and ran the scenario. I did it a few times for a few different seasons and armament yields. I actually used that data as a basis for some of the decisions Della makes in the book – even though it was just an incidental piece of side research that didn’t feature heavily in the story.
Renee: That very long aside is really to point out how much time and effort I put into developing Della as a character, and to make her story realistic and believable. As much of it as possible is actually based on real-life things. And I spent a lot of time and work getting to know Della – far beyond what actually made it onto the page – so her reactions would be consistent with her character, and informed by reality.
BLLP: We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the elephant in the room. Some of the early part of the book is kind of political. In fact, in your forward, you say that you wrote this book years ago and that any resemblance to current events is entirely coincidental. Do you want to elaborate on that for us?
Renee: Honestly, I hadn’t touched Della’s Diary for more than a year – maybe closer to a year and a half – when I revised it for publication. I was really surprised by how much of what I had written in 2014 and 2015 is super relevant today. Not so much the Ebola – that reference is pretty dated now, thankfully – but the actions of certain foreign actors have been remarkably consistent with what I had written in the book. I didn’t set out to write a politicized book – I just wanted to tell Della’s story – so I considered taking all that out, and changing it to something else. But after talking it over with my husband, and thinking about what Della herself would want to have done – I left it in.
Renee: As a society, I think we take for granted that America – and our world – is something very specific – and that it will always be the best version of itself that lives in our minds. For those of us who haven’t grown up in the shadow of war, the idea that political destabilization in Europe is bad – I think it’s something that only vaguely registers. I think most of us believe “Sure, some of the current events abroad are a little alarming, but the world we live in today is different – we’re not facing a real threat.” I’m not sure how true that is. And I think that in some ways, fiction can help prepare us for reality – or at least, help us see that there may be things we should be paying attention to, instead of just taking for granted that everything’s good.
BLLP: You may have a good point, there, but we can’t end on such a serious note. So tell us: do you have a favorite line from the book?
Renee: Yes! But I can’t say it, because it’s impossible to separate from spoilers. It comes in the twist ending. I will say this: June 24, 2015 has my favorite line in the book. But don’t skip ahead to read it! You’ll enjoy it so much more if you take the journey to get there.
BLLP: And on that tantalizing note – thanks for joining us, Renee! And thanks for joining us, readers. If you want to check out Della’s Diary yourself, you can get it at Amazon, the iBooks store or Barnes & Noble.