Author’s Corner: Diane McCarthy

How long have you been writing?
I started writing when George Bush “won” the presidency in 2000. I had to turn the television off because I just couldn’t stand the idea I might see him on the news. I seriously did not like that man from the very beginning! But turning off the television ended up being a good thing, because it gave me the time to write.

The first thing I wrote was “October Surprise,” a short story. I sent the story to the New Yorker, and, although the magazine didn’t publish it, I was encouraged when the editor responded with the words “Nice work! Best of luck…” And, so, I kept writing.

Tell us about the book. When did you get the idea?
About sixteen years ago, my husband and I moved from Southern California to El Dorado Hills. One of the reasons we moved was the beauty of the foothills area, and, over the years, we’ve spent many hours hiking the trails that wind along the region’s lakes and rivers. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada became the backdrop for the novel I wanted to write. I wanted the story to be just as beautiful.

“The Spirit of the River” is both a mystery and a love story. It is the story of a young lawyer, Jack Anson, who, following an intense and spiritual experience, gives up a life of privilege to become a river guide. Jack meets and falls in love with a young woman, Terri, who is determined to overcome an upbringing shaped by her strange, reclusive mother. When Terri’s mother is found brutally murdered, Terri’s journey becomes an unreal nightmare through a justice system intent on convicting her of the crime. As the case against Terri moves forward and she faces near certain conviction, Jack becomes more and more desperate to save the life of the woman he loves.
I am very pleased with how the book turned out. The Midwest Book Review wrote that the book was “solid and riveting reading,” and the Sacramento Book Review called it “a hard to put down suspenseful novel.” In addition, the book has a strong environmental theme. But I can’t discuss how and when I got the idea – it would give away the secret.

How long did it take you to write it? I assume you were also working full time? Did having furloughs help?
I worked full time while I wrote the book and that’s why the writing took almost two years. First, because it is a mystery, I had to work out in detail how the plot would unfold, and that took considerable time. I also had to do background research, which included attending whitewater river guide “boot camp” and, because the story includes a trial, learning about courtroom procedures. I did the actual writing very late at night and on weekends. In some places, the book has a certain “dreamy” quality – perhaps because of those late nights.

When I began, I knew that I could easily become daunted by how long it would take, given the other demands on my time. So, I decided not to think about it as writing a “book” but as writing several short stories, with each chapter a short story. I could do that because I had mapped out the plot so carefully.

I completed the book before the Governor imposed furloughs on State employees.

Do you have another project?
Right now, my current “project” is to go further with my yoga practice. I am planning to participate in a teacher assisting program at my yoga studio in November. I am trying to think of a way to combine my love of yoga with my love of writing.
Tell us a little about your job.

I work as a Research Program Specialist II in the Department of Managed Health Care’s Office of Health Plan Oversight. I’m in the Legislative Division and analyze bills that involve health care issues. It’s a good fit, because the job involves a lot of writing.
Tell us a little about Cloudland Books.

Cloudland Books is a new small press located in El Dorado Hills, California that my husband and I started. The Spirit of the River is the first book we published. I did the interior design and the cover for the book, put the book on Amazon Kindle as an e-book, and designed and put up the Web site, We have agreements with two companies, Baker & Taylor and Bored Feet Press, to distribute the book, and we are also working to make the book available at local bookstores. Currently, The Spirit of the River can be purchased at City Lights Books and Books, Inc. SF Opera Plaza in San Francisco, the Avid Reader in Sacramento and Davis, Harmony Books in Nevada City, The Book Seller in Grass Valley, and Borders in Folsom, in addition to a few other stores. We’d prefer people buy The Spirit of the River from bookstores, but it is also available from Amazon. 

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