What are the secrets of St. Levitius?
Friday, April 17, 2015
Diane Mayer Christiansen, Author
Diane Mayer Christiansen grew up in Aurora, Illinois USA, a western suburb of Chicago. A graduate of Aurora University, Diane earned her degree in biology. She has worked at the University of Chicago as a laboratory technician, and Northwestern University as a laboratory manager. After the birth of her son, Jackie, she decided to be a stay at home mom and write. Diane began writing young adult fantasy books and hopes to be an advocate to children struggling with dyslexia. Switcher is her first published novel.
Switcher takes you to St. Levitius, a place of mystery and intrigue. There you enter into the lives of Samantha and Dottie. A thrilling young adult novel that is recommended for all readers.
What are the secrets of St. Levitius?
St. Levitius has the outwardly appearance of a very respectable facility, a place where a loved one can go for a rest or for minor medical attention. The staff wants you to feel comfortable leaving your family member there. Of course it's all a façade' and that's one secret. In reality, St. Levitius is a place to hide people away, people whom society doesn't want to see anymore, people like Samantha.
Is it fiction... or fact...?
The story is a work of fiction though the characters are very real to me. Samantha and Dottie are both based on my feeling growing up. Because I grew up with a Neurological Disorder, Dyslexia, I often times felt as if I didn't fit in anywhere. I was quiet like Dottie and always afraid that my peers would make fun of me. I think I always wished that I could be more like Sam. She always wants to stand up for what is right. In the end I grew into Sam and left Dottie behind. In the second book, Dottie begins to have a voice.
How did your main character, Samantha, become magical?
Much like I was born with Dyslexia, Sam was born with the ability to transform into a cat. She has always known that she had this ability but kept it a secret. There are so many parallels in the book between the magical differences and my own struggles, but in the end the main idea is to learn to accept who we are and not worry about what other people think. Once Sam meets others with similar abilities, she begins to realize this.
So, I looked it up and the idea of people turning into animals goes back to ancient times (also referred to as therianthropy).
Yes, the idea of Transformation has been around forever and can be found in many cultures including the Native American culture. I've always been fascinated with that culture and the human animal connection. But Switcher is not based on mythology. The main purpose of the book is to help us accept who we are in a world that much of the time expects normal and perfect. Switching into animals is only one of the abilities that this group of children possesses. Some can fly while others can become invisible. There's a spectrum there.
Did you do a lot of research in writing Switcher?
I did some research. I love documentaries and the idea for St. Levitius itself came from a documentary on institutions of the twentieth century, mainly places to hide away our mentally ill. I am always amazed at the human attitude of that time and am also happy that the study of Psychology has progressed since then.
What was the most intriguing thing you found out about therianthropy?
I know this may sound strange but as a writer you find yourself asking, "Could this really happen, can I write this, is it feasible? When Sam switches into a cat, what happens to her clothes?" I was constantly struggling with ideas, trying to make it work and be believable to the reader. Even though it is fiction, you want your reader to believe it could happen and be able to envision it all in their minds.
Who/what has had the biggest impact on your writing?
These days, my son. I have made a switch myself, from talking and writing about dyslexia to my son's autism. I find that our issues are very similar; feeling as if we don't always fit in, wondering if people will make fun of us. Well, I don't worry so much anymore but seeing him struggle brings it all back. Now I write about autism and all of him accomplishments inspire me every day.
Describe your writing/editing style and routine...
I try to write three hours a day, usually in the morning. I can usually write a chapter or two a week if I keep this schedule. That's at the beginning. Then there's editing, a lot of editing. I do the first edit myself and then send it out to my editor. She does one edit and then I revise from that. This editing process goes on for several edits until I feel good about it. The publisher then has their own editor go over the work. These edits usually are more about content and writing style and are more subjective. I really enjoy the editing because that when I can plant things for later books and develop my characters better.
Where do you like to write?
I have an office in my house and that's where I do most of my writing. The great thing about being a writer is that I could do it anywhere as long as I have my laptop. My son wrote a short story about me and let his class know that, yes, sometimes I write in my PJs. I feel most productive when I can work in the same space throughout a book.
What are you currently reading?
I loved the Divergent series and I also like any Science Fiction Fantasy. I've read Maze Runner by Rick Yancey and The 5th Wave Series Unwind, books like these. I love them and can't get enough.
What are you currently writing?
I am now writing a nonfiction book entitled I’m Just a Mom. It is the story of my life with an autistic son. My son is working on a companion book entitled I’m Just a Kid. It is the same story from his point of view. After this is another book waiting entitled, Green, a fiction work about the struggle of divorce. I never have a loss for things that I want to write.
My advice is to write what you know. I don't necessarily know how to switch into a cat but I know how it feels to not fit in and I use that all the time in my writing. Life experience makes the best stories. Once you finish your first novel, begin your second. Keep writing and remember that publication takes time. If you're constantly writing new material, you always have fresh material to submit. This is important because we never really know what the market is demanding, not like the publishers do. Another piece of advice is to do your homework. Find out what is already done in your genre. Every agent and publisher wants to know why your work is different and why you think it will sell.
List 10 things that your fans may not know about you...
I am a very silly person.
I love unicorns.
My glass is always half full.
Chocolate is my nemesis.
My favorite place in the world is Disney World.
I love to travel.
I'm terrified of flying.
Sarcasm is my favorite form of communication.
Pink is my favorite color.
I could never imagine my life without writing.
Connect with Diane…www.dmchristiansen.com