Mira Monday: Diane Chamberlain Interview
Diane Chamberlain is the bestselling author of 19 novels. Her books, frequently set in the southeastern United States, are complex stories about love, compassion and forgiveness with a touch of mystery and suspense. Her 20th release is called The Midwife’s Confession and it delivers on all of those accounts.
What I have to tell you is difficult to write, but I know it will be far more difficult for you to hear, and I’m so sorry…
The unfinished letter is the only clue Tara and Emerson have to the reason behind their close friend Noelle’s suicide. Everything they knew about Noelle—her calling as a midwife, her passion for causes, her love for her friends and family—described a woman who embraced life.
Yet there was so much they didn’t know.
With the discovery of the letter and its heartbreaking secret, Noelle’s friends begin to uncover the truth about this complex woman who touched each of their lives—and the life of a desperate stranger—with love and betrayal, compassion and deceit.
For today’s Mira Monday, we’ve asked Diane to share how she developed the story.
Q. How would you describe The Midwife’s Confession?
A. The Midwife’s Confession is, in many ways, a puzzle in which the reader will constantly be wondering “what’s really going on?” It’s a story of friendship and the corrosive power of secrets. It’s the story of mothers and daughters and the relationship storms that test the bonds between them. And it’s the story of a midwife whose suicide leaves behind a trail of clues she hoped no one would ever follow.
Q. Who would enjoy reading The Midwife’s Confession?
A. The natural answer is that women would most love this book because of its focus on motherhood, but I am one hundred percent certain that my growing audience of teenage girls will also be drawn to the story, since one of the characters, sixteen-year-old Grace, has such a strong and poignant role. I look forward to hearing from my male readers, too, as The Midwife’s Confession is full of suspense.
Q. How did you come up with the storyline for The Midwife’s Confession?
A. From a dream, and I wish that would happen more often! It’s such a gift to wake up with the idea for a story. That dream gave me this seedling of an idea: What if you knew something terrible about a friend, something that would alter her life in the most shocking way? Would you tell her? I knew I wanted to explore that question in the story and I began neatly outlining the plot . . . but then the character of Noelle, the midwife, came to life and hijacked the storyline with her secrets. I gave her her lead, and I sometimes feel as though Noelle and I co-wrote this book!
Q. What is your personal feeling about keeping secrets?
A. From a simplistic point of view, I dislike secrets. I’m sure this comes from my years as a psychotherapist when I saw the destruction that secrets could cause in a family. However, long-buried family secrets are different than secrets between friends, and I think everyone needs to decide for herself what needs to be revealed given the personality of the person being betrayed as well as the nature of the friendship. I would keep a secret if revealing it would hurt someone I cared about and if the revelation of the truth was not completely necessary. Figuring that out would require some serious soul searching.
Q. What themes do you explore in The Midwife’s Confession?
A. Enduring, life-long friendship is a strong theme in the book—the sort of friendship that, if we don’t have one, we wish we did. Tara, Emerson and Noelle all attended college together and the connection between them is extremely tight and loving. Yet as with all close relationships, obstacles threaten their bond and the women need to decide if their friendship is worth saving.
Mothers and daughters are another thematic element in the book. There are three sets of mothers and daughters in The Midwife’s Confession– Tara and Grace, Emerson and Jenny, and Anna and Haley–and all three of those relationships are very different. Each has its strengths and weaknesses—and challenges.
Another theme is that of resilience. I very much wanted to show that people can rise above the worst that can happen, and I think The Midwife’s Confession illustrates that to the max.
Q. What was the most difficult part of writing The Midwife’s Confession?
A. It was a challenge to figure out the correct structure for the telling of The Midwife’s Confession and involved a good deal of experimentation. There are three first person point-of-view characters: Tara, her daughter Grace, and “the stranger”, Anna. In addition, we needed to hear some of the story from Noelle’s perspective, but since she dies early in the book, I decided to make her point-of-view third person. Finally, by dividing the book into three parts, I was able to shift the strongest focus from one character to another while increasing the suspense of the story.
Q. Tell us about some of the research you did for The Midwife’s Confession.
A. Since the setting of the story is Wilmington, North Carolina, I began my research there, exploring neighborhoods and the University of North Carolina campus to get a feeling for where my characters live as well as where their friendship was born. Of course I had to understand the work of midwives–not only the nuts and bolts of treating their patients, but the emotional qualities that would draw a woman to that sort of work as well. I researched how families cope with a child who has leukemia to help me understand the desperate plight of Anna and her daughter, Haley. I also explored the ways in which Tara and Emerson would be able to uncover Noelle’s many secrets, be it through their own library research or their sleuthing online. I love research because it puts me in deeper touch with my characters’ world.
Q. What do you love best about The Midwife’s Confession?
A. From my perspective, this is a very rich story told on many levels and that is my favorite sort of story to write. I love that Noelle grew into a larger-than-life character and that she bossed me around; she had power over me just as she has power over the other characters in the story. I really lost myself in the writing of The Midwife’s Confession and I hope my readers feel the same way as they read it.