Jackie Hyman ’67, writing as Jacqueline Diamond, has published 100 novels, including romantic comedy, romantic suspense, fantasy, mystery and Regency historical romance.
A two-time finalist for the Rita Award, Jackie received a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times and is a former reporter and TV columnist for the Associated Press. In addition to updating and reissuing her novels as ebooks, Jackie writes the Safe Harbor Medical miniseries for Harlequin American Romance. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter at her website, jacquelinediamond.com, and say hello at her Facebook site, JacquelineDiamondAuthor. On Twitter, she’s @jacquediamond.
In your website biography, you say you wrote your first story at age six. What was it about? Do you have a copy of it? Were you able to hold onto much of your early writing?
Yes, I still have it. The story was one sentence long: “There was a lame boy and he had fun.” It was inspired by the March of Dimes polio fundraising parades held each year in our small town of Menard, Texas.
My brother, Paul Hyman (PDS ’65, Vanderbilt ’69), taught me to read and write. He’s two years older, and when he started school, I used to make him teach me what he’d learned every day. I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer.
I still consult Paul for help with my website. He’s a retired computer engineer.
While a student at PDS, you were a reporter for the Paw Print and you later went on to interview celebrities for the Associated Press. Do you still interview people for the media? Can you name a person or two that you were especially excited to interview?
I no longer do celebrity interviews. Too bad!
It was especially exciting to meet performers whom I’d grown up watching and admiring, including Charlton Heston, Debbie Reynolds, James Garner, Dick Van Dyke, Pearl Bailey and Sid Caesar. My interview with Raymond Burr turned out to be one of the last he gave before his death.
Also, I’m a Star Trek fan, so I had fun interviewing Patrick Stewart, George Takei, Rene Auberjonois, LeVar Burton and Michael Westmore, who designed the make up and aliens for several of the series. Westmore won three Emmies as well as an Oscar for the movie Mask.
What did you write about while at PDS/USN and what outlet did you have for your creative writing?
At PDS, I wrote for and become co-editor of the literary magazine, The Gallery, of which Eleanor Hitchcock was faculty advisor. A number of my poems ran in that publication. I also entered every writing contest I could find and submitted to magazines that used children’s work. I won a few contests and had a couple of stories published—I recall one in the old American Girl magazine.
When I was ten, I took a touch-typing course at a secretarial school so I could write faster. In those days, pre-computer keyboarding, touch typing was considered a dead end for women who might get stuck in secretarial jobs, but I knew where I was heading. Then I typed reams of stories and poems, most of which stayed in a drawer. Yes, I still have some of them.
While you were a student at PDS, who were some teachers who really made an impact in your life/education?
English teacher Eleanor Hitchcock was a big influence and encouraged my writing. Heber Rogers took a creative approach to teaching history using original sources, and his class in Bias in News Reporting stayed with me throughout my journalism career. When I wrote for a small newspaper, interviewees (including politicians) used to thank me for quoting them accurately, even at times when I secretly felt they’d made fools of themselves. I never forgot that it was my job to present readers with news stories that were as objective as possible, and let them reach their own conclusions.
Paul George was another teacher who inspired me with his willingness to go beyond the ordinary, setting up debates on controversial topics and taking us on field trips to such places as a hospital for the mentally handicapped.
You have said that you faced ten years of rejection slips before publishing your first book; what encouraged you to keep going?
I always knew I was meant to be a writer, and had a strong internal drive. Also, I was lucky that my parents never told me I couldn’t succeed as a writer or that I needed a backup career plan.
Because it never occurred to me that I could fail, I took a lot of risks along the way, and gradually began to succeed. I’m reminded of the story of a Soviet ice skater, an Olympic gold medalist, whose mother took him as a child to try out with a bunch of other kids for a world-famous coach. When the man selected her son, the mother said, “But he fell down twenty times!” Replied the coach: “Yes, but he got up twenty-one times.”
What advice do you have for young writers?
Find out who you are as a writer. Experiment and explore. The more you write, the more you’ll discover your own voice.
Read, read, read. You can’t learn to write simply based on playing videogames or watching TV or movies. Reading books and short stories will help you gain a sense of how to use point of view, how to develop characters and how to build storylines.
It is helpful to your development if you can get gentle, constructive criticism. If you receive comments that are harsh or discouraging, drop that critiquer and find someone else.
Writers’ groups and on-line loops can be good sources of support, information and growth. Believe it or not, I’ve been in the same critique group for forty years, since I was in my early twenties (although most of the membership has changed). However, don’t stick with people if you aren’t comfortable with them.
While you are best known as a romance novelist, you have also written science fiction (Out of Her Universe) and horror (Echoes). What are you working on now and are there any other genres you have set your sights on?
Currently, I’m writing the 17th book in my Safe Harbor Medical romance series, set in and around a fictional California hospital that specializes in fertility and maternity care. I never expected the series to continue this long, but each book presents new characters and relationships. The books can be read separately or in sequence.
I’ve sold several mysteries over the years—my favorite is Danger Music—and have begun planning a mystery series. I hope people will check my website and Facebook author page in 2016 because I hope to begin self-publishing these at that time.
Why self-publish? I’m looking forward to the freedom to develop these mysteries without concern for a publisher’s restrictions, which can include an arbitrary minimum and maximum length plus whatever their marketing department says will or won’t sell—factors that have nothing to do with the quality of the book itself.
Lastly, you and your husband wrote A Romance Writer’s Guide to Love and Marriage that you offer for free download. What motivated you to share your relationship success with others – especially free of charge?
I should note that A Romance Writer’s Guide to Love and Marriage is not free on all sites—Amazon insists on pricing it at .99 cents. It can be downloaded free at Smashwords.com and on iBooks (iTunes). I do have a novelette posted for free also, on those sites and on Amazon, called What the Doctor Didn’t Tell Her.
To return to your question, Kurt, my husband of 36 years, and I have worked on our relationship from early in our marriage. We became concerned as our younger relatives—nieces, nephews and now our sons—began marrying. Today’s media treat marriage as if it’s one long honeymoon, but reality inevitably intrudes. (By the way, contrary to the stereotypes about romance novels, my Safe Harbor series emphasizes couples working out real issues.)
So we drew up a sort of cheat sheet, a springboard for discussion to encourage people to consider issues that can sabotage relationships. I’ve been pleased to see that there’ve been thousands of downloads.
One thing I’ve learned in the more than thirty years that I’ve been published: readers are real people, and the impact I have on them is very rewarding. To my astonishment, when my husband and I recently toured Israel, a young woman in our tour group came up to me excitedly when she discovered that I write as Jacqueline Diamond. She said she and her grandmother both read my books and talk about them all the time.
Then she asked for my autograph! Let me tell you, that never gets old.