The camera pans the audience where every face is smiling, everyone is clapping, and some people are singing along to the band's rendition of Jailhouse Rock! As the band concludes, the curtain rises and Carol Ann Erhardt walks center stage.
The audience echoes back "Good morning!"
"Isn't the band the best ever?"
The audience applauds loudly.
"I asked them to play that Elvis song because my guest this morning loves all of Elvis Presley's music. She's a big fan. The lady I'm talking about is a wonderful author and a super friend. Please put your hands together and welcome the one and only DIANNE CASTELL!!!"
Dianne walks onstage and she and Carol hug and then each takes a seat on the two facing armchairs.
The audience is applauding. Dianne smiles at the crowd and they settle back into their seats.
"Carol Ann, thank you so much for having me here and also for having the band play one of my favorite songs. I am such an Elvis fan! I have a cornhole set with Elvis’s profile stenciled on the board.'
"What, is a cornhole set?"
"Seriously? You've never heard of cornhole? It's a game where you toss beanbags through a board with a cut out circle. Very big in the Midwest ‘cause you can throw the bags with one hand and not have to put down your beer."
The audience laughs.
"Dianne, thank you for coming today. It's a bit cold here. It's supposed to be the beginning of fall, but these mornings are making me worried we'll have an early winter. I'm not ready for that yet."
"It's always fun for me to interview my guests and ask questions that will let my audience get to know them better. Are you ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be." Dianne crosses her legs.
"Besides books, do you have any collections?"
"I do!! I collect flowers. I tell you it’s a sickness" Dianne turns to the audience. "When I see a flower at the nursery I want to take it home and plant it. This year I put in six rosebushes, five hydrangea bushes, mums, daisies, etc and Lord knows how many annuals. I never met a flower I didn’t love."
"I love flowers, too, but I'm not a gardner. I've been known to kill off beautiful plants by giving them too much water." Carol Ann shakes her head. "My husband refuses to let me near the garden hose now. All right. Question number two. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine you are in a restaurant having lunch, when a reporter shoves a microphone at you and you have one minute to tell the world something very important. What would you say?"
Dianne has her eyes closed.
Carol Ann leans toward her. "Dianne?"
"Can I open my eyes now?"
Audience laughter. "I told you to close them for a moment."
"How long is a moment?"
"Open your eyes, Dianne."
More laughter. "Well, I just wanted to be sure. Okay. Here's my answer. Get a job and don’t run up credit card debt. It’s the one-minute lecture I give my kids!"
"I believe I've given that one a time or two. Let's talk about you being an author for...whoops. I almost said a moment." Dianne smiles. "Any advice on how to stop writer's block?"
"You just keep writing and writing and writing. Writers write just like bankers bank and teachers teach. If something’s not perfect just write your way through it and go back and fix it later. If you want to make writing a career you have to treat it like a job and get the job done. Of course chocolate and peanut butter are great sources of inspiration."
"Speaking of chocolate..." Carol Ann hands a box to Dianne. "I wanted to give this to you to say thanks for driving all the way to Columbus to meet with me. I know you like chocolate."
Dianne opens the box and selects one of the candies. "Mmm. Delicious. Would you like one?"
"No thanks. I ate all of the candy in the first box I bought for you and had to buy another one."
Everyone laughs. "Dianne, we all have those moments when we let life get us down. But, there is usually one person we can count on to make us laugh. Who is that person in your life?"
"My daughter Ann who lives in New York City. What a fun gal. She has the best one-liners. I use a lot of them in my books. And reading Stephanie Plum books. Stephanie always makes me laugh. The old Two-and-a-half Men TV series is terrific."
"Your daughter sounds like mine. And when we are together, my cheeks hurt from all the laughing we do. So, tell me. Are you an introvert or an extravert and how does that play into your writing life?"
"I think I’m a bit of both. I have wonderful friends and love being with my kids but I like my space and doing my own thing. That’s a big part of being a writer. I think most writers have a huge introvert streak in them. You need it to get the books out. Alone is not lonely."
"Absolutely. I love that line. Now for something a little more serious. If you knew you only had 30 days to live, what would you do with the remaining days?"
"Get this next book done! I just signed a contract for a three book mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime and it is a dream come true. I love mysteries and my dream has been to write them. Soooo I’d do it. I’d also spend time with my kids. There’s nothing like family! And I like being home with my jungle of plants so I’d hang out there."
"Do you have any phobias? Afraid of heights, spiders?
"Bugs!!!!! Oh dear God I hate bugs. Scared to death of them. And if they crunch when you step on them I am totally freaked out! And that I live alone means I have to kill all my own spiders and thousand-leggers and crunchy bugs and anything else that creeps its way into my house. Outside bugs don’t bother me all that much but inside… Hey, this is my house, go find your own."
"I'm with you, sister!" Carol Ann shudders. "Creepy crawly things, especially spiders, terrify me. I remember once when I was still working a day job, a spider suddenly appeared on my monitor. I jumped back and started yelling 'spider, spider!!!' Finally, one of the managers came into my office and killed it. I was glad he got rid of the spider, but really embarrassed that he caught me playing a game of solitaire. Have you ever had one of those "embarrassing moments?"
Dianne laughs. "I live in the land of embarrassing. Just last week I went to work with my shirt on inside out. This is an upscale clothing shop and the boss was there. The week before I showed up two hours late at a bridal shower ‘cause I thought the thing was the following date. I regifted a present with the original card to me still inside…that was really embarrassing. I plot books while driving and drive past my exits all the time. Wound up in some pretty crazy places! I do all kinds of dumb stuff. I think it’s part of life…at least part of my life. I think my brain is always half in a book. I need therapy!"
"Have your phobias, collections, or embarrassing moments come to play in any of your books?
"I use the bug thing all the time. I haven’t done the others but that’s a really good idea. Tell me some of your embarrassing moments and I’ll use them all."
"Well, there was the time I was summoned to the boss's office. He was the President, and he made me so nervous. I entered his office and sat on the very edge of the chair, and it tipped. I wound up on the floor, notebook beside me, pen flying through the air, and much more of my pantyhose showing than I was comfortable with."
Dianne and the audience laugh.
"But, I'm not going to share any more of my embarrassing moments. This interview is supposed to be about you. Tell me what is one thing the people in the audience might be surprised to learn about you?"
"I’m pretty open, not many secrets. I have NO sense of direction. So sad. I can’t shop in Target ‘cause I can’t find my way out. I’m serious about that. Something about the layout of that store. I can never find my car in the parking lot and when going somewhere I have to allow for “getting lost” time. I need a GPS system imbedded in my brain."
"I've heard about you heading off in different directions. Your new series is a totally different direction for your writing. Would you mind sharing something about that with the audience?"
"You bet. Like I said, writing mystery is a dream come true especially for Berkley Prime Crime. The new series is set in Savannah and seeped in the South with the good food, characters and lots of fun while solving a murder. My new pen name is Duffy Brown. I get to be someone else. So exciting!
The title of the series is Consignment: Murder.
Reagan Summerside signed a prenuptial agreement when she married Hollis Beaumont and now that he’s divorced her she has nothing except the old Victorian she’s rehabbing. Hollis promised her the house so as not to look like a total jerk and Reagan turns the first floor into a consignment shop to make ends meet. When Reagan borrows Hollis’ car she discovers the body of his fiancée in the trunk. Can Reagan prove Hollis innocent so he doesn’t sell the house she loves to pay his lawyer fees and can she find the real murderer on the cheap without winding up on a slab at the morgue?
The first book in the series is Iced Chiffon, the second book is Killer in Crinolines, the third is Pearls and Poison."
"I'm so excited for you, Dianne, or should I say Duffy? Seriously, your new series sounds great. I love cozy mysteries. Uh-oh, the director is giving me the sign that our time is up. Time always flied when I have a really fun guest on the show. You've been great. Thank you again for being with me in the Blog Studio and allowing me to pick your brain."
"Thanks for having me, Carol Ann!! It’s a blast being here."
Learn more about Dianne and her writing ventures by visiting her website.