It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.
~ Vincent van Gogh
One of the great advantages of social media is that we have the opportunity to get to know people who share the same interests as us. Many of these people come from places or backgrounds that we would not necessarily have chance to encounter in real life.
I am a member of several Facebook groups that celebrate The Bronte Sisters. From this I have been able to have some great discussions with fellow Bronte lovers and writers. I have also been fortunate to discover new interpretations of the Brontes’ works.
Recently, I wrote a review of Rita Maria Martinez and her poetry inspired by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre. You can read about her work here. Then a few weeks ago, I discovered Diane Denton or D M Denton as she is also known. Diane is one of those rare people who is talented in writing and art. In fact when I first read her biography, I thought that she sounded like a Renaissance woman with her love of art, music, literature, poetry and her ability to create, as well as her fascination with the past. Diane comes from New York originally and yet she has spent long periods of time in Oxfordshire living in an idyllic village with cottages, duck pond and a twelfth century church and abbey. Diane has written a book about Anne Bronte entitled Without the Veil Between Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit. I am looking forward to finishing the novel over Christmas and I shall be reviewing it at a later date.
Diane is a prolific writer. Her first two novels, “A House Near Luccoli” and its sequel “To A Strange Somewhere Fled” Diane M Denton focus on Baroque music and its makers and are set in late Seventeenth Century Genoa and England respectively. She has also published three Kindle short stories and an illustrated flower journal.
Diane’s books have garnered some impressive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and so I was eager to find out more about her. As soon as I started to read her work, I was struck by the quality of the writing and I do not mind admitting that I am incredibly envious of Diane’s gift. I am honoured that Diane agreed to be interviewed. Please note that all illustrations on this post are Diane’s. Original Artwork by DM Denton is copyrighted.
ES: I am fascinated by your experience of living in Oxfordshire. How did that come about, and can you tell me more about what you did during those years?
DMD: Thank you so much, Elisabeth, for having me as a guest on your blog. It feels like I’ve always been drawn to things British. On entering college, my main goal was to get to the UK through my studies and I even changed universities in order to have a better chance of doing so. I spent the spring semester of my junior year at Wroxton College, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, one of the overseas campuses owned by Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. Three months in the magnificent Abbey (turned Jacobean manor house) and thatched-cottage village of Wroxton extended into sixteen years during which (to summarise) I applied and was denied a work visa, married the Abbey’s groundsman, lived in an aesthetically beautiful, otherwise damp and freezing apartment in a very large Georgian house, explored the lovely Oxfordshire countryside, was employed in both of the pubs and, also, the hotel in the village, joined my husband in tending the Abbey lawns, gardens, and woods, worked in a little specialty shop in Banbury both sewing and selling, painted the animal heads of the walking sticks my ex carved and did very poorly paid commissioned artwork for a furniture maker. My experience of England was everything and more I had ever hoped it would be, but, also, much I hadn’t bargained for and often difficult; yet, looking back never a regrettable one.
ES: Have you always been a writer?
DMD: I can’t remember a time when writing wasn’t what I most wanted to do. Stories, poetry, plays. I grew into adolescence and adulthood penning stories imitating the descriptive, emotive, romantic, classic ones I loved to read. I’ve heard some say you’re only a writer if you’re published, but I have always thought of myself as one, even though, until I was in my fifties, most of what I wrote was for no eyes but mine. Now that I have been published, with all the sense of uncertain accomplishment that brings, I often remind myself of a quote from William Faulkner: “Don’t be a writer, be writing.”
ES: You have lived in Britain and the USA. Where do you feel is your spiritual home?
DMD: What an interesting question! I still believe my youthful obsession with getting to England was a call to return to a place my soul needed to experience again. I arrived in England with wondrous expectations and distinctly remember the immediate intimacy I felt, especially with the very English pastoral environment I came to. I was, at that time, where I was meant to be.
There are so many aspects of my British experience that prepared me for the rest of my life. To everything there is a season. And, eventually, I had to leave, for rational and practical but, also, creative reasons, and, as it turned out, for a very important matter of my heart and soul (which, actually, still connected me to Britain). Twenty-eight years after returning to the US, I am content with where I physically live in simple surroundings and close to nature. I’m settled in my sensitivities, intellect, and imagination, which, after all, are the spiritual home I carry with me.
ES: What first attracted you to the Brontë sisters?
DMD: My mother’s large blue-green, gold lettered Fritz Eichenberg illustrated 1943 edition of Wuthering Heights, with its gothic woodcuts and double-columned text, its chapters running on without pause. My mom had Jane Eyre in the same series. I was on the precipice of puberty and had never seen books like them. Soon I had never read books like them. Emily was my Brontë preference for a long time, especially her poetry; I related to her reclusiveness and mysticism. I have always thought Charlotte an amazing storyteller. Of course, Haworth was on my bucket list of destinations when I got to the UK, the first time hitchhiking from York to Leeds with a few other students, the last leg of the “pilgrimage” aided by a friendly old man in a mini-cooper who was thrilled to show us the loveliest place on earth! My real interest in Anne began when I visited Scarborough and stood in front of her grave in St. Mary’s churchyard, wondering about her burial estrangement from her family. A year or so later, my mom gave me a miniature edition of Agnes Grey she had bought in a secondhand bookshop in Oxford. I guess you could say my mother was the conduit to my becoming interested in the Brontës! The essay I included at the backend of the novel, Reading the Brontës, elaborates on that.
ES: There have been so many books written about the Brontës. What do you feel makes your book different to others?
DMD: The most obvious difference is that I’ve focused through fiction on Anne. There are some excellent biographies about her, but, as far as I know, no novels with her as the main protagonist, only with her side-lined, glossed over, or in relation to what is happening to Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell. I wrote Without the Veil Between, as I do most of my fiction, long and short, in limited third person, and, therefore, from Anne’s point of view, including her experience, reflection, and emotional response. The other aspect that I think makes it unique is that I have explored and expanded scenes and events that are, if ever noted at all, only barely, and I’ve even given life to certain characters who crossed Anne’s path but usually aren’t included as part of her story. One reviewer wrote that I capture “those moments the rest…let slip away, and sometimes aren’t aware of to begin with”, which pleased me because that is what I set out to do.
ES: Your Anne Bronte book has been praised for its attention to detail. How did your research the novel?
DMD: This question nicely follows on from how I finished my answer to the last. Looking for those details, the ones that usually aren’t recognized as significant, inspired the treasure hunt I set off on in my research. It was the myriad of ordinary-extraordinary details that convinced me there was enough material for a full-length novel about Anne. Originally, I planned to write a novella to be included in a collection with a couple of others about lesser known women writers. Otherwise, researching and writing the novel involved reading Anne’s novels and poetry and biographies about her and her sisters, books about their physical environment, pets, what they ate, etc. I searched out online blogs and articles, and, of course, tapped into the resources for members on the Brontë Society website. I need visuals when I write, and the internet provided them. Circumstances prevented me from traveling, but YouTube videos allowed me to virtually go to Haworth, York, Scarborough, and other the places, so I might bring authenticity to them in the novel.
ES: Do you have a particular routine when you’re writing? What advice would you give to young writers starting out?
DMD: Mostly, I write on weekends, which is three days for me as I have Mondays off from the day job. I’m an evening writer, and usually don’t get into the full swing of writing until 5pm plus. Unlike when I was younger and procrastinated for much less valid reasons than I have now, these days I make myself write on as strict a schedule as possible. My advice to young writers is take the time to experiment, develop, and be open to the unexpected. Find your own way and savor the journey—even, especially, its detours. Don’t jeopardize the quality of your work by being in a hurry to see your efforts in print.
Engage the senses as much if not more than the intellect. I love this quote by Ray Bradbury: “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” Write what and because you have to write. Allow for the uniqueness of your voice and avoid the temptation of trends and popular appeal that risk you trying to be a writer other than the one you are meant to be. Or as Allen Ginsberg wrote, “To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
ES: You seem to me to be something of what I would term a Renaissance woman. You are very gifted in writing, art, and music, as well as other creative pursuits. Do you have a favourite or do you like to spend equal amounts of time on all your pursuits?
DMD: Writing certainly takes precedence, perhaps, because it has been calling me, as it seems, forever. Certainly it is the most difficult and frustrating, also greatly rewarding, especially novel writing when those edits are made and it’s published—most terrifying, too. Making art is much less demanding; it clears my mind and settles my nerves. It became more of an endeavor when I started my blog back in 2011, posting paintings I had done and getting positive reactions to my work. Recently, after doing the covers of my novels and short stories, and interior drawings for another author and then Without the Veil Between, I’ve realized that illustrating is something I really enjoy. In the past I have played the piano, guitar, and harp, but now music is a listening and literary pursuit. It usually provides the mood to what I’m creating and I really enjoyed writing about it in my first two novels, my latest kindle short Escaping Ziegfeld, and, also, here and there in Without the Veil Between.
ES: You have received a great deal of positive feedback for your Anne Brontë novel. Do you have plans to write more novels about the Brontës? What are you currently working on?
I don’t have any current plans to write further about the Brontës. Because my original intent was that a fiction about Anne would be part of a collection of novellas about, at least, two other women writers, I have already embarked on the next about the enigmatic, very private and conflicted Christina Rossetti (1830 – 1894), Victorian poetess and the youngest sister of Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood founder, artist and poet, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The Rossetti siblings (including another brother William and sister Maria) were like the Brontës in terms of their personal and creative closeness. I’m also working on an illustrated poetry-prose book featuring the cats that I have known and loved. Some ideas for short stories are simmering, too.
ES: Finally, and this is one of my favourite questions to ask people, if you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would you chose?
DMD: It would be my beautiful and talented maternal grandmother, Marion Allers DiCesare. She died when my mother was only ten years old, but has always been a strong presence in my life, especially my sensory and creative life. She was from Oak Park, Illinois near where the Hemingway family lived (my mother actually babysat for Ernest Hemingway’s sister Sunny’s little boy). A concert pianist and monologue entertainer in Chicago in the 1920s in the style of Fanny Brice, my grandmother was asked to join the Ziegfeld Follies for a European tour, her family not approving. Instead, she may not have made a safer choice, marrying a charming, capricious Italian who had ties to Al Capone and was a bigamist. My latest kindle short story Escaping Ziegfeld fictionalises this part of her life.
DM Denton Biography
A native of Western New York, USA, DM (Diane) Denton is an author by intent and an artist who enjoys feeding and complementing her literary muse. She is inspired by music, history, nature, mysticism, and the contradictions of the creative and human spirit. Her educational journey included a dream-fulfilling semester at Wroxton College in England and she stayed in the UK for sixteen years. She now lives near Batavia, New York in a cozy log cabin with her eighty-something mother and a multitude of cats. She has published three historical novels with All Things that Matter Press: A House Near Luccoli and its sequel, To A Strange Somewhere Fled, set in 17th century Genoa and England, inspired by the legendary composer Alessandro Stradella; and, released at the end of 2017, Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, which she also illustrated. Visit her at dmdenton-author-artist.com,bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com and dmdenton.artspan.com