Imagining Diana Author Interview

Diane ClehaneDiane Clehane is the author of Diana: The Secrets of Her Style and has served as a commentator on the British royal family for CNN, Access Hollywood, and CBS News. She has written about celebrities and popular culture for Vanity Fair, Forbes, People, and, and is a U.S. correspondent for British Heritage. In her weekly “Wednesdays at Michael’s” column, Clehane chronicles the Manhattan media scene. She co-authored the New York Times bestseller Objection and edited the New York Times bestselling collection of essays, I Love You, Mom.

Tower Review) There’s much background on Diana, and of course speculation about what her motives were, played out in fiction after her death. Wondering what the biggest guess was, besides the fact that she wanted to live her own life and create an honorable life for her boys amid all the glitz and paparazzi.
Diane Clehane) I have been writing about the British royal family for a long time and did extensive research for the book. As someone who has written about Diana for two decades, I felt very confident about the path I imagined for her had she lived. The biggest mystery was if she would have remarried. What I did in the book is directly related to a relationship she really had with Teddy Forstmann. I believe the greatest happiness Diana would have found later in her life would have come from the relationship she had with her sons — and their wives and children — and her work as a global humanitarian figure. 
TR) Did Diana really not want to go to Paris, making it a jealousy play with no intention of a serious relationship with Dodi? 
DC) When Diana met Dodi, she had just had a devastating break-up with Hasnat Khan. I believe she was trying to make Hasnat jealous by allowing herself to be photographed on the yacht in Dodi’s arms. That said, she was enjoying herself on that vacation because Dodi was focused solely on her. She found him very attentive, but when the holiday was over she was ready to go back to London. I don’t think their romance would have lasted for a whole host of reasons — the fact that William didn’t care for the Fayed jet-set lifestyle being among them.

TR) The agent in New York looking to exploit Diana. Was there a specific agent in mind, perhaps based on one you encountered in real life? Or is she a total fiction, like Meryl playing a fashion snob in The Devil Wears Prada?
DC) The agent Lois is a composite character based on many people I’ve known in the media, publishing and entertainment fields. I thought it would be fun to make her a larger-than-life presence.

TR) Was Diana ever in love with Charles, and vice-versa, in your opinion? Who cheated first, and why?
DC) Diana was definitely in love with Charles when they married. She was all of 20 years old and very much believed in love and romance. Charles told friends he hoped he could ‘grow to love Diana’ and he did, I believe, in his own way. Unfortunately for Charles and Diana, it was an arranged marriage because he was being pressured to find a suitable (read: aristocratic and virginal) bride. Unfortunately, Charles never really let go of his emotional attachment to Camilla.  Later it became an open secret among palace insiders that he had resumed his affair. Ironically, Diana and Charles were starting a new stage of their relationship post-divorce when she was killed. I believe they would have grown closer as friends in later years as they do in my book.

About the book:
IMAGINING DIANA begins on August 31, 1997 in a Paris hospital. As the world awaits news of Princess Diana’s fate following the paparazzi-fueled crash, Diana awakens from a coma to discover that she has survived the wreckage, but with her famous face—the most photographed in the world— forever changed. Based on actual events, what ensues is an elegant, riveting account of Diana’s storied past and imagined future as an icon, lover, and mother of a future king. On audio the book is introduced by the author, and narrated by Stina Nielsen.

Lisa Scottoline Interview

Lisa ScottolineTower Review: When and how did you become a writer? What is your background?

Lisa Scottoline: I began as a writer about ten years ago, when my daughter was just an infant. At the time I was a trial lawyer for a large law firm in Philadelphia, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, and my marriage ended at about the same time my daughter was born. As much as I loved being a lawyer (really), I found that my kid turned my head. I wanted to be able to stay home and raise her, which required me to find another way to make an income. At the time, John Grisham and other male lawyers were writing legal thrillers successfully, and I noticed that no women were. I had majored in English, in the contemporary American novel, at Penn, so I figured why not try? I also thought I could bring a new perspective to the genre as a woman. I think that law school was where I learned to write novels. As a lawyer, you need to sort through the facts, pick out those that are most important and will add to your argument, and then put them on paper in a succinct and persuasive way. Every word counts, and you are trying to create a perspective – a spin, if you will – in the readers’ mind. This is the same way I create a character. And, in order to keep up the pace of a novel, you need to make sure that each line adds to the story, and drives it forward. I write with the thought that every word counts. And every reader.

TR: How was your first novel received? What did that feel like?

Scottoline: Thank God, my first novel was very well received, and all of my novels have shared the same good fortune. My first book, EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, was nominated for the Edgar Award, which is the most prestigious award given to mystery writers. Although my first book did not win, my second book, FINAL APPEAL, was nominated the next year, and did win. When the first good review of EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT came in, I made my editor read it over and over to make sure it was true. Then to be nominated for an award, seemed more than I could have ever hoped for. The whole writing experience has been a thrill for me and it gets better and better with each book.

TR: When you get fan mail now, what do most people seem to connect with. What most interests them about your characters?

Scottoline: I try very hard to write characters that are interesting, yet realistic. The thing that I hear the most is that people love my characters because they feel like they can relate to them. Once a reader makes a personal connection to a character, they are naturally more involved in the story. I like that my characters are not super people. They’re just like all of us.


Environment in Crisis: Go Green?

Tim SandersWith hurricanes ravaging the Caribbean and Florida, with astronomical costs, pain, death, and destruction, is there hope? What should one do? Here’s Tim Sanders, environmentalist and solutions speaker. His books are Saving the World at Work, Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence, The Likeability Factor, DealStorming (about sales and marketing) and Love is the Killer App.

Q: What are a few things people can do at home to be greener? Personally, I’ve switched out incandescent bulbs for CFCs, and cut way back on television in favor of audiobooks. A radical act, some would say, but it saves us from about a million commercials for things we don’t really need.
A: CFLs are a big start. Half of all electricity is devoted to lighting, so increase efficiency there makes a huge difference. Reducing your auto usage or emissions is big too. Combine less driving with high MPG and you move the needle. Besides your personal usage issues, influence is a big way to make a difference. Require green-ness from all your suppliers, from dry-cleaner to grocery. They will respond to customer requests. That way, you can go beyond being less bad.
Q: Any thoughts on cutting back on beef consumption, bottled water, soda, and its relationship to pollution and rising health care costs for companies? What can CEOs do to encourage more responsible habits at the workplace that may translate to people adopting those practices in their private lives?
A: Beef consumption is tied to pollution, global warming, water waste and heart disease. Bottled water is the new Hummer. With respect to companies, the magic bullet may be wellness programming. For a small fee, you can bring in trainers to teach your employees diet, exercise and smoking cessation. For every dollar you spend, you’ll save three in health care claims and increased productivity. You’ll also teach people how to take care of their bodies, which leads to an increased respect for the planet. That’s what Adam Werbach (former Sierra Club president) found out when he was hired to teach eco-sensibility to Wal Mart employees.
Q: Efficiency is the watchword for tomorrow’s cars, but this extends to appliances, homes, and buildings too. Thomas Friedman, in his book “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” made the scary point that the world will add another six USAs in the sense of consumption of natural resources worldwide, due to rising standards of living. This is unsustainable without a radical shift, not just in values, but in innovation. Of course Dubai is now constructing buildings that are partially self sustaining, but they have the advantage of capital to finance their architects. Do you share Friedman’s optimism that solutions will come, even for us, in this so-called “post-American world?”
A: We all need to dramatically reduce our requirements of the planet to create a sustainable world. We need to, as a global community, help struggling nations reduce their birth rate too. I’m an eternal optimist and believe that we can find new ways to increase the supply of resources and make this planet big enough for a few billion more people. Why? Because our next generation is wired for it. They consider it their legacy (as opposed to independence, which was the boomers Ayn Rand driven goal). In the meantime, here’s the way to think about it all: The planet is like a start up company that is running out of money. The product team is working night and day to find a breakthrough product that reverses the trend and brings precious money in the door. Meanwhile the rest of the company needs to save money to cut the burn rate and give the product team some extra time. We are the rest of the company and the eco-innovators are the product team. We need to innovate, buckle down and buy them some time to come up with solutions that preserve the environment.
Q: One final question. You narrate your own book on audio. What was the experience like for you, and how is it different than getting up on the podium in your lecture circuit?
A: It’s pretty hard. You have to read in a studio for several days, get it all absolutely correct and maintain energy and passion. On the lecture circuit, I’m not reading off a script or a teleprompter!

Nicholas Sparks and Janet Evanovich


Nicholas Sparks is the bestselling author of many romance novels that were made into movies. Here’s an excerpt of our phone interview with him, for Flashback Friday.

Q: One of the most amazing things I read about you is that you read over 100 books a year. Other authors I talk to have little or no time to read. How do you do that, given that you have five kids and so much else going on?

A: I love reading, and I read very quickly, obviously. Most books don’t stay with me, with that magical quality, other books I linger over longer. I have wide interests, so it’s almost like watching television. You turn off the TV and pick up a book, read a page a minute or faster, and pretty soon you’re reading a hundred books a year instead of watching TV.

Q: Do you listen to audiobooks on the road?

A: Yes, I do, and generally I prefer non-fiction for the road. . . biographies and histories. . . but then, to be honest, I really don’t drive much. I live in a small town in North Carolina. Put it like this. My car is four years old. I drive it everywhere. Everywhere, I take my car. Four years. Nine thousand miles. (laughs) I mean, I just don’t go anywhere! I go to the store, drive back, drive to post office, drive back. Nothing.

Q: I interviewed producers Dennis Kao and Linda Ross, and they talked about the choice of Tom Wopat as one your narrators. He’s a macho guy who can be sensitive too. That’s the ideal, don’t you think? Was wondering what you think of audiobooks as a medium.

A: They’re great. I remember as a kid driving with my parents there’d be radio stations with plays and stories. You almost never hear that now, but I remember hearing that, and I loved it. It’s a wonderful thing for people who spend a lot of time in the car. If you’re going to drive 45 minutes or more to work every day, you know, you can go through 50 books a year. So you can be as well read as anybody you know. It’s a wonderful choice.

And here’s Janet Evanovich, also a phone interview excerpt.

Audiobooks Today: Do you listen to your own audio books? What do you think of Lorelie King?

JE: I do listen. And I love Lorelie King! She was actually my request. She’d been doing my U.K. books, and I was having a hard time finding someone to do my books in this country. The Recorded Books reader C.J. Critt does the library editions here, but she was contracted to them, and although I love her, she wasn’t available. So I asked to get Lorelie. What do you think of her?

AT: She captures Stephanie’s character very well, and does a marvelous job.

JE: Yes, she’s articulate and consistent.

AT: Did you hear she won an Audie award for reading Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas?

JE: I wasn’t aware of her winning, but I’m not surprised. Lorelei rocks.

AT: So who influenced you? Who are your favorite authors?

JE: The earliest influence was Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge. They were always setting off on adventures. And of course, there was Lucille Ball. On my last book tour the book that traveled with me was Slightly Shady by Amanda Quick. Shady is a Regency romance and I love reading about the Regency period. They’re comedies of manners much like the Plum books.

AT: Is anything going to film? Have you written any screenplays yet?

JE: TriStar bought the rights to One for the Money, the first book in the series. I’ve never written a screenplay but think it might be a fun future project.

AT: Am trying to think of who might best play Stephanie. Ashley Judd? Cameron Diaz? Sandra Bullock?  (Note: Katherine Heigl played Plum in the 2012 movie.)

JE: Or maybe Anne Hathaway or Ellen Page.

AT:  A Stephanie Plum for a new generation. Now, you are truly everywhere, these days. Ever signed books overseas, and does any of this ever interfere with the writing?

JE: Once I did a month long tour of Australia, three weeks in England, Scotland, Ireland, and then a month long tour of the U.S. The result of all that touring is that you can get behind on the writing. I love the signings and media but hate the flying.

AT: At this point, can you even remember being at a signing where few people showed up?

JE: When I first started touring I had signings where no one showed up. It takes a lot of Cheez Doodles and beer to get over that sort of thing! An average signing now runs anywhere from 500 to 5,000 people.

AT: No more Cheez Doodles for you, then, Janet! 

Larry Niven
For scifi fans, a great new production this month, including the story basis for an upcoming movie by the producer of Arrival. Narrator is Bronson Pinchot, a voiceover actor also seen in many films and TV series, including Perfect Strangers, The Langoliers (Stephen King), Beverly Hills Cop, and True Romance.


Trump’s Palm Beach

Palm BeachRonald Kessler knows Palm Beach, the home of Trump’s Maralago. Here’s a throwback interview with him on his book THE SEASON. He’s a former Washington Post and WSJ reporter with many journalism awards. Other books (also on audio) include Inside the White House, The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, The Terrorist Watch, and Spy vs Spy.

Jonathan Lowe: Palm Beach, as exposed by your book, sounds like one big social club from which we mere mortals are excluded. Is it really true that the police stop gawkers at the bridge? Why are the super rich so enamored with the place?

Ronald Kessler: They are their own social club. Why should they mix with gawkers and tourists? They prefer to be with their own kind. People who think, talk, and act the way they do. Palm Beach has the greatest concentration of rich people in the world. With vigilant police who can sense outsiders, Palm Beach offers the perfect setting for the rich to enjoy themselves. To give themselves a sense of achievement, they exclude outsiders and impose a caste system on the 3.75 square mile island paradise. Almost like laboratory rats fed growth hormones, the 9800 residents of Palm Beach exhibit the most outlandish and exaggerated forms of human behavior.

Lowe: Did you find their odd behavior and rituals were competitive in nature, meaning they don’t use balance sheets as a yardstick as much as we think they do?

Kessler: The super rich compete with balloon decorations and yacht lengths. Their net worths are always mysteries, either much higher or lower than what one is led to believe.

Lowe: If Palm Beach is Mount Olympus, who is Zeus?

Kessler: The Old Guard, with names like Hutton, Hilton, Pillsbury, Firestone, Dupont, Scripps, and Ford, preside over the social season. Their leader is Barton Gubelmann, a surprisingly candid and withy lady known as the Queen of Palm Beach. The new wealth is represented by Trump, Kluge, and Perelman.

Lowe: Has anyone yelled “Do the words KEEP OUT mean anything to you?” before releasing the Dobermans? Or did you gain access by reputation alone?

Kessler: I first came to Palm Beach to conduct research for my book “The Sins of the Father,” about Joe Kennedy. Sources who helped me then introduced me to others in Palm Beach. I was quickly able to refer to people I had interviewed, and that put people at ease. Very few refused to talk. Even though Palm Beach is a very closed society, people who move there are aware of its reputation–the place where Roxanne Pulitzer had her divorce, where William Kennedy Smith was tried for rape. Secretly, they love gossip and scandal. Otherwise they wouldn’t be there. If you give them the right reason to talk, if you know the right combination, you can get in.

Lowe: Can you give an example of someone lying to you?

Kessler: One man, a former chairman of the International Red Cross Ball, told me he graduated from Harvard and won the Silver Cross, the Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart while serving in the Marines. He wears the medals when he attends the black-tie event, the pinnacle of the social season. It turned out he obtained his college degree through a correspondence school, and while he served in the Marines won no medals of any kind.

Lowe: What most surprised you about Palm Beach society?

Kessler: I wasn’t prepared for the blatant anti-Semitism in the Old Guard. Then there was Gianna Lahainer, who told me her husband died during the middle of the season. Since she didn’t want to take the time to hold a funeral for him, she had him embalmed and stored for forty days so she could hold a funeral for him after the season ended. “I wanted to go to the parties,” Gianna said. “My new life was going on, why should I wait? I would miss the season.”

Lowe: Any anecdotes about someone excluded from a posh party who thought he or she might be “in?”

Kessler: Many people essentially lobby to get invited to key parties by pressuring friends to speak on their behalf. But the greatest pressure is brought to bear on bank trust officers, who control much of the wealth. Trust fund babies, who live on inherited wealth, wake up late, go to their clubs, have a few drinks, and try to outsmart trust fund officers so they’ll give them more money. Their walk in closets may be half the size of most people’s homes, and their diamond rings may be worth millions, but they want more. One heir to an industrial fortune has homes in Palm Beach, New York, France, and Italy. He had a yellow Rolls Royce Corniche convertible but wanted a Ferrari as well. The trust department of his bank kept turning him down, so he bought the Ferrari with his American Express platinum card.

Lowe: Any Trump stories to relate?

Kessler: A Palm Beach caterer told me what happened when she mentioned to an heir that Ivana Trump, who lived in a $4.4 million home, needed a butler. “Ivana needs a butler? How about me?” the man said. The caterer said, “My God, you don’t know how to be a butler.” To which the man said, “What do you mean, I’ve had one all my life.” The trust fund baby applied for the job and was hired. He donned a white jacket and white gloves for a party. Amongst the guests was his mother. He didn’t stay long.

Lowe: Any churches in Palm Beach? If so, wouldn’t it be nice to have a microphone in the confessional?

Kessler: There are churches, but no funeral parlors or cemeteries. No one wants to be reminded of his own mortality. Everyone is living a fantasy. As for confessions, I have to say that what amazes many readers of “The Season” is that it is based on recorded interviews. What one finds out is that the very rich are indeed very different from you and me.

Lowe: What did you think of George Plimpton’s recording of your book?

Kessler: After hearing his rendition of “The Season,” I feel I’m missing a lot of good audiobooks. His WASPish delivery was hysterical, and gave it another dimension.