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Author Interview: Q & A with Diane Harding

Why did you start writing? Was there a specific moment where you decided to put pen to paper or words to a screen?

As a child I would sometimes tell my mother that I would one day write a book. She’d laugh, tell me it was a splendid idea and ask if she would feature. But what I knew back then was only half the story. Her death in 2003 provided me with startling information I had not known existed. Untouched for years it emerged that her secret box had followed her around the country accumulating evidence. My discovery of the truth, decades later, fueled my determination to write my memoir.

And the moment arrived the day my stepmother died. I now had my guilt free ticket to chart the extraordinary years and it would not be a day too soon to put the record straight.

What has been your hardest challenge this year?

Finding a publisher and sitting indoors doing a final edit on my manuscript when the early warmth of those first spring days back in March beckoned me into the garden.

The book market has never been so tough as it is now. What advice would you give to aspiring authors to stand out from the crowd?

Make sure you understand the art of ‘show don’t tell. It’s the hardest thing to master but pays dividends in the end. And make sure you edit, edit, edit. And if memoir, allow yourself to write from the heart.

What’s been your favourite book that you’ve read this year?

As an enthusiast of memoir, without a doubt my favourite read this year has been Julian Roup’s Boerejood. As a fellow Capetonian his enlightening accounts of his early years in Cape Town had me wallowing in nostalgia. Brilliantly written, his attention to detail takes us into his space on every page.

Other than your own, which BLKDOG title would you recommend?

Again, Julian Roup’s Life in a Time of Plague is a triumph. Wonderfully written the author’s knack of inviting us into his world is ever present. Echoing deep concerns for Boris’ dire lack of leadership in a pandemic ravaged country to the uplifting tranquility of his adjoining forest escapes amongst the bluebells, we are with him all the way. And the lighthearted account of ordering catering sized pickles had me in stitches. Thank you, Julian, for the entertaining and witty insight into your daily routine.

A mystery basket turns up on your doorstep. Would you prefer it contained a dog or a cat?

It would be a dog every time. My daughter has a black Labrador called Ebbie which I hoped would be a lucky omen when I sent my manuscript to BLKDOG.

Do you have a book in your mind that you know you’ll probably never actually write?

Yes. It would be called Confessions of a School Secretary. With twenty years of tales under my belt – from the reception child who lavishly painted his crown jewels black to the running commentary on threadworms - I knew by coffee time on that first morning that my job would never be dull.

Which famous author do you most admire?

We are blessed with so many, but A.A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young transports me back to my days at Herschel School in Cape Town when we were required to read and learn his wonderful poems.

Which book have you read which you feel deserves much more acclaim that it has received?

Alan Johnson’s memoir This Boy is top of my list. Although it is a moving account of rising from rags to riches, the carefully woven witticisms into his well-written narrative provide brilliant touches of humour throughout.

One of your books suddenly sells a million copies, how do you react?

I would re-read the figures and immediately wonder how I will cope with the fame. But after the initial euphoria, as always, I will keep calm and carry on with the most precious gift in life, my wonderful family and grandchildren.

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Always in the Dark: One Woman's Search for Answers from a Family Shrouded in Secrets is a deeply moving memoir that tells of secrets, scandal and survival.

After her parents emigrated post war, Diane spends her idyllic and cosy childhood in Cape Town, which is ruined at the age of three after the arrival of a visitor. Her roller coaster existence and mother’s mental breakdown when she is eight adds to her confusion. Her father works for Cadbury’s and after securing a transfer with the company, the family move back to England when she is fourteen. With each new move, of which there are many, Diane prays that happiness will return to her parents’ marriage.

It is obvious her home life is a weird one and it is only after her mother’s death that she rummages through her secret box and unearths a wealth of staggering information she does not know exists. But Diane is a young child when it all begins and the fact she has lived her life to the point of naivety is beyond baffling. And because of the hurt and embarrassment her shocking revelation is not something she wants to share with her husband.

The search for the truth sends Diane on numerous missions to talk to many people only to discover that she is the last to know about her dysfunctional family. Her goal is to hear an apology for her ruined childhood.

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About the author

Diane Harding (nee Berry) knew from a tender age that she would one day write a book. What she did not know was that it would be a brave and courageous account of her childhood that had been filled with secrets and scandal. Her naivety, and the fact she was the last to know the reason for her weird upbringing, was beyond baffling. Her memoir ‘Always in the Dark’ has allowed her to put the record straight.

Diane was born in Cape Town after her parents’ emigrated post war. She attended Herschel School and at the age of fourteen moved to England after her father secured a transfer with Cadbury’s.

Married with two children and three grandchildren, Diane lives near Bath. After a long career in education, now retired she devotes as much time as possible to her grandchildren. Apart from a passion for writing, her interests include tennis, tap dancing, gardening, delving into her genealogy and recording Talking Newspapers for the blind.

Connect with Diane Harding

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Twitter: click here

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Purchase Always in the Dark: One Woman's Search for Answers from a Family Shrouded in Secrets

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