Diane, please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Diane Lemieux. I’ve lived in 11 countries, including Canada where I was born, and Nigeria where I am now. I speak four languages (and studied two more that I have since forgotten). And I’ve been an ‘expat’ everything: kid, teenager, employee, student, mom, love-pat, re-pat… Most advice to new writers will include the adage: ‘write what you know’. So I write about cultures and global mobility. I also like to write about adventurous, creative and somehow international individuals who inspire me.You recently published The Mobile Life, which is a guide for people who want to live or work abroad. Please tell us a bit about the book and the topics it covers.
The Mobile Life: a new approach to moving anywhere is a guide to developing the knowledge, skills and attitudes individuals need to gain control of their life during an international move – when practically everything changes. The numbers of people who chose to move abroad increases yearly – if you put all the individuals who presently live in a country other than their passport nation in one geographical space, we would be the 5th largest country in the world. It is our hope (I co-wrote this book with Anne Parker) that this book contributes to the cohesion of the global village by stimulating people to be positive, proactive and self-aware global citizens. Does that sound too idealistic? The book itself is pretty down-to-earth and concrete (if anyone finds any jargon in it, please let me know!)
What first inspired you to start writing?
I had secretly wanted to be a writer for a long time. But I thought that writers were born not made: if you hadn’t won writing competitions in preschool and kept a journal your whole life there was little hope to become one as an adult. I had taken an online journalism diploma but didn’t know how to get started. When we returned to Holland my children were both in primary school and I saw a career counsellor to help me find a job. She was able to fish this dream out of my muddled sub-conscious and told me to stop fearing heights: I didn’t have to become Barbara Kingsolver and certainly not overnight. All I needed to do was take one step at a time. I started writing articles for free in my spare time, then for magazines, then books… And here we are.
Do you have a special time and place where you write?
I write all the time and everywhere. Let me clarify. There are many aspects to writing. If I am trying to create material from scratch, a couch, a café, a park bench, with pen and paper are most conducive. If I am editing, fine-tuning, perfecting, I need to be behind my computer. I wrote a blog about how my ‘office’ is always in the centre of the house I’m living in where I can be the spider in the web of my family’s life. I prefer to do interviews anywhere that is most natural to the person I’m talking to. I do a lot of thinking while walking (or taking showers). I find holidays disruptive. Don’t get me wrong: I love holidays and being with my family etc. But writing isn’t a job (from which holidays are welcome relief) – it’s a way of life.
What are you currently reading, and what's your favourite book?
OK, I have to be straight up here – I do not do ‘favourite’ anythings. I have a shelf of books that struck me for a specific reason – they cover a variety of genres including a grammar book that I thought was brilliantly put together though it is a lousy reference book. When I’m on ‘holiday’ I read anything – usually books recommended to me by friends, both fiction and non-fiction. In Nigeria, I’m a member of the African Book Group. We read 2 books a month that are either on Africa or written by Africans. Many of our members are African – reading has been my way of learning about the people of the continent I currently call home. Next week we review The Second Life of Samuel Tyne by Esi Edugyan. I haven’t finished it yet so I can’t recommend it – stay tuned.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Hmmm. Aspiring writers, if they are actually writing, are already writers (as defined as people who love to, or even need to, write). Writers can aspire to be read, to get published or to make a living from their skill and talent. My advice to writers who aspire would be to first decide what you want to get out of writing: to satisfy your own need to write, to influence others, to become a recognised ‘writer’, to make money… Be honest with yourself and work towards that specific goal. Becoming the writer you want to become is a question of writing – in your head, on paper, on your computer… And don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t be a writer: writing is a skill that can be perfected. The more you write, the better you write: the better you write, the more you write.