Chamberlain, Diane 1950–
Chamberlain, Diane 1950–
PERSONAL: Born March 18, 1950, in Plainfield, NJ; daughter of John (a retired school principal) and Nan (a homemaker; maiden name, Chamberlain) Lopresti; married Richard D. Chmielewski, April 14, 1973 (divorced, 1993); married David Heagy, June 8, 1996; children: (stepchildren) Brittany Walls, Alana Glaves, Caitlin Heagy. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Attended Glassboro State College, 1968–70; San Diego State University, B.A., 1975, M.S.W., 1978. Religion: Unitarian Universalist. Hobbies and other interests: Dog training, travel, photography, music.
CAREER: Writer. Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego, CA, social worker, 1980–83; Children's Hospital, Washington, DC, social worker, 1983–85; clinical social worker, Alexandria, VA, 1985–92; novelist, 1987–.
MEMBER: Novelists Inc. (membership chair), Romance Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: RITA Award, Romance Writers of America, 1990, for novel Private Relations; Life Time Achievement Award, Romantic Times, 1997, 2001.
Private Relations, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Lovers and Strangers, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Secret Lives, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Keeper of the Light, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Fire and Rain, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Brass Ring, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Reflection, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
The Escape Artist, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Breaking the Silence, Mira Books (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 1999.
Summer's Child, Mira Books (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
The Courage Tree, Mira (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
Cypress Point, Mira (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Kiss River, Mira (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Her Mother's Shadow, Mira (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
The Bay at Midnight, Mira (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
The Secret Wife of CeeCee Wilkes, Mira (Don Mills, Ontario, Canada), 2006.
Contributor of articles to newspapers and magazines.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Flying in Winter, a novel, expected 2007; Generations, a photography and prose book, with photographs by John Pagliuca; a memoir of growing up agoraphobic.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer Diane Chamberlain "bridges the gap between romance and relationship novels," according to a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. The award-winning author has produced numerous novels since becoming a full-time writer in 1992. Chamberlain describes her work on her Web site: "My stories are often filled with twists and surprises and—I hope—they also tug at the emotions. Relationships—between men and women, parents and children, sisters and brothers—are always the primary focus of my books."
Such a focus can be seen in her third published book, Secret Lives. This "many-layered novel," as Sybil Steinberg described it in Publishers Weekly, features a strong woman at the center, actress Eden Riley, who comes back to her childhood home to film the story of her elusive writer mother, who died when Eden was only eleven. Eden's search into the past is accompanied by a new relationship for the actress in the present, in this "brisk, atmospherically evocative narrative," as Steinberg further noted. Southern California is the setting for Fire and Rain, a tale of a mysterious stranger with rainmaking skills who effects the lives of several citizens of a small town. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted that "nearly every chapter finishes with the sort of emotional jolt that keeps the pages turning."
With the 1997 title The Escape Artist, Chamberlain tells a tale of a woman who creates a new life for herself and young son to prevent the possibility of losing him in a custody battle to her ex-husband. However, she is jolted back into her real identity when her sense of civic duty intrudes. While a reviewer for Publishers Weekly found this book a "fairly pedestrian affair," a more positive assessment came from Booklist contributor Michele Leber, who called it a "page-turner … [with] an eminently satisfying ending."
More secrets from the past intrude upon the present in Breaking the Silence, a work that "offers relentless suspense and intriguing psychological insight," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Similarly, in Summer's Child, Chamberlain plumbs the secrets and mysteries of the past while engaging her characters in a present-day romance. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commended the author for producing "a captivating tale populated with haunting characters."
Chamberlain turned to the thriller format for her 2001 title, The Courage Tree, the story of a divorced woman whose efforts to find an alternative cure for her daughter's kidney complaint are so successful that the youngster can accompany her Brownie troupe on a hike. When the girl, however, becomes lost in the woods and officials lose hope of finding her, the mother must locate the child before time runs out and renal failure occurs. Booklist contributor Diana Tixier Herald commended the work as a "memorable thriller," while similar praise came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who called it a "page turner [that] will please those who like their stories with as many twists and turns as a mountain road."
Chamberlain blended a story of healing and a complex tale of a romantic triangle in Cypress Point. Driven by guilt feelings for having had an affair with her best friend's husband, Joelle turns to a healer from her youth to try and make amends. A contributor for Publishers Weekly found this a "humane but too-familiar novel." A more positive assessment, however, came from Booklist contributor Patty Engelmann, who thought Chamberlain's "complicated novel will bring tears to her readers, but they won't regret the experience."
Carolina's Outer Banks is the setting for a pair of novels from Chamberlain. In Kiss River, she presents alternating tales of a teenager during World War II and a contemporary story of a teacher, Gina, pursuing a "mysterious quest," as Herald described it in Booklist. Kiss River introduces the brother and sister, Clay and Lacey, and it is Lacey who is the focus for Her Mother's Shadow. Reviewing that book, a Publishers Weekly critic observed: "Complex, credible characterization raises her saga so far above soap opera." Herald, writing in Booklist, also had praise for Her Mother's Shadow, calling it a "compelling women's novel."
Chamberlain presents a story full of family secrets and a mystery long unsolved in her 2005 The Bay at Midnight, a "smooth, deceptively simple tale of romantic suspense," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Similar praise came from Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley, who called the novel "both an enticing mystery and a rewarding love story."
Chamberlain once told CA: "I have been fortunate to have had two rewarding careers, as a clinical social worker and now as a novelist. Both careers have been challenging and have allowed me to touch the lives of others in a positive way. Being a psychotherapist has given me psychological insights into people, which has enabled me to create realistic, multi-dimensional characters."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 1997, Michele Leber, review of The Escape Artist, p. 1109; February 15, 2001, Diana Tixier Herald, review of The Courage Tree, p. 1114; February 1, 2002, Patty Engelmann, review of Cypress Point, p. 920; February 1, 2003, Diana Tixier Herald, review of Kiss River, p. 976; February 15, 2004, Diana Tixier Herald, review of Her Mother's Shadow, p. 1035; December 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of The Bay at Midnight, p. 690.
Publishers Weekly, January 11, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of Secret Lives, p. 90; March 8, 1993, review of Fire and Rain, p. 68; January 20, 1997, review of The Escape Artist, p. 393; January 18, 1999, review of Breaking the Silence, p. 336; December 20, 1999, review of Summer's Child, p. 62; December 18, 2000, review of The Courage Tree, p. 53; January 14, 2002, review of Cypress Point, p. 41; February 2, 2004, review of Her Mother's Shadow, p. 60; January 10, 2005, review of The Bay at Midnight, p. 37.
Diane Chamberlain Home Page, http://www.dianechamberlain.com (January 20, 2006).