Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Q&A with Dianne C. Braley




Dianne C. Braley is the author of the new novel The Silence in the Sound. She also has written the poetry collection Unheard Whispers. A registered nurse, she lives north of Boston.


Q: What inspired you to write The Silence in the Sound, and how was the novel's title chosen?


A: I knew the title had to have the word “sound” in it as the particular spot overlooking Vineyard Sound on the island is pivotal to the book and my life. Everything in [my character] George’s life fell “silent in the sound” as she waded her way in, desperate and alone in disbelief of what’s become of her.


Inspiration for the book came from many things, but if not for William Styron--the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author probably best known for his book Sophie’s Choice--I’m not sure I’d ever have had the courage to write a word.


Writing had always been my passion since I could remember, but having grown up in the inner city, blue-collar and with lesser means, it wasn’t something encouraged. Still, I wrote nearly every day and once had a poem published as a teenager, but like many inner-city kids, I was shown early on paying the bills was the priority.


My mother, a nurse, and father, a truck driver, seemingly wanted my brother and me to pursue our passions but encouraged a career that fed us and put a roof over our heads; that was first and foremost. Dreams came second, and if at all, they can come later.


Later in life, after becoming a nurse and succeeding at putting a roof over my head, I felt fulfillment in helping people, but there was always something missing, although I was never sure what. While having the honor of caring for Mr. Styron at the end of his life, I saw a man and a family existing for art, and I breathed in its existence and felt alive and inspired.


I spent years with a talented, complicated, deep, and melancholic man at the end of his life, reading his books across from him. His friendship and fascination with the darkness of humanity and himself led me to explore my own and not be afraid to find my meaning. 


Q: The novel is set on Martha's Vineyard--how important is setting to you in your writing?

A: It depends on what you are writing. Sometimes a book has characters that are so complex the setting doesn’t need to be as important, although I do think even if the story takes place in a white padded room, readers want to feel it.


Capturing the island was very important to me in writing this. There is a no more beautiful place on this earth to me and many. I hope I succeeded in giving readers a small piece of the magic that is Martha’s Vineyard. 


Q: How would you describe the relationship between your characters George and Dock? 


A: Extremely complicated. Georgette (George) grew up with an alcoholic father she loved, but his chaos affected her much more than she realized. She's insecure and feels unsafe, longing for stability, but she doesn't know what that is.


Dock and his demons are everything she ran from, and he only wants to be “normal” for her and him. The two so badly want what they know life can be but are so damaged they can’t get there, despite their love. It's tragic, as these things often are. 


Q: You dedicated the book to your mother and to William Styron. How much was your character Mr. S. based on Styron? 


A: The Silence in the Sound is a work of fiction. But is fiction ever really fiction? It's hard to write without inspiration from our life and the people in it.


William Styron and my time with him, along with all the people and events during that time in my life, are so profound I couldn't not be inspired by all of them. He was a remarkable man, and my time with him will live in me forever.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I just had a poetry book published titled Unheard Whispers. It’s a collection on growing up in addiction. Writing poetry in between writing a book heals me and gives me a bit of instant gratification during the grueling process of writing a novel.


I’m also five chapters deep into my next book. It’s again on a darker subject. I was in the middle of another book and shelved it as a painful story came very close to my life. The remarkable strength of some of the characters in it and the life-changing events that transpired made me stop everything. Motivated by this event, I had to write.


Q: Anything else we should know? 


A: I’m incredibly excited to tell you that I’ve partnered with the Robert F. Kennedy Community Alliance organization of Massachusetts and their division that helps children and families affected by addiction. They help close to one thousand families annually in Massachusetts and are growing.


There is so much funding and focus on addicts, and while even more is needed, there is hardly anything provided for kids growing up with an addicted parent or caregiver. Kids who grow up in this environment with someone suffering from addiction have a much higher chance of becoming an addict or living a life of dysfunction. We need to support the kids.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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