Diana Gould is a gifted Los Angeles writer who sold her first screenplay while she was still in college. Then came years of steady work, scripting nighttime drama series for television. When the jobs finally dried up, she decided to write a mystery novel. Little did she know that the book’s writing and publication would span a decade of her life. She often wrote at the former Mt. Calvary Retreat House on Gibraltar Road and became close to many of the monks there. Now she serves as a Buddhist chaplain at Santa Monica Hospice.
Coldwater is narrated by Brett Tanager, a onetime television writer and producer whose addiction to booze and pills has destroyed her life — no more jobs, a broken marriage, and no place to call home. Hitting bottom, she struggles to achieve sobriety while simultaneously hunting for her beloved stepdaughter, Julia, who has vanished into a world of Beverly Hills high school girls who casually sell their bodies to studio stars for cash and gifts. The first chapter has a heart-stopping twist, and the last third of the book is a densely plotted roller-coaster ride that challenges Jinx to face her deepest fears.
What was the hardest thing about transitioning from writing TV scripts to writing a novel?
Not getting paid. As a novelist I had no deadlines and no one offering me money to finish the project.
When you began, what did you know about writing novels?
Absolutely nothing. I didn’t even know the difference between so-called genre fiction and literature. I just thought books were books. Getting an MFA at Bennington College in Vermont raised my consciousness. We had to read four or five books each month. I read Proust and a lot of detective novels.
What was the impetus for this particular novel?
I wanted to show the process of getting sober. I also wanted to put someone who always drank to escape her fears into a very frightening situation that she would have to navigate sober. There has been a lot of alcoholism among my friends and family. It’s a subject very close to me.
What happened when the novel was finished?
After 20 or 30 drafts, I found a fabulous high-powered agent. She put it up for auction in New York and nobody bid. So I did some more work on it, and the second auction occurred in September 2008. Lehmann Brothers had just collapsed, and the stock market crashed. I was in Manhattan, and it felt like a giant death. Nobody wanted to deal with the book. Even my agent withdrew since she could no longer count on a big sale.
Talk about a bad luck scenario…
Yes, the book went into the drawer for a couple of years, but I loved it enough to pull it out and write still another draft. This time, I went to New York and found that all my writer friends were engaged in publishing online and self-publishing. So I decided to start my own offset publishing company, Gibraltar Books. Someone helped me get a distribution deal to all the bookstores, and now, in addition to publishing my own books, I plan to publish those of all my friends.
You showed admirable persistence in the face of adversity.
My message is, if you want to do something, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.
That’s the theme of Coldwater and the theme of the journey I took to write and publish it.
Diana Gould will sign copies of Coldwater on Saturday, June 15, at Tecolote Books in Montecito.