Q&A with author Diane Les Becquets

Former Meeker resident and bestselling author Diane Les Becquets
COURTESY PHOTO

MEEKER | Diane Les Becquets, a former professor of English and MFA director, is an avid outdoorswoman, enjoying backpacking off the grid, snowshoeing, archery, and swimming. A native of Nashville, she spent almost 14 years living in Meeker before moving to New Hampshire.
Les Becquets will be in Meeker on Thursday, March 7 for a book signing, author discussion, and wine and cheese tasting at Blanco Cellars and the Meeker Coworking Community at 627 Main St. at 6:30 p.m. Hardcover copies of her new book will be available for purchase at the event for $26.

Q. What’s your Meeker background? When did you come here, what did you do, etc. And what did you do/where did you go when you left?
A. I moved to Meeker with Tim Boesch, my first husband, and our two sons (our third son was born two years later) on Oct. 23, 1993, into the brick Victorian on the corner of Ninth and Park. I remember the day well as Tim and the boys had come down with the flu, and ended up requiring a trip to the hospital. I had never been to Meeker before, and I fell in love with with the town and the community immediately. Tim and I were both self-employed at the time, he as a product designer, and me as a medical journalist, and Meeker was exactly what we’d been looking for—a small town with great values and people, and a gorgeous natural setting. In addition to writing, I also taught in the schools, first as a substitute teacher, and later as the elementary school music teacher, and eventually as the middle school Title I teacher. I left Meeker in 2006 to take a position as an assistant professor of English at Southern New Hampshire University. Accepting that job was a tough decision, and though it proved to be the right thing for both me and my family, I remember crying all the way to the other side of Kansas. I didn’t know anyone in New Hampshire, and I was leaving the place I had loved and called home.

Q. Did you always want to be a writer? What authors or books inspired you?
A.. I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Even as a child I had my own writing table, drafted stories and poems, and spent countless hours in my imaginary story world. As a young girl, I was mostly inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels and the Nancy Drew mystery series. But numerous books have inspired me over the years and continue to do so. A couple of my favorite books are Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours,” and Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.”  And I am always inspired by the work of Craig Childs, Terry Tempest Williams, and Wallace Stegner, whose writing so richly captures our natural world. But really, there are just so many books I turn to, from memoirs, to short story collections, to books on true crime and psychological suspense.

Q. What was your first book?
A. My first book, “The Stones of Mourning Creek,” was a young-adult novel published in 2001.

Q. What other books have you published since? When and why did you switch from YA to adult?
A. After my first novel was published, I went on to write two more young adult novels: “Love, Cajun Style,” published in 2005; and “Season of Ice,” published in 2008. They were necessary novels for me. But then I turned my attention solely to the adult market. The adult market was always where I was driving myself, but there were experiences and people and themes from my time growing up that I’d wanted to first explore. There was also a traumatic period in my life  that I needed to move beyond in a way that would allow me to find a different voice for my writing. “Breaking Wild,” and now “The Last Woman in the Forest” are both marketed as adult literary thrillers and psychological suspense.

Q. The horrible question all writers hate: where do you get your ideas?
A. I keep a notebook where I jot down novel ideas, which come to me from a combination of personal experiences and real-life events that I have read about or learned about from other people. I’m deeply interested in human stories, trauma, the things that test the human spirit, and the amazing resilience and courage so many people find within themselves.

Q. What inspired this book in particular?
A. My inspiration for this novel came to me about 10 years ago. I’d begun dating Shaun, a forester who told me about the Connecticut River Valley killer who had murdered at least six women during the 1980s, along the corridor of the Vermont and New Hampshire border. The killer was never apprehended. Having moved to New Hampshire from Colorado, I was unfamiliar with these murders. A little over a year into my relationship with Shaun, he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. He and I married, and eventually hired a young home health care worker. One day, I asked the home health care worker if he had any siblings, and he told me that his sister had been one of the Connecticut River victims. It was after Shaun’s death that I felt compelled by these murders and the stories of these young women’s lives. I began to imagine a novel with a similar premise, but one that would take place in incredibly untamed wilderness settings.

 Q. What’s your favorite part of writing?
A. My favorite part of writing would have to be the research and the people I meet through those experiences. For example, with this new novel, I reached out to author and criminal profiler, John Philpin, who assisted law enforcement on the Connecticut River Valley murders. John, one of our nation’s first independent profilers, has worked on more than 200 cases across the world in the past 30 years, including the case of JonBenet Ramsey. After paying a fee to an online service, I obtained John’s telephone number and left him a message. People contact John all the time about one case or another. I really didn’t think he would get back to me. “So, Diane with the last name I can’t spell calls. When I figure out how to spell it, I run a background check. I was impressed. You knew what you wanted; you had a clearly defined goal; you had your own personal mission,” he wrote in one of our now hundreds of email correspondences. John has been an invaluable resource on this book and a wonderful mentor, from Skype interviews, lengthy phone conversations over plot points, and face-to-face dialogue to explore the characters’ psyches. In fact, I ended up modeling one of my characters in the book after him.
I also greatly enjoy the places the book research takes me. With this novel I accompanied conservation canine research teams in the Selkirk Mountains of northeastern Washington, explored western Montana, northern Idaho and the Nokai Dome wilderness area of Utah.

Q. What’s your least favorite part?
A. My least favorite part would be deciding upon and writing the opening chapters. The beginning is always the most difficult for me.

Q. What does your process look like? Are you a seat-of-the-pants person or an outliner? Do you have a word count or page goal every day, or are you a binge writer?
A. My writing process has evolved over the years. I think I’ve finally found what works the best and am going to stick with it. A new project begins with a concept and characters whom I’ve envisioned. I block out large chunks of time to imagine scenes and images, to imagine my characters’ lives. I write down everything that comes to me. Then I begin orchestrating the material into a plot and tackling some of the more difficult plot points. For my next project, I have almost completed a scene-by-scene, moment-by-moment, chronicle/timeline of events, as well as character sketches. Once this document is approved by my agent and editor, I’ll begin the writing, as well as conduct more in-depth research. All of the different steps in a project’s process actually begin the night before a workday, with me priming my workspace and holding a scene or a question I’m dealing with, in my mind before falling asleep. The next morning I settle in for at least four solid hours of deep work. I tune out email and all other distractions, put on a set of headphones which play white noise, and inhabit the story and the characters’ lives. And I carry the story with me the rest of the day in the back of my mind, if I am not working on it directly.

Q. Where will this book tour take you?
A. We have about 20 events planned over the next two months. The tour will open in Columbus, Ohio. Other stops include Denver; Grand Junction; Nashville; Bozeman, Montana; and Sunriver, Oregon; as well as events throughout the northeast.

Q. Any other questions, or things you’d like to share with your Meeker readers?
A. My years in Meeker continue to nurture my creative spirit. Both of my adult novels, as well as the next novel I am currently working on, take place in the West. (“Breaking Wild” is literally set in Meeker’s backyard and is dedicated to the town.)
I have such a wealth of gratitude for this special place, for so many dear friends, and can’t wait to reconnect.

By Niki Turner | editor@ht1885.com

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