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An Interview with Diane Piron-Gelman

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Diane Piron-Gelman writes as D. M. Pirrone and works as a freelance editor when she isn’t spinning her own novel-length yarns. Her debut suspense novel, No Less in Blood, came out in 2011, followed by the award-winning Hanley & Rivka Mysteries (Allium Press of Chicago), set just after the Great Fire of 1871. Shall We Not Revenge (2014) was a Kirkus Prize nominee, and along with For You Were Strangers (2015), was named a Notable Page-Turner in the Shelf Unbound Indie Novel Competition. Promises to the Dead (2020) has received excellent reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Her current project, Stolen, is her first foray into contemporary upmarket fiction.

A Chicago-area native and history nerd, Ms. Piron-Gelman belongs to Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Chicago Writers Association, and the Society for Midland Authors. She currently lives in Oak Park, Illinois. She enjoys hearing from readers, who can contact her through her website,

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I fell in love with words at a young age; ever since I can remember, my favorite place to be was with my nose stuck in a book. My dad got me started on mysteries when I was 12 and he gave me a copy of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; I also loved Gothic novels, historical fiction, and SF/fantasy. I’m a Shakespeare nerd too, again thanks to my dad, who had an enormous collection of recordings of Shakespeare plays. Listening to those really brought home to me the power of the spoken word, and the deep connection between what’s on the page and what readers hear in our mind’s ear. I wanted to play with that connection and tell my own stories with that kind of power and emotion.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

Stolen was sparked by a real-life case of a young woman who found out when she was 18 years old that the woman she knew as her mother had actually kidnapped her from a hospital ER. The parents had brought their 3-month-old in to treat a dangerously high fever, and the kidnapper posed as a nurse and just walked out with the baby. I couldn’t help wondering, how do people rebuild their lives after a loss like that? How does a woman who kidnaps a child to raise it deal with building a life for herself and that child that’s based on a lie? And what happens when the child grows up and finds out the truth—and everything blows up? There are fascinating questions here about the nature of family, of love, the importance of truth vs. lies, and how we construct and reconstruct our sense of identity. I’m an adoptee myself, so I’ve grappled with these issues personally…though thankfully, in a far different context.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

It took a while. I started out with half a line from a folk song I like, but it didn’t really fit as the story evolved. I kept trying out things that touched on family, but they all sounded more like romance than a character-driven story with a crime as its framework. A guy in my writers’ group suggested Stolen, which speaks to the crime at the heart of the story and yet leaves room for the rest of it to be more than crime fiction—which, of course, it is.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

Before turning to writing and freelance editing (mostly of fiction), I worked in the SF/fantasy roleplaying game industry, editing rulebooks and occasionally writing short fiction for various game universes. During this time period, I was also doing stage acting on the side—professional non-Equity theatre in Chicago, which is artistically great stuff but doesn’t pay well (so I kept my day job to pay the rent). For a few years in the 20-teens, I narrated audiobooks, which is kind of a giant acting job when you think about it.

What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?

I read a lot of Elizabeth George, Tana French, and Jodi Picoult novels, because I love their writing, but also because they go so deep inside their characters’ heads, and I was trying to do that with Stolen. Oddly enough, the late Maeve Binchy—a wonderful Irish writer of what I guess would be contemporary women’s fiction—was another one I gravitated to, for the same reason. That, and her prose sings. And Jacquelyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, which provided a template for how to structure Stolen.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

If readers of Stolen (once it’s published) take anything away from it, I hope it’s empathy for all the characters caught up in their entangled lives. Good or bad or somewhere in the middle, we’re all human, we all make mistakes—sometimes huge ones—and we all hope for compassion.

As for my perfect reader, it’s anyone who wants to dive into a story, live it inside ALL the characters’ heads, and not come up for air until the last page is turned and the last word is read. That’s the kind of story I like…I hope my readers will like it, too!

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