Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Guest interview: Diana L. Driver

It’s my pleasure to introduce Diana L. Driver, who “writes the kind of stories you’d like to read.” Her books cross the genre lines from Young Adult adventure/suspense to Mystery to Romance. She’s currently working on a Cozy Mystery and a Norse Fantasy based on the myths and legends of the Northern Traditions, including Runelore.

Diana's Mayan books initially attracted me, but I've since discovered her expertise ranges from history to quantum physics to conspiracy theories--gotta love it! We now blog together on The Writers’ Lens.

So, Diana, if you were marooned on an island, and Pots & Pens granted your wish for only one book and one food, what would you choose? One Book – The Boy Scouts Outdoor Field Guide! I know nothing about foraging for food, building a shelter, or which plants might or might not be poisonous. And, if Pots and Pens were to offer me a choice of one food it’d be cherry cheesecake!

Taking a survival guide—that makes perfect sense. And yum, I love cherry cheesecake! Have you also got a favorite literary feast or treat? I’d have to say the “A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery” series by the late Philip A. Craig. Each book is set in Martha’s Vineyard and I love not only the setting, but his characters and plots. My sister lives on Orcas Island, Washington and (except for the murders), Philip Craig knew his island personalities. 

It’s stretching your boundaries time. Is there a food you’d love to learn how to cook or a different genre or type of book you’d love to try to write? I’m currently working on an historical fantasy series which is turning out to be extremely challenging and very much a stretch of my boundaries. I’ve been reading and rereading old manuscripts just to get a feel of Norse thinking and priorities during the 700’s. Then, of course there’s all the background information that’s needed to make the book feel authentic. 
Hot out of the oven: What inspired your latest book, and what ingredients do you hope make it a tasty treat for readers? My latest book, The Maya, People of the Maize, is a companion book to my novel, Ninth Lord of the Night. I think of it as a sample of Mayan information that encourages the reader to explore further the various aspects of the Mayan culture. Just as Ninth Lord of the Night offers the reader a full course of mystery and suspense with a touch of paranormal, The Maya, People of the Maize offers the reader a solid background from which they can choose to continue learning about this fascinating culture.    

Since I love ancient Mesoamerican cultures, those were certainly a tasty treat for me! At Pots & Pens, we know too much salt can ruin an exquisite meal, and the perfect dessert tempers earlier mistakes. What ingredients can destroy a book through overuse or salvage a book despite its flaws? Any overused writing technique will detract from a story, but if the plot is exciting and the characters are well-developed, then I can forgive a lot. Stephen King wrote in one of books, that “It’s not the teller, it’s the tale.” I agree with that. 

Recipe Row: I see you’re getting prepared for that desert island with today’s recipe—very clever!

New York Cherry Cheesecake!!
2 cups (200 grams) of graham cracker crumbs
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar

32 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (use full fat, not reduced or fat free cream cheese)
1 cup granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (double cream)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 can Comstock pitted Cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center of oven.
Grease, or spray with Pam, a 9 inch (23 cm) springform pan. Place the springform pan on a larger baking pan to catch any leakage while the cheesecake is baking.
For Crust: In a medium sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and about 1 inch (2.5 cm) up the sides of the springform pan. Cover and refrigerate while you make the filling.

For Filling: In bowl of your electric mixer place the cream cheese, sugar, and flour. Beat on medium speed until smooth (about 2 minutes), scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well (about 30 seconds) after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the whipping cream, vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and pour in the filling. Place the cheesecake pan on a larger baking pan and place in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees and continue to bake for about another 60 - 90 minutes or until firm and only the center of the cheesecake looks a little wet and wobbly. (The baking time can vary due to the differences in ovens, so make sure to check that the cheesecake is firm with only the center being a little wet and wobbly.) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.

Remove from oven and carefully run a knife or spatula around the inside edge of pan to loosen the cheesecake (helps prevent the surface from cracking as it cools).

Let cool completely before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours, preferably overnight. Top with one can of Comstock’s cherry filling (undrained) and serve

Tips:  Sometimes the surface of the cheesecake cracks.  To help prevent this from happening do not over beat the batter, especially when creaming the cheese and sugar. Another reason for cracking is overbaking the cheesecake.  Your cheesecake is done when it is firm but the middle may still look a little wet. Also, make sure the springform pan is well greased as cracking can occur if the cheesecake sticks to the sides as it cools. 

Learn more about Diana and her books at her website


  1. Any cheesecake recipe is a keeper and this looks awesome! I love the quote "It's not the teller, it's the tale."

  2. The survival guide is a smart choice. :)

    Nice interview, and that cheesecake looks so good I can almost taste it. In fact, I may have to taste it--perhaps tonight!

  3. Diana, the cake looks delicious as does the historical fantasy you're working on. I look forward to reading it.

  4. I really like to bake, but because our kids are grown my husband and I rarely eat all the cookies or every piece of cake. We do eat all the cheesecake, though! It's simply too good to go to waste!

    I tried to think of something really, really unusual for the "What book would you want?" question and all I could think of was that if I didn't have a survival guide I probably wouldn't make it through the very first night!

  5. I love cheesecake but can only eat the kind that's cottage cheese based due to very high cholesterol, a family inheritance.

  6. Diana, my mouth is watering!
    Your books sound great! I look forward to the Norse-influenced story. I love mysteries of all kinds.

    Good luck with your books. :-)

  7. Diana, I laughed when you picked the survival guide. I've always been fascinated by the cultures on which you choose to base your books. Am looking forward to the next one. I'm known for my cheesecakes at Christmas and love this recipe! Thanks!

  8. Diana, I'm pumped to hear you're working on a historical fantasy--how exciting! Cheesecake is perfect for survival food-LOL. After staring at your perfected dessert in the picture, I can't wait to give the recipe a go. *wiping drool from my chin*
    Cherri Galbiati

  9. Very nice interview, Diana. But I'm never going to read this blog again on an empty stomach. Yum yum. Gurgle gurgle.

  10. Great interview, Diana! And ooo, you found my Achilles heel. Mmm, Cheeeeesecaaaaaake! LOL

  11. LOL!!! Oh, my! You gals have made my day! What terrific comments!!

    You know...there's never a dull moment on the Pots and Pens Blog!

  12. Great interview and great recipe Diana. Yum yum!

  13. Jonathan! Didn't mean to lump you in with the ladies! Thank you for your comment. And, when you have some free time try the recipe - you'll be delighted.

  14. Hi Diana,

    A hurricane left me without power for a week and surviving without electric was a pain in the butt! At least, I had a roof over my head! I don't think I'd want to face being stranded on an island. But it is amazing what we can do when we must!

    Mayan culture is interesting and I love reading about new finds from any culture. Yet I'm not what you call a history buff - I just like hearing about new discoveries. I'm also not a complete idiot so it drives me nuts when people write about something and then get it wrong! I like to know that an author has spent time researching before they write. You've just landed on my MUST READ pile!

    BTW, the cheesecake sounds delicious. I think I'll be making that for Thanksgiving dinner this year.

  15. The cheesecake looks so fancy and sounds delicious! I'm not much of a baker so we'll see if I can pull it off. Your book sounds fascinating too. The Mayan culture has always intrigued me.

  16. Love that the cheesecake instructions specifically say to use full-fat cream cheese. I totally agree - when you make cheesecake it is not the time to cut calories!

  17. Oh my gosh that looks to DIE for! Diana, thank you for the fabulous interview and recipe. :)