Diana Pharaoh Francis (Ph.D. 1999) is a successful fiction writer who taught for 14 years at the University of Montana-Western. She now lives and writes in Oregon, and is the author of over a dozen novels in the fantasy genre. http://www.dianapfrancis.com/about/.
You earned your PhD in 1999, correct? What was the title? Did you get your BA and MA with us, too? How did your degrees help you make the literary life you have now?
Correct. My diss title was “Models to the Universe”: Victorian Hegemony and the Construction of Feminine Identity, which, if you’re feeling terribly curious, can be read on my website. I obtained my BA at The University of California-Davis, and my MA at Iowa State University. I don’t know that the degrees as such are meaningful, but what I learned, now, that’s another story. I learned research, writing, revision, editing, critiquing, deepened my vocabulary, and I learned to really think and consider details. I also learned to work independently, and to create and follow a schedule in order to complete a long project. I learned to dig deeper, push harder, and that good enough wasn’t good enough. I wouldn’t be the writer I am without that experience.
Please describe a typical day or week in your life now.
I’m not sure there’s such thing as a typical day or week. I’ve been writing about 2-3 books a year, plus some shorter stuff. That means at any given time, I’m drafting fiction. Layered over that is usually some element of another book–revisions, copy edits, proofs, proposals, for instance, not to mention all the other things that crop up like blogging, convention appearances, and so on. I try to write about ten thousand words a week on average, and I have two kids, so I have to be very disciplined so that I get everything done in the time I have. I always feel like there’s more to do than time to do it. It’s the best job ever.
Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to figure out what comes next in their lives?
Follow your passion, persevere, and even though imposter syndrome is built into the creative and academic nature, believe in yourself. Stay disciplined. And remember that nobody cares about what you do as much as you do, and even the worst day in a job you love is better than the best day in one you hate. Also, don’t forget to read and live life and feed your soul. Last of all, protect the work. Don’t let outside stuff, be it emotional, mental, or physical, eat away at your art and your work.