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Farley Writes Memoir - Interview with the Jen Black

Article in Brookville and Clarion Mirror 07-2016

If you haven’t heard about Diana Farley’s book, The Brookville Mirror would like to share with you “The Road Back to Hell,” a memoir of Diana’s life.  I read it when it first came out, and honestly couldn’t put it down. The book is the true story of her life and the life of her family from 1949 to 1976. She takes you through twenty-seven years of her life, with a detailed memory of those extraordinary years.

This wonderful story of growing up in a dysfunctional home in the 50’s and 60’s makes you feel like you are watching a movie and that you’re actually with her while it’s all going on. I laughed out loud at times, and I cried at times when I wasn’t expecting to.  
Her home life was certainly not “The Cleavers.” (Some of you younger folks don’t even know who “The Cleavers” were.) In a world now full of Kardashians and people watching their craziness on television, you come to realize after reading this book, that dysfunctional has been in our vocabulary for years and years. It’s nothing new, but to read about someone you know and her life experiences, from being treated like a princess the first five years of life to becoming the parent to her siblings at a very young age, is quite exciting. This is one reason I couldn’t put it down.

For the community of Brookville to have such a wonderful story written by someone whom we all have known for years, gives you insight on her life and why she is the way she is. I personally would like to say, “Well done Diana Lynn Farley. I fully enjoyed your book. You came from an extraordinary life and lifted yourself up to become an incredible mother, wife, and business woman.” The following is our interview with Diana about her story and some of the reasons why she wrote it.

BM:  What made you want to write a book/why?

I began writing in the summer of 1959, when I spent hours at the James Prendergast Library perusing books and encyclopedias as a way to escape my dysfunctional family life. One day, while at the library, I was drawn to an article about the tragic life of composer, Stephen Foster, and decided to write a play about his life. That fall, my fifth-grade teacher, Miss Loretta Funk, read the play and made arrangements for our class to perform, “The Life of Stephen Foster,” in the auditorium at CC Ring School. Through Miss Funk’s mentoring, guidance, and friendship, my dream to one day become an author, was born.  
The next year, we moved to a different school where my play was once again presented to the entire school. My photo appeared on the front page of the Jamestown Post-Journal, where an article referred to me as, “Diana Smith...Maybe Another Edna Ferber in the Making.”

BM:  When did you start?

I’d wanted to write a book most of my life, but my career as an advertising sales representative with two sons and a husband, and my local involvement in the community didn’t leave much time. In 2009, when I turned 60, my husband, Jim, told me he wanted me to spend the next ten years of my life doing whatever I needed to do to fulfill my lifelong dreams. That’s when I began the process of writing my memoir. I spent the next 6 years taking memoir writing classes at Chautauqua Institute and online. I also interviewed my sisters and my aunt, gathering their stories and information about our dysfunctional upbringing. After spending hours organizing family photos and memorabilia, I started a rough outline of my thoughts. In July 2014, I signed-up for a 6 month online class, “Write Your Memoir in 6 Months.” By December, I had completed the project. I spent January through April of 2015 rewriting, editing and rewriting. My first edition of “The Road Back to Hell” was printed in May, 2015.

BM:  What do you think your mother coming down from Heaven would say if she read it?

My mother and I had been very close all of my life, although we had actually switched roles. Instead of the child, I became the mother to her and my four siblings. I felt her presence the entire time I was writing. When I found her personal, hand-written diary three months before my class was finished, I realized she wanted me to tell this story.
I was extremely close to my father, even though he was not my biological dad. I never for a moment doubted that he would object. I know he would have been extremely proud.

BM:  Did any of the folks living in the book that live out of the area read it and what did they think?

My entire family lives “out of the area” and I sent it to every one of them. They loved it! From the beginning, I had stressed that it was “our story,” told by me. Each one of them supported my efforts.

BM:   Have you received any flack from family members?

I had one niece who was going through some personal problems and asked not be included, so I omitted her. Since then, she has agreed to be included. I will include her in my next reprint.

BM:   How did your husband, Jim Farley feel about your writing this book?

Jim supported me 100%. Actually, he came into my life about the time my story ends.

BM:   Did your sons and daughter-in-laws read it and what were their thoughts? Grandchildren?

My oldest son, Todd, said there were many things he never knew about, so some of it was a revelation to him. My youngest son, Nathan, told me it enabled him to see me as a person, rather than a mother. They’ve been very supportive.
Todd’s sons are older, and each one was impressed with it. Nathan’s son, Elliot has read parts of it and it seems to have given him a better understanding of my life. I haven’t really discussed it with Sophie and Truman is too young to read it. However, he is greatly impressed that I actually wrote a book and has embarked on a book of his own.

BM:   What are the most positive things that you had heard from a reader that really made you feel like your book made a difference?

Judy Feldman, a retired creative writing teacher from Clarion Limestone, stayed with me in Chautauqua the first year I took a memoir writing course. After reading my submittal, she told me my writing voice was very strong ― a gift that cannot be taught. Her words encouraged me to keep going. Since my book’s publication, I have heard this from many readers. Some people said they felt like I was in the room with them while they read my book and they could actually feel my emotions. For the most part, these are people that know me. It will be interesting to see how the general public receives it.
Countless people have stopped me in stores or on the street to discuss parts of the book, to which they could relate. Everyone has trials and tribulations in their lives, and my hope was that I could reach out to others who may be struggling and give them hope.

BM:   Did anyone tell you not to write it?

Absolutely not. Most of them encouraged me to continue.

BM:   Do you wish you could have added more details?

Yes! When I finally finished, I actually had almost 114,000 words. During my research, I discovered most memoirs were between 80,000 and 100,000 words. I omitted about 8,000 words, making my story 106,000. With photos, this made my book 290 pages.
“The Road Back to Hell” is available on line at www.dianalynnauthor.com and you can go through Paypal. Or you can go to her Facebook page “Diana Lynn” and message her. It’s also available at the History Center and The Brookville Flower Shop, both on Main Street in Historic Downtown Brookville.

 

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