Diane Byington: Book Excerpt of “Who She Is” and Interview


Release Date: March 20, 2018

About The Book:

In the fall of 1967, Faye Smith’s family moves to Florida to work in the orange groves, and she has to start a new school… again. She tries out for the track team, knowing her mother would never approve because of Faye’s epilepsy.

When Faye discovers she has a talent for distance running, she and her friend Francie decide to enter the Boston Marathon, even though women aren’t allowed to compete. Desperate to climb out of the rut of poverty, Faye is determined to take part and win a college scholarship.

After the school bully tries to run her down with his car, a strange memory surfaces—a scene Faye doesn’t recognize. Her parents insist that it’s a symptom of her epilepsy, but Faye thinks they might be lying, especially when it keeps happening. To get her life on the right path, she’ll need to figure out what her parents are hiding and never lose sight of the finish line. (less

Book Excerpt:

Chapter One

October 4, 1967

My first day at Valencia High started with a bloody nose. I had physical education class right after homeroom, and I wandered around the sprawling school, looking for the gym, for ten minutes. When I finally found it and changed into my PE uniform, I saw that the other girls were playing volleyball. I groaned. I loved nearly all sports, but I had always loathed volleyball. Something about spiking the ball and charging the net never worked for me. But of course, I didn’t have a choice. The teacher assigned me to a group with another white girl and two black girls, who eyed me with suspicion. That kind of thing happened in every school. I was the perpetual new girl, the one nobody trusted.
Sure enough, as soon as we started playing, one of the black girls elbowed me in the nose. Immediately, blood spurted all over my clothes. I lay on the floor and tried not to cry. The girl apologized and helped me up, and the teacher gave me a towel to hold over my nose.
She told the white girl from my team to take me to the nurse’s clinic.
“Thanks,” I said to the girl when we were on our way. “I don’t think I could have found the clinic on my own.”
“Sure. Not a problem. I hate volleyball.”
I glanced at her to see if she’d read my mind and was making fun of me, but she seemed serious. I tried to remember her name, but pain and embarrassment drove out that information.
“Me, too,” I said, sniffing back blood. “It’s my first day here.”
“Not a great way to start at a new school. But your mom will probably come and take you home or at least bring you clean clothes.”
“Not likely.”
“Really? Why not?”
I sighed. There was no way I was going to get into my family’s weirdness with a girl whose name I couldn’t even remember. I held the towel more tightly on my nose and mumbled from beneath it,
“She’s really busy.”
“That’s too bad. Your nose isn’t great.”
That was cold comfort, but I nodded, trying to be polite.
She guided me through a maze of hallways to a door marked Nurse’s Clinic. Smiling, she said, “See you around,” before turning away.

UNSURPRISINGLY, MOM said she was too busy to come to the school. Luckily, the nurse helped me clean myself up enough to attend the rest of my classes. My nose looked like a balloon and felt like a hammer was pounding into it, but I held my head down and tried to cover my face with my hair.
Just before the end of the last class, the principal gave announcements for the next day over the intercom. I listened with half an ear and thought about my crummy life. Moving all the time, new schools every few months, walking into classrooms and having everyone stare at me—I could go on and on about my woes, but it did absolutely no good. Nobody cared how I felt.
“Should meet at the track tomorrow…”
Wait. Had the principal said something about the track team? I tapped the guy in front of me on the shoulder, and he turned to look at me. “What did he say about track?” I asked.
He glanced at my nose then quickly looked away. “They’re looking for some new kids to be on the track team. Tryouts are tomorrow.”
“Do they take girls?”
“I don’t know. I guess so.” He shrugged, nodded, and turned back around.
Suddenly, my nose didn’t hurt so much. I loved to run. I ran around all the time on the farms where we lived, just for the fun of it. Being on the track team would give me something to do other than go right home after school and start on my chores. And it might also give me a life of my own, for however long it lasted.

Author Q & A:

Where did you get the idea for the book?
I wanted to write about someone who had a goal and achieved it. Then I discovered photographs from 1967’s Boston Marathon when Kathrine Switzer was assaulted by the race director for daring to run the race with a bib. She managed to finish the race, but the photographs of the assault were horrifying. I wondered what it would be like to have found out about this when I was a teenager, and Faye’s character was born.

Is there a story behind the title?
For years, the title was “Run Away Home.” My publisher discovered that there were other books with that name, so we had a meeting to come up with another name. The essence of the book is Faye figuring out who she really is, hence the new title. To show that the book is also about running, there is a photograph of dirty tennis shoes on the cover. I love the new title.

How long did you take to write the book?
It took about seven years from first draft to publication. There were somewhere around twenty complete drafts during that time.

What kind of research did you do for this book?
I started with Kathrine Switzer’s mesmerizing book, “Marathon Woman.” And I went from there, reading books about women who ran marathons, talking with runners, and learning about flashbacks. Of course, I spent years as a psychotherapist, so I knew quite a bit about the effects of trauma. That was the easy part. I found a town in Florida that hadn’t changed too much since the 1960s and went there several times to do research. We ended up falling in love and deciding to spend several months each year there.

Can you share your writing routine?
I know you’re supposed to write every day, but I don’t do that. I generally write for long hours when I’m writing, and then stop to think about it for a while. I wish I were more consistent, and maybe I’ll become that way.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Read, read, read. Do yoga. Kayak. Hike. Spend time with my grandchildren.

What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing up a women’s fiction/time travel book in which my main character accidentally finds some journals written by Nikola Tesla about how to do time travel. She wants to go back into her life and change a decision about a relationship she has always regretted. It’s called “The Second Time Traveler.” I love it.

About The Author:

Diane Byington has been a tenured college professor, yoga teacher, psychotherapist, and executive coach. Also, she raised goats for fiber and once took a job cooking hot dogs for a NASCAR event. She still enjoys spinning and weaving, but she hasn’t eaten a hot dog or watched a car race since.

Besides reading and writing, Diane loves to hike, kayak, and photograph sunsets. She and her husband divide their time between Boulder, Colorado, and the small Central Florida town they discovered while doing research for her novel.

Connect with Diane Byington:

Website: http://www.dianebyington.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dianebyingtonauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/dianebyington
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dianebbyington/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38084780-who-she-is



One thought on “Diane Byington: Book Excerpt of “Who She Is” and Interview

  1. Wow, seven years and 20 drafts? So much love and care obviously went into this book! Thank for sharing the interview as well as the review, I feel like you always get to understand a book better when you understand where the author was coming from when they wrote it.

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