Tell me a little about yourself (where you live, who you are, what you look like, what you hope to achieve, etc.)
My name is Beth Stedman, and I am the spunky heroine in A Less Than Perfect Beginning. I was born and raised in the sooty, steel mill suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from the mid 1940s to the early 1960s. I’m shorter, blonder, and more slightly built than the rest of the stocky Poles in my family – for a reason which will eventually be revealed. I’m also fiercely independent, partly due to my nature but also partly due to being shunned by my own family and being forced to rely upon myself. I dream of escaping my dysfunctional family and devise a secret plan to accomplish that goal as soon as possible.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am innately adventurous. From the age of six, I loved to travel by streetcar and bus to the neighboring towns to explore the unfamiliar. I was constantly in search of the greener pastures that I saw portrayed on my favorite TV shows like 77 Sunset Strip.
Places like Los Angeles seemed so exotic compared to my drab Pittsburgh surroundings. But I also had an alternative motive for taking those excursions – I was preparing for the time when I would take a final one-way trip and escape my bizarre home environment.
What is your favorite color and why?
My favorite color is green. Why? Because it represents the greener pastures to which I someday intended to flee.
What is your favorite food? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite food is doughnuts. This dessert is a staple for Pittsburghers, but it is also associated with my first job that produced a paycheck. At the age of 15, I was hired as a counter clerk at the local doughnut shop. And from that salary, I began filling my secret war chest that would fund my escape.
What would you say is your biggest quirk?
My biggest quirk is my sense of humor, probably developed out of a sense of self-preservation and escapism. I managed to turn my father’s drunken episodes, my brother’s villainous behavior, my sister’s spoiled tantrums, and my mother’s lack of affection into zany, comedic skits. Humor has always been my survival mechanism.
What is it about your antagonist that irks you the most, and why?
My refusal to buckle under pressure drives my enemies crazy. My father always raged when I wouldn't share his perverted world view, and my boss raged when I abruptly quit my job to follow my dream of fleeing to California.
What or who means the most to you in your life? What, if anything, would you do to keep him/her/it in your life?
The most important presence in my life has always been God – He was a constant refuge throughout my 18 childhood years endured with the Stedmans. God gave me hope that the future would be better than the past or the present. My many friends also provided me solace. Since my own nuclear family refused to offer love and support, my friends became my surrogate family. With those cherished relationships, I didn't feel alone.
What one thing would you like readers to know about you that may not be spelled out in the book in which you inhabit?
I mention in the book that I eventually marry, have a son, and then divorce my husband. Readers will have to wait for the follow-on novel to learn about my life as a single mother.
If you could tell your writer (creator) anything about yourself that might turn the direction of the plot, what would it be?
I might hint that I suspect the real reason why my father is so antagonistic toward me. How would this change the family dynamics? Would this suspicion increase or decrease the level of resentment toward me?
Ask me any question. I've always wanted to know what a character thinks about writers like myself. I'll answer the question at the end of this interview.
Why did Diane Huffman choose the plot of escaping a dysfunctional childhood for her debut novel?
Good question, Beth. It's probably the same reason I wrote my first book, A River of Stones, about a girl named Samantha whose parents divorced and her mother remarried and how Sam got through it all and became a better person.
There's something about a first book that demands a little cleaning out of your own closet; at least it was the case with me.
If you're worried about all of your thoughts and feelings being spelled out for everyone to read, don't be. Knowing how someone else worked through their pain can often help another heal the life that they've been dealt.
Read the Author interview
Learn more about the author:
Diane L. Huffman, happily retired from a marketing career in the fast-paced high-tech industry, has penned her first novel, A Less Than Perfect Beginning. She was inspired by a raucous childhood that was filled with secrets and psychos, but also humor and hope. Huffman earned B.A. and M.B.A. degrees and has traveled extensively throughout the world. She now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah near her son and is currently at work on her second novel.
Barnes & Noble:
“An exhilarating, unsentimental story of one woman’s triumph over a devastating childhood” —Kirkus Reviews
League of Utah Writers:
"Very well done, I would definitely recommend." —League of Utah Writers