The short version (appears at the back of most of my books):
In third grade, Diana wrote a short, one-page story about a bear family. When her teacher handed it back, the paper had a great big, red “A” on the top. The teacher said to her, “This is very good. You ought to be a writer.” And in the concrete-thinking way of third graders, Diana knew she’d just found the career she was to follow.
Of course, she doubts her third grade teacher envisioned the genre Diana would choose. After complaining about not finding BDSM-themed stories that focused on the relationship rather than just the sex, Diana was challenged by a friend to write one of her own. The rest is just fun reading.
Diana resides in the Finger Lakes area of New York State and is grateful for the support of her husband and two adult children.
The looong version (written specifically for this website):
Well, that all depends on who the “me” is that we’re talking about. I was born with one name, added another surname when I married, chose a pen name when I sold my first story, and chose a second pen name when I wrote a dark story that didn’t fit the public persona of my first pen name. But I also answer to “Kate and Ben’s Mom” and “Steve’s wife,” so—which Me are we talking about again?
“The naming of cats is a practical matter...” T.S. Elliot
My father named me Cynthia. It wasn’t his first choice. He preferred the name Susan, but my mom didn’t like the nickname “Suzie.” So she nixed the name and he chose “Cynthia” instead. He got her back, though. When I was very little, he called me “Suzie Q” just to bug her. I liked the fact that my dad called me a name that was just his.
To be honest, though, “Cynthia” is too formal for everyday use. My teachers used it all through grade school and I never had the guts to tell them to call me by my nickname: Cindy. Not until the first day of high school when my math teacher made us all introduce ourselves and said, “If you use a nickname, know it will be with you for the next four years, so choose one you like.” I screwed up my courage and introduced myself as Cindy for the first time in my life and she was right....it stuck!
Of course, my husband doesn’t use either of those names. When we married, we started, in jest, to call each other pet names, laughing at our own silliness. We should’ve known better. Names, even those given in play, tend to stick. So we each became “Hon” or “Honey” – names we still use thirty-nine years later.
But then I wrote an erotic romance—and it sold. I screamed for him to come read the email sent by Ellora’s Cave and we sat in shock. After years of writing, an editor bought one of my stories! My name would be in print as a real-life, published author!!!
Oh, dear. My name would be in print as a real-life, published author. Writing erotic romances with a BDSM kink. And I taught English in a public high school in a very conservative district. And my husband was well-known in the community as the director of several theatre programs for high school students. Oh, dear.
Diana Hunter was born from that moment of realization. Why that name? In Greek mythology, Cynthia is the daughter of Diana, who is the hunter. Seemed a good pick. I came up with it in an afternoon and started a new career with a new name. Besides which, I liked Madeline Hunter’s books (and one of the highlights of my life was signing books beside her at a convention booksigning where we were seated alphabetically. Talk about your squee! moments!!!).
Took a little getting used to, this new name. First conventions I went to, I’d forget to answer to it. But I got over that and now there are a whole lot of people who only know me by Diana.
And Diana’s a lot more fun than Cynthia, anyway. Diana likes to party a bit, is willing to stay up late and chat, enjoys a good double entendre and the occasional dance on the dance floor (no tables – she does have some sense of propriety!). Diana drives her family nuts when she refers to herself in the third person but they don’t complain too loudly, since it’s Diana who helped them pay for college.
But life sometimes has difficult years. Death came visiting and took some we expected and some we didn’t. Hard to write upbeat, happy books when the soul is in mourning. The stories I wrote took a dark turn, reflecting my dark moods. Mystic Shade was born, although her tag line “...for the shadier sides of our desires...” and her tongue-in-cheek biography belie my innate optimism. Mystic doesn’t make public appearances, although she enjoys the darker writing on occasion. To keep things in perspective, Diana never refers to herself as Mystic, nor does Cindy. Her family would definitely go nuts with two third-person references.
Speaking of family, regardless of what name you call me, I have two beautiful children: one girl and one boy. Okay, so now she’s a woman and he’s a man. Darn kids. They have this way of growing up when you aren’t looking. I’m still married to their father (remember him? He’s “Honey”. Or if I’m pissed off, “Dear Heart”). I do like to brag on my husband. He’s a painter and we’re both responsible for each other’s artistic endeavors.
How so, you ask? Well, let me tell you...
“Sometimes all you need is a good push.” - Every mother, ever
The summer after my daughter was born, my husband said to me, “We’re okay financially at the moment. Why don’t you not work this summer and write that book you keep working on? You have too many scraps of paper floating around with bits of story on them. Just put it together already.”
I kissed him. Hard. On the mouth.
That first book, partly workshopped through a site Del Ray was running at the time, still sits in my computer, unfinished and unpublished. It’s somewhere around 95,000 words long and is a fantasy about a young boy who discovers his true parentage and goes out to make his fame and fortune. Parts of it are pretty good. Parts of it are awful. But my husband gave me time to learn that summer and every summer after.
So it was only fair that, several years back, I gave him an oil painting beginner’s set for Christmas. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, over the three decades we’d been together, “One of these days I’m going to learn how to paint.” So I bought him that set.
But he didn’t paint. Not for three years. That set just sat under the bed collecting dust. I finally asked him, after he gave the “one of these days” line again, why he didn’t use the starter set. His answer? “Because there’s only one canvas and what if I screw it up?”
Such a simple answer with such a simple way to correct the problem. THAT Christmas, I bought him nearly a dozen canvases in all sorts of sizes. I bought watercolor pads he could use for practice with hundreds of sheets. I bought brushes and a gift certificate for paints. And when he opened them that morning I said, “Shut up and paint.”
He now has a successful career as a painter, selling both originals and prints in lots of sizes (Shameless cross promotion: CLICK HERE to see his website and pictures. He takes commissions or you can order an original).
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” –the question all adults ask kids
Teaching wasn’t my first career choice. I wanted to be a nurse and read the Sue Barton series over and over and over. Then, in 6th grade, they showed us a film of a cornea transplant and I said, “Okay, not a nurse. What’s next?”
Writer, of course. That 3rd grade teacher had told me I should be one. Except the pay wasn’t very good, I discovered. And there weren’t any benefits. My high school (Bishop Kearney—Go Kings!) was a college prep school, and by my senior year, I’d settled on a much more practical career: Acting.
I wanted to go to Hollywood and be on TV shows (the Dexter movies with Kurt Russell was my first choice; Here Come the Brides, however, took over once Disney stopped making the movies set at Medfield College). I went to an audition for the Rochester Community Players and discovered I was awful. Got better as the years went by and played the role of Guinevere in Camelot my senior year. Went to college for Theatre but got my Secondary Certification in English at the same time. Met this guy, fell in love, and decided to start a theatre company with him and two others instead of going to Hollywood.
That theatre company, The Garden Players, performed for eight seasons at at Sonnenburg Gardens, Canandaigua, NY. Yes, we worked other jobs in the meantime (I sold furniture on commission – made squat because I was a lousy saleswoman. I also worked at the Outdoor Store selling camping supplies and sports stuff). Eventually, however, bills needed to be paid and I needed a job that paid better than retail.
I’d already done two years of teaching junior high while waiting for the man I loved to finish college (ask my husband—he’ll tell you. He’s two years, eight months and one day younger than me). After my first year of teaching, I was ready to quit. But I decided to give it one more year, thinking nothing could be that bad two years in a row.
Wrong. I got married, moved away, got jobs in retail rather than go back to the junior high classroom. I tell you, the people who teach there are going for sainthood. They should get paid more than all the other teachers because their job is so much harder. I’ve tried to do it. I know.
But those darn bills. Landlords actually think you need to give them rent! The electric company doesn’t give away their electricity for free, you know. So...back to the classroom as a substitute teacher.
Want to know the only job in education worse than teaching junior high? Substitute teaching.
My motto became, “Anyone Can Do Anything For A Day.”
Even teach pre-first grade music.
But I found myself thinking, “If this were my classroom, I’d....” ...arrange the room differently...teach the material differently...conduct the class differently... And I let my friends know I might be willing to give teaching another try – at the high school level only.
And that’s how I got my gig as a public school teacher, teaching English, grades 9-12 for thirty years. In the same district. I figure, over the course of those 33 years in total, nearly 4000 students sat before me. If I didn’t screw them up too badly, I think I did a pretty good job of it.
And Hollywood? Yeah, dropped that dream for a better one. Got me a husband I love, two beautiful children and a life I’m loving instead.
Retirement isn’t for sissies – T-shirt slogan
On June 30, 2014, I retired from all that teaching. Just in the nick of time, too. But the current state of education in the US is a different discussion for a different day. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I’m out.
Yeah. I got to be retired about 34 days before the local community college called and offered me an adjunct position. Two classes (6 hrs a week). I took it, figuring it would keep me young.
And, of course, I now consider myself a full-time writer. What I used to do, squeezed in between basketball practices and dance classes, I could now do at my leisure. In the past twelve months, I’ve written three full-length novels. Two are published under Mystic Shade’s name, the other is waiting on Harlequin to pass or play (edited to add: they passed. Sigh.).
How does that stack up to past years when writing was only my part-time job? The difference is in the length. Before I’d write shorter stories to get three out in a year. Now I can write full novels in the same time period. And the year isn’t over yet. I have two others half-finished (both novellas) that might get done as well.
And of course, in my retirement, travel has become an option. So has breaking my leg while traveling. We’ve remodeled two rooms, continued work on the cabin, and, in the midst of this mayhem, my son got married. Life is as busy as it always was and I love it that way.
I’ll end this section with the words I end most posts with. Words I feel strongly and live in many ways on many levels. Please take them to heart.