So very sorry that wonderful Diane Pearson, seen here on the left, with the equally legendary Patricia Robins, has died.
Best Selling Novelist
Yes, she was a genuine, gold-plated, international best selling novelist. Her greatest work, Csardas, was called the European Gone With the Wind.
It was reprinted a couple of years ago. And, in spite of her increasingly debilitating illness, Diane saw no reason not to give one of her justly famous parties to celebrate.
It was a lovely summer evening, she was on gossipy top form and the new edition had a spectacularly beautiful cover. One of many delicious memories I have of Diane.
And Editor …
Diane, who had done most jobs in publishing before becoming Senior Editor at Transworld, worked with some Seriously Big Names, including Barbara Cartland, Joanna Trollope, Kate Atkinson and Terry Pratchett among many, many others. In 1994 she was the British Book Awards Editor of the Year.
And President of the Romantic Novelists’ Association
It was to the huge advantage of the UK’s Romantic Novelist Association, therefore, that she became their 3rd President in 50 years. In that role she wore both hats, representing writers and also the industry, from whose ranks the RNA has many distinguished Associate Members.
Diane was the longest running president, clocking up 24 years. She only retired in 2011 when she began to feel unwell.
I had the very great pleasure of working with her on the RNA’s 50th Anniversary Celebratory Memoir. Fabulous at Fifty. I would trawl through the archives and come up with suggestions. She would consult old friends and colleagues for contributions. Then we would have a salad, open a bottle and she would reminisce, while I took notes, enchanted.
It was an education, though probably less than half of the stories made it into the book. For in some cases she knew where the bodies were buried. She was immensely kind, however, never harsh or censorious. She might murmur, “Probably not tactful to say that,” when, in my ignorance, I came too close to pressing on an old wound or lifting the veil on a rumoured scandal. And she was very funny.
She was a wonderful writer. Her Csardas was one of the most exciting epics ever, a worldwide bestseller, and one of my keeper novels from the first time I read it, long before I knew her.
And the beautiful short story she contributed to the RNA’s 50th Anniversary Collection recalls both her own travels in Hungary during the worst of the Cold War and also what a master she was of the space between the words..
A Fabulous Friend
She was a true friend to generations of aspiring and published authors, ready to advise if asked and to support whether her advice was taken or not. She was wise, witty and – with 60 plus years of experience of what British publishing has to offer in all its weirdness – immensely tolerant.
She always fed me champagne. Indeed, she collected antique champagne coupes, the ones that are supposed to be modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breast. And I never left the bar or her house in Clapham after a session without having had a great time, a good laugh and in receipt of perfectly-judged and generous encouragement as well.
It is a huge sorrow that she will now never see my current work in progress, a novel that I thought was too big and grown up for me and Diane disagreed. Quite forcefully. Still makes me laugh.
A woman who put heart into you. What a loss.
I was so sad to hear this news. Diane was so kind to me on the one occasion that we met and I thought her short story in Loves Me, Loves Me Not was worth the whole price of the book. Just perfect. Wonderful lady.
Utterly agree with you about that story, Liz. So economical – and deeply touching.
Yesterday I had lunch with Linda Evans who signed me up to Transworld many years ago while Diane was still (just) working there. We drank a toast to Di – with fizz in coupes.
Brilliant! Diane would have cheered, I’m sure.
Such sad news. I first met Diane at an RNA conference when I was still unpublished. She peered at my name badge and said “Ah, Jan Jones. Now I’ve seen your name very recently, dear.” I explained, with the disastrous honesty embarassment always inflicts on me, that I had just that morning received a two-page rejection from her. She looked at me even more keenly. “But did it help, dear?” she asked, and then spent the next ten minutes talking it through.
I met Diane many times since, but that first instance of sheer professional kindness and friendliness will stay with me. A great woman.
As you say, Jan. I just bet it did help, too. She knew her onions, did Di.
Oh thank you thank you thank you. I read Csardas decades ago, over three for sure, searched and searched for it, never finding it because I could not remember the author or the correct spelling of the book, although I honestly thought I did spell it correctly. Anyway, that book haunted me and I’ve wanted to reread it ever since. Picked up from the library, in another state so couldn’t research it by revisiting that library. When I saw this post, my jaw dropped, my heart went pitter-pat. And I just ordered a used copy. I’m so happy. Based on Amazon reviews, I have to believe the story will hold up after all these years.
Now if I could just find a copy of that RNA 50th Anniversary Memoir…..
Know what you mean about the spelling, Michelle. I always want to spell it Czardas!
I have some copies of the RNA Memoir. (I’ll be in touch.) But the short story by Diane is in the collection “Love Me, Love Me Not”. Should be plenty of copies of that knocking about. It’s on Kindle too. http://amzn.to/2v3KKpq
Wonderfully put, Jenny. She was a legend and a wonderful role model. I’m temped to say we won’t see her like again – it is highly unlikely. The only positive voice among all the ‘it’s harder than ever to get published these days’ that I heard for so many years.
Absolutely, Katie! She certainly never let me give up on my writing.
AND she was still looking glamorous and having the hairdresser once a week right to the end. I KNOW I’d have been in tracky bottoms with a crew cut in her position. Such a star.