Dunedin writer Diane Byington wrote her first novel when she was ten years old. It was an assignment for her English class, and the event that started her on the road to writing. That path eventually culminated in two award-winning novels exploring women rising to challenges that result in personal epiphany and emotional growth.
Byington moved to Florida with her family when she was 15. “I love the state,” she says. “I love being by the beach, and I love the people here and how they’re mostly laid-back and often a little quirky.” After graduating from Brandon High School, she attended the University of Florida and Florida State University where she earned a Masters degree and a Ph.D. Her career included jobs as a college professor, psychotherapist, executive coach, and social worker. It wasn’t until after she retired that she made the decision to pursue writing full time. “It’s a bucket-list thing for me,” she says, “and I’m grateful every day that I have the time to devote to it.”
Byington’s first book was released in 2018. Who She Is, set in a fictional Florida town in 1968, tells the story of Faye Smith, a girl with epilepsy who decides she wants to run in the Boston Marathon. Despite the physical challenges and the fact that women runners weren’t eligible, Faye decides to do it anyway. When she begins to have disturbing flashbacks about an earlier life, her parents try to dismiss them as epilepsy-related, but Faye becomes determined to discover the secret that her parents are trying to hide. Who She Is was awarded a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association and a Florida Fiction award from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.
Byington’s most recent release, If She Had Stayed, is an intriguing blend of women’s fiction, thriller and sci-fi, with a bit of history thrown in for good measure This time-travel tale centers around the discovery of an old diary written by Nikola Tesla that contains the plans for a time machine. Kaley Kline, the protagonist, decides to secretly build the machine in the hope that she will be able to travel back in time and undo a decision she has regretted. What she sees as the possibility of a second chance soon has her running for her life.
The most challenging part of writing the book was figuring out how time travel would work. “The rules for time travel can be anything, but they must be consistent, and the mechanism for traveling must be at least a little bit believable,” Byington explains. “That was tough, especially since my character meets herself when she goes back in time, and the older self and younger self are both in the same mind. Getting that right nearly drove me crazy!”
Byington got the idea for If She Had Stayed after contemplating some of her past decisions. “I was thinking about some things I regret about my earlier life and wished I could go back and change them,” she recalls. “I wondered what my current life would be like if I had that opportunity. Ergo, Kaley Kline was born!” While Byington’s personal life was the inspiration for the character, she denies that Kaley is based on her or anyone she knows. “She has far more courage than I would ever have,” Byington admits. But what Byington likes best about the book is how the character evolves. “I like the lessons Kaley learns during the course of the book and how different she is at the end than she was at the beginning,” she says. “It’s very satisfying to see that she has learned and grown through the book.”
Byington is currently at work on a third novel, tentatively titled Grounded. The story centers around an astronaut who is grounded due to injuries sustained in a terrible accident. Unwilling to accept that she will never go into space, she makes some questionable decisions that put her life in danger. Byington hopes her books will help people deal with regrets. “I’d like readers to take away an acceptance that the things they regret have made them the people they are today,” she says, “so they can move forward instead of always looking backwards.”
For more information, visit the author's website at www.dianebyington.com