By Erica Christoffer, Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine
If you’ve ever lived in a condo or worked with condominium buyers and sellers, you might recognize some of the characters in Condo Divas and get a laugh or two at community-living antics. The fictional story, based on author Diane Kinman’s experiences serving on home owner boards, involves four strong “diva” board members in a building where everything seems to go wrong. Kinman explains how Condo Divas came about, and what real estate practitioners might find appealing (and get a few chuckles) from her new book.
Tell me about your background and how you came to serve on condo association boards.
KINMAN: After I finished my degree at Oregon State University, I sold my home and moved to Seattle in the early 1990s. A friend was managing a condo building on Mercer Island and she had a rental available. In 1995, I bought my first condo, but I soon found out that the board in place was ineffective. After about a year, the president stepped down. I decided to run and I won. We completed a slew of maintenance projects, including an interior renovation, roofing, parking lot repavement, and landscaping. I was working as a marketing consultant and writer from home and I found tenants knocking on my door all hours of the day. After about 10 years, I moved to a new condo. In that building, the association was in debt and they were trying to replace the property manager. I swore I wouldn’t be association president again, but agreed to be vice president. I served about 3 years on that board. As you might imagine, I’ve pretty much seen it all.
Your writing style is very visual. What was your process and where did you find inspiration?
KINMAN: After I finished my first book, Franca’s Story: Survival in World War II Italy, which was published in 2005,everyone would ask what I was going to write next. I kept going back to my condo living experiences. So much had happened during my 12 years of serving on boards. I found a humor coach, Man Martin, an Atlanta-based author. I’d write sections of the story and send them off to Man for feedback; he’d read them and we’d discuss over the phone. I walk three miles every morning and take my iPhone with me. This was probably the first book written on the iPhone – at least it was for me. I’d do a little plotting, take notes as I’d walk, then get home and write for the next six hours straight. I worked on it for about two years.
What do you think real estate professionals can get out of your book?
KINMAN: Good real estate practitioners are in tune with that their clients’ needs. An important aspect to figure out is what community is best for them. There are people comfortable living with the rules of a condo association or HOA, and there are people who would be more comfortable without those rules. A real estate practitioner, in my opinion, should lay those options out for their clients and consider whether their client would be a good fit living in a condo community. My book may be able to help with that.
People also love the book who live in condos because they go, “Ah-ha! I know this character.” They see themselves in characters’ personalities.
Are any of the characters autobiographical?
KINMAN: Mattie is pretty much me. But there’s a little bit of me in Cher and Lydia as well.
What’s next for you?
KINMAN: Since the book came out, I’ve received so much feedback from other condo owners who want to share their stories, so I decided to write a sequel. I’m collecting stories from people throughout the country. Anyone who has a story to share can call me at 206-453-5800 or e-mail me through my Web site. I don’t want any names, though!