Today, I’d like to introduce an intriguing author with a background in psychotherapy. Meet Ms. Linda Rettstatt, who writes stories for women that focus on strength, love, humor, and hope.
Her website is here.
1. Linda, your intriguing experiences seem naturally conducive to a career as a novelist. Which aspects of your previous journey led you to write your first novel?
I had wanted to write since I was in high school. Of course, at that age, what would I have written? I hadn’t lived enough life yet to have something to say. Instead, I became a semi-professional musician and funneled my creativity into writing music and performing. But the passion to write never left me. In my career as a social worker, I had the opportunity to work with women who seemed to have lost their sense of passion for life. One day when I had a full day of cancellations, I whined to the office manager where I worked about my lack of something to do. She suggested (I think to get me out of her office) that I go to my computer and write the book I would often say I intended to write. I had recently run a support group for women at midlife. They (whoever they are) say, “Write what you know.” Well, I knew the chaos, confusion, and the unsettled feelings that women experience at midlife. It seemed natural to write on that theme.
2. You have published several books already, with three books this year alone: one in January, one due out in May and another in November. What inspires you?
I love a good story, and I love the challenge of creating characters who are engaging and ‘real’. Probably because of my background in psychotherapy, I like to delve into the emotional and psychological realms of my characters and push them to find their inner strengths. Maybe because I’ve had times where I had to dig deep in myself to find that same strength and clarity. The book that just came out with Champagne Books, Shooting into the Sun, features a younger protagonist, as does Renting to Own, that will be published this coming year by Class Act Books. While the characters face conflicts and have to find their own way around the obstacles, they aren’t dealing with the typical midlife issues.
3. I can relate to something you said in your bio: Writing is a passion I once possessed that now possesses me.” Would you elaborate on that?
As I had mentioned, I wanted to become a writer in my teen years. I had the dream, but didn’t have the self-confidence, guidance, or the courage to pursue the dream at that time. But, if we’re lucky, our passions never die. They lie dormant and wait for the right moment to blossom. As soon as I opened myself up to following the passion I had for writing, that passion took over. I can remember the distinct feeling that I had found something I was born to do. It was right and the words simply flowed. I could no more stop writing than stop breathing. Writing my first book, And the Truth Will Set You Free, unleashed something in myself. The story is, in some ways autobiographical and in some ways part dream. Essentially, I take Kate on the journey I might have taken myself—and may still.
We women are remarkably resilient. (I’m not saying men are not, but my writing focuses more on women.) As I continued to write, I recognized a thread that ran through all of my books—that thread of love, strength, humor, and hope. These are qualities I see in my characters. Some of them have to stretch to embrace love, to find the strength they need, to rely on humor, and to hang onto hope. And I see this in myself and in women I know. I once followed a hunch in my clinical practice. I saw women coming in depressed and hopeless, and I found that most of them could not identify any creative activity in which they engaged. When they began to find some creative outlet—some they felt passionate about—they began to change. They became more loving, stronger, hopeful, and certainly more able to express humor. I think we’re hardwired to be creative. And as for my books, well, I hope readers see some bit of themselves in my characters and it enriches their lives in some way.
5. What childhood experiences, if any, led you to your current path in life?
My paternal grandfather was a consummate story-teller. He would alter traditional fairy tales and read to me from the time I was a toddler. He also had a curiosity about nature and taught me to be curious and to look beneath the surface. An example was the time he took me digging geodes. What he dug up just looked like a clump of dirt to me, but when he cracked it open, the inside displayed colorful crystal deposits. To my five-year-old mind, we’d discovered diamonds. Now I try to dig deep and search for the diamonds inside my characters.
6. What person or persons most inspired you throughout your life, and why?
Again, that would be my paternal grandfather. He loved travel and he enjoyed people. He encouraged me, no matter what I wanted to pursue. When I wanted to write, he bought me a typewriter. (Yes, I know. I’m dating myself here.) When I fell in love with the Beatles (dating, again) and decided to be a musician, he bought me a guitar. And then he showed up, standing out in the crowd of teenagers and beaming proudly, when my band played for a dance.
7. Could you describe a day in your life as a writer?
I work at a day job four days a week, so any writing on those days is relegated to evenings or my lunch break. I usually devote my evening time to rewriting, critiquing, or promoting. I save the long weekend for immersing myself in one of my works in progress. On those days, I sleep a little later, then settle in with my laptop and coffee. I write for as long as I can be productive—it might be a few hours or it could be the entire day. My personal best is thirteen hours with only a few breaks for nourishment. I find that if I work against myself when I need to stop, it’s not productive. Writing has to flow and feel natural, and it won’t when it’s forced.
8. The description of your first book “And the Truth Shall Set You Free” resonated so completely with me, even though I haven’t personally experienced this. What inspiration led you to this story?
I started this book with only the title. I sat with the words and wondered what they could mean. The concept of a woman finding herself suddenly unemployed and adrift at fifty-three just came to me. I considered how the title could be a metaphor for the journey Kate Reynolds had been suddenly launched into. I think we often are forced to face some truth about ourselves in order to move forward, and nothing forces us like a crisis. That’s the nature of life as we are refined. It’s certainly true for women at midlife to sift through the truths about themselves and decide what to keep and what to release.
9. Many of your books seem to follow a theme of mid-life discoveries. How much of your characters’ stories are themes from your life or the lives of others you’ve known?
My friends insist a few of my books are autobiographies in disguise. I admit there’s a good bit of myself in Kate (And the Truth Will Set You Free) and in Beth (The Year I Lost My Mind). Well, the title alone on that one says a lot. With my newest novel, Shooting into the Sun, there are some similarities in the relationship between the two sisters, Rylee and Lexie, and my relationship with my own younger sister. Like Rylee, I also enjoy nature photography.
10. Are you currently working on another book, and if so, what can you share with us?
I’m always working on another book—or three, or four. I just finished the second draft of a book titled Unconditional. The premise of the story is that, just when you think you know the meaning of unconditional love, that love will be tested to the breaking point. I’m also working on a paranormal about a woman who rents a cottage on Cape Cod for two months to try to get past her writer’s block and finish a romance novel. She stumbles into the middle of a two-year-old murder case and encounters the ghost of one of the victims who wants her to help him bring his murderer to justice. It’s my first paranormal, so we’ll see how this goes.
11. What is the most effective marketing tool you’ve used, and have you participated in writing groups?
I think the most effecting marketing is the personal approach and word-of-mouth. Also, identifying who your readers are and finding ways to introduce those readers to your work is essential. My target demographic is primarily women, age 30 and older. I belong to various online groups that are comprised of members in that age range. I also belong to several online writers groups that allow marketing and promotions and provide opportunities for networking and gathering writing tips. My most valuable resource is my online critique group of women writers from across the US and Canada. I can’t imagine writing without those ladies in my corner.
12. The Dames love animals. Do you have any pets, and if so, what would you like to share about them?
I adopted a cat last July. This was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. When I adopted her, she had been sacrificed by an owner who was remarrying a woman with children who had allergies to cats. Binky is seven years old. Her name was listed at the shelter as Minnie, but it didn’t work for me (triggered bad memories of my second grade teacher by that same name). I renamed her Olivia. The name has a dignity that fit with the way she carries herself. But she never responded to the name. She has an odd habit of making a sucking sound. I think she may have been weaned too early. In any case, I began to call her Binky (another name for a pacifier). To my surprise, she responded to this name. During the time I’ve had Binky, I wake up most mornings laughing at her antics to rouse me for breakfast. She’s not an in-your-face cat, so she doesn’t interrupt my writing time at all—unless I try to work through dinner. I highly recommend pet adoption to people who are wanting to get a pet.
Thanks so much for having me here today. You asked some questions that made me think, and that’s a good thing. I’d like to invite readers to come to my website and read excerpts of my books and some reviews. The links are posted there, too, if you see a book you’d like to own. I also have a blog, One Woman Writes.