Today I am pleased to introduce a fascinating writer who has been “writing her whole life.” Her books incorporate romance and suspense, and feature the lovely settings in which she has lived.
1. Lynda, your books have captivating covers, and each story sounds unique. Where do you find your inspiration?
I wish I could take credit for the covers, but I take what my publisher decides to give me. As for inspiration, that’s a different story. I find inspiration everywhere. For instance, my first novel―still safely tucked into my “maybe not” drawer―was conceived when I read a brief newspaper article way back in the late 1970s. It was about a young beauty queen who was accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a Mormon missionary. She was stunning, as you’d expect, and he was a small, bespeckled guy with thinning hair. The questions haunted me. Why would she do that? Did she do that? And if she hadn’t, why would he accuse her of it? I never learned the “real” story, but I created a satisfying one of my own.
My first book in print, If Truth Be Told, was based on a situation that occurred in my own family. Of course, I fictionalized it, and the main character, Christie, never existed, but that’s where I got the plot. The second, Of Words & Music, also came from something that happened in my life. When I realized the power of music to bridge hurt and resentment and even generation gaps, the idea wouldn’t let me alone until I’d written about it.
LIVE Ringer, my latest release, was a lark. I was sitting on the Cape Canaveral jetty dangling my feet in the water when I saw something floating toward me on the waves. It had that dead, grayish look of a fish floating belly up, but as it got closer, I began to realize… No, it really was a fish, but in my mind it was an arm―attached to a body, and a story was born. I had a ball writing that one, so much so that when I’d finished it, I knew I wasn’t through with the characters. The second in the series, LIVE Ammo, should be coming out in 2011, and I have several more in the planning stages.
2. In reading the synopsis for Of Words and Music, I am struck by the unique pairing of a granddaughter and grandmother, each with their own issues. Were you inspired by actual experiences?
Absolutely. In fact, the event was so compelling that I had to stop everything I was doing and write about it. A friend who was soon to be re-married brought her twelve-year-old daughter over to my house to discuss ideas for her junior bridesmaid dress. The daughter, Elizabeth, was surly and rebellious, at least until she spotted my piano. She asked if I played, and I confessed that I’d been taking lessons for a couple of years. It turned out that we were learning some of the same songs. Before that day was over, Elizabeth and her mother were laughing together―mostly at me―and her mom told me she turned the corner after that. The day I got that call, I sat down at my desk and began writing Of Words & Music.
3. You describe that you’ve been writing all your life—and also how much you love reading. I believe all writers begin with a love of books. What specific experiences led you to your writing journey?
Wow. How do I answer that? I didn’t seem like I was led to a journey; it’s more like I was born there. I remember being an early reader, and once I started reading, I started writing.
I didn’t write my first real short story until I was ten, but I was writing poems and bits and snatches long before then. I read everything I could get my hands on, from the school library to books in my father’s library. He read everything, from Louis L’Amour to Plato to Aldous Huxley to Marcus Aurelius and Philip Wylie. It gave me a weird perspective on life and made for an interesting high school experience.
My appetite for books was frightening, even to me. I couldn’t help myself. I was constantly in trouble in school because there was always another book tucked inside my school book and at home because I read long into the nights under the covers with a flashlight. I know you’ve heard about those kids, but I really was one. It didn’t make me particularly smart, but it caused me no end of grief―and if I could do it all over again, I would.
4. I loved reading about your magical world along the beaches in Florida. Do you find creative inspiration in beautiful settings? If so, which ones in particular?
Well, I certainly find inspiration in the nearly forty-mile stretch of beach from Cape Canaveral, Florida to Sebastian Inlet. It’s not only that it’s beautiful. It really is magic, at least to me, and to a lot of other people judging from the emails I get from readers. Both my first book and my mystery series are set there.
I live in Atlanta now, but I was born in Florida and my family spent weeks every summer in what was loosely called Melbourne Beach―a narrow barrier island sandwiched between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. When I grew up and moved to Georgia, I continued my annual treks there. You can read about it on my website on the page entitled “A Love Affair.” It’s my regular vacation place. I just can’t see any reason to go anywhere else.
There is still a lot of the old Florida in that area. There’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. It’s a place to just BE. For me, it’s a place to mull over new ideas, to create people and situations that have never existed before, and to write. I can write pretty much anywhere; it’s just that the words flow more readily there, whether it’s the slow pace or the ceaseless pounding of the surf on the beach, I don’t know. There are some things you don’t question.
5. What can you tell us about your own journey to publication?
I can tell you it was a heck of a long one. My first book―the third novel I wrote―was picked up after I’d been writing for thirty years. I’d submitted my writing for publication from time to time, but it’s a hard field to crack. The rejections hurt―I mean, we’re bearing our souls out there―but each time I got one, I’d start another novel. I’d written eight novels by the time my first book came out in print.
People don’t like it when I tell them getting published is pretty much a crap shoot, but it’s true. Whether you’re looking for an agent or a publisher, being good isn’t good enough. You have to be in the right place at the right time. The planets all have to be in alignment, you have to hold your mouth exactly right, and then you have to be tough. I once heard someone say that if you want to be an author, go out and roll in cactus for a day. After you pick out all the spines, if you’re willing to go out the next day and do it again, you may be tough enough to make it. And I thought they were joking!
When my first book was picked up, I knew a lot about being a writer but nothing about being an author. The eighteen months between signing the contract and If Truth Be Told coming out in print was like getting a MA and PhD in that same short time, grueling but thrilling. I learned about marketing, about press kits and websites, about editors and copy editors and galleys. The more you learn before your first book is picked up, the easier it will be on you when the time comes. The Internet is an amazing source of information on everything you need to know. Google is my new BFF.
6. Thanks for sharing that. I know what you mean about the grueling process. Now that we have that image, can you tell us what your favorite writing space is like?
That depends on where I am. The easy answer is to say in a house overlooking the beach, but that isn’t always possible.
My office in Atlanta―well, Snellville, a suburb of Atlanta―is in my home. It’s a spare bedroom, small but efficient. It’s painted a cheery yellow, with sunflowers on the walls and on the window curtains. The cover art for my books is framed over my desk. It doesn’t hurt to look at success while you’re striving to achieve more. There are books everywhere, of course. Novels and books on writing. Reference books. And more books.
My laptop computer is state of the art―I LOVE technology―and I have two monitors so I can keep lots of information in front of me. My house is wireless, so I can write anywhere, including my shady deck when the mosquitoes aren’t out nibbling in force, but I usually write in my office. I have three dogs who all try to cram in there with me. It doesn’t usually work, but I appreciate their efforts and moral support.
7. Oh, I can totally visualize that creative space! How would you describe your writing day?
No two writing days are ever the same, but I do like to write early in the morning while all my brain cells are still firing. I don’t have a set goal for number of words or pages a day. I think that makes writing a mechanical process, and there’s nothing mechanical about fiction writing. I write until my back or fanny hurts or the growling in my stomach gets too loud to ignore. Then I take a break. I tend to stay wrapped up in my writing for a long time after I quit. It’s made for some interesting lunches and dinners. I’ve had entire conversations with no later memory because I was still with my characters wherever I left them. After a break, if I still have something to say, I go back to it until I run out of words.
Words are funny things to me. If I don’t write for a while for whatever reason, I feel like the words build up in me volcano-like until I erupt. With any luck, I’m sitting at my computer when that happens. I almost always write on my computer. The exception is when I feel stumped for what comes next. I don’t call it writers block. It’s like idea-delay. When that happens, which is rarely, I pull out the legal pad and pen. That’s never failed to get the lava flowing again.
8. Oh, those trusty legal pads! And I can relate to being a morning writer…that’s me, too. What can you share about your marketing experiences and what works best for you?
Heck, who knows what works? Sorry. That just slipped out.
We writers try everything and, to use an advertising term (I think), see what floats to the top. I’ve used it all: website, social media, print media, visual media, signings, conference appearances, personal appearances…
I have trailers for all my releases, little videos about the books. I had bookmarks for my first two releases, but I decided to go with a trifold for the third. You can get a whole lot of information on a trifold, it only costs a little more, and it makes a nifty bookmark. I’ve appeared at many conferences to sign books; I appeared at the Dahlonega Literary Festival and the Decatur Book Festival. It’s important to get in front of people.
I love my website and try to keep it up to date. I have a formal marketing plan which I sometimes follow. I’ve done live radio interviews. One marketing method that I think is a waste of time is mailings. I did a huge mailing of postcards to bookstores and libraries when If Truth Be Told was released, and I doubt it netted me a single sale.
Electronics is the way of the future. If you don’t believe it, ask any fifteen-year-old. Who wants another piece of unsolicited mail? We live in an electronic world, and I enjoy that. But don’t go and prepare your mass e-mail. The same applies. Who wants more spam?
I’m on Face Book and Twitter and Red Room and Authors Den, to name only a few. That’s splashed me all over the internet, which is kind of fun. So my advice to you? Try it all and see what floats.
9. Those are great ideas, Lynda. What can you tell us about your current WIP?
Right now I’m putting the final edits on LIVE Ammo, the second in the LIVE series. I’m also working on a stand-alone mystery that takes place in Minnesota. I’m having a good time with that one. Research is fun, and since I never lived north of Baltimore, I’ve had to spend a lot of time with my BFF. Amazing what you can get off the internet.
I’ve always wanted to do a mystery series on the development of forensic nursing, but I just don’t have the background for that. I don’t think even Google could net me enough info to be convincing. I wish someone would write a series like that. It’s a fascinating field, and most people don’t know a thing about it. Heck, maybe I’ll try my hand at it after all…unless someone beats me to it.
10. These all sound like wonderful story ideas. Thanks for sharing. Now, we would love to hear a little about your family. What can you tell us?
Well, my children are grown and married, and I’m a proud grandmother. My son and his wife have two kids, and my daughter and her husband have two more. It makes for lively holidays. There are pictures of them on my website. What a surprise, huh?
11. Oh, the blessings of family. Thanks for inviting us into your world, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the upcoming holiday. The Dames love pets. Do you have any, and if so, what can you tell us?
Now that’s a subject I can sink my canine teeth into. I’ve had generation after generation of rescue dogs. I’m actually a volunteer with German Shepherd Dog Rescue of Georgia these days. I love all animals and have owned most at one time or another, but dogs are my favorite roommates.
I’ve had all breeds of rescue dogs. One generation was Schnauzers and one was Lhasas, several were Brindle Cairn Terriers and then Wheaton Cairn Terriers. Now I’m back to big dogs. I have one full-blooded German Shepherd and one half Shepherd/half Rottweiler. Oh, and one eleven-year-old Cairn Terrier, the last of the previous generation. I feared he was on his last shaky legs until I adopted his much bigger fur-sisters, but now he’s a pup again. I have pictures of them all on my website, of course.
Dogs give so much and ask so little. A little food and water. A belly rub from time to time. For that, they give unconditional love, unending affection, and in the case of my big girls, a sense of security to a woman living alone in a big house. No one could get past my girls. One sleeps in my bedroom―although not in my bed (it’s not that big), and one sleeps downstairs where she can see all the doors. How’s that for instinct? And the downstairs dog is the one who never barks unless there’s a good reason. I sleep quite well these days.
Any time I’m away from home for more than a day, I go into withdrawal. I find myself going up to strangers and asking if I can pet their dogs. I once chased a woman and her dogs half a mile down the beach for one quick pet. And it was worth the leg cramps it earned me.
I want to thank you for having me here. It’s so much fun to talk to readers, whether they’re my readers or not. To everyone reading this, don’t ever think authors aren’t interested in your thoughts, because we are. And to all you aspiring authors, my number one piece of advice to you is to never give up. Okay, make that two pieces. Keep writing, and never give up. With every single thing you write, your skill increases, and if you never give up, you will get published. I’m living proof.
If you get a minute, check out my website. There are blurbs on the books, excerpts from each, and those book trailers I was talking about. And drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.
Thank you so much, Lynda, for the lovely conversation filled with great tidbits and ideas for hopeful writers to try. I hope you’ll visit us regularly, and join in our dialogue here.