Welcome to the seventieth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction and multi-genre fiction author Linda Lavid. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello Linda. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Linda: I’m a retired social worker with a lifelong obsession of trying to figure out why people act the way they do. This, rather than the love of language, is why I write. Curiously, I began writing in my forties having shown no particular talent. In fact, my worse subjects in high school were English and typing. However since I wanted to tell stories about people, I had to learn how to write. Before long the challenge became a passion.
Morgen: Ooh yes, I know how that goes, and I studied before really writing seriously, and feel better for it. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Linda: Mysteries drew me in, but over the years I’ve written fiction and non-fiction books. To date I have a novel, three short story collections, two books on writing / publishing, and a book on meditation. I’m now working on a serial story that can best be described as meta-fiction.
Morgen: That’s a term I’ve heard a few times but never really investigated, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metafiction explains. 🙂 Can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Linda: My first short story was accepted for publication in 2000. The anthology came out in 2002. I’ll never forget it. Shortly thereafter, many of my short stories found homes.
Morgen: My favourite form of fiction. 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Linda: I have been marketing since 2003 when my first book, Rented Rooms, was published. Now with eight books I sell both offline and online. Locally, I give talks and sell anywhere I can put down a table. Online, you’ll find me promoting on my website, twitter, blog, linkedin, facebook accounts. Branding is difficult for me since I don’t have one particular genre.
Morgen: But in theory a wider audience. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Linda: My short story, The Accident, was deemed a distinguished story by The Best American Mystery Stories of 2003 edited by Michael Connelly and Otto Penzler. My name was listed between Tabitha King (Stephen King’s wife) and Dennis Lehane.
Morgen: Wow. That’s a great place to be. You mentioned doing a lot of marketing, do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Linda: I’m a self-published writer who has experienced success without an agent. Although a lot of work, self-publishing offers huge rewards. First and foremost, publishing has kept me writing and writing better.
Morgen: Absolutely, it’s all about honing your craft. You say you sell online, presumably then your books are available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
Linda: Yes. I want all my books available in whatever format the reader prefers. Publishing e-books is relatively easy compared to preparing a book for print. I use a Kindle and love it.
Morgen: That’s encouraging because I’m right at the beginning of that route. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
Linda: I answered a call for work in Poets & Writers. Two years later, the piece was selected. My response: shocked it wasn’t lost; thrilled it was accepted.
Morgen: Things can take their time can’t they but it sounds like you’ve not been idle in between. 🙂 Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Linda: Many times, but you know there are levels of rejections. Whenever you get anything hand-written or personally responded to, consider it a sign you’re getting warmer. Celebrate!
Morgen: Absolutely, however hard it may be. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Linda: An e-serial story The Simple Mechanic of Infinite Execution. It’s a story about sex. It’s also a story of characters real (writer and reader) and imagined (man and woman).
Morgen: e-serial? I like the sound of that (I’m so not e-ready :)) and the title. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Linda: Right now I do one hour per day. Over the years, I’ve had other quotas. It depends on what I’m writing. Fiction is harder for me than non-fiction. The most I’ve ever written in one day is 2000 words. I’m happy with 500.
Morgen: Absolutely. 500 words a day = and astounding 182,500p.a. (or 183K in a leap year).What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Linda: For me, writer’s block is caused by 1. Being over-critical. 2. Not having a clue where I’m going. I’ve learned to handle both.
Morgen: It’s all about practicing the craft. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Linda: Plotting, however loose, works best for me. For mysteries, one must plot. There are red herrings, timelines, alibis, suspects, motives to plant.
Morgen: That’s very true, it does depend. How do you create your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Linda: I believe conflict defines character. No matter who your character is, drop her in very hot water very quickly. Then let her come alive kicking.
Morgen: What an image. 🙂 Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Linda: I show parts to my writers’ group. I’ve published books that no-one has read. Yeah. Crazy.
Morgen: Aren’t writing groups great. That said I agree with the latter to. I have two critique groups a fortnight and there’s only so much that they can hear in the few minutes you have. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Linda: The more I’ve written, the better I’ve become. Still miss those pesky typos though.
Morgen: I did four edits to my 105K chick lit (originally 117K) and still found though / thought etc. What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
Linda: The creative process…Well…I write, get lost, stop, start up again, eat something, rewrite, rue the day, think, eat more and go to sleep. Next day, the same.
Morgen: But you love it. 🙂 Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Linda: Computer mostly. I used to write in double space but then I began using single spacing. Writing in single space seems to keep me in the fictive dream.
Morgen: That’s interesting. I’ve only ever double spaced for submissions so have done the opposite to you. Single space first until it’s ready then copy it to a submission folder and double-space it. What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
Linda: I need silence.
Morgen: A few of the interviewees have said the same. Some have said the louder the better but I have to have classical as lyrics distract me. Silence is good although my hound loves classical too. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Linda: I do all of the above. I consider genre expectations. Mysteries prone to use third person; for short stories, I like the first person; the second person is great for experimental work or meta-fiction.
Morgen: Isn’t it. I love second person (which is selfishly why I asked the question :)) and do find myself going to the dark side when I write it. Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Linda: No. In my mind, any prologue can be a first chapter that then jumps into a future point in chapter 2. Epilogues, same thing. Tack on another chapter and wrap things up. Many readers tend to skip prologues. Don’t give them that opportunity.
Morgen: I’ve never used an epilogue and wasn’t going to use a prologue (because I rarely read them either) but I used one in my second novel as it introduced a couple of characters (one major, one minor) who were then talked about during the book. I’m now looking at simplifying the story (taking out some of the less believable coincidences) and making it into an e-novella. 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Linda: Yes. Anything that is not finished.
Morgen: I have LOADS of those, many from a long time ago which may well need a fair amount of work. 🙂 What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Linda: Seeing my books in print / not seeing my books in print.
Morgen: Yet. 🙂 If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
Linda: That I’ve gone this long (almost twenty years) and continue to write, publish and market my work.
Morgen: I’ve about 15 years to go to catch up with you. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Linda: Don’t give up. Commiserate with other writers. Be open to self-publishing.
Morgen: Yes, yes, yes. What do you like to read?
Linda: I read the New Yorker weekly. There are a ton of writers I love and a few I envy… Margaret Atwood, Emma Donoghue, Italo Calvino.
Morgen: Ah, the New Yorker. I have an old short story1950-60 hardback of theirs and it’s one of my favourite books. Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Linda: The only thing I would recommend is a book I read by Jack Bickham called Scene and Structure. After I read that book, I finally understood the craft (magic) of writing fiction. It’s learnable.
Morgen: It is, absolutely. In which country are you based Linda and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Linda: USA. With social networking and e-books, where you live doesn’t make a huge difference. Persistence does.
Morgen: I like that. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Linda: Social networks are fun but sometimes they can be used to avoid writing. Not that I’m talking about myself or anything…
Morgen: I’d say 95% of writers. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Linda: Technology is completely changing the game. Writer-to-reader is the new publishing paradigm. Also digitized books makes it easy for writers to put out books quickly, inexpensively, and in many creative ways… i.e. serials. It’s a very exciting time.
Morgen: It is. I’m loving it (as the McDonalds advert says). Thank you Linda. To end, would you like to include some of your writing…
Linda: This is an excerpt from The Simple Mechanic of Infinite Execution….
Consider you and me. On a busy street we walk. I am heading north, while you are going south. We are unknown to each other. Still, my eyes lift from watching the ground and find you, moving quickly with an assured gait. And for whatever reason you turn your head in my direction. Our glances connect in an extraordinary, intimate way until, within the time it takes for light to travel, we blink, disconnect and continue, seemingly untouched.
I believe there are matters not totally understood but insinuated by such events. Perhaps they are caused by gravitational pulls from retrograde planets or auras that bleed then blend becoming colors in the ultraviolet range sensed only by birds. I’m still trying to figure it out. However, what attracts her to him is not his aura. Of that I can assure. His hands are large and tan and muscular; hands reminiscent of others that ran up her leg, traveled along her back, pinned down her wrists.
He pulls out a fifty-dollar bill and calls out to the cashier that he’ll pay for everything—his lunch and the woman’s too. Oh yes, and keep the change. Money talks, without him having to bother. A lesson learned from his parents and theirs: cash is more than commodity. Always. But that’s another story.
Morgen: Indeed it is. 🙂 Thanks again, I’m so glad you stopped by.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
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