Welcome to Authors Love Readers

This podcast, hosted by USAToday bestselling author Patricia McLinn, is a conversation between authors about how and why they create stories. With questions contributed by readers. Quite a few podcasts are out there for aspiring and established writers, both on the craft and the business.

This podcast, though, is for readers.
The goal is to have authors on the show who write in all sorts of fiction genres. As a reader, it doesn’t matter which path to publication an author takes – independent, traditional, hybrid and other combinations. That’s not going to matter on Authors Love Readers, either.

Listen to the latest podcasts

Episode 12: Romance Is Hope, with Lisa Hughey

Lisa Hughey talks with host Patricia McLinn about her move from California to New England, how research leads to plot development, and her thoughts about characters after her books are finished.

You can find Lisa on:

*her website,

*Facebook and


Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

Authors Love Readers with Lisa Hughey

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun. Some of them serious. And from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Lisa Hughey [00:23] I’m Lisa Hughey and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:27] Now, let’s start the show.

Hi, and welcome to the Authors Love Readers podcast for the week. This is Lisa Hughey visiting us today. Um, I haven’t known Lisa as long as a lot of the other authors I’ve talked to so far, but we met at a Novelists, Inc. conference.

You know, that might be, uh, an ongoing thread of how I know these people. We hit it off, and had really interesting conversations. So I’m looking forward to continuing that, especially because I get to ask the questions. And the first question is going to be to have Lisa tell us a little bit about what you write.

Lisa Hughey [01:06] Hi, Pat. Thanks for having me. My name is Lisa Hughey and I write, um, almost everything. I write romantic suspense, romantic thrillers, paranormal romance, and I’m branching it out into contemporary romance a little bit more now.

Patricia McLinn [01:22] Did you get a lot of advice to not do that, to focus more on one genre?

Lisa Hughey [01:27] You know, I think when you’re, especially when you’re starting out, that’s, I think that’s solid advice, and I adhered to that. So I started with romantic suspense, and I had, I want to say seven or eight books in that genre. Then I had this paranormal that I had written that I really liked, so I continued on with that series.

And, um, I, actually, the reason I started contempt was I did a shared world with some friends.

Patricia McLinn [01:58] Oh.

Lisa Hughey [01:59] And so even though that wasn’t my genre, I really wanted to do this with a group of friends. So I did that and then wrote a follow-on novella, um, to that same, in that same world. And then, you know, last year was kind of a rough year and I wanted to write something happy, so even though maybe it’s not the best career move, I didn’t care. Honestly, I want to write, so I’m happy., Lighter, happier.

Patricia McLinn [02:24] And did that help?

Lisa Hughey [02:26] Yeah. Yes, well, so I actually have been working on the series world and haven’t written that much in the world. I had a, I did a, um, a book in a, another shared world called, um, Camp Firefly Falls. And in that book, I introduced this, um, This new contemporary series. And so I’ve been playing around with the, all the characters in the series, but haven’t written much of the books. There’s going to be five books, and I’m working on book one right now.

But yes, it was great. It’s been a lot of fun because even though my suspense isn’t like super dark, I do a lot of research that gets into darker things and I may brush over it in terms of like the plot, but, you know, if you start reading a lot of dark stuff, it can impact you. And the world’s been kind of dark in the last year or so. I wanted to go the opposite and I think it, I think it was good for me personally.

Patricia McLinn [03:20] I got a lot of advice, um, from people, especially earlier in my career to, to do the same thing, you know, to stay within a narrow bracket of what I was doing. And I didn’t want to. I kept being told I was pushing the envelope. And I said, What envelope and where, and where is the edge? So I empathize with that a lot. And my question then is how, what response have you gotten from the readers? How do they feel about it? Do you find you have different readership for different things that you’re writing or people following you from one to the other?

Lisa Hughey [03:56] Definitely different readership, which I found out, um, I released, um, in 2016 I released two in a paranormal suspense. So not, paranormal romantic suspense, um, it’s like, uh, remote viewing, but still in my suspense genre. And, um, my readers did not follow. They were not interested in those books at all, which was—

Patricia McLinn [04:23] Hmm.

Lisa Hughey [04:24] —news to me that was a little bit of a fail. But what just, you know, it’s fine. I tend to write like light paranormal. Like it’s not, I don’t create like this whole crazy and there’s no vampires or werewolves, it’s, it’s more like a paranormal overlay of my, of existing suspense plots. And, um, my readers follow me there. But I just did a survey, um, my last newsletter, I sent out a survey asking people to rank, like what of mine they do read. And I think my suspense people have carried over into my regular contemporary romance.

Patricia McLinn [04:59] Aah, that’s interesting.

Lisa Hughey [05:02] Which that’s good. Since the suspense is where more of my core readers are anyway, and, you know, I probably shouldn’t keep writing the paranormal, but I like it. I like it’s, you know, it’s I find it fascinating. So I’m going to keep doing it, even if only like a hundred people read them.

Patricia McLinn [05:18] Well, there, you know, there should for, shouldn’t quote for business reasons, but then there should for, um, keeping you fresh and interested in the writing. And I think when you’re doing a fun project, a project that’s fun for you, I think that carries over to everything that you’re writing and sort of effervesces all the other work, that you’re working on.

Lisa Hughey [05:43] That’s a good word. Yeah, I would agree. I think that as much as, like I said, I didn’t, my suspense readers didn’t necessarily carry over, I loved writing those books. I find it’s a fascinating subject, you know, remote viewing is like the idea that you, you basically like leave your body in one place in your mind travels somewhere else. And it’s actually based on the CIA program that existed in the seventies.

Patricia McLinn [06:06] Umhmm.

Lisa Hughey [06:07] And I basically recreated it in, uh, you know, two-thousands. Uh, and it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to read. Like I read books by people who have supposedly done this remote viewing, and they’re not like the guy who wrote the one book I read, it’s not a woo-woo guy, he’s a, he was military, I think he was a Marine. And then he worked for the CIA. Like not somebody that you would think of who would even believe that that was possible. So it’s, it’s fascinating.

Patricia McLinn [06:36] Well, it sounds to me like what writer, what writers do all the time. Our bodies stay in one place and our minds go all over the place.

Lisa Hughey [06:45] Yes, so true.

Patricia McLinn [06:49] Okay, let’s ask you some quick questions to let readers get to know you better.

Lisa Hughey [06:52] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [06:53] Um, uh, I’ll give you an easy one first. What’s your favorite color and why?

Lisa Hughey [06:59] My favorite color is green. I think it has to do with the fact that nature, most of nature is green. I like being outside. I like plants, even though I kill them. I just, I find, I find green, very soothing.

Patricia McLinn [07:13] Oh, that’s great. Do you have a favorite taste?

Lisa Hughey [07:16] Salt.

Fear of open heights and telemarking as a teen

Patricia McLinn [07:18] Ah. You know, there I’m surprised at how many of the authors are going to the salt. I thought a lot more of us would be toward the sweet, but okay. Do you have any strong fears and have they shown, have you used that then in books?

Lisa Hughey [07:34] I am terrified of open heights. So I’m not great in the—

Patricia McLinn [07:39] Uh.

Lisa Hughey [07:40] —and no, I can’t even, I can’t write about that. Like I, I get vertigo. I don’t know. No, I can’t, I can’t write about it even.

Patricia McLinn [07:49] Can you access some of that fear to, to use for other fears and in your books? Or is it so visceral that you just steer clear?

Lisa Hughey [08:00] Actually, yes. So that I can do. So I’ll think about how I feel when I’m on the edge of a mountain, like a lookout or something, I’ll take that, cause I, I mean, I literally have like that flight reaction.

Patricia McLinn [08:14] Okay. Have you had any surprising jobs in your life?

Lisa Hughey [08:18] Surprising jobs. So my very first job, I think I was, I was 12 or 13 and I, I was, it was like the precursor to telemarketing, but that’s what I was doing. I was sitting up in this attic in this old house with a telephone and a phone book, you know, with paper and a pen.

And I would call, I was cold calling people from the phone book to see if they would come into this dress shop. Um, this woman sold like designer clothes made specifically for people, so they were custom, and she was trying to get people into her shop for appointments. And that’s what I did. It was awful.

Patricia McLinn [09:02] I bet it was.

Lisa Hughey [09:03] It was horrible.

Patricia McLinn [09:04] Wow.

Lisa Hughey [09:05] It was before telemarketers. Like it was literally like before telemarketers were a thing, so, you know, people were surprised that you were calling and, it was a crazy way. I can’t, I can’t even believe she had us do that when I look back on it.

Patricia McLinn [09:18] And if you sound like your age, I would imagine that will throw some people off too.

Lisa Hughey [09:23] Yeah, because I was young.

Patricia McLinn [09:24] And that’s such a specific it’s crazy.

Lisa Hughey [09:27] It was a nightmare.

Patricia McLinn [09:28] So telemarketing was not your future.

Lisa Hughey [09:30] No.

Patricia McLinn [09:31] Okay. So from still sticking with your childhood, though, did you have any books that really, really opened the idea of stories to you, that really made you love them?

Lisa Hughey [09:44] Oh, you know, I loved to read, I don’t remember super early, but Nancy Drew, Pippi Longstocking. And then, you know, as I started reading, uh, more adult books, fairly young. Uh, my mom loves romance, so I was reading her Harlequins like her, um, Presents, when I was like thirteen.

Patricia McLinn [10:08] Oh yeah. When you were, when you were younger, did you use to fret about anything or multiple things that now you say, Oh, for heaven sakes, what was I worried about?

Lisa Hughey [10:21] I used to just always be polite, even if somebody was rude to me or, or, you know, kind of like if you got the wrong thing in a restaurant, I’d just smile and eat it, cause I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to make waves. And now I won’t do that. I, I, as a matter of fact, last week I just had my hotel room moved because it was this ridiculously small room. And I thought I was paying for a room, like not a closet. And I would’ve just said, Oh, well I guess it’s all they have. And I, I was, I said, no, this is not what I’m paying for.

Patricia McLinn [10:54] There’s a, there’s a great book. This isn’t quite the same thing, but there’s a great book called, um, Women Don’t Negotiate, Women Won’t ask, I think that’s it. It’s the gender divide on negotiating. And it’s a really fascinating book. One of the things I always thought that I was moderately assertive, and when I read it, I realized I wasn’t especially always.

And the other thing that, really kind of hit me was that it said that the younger generation and the, she taught the, um, author taught at Wharton business school and she was using her students for some of the studies. So these are intelligent, you know, business oriented young women and they were still making the same mistakes.

They were still not negotiating, not asking. And it hurts them throughout their careers. Especially in negotiating the very first salary, uh, because then, so, yeah, it tends to be, um, subsequent, uh, raises are based as a percentage of that initial salary. So you’re always in the hole. So I highly recommend that to anybody. Um, I may give it a reread myself, see how I’m doing.

Lisa Hughey [12:16] You know, I think we’re taught to be polite. You know, we’re taught not to make waves, be polite, be nice to everybody. And that’s fine as a general, you know, like treat people with kindness. But it’s not okay if you’re just getting walked over, you know, like walked on all the time. And I, I do think that we do are, our daughters are disservice by making them too nice.

Patricia McLinn [12:40] Well, and I, I believe that you can be polite while you are also standing up for yourself.

Lisa Hughey [12:46] Right.

Patricia McLinn [12:47] You don’t have to be nasty. Sometimes I want to be nasty if they pushed me, if they’ve hit my, my temper, but most of the time I find if, if you are adamant, but polite that things will come around the way they should be, you know, like with your meal. You know, if you ordered the wrong meal comes.

I had you as a kid. Now I’m going to ask you a high school type question or teens. Did you have a song at that point in your life that you thought just, This is me, this, this speaks to me?

Lisa Hughey [13:21] So, you know, I actually, I thought about that question a lot. I hope it’s okay for me to say that you send us questions, so we have some idea.

Patricia McLinn [13:27] Sure.

Lisa Hughey [13:28] And I couldn’t necessarily—

Patricia McLinn [13:30] And then I spring other ones.

Lisa Hughey [13:32] Yeah, exactly. Just to throw us off. I prepared, Pat. Um, so my thing is I love music. Pretty much all kinds. I think the only thing that I’m not, the only type of music that I’m not crazy about is jazz. And I apologize to jazz musicians everywhere, it just doesn’t really work for me. And like super angry German Bogner classical. Besides that I like, I like everything. So I was trying to think if I had a specific song and I, I just can’t, I couldn’t think of anything that really worked.

Now in college, I had a group of friends and, um, Tina Marie’s Lovergirl was our anthem. We made sure it got played at every party we went to, and we all danced together. It’s still, if I hear that song, I think of my friends from college.

Patricia McLinn [14:25] Ohh, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful. I have one from college is Starry Starry Night. Actually it was earlier than college, I think. But there is something about that song that I just felt was speaking right to me.

Lisa Hughey [14:41] It’s a beautiful song.

Patricia McLinn [14:42] It is. It is. And from college then, we use the old Beatles song There are Places I Remember.

Lisa Hughey [14:50] Oh yeah.

Patricia McLinn [14:51] Is that the title of it? I’m not sure that’s the title, but that some of the lyrics.

Lisa Hughey [14:56] Right.

Patricia McLinn [14:57] And we did that in our final party. Our parting party. And so that has a lot of meaning to me too. Yeah. Well, those are great songs. Really important question here. Are you left-handed or right-handed?

Lisa Hughey [15:13] I’m right-handed.

Patricia McLinn [15:15] On your right hand, is your ring finger or your index finger longer?

Lisa Hughey [15:19] Oh, okay. So, now this is weird, when I looked the other day, they were basically the same length, but now my ring finger is a little longer. So I don’t know what that means.

Patricia McLinn [15:30] You know what, sometimes it’s the angle and especially if you, so put your palm away from you.

Lisa Hughey [15:35] Yeah. My ring finger is just slightly longer.

Patricia McLinn [15:38] And now here’s the, the other part of the question. Is your left hand the same way as your right hand?

Lisa Hughey [15:44] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [15:45] Okay.

Lisa Hughey [15:46] What’s the significance?

Patricia McLinn [15:47] I don’t know what it means. I have no idea.

Lisa Hughey [15:52] Super wisdom to be is imparted. I’m going to learn something.

Patricia McLinn [15:55] I’m just, I’m just curious, that’s all. I, somewhere back in the, way in the recesses of my memory, it says that in hand reading left, or palm reading, left hand is what you started with and your right hand is what you’ve made of yourself. But I have no idea what the significance of the length of your fingers is. Maybe somebody will tell us. So I’ve just been going around asking that nosy question just for the heck of it.

Okay. So I have this, I have this bizarre desert Island in my head where you get, you can play movies, but you can only play three movies forevermore while you’re on this desert Island for however long you’re captured there. So, which three movies are you going to take to my strange little desert island?

Lisa Hughey [16:48] Um, so I’m going to take Little Miss Sunshine. National—

Patricia McLinn [16:52] Mmm.

Lisa Hughey [16:53] National Treasure and Indiana Jones, the first one.

Patricia McLinn [16:57] Okay. I can see a connection between this.

Lisa Hughey [16:59] The second two. Sure.

Patricia McLinn [17:02] Yeah. So what do you see a common thread with all three in, in your mind, is there?

Lisa Hughey [17:17] Not with all three. No.

Patricia McLinn [17:09] You just like it. Good. Okay.

Lisa Hughey [17:11] I love a Little Miss sunshine. I think that, I think it’s brilliant.

Patricia McLinn [17:14] There all, well, upbeat isn’t quite the right fitting word, but, you know, I think of this quote from Jessica Tandy, and I’ve never been able to find it like online to confirm it, but I heard her in an interview say, and this is a paraphrase, that she wanted to make movies that when people left the theater, they were glad to be a member of the human race.

Lisa Hughey [17:37] Oh.

Patricia McLinn [17:38] And I thought, Yes, yes, yes, yes. That those are the kinds of movies I like to, to watch. Those are the kinds of stories I like to read. Those are the stories I want to write. And I can see that as being a thread with those books.

Lisa Hughey [17:53] Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [17:54] They, are those movies—

Lisa Hughey [17:56] Yeah, I like that.

Patricia McLinn [17:57] That they appreciate the human race.

Lisa Hughey [17:59] I think, um, all three of those movies too, there’s like a sense of hope at the end, which is pretty much why I write romance, obviously. Um, that’s pretty much the definition of romance, right? Hope, hope for the future.

Patricia McLinn [18:13] Yeah, I like that. So as long as we’re talking about that, do you have, do you have a motivational, upbeat quote that, that you like, that you repeat?

Lisa Hughey [18:23] Uh, yes. Um, mine is, every, everybody’s path is different and another one might, might be, um, comparison is the thief of joy.

Patricia McLinn [18:34] Oh, who said that?

Lisa Hughey [18:36] Oh, shoot. I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt, but I could be wrong.

Patricia McLinn [18:41] That’s a great one.

Lisa Hughey [18:42] It might’ve been Teddy Roosevelt. I can’t, isn’t it great, I think that whenever I, when I, whenever I have that, like temptation to compare whatever, somebody’s kids or my career or whatever, I think about that, and my path is completely different than their paths. So of course our results are going to be different at this moment in time.

Patricia McLinn [19:06] Yeah, my mom always used to say to me, if we’re comparing myself to somebody, you know, Oh, they got to be on the pompom squad, which I did eventually get on, but not the first year I tried. And she’d say, Okay, but do you want her whole life? I go, Well, no, I just want this, you know, come on, give me a break. And she said, no, it’s a package deal. And I’d say, Oh, darn. I thought that was totally unfair.

Lisa Hughey [19:40] Yeah. That’s smart.

Patricia McLinn [19:43] Yeah. Yeah. So here’s a question from a reader and I’m going to read it as she wrote it. Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories, another has a character suddenly taken up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Lisa Hughey [20:02] I love that question. So I actually, um, use things that are happening in the world quite a bit. A lot of times that, especially in my suspense plots, there’s always a kernel of truth. Something that’s happened or something that’s speculated that’s happened. And it’s just provides that little jumping off point.

And then of course, I ignore whatever happened in real life and, you know, make up my own circumstances, but I’ll, I’ll start with something that, that actually happened in, typically in current day, but not always. And then I also think with, with that thing that happened, what’s a good character match for that event or that situation. And then I kind of go from there.

Patricia McLinn [20:47] Okay. So that, that leads into the next question about how you take it from that spark, that, that initial thought and develop it into a book. So your, your next step is looking at the characters.

The mystery of the code breakers in War World II

Lisa Hughey [21:00] And the what-ifs. So, as an example, um, my first thriller, I have a series called, um, Black Cipher Files and the first book in that series, Blowback, has current day espionage characters, but it came, the whole idea of these characters came from a research book I was reading called Body of Secrets. It’s a, non-fiction about the national security agency. It’s a fascinating book that runs through the history of how it was formed and various, like operations or world events that they, they were involved in.

And, um, I read this, it might’ve been a paragraph or a page about, uh, US-British joint task force, um, during World War II captured, uh, this castle in Germany, in Nazi Germany. They captured this castle and it was literally like code breakers, there was, you know, people sitting at machines breaking code, but here’s the cool part. So they captured all those people and it was a, it was a race between, um, the US-British allies and Russia, who was actually also our ally at the same time to get to, to get to these German code breakers because even though we were allies with Russia, it was rather reluctant.

Lisa Hughey [22:15] So we got there first, we captured these people and there, they disappeared all the records about what happened to those people are still, still to this day classified. I was like, well, what happened to those people? Where did they go? So I started thinking about that and I started thinking about, Okay, so if they’re, if they’re gone, they had to have put them somewhere. And if it’s classified, then somebody somewhere must know something like their descendants. There must be something with their descendants, something.

So I, I took just that and started thinking that my current day espionage characters would be the descendants of those code breakers. And so there’s actually like a mystery surrounding. The code breakers and then a suspense plot with the current day people.

Patricia McLinn [23:06] The mystery of the code breakers, is that carried through the whole series then?

Lisa Hughey [23:10] Yes, it’s a trilogy. And you find out like each, in each book, you find out a little bit more about what happened to these people. Again, it’s all, it’s all made up. It’s still classified. I have no idea what has actually happened to those people, but I found it fascinating that it—

Patricia McLinn [23:26] It is fascinating.

Lisa Hughey [23:28] When I was writing the first one it was classified and it came up for, I guess, I think it’s Congress that has to declassify the information and it came up in 2012, and they still voted to keep it classified. So, there’s something in those records, whatever it is.

Patricia McLinn [23:43] Wow.

Lisa Hughey [23:44] Right?

Patricia McLinn [23:45] Pushing 70 years later.

Lisa Hughey [23:46] Yeah, I’ mean—

Patricia McLinn [23:47] It’s going to be fascinating when they are declassified. Have you ever written anything where you thought you were making it up and then you found out it was there, there was truth to it, whether it happened, you know, for whatever reason?

Lisa Hughey [23:59] I don’t think, I don’t think that’s ever really happened. I don’t know. I mean, it might be, might be kind of funny if it was, but not as far as I know.

Patricia McLinn [24:07] I had, um, just a small thing. I had a character, the hero of, um, Prelude to a Wedding, I thought I was making up this occupation that he was an antique toy appraiser. This was, you know, 30 years ago. And then lo and behold, not only was it that there an occupation, there was an association of antique toy appraisers.

Lisa Hughey [24:29] Right.

Patricia McLinn [24:30] Who knew? Not me. I didn’t know, but clearly they did. So, that’s my small example of, of that happening where you think, Oh, I’m going to just totally make this thing up. Nope. Already exists. Which of your books has been the easiest to write? Just a joy?

Lisa Hughey [24:50] So, it’s actually not a full-length book, but it’s a novella. It is called One Silent Night, and it’s, that’s the one that’s in the shared, shared world. Um, I have a group of friends, there are seven of us, and we wrote, um, we created this fictional town called Snow Creek in California. And there’s like a little tiny bit of magic in some of the stories, but, um, it’s centered around Christmas and, um, there’s seven different stories. And I wrote this story.

I, I tend to be more plot-driven, I think. I mean, I’m character-driven, but not super emotional. And I wrote this story, it was, um, a couple that was getting divorced, um, because they’d had major infertility issues, and they have to, they spend Christmas together because her mother’s dying and she doesn’t know that they’re getting divorced. It’s was really emotional and really intense. And I had no idea I could write a story that emotional. And it just like flowed out of me. It was a, it was an amazing experience. And, um, I, I love that story still.

Patricia McLinn [25:55] Do you think it affected your writing subsequently?

Lisa Hughey [25:59] Yeah, because I didn’t, up until that point, I’m not, I’m not very angsty. I tend to write characters who already, are fairly solid in their sense of self. You know, they’re not, they may be unsettled in some way, but they’re not, they’re not struggling just with their own humanity they, they’ve already kind of got that down. So I don’t write super emotional stories. They’re, you know, they’re happy and there’s good things, but they’re not super emotional. And I realized after writing that, that I could write something that was more emotional. And I think that, um, I think that my books have gotten better because of writing that story.

Patricia McLinn [26:35] It always fascinates me how one story or one book can push us in new directions and help us grow as, as writers. So, your most recent book, what, what is that?

Camp Firefly Falls, Semi-Charmed Life, returning to camp as adults

Lisa Hughey [26:48] So, my most recent book is called His Semi-Charmed Life. And it, that is also part of a shared world. That’s the Camp Firefly Falls, which is, um, super fun concept. Basically all the stories are set at Camp Firefly Falls, which is a summer camp for adults. Um, so there are adult things that happen. Um, and it’s just, it’s just a really fun. It’s like, you know, going back to summer camp as an adult, which is a lot more fun than, you know, when you’re a kid and your parents made you go.

So, I had a lot of fun writing that story. And the, the, the premise of that story is that these two people actually met at camp 20 years ago. Penny, the heroine, was nine, and Diego, the hero was, um, 15, and he was a counselor, and she was sort of a spoiled little kid. And, um, they have this interaction. And it sort of changes both of their perspectives.

So she’s spoiled and very well off. And he’s first-generation Puerto Rican with kind of a tough, you know, beginning. It, it shifts both of their perspectives and forms how they, they both approach adulthood. And then they end up meeting back at camp 20 years later. And it’s just a, it’s a really fun story.

Patricia McLinn [28:08] Yeah. It sounds like that would be pretty, um, toward the joy side of the writing continuum. Have you had any books that were really difficult to write?

Lisa Hughey [28:17] Well, the, the third book, the third book in the, um, Black Cipher Files trilogy was really hard. I wrote those books over probably six years, you know, I would go back and forth. Each book has their own plot, like, but then there was an overarching like story that had to be answered. And I had to tie everything in, and I had to make sure that the timeline worked, and then everything that I had set up in the other two books made solid sense. And, the timeline of the ancestors.

And so that was really hard to make sure I got everything in that was important and still make it interesting. And, and like the suspense, like you, you needed to, you know, be rooting for these characters. And every time I was writing something and I was thinking, Oh God, but did I remember to put this, you know, X, Y, and Z in? And it, it was, the book was a lot of work. It was a lot of work.

Patricia McLinn [29:15] Uh, huh. Did you find that the readers reacted to it well?

Lisa Hughey [29:20] Yeah, actually I think it’s my highest, you know, as far as reviews go, it’s my highest rated book of all time.

Patricia McLinn [29:28] Terrific. There seems to be a thread that as hard as, when a book is hard for us, the readers don’t necessarily recognize or, or get that feeling of how hard it was for the author.

Lisa Hughey [29:45] Right.

Patricia McLinn [29:46] And often respond really well to it. And sometimes the ones that were like, Oh, this is so much fun to write, for the author, the readers I like, Yeah.

Lisa Hughey [29:55] Yeah, exactly. Yes. Yeah. Well, I had a book that I wrote. I, I, uh, I’d been thinking about the character for a while and I think it’s probably from a, um, a character arc and a plot arc, one of the most technically perfect books I’ve written. I really, my, um, my readers, weren’t crazy about it. They didn’t hate it, but they weren’t in love with it either. And I was really surprised because I was like, this book is really like, uh, like I said, almost technically perfect in terms of my character arcs and my story arcs and everything else, and the readers didn’t respond nearly to things that were much harder to write.

Patricia McLinn [30:34] Hmm, that’s, that’s I think, um, uh, as I said, a trend and I, it would be interesting to know is if there’s something that comes through in the books that are difficult to write that, that the readers pick up on subliminally. I don’t know. I just, I find that very interesting.

Okay, and a reader asks when you finish a book, do you miss the characters? Do you think about them afterwards?

Lisa Hughey [31:01] Yes, absolutely. I, uh, I do. I, I’ll think, Hmm, I wonder where they’re at like what, and I’ll think about that. Like, okay, you know, are they going to have babies? Are they not? Are they, you know, moving in together? Depending on the story. So, yeah, I do definitely.

Patricia McLinn [31:19] Has it ever made you go back and write another story about them or connected to them?

Lisa Hughey [31:24] So, not about them, although in the, um, the very end of, so I have a, a series called, uh, The Family Stone. There’s seven books. They’re shorter. Some of them are almost novella length, like 30,000 words. And then some are closer to 50. I love, I love this. I started with a blended family. There’s um, four siblings. Um, the two oldest were, their mother was married to their father. Who’s a complete bastard. And then the third brother, his mother was like a Vegas dancer and basically dropped the kid on the father’s doorstep and took money and left.

And then the fourth sibling is a sister. Her mother got pregnant when she was 18 with this bastard father. And she ended up raising all four of the kids. And then there’s, uh, there’s uh, a surprise baby, who’s an adult by the time they find out about him. And a couple of peripheral characters who get their own stories, and the mother gets her own story.

Patricia McLinn [32:23] Yay, sounds like she deserved it.

Lisa Hughey [32:25] Yeah, oh, I, you know, I love her book. So the very last story I do an epilogue, which is the wedding of the oldest brother. And, um, his heroine. And that was, that was really fun. Like, I didn’t need to add it, I could’ve just thrown in a, you know, a few lines or whatever, but it was, it was really fun to write the wedding.

Patricia McLinn [32:49] Umhumm.

Lisa Hughey [32:50] And there were, there were some unanswered things from their story that I, I sort of closed off. They could’ve stayed unanswered, it wouldn’t have impacted the reader in any way, but, um, I, I tied up some loose ends at the end of the seventh book.

Patricia McLinn [33:02] Yeah, you just wanted to go back and spend more time with them.

Lisa Hughey [33:07] I did. I did. Well, they’re fun. And it’s, so I I’ve, I’ve toyed with writing a Christmas story with the whole family together. I just haven’t had a chance. So that might be next Christmas.

Patricia McLinn [33:17] Do you celebrate when you begin or end or publish a book? Have you ever?

Lisa Hughey [33:24] I’m so bad. I don’t. I used to, you know, like there’s some people, you know, buy themselves a purse or whatever. I, I just don’t, I don’t really do that. There’s, there’s always more to do. And so I find that I just want to get onto the next thing.

Patricia McLinn [33:40] Hmm. Do you have ideas that have never jelled? So do you have the drawer of whether that, that’s a physical drawer or a mental drawer of, um, half finished or unpublished stories?

Lisa Hughey [33:53] I do. I have some things out there that are just not ready to be done yet.

Patricia McLinn [33:58] Because your writing isn’t quite ready for it or because it doesn’t, why are they not yet ready to be done?

Lisa Hughey [34:05] I just think I’m not ready to write them. I, you, you know, you, you find like all of a sudden be like, Ooh, you know what? That’s, I’m not ready for that yet. I need to wait until I’m in a place where that, that story just, I can’t stand but not write it. If that makes any sense.

Patricia McLinn [34:20] Oh, yes, to me.

Lisa Hughey [34:24] Yeah. I know. I don’t know if readers understand that. Sometimes it’s, uh, you know, you just, you get to the point I like to think about a story for a little bit before I actually start writing it. Cause then I, like in the back of my brain I think, is it Jenny Cruise calls it the girls in the basement, something like that. Like there’s, you know, you’ve got all these things sort of percolating around, but they need, they need to sort of simmer.

Patricia McLinn [34:47] I think that’s Barbara Samuel.

Lisa Hughey [34:50] Is that who it is? Yeah. So I, I, uh, I’m a firm believer that it’s better if it sort of simmers in the back of your brain. So I do have some things out there that, um, I think I’ll write eventually, but I’m not ready to write them yet.

Patricia McLinn [35:03] Are there any that you initially thought, Well, that’s a really good idea, and then as you sort of thought about it, it, you just realized it wasn’t going to come together or do you hold out hope for all of them?

Lisa Hughey [35:15] I kind of hold out hope for all of them.

Patricia McLinn [35:18] Me too. I always think that there’s going to be a way to work this somehow, sometime.

Lisa Hughey [35:22] Exactly. It’s my innate sense of optimism.

Patricia McLinn [35:26] What is the favorite part for you, of the writing process?

Lisa Hughey [35:29] Oh, I’ve loved this question. You know, it’s funny. I love that. the beginning, like right in the beginning is really fun. Just that, you know, there’s so many possibilities. There are so many different directions you can go in. And then I also love the part where the story goes a little slower at first, in through the middle it can be a little slower, trying to figure out exactly how you want to position things for the end.

But then there’s like that burst at the end where, you know, you’re just sort of vomiting outwards, cause things are going so fast, like your, your fingers almost can’t keep up with, you know, what’s happening in your brain. And I love that feeling. But I also like revision too. Like I like going through and taking all that vomit, which is a horrible word, but it’s so appropriate.

Patricia McLinn [36:15] It is.

Lisa Hughey [36:16] And making everything pretty and flow and it’s a different part of your brain, but it’s, uh, and it’s, uh, it’s a different process, but I like, I like both sides.

Patricia McLinn [36:27] It sounds like you like the whole thing. What, what part do you not like?

Lisa Hughey [36:31] I think, I feel like middles are always a little tough and it’s striking that balance of making sure that your characters, you know, I have an idea of where I want them to end up obviously, but sometimes making sure that they make the right decisions to make that where I want them to end up believable and, um, where they should end up can be a challenge.

Patricia McLinn [36:55] Yeah. And the middle, I think, it just struck me because you were talking about at the beginning there are all these possibilities and, and my process was really weird and different. So when I talk about beginning, middle, and end, it’s not necessarily the beginning, middle, and end of the book. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of writing the book for me. But anyhow, the middle part is where you’re eliminating possibilities.

Lisa Hughey [37:23] Right.

Patricia McLinn [37:24] You have to narrow down. You, you can’t have it go all the possible directions. And I, I don’t like that. I want to keep the doors open as long as possible. And it usually, for me, comes down to I’ve set a deadline. I’ve promised the readers and I have got to let go of things.

Lisa Hughey [37:45] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [37:46] That’s the only way I will do it. So that’s, that’s. My new theory about the middle, just from what you just said. I’ve established a middle theory.

I have another question from a reader that I wanted to ask you, and this, it possibly all ties together with another question. That reader asks, What is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view? And I also want to ask you then if you have a routine for writing?

Lisa Hughey [38:12] I don’t necessarily have a favorite place to write as in a specific concrete place. I love to go to a hotel and write.

Patricia McLinn [38:22] Hmmm.

Lisa Hughey [38:23] And I started doing this. It’s been awhile, maybe 10 years ago. I, I had, uh, an agent who wanted to read my manuscript and I wanted to just get it perfect before I sent it to him. And so I checked myself into a hotel for two and a half days. I literally didn’t have, um, them clean my room and I spent, you know, 60 hours minus a few hours for sleep, just polishing.

Patricia McLinn [38:49] Wow.

Lisa Hughey [38:50] And I love that. It’s I get I’m so productive because there’s, there’s nothing else to do. There’s, you know, I can’t go do laundry. I can’t go to the kitchen and make a cup of tea. And then, you know, an hour later when I’ve, I’ve like cleaned my sink and organized my spices.

I think I love to go to a hotel and write. And when I can, I’ll do it, especially at the beginning. Like if I can start a book in a hotel, cause sometimes it’s starting as the hard part. You’re, even though, there’s so many possibilities, how do you, how do you choose? Like where am I going to go? And it’s easy to get sidetracked or walk away because I’m not sure what I want to do. And if you’re in a hotel, you’re not going to walk away, there’s nothing to do. So, um, I really like doing that.

Patricia McLinn [39:36] And, and people are bringing you food and, you know, you don’t have to—

Lisa Hughey [39:40] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [39:41] You don’t have to clean.

Lisa Hughey [39:43] I go out pretty much like maybe once in the morning, get a cup of coffee and, uh, I might go out in the afternoon and get like an ice tea. Um, but otherwise I will, and sometimes I’ll sit in a restaurant, I’ll take my, my planner, my, you know, like my Moleskine book or my I’m using Leuchtturm now actually, and a pen and make notes while I’m eating. But besides that, I’m in my room, and I usually get up at six in the morning and I work until anywhere between like ten-thirty and midnight, go to sleep and do it all over again the next day.

Patricia McLinn [40:16] Wow.

Lisa Hughey [40:17] And I love that.

Patricia McLinn [40:18] I was stunned, I went to a writer’s conference last year or the year before where I didn’t know, I don’t think I knew anybody or I only knew a couple of people, um, which is fairly rare for the writer’s conferences I go to mostly. And, and usually for that reason, they are horrible for me trying to get any writing done because I’m out talking with people, visiting with old friends or meeting new friends.

And this conference, I was on a tough deadline and I would go to sessions and, you know, talk to people and be with people, but then I’d go back to the room. And if there wasn’t a session that interested me, then for that hour I would write. And then I go back and I go to another session and then I’d come back. And I was stunned at how productive I was.

Lisa Hughey [41:08] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [41:09] And I think some of it was the focus for some, for me I know some of it was having the limited time. I’m very deadline responsive. But I also think it was somebody else made my bed. Somebody else—

Lisa Hughey [41:21] Right.

Patricia McLinn [41:22] —you know, dealt with the food. I was, it’s always a sign that the writing isn’t going well when my house is in really good order. When I get to the point where cleaning closets seems better than writing, I’m in deep trouble.

Lisa Hughey [41:35] Exactly. That’s funny. And then I, you know what, I’m sorry, I forgot the second half. What was the second half of the question?

Patricia McLinn [41:42] About a routine, of a routine. Do you have a routine?

Lisa Hughey [41:45] Well, I used to, I just moved. So I moved from the San Francisco area to Boston area. My whole writing life has been turned upside down by that. So my old process was I would get up and go straight to work. Try not to look at Facebook or Twitter, Instagram, anything. I just get up and work for an hour, hour and a half.

Um, I actually had to have a Keurig in my office, so I’d make myself a cup of coffee and try and get some words on the page. And then once that was done, then I might check my social media and maybe do some business stuff. And then I go back to writing, but I would, I’d put in like eight to ten hours where I just pretty much was in my office and then I’d pop out and get lunch or whatever on the days that I write regularly.

But now I moved and, um, I’m still setting up my office. It’s a good thing this is not video too, cause it’s still kind of a mess. And I actually started working out with a trainer, which I’m immensely grateful to be doing. And so that has changed my, it’s sort of changed it because that is my solid commitment three times a week. So now I don’t really have a process. As a matter of fact, today, I woke up at six-thirty and I wrote for an hour and a half before I went to my training appointment, which I normally don’t do, I’m not an early riser at all.

Patricia McLinn [43:14] I don’t know, I’ve heard six o’clock a couple of times to me, that’s a very early hour.

Lisa Hughey [43:18] Actually, since I moved to the East Coast, I get up between seven-thirty and eight most days. But the last couple days, you know I’m, I’m deep in the middle of writing this book and I’ve been waking up early cause I can’t wait to get words on the page, which is a fantastic feeling.

Patricia McLinn [43:32] Ahh. But are you offering seven-thirty to eight as being a late riser?

Lisa Hughey [43:37] I feel like it is. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [43:39] No.

Lisa Hughey [43:40] But you stay up late.

Patricia McLinn [43:42] No.

Lisa Hughey [43:43] You’ve sent me an email at two-thirty in the morning. I was like, Holy cow.

Patricia McLinn [43:46] Yeah.

Lisa Hughey [43:47] I’d been asleep for three hours at that point.

Patricia McLinn [43:49] Yeah, I’m a night owl. I’m definitely a night owl. So seven-thirty or eight is early rising, way or early rising for me. I’m, I’m think, I’m, you know, up with the larks, if I’m up at ten, so very different approach. Okay. Question about how, you said you’re setting up your office now.

Lisa Hughey [44:09] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [44:10] So what, what is your office going to look out on? Or does it have any view?

Lisa Hughey [44:14] Part of the reason that we moved to the East Coast was, well, it’s a little cheaper out here, which is nice. California’s lovely, but it’s expensive. And then we really wanted to live by the ocean. So I, right now I’m actually looking out on Ipswich Bay. Now, that’s because it’s winter and all the trees in front of me don’t have leaves.

Patricia McLinn [44:32] Oh, yeah.

Lisa Hughey [44:33] There are actually two or three houses in front of my house before you get to the Bay. But, um, because of, because it’s winter, I can see a little bit of water right now. I have seasonal views.

Patricia McLinn [44:50] And are you finding that, are you finding that inspiring seeing the, the water?

Lisa Hughey [44:54] Yes. And even not, not necessarily from my house. I mean, it’s very nice that I have this little blue and I know it’s the water, but, um, I live, uh, I live kind of on a, um, so I, so I live in Gloucester, which is in theory, a little bit of an island. And so I can, depending on how I drive home, I see water constantly. If I take the long way, the long way home from training, I think it’s four miles instead of two and a half or something. The views are stunning. It’s just, it’s beautiful. And I think it, it’s very peaceful and I love it. I love it. I feel really blessed that I’m able to live here.

Patricia McLinn [45:33] And Lisa and I have talked about, it just so happens that Gloucester is my dad’s hometown and, um, we’d have family reunions there. And my second book is set there. I actually, uh, fictionally added, uh, another beach. So, which the people should be really grateful for because that property is very valuable. So I added to the beach shore, the shoreline on, uh, in Gloucester. I have to get there, we should have a writing retreat there.

Lisa Hughey [45:06] Oh, it’s so beautiful here.

Patricia McLinn [46:08] It’s a really cool area. Well, that’s going to be interesting to see how you adjust and what changes you make. Did you leave a community of writers behind in California?

Lisa Hughey [46:19] I did.

Patricia McLinn [46:21] That’s hard.

Lisa Hughey [46:22] That’s probably one of the, well, and I had a very good group of friends. I lived in California for 26 years. Great group of personal friends, and then I had a great group of writer friends, and I miss them. I FaceTimed with a few of them, which has been nice. I think that’s like, uh, technology’s amazing.

One of my goals for the beginning of next year is to branch out. There are some writers in Massachusetts, so that’s nice, but there isn’t anybody very close by. Whereas in California, I had coffee with one of my writer friends at least once every two weeks, sometimes once a week.

Patricia McLinn [46:57] That is nice, yeah.

Lisa Hughey [46:59] Just depending on her, she had kids in school, so it was, um, sort of dependent on her kids’ lives. But, and I, San Francisco has a very, very active, uh, romance community and great, great group of women. So, um, I’m going to miss them.

Patricia McLinn [47:14] Yes. And, and build up a new group now.

Lisa Hughey [47:17] I belong to Romance Writers of America and New England has a chapter that is relatively active. So I’m hoping—

Patricia McLinn [47:23] Oh, yes.

Lisa Hughey [47:24] And I have met some people who live around here, so, um, once I start going to those meetings, I’m hoping I’ll make some more connections with people here.

Patricia McLinn [47:32] Oh, I’m sure you will. That the New England chapter conference in the spring is, is really good. I’ve spoken at it a couple of times. Really enjoy those folks. But it is hard when you’ve had a great group close by to, to venture away from that. I often think a lot of my closest writing friends are far across the country and far-flung so, beyond the country too. Uh, but as you said, technology is wonderful.

Lisa Hughey [48:03] Yeah, it’s amazing. And I think, um, I’m really lucky. I, I go to, um, I think I’ve been a NInc two years, Novelists, Inc. conference, two years in a row, and that’s been amazing. I also do a conference, they call it an unconference, so there’s, it’s not really structured, and I’ve been doing that in San Francisco and I’m going back, which is nice. So I’ll see my friends.

Patricia McLinn [48:24] I want to go to that. I haven’t been able to get in on the registration.

Lisa Hughey [48:30] It’s, it’s very small. I think 40 people. It’s a, it’s a, but it’s a great sharing of information. I think it’s just, it’s great.

Patricia McLinn [48:36] So, well, I hope I can get there in the future. Hope I can fit in among the 40. Maybe they’ll take 41.

Lisa Hughey [48:44] I hope so.

Patricia McLinn [48:45] Okay. Before you wanted to be a writer, what did you want to do? Or did you always want to be a writer?

Lisa Hughey [48:50] I don’t know that I really aspired to be a writer per se, but I wrote a lot when I was younger. I was a French major in college, which is not particularly employable. I actually was going back to school. When I started writing, I was going back to school to be an interior designer. Because I love, I love like furniture and colors and I love like putting together a room. I think it’s really a fun thing to do and messing our, I change things around and, you know, new pillows or whatever I love doing that.

This is funny cause I, and I hadn’t really thought about it, but I was reading through your questions and you ask about that. I have a really hard time setting a scene when I’m, I have to force myself to add the setting later. I frequently don’t put any setting details in, which I find—

Patricia McLinn [49:36] Huh.

Lisa Hughey [49:37] —really funny because I love interiors.

Patricia McLinn [49:40] Yeah.

Lisa Hughey [49:41] And I love color. I think color can affect your mood. I like all this stuff, and I thought, I love doing all that stuff and I never write settings, not through first pass, unless I’m struggling with the book.

Patricia McLinn [49:53] That’s interesting.

Lisa Hughey [49:54] And if I’m really mad, I’ll write a whole bunch about the setting and then add those details in later. Otherwise that’s a third or fourth pass.

Patricia McLinn [50:00] Huh.

Lisa Hughey [50:01] I know. Isn’t that funny?

Patricia McLinn [50:03] That is really interesting. Do you think it, is it so, like, are you writing, setting, like if it’s a really ugly room, you just don’t want to deal with that or, or is it any kind of setting?

Lisa Hughey [50:15] So, I actually, what I find is that if the, if like, if it’s an ugly room or, um, you know, I wrote a, I wrote a scene, like in a nasty, like motel room, You know, dirty seventies, carpeting and things like that. Like if, if it has some impact on the characters, then yes, but like, I, that stuff goes in right away. But if it’s just sort of a generic like room or restaurant, I find that I don’t put any details in, and then I have to layer those in later.

Patricia McLinn [50:44] I have a question that sort of touches on that, that comes from a reader that it has to do with the visual aspect. And she says, um, When the cover image doesn’t match the character description, and this reader says that’s a pet peeve of hers, how does it feel for the author?

Cover for Dangerous Game in the Black Cipher Files trilogy

Lisa Hughey [51:01] Really bothers me. I do my own covers. I don’t design my own covers, but I typically pick the couple. And I actually have a, um, book that I wrote called Dangerous Game. It’s a follow-on to, um, the Black Cipher Files trilogy that features a secondary character who I loved and I, she needed a happy, happily ever after.

The hero is Korean. So it’s a Korean hero and an African-American heroine. And I searched for days for a couple. And I could, I couldn’t, I could not find a Korean man and a black woman. I looked for days. I looked, uh, I was hitting websites. I, I looked at like seven websites could not find it. So I finally had to pick a, um, I picked a dark-haired Caucasian guy who was not looking at the, you know, his face is not forward. So you could sort of like—

Patricia McLinn [52:00] Uh huh.

Lisa Hughey [52:01] If you squinted in a dark room, pretend that he’s Korean. And it was really disappointing. And I got reader to push back on that cover. And I, and I said, I’m really sorry. Like I wanted, there’s a, I kind of based the hero on this Korean actor named Won Bin, uh, who’s in a Korean action-adventure called The Man from Nowhere and he’s, he’s gorgeous. And that was the, he’s who was in my head as I was writing this character and to have to settle for this, you know, perfectly attractive Caucasian guy was really frustrating. So I, I told—

Patricia McLinn [52:36] But not the right guy. Yeah.

Lisa Hughey [52:38] Yeah, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with him, but I couldn’t, I could not, uh, I couldn’t find that couple. I still like to think about, I think I should keep looking and if I ever find a good couple, then redo that cover. Cause I, it bothers me.

Patricia McLinn [52:54] And that’s one of the joys of being an indie author that we can do that we have the control of being able to go back and change things. And—

Lisa Hughey [53:02] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [53:03] Yes. So keep, keep looking.

Lisa Hughey [53:06] I am. I am. I’m looking.

Patricia McLinn [53:09] You said you got to reader push back on that. Have you had other encounters with readers? Have you had the, if you have good stories about talking with readers?

Lisa Hughey [53:20] Yeah, so this is kind of fun. I, uh, on my most recent book, uh, Diego is this, His Semi-Charmed Life. And, um, Diego is Puerto Rican. He basically starts out kind of a rough beginning. And after this encounter with Penny, um, he sort of expands his horizons of what he, is possible for him. And he ends up becoming a very successful businessman, which is when they meet again. And, um, I had a reader send me a really lovely note. Um, Diego reminded her of her father, who had passed away.

Patricia McLinn [53:55] Oh.

Lisa Hughey [53:56] And his story was he came from, uh, Puerto Rico and, uh, started his own business and ended up being very successful. And she just said, you know, Thank you for reminding me of my dad. I admired him. And it was just, it was a really, really touching letter. It was nice, so…

Patricia McLinn [54:13] Oh, that’s wonderful. That’s wonderful.

Lisa Hughey [54:17] It was really neat.

Patricia McLinn [54:19] And how, uh, how generous of her to take the time to, to let you know that. If somebody has not read any of your books, they’re new to you, which book would be the best starting place do you think?

Lisa Hughey [54:32] So I would say one of two places. If you like longer, more intricate plots, Blowback, which is the first book in the Black Cipher Files series, is a good place to start. And, um, if you like Kindle books, that book is free right now. Um, it’s not always free, but it so happens to free right now.

If you like shorter, um, shorter, little bit shorter books, um, that are a little bit lighter, there’s definitely a suspense plot, but it’s not super involved or convoluted. My Family Stone series is, um, the first book is Stone Cold Heart, and that is always free on Kindle. And then if that is not a standalone, I don’t have that as a standalone paperback. It’s a, like anthology the first five books. So that would be a little more expensive.

Lisa Hughey [55:23] But if you, um, if you like Kindle books, the Stone Cold Heart is free. And that book features the sister, the youngest sister, Jess, who is a former FBI sniper. And the hero is, um, an SAS officer, he’s British, and they’re working on a, um, tropical island that’s had an earthquake. They’re doing disaster relief and a few other little things on the side. But it’s a fun book. It’s an interesting book.

Patricia McLinn [55:48] That’s great. And really helpful to readers. And if, Readers, if you’re interested in the print books, you can also always ask your library to get them to order them, and then they would be available to you and other readers too. I love libraries. So put a little plug there.

Do you have any of your books, so you’ve got loyal readers, people who’ve read everything you’ve written, but maybe they’ve missed one. Do you have a book that’s kind of a hidden gem?

Lisa Hughey [56:19] The sixth book in the Family Stone series is Queen of Hearts. And that is actually the story of the mother, who, she’s, she’s only 45. So she’s a little older for typical romance heroines, and she’s raised four kids. When she comes into the house she’s 25 and, um, her stepson, if you will, is 14. So she’s, you know, she’s, she was, had kind of a tough life.

She has her own book is the sixth book of the Family Stone series. And I love that book. It’s really fun. You know, she’s been a mom for so long, and everybody thinks of her as a mom and she like, she wants passionate romance and a sex life, and she ends up getting together with a former, um, commanding officer of the, um, Jack, the oldest brother. So there’s actually some really funny scenes in that book because, you know, they think of her as their mother and, uh, you know, when he finds out they’re together, that—

Patricia McLinn [57:18] Yeah.

Lisa Hughey [57:19] And the way he finds out is somewhat amusing. So I, I had a lot of fun writing that book. And a lot of times people will say, I don’t really want to read an older heroine, but it’s a really fun, funny book. And I, I love that she’s sort of rediscovering her own sexuality after suppressing it for years. So…

Patricia McLinn [57:36] That’s terrific. That sounds like a great book. I hope people will search it out. So, what have I not asked you that I should have or that you would like to answer?

Lisa Hughey [57:50] You didn’t ask what I like to read and I love to read. I mean, I think most writers do, although I could be wrong. So I read a lot of romantic suspense, um, when I’m not writing it. And then I read contemporary romance. Um, actually love dystopian romance too, with the, you know, futuristic, the world’s in a horrible place. Uh, and, um, then I also, I read a decent amount of non-fiction. I like non-fiction that’s inspiring.

My favorite book that I read last year, that was non-fiction or this year, I guess you would say, was the Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, who’s the showrunner for Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. Can’t remember she, she’s showrunner for four shows, I think, something crazy. She’s yeah, she’s an amazing writer, but that book is phenomenal. A big plug for it. I think it’s a, if you’re ever thinking that you’re afraid of doing something, then reading that book will inspire you to just go for it. So I think that’s, that’s probably it.

Patricia McLinn [58:55] Tell everybody what your, um, how they can find out more about you and your books.

Lisa Hughey [59:00] Okay. So, um, if you go to my website, www.lisa, L I S A, Hughey, H U G H E Y.com. And all my books are on there. There’s a fun little 20 things you didn’t know about me and—

Patricia McLinn [59:18] Oh, cool.

Lisa Hughey [59:19] And some other stuff.

Patricia McLinn [59:21] I’ll have to go look at that. See what I don’t know about you. We can do another, we can do another interview and I can ask nosy questions about those things. And we will, we will have the URL in the show notes for folks. So that will be much easier to get to. Although if you are smart, you wrote it down really fast.

Okay. Now my very favorite part is the, what I think of as the epilogue, and these are either or questions. I’ve had many people try to cheat, but they’re either or. So, you can have cake or ice cream?

Lisa Hughey [59:59] Cake, no question.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:01] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:04] Hiking boots.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:06] So I think I might know the answer to this one, mountains or beach?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:10] Beach.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:11] You don’t want those, those heights, right?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:15] Yeah. Yeah. That was pretty, that’s pretty clear from where I moved and what I’m afraid of.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:20] Day or night?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:22] Uh, day.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:24] Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:27] Toenail polish. I had a pedicure yesterday.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:30] Leggings or sweats?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:32] Leggings.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:34] Dog or cat?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:36] Cat. But only because I’m allergic to dogs.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:39] Oh, oh, I feel so sorry for you. Sorry.

Lisa Hughey [1:00:44] Oh, you know what, I love my cats. My cats have been fun, so it’s fine, but I love dogs too.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:49] Um, okay. Which is eerier to you, an owl hooting or coyotes howling?

Lisa Hughey [1:00:55] Coyotes. As a side note, I have coyotes in my yard now.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:00] Oh.

Lisa Hughey [1:01:01] So we’ll hear them at night sometimes.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:03] It’s a very disconcerting sound, but I think the howling can— Okay. Whoops, we can, the owl hooting, net the howl looting. Um, okay. Sailboat or motorboat?

Lisa Hughey [1:01:13] Sailboat. Can you tell that iffy? I’m not sure. I think I like the idea of sailing.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:23] Have you not been?

Lisa Hughey [1:01:25] I have never been sailing. I’ve been on motorboats, but I’ve never been sailing.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:28] Oh, so you’re going to have to do that in Gloucester.

Lisa Hughey [1:01:33] Yes, but my husband wants motorboat and he’ll probably get his way on that one.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:38] Okay. Gardening or house decorating?

Lisa Hughey [1:01:40] House decorating.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:42] Paint or wallpaper?

Lisa Hughey [1:01:44] Paint.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:45] Good china or paper plates?

Lisa Hughey [1:01:47] Good china.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:48] And this is the last one. Save the best for last or grab the best first?

Lisa Hughey [1:01:54] Grab the best first.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:56] This has been a lot of fun, Lisa. Thank you so much for joining us and we hope all of you will come back next week for a new author and their stories behind the stories. Have a great week of reading, happy reading.

That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast.

Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcastatauthorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


authors love readers lisa hughey

Episode 11: Being at Home With Ourselves, with Emilie Richards

Emilie Richards writes about romance, life and the bonds between women. She talks with host Patricia McLinn about her careful plot development, advance planning for novels, and love for books of all genres. She also shares touching advice on living life authentically and interacting with readers.

You can find Emilie on:

*her website,

*Facebook and


Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

Authors Love Readers with Emilie Richards

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love.

My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Emilie Richards [00:23] I’m Emilie Richards, and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:27] Now, let’s start the show. Hi, this is Patricia McLinn. I’m delighted to have Emilie Richards here today for this edition of Authors Love Readers podcast. I got to know Emilie when she moved to Arlington, Virginia. Mm, some number of years ago when I was living there, already living there. And Emilie was a very well established, very well known romance author, very hot, very much respected.

And it was my pleasure and delight to get to know her. And then she and Diane Chamberlain and I, um, all lived in the area. All of us had dogs and we all understood that. So we’d get together once a month, uh, and have dinner together and talk writing and the business and, and all the vagaries of, um, being an author. And now none of us live in the area. We’ve all gone different directions, but we stay in touch.

Patricia McLinn [01:25] Um, the other thing I wanted… I was thinking about this beforehand, Emilie, is the workshop that we did at a Romance Writers of America national conference called Writing from the Inside Out or the Outside In. And it was, it was such a clear delineation of how differently we approach things.

Emilie Richards [01:47] Boy, that’s the truth.

Patricia McLinn [01:49] And we’ll probably, we’ll probably get into this again later, but, uh, I remember very vividly that Emilie had this very neatly typed out talk and followed it, and you know, was all organized. And I had mine with arrows crossed out and little added notes to the side and, you know, move this here and change that.

And that’s very much how, the difference in how we create. But I know you. Let’s let the readers and the listeners know you a little bit more. So we’re just going to do some fun questions here. Do you have a favorite color and why?

Emilie Richards [02:32] Well, Pat, you and I’ve had this discussion. I love purple and hate orange, and you love orange and hate purple.

Patricia McLinn [02:38] Yup. We do.

Emilie Richards [02:41] And why do I love purple?

Patricia McLinn [02:43] We’re opposites in many ways.

Emilie Richards [02:44] I don’t know, there’s just something calming. And it goes to me, it, to me, it’s almost a basic, a neutral, it goes with everything.

Patricia McLinn [02:50] No. But I wish that it did, you know, that’s interesting. Because purple is calming, and I liked the vibrancy of orange that, you know, you may have hit on something there. Um, okay, favorite tastes.

Emilie Richards [03:03] Favorite tastes. Oh, salt and vinegar potato chips.

Patricia McLinn [03:06] Have you held any surprising jobs?

Emilie Richards [03:10] You know, the, when, when I saw that question, I thought, Man, I did have one that was really strange. I worked as a temper— A temp, um, during college in the summers. And I got assigned to the NRA, to their mailroom. Cause I was living in Washington, DC.

And I would have to open up the envelopes. All this money would fall out. People were just, just so involved and so supportive and they would send these dirty dollar bills. It was, it was a real eye-opener for me to work there for the, I was there for three days and I remember them very well.

Patricia McLinn [03:45] Wow. I had never heard that story, so that is a great, great new story. This is one of the great things about doing this podcast is learning more things about people I know.

Emilie Richards [03:57] That’s good.

Patricia McLinn [03:58] So that, that’s really fun. Yeah. Um, do you have any strong fears and do you use them in books?

Emilie Richards [04:05] You know, I am afraid of high bridges. And which is one of those odd things since I grew up in Florida and I’m living here now, again, uh, and there are, as you can imagine, a lot of bridges. And I know where the fear comes from because my parents used to fish on bridges when I was a child. And so they put the fear of God into me about, you know, being careful when I was on the bridges with them.

But have I ever used it in a book? I would have said no, except that I just re-edited one of my older romances. And there’s a scene in the book, which is off-scene, but it’s discussed where somebody drives off of the high bridge and dies. So I guess I have used it.

Patricia McLinn [04:43] Do you, do you access the, the feeling that you get on a bridge to, to, uh, convey other, to convey character’s fear?

Emilie Richards [04:53] Probably not consciously.

Patricia McLinn [04:56] No, but maybe underneath. I always remember. I, I was Out West and was across this bridge over, really a gorge. And I had seen a sign where it said 900 feet. You know that it was 900 feet below, and then you went a little farther onto the bridge and there was a sign that said, No Fishing. Which made me laugh. I couldn’t imagine having, you’d have to have 902 feet of line.

Emilie Richards [05:24] I love that. I bet you didn’t have a photo of that.

Patricia McLinn [05:28] I know, I know. It was the days before having a camera all the time with you.

Emilie Richards [05:34] You know what’s interesting, Pat, it, just an aside is that I’ve talked to two other well-known writers, both of whom are afraid of bridges, and both of them live, one lives in here in Florida and the other lives in South Carolina. So I don’t know if there’s, you know, if this is a common fear among writers or if I just happened to run across the only two who are, but I thought that was interesting.

Patricia McLinn [05:53] Now, I don’t like where you cannot tell where the road goes. And sometimes that happens in, on bridges. But I had somebody tell me that was not, that was not a fear that was a rational reaction.

Emilie Richards [06:06] I like that.

Patricia McLinn [06:07] Well, I suspect that it’s because that person also felt the same way about it.

Emilie Richards [06:13] I know exactly what you mean now.

Oz books and rewriting Gone with the Wind ending

Patricia McLinn [06:17] Can you share with us a childhood book that addicted you to stories?

Emilie Richards [06:21] Well, I was a huge fan of the Oz books. All of the Oz books. And our library was like a one room library for, the children’s room was one room where I can, I can picture, I can just picture it so clearly the way it smelled and the way the books felt that these Oz books were all first additions with the original illustrations.

And they were just, I just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t get enough of them. I read them. I reread them. I checked them out. I read them again. And I think that a lot of my love of stories started there.

Patricia McLinn [06:53] Those were, I read those. Actually, my sister read them out loud to me. She was home from college and I was in second grade, I think. And I had back to back, I had the measles and then the mumps or the mumps and then the measles. And so I remember all those stories where the scarecrow was running Oz, right?

Emilie Richards [07:12] For a while he did. Yeah. First started life as a boy and turned into a girl. He actually started as a girl, turned into a boy and then turned into a girl. I mean, there was just all these little twists and turns and fun things.

Patricia McLinn [07:25] Yeah.

Emilie Richards [07:26] I just loved it.

Patricia McLinn [07:27] Yeah. Do you have any stories that you can remember from your pre-author days that you mentally rewrote the ending for? Cause you thought it just wasn’t right.

Emilie Richards [07:37] Well, I think the classic one would be Gone with the Wind. I think every romance person in the world had came up with their own scenario of what happened after Rhett Butler stormed out of the house. And I just, I, that’s, that was the first thing that leapt to mind was how many times and how many different ways I rewrote that story.

Patricia McLinn [07:56] Do you have a favorite?

Emilie Richards [07:58] Favorite way in the way it ended?

Patricia McLinn [08:00] Yeah, in a way you ended it?

Emilie Richards [08:02] Well, probably not. I think the fun was in doing.

Patricia McLinn [08:06] That’s, that’s a really insightful thing about writing too, that you need to have the fun and the doing.

Emilie Richards [08:13] Exactly. If it’s not fun, there’s no point.

Patricia McLinn [08:15] There are a lot of, I often say there are a lot of easier ways to make a living, including, you know, some bad jobs, but…

Emilie Richards [08:22] Easier, but not as much fun.

Patricia McLinn [08:24] True. How about, Emilie, have you had things that like earlier in your life, you really, that really got to you, you know, maybe you fretted over them. You gave them a lot of thought and now you think, Eh, you know, who cares.

Emilie Richards [08:40] I think this is incredibly boring, cause I imagine almost everybody listening can identify with this, but that whole sense of needing to fit in and always feeling like I was always a step ahead or a step behind or a step to the side, maybe. Um, uh, and I think part of that is, is being the kind of person who turns into an author.

Um, I was always analyzing things and looking for details and trying to figure things out or rewriting scenarios in my mind. Um, and that’s probably not the easiest way to fit in. Um, now, of course, I don’t really care. Because I found my group of people I want to fit in with, but also it’s just not, it’s not a driving force in my life. I am happy with who I am. Um, and I wish I had been happier with myself and understood myself better as an adolescent, but that’s part of what being an adolescent is.

Patricia McLinn [09:32] Oh, very true. Very true. And you touched on that part of being what an author is, the kind of person an author is. How do you think authors are? I’m guessing you do think authors tend to be different from—

Emilie Richards [09:46] I do.

Patricia McLinn [09:47] I want to say normal people.

Emilie Richards [09:50] You can say normal people. I do think we’re different. And I, and I think it takes us many, many years to realize that not everybody thinks about the world or analyzes the world or tries to figure out what’s happening in everything that, in every incident in their life, what’s behind it and how they can twist it around to make it work a different way or, or fantasize about it.

That’s just not something everybody does. And I think once you realize it, it is a little different. Um, and that’s a really, that’s kind of an interesting moment in your life when you go like, Oh, I’m doing this because I’m a writer. And that’s a good feeling, really.

Patricia McLinn [10:27] I remember when my second book came out, it was set in Gloucester, Massachusetts, which is my dad’s hometown. And my sister-in-law, um, had read it and she, and we’d spent time walking the beach in Gloucester at various family reunions. And she said, Now, I know why you were noting all those details, you know, I never understood why you would say, Oh, look at that house and, and see how the, the ocean goes this way around here and that way around there.

Emilie Richards [10:59] It is important to you and not necessarily so to her. And I’m sure you stored it up and used it.

Patricia McLinn [11:03] Yep. So it finally made sense, sense to her. And I was like, Oh.

Emilie Richards [11:09] I really think that if everybody could take who they are and understand it and understand that it’s okay. And then it probably is going to figure into their future. It would help so much, but just the moment you realize that all those things that you’ve thought and done, we’re really helping you become the person who can, in this case, write books or for someone else play the piano or teach math in college or whatever. Those are the things that made you that person. I think we’d all be a lot more relaxed with ourselves.

Patricia McLinn [11:38] Wouldn’t, isn’t that the truth and, and appreciate those things. And as you said, as an adolescent, they make you different. And that’s really hard to appreciate as an adolescent because you want to be just like all the other people, but then those are the ones that you build on to create a life.

Emilie Richards [11:55] And I think if you’re lucky as an adult, and you feel good about yourself, you can look back on that and go, Oh, that wasn’t as bad as I thought that was all part of becoming who I am. And that’s great.

Patricia McLinn [12:05] Yeah. And this sort of segues from that, you know, being an adolescent and learning those lessons, do you have, do you remember sayings, your mother or your father using that you can hear yourself coming out with now?

Emilie Richards [12:19] Well, I hate to get political, but you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear comes to mind. So yeah, I find myself—

Patricia McLinn [12:29] Okay.

Emilie Richards [12:30] —I find myself saying that a lot these days.

Patricia McLinn [12:31] Do you have, I do, I know, bad habit words when you’re writing?

Emilie Richards [12:36] Yeah. The one that just comes to mind right away is thing. I just, and I use it so much in speech. I say thing. And when I go back and edit, there are so many things in my work I have to get rid of all the things.

Patricia McLinn [12:52] And I, I have previously admitted that mine, just and really are very bad for me and very comes in to. And then I go back and I think, There is no way I use this word this many times.

Emilie Richards [13:04] I know.

Patricia McLinn [13:05] How’d it get in there?

Emilie Richards [13:07] We can actually sort of do a count using our work, our word processing programs, and that’s a frightening thing.

Patricia McLinn [13:13] It’s horrifying. It’s absolutely horrifying, especially because at least I’m conscious of it. I know which ones are my bad ones. And then there’ll be an additional one or two that crop up kind of ad hoc in each book. Yeah.

Emilie Richards [13:29] The book that I just, I just edited, uh, I first had, uh, a professional editor look at it because I liked the story, but I knew there were things wrong with it. And she, she must’ve taken out 500 incidences of the word, you know, terror, terrified, terror-stricken. And yes, she had every reason to be afraid, but it did get pounded down in the book. I don’t think I normally do that, but in that book, I just, I apparently liked the word and used it many, many times.

Patricia McLinn [13:59] We all do it. We all do it. Those of us who are good, take them out.

Emilie Richards [14:08] And somebody’s got a better eye than we do to take them out, of course.

Patricia McLinn [14:12] Yes, that helps. Okay. What three movies are you going to take with you to my wonderful desert Island that, oddly, will let you play movies but only allows you to have three.

Emilie Richards [14:25] This is one strange Island. Okay. Well, I mean, having already told you about my Oz, um, uh, experiences, I would have to say the Wizard of Oz, which I never, ever get tired of watching. I love the Wizard of Oz. I really do.

Then I was looking for something more recent and I couldn’t come up with anything too recent, although I just saw Coco. Uh, the, the Disney cartoon and it, it was just fabulous. I wouldn’t mind having Coco with me.

But the one that came to mind was, uh, an, an odd romance called Monsoon Wedding, which is set in India. And I just loved that movie. And I think I would love having that movie and watching it over and over again. I just, there was so many, so many interesting things and so many, so much honest emotion, and I really loved it. So, I guess that’s three right there.

Patricia McLinn [15:16] That’s terrific. Okay, we have a question here from, um, a reader. And I’m curious about this, cause I know, I think I know what it used to be in Arlington, but I’d like to hear, and, uh, now that you’ve left Northern Virginia. Um, what is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view?

Emilie Richards [15:37] Oh, that’s a great question. The le— The less inspirational view, the better. When we, when we moved into this house, which is in Florida, there was a beautiful den in the back of the house with a gorgeous view of, uh, a pond and woods and no houses. It’s just gorgeous with all kinds of birds and alligators. And I loved it.

And I absolutely tr— I, everybody said, you have to use this as your study. And I kept thinking, I’m not sure. But I gave it a try, and about two years later, I said, I cannot write in this room. It was too distracting. It was also too close to the center of things going on in the house.

And so I secluded myself in the front bedroom, which actually has two doors between me and the world. It was a lot of work to move and it was the best thing I ever did. And my view is the side of my neighbor’s house which doesn’t even have any windows. And I just love it. It’s perfect.

Patricia McLinn [16:33] I had, I had a choice in this house of whether to be at the front of the house or the back, and I chose the back and I do have windows, but I look at the top of trees, you know, into trees. So I knew if I, if I had that room in the front, I would be watching all the activity—

Emilie Richards [16:52] Absolutely.

Patricia McLinn [16:53] —on the street and everything. The downside is I managed to choose the how, the room that is the coldest in the winter and the hottest in the summer.

Emilie Richards [17:03] Oh, that’s too bad. That’s too bad.

Patricia McLinn [17:04] But no distractions.

Emilie Richards [17:06] Yeah. And the distractions are big for me. And I know that they’re people who really want to be in a beautiful environment, but I find that what I really want to look at is my video monitor. And that’s all I want to see. I don’t want to be thinking about anything else I just want to do that.

Patricia McLinn [17:21] So do you watch the words as they appear on the screen? Do you need that visual?

Emilie Richards [17:26] I do. And I go, I don’t know if you do this, but I go back and edit. I know, I’ve, I’ve read all the books that say you shouldn’t do this and I don’t care, it works for me. I go back and edit sentence by sentence over and over again as I write. I don’t want to leave something that I’m uncomfortable with in any way, because then it inhibits me from moving forward.

So I just get, I work and work on sentences until I have them the way I want them. And of course, there’s many more edits that happen during, you know, until the book is published. At a certain point I know it’s good enough, and I’ll move on. But until then, I really can’t move on.

Patricia McLinn [17:57] Yeah. I, I’m changing things around. I’m not, I’m probably not as polished as you before I move on because I write out of sequence. And so I’ll, I’ll jump around. I will, if, if something’s really flowing, but I, I know I don’t have the right word or I need a little something, I will use brackets. And WD is my thing for, you know, look for a better word or check CHK or, you know, I do different things to, to alert myself, but always in the brackets to come back to.

But if I could not cut and paste, I could not write. I have to be able to move things around and you start, I don’t understand how people can dictate because you start thinking along one line and then you realize, but where I ended up in this paragraph is really where it should have started and I have to cut, you know, then cut and paste and move that I…

Emilie Richards [18:50] And then—

Patricia McLinn [18:51] I do not know how I could dictate.

Emilie Richards [18:52] —you have to do it right then while you’re thinking about it, instead of saying, Oh, I’m sure I’ll catch it later. No, I won’t catch it later because I won’t go and get any farther. Cause it will still be on my mind.

Patricia McLinn [19:01] That’s a really good point that you have to, you kind of have to, it has to clear the hurdle in your mind and then you can keep moving on. So another reader asks, question that is, uh, well, it’s going to be a two parts. First part is from the reader and the, where do your stories come from? And she says, I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Emilie Richards [19:30] Well, you know, everyone is different and I think that’s insightful in itself that, that we, we have to realize that we’re not going to do everything the same way every time. Um, and so if you’re, if you’re hope, if you’re waiting to dream it, you may not dream it. If you’re waiting for a character to take over a conversation in your head that may not happen.

You have to really, I think, yeah, you have to be on the lookout for story everywhere. But you know, the old, what if thing is, I don’t know how many times somebody has said something to me and I think, well, that’s interesting, but what if, and then I’m off and running.

Patricia McLinn [20:07] Ummhmm.

Emilie Richards [20:08] And that can be a snack, a little snippet of conversation. It can be an article in the paper, which is a great source. One ads are wonderful.

Patricia McLinn [20:19] Oh, fascinating.

Emilie Richards [20:20] There’s just all these things and you just, you can, um. But that’s how my stories were born and sometimes it’s a character or sometimes it’s an event. Sometimes it’s a setting. And interestingly enough, the last book I wrote called The Swallow’s Nest, which came out this summer, it was really the story of the nesting behavior of swallows. And that sort of just suggested the entire story to me. So you just never know.

Patricia McLinn [20:42] Do you find that a book is easier or harder to write depending on where the story came from initially?

Emilie Richards [20:49] No. I don’t. I think, I think that whatever, the, the initial idea is, and whatever the catalyst for that story was, you, you know, you, your mind takes over and you do so much twisting and turning. And how about this? And no, or maybe they would have done that, no.

So it it’s almost like the idea. In fact, an awful lot of times, the idea itself is, is just, doesn’t even show up in the story. I mean, the catalyst that, the thing that got you thinking to start with doesn’t even end up in the book. I think that that’s important for people to know that you don’t really have to use it, you have to use it to help you, help you move forward in into a story.

Patricia McLinn [21:29] Have you ever used the same catalyst in more than one book?

Emilie Richards [21:33] Ooh, that’s a good question. Have I ever used the same catalyst? Well, in the sense that I’ve done a series, I did a series about quilters. And quilts, uh, set in the Shen, the Shenandoah Valley and the quilt that features in each story really has a lot to do with the story that the way that it’s peace or whatever. And so that I use the same, uh, sort of the same basic catalyst, although each one was a little different.

Quilting, music educator, music therapist

Patricia McLinn [21:58] Is there anything that you’re really good at that some people might not know you’re really good at?

Emilie Richards [22:03] Probably not. I mean, I’m a mediocre—

Patricia McLinn [22:06] I know, I know, quilting.

Emilie Richards [22:08] I’m a mediocre quilter.

Patricia McLinn [22:10] You are fabulous quilter.

Emilie Richards [22:13] Well, I like quilting. I like quilting and I really enjoy the process a lot. I also, I also really like music. I started out, my plan was to become a musician and uh, at one time a music educator, another time a music therapist. I pursued both of those and realized that I didn’t love it enough and you really have to love it a lot.

But I’ve had a lot of fun recently because I had an opportunity to get to know some, some young people who are on their way to the top in the music field. And, um, and so I’ve been able to draw on some of my old experiences and that’s really been fun. So I would say music more than quilting because I wrote about quilting, but I’ve never really written about music.

Patricia McLinn [22:53] Do you think you will, write about music?

Emilie Richards [22:56] Probably not. For the same reasons I didn’t, um, I didn’t pursue it as a career. I probably, I did write actually I did write a book about a, um, a singer songwriter, a popular singer songwriter, and that was fun, but that was a whole different, that’s a whole different genre than I was involved with.

Patricia McLinn [23:12] I was thinking that, um, people have said to me, Oh, why don’t I write about newspaper journalists or, you know, people particularly at the Washington Post. And, uh, especially people would say that, uh, you know, Write a romance set in there. I said, It’s not romantic, it’s work. You know, What are you talking about?

Emilie Richards [23:31] You know, sometimes you know too much, don’t you?

Patricia McLinn [23:33] Yeah.

Emilie Richards [23:34] You know too much to be able to fudge.

Patricia McLinn [23:36] Yeah. That’s really true. So I want to go back to the, to the idea of, uh, the catalyst. How many books, how many titles have you had published?

Emilie Richards [23:48] Oh, uh, I think it’s 75 at this point.

Patricia McLinn [23:51] Oh, wow.

Emilie Richards [23:52] Yeah. Lots and lots. Romances, mysteries, and most recently women’s fiction. And that’s single title women’s fiction.

Patricia McLinn [24:00] Have you found with the different genres or at different stages in your career, have the catalysts been different or harder to come by, or I I’m just wondering if there’s an ebb and flow in, in your career or in the genres you’re working on with how the ideas come?

Emilie Richards [24:19] I don’t think so. I think the ideas are there and you have to decide how you want to slot those ideas and you know, whether, whether this would make a better mystery, whether it would make better women’s fiction, whether it would make a good romance or whatever you’re writing at that moment that you particularly like.

So you you’ll sometimes toss out good ideas, good catalysts cause you know it won’t fit where you are at that moment. But I think honestly, you can take a catalyst and you can turn it and twist it. But yeah, no, I think it just all depends on what’s going on, in terms of what you’re writing and how you, how you want to frame that catalyst and change it.

Patricia McLinn [24:57] Okay, so when you have the idea, you have that catalyst, then how do you go from that initial spark, ahhaha catalyst spark, to a book?

Emilie Richards [25:10] Well, I think you start thinking about the idea and all the possibilities. And for me, that includes writing them down. I have what I call a scenes and revelations file and I imagine scenes using whatever the idea is. And I just put them in there. I imagine things that characters will learn from the process of, uh, the story throughout the story, and I put those in there.

Um, and I, that takes long time to do, we’re not talking about something you do overnight it’s weeks and weeks of that. You know, you’re just, you’ll be washing the dishes and suddenly you’ll say, Oh wait, you know, I can just see her saying this and this happening and you write it, try to write it down.

And then I, so that’s, I get, uh, I get pages of those scenes and those revelations. And then I start kind of putting them in an order like, this would happen first and there would be something that would need to happen between this and this, and oh, maybe it would be this and I’ll add things. So that’s kind of the way I work.

Patricia McLinn [26:07] But you’re doing, you’re doing that during the writing process or during—

Emilie Richards [26:11] No,that’s before, that’s before—

Patricia McLinn [26:12] Right. Okay.

Emilie Richards [26:14] That’s before I start. Yeah. And yeah, because by the time I know this is very different from the way you work, but by the time I sit down to work on the actual story, chapter one, scene one, I have already got pages and pages of ideas that I have taken and put into, and put into order. And then I write them into a synopsis. Uh, which isn’t even it, which is a requirement if you’re working for a traditional publishing company, but I would do it anyway because I like, I’m one of those very few authors that love to write a synopsis.

And I like telling the story and then finding the holes at this point, uh, and putting it all together and then I’m more or less divided into chapters either in my head or on paper. And then I start writing. I don’t start writing until I have everything organized. That doesn’t mean I don’t make changes. It doesn’t mean that my characters don’t make changes.

But when I sit down to write, I feel very secure that I have something to do that day. Uh, and that I’m going, I’m going towards an ending that I like that I’m moving and that there’ll be things happening in the middle of that are important. So for me, that’s really important, but I do all that work upfront.

Patricia McLinn [27:24] Have you had this process from the beginning or is this something that’s developed over writing 75 titles?

Emilie Richards [27:31] I think the scenes and revelations, I was doing an informal version of that for years, I think, but I institutionalized that probably 15 or 20 years ago. And started doing it that way. So I think I’ve always written this way.

I think I’ve written this way that maybe it hasn’t been as sort of scheduled and figured out, but I’ve always written, I’ve always been organized. I’ve always wanted to know where I was going. I, I really think if I just sat down and started to write I’d still be working on my first book and it would be nine million pages long.

Patricia McLinn [28:03] But what a great read it would be.

Emilie Richards [28:08] I don’t think so.

Patricia McLinn [28:11] Well, working with this sort of process, do you have an unfinished projects or things that you, you put aside that just didn’t quite gel for you?

Emilie Richards [28:21] I’ve had unfinished, let’s say I’ve had ideas. I’ve had the, a new book, I’ve had the last book of series two different series that I have, I had, I knew there had to be one more book. And my publisher didn’t agree. So I have those—

Patricia McLinn [28:35] Ohhh.

Emilie Richards [28:36] Yeah. I know. Those two books are, uh, you know, up in the air. There was another book it’s actually part of one that I just edit, part of the series I just edited in one of my really old romance series, because, uh, the, the person who was the hero in that book, had it had had a drug bust in his past. And they said, I couldn’t write about somebody with a drug bust in my past, in his past.

So there’ve been, you know, and that was very well thought out and had a synopsis for that, and they just couldn’t, they couldn’t see their way around that. So every once in a while, I’ve, I’ve been stymied by publishers, uh, which is fine. I appreciate that they have their own, um, their own rules and their own, um, thoughts about how these things should go.

Um, I’m delighted that we now have independent publishing so that if we don’t agree, we can do things on our own. And I’m delighted so that some of the ideas I’ve had in the past we’ll we’ll show up now.

Patricia McLinn [29:30] Oh, great.

Emilie Richards [29:32] Yeah. And I’m working one of those now, so that’s really fun.

Patricia McLinn [29:35] That sort of leads to another question from a reader who asked if we miss characters when we finish a book, and think about them?

Emilie Richards [29:45] And do we miss characters?

Patricia McLinn [29:47] Yeah.

Emilie Richards [29:48] Every once in a while. And it’s funny, the last book I wrote, I did not miss those characters, even though I liked the book. But the one before that, I really, really miss those characters, one in particular. And I just really wanted her in my life again, and I was so sorry that she wasn’t going to be there. Um, it took me a while to get over that, that is a strange event, but it does happen.

Patricia McLinn [30:10] Do you think you might ever come back and write another book that would allow her to come, come back into your life?

Emilie Richards [30:16] No.

Patricia McLinn [30:17] No?

Emilie Richards [30:18] I really felt like I told that story and I, and there really isn’t another story to tell. So I had to say goodbye to her, but you know, that’s okay.

Patricia McLinn [30:25] You’re tougher than I am. I’d find a way to sneak her in. Okay, this is a sort of out of the blue question, but I’m curious about the answer. What’s the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Emilie Richards [30:39] The best money I ever spent as a writer was the first time I went to the Romantic Times conference. It was in New York City. I had just sold my first book, and I was going to meet my editor and my agent in New York. And I was so, I was so scared, oh my gosh, you know, I had, this was a dream I had of selling book. Now not only had I sold it, I was going to go and be with other authors and meet these professionals who were in charge of my life, my professional life.

But it was, it was a great, it, it really made a difference. I found that meeting people face to face and having conversations with them really increased my flow, both with my agent and my editor, and was just probably the best money I’ve ever spent. And I found it in years to come, going to conferences remained the most important thing I could spend money on.

Patricia McLinn [31:35] And is that for meeting the industry professionals?

Emilie Richards [31:39] Not anymore. It was for many, many years, now it’s more for getting information about the changing publishing, uh, market and the whole publishing world. And you can get that best in person from your fellow writers and from other professionals who speak at conferences. Um, I don’t really need to meet with my editor and my agent so much as I need to learn, you know, what I should be doing to enhance my career.

Counseling, mother of four, New Orleans, writing

Patricia McLinn [32:05] I want to go back because I’m not sure I know the answer to this. And now, you, you said you wanted to be in music or possibly music therapy. How did you get from there to starting to write?

Emilie Richards [32:15] I did get a master’s degree. I finished my, my undergraduate in American studies, and then I got a master’s degree in marriage and family development, which included mostly counseling classes. So before I even graduated, I got a job working as a therapist or a mental health worker in a, in a mental health center. And I did that for a couple of years. And then I, I did a couple of other social service positions.

We tended to move around. At the last move, uh, and we usually, I usually had a baby when we moved so that I wouldn’t be in a situation where I really couldn’t go out and look for work until the baby was older and this was the fourth move like that. And I decided that I really needed something I could do at home just for me, because I was, I had four children.

Emilie Richards [32:58] My husband was a minister and he was away a lot. We weren’t living near the church, so we didn’t have much of a community. And I know I needed something to do. So I started writing, actually my, oddly enough, Michael came home from doing a funeral and said, he’d met this woman who was making her living writing fantasy games scenario. Now how I jumped from fantasy game scenarios to writing romances is a long story. But, uh, I, it was like, it was the proverbial light bulb going on over my head and I said, This is what I want to do. I want to write.

Uh, and since I had no idea how to do it, I went to the library and got every book they had on writing. This was in New Orleans and there was a nice shelf full, and I read them all. And I just started writing. I wrote a children’s story, which was published. I wrote a confession, which wasn’t published. I just tried a lot of different things. And then the romance market was just beginning to really blossom about then. And I discovered that and decided that was a great place to try my hand. And I never looked back.

Patricia McLinn [33:59] A lot of your romances had, have a lot of depth to them, but did you find that going from the romance to the single title, how, how was that as an adjustment? How did that affect your writing?

Emilie Richards [34:15] That’s a great question.

Patricia McLinn [34:17] Or call on different writing from you?

Emilie Richards [34:19] It really didn’t. Because back in the day, when I started writing romances, we had whole lot of latitude in terms of subject and the way that we explore things. So I was really writing women’s fiction within the romance genre, I think. And of course it had more love scenes and more romance. Um, the relationship between the man and the woman was paramount, but I always had a lot of other things going on too.

And eventually I got to the point where the other things were taking over and I needed to move out of that. But it just felt like it was a training ground for a single title too. I mean, I, I didn’t feel like it was a hugely different thing. Although the first single title I wrote was a, really more of a his, sort of a historical family saga about civil rights and, um, in Louisiana. And so that was—

Patricia McLinn [35:07] Tell us the titles. Share the title with us.

Emilie Richards [35:10] I, that was Iron Lace and Rising Tides. It was, we broke it into two books because it was about a thousand page manuscript. So when I went into single title, I did it with a vengeance—

Patricia McLinn [35:21] Yes.

Emilie Richards [35:22] —thinking it was going to be incredibly different from what I’d been writing. But what I learned was it really wasn’t, all the same rules applied, it was just longer. And I could explore other facets of women’s lives other than the romance. And I love that, but I felt like I had great training in that romance genre.

Patricia McLinn [35:38] It’s, as not the writer, as a step back from that, looking at your books, I think there’s a lot about the relationships among women. Are you conscious of that? Would you agree? Not agree?

Emilie Richards [35:48] Absolutely agree. I mean the Shenandoah Album novels, which are about quilters in the Shenandoah Valley, it’s their relationships. Also their relationships with men and their individual lives.

But then I wrote a series of four books, which should have been five. And for the guy, about a group of women in Asheville, North Carolina, who specifically banned together to help other women. It’s called the Goddesses Anonymous series. And so that really is about their relationships and the way that women relate to other women.

Patricia McLinn [36:15] Yeah. The, the, the network of the women is the, the web that brings the books together. And then the women have these individual lives, of course.

Emilie Richards [36:24] Right.

Patricia McLinn [36:25] That often include men.

Emilie Richards [36:27] They often almost always do. And, but there’s always some sort of social issue too. Although I don’t, I don’t ever set out to say, I’m going to write about homelessness, so let me come up with a story. I never do that. That just sort of evolves in a, in my books. I come up with the relationship and the things I want to explore with that before I get into all the other facets.

Patricia McLinn [36:48] Do you do a lot of research?

Emilie Richards [36:50] Oh I do tons of research.

Patricia McLinn [36:52] Do you like it or dread it?

Emilie Richards [36:54] I love research. I really, really love it. I don’t love it when I can’t find the answers. And that’s rare, but sometimes it just the most frustrating thing in the world. And that happened to me recently. Can I tell you that one real quick?

Patricia McLinn [37:09] Oh, I’d love to hear that. Yeah.

Emilie Richards [37:10] The Swallow’s Nest takes place, this is the book that came out last June, uh, takes place in San Jose. And I went out to San Jose twice and researched. And I, it has, uh, a whole legal issue in the background of the story. It’s a child custody novel, and I had all this stuff online about child custody.

And I’d realized after, oh, weeks of working on this, that I really didn’t know what I was doing. Even though I had all the statutes, I had all the, had so many, uh, resources. It just wasn’t making sense to me. And I was literally pounding my head on the computer screen. I finally decided I had to talk to a lawyer, a lawyer, a family law attorney in that area. And I started contacting people and they just ignored me. Nobody even answered my emails.

Emilie Richards [37:56] And I started I’m thinking, I’m going to have to hire somebody, you know, have to pay their, their three hundred dollars an hour or whatever, to talk to them about this. And I, and I sent one more email out and this lawyer got back to me and said, I would love to talk to you. This really sounds like fun. And it turns out she wants to be a writer too. She wants to do some writing. So she, I called her and we were on the phone, we were on the phone for two hours, it was just, it was magnificent. She was the nicest person ever to take that much time with me and to straighten me out, it made all the difference.

But until I was able to have that conversation with her and get my, my questions answered. I was so frustrated and that does happen sometimes. Mostly you can get answers, but sometimes you have to really go to the mat to find them.

Patricia McLinn [38:45] But finding a source like that always makes me feel like that scene in Rocky at the top of the steps. Like, Yes—

Emilie Richards [38:53] You do a lot of—

Patricia McLinn [38:54] —you feel like punching the air.

Emilie Richards [38:55] —research for your books too, so you must’ve had a similar kinds of experiences.

Patricia McLinn [38:59] Yes, I love it. And I love, I do a lot of the initial research online, but then I find talking to people is, gives it a depth and aspects that you’d never think of. So I love doing that.

Emilie Richards [39:13] And the little anecdotes come out of that. You may not use that exact anecdote, but it certainly inspires things that you can use.

Patricia McLinn [39:21] Yeah, that’s wonderful. Was the rest of the writing process with the book, where would it put that book in your joy, a joy to write continuum?

Emilie Richards [39:32] It was way down at the bottom. Because of that, you know, and here’s the thing I have discovered and I think you probably have to, is how much pain you go through with an individual book has nothing to do with how good it is.

Patricia McLinn [39:47] Yes.

Emilie Richards [39:48] Uh, so you’ve suffered and you really sort of hate the book by the time you’re done. It’s not going to show the, the, again, readers are not going to see that they’re going to see the book that you carefully crafted. And even when you were tearing out your hair, you were still doing what you needed to as a professional to write a good story.

And then the books that sort of write themselves and you think, Oh, this one’s going to be a hit, people like it, but no better than the one that you tore your hair out over. So, you know, you don’t know, you just keep working.

Patricia McLinn [40:16] So which of your books would you say was the highest on the joy to write continuum?

Emilie Richards [40:22] Oh, I would say, uh, recently would have been When We Were Sisters. And first, and I think part of the reason is that I wrote it in first person and, um, from three different points of view, And which is why I loved writing my, I wrote a five book mystery series. The Ministry is Murder mysteries, and they were all in first person. And I absolutely loved writing in first person.

Patricia McLinn [40:43] A lot of fun.

Emilie Richards [40:44] They were, and I wanted badly to write The Swallow’s Nest in first person, but I couldn’t, I tried, it didn’t work. I knew it wasn’t working. And so I had to go back to third person, the new book I’m about to write called The Perfect Daughter, which, uh, is another Mira, that’s my, my publisher is, is going to be in first person. Uh, and that I’m really looking forward to writing this book. And I think that’s been part of the reason why.

Patricia McLinn [41:07] Why do you find in first person that—?

Emilie Richards [41:09] Well, I think it’s that you can really, you’re really so deeply into the character’s head that they really begin talking through you. You know, they don’t really, we know that, but that’s how it feels. And, um, and it, it just, it puts you in a different zone. For me, it just puts me in a new zone and all kinds of things come out that I never knew that I had thought or experienced and they just show up. And it’s just, it’s just, it’s sort of regulatory. I, I just really enjoy it.

Patricia McLinn [41:38] When you were writing the book with the three first person sections in it, did you have any tricks or, or things that you did to help you shift from one to the other? It would, it would feel sort of like playing multiple roles in a play.

Emilie Richards [41:54] You know, that’s a, that’s good to ask. And I’m not, I’m not sure that I did. I might have needed to more, but I just sort of, it was just clear to me that it was time for this new person to speak and I would just sort of jump into their head, and there I would be. I do think that when you do that, you have to be careful that you’re making it clear to the, to the reader that someone else is speaking now, they’re in someone else’s head. There’s ways to do that.

Patricia McLinn [42:22] So this is a little change. I’m curious about this. What is your relationship with reviews?

Emilie Richards [42:28] You know, I have been really lucky with reviews and I do think it’s a lot of it’s luck. Reviewers tend to like me. I think reviewers sometimes like me better than readers do. And I just, reviewers and editors like my work. And so I have had mostly good reviews and that’s been, that’s been great. When I get really bad reviews, there’s, there’s sort of two categories of bad reviews.

There’s the really wretched, crotchety person who wouldn’t like it, no matter who had written it. And then there’s people who are very insightful and they see things that I didn’t in the book, you know, problems. And they can be really helpful if you can divorce yourself from that, you know, from feeling aghast that somebody didn’t love everything you did. You can learn some things about your writing. There are helpful. So I would say that my re my relationship with reviews is really pretty good.

Patricia McLinn [43:22] Now, you said you thought maybe reviewers liked your books more than readers, but I’ve been at events with you and you have incredibly loyal and delighted readers and delightful readers. Do you have any stories about interacting with your readers?

Emilie Richards [43:38] You know what I really liked the most when, when I, is when I get emails or where people will tell me at events that something I wrote has changed their life in some way. And I think we’ve all had this. I don’t, I, I don’t think it’s in any way me, I think it’s something that happens when readers put themselves into a story and something that is happening with the characters rings a bell for them. And they suddenly realize that, Wow, this is, this is relevant to my life, and I have been thinking about my life in the wrong way, just like this character has.

Um, and so I just, those moments are so wonderful because I, I sometimes feel like, you know, I write because I love it so much and I should be doing more for other people, but I’m doing all this for myself. So when I get in a situation where somebody says your book changed my life, And they give me specific, um, examples, it just, it’s just wonderful.

I think, Oh, maybe I haven’t been wasting their time. I just, I’m just, you know, for all the frolicking around at the computer that this really has meaning for people and that, that’s really special.

Patricia McLinn [44:50] That is terrific. And, and the idea that it can go on, you know, that you’ve written the book it’s been out now, but it could be read 20 years from now—

Emilie Richards [45:01] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [45:02] —and have an effect on people. So that’s—

Emilie Richards [45:03] That’s an odd thought, but yes.

Patricia McLinn [45:06] Yeah. With a women’s fiction, in particular, what would you say is the biggest thing that people think they know about the genre that they’re wrong about?

Emilie Richards [45:16] Boy, that’s a good question. I am not sure I have an answer to that. I think people, well, you know, Pat, I don’t know, it just sort of, there’s all kinds of women’s fiction. There’s chick lit and people who like chick lit believe that, you know, people who are looking at it from the outside, think it’s all froth and silly and it has nothing to say to people and, and they may feel that way about the more serious kinds of women’s fiction too. Um, I think it’s, I think women’s fiction is more a commercial women’s fiction.

Is probably more transformative than people like to think it is. It’s not just an, it’s just not a breezy read. It can be, but it can also be nitty-gritty and really help people deal with things that are going on in their lives. And I think that’s probably something people don’t think about when they hear the word, the words women’s fiction.

Patricia McLinn [46:09] That’s a really good point. Yeah. But I don’t think of it as necessarily frothy at all.

Emilie Richards [46:14] But you’re in, you’re in the business.

Patricia McLinn [46:16] Well, that’s true.

Emilie Richards [46:17] Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [46:18] Good point.

Emilie Richards [46:19] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [46:20] Okay. Let’s hear from another reader who says, um, When the cover image doesn’t match the character description and the reader acknowledges that that’s a pet peeve of hers, how does it feel for the author?

Emilie Richards [46:34] Oh, it’s just ghastly. It really is. Um, although I have to say that these days I rarely get people on my covers. Now the last two covers for my, um, women’s fiction have had, um, women on them, but I’ve been given the joy of helping pick out the models cause they’ve done cover sheets. So they do look like my characters. I’ve made sure that.

Um, but boy, in the old days, when I, when you would just, they would just plop a cover in front of you and say, this is your cover. And you’d look at it and you go like, This person is nothing like my person.

Patricia McLinn [47:11] Yeah.

Emilie Richards [47:12] That was depressing. Especially with men, it was worse with men. When, when you’d have a really sexy, gorgeous guy that you’ve been writing about and the slob shows up on your cover. And I haven’t, I swear I had a guy that looked like Johnny Cash, but not young, you know? And I was like, Okay. Really? And there was nothing we could do about it.

Patricia McLinn [47:35] Nope. I had a, um, a rodeo cowboy and, uh, he was a bull rider, who tend to be wirey, and this guy on the cover is like a Sumo wrestler.

Emilie Richards [47:47] Oh, wow.

Patricia McLinn [47:48] I was like, What? What? The bull would just give up when he sat on it.

Emilie Richards [47:55] But you know, it’s almost like you’re breaking the trust of the reader when you’ve been telling the reader that this guy was gorgeous and he looked like this and he did these things. And then you’d see the guy on the cover and you think, She must be a total doofus to fall for that guy. That’s not really what you want your readers to think.

Patricia McLinn [48:15] No, that, that is not the optimal impression. And that I, now that I’m bringing my books out myself, almost all of mine have objects or flowers or something, landscapes on the cover.

Emilie Richards [48:31] I applaud that.

Patricia McLinn [48:32] That’s mostly because I just don’t want to be so frustrated trying to find people who are not quite right. So I have low tolerance for frustration, and this might actually be somewhat of a segue to the next question from a reader. So if you could write a book with any author alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Emilie Richards [48:53] Oh, well, I’d like to work with JK Rowling.

Patricia McLinn [48:56] Ohh.

Emilie Richards [48:58] Wouldn’t that be fun? What an incredible vivid imagination, um, ability to see the world in a different dimension. And also just apparently a very astute caring, alert kind of person. I just, I just think that would be fabulous. I’d love that. I’m a big Harry Potter fan anyway, so that would be super. I’d love that.

Patricia McLinn [49:20] You may have already answered it, but let’s see if we can get more. What do you read for fun?

Emilie Richards [49:24] Oh, boy, I read everything. Um, and this year for fun, and this has, maybe not everybody’s idea of fun, but I’ve been reading books for the Better World Bookstore reading challenge for 2017. They put out, they put out a list, I think there’s, I’m looking at it right now, maybe, maybe 15 or 20 books on this list.

Things like read a food memoir, read a book you picked based on the cover. Read a book based on a fairytale. I’m reading one on, based on Hansel and Gretel right now to finish this list. I want to finish it by the end of the year. And that’s great because it’s got me reading a really wide variety of genres. I’ve read, um, everything from the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich to Riders of the Purple Sage.

Patricia McLinn [50:10] Wow.

Emilie Richards [50:11] So I do really read all over the map.

Patricia McLinn [50:14] So you find that fun even when it is a book like Rise and Fall of the Third Reich?

Emilie Richards [50:19] I picked that because I felt I really needed to read it, and it fit perfectly in the category. Uh, it was a national book award winner. We needed to read one. Um, you know, nobody’s looking at them, nobody’s ever going to see my, my answers here. This is just for me and gave me a chance to read across a wide variety of genres and to pick out some books that I wanted to read, but didn’t have a good excuse to read before, like The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

It’s been really fun. I’ve really enjoyed it. In fact, I’ve enjoyed it so much. I’m going to, I’m going to start my own reading challenge in 2018 with my readers, and I think that’s going to be neat.

Patricia McLinn [50:54] Oh, that should be very interesting.

Emilie Richards [50:56] We’ve been putting together a list of, of, of, uh, because it’s 2018, we put together a list of 18 different categories that people can, you know, they can choose books for. And, um, not that they have to read them all or they ever have to do this at all, but we just thought, and we meaning a group, a group of my readers thought that it would really be fun to do so we’re going to try it.

Patricia McLinn [51:18] So they’re contributing some of the categories?

Emilie Richards [51:20] Yeah, absolutely.

Patricia McLinn [51:22] Oh, cool.

Emilie Richards [51:23] I gave him my ideas and they, and they suggested, made suggestions on those. And then it came up with some new ones. So it’s been, it’s been kind of a back and forth. It’s been fun.

Patricia McLinn [51:30] That sounds terrific. Um, uh, I love that idea. Somebody who has never read any of your books, where is the best place or a couple best places for them to start to be introduced to you as a writer?

Emilie Richards [51:43] I think you should probably start with my most recent books and move backwards. Um, but if they have a specific and that would be The Swallow’s Nest and When We Were Sisters. Um, but books before that, there were four books that were all part of the Goddesses Anonymous series. Um, and if people like connected books, that’s a good series.

Uh, then there were the Shenandoah Album series, and then there were some books, two books that were connected that were set in Cleveland. So, or if they liked mysteries, there’s the whole mysteries, um, too. So—

Patricia McLinn [52:13] Those are fun.

Emilie Richards [52:15] Yeah, those are fun, they’re a little different. And they were very, I did those just for the joy of it and they, they really were joyful to write.

Patricia McLinn [52:23] Yeah. How about with your, your loyal readers, are there books that you think they might have overlooked that they, know just haven’t gotten to as much?

Emilie Richards [52:33] I bet we’ve all had this experience. I wrote two books a long time ago for Avon. Once More with Feeling and Twice Upon a Time. And the idea was that two women are in, both in a car crash. And when the one woman wakes up, she’s in the other woman’s body. And to me, this was such a great starting place for a story and all the things that could happen if you wake. And I used to, as a kid, imagine what it would be like if I close my eyes and when I opened them again, I was, I was someone else. What would that feel like?

Um, and so I really loved those books. I still do. There, um, I put them there, I put them up as eBooks and I don’t think they ever got the play they should’ve gotten. And I wish, I wish more people read and appreciated them. But, you know, we don’t know because it’s our books. We don’t know if they’re. You know, if that’s something that’s really going to appeal to readers, even if it appeals to us.

Patricia McLinn [53:28] I’m going to nominate one here. Whiskey Island. I always loved that book.

Emilie Richards [53:35] I don’t think that was ever a book that, when I go back to Cleveland, that’s the book everybody talks about because it’s set in Cleveland and it’s a historical saga. I loved that and the next book in the series called The Parting Glass. And Hey, I think, I think I got the idea for that title when I was at your house, didn’t I?

Patricia McLinn [53:54] From the, yes, playing that song.

Emilie Richards [53:57] Yeah. Yeah, The Partying Glass. I went, Oh my gosh, there it is, there’s the sequel.

Patricia McLinn [54:01] Yep. It’s such a, it’s such a wonderful song too, but those are great books. And I don’t hear as much about them, I think, as your more, more recent single titles, so maybe that’s why. I haven’t been to Cleveland, so likewise.

Emilie Richards [54:14] You know, they’re old now they’re older so that you don’t really hear much. And they’re not, they’re not out anymore. They’re, they’re only, they’re not only eBooks, but they are just eBooks at this point. So they’re not, they’re not in print.

Patricia McLinn [54:26] But if people read eBooks, they should grab them.

Emilie Richards [54:30] I thank you. I hope they do.

Patricia McLinn [54:32] So I hope they do tell readers where they can find out more about you and your books.

Emilie Richards [54:35] Okay. Well I have a website and it’s easy. It’s my name, emilierichards.com. And then I’m on Facebook with a, it’s called the Emilie Richards Reader Page. And I also have a reader’s group called Read Along with Emilie Richards on Facebook, which is fun cause we just talk books and there’s nothing else going on except talking books. And I’m on the usual places, Twitter, Instagram, all those things.

So I’m easy. And then, uh, I blog twice a week and, uh, I offer giveaways on my blog and I have what we call the Sunday Inspiration blog, which I do with my husband. And it’s usually just something inspirational for people to think about for the week. And that’s really, that’s really been a well followed by people. They enjoy that.

Patricia McLinn [55:20] Well, and I will say, we will have all the URLs on the show notes, but in case you’re listening and not going to look at the URLs, be aware that Emilie is spelled with an IE at the end of Emilie.

Emilie Richards [55:33] Yes. Thank you, Pat.

Patricia McLinn [55:35] Um, define that. Journalist, the journalist coming out, and thinks and thinks there’s 48 ways to spell Daryl.

Emilie Richards [55:44] And who knew, right?

Patricia McLinn [55:46] Yes. So you’ve talked a little bit about, um, your most recent book and when is the, when is the next Mira coming out? What was it, the other daughter, no.

Emilie Richards [55:56] The Perfect Daughter.

Patricia McLinn [55:58] The Perfect Daughter.

Emilie Richards [56:00] And, I’m on longer space between deadlines. I asked for that, and so I can do some independent things too. And, um, so I don’t think we have, I don’t think we have a date. I don’t think it will be, I know it won’t be out in 2018 cause it’s not due till the end of the year. So it will be out sometime in 2019, probably in the summer.

Patricia McLinn [56:18] Okay. To, to make that clear, though, there may be some other releases that you’re doing independently, um—

Emilie Richards [56:25] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [56:26] —during 2018. Oh, good.

Emilie Richards [56:28] I’m putting up some of my backlist. And I’m also doing a Shenandoah Album anthology of novellas about the characters in the Shenandoah Album series.

Patricia McLinn [56:37] Oh, that’s terrific, yes.

Emilie Richards [56:39] I’m hoping to have that out around Mother’s Day. That’s my plan.

Patricia McLinn [56:42] And I will give you my very, very favorite journalist’s question. Is there something I should have asked you that I haven’t or something that I didn’t ask that you’d like to answer?

Emilie Richards [56:52] Wow. I think you plumbed all the depths there. You did a great job. It was really fun.

Patricia McLinn [56:56] Well, we still have more fun here because this is my very favorite part. These are rapid-fire either or questions. You have to pick one or the other. And, um, let’s see, cake or ice cream?

Emilie Richards [57:09] Oh, cake.

Patricia McLinn [57:10] Day or night?

Emilie Richards [57:12] Day.

Patricia McLinn [57:13] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?

Emilie Richards [57:15] Hiking boots.

Patricia McLinn [57:16] Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Emilie Richards [57:18] Toenail Polish.

Patricia McLinn [57:20]Dog or cat?

Emilie Richards [57:21] Dog.

Patricia McLinn [57:22] Tea or coffee?

Emilie Richards [57:24] Coffee.

Patricia McLinn [57:25] Cruise or backpacking?

Emilie Richards [57:27] Cruise.

Patricia McLinn [57:28] Mountains or beach?

Emilie Richards [57:29] Beach.

Patricia McLinn [57:30] Sailboat or motorboat?

Emilie Richards [57:32] A kayak.

Patricia McLinn [57:36] Yeah. I thought you were going to make it all the way through. Gardening or house decorating?

Emilie Richards [57:42] Gardening.

Patricia McLinn [57:44] Paint or wallpaper?

Emilie Richards [57:45] Paint.

Patricia McLinn [57:46] Best china or paper plates?

Emilie Richards [57:49] Paper plates.

Patricia McLinn [57:50] Mustard or ketchup?

Emilie Richards [57:52] Mustard.

Patricia McLinn [57:54] Uh, and this is the last one. Save the best for last or grab the best first?

Emilie Richards [58:00] Save the best for last.

Patricia McLinn [58:02] But there was a hesitation there.

Emilie Richards [58:04] Yeah. It’s situational.

Patricia McLinn [58:09] Well, that was great. Thank you so much for taking this time and joining us on Authors Love Readers, Emilie. Uh, it was a delight, and I hope all the listeners will come and join us next week when we talk to another author, have a great week of reading.

That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcastatauthorslovereaders.com.

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.

authors love readers emilie richards

Episode 10: Stories Are Everywhere, with Chris Taylor

Australian author Chris Taylor and host Patricia McLinn dish about Chris’ writing romantic suspense novels set in Australia for North American audiences. Chris talks about her “hot and steamy” novels, making sure that her language and plot lines work for North Americans, and about being a full-time author, former lawyer and mother of five.

You can find Chris on:

*her website,

*Facebook and


Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers chris taylor

authors love readers patreon

Authors Love Readers with Chris Taylor

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Chris Taylor [00:23] I’m Chris Taylor, and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:27] Now let’s start the show. Hi, welcome to Authors Love Readers podcast. This week, we have Chris Taylor joining us from, as you will soon hear, Australia. Chris and I met two years ago, I think, so you’re, you’re a pretty recent one at the Novelis Inc. conference.

And we just hit it off and saw each other again this year, because this brave soul traveled all the way from Australia to come to the Novelis Inc. conference and join up with all the other writers, uh, writing in popular fiction. Chris, tell us a little bit about what you write.

Chris Taylor [01:05] Hi, Pat. It’s so lovely to be here all the way back in Australia and we are baking in the heat down here. I know you guys have probably all rugged up for winter, but I tell you what—

Patricia McLinn [01:15] Yes.

Chris Taylor [00:] —I am sitting in the air conditioning.

Patricia McLinn [01:20] I have an Afghan over my lap because I’m chilly.

Chris Taylor [01:26] And I have sweat dripping down. No, just kidding. But it is so hot.

Patricia McLinn [01:29] So Chris, tell us a little bit about what you write.

Chris Taylor [01:32] So I write romantic suspense, but it’s set in Australia. So, um, very early on in my writing career, I was told to write about what I know. And even though I had written, I had read a lot of, um, American stories and loved American stories, um, I, I knew about Australia. I live here. And so I based all of my stories in Australia.

Patricia McLinn [01:56] Do you think there’s any difference between US written and Aus— or set, um, romantic suspense and Australian set romantic suspense?

Chris Taylor [02:08] I’m not sure that there’s any difference in the story as such or even really the setting. Uh, it’s more just the, the language. And even though I, I try hard to make it, um, you know, North American friendly, and I have a North American editor who makes sure the phrases that I use are something that you guys can actually understand.

Uh, every now and then I will get it a note in the margin back from her. And, and it’ll be something that, you know, we say all the time and she’ll say, I know that, I get this from the context, but I have never heard this before. And you know, after 25 books, I still get that occasionally. So that’s always funny because I try really hard to make sure that you guys can understand it.

Patricia McLinn [02:48] Is there a phrase you’re particularly aware of that North Americans don’t get that you use a lot?

Chris Taylor [02:55] Oh, man, I should’ve come up with one off the top of my head. Um, there are always some things, you know, and it’s, it’s really common sort of things down here. I mean, apart from the language differences, like boot, a boot for us is your trunk and, uh, you know, we, we use a torch as in something like you call a flashlight and, um, you know, that the sidewalk is our footpath and, you know, just words like that.

But, but there are definitely, um, sayings and I’ll, I’ll um, I’ll think of one when we finish I’m sure. But my editor will say, this is an Australianism. She calls, she calls it an Australianism. I, you know, I get it from the context, but I’ve never heard this before.

Patricia McLinn [03:36] I’ve heard, um, that Australians tend to shorten a lot of things. Do you see a lot of words or phrases?

Chris Taylor [03:45] Yes, we definitely shorten names. Like we’d never call anyone by their real name. You know, if it’s Michael it’s Mick. If it’s, yeah, no, it’s true. And we didn’t realize it was an Australian thing until, you know, you kind of start traveling and, and meeting other people. And, but we always shorten people’s names. I don’t know why.

Patricia McLinn [04:03] Before we started the recording, we were talking about that Chris never goes by Christine and I, um, sometimes go by Patricia for writing, but I always wonder why I use that because it makes me feel like I’m in trouble. And, uh, but you couldn’t get much shorter than Chris and I couldn’t get much shorter than Pat. So…

Chris Taylor [04:25] I totally relate though, Pat, you know. All my, all my childhood if I was in trouble, my mother would be going, Christine, you know, and that, that’s the only time I got called my full name. I don’t know what it is. It’s a, it’s a parent thing, I think. But, um, no, definitely, well Chris, I chose Chris deliberately, um, because it was, um, you know, an androgynous name really.

And I, I had read somewhere that male readers will pick up a book by an unknown author. They’ll pick up a male author. If it’s the author is unknown to them before they’ll pick up an unknown female author. So I thought, well, this gives me a bit each way, and them in the male market. And, uh, and it has absolutely worked. I’ve, I’ve got quite a lot of male readers and, and often they write to me and say, Dear Mr. Taylor, and then they will tell me how they’ve never read a romance book, but they picked up one of mine because my covers are certainly not, they don’t, you know, I write romantic suspense and it’s probably 50/50.

So my covers, certainly I’ve got no bare chests or anything like that, you know, they, they’re more a thriller cover than a romance cover, so they pick them up and then there’s, I’ve never read romance and now I’ve read the whole series. And it’s funny that they assume I’m a man. Even though I, you know, I mean, I go by Chris, but in the back of the book, you know, I, I certainly, um, you know, confess that I’m a, I’m a wife and mother and et cetera, et cetera.

Patricia McLinn [05:39] Let’s let the readers get to know you a little bit better with some fun questions here. I think they’re fun, you may not. Do you have any surprising jobs that you’ve held?

Chipping cotton and giant spiders

Chris Taylor [05:53] Oh, I had the usual jobs as a, as a teenager, waitressing and I worked at KFC for a while and that sort of thing, but one thing you guys might not do over there, I’m not sure, but, um, it’s cotton chipping. So what that is, I live in a cotton growing area. It’s one of the main crops grown here.

And as kids, well, you know, teens into our college years and whatever, you would go cotton chipping in the summer, which is actually hoeing out weeds on the, in the cotton. So you’ve got a hoe and you’d walk up and down the rows for eight hours in the heat and you chip out weeds. But it was good money. And I met my husband that way when I was 15. So, you know, I have a fondness for cotton chipping.

Patricia McLinn [06:36] That’s a great expression. I had never heard that.

Chris Taylor [06:38] Yes. Well, we used to get backpackers a lot, obviously as backpackers and sometimes they would chip out the cotton because that’s what it was called, cotton chipping. So they would be going around, chipping out all the cotton instead of the weeds.

Patricia McLinn [06:50] Do you have any strong fears and do any of them have to do with cotton? And do you use them in books?

Chris Taylor [06:57] No, nothing to do at cotton, but, oh my goodness, yes. I, I am terrified of spiders. Probably not to the part of it, to the extent of a phobia. But although when I was younger, I certainly probably did have a phobia. And only just the big black ones. Like not daddy long legs, not every spider, but anything that looks fearsome. And yes, I have used a gigantic man-eating spider in one of my books.

Patricia McLinn [07:22] Which book can you tell us the title?

Chris Taylor [07:26] It hasn’t got a title as yet. It’s, it’s one of my most recent books. Um, and yes, my protagonist gets hunted by this enormous spider. And it gives me shivers just to write it.

Patricia McLinn [07:41] I guess, if you can scare yourself, it’s a good sign. Right?

Chris Taylor [07:45] Yes, that’s what I figured.

Patricia McLinn [07:47] Okay. So what’s your favorite taste?

Chris Taylor [07:49] Okay, so I am a sweet person, you know, you’re either sweet or savory. I will skip the, uh, the main meal every time and go straight to dessert. So, um, I love salted caramel anything, but salted caramel ice cream is my absolute favorite.

Patricia McLinn [08:04] Ohh, good choice. Favorite color. And why? Do you have associations with it?

Chris Taylor [08:09] Okay, so it used to be green when I was younger and I’m not really sure why, but I just did love that deep forest green color. But as an adult, it’s become red. And I wear a lot of red and I know it that’s a bit corny because I write romance and stuff like that, but I just, I love, you know, beautiful, deep, red color.

And it does remind me of love and romance and passion and all that kind of stuff. And in fact, my, my bedroom has these deep red curtains and I’ve got a beautiful red throw on the bottom of the bed and you know, that kind of stuff.

Patricia McLinn [08:42] See, now that I’m writing mysteries too, I also think, Oh, deep red curtains, they wouldn’t show blood as much.

Chris Taylor [08:47] I’m hearing you, Pat. These things are important.

Patricia McLinn [08:56] Do you have a— I know. I know. Do you have a childhood book that. Got you addicted on stories that, that really opened that world for you?

Chris Taylor [09:06] Look, I was always an avid reader. I spent an hour each way on a bus with no air conditioning and vinyl seats in the heat and all the rest. And I loved to read, so it was a way to fill in the time. And I must admit, even from a young age, I loved mysteries and romance. I used to read The Famous Five and, and The Secret Seven and Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. And I always wanted the Hardy Boys to get with Nancy Drew and they never ever did.

Patricia McLinn [09:30] I know. What was the problem there?

Chris Taylor [09:32] Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [09:33] It was a natural.

Chris Taylor [09:36] Absolutely.

Rewriting Gone with the Wind. Steel Magnolias, Eight Seconds, and Good Morning Vietnam

Patricia McLinn [09:37] Any of those stories that you read in your, in your pre-author days, did you, um, decide they did not get the ending right. And at least mentally rewrite it. I am always curious about this because I think this triggers something for a lot of writers when we’re quite young.

Chris Taylor [09:55] Yeah. Well, I, I’ve got to say Gone with the Wind. I probably read that when I was about fourteen, I guess, something like that. And, uh, oh my goodness. You know, Ashley Wilkes, really? I mean really just, and then the whole, the, all the stuff they go through and, you know. No, I definitely had to rewrite that. I was just so disappointed, and I have read the sequel, and you know, it’s never as good and all the rest, but you know, that is one book that I absolutely loved, but absolutely hated the way it all went, went in the book.

Patricia McLinn [10:25] So how did you end it?

Chris Taylor [10:27] Well, of course they get together permanently and they love each other and all the rest. My goodness, you know, we all knew they did. It’s like, For God’s sake, wake up to yourself. So I make sure that I get that happy ending. You know, even though all seems lost, of course we know they got to get together. That’s how it has to be.

Patricia McLinn [10:44] I don’t know. I thought they were both kind of stinkers. Um, I, I know that’s, um, not the popular opinion, but that was my view on both of them.

Chris Taylor [10:55] She was a selfish, spoiled little brat, but she did grow, you know, there was that character growth, where at the end, of course, when it was too late. But he always loved her and was much more mature and it just broke my heart that he just didn’t give her that one last chance, you know, that he gave up on them because he still loved her and he just, she wore him out. But, you know, come on. I’m getting angry.

Patricia McLinn [11:20] I, I would have been with Rhet. I would have said, Bye, honey.

Chris Taylor [11:24] I know, she didn’t deserve him all the way through, but towards the end, when she finally woke up to herself, you know. I guess she, she’d got to the point where… No, they did deserve each other, but anyway, it wasn’t to be.

Patricia McLinn [11:35] So, okay. I’ve got to ask you now, because I, I suspect, I know one that will not be on the list. What three movies would you take to my strange little desert island that somehow lets you plays movies, but limits it to three. Well, we get to play three.

Chris Taylor [11:52] Wow. I am a huge movie buff. Um, and I was trying to think of my all-time favorite movies. There are just so many, you know, there are so many, but some that, um, came to mind, Steel Magnolias. I absolutely love and adore, you know, it’s just a beautiful movie and I know it’s an old movie, but I’m old too, so, you know. Oh, I love that movie. Still love that movie. I actually own that movie and watch it, you know, quite, not often, but you know, it’s a beautiful movie.

I also love Eight Seconds. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that one that came out in, um, oh, it was probably the early nineties.

Patricia McLinn [12:25] Yeah.

Chris Taylor [12:26] Again, I’m showing my age here. Um, and it ha—

Patricia McLinn [12:28] It’s about Lance Frost, right?

Chris Taylor [12:31] About Lane Frost. Yes. And I ac—

Patricia McLinn [12:34] Lane Frost.

Chris Taylor [12:35] And I actually used that rodeo kind of thing in one of my books and, um, uh, you know, and it just, it that was the inspiration for that. But, um, uh, so at the time Luke Perry of course was on 90210 and was the hottest thing out. So, and then he did that movie and it was just as beautiful as it. And I own that movie and I have watched it a few times and I still cry.

And the other one, I, the other one I chose. I mean, I could’ve chosen anything with Robin Williams in it because, um, you know, he was just such a brilliant actor and always had just brilliant stories. Uh, but so I put Good Morning Vietnam on my list, because that was another inspirational movie that I love to watch, and so it’s on my list.

Patricia McLinn [13:16] Can you see a thread connecting those movies?

Chris Taylor [13:19] I love the good stories. I love inspirational stories. I love stories that move you and what you to be a better person.

Patricia McLinn [13:28] Okay. And when you say old movies, girly, I love movies from like the thirties. Those are old movies. Those are classics.

Chris Taylor [13:40] I agree with you. I’m a move buff too.

Patricia McLinn [13:42] Is there a saying from your parents that you remember them using all the time and now you hear it coming out of your mouth?

Chris Taylor [13:50] One of the ones, I mean, there are lots of different ones. I think my mother was very big on sayings. Um, uh, but one of the ones that she used to say when, uh, you know, if you’re trying to get something by her, she would say, I didn’t come down in the last shower. I don’t know if you guys use that, but…

Patricia McLinn [14:08] No, but it’s wonderful.

Chris Taylor [14:10] So yeah, I remember her saying that quite often, you know, when we’re kids, I’m one of six. Six girls. So, you know, there are plenty of kids around, and, um, I remember her saying, Oh, I didn’t come down in the last shower as if you know how to, you expect me to believe that. And I have used that in a couple of times.

Patricia McLinn [14:24] Turned it on your kids now, huh?

Chris Taylor [14:28] That’s the way it goes that’s, that’s the, the story of life.

Patricia McLinn [14:31] Are you left-handed or right-handed?

Chris Taylor [14:35] I am right-handed.

Patricia McLinn [14:36] Okay. On your right hand, which is longer your index finger or your ring finger?

Chris Taylor [14:43] Now this is a really weird question, I have never, ever looked at my hands like this before, but you know what, it’s my ring finger. I don’t know what that means about me or says about me.

Patricia McLinn [14:52] I don’t either. I don’t know what it means. I’m just curious about it. I think it’s, it’s interesting that it’s, that it differs for people. Who knew.

Chris Taylor [15:01] Does it really? I didn’t know that either. So, okay.

Patricia McLinn [15:04] Yeah. And sometimes it differs from one hand to the other, for some people, it doesn’t for me. And I have no idea. There’s, there’s probably some significance to it.

Chris Taylor [15:15] It doesn’t for me either, but my left hand, but the index finger is a little bit less short than the ring finger on the left hand. There’s less of a difference.

Patricia McLinn [15:22] So that they’re closer on the left-hand than they are on the right hand.

Chris Taylor [15:26] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [15:27] I thought in my, in my, um, palm reading days, wasn’t it your left-hand is supposed to be what you’re born with in your right hand is what you make of yourself.

Chris Taylor [15:38] Wow. That’s interesting.

Patricia McLinn [15:40] Except that I don’t remember, I don’t remember anything else from that. That’s it. That the extent of it.

Chris Taylor [15:47] That’s totally unhelpful, Pat.

Patricia McLinn [15:49] We’ll have to do some research on it. And as long as I brought up the R word, let’s go ahead and talk about it. Because writing romantic suspense in particular, you must have to do a lot of research. How do you do it?

Chris Taylor [16:01] Uh, yes, well, I’m, I’m lucky that I, I had a medical background, uh, at one stage I was a nurse for a few years. And I also was a lawyer for a lot longer years, so I had a legal background and I’ve done, so I’ve done a medical romantic suspense series and I’m in the middle of a legal series at the moment. So I do call on a lot of past experience.

And I also have, um, a, your equivalent to the FBI. We’ve got the AFP, which is the Australian Federal Police, same kind of thing as the FBI. Uh, and so I’ve, I have one of their, um, retired supervisors or superintendents, on my speed dial and he answers any technical questions about the police and that sort of thing, because I often have a police investigation going on. And in fact, my hero or heroine is quite often a police officer or a detective.

Chris Taylor [16:49] So that’s really handy. I also have, um, a contact in the state morgue. So I’ve done some, you know, some scenes in the morgue and that sort of thing. And as a nurse, I actually watched autopsies. So I, I have been inside there and seen all that happen. So that helps.

I’m not, I’m not some… I love. I love, I love historical romance, but I just could not spend all that time on the research to get it right. And I’m someone who has to be right. So I just, I will not go there because I just know I just, I’m too impatient for the story to begin. And I just love to get in it and start writing. I don’t want to be pulled out all the time or spend months doing the research ahead of time. So I’ve stayed well clear of historical romance, even though I absolutely love it. Love to read it.

Patricia McLinn [17:29] How did you develop these connections with, uh, the retired gentlemen from the AFP and your other, your other sources?

Chris Taylor [17:38] So, I’m lucky, one of my sisters works for the Australian government. She’s a diplomat. And so the federal police are based in Canberra. I mean, they have offices around in the other capital cities, but their headquarters are in Canberra. So she knew this fellow through her work because she often deals with the federal police.

So she got me into contact with him and he was, I haven’t actually ever met him face to face, but we’ve spoken on the phone and I email, you know, every book I write to him about something or other. And it’s always just, Hi, Hey, guy, what do I do? And blah, blah, blah, what would happen if blah, blah, blah. And he just talks back. He hasn’t heard from me for a month or two, and then, you know, and he’s just straight back with the answer. So it’s really handy.

Chris Taylor [18:15] And as for the, um, the state morgue, I actually called them, um, you know, and explained I was an author and whatever, and that I needed, you know, could I speak to somebody about this? And, uh, anyway, they said that they would, um, you know, get, get someone from their media department to call me back. And so, you know, within ten minutes or so I got a call back and I explained again, who I was to this fellow, and he said, Yes, I know I’ve looked you up.

So they actually, they actually did a bit of a search because I guess I get calls from crazies and that kind of thing.So they’d gone and they looked at my website and whatever, and realized I was, you know, legitimate, often writing, you know, crime kind of novels. And, uh, anyway, so he he’s been very helpful as well. I, I, I write to him, email him or, uh, speak to him sometimes when I’m dealing with that kind of stuff.

Patricia McLinn [19:02] Well, those are great sources, because I find sometimes that when you find somebody like that, who will enter into the what if they are precious. I, I did a course in forensics at a place in North Carolina a few years ago, and the guy was great. He was also telling us a lot of times what usually happened and I would be saying, Yeah, but what if? And he’d say, Well, but that doesn’t usually happen. And I’d say, Yeah, but what if, and he felt at one point, he, he said, Don’t ever go into crime, you are the devil’s spawn. *Laughter* I know, writers think that’s a great compliment. My family wasn’t as impressed.

Chris Taylor [19:49] That’s funny.

Ideas from true crime and songs, obituaries for the living

Patricia McLinn [19:51] Okay. On behalf of a reader, I am going to ask you, uh, her question and she says, Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly take up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Chris Taylor [20:08] Okay. So, um, they’re not necessarily character driven. I-I’m usually inspired. I watch a lot of crime, true crime TV. I-I’m obsessed with that a bit, I think in fact, my husband, just, yeah, he does think I’m obsessed with it. And, um, uh, so I, you know, cause truth’s often stranger than fiction, so often I will see something that will just it’ll spark an idea., and I start thinking, Well, how did that happen? Or why did that happen? Or what if this had happened, you know, you start asking all those questions and you know, from there I can get a story.

Sometimes it’s a song that inspires me that I just, like I’m listening to, um, I have discovered Gretchen Peters. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of her—

Patricia McLinn [20:46] I haven’t.

Chris Taylor [20:48] —but she’s been around for a long time, apparently. But I’ve just discovered her. She’s a country sort of, um, uh, singer, but she has the most amazing stories in her songs. And so I’m, I’m listening to one at the moment called Five Minutes, about, and it’s, you know, it’s about this girl who’s working in a diner and she’s on her break, a five minute break, you know, and she’s thinking about her past, and the boy that she loved and they’ve split up and she’s got a daughter to him that, you know, they, they haven’t seen each other for twenty years or something, I think.

Anyway, it’s just, and she’s thinking, and then the owner of the diner, you know, she knows he likes her. She could always have a relationship there, but he’s not this guy who, you know, she’s still thinking of. And it, oh man, there is a story there. I am going to definitely write a story backed from there. You know, it just it’s so, so emotional, and so sad and all that kind of stuff. And I like to tap into the emotions. I mean, even though I have the suspense going, the romance is just as strong.

Patricia McLinn [21:40] I like, I like songs too. And I have a couple songs that have grown out of, actually songs, um, sung by Hal Ketchum. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him.

Chris Taylor [21:52] No, I haven’t heard of him.

Patricia McLinn [21:54] And that, wonderful storytelling songs. So I totally understand that. The only drawback is, start with this idea and then you have to turn it into a book. So how do you do that? How do you start taking that, that story you’ve heard in a song, how do you create it into a book?

Chris Taylor [22:15] Yeah, it is, it’s strange, but that’s part of the magic, isn’t it? That’s the part I just totally love, coming up with a new idea and totally building this amazing story about it. So another example I was listening to, I love country, I love country music, like I could listen to Nashville radio all day and often do. But, um, I had, I was listening to a song by Alabama called I Believe. And it’s a song about this fellow, who’s lost his wife, you know, she’s died. But he could still feel her, you know, he says, I still feel you.

And so my very first book was inspired by that. And I could see this guy standing, you know, kneeling down by this headstone and he’s crying and he’s touching the headstone and it’s cold, but he can still feel her. He can still feel the warmth. And that is the scene in my very first book. It’s one of the very early scenes is this grieving husband. And he’s actually, the detective in the story, goes from there, but man, I could see that so clearly. And it was just, yeah. Just just beautiful is great.

And I just love that whether I connect through a song or just something I’ve seen or even read, you know, sometimes I read this obituary in the paper, once in our local paper, it was an obituary, only the person hadn’t died. It was just so weird. Yes. They weren’t dead. Someone had written their obituary, but they weren’t dead. And so I thought, Wow, what is going on there?

Patricia McLinn [23:29] Were they, were they somebody well known in the community?

Chris Taylor [23:33] No, not well known in the community. At least I didn’t know them. And I live in a fairly small community. I mean, some people would have known them, but there was something going on there that, that they’d written their orbituary, likely someone else had written there orbituary. Think, Wow. That is that’s, that’s weird, there’s something going on there. That is a story.

Patricia McLinn [23:51] Newspapers write, um, obituaries for famous people ahead a time, and then kind of fill in details, but they have them ready to go basically. But it doesn’t sound like that was the same situation.

Chris Taylor [24:03] No, this was just in the classifieds. So someone had just paid to put this, it was like an ad in the classifieds, but it wasn’t an obituary. Like it was only a small square, you know, with stuff on it, but it wasn’t that small, but it was, it wasn’t a huge page or anything, it was just in the classifieds. And it was just these few paragraphs about this person, only they weren’t dead.

Patricia McLinn [24:22] Okay, we got to use that in a book.

Chris Taylor [24:27] Oh, definitely. I haven’t used yet, but that is definitely going in. That is just, Wow, what is going on there? They obviously hated each other.

Patricia McLinn [24:35] Well, you get dibs on it because you, you read it, but I really liked that. When you, when you finish up a book, this is another question from a reader. Um, do you find the miss characters? Do you think about them a lot? What, how they are going on from the end of the book? Um, and, and then I, uh, I want to add the question of, and has that thinking, if you do think about them, has that ever led you to write another book?

Chris Taylor [24:58] Yeah, so I write series, so I do myself in that series and there are usually like nine or ten books, so that there’s a reasonable length of time where you’re immersed in there. I, one of my, my first series was actually based on a family. So there were, there were so many brothers and a couple of sisters there to make up the books. And so I did revisit the characters and you just, you do that, they’re like your family. I know that sounds weird, but you just feel like, you know them, like they’re people that you know. And you know, so when things happen to them, you feel for them and, you know, and you like to hear back from them.

So, I did a novella, Christmas novella in the first series to revisit all the people that were, it came up as book seven. So you’d already met six of the brothers and sisters. And so I revisited each one around a Christmas theme, and, oh, that was so nice. You know, it’s like catching up with old friends.

Patricia McLinn [25:49] And, you said you feel bad for them when bad things happen to them, but you are making those bad things happen to them.

Chris Taylor [25:55] I know.

Patricia McLinn [25:56] How do you feel about that?

Chris Taylor [25:58] Oh, it’s so weird, it is. You know, it just happens. You, you would understand as an author that, you know, the story just takes you to certain places. I’m, I’m a planner. So I do plan quite a lot of the story out beforehand. I don’t just sort of get an idea and run with it. Um, so I often know, you know, a lot of it, but every now and then it just, the story just takes over or the character just takes over and does something that’s so surprising that you, you think, Oh wow. And it could be good or bad, you just have to go with it because that’s, that’s what the story needs. That’s what they’re telling you it needs anyway.

Patricia McLinn [26:30] What, that planning that you do before a book, what does that look like?

Chris Taylor [26:34] Okay, so it depends on how much time I have, um, for my deadline. So I, but generally, if I have, you know, I write fairly fast, so I publish every couple of months, generally. So I allow myself about three weeks to write a first draft and then I edit it and probably take me a week to go through and do a full edit. And then it goes off to be edited back and forth. It goes through three passes back and forth between my editor and, and me. What was the question again? I’ve lost my train of thought.

Patricia McLinn [27:03] What, how you’re planning?

Chris Taylor [27:05] Oh, the planning.

Patricia McLinn [27:06] What, what your planning looks like, what you’re doing.

Chris Taylor [27:08] Yeah. So I would, uh, write a rough draft, hand-write a rough draft chapter by chapter, just in point form.

Patricia McLinn [27:15] Hand-write?

Chris Taylor [27:16] Hand-write in point form. So it takes me a couple of days probably to hand-write, just, in point form chapter by chapter. But I find that I’m, I’m more efficient if I take that time because I’ve got five kids and so I’m often called away. And so I can just come back to my, my plan, I, you know, my summary really, and know where I’m at. I don’t have to go back and read, you know, where, where I was heading. I know where I’m at. I can just look straight down at where I leave it open on my desk and, um, you know, and then I just continue on. So I just find it. But it’s more efficient that way, because I get interrupted fairly frequently.

Patricia McLinn [27:50] When, when you have books where the character takes off on a different direction from you, are those, are those a joy to write or are those harder to write? And what would, which of your books you’d say was the easiest to write?

Chris Taylor [28:03] Okay. So, um, but it doesn’t happen all that often. I guess I keep them under control pretty well, but, um, every now and then… I wrote one about a serial killer. The, the man was a serial killer and they had two children, him and his wife. And she was meant to be totally oblivious to all this stuff going on. And then all of a sudden there’s a scene towards the end where the wife turns up with the chainsaw, you know, by his side, she walks in on him and he’s thinks he’s been sprung. But in fact, she’s, she’s, she’s part of it, you know, she’s… And I thought, um, I know it was too much, too much. I can not do that to those poor children. They cannot have two serial killer parents. So I had to, I regret that I did not let her come in and do that. And she was never meant to be there.

Patricia McLinn [28:46] So it was only to save the children, huh?

Chris Taylor [28:50] No child should have to go through life like that, with two serial killer parents.

Patricia McLinn [28:54] But okay. Your most recent book, how much, has that, say there’s a continuum of easy to write, joy to write, versus, Oh my gosh, um, this is, this book is going to kill me. Where in the continuum did the most recent book come in?

Chris Taylor [29:11] Um, it wasn’t too bad. It was another romantic suspense. Um, I, I have my series mapped out ahead of time. So I have nine books in the series. I’ve got all the titles chosen, and when I was doing this sort of planning, I, I would come up with an idea and just write a few lines down on each book. So, um, I already knew, you know, as I kept to each book in the series.

I know what the theme is. I know what the main story, I always know what the black moment is. For people, for readers who, who don’t know that, that expression, it’s where, um, particularly in romance where you think all is so wrong they’re never going to get back, they’re never going to get together. You know how they’re so far apart, that’s never going to happen, but that’s the black moment where you’re just in total despair that they’re ever like, like I was with Rhett Butler, don’t worry, I’m still in despair.

Chris Taylor [29:59] And then of course, you know, we resolve it and they get back to, they get together and, and that’s what, that’s the happily ever after we promise in a romance. Um, but, but, you know, so sometimes, the current book has, has, um, yeah, it’s flowed pretty well. I’ve um, recently started using dictation software. So, in fact, you guys inspired me at Novelis Inc. conference, when you are, you’re all talking about, um, Dragon Dictation software and how much, um, more efficient it was than all the rest.

And I tell you, I have been quietly impressed. So it, it’s making me think differently. I think I’m using a different part of my brain, which is weird, but it just feels a little bit different to be dictating a story rather than typing it and seeing it coming up in front of me. But it definitely is quicker.

Patricia McLinn [30:44] How do you make changes on the fly on Dragon? Cause if I couldn’t backspace, delete, and cut and paste, I would be in big trouble.

Chris Taylor [30:55] Yes. I’m with you on that. And I have only just started using the software on the latest book. Um, but what I have been doing, because I feel that way too. I have been dictating just like a thousand words at a time. So for about ten minutes, it takes me to do a thousand words, and then I transcribe it and then I’m editing it straight away. So, because sometimes as I’m speaking, I agree, I’d like to backspace and delete or change something. But I don’t. I just keep going until I do the thousand words, and then I just edit it straight away. So the thought or the deletion I wanted to make the correction is still fresh in my mind. So that’s how I’ve been dealing with it. I’m not sure how other people do.

Patricia McLinn [31:30] I was contemplating trying, um, dictation on things like emails because it’s not as precise for me as writing.

Chris Taylor [31:40] Yeah. Well, when you watch the, um, the YouTube videos and things on that, you know, write composing emails and stuff with dictation software is just so easy. You know, it’s like open mail, new mail, send, send mail to Pat, you know, whatever. And it just pops the address in and all that stuff. It’s just like, Wow.

Patricia McLinn [31:54] I might have to try that. But speaking of editing, have you edited, ever edited something out of a book or had it edited, edited out by someone else, that you still regret that you think, ah, I wish I’d left that in.

Chris Taylor [32:13] There is actually, and I’m sure the, the edit was made for all the right reasons. So I write generally for the North American market, because it’s just, you know, from a business point of view, it’s a lot bigger market than the Australian market. Just, you guys have got a lot more people than, than we do. We don’t read, but you know, there’s a lot, it’s a numbers game.

So I was writing this book where this guy had, he was a returned army officer. And he had PTSD, undiagnosed PTSD. You don’t realize this right until the end, but anyway, he had had an affair. Okay. So there were a lot of reasons why, in fact, you find out that he was part of his, trying to break this terrorist cell in Indonesia and stuff, and, and to keep his cover and basically saved his men, he, you know, he sleeps with this Indonesian girl. Who’s also a spy, you know, my editor made me, no, I could not use that. It was not acceptable to have the hero. Have had been unfaithful to his wife.

So I had to get rid of that, which it was, it was just so, yeah, I did. I mean, I still had PTSD, but he wasn’t unfaithful. He just, he still walked out on his marriage, but not for those reasons. So, um, but I still really loved that story. It was such a beautiful love story and I’ll write, I like to write really real and, you know, that happens sometimes, but no, my editor felt that it was not going to be acceptable to an all American audience, that a hero is unfaithful no matter what, the reason. So that went, and I do mourn the loss of that.

Patricia McLinn [33:38] Do you think it would have been acceptable to an Australian audience?

Chris Taylor [33:41] Most definitely.

Patricia McLinn [33:43] Oh really?

Chris Taylor [33:44] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [33:45] Why do you think there’s that difference?

Chris Taylor [33:46] Well, I don’t know, I was guided by my, um, North American editor, um, that, that, that kind of thing wouldn’t go down well in, in North America. In Australia, I dunno. I think we are just more, um, not accepting, but we were just less, gosh, I don’t know what the, what the word is. It would have definitely been acceptable in an Australian audience. We would have understood it. And understood the reasons.

And even though, you know, it comes good in the end, of course, they still love each other and they, you know, and we realize all this stuff was going on. But, you know, and it’s, I think it’s a beautiful love story, but, uh, yes. I don’t know why I think that that definitely would have been okay in Australia that it wasn’t okay over there.

Patricia McLinn [34:26] Now, other than the, the story where the wife of the serial killer shows up to join in, um, which of your stories has surprised you the most? And how did, how did it surprise you? And did you learn anything from that for books that, that followed?

Chris Taylor [34:43] Wow. The one where the wife turns up, that was my first, um, well that was my first book published. And so it was my first book because we always, we all write books well, before we got to publishing, uh, stage, but I guess that was the first time I had had a character take over like that. And it was like, Wow, how did that happen? Like, I’m the one writing this stuff.

So I guess, in later books, um, it didn’t happen as often, but every now and then, and I just gave myself the permission to let that happen. You know, I accepted that sometimes that happens that the characters take over where until then, you know, I hadn’t thought in those terms, you know, as, as you say, I’m the one putting the words there, what do you mean that the characters taking over?

It sounds really strange to somebody who’s never done it before, but after that experience, I realized, you know, that’s sometimes that can happen. And sometimes it’s okay. Sometimes it’s not like I had to get rid of it because it just was too much for those poor children. But, you know, sometimes they go that way.

Patricia McLinn [35:38] Well, I’ve told this story before, but, um, I had a murder mystery that I was writing, uh, that came out a year ago, um, called Look Live. And I was ahead of schedule, which I rarely am. I’m tootling along with this book and thinking, Oh boy, I’m going to be finished ahead of time. And then looking at the screen, what do you know? The person I thought was the murderer ended up dead.

Chris Taylor [36:05] I love that. I love that.

Patricia McLinn [36:08] Oh… I thought, Uh, oh.

Chris Taylor [36:12] Now what do I do?

Patricia McLinn [36:13] This is a problem. So I got the book out on time, but I was not ahead of schedule. I had to do some real rethinking and it, and it never occurred to me to make him undead.

Chris Taylor [36:24] Yes. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [36:25] He was dead. That was it, there it was.

Chris Taylor [36:27] It’s something I think that readers think is weird because, um, you know, like, we’re the ones writing the story. I mean, I know sometimes, so I haven’t been able to write the climax that I often have, you know, people getting killed or chased or whatever, you know, there’s always a threat that their life’s in danger.

And often I can’t write that late at night. I do write late at night. But I can’t write those scenes at night because I’m so scared. You know, it’s just, it’s like for goodness’ sake, I’m writing it. I know how it’s going to work out. Okay. You know, what’s going on here, but you know, it’s like, that’s the way it is.

Patricia McLinn [36:59] So are there other ways you think writers are different from normal people?

Chris Taylor [37:04] Normal people, yeah, that’s right. But we’re so far left of normal aren’t we. Um, I think that we just, I do think we think differently and I see stories everywhere, you know, and like, I, I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly observant person, but I just, I see stories in people and in actions and, and just, you know, sitting on a train or whatever. And you just see a comment or overhear a conversation or something. And man, my mind’s already off. Where I don’t know that normal people think like that.

Patricia McLinn [37:31] You know, uh, uh, a lot of the authors are saying this. And, I just had this thought, we’re making a lot of normal people really paranoid about being watched and listened to by writers since they’re out in their normal lives. And you’re in, you’re going to be in a book.

Chris Taylor [37:51] I often get emails from people who, because, you know, I write, I write a lot of murder and death and you know, stuff like that. There’s always chasing. There’s always, you know, the adrenaline pumping stuff and I, I will get emails every now and then from people who, cause sometimes I use the real names, real suburb names and things, especially in Sydney and whatever. And you know, I’ll get people saying, Oh my goodness, I live there. I live in that suburb. I’m still looking over my shoulder.

Patricia McLinn [38:14] That’s one of the things I feel bad about. My mystery series is set in Wyoming. So I managed to pick the least populated state in the United States. And I am rapidly depopulating it further.

Chris Taylor [38:28] Uh, yeah. Yes, one book at a time.

Patricia McLinn [38:33] That’s right. But sometimes multiple bodies. So how do you think you have changed and evolved as a writer? Since you, say not just since you started, but say since you were first published.

Chris Taylor [38:49] Um, well, it’s, it’s like anything, any profession, I think. That the more you do do and the more hours you spend on it, the better you get. So I’m definitely more efficient. Um, I’m definitely less wordy. You know, like some of my earlier books were a hundred-twenty, a hundred and ten, hundred and twenty thousand words just for, you know, an ordinary fiction novel, which should have been around, you know, eighty or ninety.

So I’ve learned to, I’m much more efficient with words and I love that. You know, I love that. I can just have a few words, a few words in a sentence and say exactly the same thing that I might’ve had ten words in before, you know, it just, and it just comes up more easily. And I think like any job, you know, the more, the longer you’re at it, the better you get at it. So that’s one of the things that has changed for sure that I’m better at it. And I’m more efficient at it.

Patricia McLinn [39:35] You have a writing routine that you follow?

Chris Taylor [39:38] Yes. Well, I, I write full-time. I’m lucky enough to write full-time. So it’s my job. So, you know, I’m, I’m in front of my desk by nine in the morning after my kids have gone to school and, you know, I’ll have a quick lunch break and I’ll be back again. You know, like, like I would a job and I sit here till four, when my kids get home from school, this is in between, you know, obviously, sometimes there’s interruptions and I have to go and buy food and stuff every now and then, which is an annoyance, but…

Um, generally, yeah, look, I worked seven days a week as well, and I often do more work, you know, after the kids have gone to bed, I’ll do another two or three hours then. So, um, but the good thing is it doesn’t feel like a job, you know, when you’re really into it. There’s nothing like being really into it and just, so immersed.

Patricia McLinn [40:19] And when it comes, just kind of its own, which doesn’t happen all the time, unfortunately, but it is lovely when it does.

Chris Taylor [40:27] Yes. Now, a lot of the time it is, it’s just getting that story down. But I think the more, more, um, prep I do earlier on, the more I get to know my characters, before I start to write the easier it is. So even though I chafe at the delay, you know, whether it’s two or three days where I’m just writing things out. In the end I think it’s, it’s more efficient because I don’t have to, I don’t have as many pauses where I’m thinking now, you know, what, what would they do here or what, what happens next?

Patricia McLinn [40:52] Now, uh, a reader wants to know what is your favorite place to write and why? And does it have an inspirational view?

Chris Taylor [40:59] Well, I, I generally write from my office when I’m home. Um, I, I use one drive on my iPad so I can go flip between the iPad and my desktop. But generally, I like to sit in my office and I do have a lovely view. I live out of town, so I’ve got a very nice rural view of the mountains and I’ve got a nice pool in my backyard that I look out over. So I have a water view, I guess.

Um, so, and often I’m the only one home, you know, when my husband’s at work, my kids are away. So it’s often just me. I don’t need to have music and stuff going. Like a lot of people need something going on. I can just sit here in total silence. I’ve got enough voices going on in my head. I don’t need anymore.

Patricia McLinn [41:39] You need one of those floating desks for your, for your pool. So you can just paddle around.

Chris Taylor [41:45] That would be nice.

Patricia McLinn [41:47] So have you ever had a situation that, a reader wanted to know about this, when the cover image didn’t match the character description, have you run across that? And then she said, if you have, she wants to know how it feels for the author.

Chris Taylor [41:59] Okay. So I, I’m lucky because I am an Indie, um, um, published author. So I, I have a lot of input into my covers. Uh, and I have used the same cover designer all the way through, so they really, they get, they get me in my, my, my books. So I, I mean, occasionally I have tweaks of course, that the, the hero doesn’t look like he should or is too young looking. I mean, man, I’m 45, everyone looks young now to me, but, um, you know, I don’t know, he’s too young. He looks like he’s—

Patricia McLinn [42:27] Go away.

Chris Taylor [42:28] You know what I mean. But I’m lucky in that way. I haven’t ever had a cover that totally mismatches, but I certainly sympathize with author friends who have. Because you know, you’ve got this person in your head and they’re a certain way and they look a certain way, they’ve got certain, you know, um, mannerisms and just some sort of bearing or whatever. And you get just turn, you get something that’s just nothing like that. And I can understand how ghastly you must feel about that.

Patricia McLinn [42:52] Now a lot of your characters… Hmm. I shouldn’t say a lot, but, um, you’re writing in areas where it tends to be male dominated, more males working than, than women, than females. Um, how do you approach writing about, from the point of views, especially of the opposite sex?

Chris Taylor [43:13] Okay. So I love to write from the male point of view. I don’t know why, but I guess, if I have a choice say from running single point of view, and I have a choice, I will often gravitate towards a male character, which is weird because I have no brothers.

So I grew up with five sisters. So obviously I had a father, but, um, you know, I, I didn’t have a lot of male influences such and I love writing the male characters. I don’t know whether I get it wrong. I think I probably make them a little bit too emotional. I can always tell a book that’s written by a man, but you kind of don’t even have to tell me the author, I, you know, I just can tell from the style.

And in, particularly if there’s any sort of emotional scenes, you know, you can tell it’s been written by a man. Uh, but so I probably am a little bit emotional, but I guess, you know, the people who read my books do tend to be women too. So, you know, we, we get it, we get that.

Patricia McLinn [44:01] So this question is sort of out of the blue, but I, I’m interested to hear the answer. What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as an author?

Chris Taylor [44:11] Okay. Um, I think on my covers, you know, um, they say a, Well, you can’t judge a book by the color, but we often do in this day and age of digital books, you know, we, we, we, we have the covers in front of us.

Unlike, you know, in the old days, when you had to go to a bookstore, I guess you saw covers too, but, um, most people shop online now I think, so the covers are really important. And particularly if you’re looking for just a read, you know, you’re not actually searching for a particular author. And I think the covers are really important.

And I probably spend on the upper end of the scale. Not the most expensive for sure, but more than some, um, on my covers, but I have had a lot of feedback on the covers that they, and, and, you know, even from digital retailers that the covers are stand out and that, you know, they’re, they’re attractive to readers.

Patricia McLinn [44:58] Do you have a favorite cover of yours?

Chris Taylor [45:00] That’s hard to say, cause I do like all my covers, but, um.

Patricia McLinn [45:04] Or one that’s gotten particular, a particular amount of feedback.

Chris Taylor [45:08] Probably, um, my, my hospital series, which it features sort of a part of the building on, on all the, of the fictitious hospital I set in Sydney, but, um, they, they’re kind of darker and grittier and edgier those books and the covers are all sort of reflective of that, I think.

Um, and they’re nice and glossy, some I’m doing a matte, some series I do are matte and I love matte, the matte cover as well. But, um, the glossy, the glossy really, that talks to me.

Patricia McLinn [45:36] Now you said that you have had some books set in the legal, against the legal background—

Chris Taylor [45:42] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [45:43] —right? And you were a lawyer. Were you a criminal lawyer?

Chris Taylor [45:46] Yes, I, I did a bit of everything in my early days. I worked for the, um, director of public prosecutions, which what do you guys call it? You know, the district attorney’s office, that kind of thing.

Patricia McLinn [45:58] Right.

Chris Taylor [45:59] So I did purely criminal law there on the prosecution side of it. Um, but when I moved to, um, the country, that was in Sydney, I lived in Sydney. When I moved to the country where my husband lived, I became a country lawyer. So in a country practice and I did a bit of everything and then I was a defense lawyer. So that was really weird because I, you know, you’re on different sides of the bar table. People probably don’t even realize, but you know, the defense sit on the left and the, and the prosecution sit on the right. And so all of a sudden I was on the other side of the table and it just was, so even though you’re already, still a few meters apart, it was just so weird to do that.

But yeah, I did defense criminal lawyer for a few years and also did a lot of commercial work and, um, you know, conveyancing and did a bit of everything in the country.

Patricia McLinn [46:44] So if you weren’t writing, would you go back to the law?

Chris Taylor [46:47] Yes. I would.

Patricia McLinn [48:48] And now that sort of surprised me because a lot of, there are a fair number of authors who are departed lawyers, escaped lawyers. Um, so that’s interesting. So what, what made you switch from law to writing?

Chris Taylor [47:00] Well, I always loved writing and I used to do that on my weekends and things, especially before I had children, I would be writing kind of Harlequin romances and things. Um, it was only later I got into the suspense.

I did try and write Blaze, um, but I just could not contain the word count. You know, I was always had too many secondary characters and too many plots going on. So I realized fairly, fairly quickly I was a single-title writer, and I didn’t even know that term until I started talking to other writers, you know, but, um, anyway, so I, I, I was always writing.

I just love criminal law, not so much the other stuff, but, uh, I love the criminal law. I’ve always been fascinated with that. And I think that, that’s why I’ve, uh, you know, I write about it because it, it’s, it’s fascinating, you know, what makes a person get to that point.

Patricia McLinn [47:46] How do readers respond to especially your criminal stories, do they, or, or any of your romantic suspense, what sort of feedback do you get from readers? What sort of interaction do you have with them?

Chris Taylor [47:59] Yeah, so I, I think the book that I get the most, um, response from is one that was on domestic violence. So it was in the medical series and the husband was a doctor, you know, very well-respected doctor, uh, at the hospital. And she was a nurse, the wife, and of course behind closed doors, we realized it’s so different to the, you know, the public persona that he was, he was showing everyone.

And I get a lot of response from that, you know, because I think there’s a lot of people out there in those situations. And I get a lot of emails from readers who, or, you know, sometimes it’s the daughter saying my mum was in a situation or one was, My mum is still in this situation, which was so terrible. So heartbreaking. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [48:43] Oh, dear.

Chris Taylor [48:44] Yeah. But, but I think that that one has touched a lot of people. I get a lot of letters about that, about domestic violence, which just, I like to do, um, issues that draw attention to things I think need more attention, you know, more public awareness. So that was definitely one I, I felt, I felt for a long time that I needed to get out there and I get a lot of response from that one.

Patricia McLinn [49:04] I have a question that a reader posed, I think is intriguing. I’m very interested to hear what you have to say. If you could write a book with any author, alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Chris Taylor [49:19] Well, see my favorite author, well, I have two favorite authors, one, and one, one’s alive. One’s dead. So one of them is a historical romance author by the name of Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Now, she was one of the first, um, romance novels I read, I think I read her first book when I was about 13 or something.

Totally, totally loved her books. She just had the most amazing characters, such beautiful men, you know, and just lovely characters that you fell in love with. So she is somebody I would love to written with. Um, just because she just could tap into the, you know, into emotions so well.

The other one I love, um, and he is, again, one of my, is up there with her, my favorite author, is Richard North Patterson. So he has a couple series. And, again, he’s a guy who writes from a male’s point of view, but how, his guys are just so great, so lovely, you just, you know, you fall in love with them. His, um, male characters and, and he always has a fantastic story that goes with it. So I would love to write a book with him.

Patricia McLinn [50:23] So you’re looking at these authors, not just that you enjoy their work, but what you could learn from them.

Chris Taylor [50:28] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Their characterization and the way that they just, you know… Richard North Patterson, especially his, you know, he writes contemporary drama sort of stuff. Um, you know, one’s a political series, another one’s a legal series. Um, he’s got other books, but there is the ones that I love. He taps into the real situations that anyone can relate to. And some people would have been in. And, and they react in a real way. You know, I always really liked that.

In fact, I, when I first discovered Sandra Brown, and she is one of my, my inspirations, um, she was the first author I had ever read that, you know, where it was a bit of swearing, people reacted in a normal way, you know, in a way you would expect. And it wasn’t sugar-coated, you know, and I thought, Wow. I was just blown away the first time I read one of her books.

Patricia McLinn [51:16] Now those books are sort of in your same genre. Is that what you read for fun or do you go outside your genre?

Chris Taylor [51:22] I do read a lot of that kind of stuff for fun, especially from, from authors that I really enjoy, but I also, I mean, I love historical romance. I love contemporary romance. I, I, you know, I every now and then I’ll read an autobiography, but not really for fun. It’ll be just something I’m interested in or some person, you know, I’m interested in to know their life story, I’ll read that for. But for fun, it’s always, it’s always romance in some form.

Patricia McLinn [51:45] So somebody who has never read any of your books and we’ll say this from the North American market, since it’s the, the bigger one, what would be a good place for them to start? Which book would be a good start for them?

Chris Taylor [51:59] I was given some advice that, um, at a RWA conference, actually, I can’t even remember who said it, but this was before I was published, so it was really timely for me. They said that you had no control on where a reader might come into your series. So I write series, I like to write series.

Um, and, but they said, you’ve, you know, you might have book four on sale or something, and someone gets that one. And if they can’t understand and enjoy that story on its own, without having read all the other, other books, um, then they may not go back and fill in the gaps, you know. Where if you, if you write it as sort of a standalone story within the series and they enjoy it, you know, as, as its own book, then you’re more likely to get them to, you know, go back and read or, or pick up another one.

So I took that on board. So my, I’ve got three different series at the moment. And each one is a standard line story. I think you get more out of it if you’ve read them in order, because there is some reference back to previous characters. And so you’ll realize that these ones have just had a baby or these ones aren’t doing so well or whatever, you get a bit more out of it. But you can still enjoy any of them.

Chris Taylor [53:02] So, the first series is really a detective series on a, on a family. Um, the second one is a bit darker, a bit grittier, is that the hospital series. So I deal with topics like domestic abuse and organ donation, you know, the, yeah, I think kind of controversial things that one’s about illegal trafficking, you know, organs. Um, so it’s a little bit grittier.

Uh, that the third series, the legal series is a lot of courtroom drama stuff. So it really depends on what you, what you like to read, I think. I think you can tell that I’ve written them all there. They’re very much stamped with my, my voice. Um, and, uh, you know, they’re fairly hot and steamy. Most of them are.

So, um, I would recommend any reader starting, pick a series and start at the, the first one, because I just think you get a little bit more enjoyment out of it, but, but really they could come in anywhere and enjoy it If it’s their kind of story.

Patricia McLinn [53:56] I was at a mystery conference in Indianapolis last fall, and a reader came up, we were doing book signing and she came up with, I think it was the fourth book in the series. And I said, Oh, you know, have you read the other books? And she said, No, I’m going to start here. So there is a proof, at least one person out there is doing what you were told about. Okay.

Chris Taylor [54:21] I would never do that. I have always, you know, gone and tried to find the first one because that’s just me, I like to do that. Even if the others are on sale, I’ll still start with the first one. But apparently, you know, some people don’t, they just, they dive in and see if they’re going to like it. So, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [54:37] Do you have any, any of your books that you have a sense has been overlooked and not, not as, read as much that even your loyal readers might, might’ve missed some?

Guns, snakes, murder

Chris Taylor [54:49] One of the stories that is very close to my heart is the eighth book in the first series. So it’s called The Defendant, and, um, it’s, it was inspired by my son, who was twelve at the time. And in Australia, well probably over there in the States, I don’t know what your age limit is, but in Australia at twelve, he can get a gun license. So my name is on the permit. So you still have to be under supervision of an adult, et cetera, but you can actually get a gun license at twelve. And we live out in the bush and, um, uh, you know, my husband’s got guns and, and, you know, I’ve even got a gun license. Um, he goes to the range every now and then. We’re not hunters, but you know, we’ve got guns.

And so my, my twelve-year-old was really, really keen to get his license, you know, when he turned twelve. And so he did, he got his license and of course, then he just wanted to shoot everything in sight, you know. I had a snake at the back of my back door on the concrete steps and, you know, he’s tearing off to the shed to get the 410 shotgun, you know. I’m like, Oh my God, you know, like his mentality was like, Let’s shoot it. Let’s shoot it, you know?

Chris Taylor [55:49] And anyway, so that inspired that book. It’s a very sad story. Uh, you know, like that twelve-year-old actually shoots somebody dead. For good reason, you know, for good reason. Terrible scene between, uh, you know, with his mother involved. Um, but this is the story is basically on a trial of this child. Because he, he wouldn’t, he, you know, he, it comes down to intent.

In Australia, if you, if the prosecution can prove that the boy intended to kill and knew that what he was doing was going to kill or had a fair chance of killing. Well then, you know, you can be charged with murder. And, um, so he was, in this story. He was in the book as it unfolds there. But I have had comments from the North American readers going, Wow.You know, it’s so different over here. You know, this, this kid would never have been charged with murder and blah, blah, blah.

But I write in Australia, so I follow Australian law and, um, you know, that, that definitely would have happened. And, and, uh, anyway, but that’s a book I think that not a, I don’t get a lot of feedback on, so I’m not sure whether it’s not being as widely read as it, as I wished it would because it’s, it’s a great story. And, um, uh, you know what, but that book is close to my heart.

Patricia McLinn [56:54] Tell us how people can find out more about you and your books.

Chris Taylor [56:58] Well, I’m, I’m on all the digital retailers. At iBooks and Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and, um, uh, you know, I’ve got them all up there on my website, um, which is just www.christaylorauthor.com.au

Um, and people could just click on them go to different links to buy. Uh, you can also order paperbacks off Amazon and CreateSpace. So, uh, you know, they are, they are available.

Patricia McLinn [57:25] And we will include the URLs and the show notes. So it makes it easier than when you’re trying to catch something that’s being spoken and you’re trying to remember the URL. So, folks, you’ll find them in the show notes.

One of my very favorite journalism questions is to ask if there’s something I should have asked that I haven’t, or if you’d like to answer something that wasn’t asked.

Chris Taylor [57:48] Oh, Pat, you’ve done very well. I mean, it’s been a real pleasure to be here and see your questions. Um…

Patricia McLinn [57:56] Not done yet. We’re not done yet. So now we have, this is my, my perhaps favorite part where we talk about, uh, Or we do either Ors. Okay?

Chris Taylor [58:05] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [58:06] You just gotta answer fast. You gotta right through these. Uh, cake or ice cream?

Chris Taylor [58:11] Ice cream.

Patricia McLinn [58:12] Day or night?

Chris Taylor [58:14] Night.

Patricia McLinn [58:16] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?

Chris Taylor [58:19] Cowboy boots.

Patricia McLinn [58:20] I think you’ve already answered this one. Appetizer or dessert?

Chris Taylor [58:24] Oh, definitely dessert.

Patricia McLinn [58:26] Heels or slippers?

Chris Taylor [58:58] Slippers.

Patricia McLinn [58:29] Mountains or beach?

Chris Taylor [58:31] Beach.

Patricia McLinn [58:32] Dog or cat?

Chris Taylor [58:33] Dog.

Patricia McLinn [58:34] Sounded not totally sure.

Chris Taylor [58:36] No, definitely a dog. I’m not a cat lover. I have five cats. I have five cats, but they belong to my five children, and, um, yes. Yes. They all live outside.

Patricia McLinn [58:47] Okay.

Chris Taylor [58:48] I’m not against cats. I just can’t stand the fur they leave everywhere.

Patricia McLinn [58:51] Hey, I have a Collie you want to talk fur. Okay. Um, sailboat or a motorboat?

Chris Taylor [58:57] Ah, motorboat.

Patricia McLinn [58:58] Leggings or sweats?

Chris Taylor [59:00] Sweats.

Patricia McLinn [59:01] I’m not sure this particularly applies to you, but well, we’ll go for it anyhow. Which is eerier to you, an owl hooting or coyotes howling?

Chris Taylor [59:10] An owl hooting or a coyote howling. Okay. So I’ve never heard a coyote howling because we don’t have them here in Australia. Um…

Patricia McLinn [59:18] That’s what I wondered.

Chris Taylor [59:21] But I can imagine it sounds quite eerie and lonesome. I mean, I’ve seen it on movies and things like that. Uh, so I think I’ll go coyote.

Patricia McLinn [59:29] Okay. Gardening or house decorating?

Chris Taylor [59:32] Wow. I’m not keen on either. I love a nice house and I love a beautiful garden, but I’m, I’m not, you know, I’m not naturally inclined towards either, uh, if I had to choose, I’d say garden.

Patricia McLinn [59:47] Well, then that may be a hint to what your answer will be to the next one. Best china or paper plates?

Chris Taylor [59:53] Yeah, paper plates.

Patricia McLinn [59:57] Mustard or ketchup?

Chris Taylor [59:58] We call it tomato sauce. Um, tomato sauce, definitely ketchup.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:03] Okay. So the last one, would you save the best for last or grab the best first?

Chris Taylor [1:00:08] Wow. I think I would save the best to last.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:12] Well, thank you so much, Chris, for taking the time to be with us today. Really appreciated it. And I hope that the listeners will come back next week to meet a new author. And in the meantime, have a great week of reading and we’ll see you next week on the Authors Love Readers podcast.

Chris Taylor [1:00:33] Thank you so much, Pat. It’s been fun.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:36] That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at: authors@podcastatauthorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


Episode 9: Creating a Past, with Victoria Thompson

Host Patricia McLinn talks with bestselling author Victoria Thompson about her Gaslight Mystery series and the ups and downs of a career spent writing historical romance and mystery books. Victoria and Patricia discuss the craft of writing and teaching that craft to others.

You can find Victoria on:

*her website,

*Facebook and


Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers podcast

authors love readers patreon

Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Victoria Thompson

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Welcome to this. Week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Victoria Thompson [00:24] I’m Victoria Thompson. And I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:27] Now let’s start the show. Welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers podcast. I’m delighted to have the guest Victoria Thompson here this week. And Victoria, and I, I don’t know how long we’ve known each other. It’s been a really long time.

Victoria Thompson [00:45] Forever.

Patricia McLinn [00:47] Don’t you think?

Victoria Thompson [00:48]Yes, forever.

Patricia McLinn [00:49] Or it just seems like forever. Is that what you’re saying?

Victoria Thompson [00:52] Right. Well, if we met at Novelis Inc. it has to have been since 1989. That’s what it, that when Novelis Inc. started. So that’s probably back then.

Patricia McLinn [01:02] Yeah. Did it start in 89? I don’t think I joined until the second year.

Patricia McLinn [01:09] Yeah. Great organization. And those have listened to other podcasts, it crops up now and then. And Victoria is a former president, a past president of Novelis Inc. As am I, and, uh, is back on the board doing yeoman’s service as the advisory council liaison to the board. So we really appreciate everything she’s, she’s done and is doing for Novelis Inc. And let’s see when we first met each other. You were writing historical romance, right?

Victoria Thompson [01:47] Correct. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [01:49] And I was writing contemporary romance and over the years and here and there and she, she made this, the switch to, um, historical mysteries. And I’ve added contemporary mysteries. I never let go of anything is as you know, and has this wonderful two wonderful series now.

And we’ll, we’ll, we’ll talk about those a little bit more, but first I just wanted to kind of ask you some. Get to know you questions for the, for the readers. And I uh, I don’t know the answers to some of these, so let’s start off with surprising job you’ve held.

Victoria Thompson [02:31] Oh my gosh. I was a printing specialist for the government, US government printing office back in the day, shortly after I got married, my husband, um, wanted to become a preacher. And so he was going to, so we were going to move from the Washington DC area to Dallas and he was going to go to college to become a minister and I needed to get a job to support him.

And a gentleman on our church, it was a friend of the public printer, who’s like the secretary of state to the, to the government printing office. And, uh, he gave me a job in their Dallas office. That’s where we moved to Dallas and, uh, so I became a printing specialist, was my title. I knew absolutely nothing about printing. And for years afterwards, whenever my husband was describing someone who knew nothing about what they were doing, he would call them a printing specialist.

Patricia McLinn [03:29] I think that’s confirming a lot of people’s belief about the—

Victoria Thompson [03:32] About the government. I know.

Patricia McLinn [03:33] —government, that somebody called a specialist, and knows nothing about it.

Victoria Thompson [03:36] And after working in it, I can readily understand that they’re, they’re certainly justified in being a little skeptical. But my job was to order printing for various government agencies whenever they needed anything printed, I would write the specs and bid the job out. So I do know a lot about printing now. I did not however, when I was hired for that job.

Patricia McLinn [03:57] Now, was that ever a good background for you and in your publishing career?

Victoria Thompson [04:01] Never.

Patricia McLinn [04:03] Never.

Victoria Thompson [04:04] Not in this life. I mean, I do know about fonts, maybe that was helpful. I don’t know. I mean, being traditionally published, I was never involved. It’s actually pretty my book. So it wasn’t helpful at all,

Patricia McLinn [04:18] But that’s a great odd job that you’ve had. Okay. What’s your favorite taste?

Victoria Thompson [04:26] My favorite taste. I, you know, sweet, I guess.

Vicki Barry mysteries, the color red, and anger

Patricia McLinn [04:30] Uh, do you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?

Victoria Thompson [04:33] You know, I read so voraciously when I was a child that it’s hard to pick a favorite book, but what I do remember the book I remember most from my childhood was a series, the Vicki Barr mystery. She was a stewardess. It was sort of like Nancy Drew, except she was a stewardess. It was that same era in the 1950s.

And I had gone to the book fair at school, and I saw this book and it was, um, this character had the same name as I did. She even spelled it the same way. And, um, she was a stewardess, which was the most glamorous job you could possibly have in the 1950s. And she solved mysteries, and, um, I asked my parents for that book and, um, It was a hardcover book and it was expensive and I didn’t really hold out much hope that they get it. And they came back from the book fair without it. So, I just assumed they hadn’t gotten it for me.

And I was looking in a closet one day and I found that book, the sequel to that book in a hidden, carefully away, because they were going to give it to me for Christmas. I was so excited. So of course on Christmas morning I pretended to be very, very excited. Didn’t have to pretendto be happy. But that was like, sort of my, um, it’s sort of, I don’t, I’m not sure it’s the first mystery I ever read, but it certainly cemented my love for mysteries.

Patricia McLinn [05:55] Uh, do you know how you became a voracious reader? Was it from your folks? Or was there something else that got you started?

Victoria Thompson [06:03] I think it’s, um, I think it’s a culture that, um, that you’re raised in. My parents were both readers, and my mom, my mom subscribed to the book of the month club. So we always had, we always had in the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, she got, we always had books in our house and my mother was always reading, so, and, and they read to us as children. We had a whole shelf full of Little Golden Books. And so we always had story time before bed at bedtime and stuff. So, um, reading was just a natural part of life, I think. And, um, so as, as far back as I can remember, so I think that’s certainly a contributing factor.

Patricia McLinn [06:43] Do you have any saying from your mother or father that you hear yourself saying now?

Victoria Thompson [06:52] My mother, my mother always said, Be careful. Whenever you left the house was like a mantra for her. And when my sister and I got older, we would say no. When she’d say, Be Careful, we’d say no, just to be contrary. But yeah, that’s she said it to the day she died.

Patricia McLinn [07:16] So do you hear yourself now saying be careful or are you always saying no?

Victoria Thompson [07:20] I try not to, you know, I try not to assume something terrible is going to happen every time somebody walks out the door. So, um, no, I don’t say be careful a lot, but I do say it when it’s, um, I think when it’s appropriate. Like my daughter is out in Los Angeles, and in Los Angeles right now and there’s fires there. So I told her to stay safe, but you know, that’s appropriate. I think.

Patricia McLinn [07:47] So do you have things from earlier in life that you used to fret over that now you just don’t care anymore?

Victoria Thompson [07:54] Oh, my goodness. I guess I used to care what people think. I don’t worry about that so much anymore. Um, I reached the age where, you know, I’m old enough now I can say pretty much whatever I want. People just roll their eyes attribute it to old age. But, um, yeah, it’s a nice feeling that you don’t have to worry about, you know, impressing people anymore.

Patricia McLinn [08:21] That’s terrific. So what’s your favorite color, Victoria?

Victoria Thompson [08:24] Red.

Patricia McLinn [08:25] Do you know why it’s your favorite?

Victoria Thompson [08:27] I don’t.

Patricia McLinn [08:29] You look great in it.

Victoria Thompson [08:30] Thank you. Well, that’s probably a contributing factor, but yeah, cause I’m a winter and I do look good in red. But, I have a red Mustang convertible and just about every, you know, whatever I can, I— Actually are living room furniture’s kind of red. I just really like it. I think it’s bright and it’s a strong cover, color and hot. I, uh, I heard someone talk about, David Morrell was speaking and he said, you should, you should decide, figure out what your, what your dominant emotion of your life is. And I, I was horrified to realize mine was anger.

Patricia McLinn [09:07] Really? I would not associate that with you at all.

Victoria Thompson [09:09] Oh, well, thank you, that’s good it doesn’t show. But I’m, you know, I’m always outraged about something. Not necessarily angry at someone, but outraged about some injustice or whatever. So, uh, in fact, there’s just some stories, news stories that I don’t read and books I don’t read and movies that I watch because I know they’re just going to make me so angry that I, and then not be able to do anything about it. So I just don’t, don’t participate.

Patricia McLinn [09:35] Do you, does that find its way into your books, or do you vent in that feeling at all in your books?

Victoria Thompson [09:43] Actually, yes, um, because in fiction you can, uh, you can get people justice, but you can’t necessarily in real life. Sometimes real life doesn’t cooperate. But, um, in fiction, you can always have a happy ending. You can always get justice and things can work out and be fair, which is not necessarily true in real life.

Patricia McLinn [10:05] So that’s, that’s putting your anger into books. How about fears? Do you have any fears that slide into your body?

Victoria Thompson [10:12] Well, I’m afraid of heights. I’m terrified of heights. Sometimes I’ll give my, uh, character a phobia, because that’s kind of fun.

Patricia McLinn [10:19] Not necessarily heights or is it usually at heights?

Victoria Thompson [10:23] Heights—

Patricia McLinn [10:24] If they have a phobia.

Victoria Thompson [10:25] If they have a thing it’s not, you know, I can, I can, if I’m inside of a building, I can look out the window. But it’s, uh, I think my husband says I’m not really afraid of heights, I’m afraid of falling. So if it’s open and I could, could conceivably fall, then I’m scared. But if I’m inside of a building, like there’s a window between me and whatever, then I’m fine. So, I know people though, who can’t even go near a window.

Patricia McLinn [10:52] Yeah. I really think that glass is going to save you, huh?

Victoria Thompson [10:55] Let’s just say the chances are, I’m going to throw myself through it are pretty small.

Patricia McLinn [11:02] A lot of us writers, putting myself into this because I definitely do have a bad habit word or two that crops up in our, our writing. It’s a crutch and most of us have to go back and take it out. And, if we’re aware of it, do you have a bad habit word? Will you confess your bad habit word to us here?

Victoria Thompson [11:25] I do, but it varies from book to book, so, for some reason, I’ll get stuck on, on a phrase or a word and keep using it over and over again in that book and then never, it’s never a problem again. But, uh, um, one, I remember one book, it was, the word was like, and I was in a critique group. This was years ago when I was writing historical romance and I had a critique group. And they said, You know, you’ve used like twenty, you know, thirteen times on this page. And I’m like, What? And I’ve used its various meanings too, but, you know, but I never did that again.

Um, but I think because I was conscious of it from then on it. Sometimes it’s that I tend to overuse that a lot. Um, and I just got a fan letter the other day from someone who said, Do you know that you use the phrase or something, um, which, you know, like, blah, blah, blah, or something, um, twenty-seven times or whatever in this book?

And it was like, Oh my gosh, if only my editor had caught that before it got published. And I noticed the book, I was, I just finished last week, um, I kept, I got a feeling that I was using of course, a lot. But, you know, people would say something and the reply would be of course. And I thought so, um, so I just was conscious of it and I cut it out a lot of them so that it wouldn’t happen. But yeah. The answer is yes.

Patricia McLinn [12:48] That’s particularly difficult when it changes in the book.

Victoria Thompson [12:50] Exactly, because you don’t really notice, not necessarily.

Patricia McLinn [12:53] It’s a moving target. Yeah. Well, we have a question from a reader that I will start you off with. That, um, it’s related to, but not exactly a question that we get a lot. And she says, where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Gaslight series, Murder on Union Square, and Counterfeit Lady series like Robin Hood

Victoria Thompson [13:21] Usually from research for me. Um, I create, you know, I’ve written the Gaslight series now it’s twenty-one books long. And, um, so when I want to, so the characters are pretty much set, their world is set.

Um, and when I want an idea for a story, I just start researching wherever we are in the timeline. Um, what happened at that period of time. What was going on in the world? And usually that’ll trigger something, some idea, because there’s always something interesting going on in the world. If people, what were people thinking about? What were they talking about? Was there a scandal? Was there, you know, something, something new invented. Just anything could be a trigger like that. So that’s what I do. I just, when I’m ready to get an idea, I sit down and, and start reading research on that era.

Victoria Thompson [14:15] In the Gaslight series, um, the, the book I just finished, which will be out in May, um, Murder on Union Square, is, uh, it’s September of 1899. So the next book is going to be set at NewYyear’s time. And when the century turns. They already know some funny things that happened at that time. So those are the things that are going to go into the next book.

The, my other series is a completely different series and it is the heroine of the Counterfeit Lady series is a con artist reformed con artist, I should say. And so each book will feature a different con that she is using her talents now for good. And the second book I just finished, uh, she tucks, she mentions Robin Hood. Someone said, Oh, you’re like Robin Hood or robbing from the rich to give to the poor kind of thing.

And, uh, except she’s robbing from the evil people to give to the good people that they’ve cheated kind of thing. So she’s getting people’s money back from, for them, that kind of thing. And, uh, So I just research, um, books about conmen and, you know, come up, read a story about a real con that happened and think, Hmm, how could I adapt that for this book? So that’s where I’m getting the ideas for that series.

Patricia McLinn [15:32] And when is that series set?

Victoria Thompson [15:34] That’s series, it starts in 1917. The first book is set in November. So the second book is in January of 1918.

Patricia McLinn [15:43] So we should compare notes at some point because my mystery series Caught Dead in Wyoming, the sleuth is a TV reporter and she’s working at this little tiny station. She’s been sort of exiled there from her high flying career on the East Coast. And she is put in as the consumer affairs reporter. So I’m often dealing with a scam that she’s either actually covering or using as a blind for her boss to pretend she’s covering to, to do these other things. It’d be really interesting to know if some of the same cons slash scams have endured for a hundred years.

Victoria Thompson [16:23] Yeah, I mean, it’s really, there’s really basically three big cons that exist. One is the stock market scam. One is a race, like a fixed race, um, I can’t even remember what the third one is, but they’re just really, so what you have to do is sort of fudge. And, but a lot of these scams don’t work anymore because the technology has changed so much. So they, people are more creative nowadays, I think.

Patricia McLinn [16:53] Or the, or the people who call up and say, um, We’re with Microsoft and you have to do, pay this and this and this or your computer—

Victoria Thompson [17:01] Right. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [17:02] —won’t work anymore. I know somebody who told them that they didn’t own a computer and the person started arguing with them. What do you mean you don’t own a computer? Everyone owns a computer.

In your research, have you ever had research that messed up your, your projected plot? Or I guess if you’re doing it early enough, it’s not going to be a dead end.

Victoria Thompson [17:25] No. And since I get my ideas from the research, then it’s, it meshes much more easily that way. A lot of times though, I’ll um, I’ll be writing a, a line… I did this several times in the book I just finished, I’m like, um, I needed a place, I needed them to use a safe deposit box. So I’m like, did they have safe deposit boxes in 1918? I had no idea. Luckily they did. So…

Patricia McLinn [17:52] Where you’re suddenly questioning things that you take for granted now. Yeah. So once you’ve done the research, how do you start actually writing the story? Do you start at the beginning, do you outline, do you just start going?

Victoria Thompson [18:08] Well, when I first started writing, um, I was a plotter, and I would completely outline the entire book before I ever would sit down to write. And the book was essentially finished in my head and I was just typing it up so other people could read it too. Um, that was how I did all my, uh, romances.

And then when I started writing mysteries, I can’t even remember how I wrote the first mystery, if I, um, I just sort of did it by the seat of my pants instinctively. I’m a, I’m an intuitive learner, which means that reading how-to books don’t really, doesn’t really help me.

Victoria Thompson [18:49] I just, you know, I read a lot of fiction and, and I’ve sort of instinctively figure out how it’s done subconsciously. Um, like when I wrote my first book, I, I just knew from reading the hundreds and hundreds of books in my life that you end a chapter with a cliffhanger. Um, you know, that wasn’t something I read in a how-to book. I just knew that that was how you write because good books are always written that way.

Um, I knew, you know, I just knew how, uh, the rhythm of the plot should go because that’s how having read so many books, you just know instinctively where the crisis should come. And so when I started writing mysteries, that was, um, I just sort of relied on that instinct that I had from having read so many in my lifetime.

Victoria Thompson [19:42] And, um, and then I’ve, um, because I teach writing too, I’ve worked out, uh, a system for doing the mysteries now. And I come up with a list of, I figure out who the victim is, and then I figure out five people who wanted that person dead, who had motive, opportunity, and then I give them each a, a secret, which is either connected to the murder or not connected to the murder, but makes them look guilty because they have the secret.

So that is the basis of my plot. And when you have all that, You pretty much have outlined it. You, you know, you can just, uh, you figure what clue, you know, what, what you want to reveal when, and that’s how I write those, the mysteries.

Patricia McLinn [20:31] So you know that before you start writing?

Victoria Thompson [20:34] Not always. Sometimes I don’t know people’s secrets at the beginning. Usually I know their motive and their opportunity, but sometimes I don’t know their secret. And so they’ll tell me as I’m writing along, um, sort of comes up in the conversation.

Patricia McLinn [20:51] It’s interesting that you’re doing less outlining in the mystery, because one of the things that, that, um, held me back from starting mysteries, I’m a real pantser, and everybody said, Oh, you, but you have to plot mysteries. And it wasn’t until I thought, Well, wait a minute, I’m not actually writing any mysteries by thinking I have to plot them. So it can’t be any worse if I try pantsing it, you know, what do I have to lose?

Victoria Thompson [21:23] You know, I mean, I, I have a lot of friends through the years who say, if they know how the book is going to end, they aren’t interested in writing it anymore. So that would be, yeah, it would be critical that you don’t know how the book ends. Um, I don’t even know how, uh, who the killer is. I used, I mean, when you’re writing a romance, you know, if the couple is going to get together and live happily ever after in the end, so that’s all you really need to know. But in a murder mystery, you kind of have to know who the killer is by the end of the book. But I, I set it up so that everybody had motive and opportunity.

And, um, so they all had it. You don’t have to decide right away. You can, uh, you can wait to decide until close to the very end of the book who the actual killer is. And that also helps create suspense too. If the writer doesn’t know, then, I mean, what I, what I discovered writing the first couple is that if I knew who the killer was at the beginning of the book, I made it so obvious that I had to change it anyway, so I just didn’t decide until pretty far into the book who the killer is.

Patricia McLinn [22:27] And a little over a year ago, I was working on a book called, um, Look Live, and I knew who the killer was, which is rare. And I’m writing along and I’m thinking, I’m going to be done ahead of time. And then the one I thought was the killer ended up dead. And I can remember sitting and looking at the screen going, This is a problem.

Victoria Thompson [22:52] Exactly. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [22:54] So what I took from that as a lesson is don’t think things out ahead of time. It just is a waste of time, but, so what is your favorite part of the process? What’s your favorite part about writing?

Victoria Thompson [23:09] My favorite writing quote, which I think is another one of the questions, but it’s from Dorothy Parker, and she says, I hate writing, but I love having written. I think most writers feel that way. I, you know, writing is, it can be fun. I mean, let’s face it, sometimes it’s just so much fun, but a lot of times it’s like pulling teeth too. It’s not always fun, but what is really fun is typing The End and knowing you’re finished and having written a book. That’s the best part for me.

Patricia McLinn [23:41] Then, do you celebrate when you finished?

Victoria Thompson [23:45] Um, I went out the other day and bought clothes, went shopping, treat myself to, you know, just be good to yourself, do some, do fun things. You know, that I, that I enjoy doing.

Patricia McLinn [23:58] Do you have something that really cool that you did one time?

Victoria Thompson [24:00] I think I went on a cruise once or I’ll go on a trip, you know, try to finish up. So then when we go, I usually planned trips ahead of time, but knowing that I have that to look forward to, that’s my reward, when I finished the book kind of thing.

Patricia McLinn [24:13] Do you need deadlines? Or do deadlines add more pressure for you?

Victoria Thompson [24:18] I need deadlines. Um, I’m not sure, it’s just too easy to not write if you don’t have anybody waiting for it. I don’t always meet them, but it does keep my nose to the grindstone.

Characters keep adding up, superstitions come true, no room for everyone

Patricia McLinn [24:33] Do you miss your characters after you’ve finished a book? Now I know you’re doing ongoing series, but you have characters who appear in some books and, and, uh, not others. And this, this is a question from a reader who says she does miss the characters. So I’ll, I’ll give that part away. Um, but do you?

Victoria Thompson [24:52] Oh, my Lord, yes. I have put too many, I’ve created too many recurring characters. Um, there were in the beginning, it was Frank and Sarah and Frank was, Frank has a son, and his mother lives with his mother who takes care of his son. And Sarah was childless, a widow and estranged from her parents. So it’s a very small world in that first book.

But then Sarah makes up with her parents. So she has her parents in, to deal with. And then her, um, nosy next-door neighbor, who gets involved in some of the mysteries, and her next-door neighbor has a son. And then Sarah picked up a, um, an orphan, an orphan child and she couldn’t leave the orphan child alone, so she had to get a nanny for the orphan child.

And then Frank needed a cohort at the police department, so he got Gino as his sidekick. And Gino’s in love with the nanny now. And it’s like this, you know, it just got bigger and bigger, and I get fan mail that says, So-and-so wasn’t in the last book. What were you thinking? I didn’t have room. There was no reason for this person to be in this stories.

Patricia McLinn [26:07] The readers are not going to be very understanding if you start killing off any of those characters.

Victoria Thompson [26:13] Oh, I wouldn’t dare kill any of them. Heaven above, no. But I did get, I did have now Sarah and Frank are married and they all live in the same house. Sarah and Frank and his mother and, and his son and her daughter and the nanny. So that’s six people that live in their house, one house. So that makes it a little easier to get everybody.

Her parents still live somewhere else. And the next-door, the next-door neighbor now lives across the street. So cause they had to move to a bigger house obviously because of so many people living here, you know.

Patricia McLinn [26:45] You’re going to have them have their own village pretty soon.

Victoria Thompson [26:47] Exactly, it takes a village. Yes. Um, and my, the neighbor is superstition, superstitious, and I started by having her, um, quote some kind of superstition in every book, which seemed like a really great idea in the beginning, but I am running out of superstitions. I mean, I have books and books of superstitions, but you’d be amazed at how few of them work in an urban setting.

Most of them require some kind of nature or, you know, uh, exterior birds or bees or wildlife or plants, or, you know, so it’s hard. People say, um, you could make them up and I could, except I can’t just make them up. I just I’ve tried, and I’m just, my brain just doesn’t work like that. So it’s um, so Mrs. Elsworth always has to come by at some point and spout some superstition. And her superstitions always come true. Like if she sees an omen, and whatever it is, the omen was for, happens. So, which nobody’s ever challenged me, but it’s true.

Patricia McLinn [27:58] How about having a reader contest?

Victoria Thompson [28:00] I should. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [28:01] Where they give you, uh, superstition ideas.

Victoria Thompson [28:05] Ah, yeah. Well, you know, I get the same three every time. I actually have tried that on Facebook, and I say, what are some superstitions? And you know, he’d throw the hat on the bed, shot salt over your shoulder, breaking a mirror. I mean, I’ve used all of those so…

Patricia McLinn [28:24] Well, there are a lot of, there are a lot of superstitions about New Year’s, and if you’re doing the end of the year, that should give you, New Year’s is the only time in the year ever that I eat pickled herring and I still do it under protest, but it’s, I don’t know if it’s a family superstition, but it’s a superstition that you have to, that has to be the first thing you eat in the new year.

Victoria Thompson [28:47] Oh my goodness. Yeah, the Pennsylvania Dutch say pork and sauerkraut, which is not too bad. I actually liked that. So, in Texas it was black-eyed peas.

Patricia McLinn [28:58] No, I think I’d take pickled herring over that. Yeah, black-eyed peas is a big one. The other thing is you have to go out and you make noise, and then the first person back in the house has to be a dark-haired man. Well, there’s a fair amount of gray going on with the dark-haired man. One time we made a family member back in to the house where the dark hair was. So superstitions can be fun, at least for, for observers of the writing process.

Victoria Thompson [29:30] Unless you scour, unless you realize, Oh my gosh, Mrs. Elsworth hasn’t shown up yet. I have to find a superstition. So everything for three days, while I scour all these books looking for a superstition.

Patricia McLinn [29:43] Before you wanted to be a writer, did you have something else you wanted to be, or, or, and when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Victoria Thompson [29:50] Well, I don’t think when I was young, I never really thought of writing as a profession, uh, a job. And, you know, I grew up in the 1950s, my goal was to get married and have children and be a housewife. I was not planning on having a career at all at first. So, um, and then as I got older, I decided I wanted to be a nurse. And I actually picked the college I went to originally because they offered nursing. but by the time I got to the college, I realized that the sight of blood may be faint. And you had to study science to be a nurse. And I wasn’t that interested in science at all. So once I figured out those two things, I thought, Nah, nursing is not for me.

And at that time, they’re, really the choices for career for a girl were teacher, nurse, or secretary. Couldn’t be a nurse already decided that, and I didn’t want to be a secretary. So that left teacher. And I did sort of like teaching. So I, that’s what I majored in, in school. I was, uh, I always say I’m a retired English teacher. I taught one year and retired. It was quite a nightmarish experience that I still have nightmares about.

But, um, teaching writing since 2000 and that’s been, and informally before that for many years. Um, so yes, I really do enjoy teaching. So, uh, it did work out in the end, but it took a long time.

Patricia McLinn [31:21] And a lot of us are involved in teaching writing in that informal way, but you did it in a very formal way. So tell us some about that.

Victoria Thompson [31:31] Um, well, the, I teach in the Seton Hill University and at Seton Hill. And it’s located in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh. There is a Seton Hall in New York City, but that’s not it. Okay. So don’t correct me. You’d be amazed how many people say I know it’s Seton Hall, but no, no. There is Seton Hill.

And Seton Hill has a master’s degree program in writing popular fiction. It was the first in the country that focused on popular fiction. Most writing programs at the university level are focused on literary fiction and are very, very, um, snobbish about popular fiction. Don’t even accept people who write popular fiction. Um, so ours was the first program and I was recruited, I think, in the second term that they offered this program.

Victoria Thompson [32:30] And, and I started in, uh, January of 2000 teaching in the program. And it’s a, it’s a low residency program designed for people who can’t take two years out of their lives to get a master’s degree. So you only have to be on campus for a week, each semester, and then you go home and we, and um, you come for the week and you take classes, and then you’re assigned a faculty mentor, and you go home and every month you write pages.

A certain number of pages and turn those into your mentor who critiques them for you. And you take online classes as well for, um, during the semester. So, uh, by the end of the two and a half years, you have a completed manuscript, hopefully suitable for publication at that point. So it’s a really great program for people who are serious about writing and want to write popular fiction. And we accept people from all, all the genres.

Patricia McLinn [33:20] And so it’s open to people outside of the United States, as long as they can come and spend this week on campus?

Victoria Thompson [33:25] Yes. We’ve had people from Russia, people from, um, Austria. Those are just the ones I happen to know, but yeah, you can come from anywhere, from all over the world, but you do have to come to be on the campus for the, for that week.

Patricia McLinn [33:39] What has surprised you, uh, from the teaching angle? What, and have you, have you learned things about your own writing from the teaching? And what, what things have surprised you about this teaching in this program?

Victoria Thompson [33:54] Uh, the reason I keep doing it, even though it doesn’t pay very well and, uh, it’s a lot of work in it doesn’t pay well, but it’s, it’s really, really, really rewarding. Every time I would think, Oh, you know, I should probably flip this and I think, Oh, I miss it so much because it’s so to go to the campus for that one week and be with, be with the other teachers and be with the students who are so excited and so invested.

Um, and to remember what it was like to be a, uh, unpublished and, and to be brand new in this business and innocent and, uh, and, and teaching really does keep you on your toes, you know, you’re, cause you catch yourself falling into bad habits. And, um, it just keeps my writing fresh because I always have, I’m, I’m always criticizing someone else’s work and it’s so much easier to see faults in other people’s work than your own.

So, um, it keeps my attention on the things that are important. So there’s that. And it’s just fun to have students who get pumped to see them go through the program and then get published. One of my students has a book coming out this month, her first book, and she’s contracted for three different mystery series. It’s cool, which is really unusual for that level of success. But, you know, she asked me to give her a cover quote for her book. And I was like, I’m thrilled to do that. That was just so exciting to see people coming through and, and, um, having success.

Teaching writing, using many ideas or only one, refusing help with your writing

Patricia McLinn [35:29] So when you, when you’re looking at this student’s works, can you spot story ideas that just are not going to work? You know, the writer can be talented, they have the, the ability to do the writing, but you can see that that story isn’t going to carry it?

Victoria Thompson [35:48] Oh, yes. Um, you see every possible kind of mistake that people can make. And I think, you asked me, I think the original question was what is surprising. And I think what a surprise, been surprising to me is that, um, when you point out these things to people, you know, like you say, this character, isn’t appealing, this plot element isn’t going to work, this whole plot idea isn’t going to work. Nobody’s going to buy it. Nobody will publish it. Nobody will read it if you publish it.

It’s, um, when you point these things out to people, some people are like their aha light clicks right on. And they say, and you know, part of my job as a teacher is not only to point out the errors, but to suggest ways to fix it. And so I always like editors who will, you know, they say, This is, this is wrong in your book. And here’s an idea for fixing it, but then they don’t expect me to necessarily use their idea.

Victoria Thompson [36:44] But then their idea gets me thinking in a whole other direction and I come up with a better one of my own. So, I expect my students to be able to do the same thing, but some people can’t. Some people, um, I mean, come in the program and with an idea, one idea it’s been their idea for their entire life and their dream is to write this story.

And they’ve come to you to figure out how to do that. And when you tell them the story is not going to work, they don’t want to hear that. And so they’re reluctant to change the story in any way or to think about it any, in a different way. And some people don’t make it through the program because they’re unable to accept criticism and improve their work based on other people’s suggestions, which is pretty critical if you’re going to be published.

Patricia McLinn [37:40] Yeah. Well, that’s, that’s true if you’re going to have a career as a writer, but that’s very different from having one, one story idea that has—

Victoria Thompson [37:51] Right.

Patricia McLinn [37:52] —you know, taken up space in your head. Um, because I think a lot of us who do it as a career have many, so we have more, more ideas than we could possibly finish in a lifetime.

Victoria Thompson [38:03] And I think that’s also, that’s also the problem with people who come with one idea is that they think that’s the only idea they can ever have, and they may be right about that. And so there, I think it’s a fear that if they let that go or change it in any way, it will slip away from them and they all, and it’ll be over.

And, and for some people that may very well be true, they have one idea and that’s all they’re ever going to get. But real writers, oh my gosh, we get so many ideas that we couldn’t possibly write them all. I think that’s where you separate the real writers from the, from people with an idea.

Patricia McLinn [38:44] I remember a session at, um, Novelis Inc. long time ago. Um, long, long time ago. I want to say, were we ever in San Francisco? Hmm, someplace like that.

Victoria Thompson [38:56] Gosh, not that I know of. San Diego.

Patricia McLinn [38:58] Maybe it was the one in Vancouver. I know it was on the West Coast. And the question was asked, you know, the group of us all sitting around in a, in a circle. And the question was asked if you had a choice, would you rather be a career writer or have one huge hit. And, and never write another book again, but that one book would set you up. You’d be rich. You know, you wouldn’t ever need money again. And I was stunned that a few people said the one big book, I, it never occurred to me that—

Victoria Thompson [39:38] —that anyone serious.

Patricia McLinn [39:41] Yeah. Would want, would want that option. And I, uh, It was a good lesson to me that not everybody thinks the way I think. What a concept.

Victoria Thompson [39:53] Right. I mean, I’ve been around a long time. I published my first book in 1985, and I remember I went to my first Romantic Times conference before my first book ever even came out because I was writing for Zebra, and which was at that time was Kensington. And, um, and they had a, the Kensington authors had a fashion show and they invited me to participate. So we all dressed up like our heroines of our books and were in this fashion show.

And I look back on all the women that were in that fashion show with me, all of whom were at that point in time, much more successful than I. How many of them had stopped writing at some point along the way. And I, you know, I actually had an opportunity to stop writing when I got dumped by my publisher and I couldn’t, couldn’t publish historical romance anymore because my sales were too low and nobody else would take me on, and I could have given it up.

Victoria Thompson [40:54] I had to get a job a day job anyway. And I could have just packed it in and said, No, the heck with this, but I couldn’t. I just, I couldn’t stop getting ideas for stories. I could not even think of myself as someone who wasn’t a writer, it just, you know, wouldn’t compute. So I just kept plugging away until I finally, um, had success again in mystery and got published there. But a lot of people who started out with me in the business, quit at some point. And God bless them, if you can do it, fine.

Patricia McLinn [41:29] Yeah. Well, and I look back and I see people I thought were they, and they were doing so much better than I was—

Victoria Thompson [41:37] Oh, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [41:38] —at various times. And they aren’t, they aren’t around anymore. Um, for a variety of reasons. Have you ever gone through a period where you didn’t write for a while?

Victoria Thompson [41:50] Yes, I did. Um, actually. Well, I used to take off half the year and not write when I was working full-time. Um, I’d write for the first six months and then take the second six months off. I was just, so just get one book a year, um, just because it was so hard because when you’re writing, you go to work all day, come home, eat dinner, and sit at the computer and write until bedtime. And all weekends are taken up with writing too, and you don’t really have a chance to live a life. So, so you need that time. So now I’m writing just in the daytime. Now that I’m retired from my day job, I just write in the daytime.

So I, in the evening I can watch television. I can relax. I can read, I can do whatever I want and I can take days off if I need to. And that sort of thing. But, um, and you know, I’ve been chasing rabbits and I can’t even remember what we were talking about originally.

Patricia McLinn [42:50] About taking time or, or going through a period where you didn’t write.

Victoria Thompson [42:54] Where I didn’t write, yes. Uh, well, when I, when I lost my publisher, um, and this was the late 1990s and, uh, I couldn’t, it wasn’t that I wasn’t writing. I was, um, I was churning out proposal after proposal sending them to my agent and she was sending them out and they were getting glowing rejections left and right. I did have to take some time at that point.

And I remember I was so stressed and so, such a wreck because, you know, it’s, it was, it was very traumatic being dropped by my publisher, and a career I thought I would have for the rest of my life. And, and even though I was still writing it wasn’t, nobody was interested in publishing it. So I had to step back and think, Okay, what am I doing wrong here?

Um, and I needed to, I needed to reboot myself essentially. And one of my friends who, um, who, like me, very practical and very skeptical of all the touchy-feely stuff, said I needed to do The Artist’s Way, needed to read that book and go through the program. And I resisted for several months, but then several other friends who didn’t know that, that the original friend had suggested it, were suggesting the same thing to me.

Victoria Thompson [44:13] And I thought, Well, This, obviously this is something I need to do if everybody thinks it is. And people who, um, who were like me and were not touchy-feely, and, you know, were skeptical about this kind of thing were telling me to do it. So I bought the book and I did, did The Artist’s Way program and it, it successfully rebooted me. And not only that, but it led to me, um, getting the mystery series.

And, uh, I, I found a letter that I had written to my agent, but I’m, a cover letter because back then we had to do things by snail mail and I’d sent her a proposal. And, uh, I wrote her, the cover letter said, this is because I’ve been doing the writer’s Artist’s Way. It’s all synchronicity.

So yeah, that’s, but yeah, it, it’s, it’s, I know writer’s block is a definite thing and what it really is, is burnout. When you’ve gone to the well too many times, without letting it, giving it a chance to refill and refresh. It’s, you just have to be good to yourself.

Patricia McLinn [45:20] How did you make the decision or, or what, what took you from writing it, knowing that the historical romances weren’t working, um, for the market, guided you to historical mysteries?

Victoria Thompson [45:34] Okay. So I was trying to write a contemporary thriller, um, uh, romantic suspense. And I actually wrote several, um, one of them was optioned and, uh, the producers sold the option to ABC and they wrote a script. Then it was never made into a movie. Um, I got really glowing rejections on that. Everybody, my agent loved that story. She sent it to every publisher known to man, and I said, Are we trying to set a record here, being rejected by every publisher? And she said, Yes.

I think it was rejected by just about every publisher and they all, none of them said exactly what they thought was wrong with it. I just, I’ve figured it out later. Catherine Coulter read it for me. And she told them, I was telling her about it, and she said, Well, if it comes back again, send it to me and I’ll see if I can figure out what’s wrong. And, and, um, when she, after she read it, she said, I think you must’ve done something really bad, and God punished you by giving you the idea for this story.

Victoria Thompson [46:33] I reminded her of that years later. She’s like, I didn’t really say that, did I? But yeah, it was fatally flawed, she figured it out, um, what the fatal flaw was, but nobody else could. The editors couldn’t figure it out, they just knew instinctively there’s something wrong with it, they didn’t know what it was.

So anyway, um, so I had been doing this and, and, you know, I was sending these proposal after proposal, and I sent this one to my agent, and she calls me and she said, You know, with just a few minor changes, this could be a launch book for a mystery series. And I said, the thirteen stupidest words I’ve ever said in my life, I said, Eww, I don’t want to be stuck writing the same characters over and over.

Victoria Thompson [47:17] So I did not take her up on that. Um, I probably wouldn’t have been that successful as a series in any event, but, um, so I kept trying and trying for probably another year. And then I, uh, I was actually at a conference for my day job in Chicago of all places where I live now, but, and I got a message to call my agent. And I, uh, I had to wait until I had, uh, some time off and we were, we had an afternoon off and we had gone down to The Miracle Mile to shop, and I was in the food court where there were payphones. Cause we didn’t have cell phones in those days.

I called my agent, you know, it’s noisy and I got my finger in my other ear so I can hear her. And she said she had had lunch with an editor from Berkley who was looking for an author to write a series set in turn of the century New York City, where the heroin is a midwife, would I be interested in giving it a shot? She had been trying to talk me into trying it, doing a mystery series for a long time, and I’ve been resisting and resisting, as I just explained.

Victoria Thompson [48:23] Um, but by then, I was so desperate to be published. I would have done anything. So I thought, Okay, I’ll give it a shot. And it was set in turn of the century in New York City. My daughter had just started school at NYU. My husband and I had walked around Greenwich Village. We’d even bought a couple of books on the history of Greenwich Village, just because we were interested. Um, I was working for the March of Dimes. Some of my volunteers were midwives, and I thought, This is kismat.

Patricia McLinn [48:52] Yeah. Yeah.

Victoria Thompson [48:53] So I, um, so I wrote a proposal and, um, sent it to them and they bought it. And that, I added a few tweaks. They wanted, they wanted the, uh, heroin to be the poor relation of a rich family, but I made her the daughter because, uh, uh, she needed to be able to go, move in all social classes easily. So I made her the daughter of a rich family and, uh, I knew she needed a sidekick. And that a midwife probably would not be coming across a lot of murders in the general course of her life. So I gave her a police detective to be her partner because it’s his job to solve murder. So the two of them between them manage, always managed to stumble across the body in the course of there work at some point.

Patricia McLinn [49:46] Do you ever struggle with the, the dichotomy of the real world calendar and how it runs versus the fictional world calendar where you’ve, you’ve written twenty-one books in how many years?

Victoria Thompson [50:04] Twenty-one years I’ve written them, but it’s covered, they met in April of 1896 and now it’s September of 1899. So it—

Patricia McLinn [50:17] So does that ever blow your mind? Do you have trouble with, with the timeline?

Giving the characters time to get themselves together after life-changing events

Victoria Thompson [50:23] Well, what I used to have trouble with it in the beginning, after about five or six books, I started getting fan letters that asked, When Frank and Sarah are going to get together? And I would say, You know, it’s been five years for you, but it’s only been six months since they met. So it’s really… And they’d be, Oh, really? I didn’t’ realize that. So…

Patricia McLinn [50:42] Uh, I’m getting that with, with my sleuth, who, um, in story time has been divorced for now exactly a year. And she’s met, she met these two guys basically seven or eight months before, and a few readers, not many, but a few are like, Well, how much longer do we have to know which one she’s going to go with? And why isn’t she over this? And I’m thinking, come on she—

Victoria Thompson [51:11] Yeah. Give her a break.

Patricia McLinn [51:13] Yeah. Give her a chance to, to really get her feet, and, you know, they say when you have these major life changes such as moving and, or divorcing that you should wait a full year before making big decisions, but…

Victoria Thompson [51:26] Right, at least.

Patricia McLinn [51:28] She’s practical. She’s going to do that.

Victoria Thompson [51:30] Right.

Patricia McLinn [51:31] She may wait longer. How do you like that? Sometimes I think, I’m just going to make you wait.

Victoria Thompson [51:38] That’s right. That’s right. Well, I made my readers wait like fifteen years before Frank and Sarah finally got together, but it was only like, two and a half years for them.

Patricia McLinn [51:49] How has having them be married changed the books?

Victoria Thompson [51:53] Oh, it has been wonderful because they have, I mean, they’re together, first of all, they don’t have to figure out ways to be together that are proper. They sleep together now, so they’re sharing a bedroom. Um, And, uh, and they, and, and I had to, um, in order to get them married, I had to figure out a way to make Frank socially acceptable.

And that was, he came into some money and because he was rich, he, the police department, uh, he could no longer work there. Um, it was just, people were just, the other employees were just too jealous of him. So he couldn’t, he couldn’t work as a police officer anymore. So he, but he didn’t want, wasn’t interested in becoming the idle rich.

So he opened a detective agency. So now he can pick and choose. He can get justice for people that the police department wouldn’t mess with. Um, you can do all kinds of things so that that’s opened up a lot of possibilities as far as the kinds of cases that he can take. And he doesn’t even have to worry if he gets paid or not, because he’s rich so he can help poor people as well.

Victoria Thompson [53:00] And Sarah naturally helps them because they’re married. And I don’t have to figure out a way for her to get involved every time, which I used to have to do because she, they weren’t married and she was not involved with the police department. And there were reasons, many reasons why she shouldn’t be involved.

Now, it’s just, you know, he’s always worried about her safety, but other than that, that’s about the only hang up, uh, so it’s, it’s opened up all kinds of, uh, of opportunities for them.

Patricia McLinn [53:31]Well, that’s encouraging. I’ll have to keep that in mind, when I think about mine.

Victoria Thompson [53:36] Yeah. And actually it rebooted the series because everything’s different now. The whole dynamic is different now.

Patricia McLinn [53:42] That’s cool. And how have readers reacted to that?

Victoria Thompson [53:45] They seemed very happy that they finally got together. They were getting angry before. In fact, that was why I finally figured that I had to get them married because I don’t normally read my reviews, but I, for some reason was an Amazon and happened to catch site of some reviews of the latest book, and people were just like, I’m never reading this series again. I’m so mad, you know, fifteen books in one kiss and blah, blah, blah.

And I was like, ah, I gotta get these people together. It’s just cruel to make, and, and it, it was getting very awkward after awhile, you know? I mean, there were many reasons that they couldn’t get married, but still it was, they, they probably would have stopped seeing each other would have been too difficult to continue because if they weren’t going to get married.

Patricia McLinn [54:32] Yeah. In addition to your readers agitating for, for them to, to come together and get married, do you have other, um, reactions from readers or have you had encounters or, um, special letters?

Victoria Thompson [54:46] I haven’t had anybody not like the fact that they got married. I think it was just so, people were just so desperate, but you know, it’s really ironic when I, cause I was came to mystery from romance and, and my editor and my agent and everyone warned me. You have to be so careful in mystery because mystery readers don’t like romance in their mysteries.

I can’t tell you how many people told me that. And I’m like, I don’t think so. I think what they don’t like, they don’t want it to be a mystery, a romance plot. They don’t want the romance to take over the story, like it would’ve in a romance. But they really do like relationships. They like their characters to be real and have real human relationships and romances, or one of them.

Victoria Thompson [55:34] And so, so I, and it was really hard writing that first book, because if it had been a romance, those two people would’ve gotten together by the end of that book and lived happily ever after. So I had to keep them apart, but it was obvious, and they were so different, and the relationship was so interesting, and the people had so much room to grow and it was just so cool.

And so I started getting fan letters, and every fan letter I got would say, I really liked this or that, or blah, blah, blah, and when are Frank and Sarah getting together, I mean, that started immediately with book one. And so I knew I hit the right balance there then, they, they wanted a relationship. Maybe they didn’t want romance, you know, the whole sexual attention stuff, or, you know, they might not like that part, but they did want, uh, those people to fall in love and get married and live happily ever after and keep solving histories. So it was, yeah, that’s how it came to be.

Patricia McLinn [56:34] Well, I have some more questions from readers that I am the designated question asker on their behalf. Um, one question is she says, when the cover image doesn’t match the character description, a pet peeve of mine, how does it feel for the author? How does the author react to that?

Victoria Thompson [56:55] My very first novel that I ever wrote, um, my very first published novel, the hero was named Dusty Rhoades, and he had red-gold hair, when I got the cover he had black hair.

Patricia McLinn [57:12] Oh no.

Victoria Thompson [57:13] Yeah, oh no. And it was imperative that he have red-gold hair. So they sent it back to the artist and the artists put what might be highlights there. It was pathetic. So I felt really bad, really bad. And then I had another hero who was prematurely gray. He was like 28, but his hair had turned gray. So, and it was like a joke in the beginning of the heroine meets him, and she thinks he’s an old man, because he has gray hair and, um, so she’s not at all interested in him. So, um, that was just sort of a, a little joke.

And, uh, um, so I get my, when my editor calls me, she says, we love the book. We’re going to buy it, and he can’t have gray hair on the cover. So they made him blond, I think. And then, you know, I got letters, all kinds of letters. They always blamed the author for these things. You know, my husband used to say that they made you fill out these forms with the description of the character so that they, to make sure that the people on the cover look nothing like the people in the book.

Patricia McLinn [58:19] It felt like that, didn’t it? Yeah.

Victoria Thompson [58:23] It does sometimes. And I’ve been very lucky, I’ve only had a couple instances, like the ones I just described. However, on my brand new series that just launched in November this month, the heroine has dark black hair and blue eyes. And when I got the cover, the heroine has auburn hair and she was beautiful. Just. Beautiful.

And my agent is like, you have to change her hair. And I’m like, I know I have to change her hair. It’s just, the cover was just so breathtaking that, it only required a couple of changes in the text. So I fixed it pretty easily. But, uh, and, and I did a signing for it not too long ago. And, uh, I was chatting with some, some of the readers and they were looking at the cover and she said, I’m so glad she has red hair.

Patricia McLinn [59:18] Oh, well, that’s good.

Victoria Thompson [59:19] Not in the beginning. So sometimes, you know, it’s fate, it’s just have to—

Patricia McLinn [59:26] Yes. Yeah. I don’t know that, well, it depends on at what point I knew her hair color cause sometimes certain pieces of the characters come to me and they’re so it’s so strong and so vivid, I cannot change it.

Victoria Thompson [59:41] Right. Right.

Patricia McLinn [59:43] You know, it could be, it could be that he wears a brown bomber jacket or that, you know, he has a dog named Chair or, you know, whatever it is, but that, that cannot change. Everything else could change about them, but that can not. So…

Victoria Thompson [59:57] Yeah. But when I saw that cover, I knew that was Elizabeth. Now Elizabeth has red hair, apparently. I didn’t know.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:03] There you go. Okay. So, what is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view? That’s what a reader asks. And then I would expand on that and ask if you have a writing routine.

Victoria Thompson [1:00:17] Okay, I have a writing nook in my house and I, you know, I started, when I started writing, a computer was a big clunky thing, a tower and a keyboard and a monitor, and you had to have a desk. You couldn’t sit on your couch and write. Um, there were no such thing as laptops. So that’s how I started writing was sitting at a desk and writing. And even today, even though, um, even though I have had many laptops now, go through many laptops in the course of my career. I used them as my tower now. I plug my keyboard and my monitor into my laptop and I write at a desk.

Now, if I do my email or something, I can take my laptop and go sit in the recliner. But, but if I’m writing, I really do need to be at a desk. And in my writing nook, I have liked that, it’s like an office. I love my bookshelves with all my research books. And I have a file cabinet with all my files and, uh, all my writing awards hanging on the wall.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:18] And is that the view?

Victoria Thompson [1:01:21] And I have no view I’m facing a blank wall. So, uh, just cause I’m not distracted, I don’t want to be distracted. I have a beautiful view if I turn around, I’ve a, my backyard and there’s a Lake back there and it’s really lovely, but I don’t… You know if I want to stare at that, I go sit on the patio. I need to not be looking at the view.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:40] I can sort of understand that. Although I like to see outside. But I purposely do not have my, um, office at the front of the house because I’d be watching what was going on out there distracted by that.

Okay. Here’s another question from a reader. If you could write a book with any author alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Victoria Thompson [1:02:03] That is so hard. I, my, my instinct is to say Mary Higgins Clark, just because I admire her so much. But you know, the truth is I’m such a control freak that I can’t imagine every working with someone else to write a book. Cause it’s my way or the highway. I’m not going to compromise for someone else. So the answer to that question is Mary Higgins Clark if I had to, but probably wouldn’t happen.

Patricia McLinn [1:02:35] That’s, that’s an interesting insight. Yeah. Cause it does specifically ask, you know, who would do work with, cause there’d be lots of people it’d be interesting to talk to.

Okay. Among your books, which one is the best place for a reader who’s new, new to you to start?

Victoria Thompson [1:02:54] It sounds very cliche, but um, I would always recommend that you start at the beginning of the series. Um, although you can read my series out of order. Um, I don’t give away, you know, previous cases. I hate when that happens, you know, read a book, read a series out of order, and you already know who the killer was in the previous book because you just read it in this book. So I never give away the solution to other books.

But the, book one is Murder on Astor Place. It, it, you know, it’s the book that introduces the characters and explains how they got together and why they worked on their first case together and that sort of thing. And it builds from then. And then you get to watch the relationship develop over the course of the series.

Patricia McLinn [1:03:37] And what’s, what’s the title of book one of the new series?

Victoria Thompson [1:03:40] Book one of the new series is City of Lies, which is brand new, right, just been out a few weeks. And it’s a, it’s a completely different kind of series. One of the reviews said if you’re, you’re expecting, uh, a dead body and five suspects, you’re going to be disappointed because that’s not what this book is about. This is a different kind of book. It’s a lot of fun. It’s funny. It’s an, and very interesting, I think because of, uh, the cons and the way they work and you get to see how conmen actually operate and, and how they think. Which has been fun for me to research.

Patricia McLinn [1:04:22] So that, that the title then refers to the, the lies of the cons.

Victoria Thompson [1:04:27] Exactly. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [1:04:29] Okay. And what else, what’s coming up next?

Victoria Thompson [1:04:33] Uh, next I have, uh, the Gaslight series. The next book is Murder on Union Square. And in that book, Frank and Sarah are ready to adopt the little girl that Sarah has taken in because according to what they believe, her parents are dead. Both of her parents are dead, and so they, um, they think that they can adopt her. But they find out when they go to adopt her that, uh, the law considers this other man, who was the man who was married to her mother, to be her legal father, even though he’s not really her father at all. So they can’t adopt unless he relinquishes his rights to her.

And so they go and ask him and he agrees. But when Frank goes back to have him sign the papers, he’s dead, he’s been murdered. And so Frank is accused of murdering him and they have to figure out who really killed him to, uh, Clear Frank’s name and to enable them to adopt Catherine.

So, uh, and then the next book in the, uh, in the city, in the Counterfeit Lady series will be City of Secrets and, uh, And that’s, that book will involve, Elizabeth will be, uh, she’s engaged to the hero at that point. I’m not going to make the mistake I made in the first book when she was going on for years, knowing him forever. So she got, he proposes to her at the end of book one, but from, for many reasons they cannot get married right away. So, um, and they can’t even announce their engagement because she was engaged to someone else. It’s very complicated. But anyway.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:14] When does that book come out?

Victoria Thompson [1:06:17] That book will come out about next November and then Murder on Union Square will be out in May of 2018.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:24] And readers can find out about these releases and other things about you and your books. Where’s the best place?

Victoria Thompson [1:06:31] Um, you can go to my website, victoriathompson.com. Or you can follow me on Facebook. It’s Victoria Thompson.Author. Or you can follow me on Twitter. Um, Gaslight VT, and I guess you’ll have those posted somewhere.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:47] All the URLs will be in the show notes. And, um, people, where it’s so much easier to—

Victoria Thompson [1:06:51] Right.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:52] —follow, then listening to them and doing them. So I’ll ask you, is there anything I should have asked you that I haven’t?

Victoria Thompson [1:06:58] Oh gosh, I can’t think of anything. You’re very thorough. I don’t think I have any secrets left.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:03] Well, we’re, we’re going to do a few more. We’re going to do these rapid-fire ones.

Victoria Thompson [1:07:09] Oh, God.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:10] Um, and so it’s they’re either or questions. Not, not real serious.

Victoria Thompson [1:07:14] Right. Right.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:15] You can just answer. So we’ll, let’s see, we will say tea or coffee?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:21] It depends on the time of day, coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:27] You troublemaker.

Victoria Thompson [1:07:28] I know.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:29] Sailboat or motorboat?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:32] Sailboat.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:33] Day or night?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:35] Night.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:36] Cake or ice cream?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:38] Ice cream.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:39]Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:43] Toenail polish.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:44] Dog or cat?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:46] Dog. I’m allergic to cats.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:49] Ohh. Cruising or backpacking?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:53] Cruising.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:55] Gardening or house decorating?

Victoria Thompson [1:07:59] House decorating.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:00] Paint or wallpaper?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:02] Paint.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:04] Good. Appetizer or dessert?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:09] Desert.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:10] I’m with you. Heels or slippers?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:13] Slippers. I don’t even own heels anymore.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:18] Binge watch or make the watching last as long as possible?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:22] Binge watch.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:24] Okay. So then, uh, I’m guessing we might know that, but we’ll try, save the best for last or grabbed the best first?

Victoria Thompson [1:08:32] Save the best for last.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:34] Well, thank you so much, Victoria. It’s been a lot of fun and I hope everybody has enjoyed the, your visit to Authors Love Readers, and will come join us next week for a new interview. And have a great week of happy reading everybody.

That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me. At www.patriciamclinn.com.

You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


Episode 8: It’s Like a Dream, with Anne Gracie

Host Patricia McLinn talks with Regency historical romance author Anne Gracie about Anne’s writing process, characters, and love of her craft.

You can find Anne on:

*her website,

*the Word Wenches blog,

*Facebook, and


Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers anne gracie


authors love readers patreon


Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Anne Gracie

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Anne Gracie [00:23] I’m Ann Gracie, and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:28] Now, Let’s start the show. Hi, welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers podcast. Today we have Anne Gracie all the way from Australia by the wonders of technology. And I am delighted to have her here with me. Anne and I met— Do you realize I was thinking about this? It was ten years ago because it was the Novelists, Inc. conference in San Diego, the year that I was president of Novelists, Inc. So I remember that.

Anne Gracie [01:05] Oh, I do.

Patricia McLinn [01:06] Precisely.

Anne Gracie [01:07] Yes.

Australia, Enid Blyton, and Georgette Heyer

Patricia McLinn [01:08] And then in, um, August of 2015, I was in Australia and New Zealand and Anne was the best hostess and the best representative for Australia and Melbourne while I was there. And, uh, I will never forget you keeping me awake to fight the lag after the 30-hour trip.

Anne Gracie [01:31] It was actually the obligatory piece of torture.

Patricia McLinn [01:37] But it was all worth it, it was all worth it. So, Anne writes historicals and we will get more into that. But first I wanted you all to get, uh, get to know her a little bit, and I always find out interesting things from these, from these answers. So let’s start with. Did you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?

Anne Gracie [01:58] I wouldn’t say that there was ever one childhood book, but, you know, I suspect it was probably A. A. Milne. My parents and my older brothers and sisters, uh, used to read Winnie the Pooh stories to me, uh, before, when I was about four. And the poems I can still recite all of A. A. Milne’s poems, uh, off my head. And then as soon as I learned to read, which was just before I went to school, I devoured my oldest sisters and brothers books.

Uh, and a lot of them were written by Enid Blyton. Who’s, who was an English author. And she wrote endless series. And, and with all kids having adventures, and I just devoured those books. And I think just about every English writer would, would be the same thinking about their childhood books. I think everybody read Enid Blyton in England and Australia, not so much as America because I don’t know that they were even published there.

Patricia McLinn [03:04] Yeah, I, um, I know her name, but I don’t think I ever read her books.

Anne Gracie [03:08] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [03:09] I know I didn’t as a child.

Anne Gracie [03:10] We know The Famous Five and, and, uh, the adventure books and yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [03:13] Did you hear of the Bobbsey Twins?

Anne Gracie [03:16] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [03:17] That was something I read.

Anne Gracie [03:18] Yeah, my eldest sister had those because, my sister used to read a book and that was it, but I, I had to always have a book on the go. So I read everything. I read my brothers, you know, stories, everything.

Patricia McLinn [03:31] Yeah, I read those, um, my, my older sister had them too.

Anne Gracie [03:35] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [03:36] And so I inherited those and The Borrower’s Afield. I love that story.

Anne Gracie [03:42] Yeah. Lovely. There’s actually a whole series, there’s about four books, I think.

Patricia McLinn [03:47] I know. I love those. And all The Wizard of Oz books. Not just The Wizard of Oz, but there was a whole series of books.

Anne Gracie [03:56] Oh, I knew nothing about those.

Patricia McLinn [03:59] So you should go back.

Anne Gracie [04:01] Yeah. Well, there are a number of, um, I think one of the reasons that I’m such a historical writer, when I was about eleven, I discovered Georgette Heyer. And you know, I never went back. You know, I still re-read her. I think that, and I read a lot of other historical novels. For me, historical novels weren’t about history, they were just stories in a different time and place. And that’s still how I think, I don’t understand it when people say, Oh, I don’t read historicals. I think, Oh, really? That’s odd.

Patricia McLinn [04:34] So I have to ask, which is your favorite from Georgette Heyer?

Anne Gracie [04:37] Oh.

Patricia McLinn [04:38] You say Higher or Hair?

Anne Gracie [04:40] I say Higher, like lots of people. She apparently at some stage said they called it Air. Um, but I think the original, her grandfather was German, I think, and there was an attempt to make it not sound so dramatic in World War I and II. So I don’t really know. But I say Higher, I’ve always said Higher. She’s not going to hurt me if it’s Higher. And as far as, uh, my favorites, I dunno, I have so many I love. The Unknown Ajax, which is just very funny and very clever plotting. Probably the most romantic is, uh, Damerel it’s call The Nation is the book and Venetia is the heroine and Damerel is the hero and he’s gorgeous. The Convenient Marriage, which is about a very young—

Patricia McLinn [05:30] Angsty.

Anne Gracie [05:31] Yeah. Yeah. Uh, Friday’s Child is another young bride, but some very funny minor character things. Oh, there’s just so many. A few of hers were not successful for me, but most of them they’re just fabulous.

Patricia McLinn [05:49] See I, my absolute favorite is The Talisman Ring.

Anne Gracie [05:52] Oh, really? Yeah. Yeah. I love that line—

Patricia McLinn [05:55] I love that one.

Anne Gracie [05:56] Yeah, yeah that line when she’s, the young girl who’s not the heroin, uh, is talking about, um, asking the very dour hero, wouldn’t he feel sorry for her to see a young girl go alone in a tumbril, going off to have her head chopped off, and he says, I’d be sorry for anyone. He’s completely failed to see that romantic in her. It’s lovely. There’s some lovely humor.

Patricia McLinn [06:20] Yes, it’s wonderful is that, see the, I love the humor.

Anne Gracie [06:24] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [06:25] I also love her, um, mysteries—

Anne Gracie [06:27] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [06:28] from the 1930s.

Anne Gracie [06:29] Yeah, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [06:30] Terrific.

Anne Gracie [06:31] Rather good, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [06:32] I enjoy those a lot. Well, we got way off. Okay. I’m going to ask you another question. What’s your favorite taste?

Anne Gracie [06:37] ah, oh, salty-sweet, maybe. But, ah, look, I’m more a savory than a sweet. One of my favorite indulgences, and it’s, people will probably yak at this, but anyway, it’s a, a French pasty sort of thing called Anchoïade and it’s anchovies and garlic and capers and you smear, and they’re all mashed up together and you smear it on hot toast. And I like just adore it. Okay. Um, but the other alternative is chocolate of course, chocolates.

Patricia McLinn [07:14] Oh no. I think, I think that may be one of the times I would pass up the chocolate.

Anne Gracie [07:20] Yeah. Yeah, not together, separately.

Patricia McLinn [07:24] Okay. Okay. So what’s your favorite color and why?

Anne Gracie [07:30] Probably blue. Blue’s the most, there’s so many beautiful variations of blue. Going from that they almost start at lilac down to sort of almost purple, like yeah, so many blues. Both of my parents had blue eyes, I’ve got blue eyes and my dad used to have, wear blue shirts and blue jumpers and stuff and it just, I just loved it. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [07:55] Okay. Blue is for you.

Anne Gracie [07:59] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [08:00] Do you have anything that you remember your mom or dad saying at, at, you know, uh, saying that they had, and now you hear yourself?

Anne Gracie [08:10] Yes. And it’s so silly. Um, I hear it, when, when other people’s kids are talking to their mothers, and it’s what Dad used to say to me, Don’t talk to your mother like that. And I want to say then, Don’t talk to your mother like that. And then I laugh because it’s just so silly.

It’s like they’d say when particularly, you know, repetitious about things. There was a, a thing on the web, uh, on, on Facebook recently where someone said, You know, what did your parents often say, and I said, Clean up your room. I’m sorry, if you want something philosophical, Clean up your room. I think it’s still appropriate.

Patricia McLinn [08:55] Well, in a way that is philosophical.

Anne Gracie [09:00] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [09:01] Stand in for many other things.

Anne Gracie [09:03] Absolutely. Yes. We’ll take it metaphorically as well as literally.

Patricia McLinn [09:08] Yeah, right. Do you have anything from, um, earlier in your life that you used to fret over that now you think **blows raspberry** who cares?

Anne Gracie [09:17] Yes, sort of what strangers think. When I was a kid, we moved a lot. And so I was very concerned about fitting in and not so much these days, you know, I’m quite happy for people to just take me as I am.

Patricia McLinn [09:38] That’s what, that’s a wonderful achievement.

Anne Gracie [09:40] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [09:41] That so many of us don’t achieve it.

Anne Gracie [09:43] Yeah. Well, you know, I, I suppose because I’ve left so many people behind in my life, I just realized that the important ones will stick.

Patricia McLinn [09:51] And you think that’s because of, because you said you moved?

Anne Gracie [09:55] Yeah. We moved a lot.

Patricia McLinn [09:57] A lot?

Anne Gracie [09:58] Yeah. Yeah we moved a lot. And, and, you know, in life you just realize that there are some people who are important. You know, I’ve got friends now that I made good friends with when we were 15. And, you know, and we’re still good friends. And I went to, uh, I’ve been to a couple of reunions lately. One was a school reunion, and one was kind of like a student house reunion. And in both instances, I just reconnected with those people so well, so easily. And it was lovely. So the important people will stick.

Patricia McLinn [10:35] Well, that’s a good approach. Okay. Shifting a little bit. Um, most writers have a bad habit word. And if you don’t, I don’t want to hear about it.

Anne Gracie [10:47] Okay. I surely do.

Patricia McLinn [10:51] Yeah, my list just and really. Oh, I use them all the time. So what, bare your soul here, Anne. What are your bad habit words?

Anne Gracie [11:01] Oh yeah. Well see, when you said your bad habit words. I thought Facebook.

Patricia McLinn [11:07] Oh.

Anne Gracie [11:08] But the word I overuse, yeah, I think, I think probably just and only, yeah, yeah. Uh, look, I’ve got lists of the rotten things, and I do, do a, a go through, and I think I, there are certain phrases that pop up every book and that’s a new phrase per book, almost.

Patricia McLinn [11:32] Yeah.

Anne Gracie [11:33] I had to weed out a few in the latest book that I’ve just sent in. Um, her eyes were quite often wide and fathomless, and, and I had to do a search for wide and fathomless and take some out. But, you know, it’s just, yeah, I just get little quirks that pop up in every book.

Patricia McLinn [11:52] I remember in one of my books, I had this poor woman smiling so much I thought her mouth is going to start, you know, just having cramps.

Anne Gracie [12:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, ,yeah, that’s true. I do that too.

Patricia McLinn [12:09] Now, you’re left-handed or right-handed okay?

Anne Gracie [12:12] Right-handed.

Patricia McLinn [12:14] On that hand, which is longer, your index finger or your ring finger?

Anne Gracie [12:20] Index.

Patricia McLinn [12:21] By a lot?

Anne Gracie [12:23] Not a huge amount, but there’s no doubt. It’s probably maybe quarter of an inch.

Cary Grant, writing with eyes closed, The Autumn Bride, The Perfect Rake

Patricia McLinn [12:29] I, I just find that fascinating. There is no useful purpose for asking this question, I’m just interested. And here as a question that I think will let the readers get to know you better. What three movies would you take with you to my very strange desert Island that has a mechanism to play movies, but only three?

Anne Gracie [12:50] Desert Island with no running water, but, uh, movies.

Patricia McLinn [12:54] Right. None of that stuff, but you can watch three movies there forevermore.

Anne Gracie [13:00] Love Actually would have to be one of them. Uh, you know, I can watch that endlessly and still really enjoy it. And maybe While You Were Sleeping, that movie reminds me of what I’m doing when I’m writing. And I’ve possibly also because I’ve used it a fair few times, uh, as an example for when, uh, when I’m teaching writing. So, and so, and I’ve just written an article that, that refers to it, so that’s probably in my head.

Ah the third one. That’s very hard, I don’t know. Um, I’m going to, I’m always bad with favorites whenever I’m asked a favorite anything. I have a little baby meltdown and say, Oh, what about this? But it could be that. And then there’s the other, I’ll just pick one. I’ll pick one of Cary Grant’s, uh, the old, black and white ones. Um, well, maybe not black and white, they might’ve gone in color, but yeah, an old Cary Grant romantic comedy, I just adore Cary Grant. I think he’s a darling.

Patricia McLinn [14:02] I, that, one of my very favorites is His Girl Friday.

Anne Gracie [14:06] Yes. Yeah, that a beauty.

Patricia McLinn [14:08] The dialogue and that.

Anne Gracie [14:10] Yes, yes.

Patricia McLinn [14:11] Oh my gosh.

Anne Gracie [14:12] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s wonderful. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [14:14] Yeah. Okay. So this question comes from a reader. And she asks, Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Anne Gracie [14:32] I often from most of my books and certainly for every one of the books that sparked the series, I, it’s not a dream, but it’s like a dream and it comes to me on the, when I’m about to fall asleep or when I’m just waking up and I’m in that dreamy state. And a scene will come to me and it starts rolling in my head like a movie. And I have learned to, this is a tragic admission, but I sleep with a notebook and pen next to me.

Um, and I can actually write whole pages with my eyes still closed, uh, and be able to read it in the morning. Um, and most—

Patricia McLinn [15:19] That’s a terrific skill.

Anne Gracie [15:22] —um, for example, in The Autumn Bride, which was the first book of my Chance Sisters series, there’s a scene where the heroine climbs through a window. She’s, she’s at an absolute desperation point and she’s climbed through a window of this house in order to steal something small to sell and pay for a doctor to see her very sick sister. And instead of finding something to steal, she finds an old lady in a terrible situation. Now that, that scene came to me in that exact sort of dream-like state. And I’ve got it, you know, it covers about four pages in, uh, in a notebook.

My first book for Berkley, which was The Perfect Rake, the scene where, where the hero and the heroine first meet, that’s another one that came and I have got their, their meeting, their whole conversation. That was about five or six pages. Uh, and it’s almost identical to what was in the book.

And then, when I get that sort of thing, I think, afterwards they stay with me for a while, cause usually it’s a scene that’s not related to the book that I’m writing at the time and, but it’ll stay in my head and that will take nagging at me to write until I know the longer it stays there, the more it, it impels me to, to write. And so then when I come to write it, I sort of think, Well, who are these people and how do they get in this situation? And where do I go from here?

Patricia McLinn [16:58] I have so many questions to ask you off of that. Are they always scenes at the beginning of books?

Anne Gracie [17:05] No. No. My very, very first book, um, which was called Gallant Waif, and it was a RITA finalist for best first book, that has a scene almost at the end. It’s the ballroom scene, if anyone’s ever read it. And it’s the, it’s pretty much the heroin’s black moment where the thing that she sees most has come to pass. And that is right at the very end of the book. And again, that’s about five or six pages in a notebook that came to me in that way.

And when I came to decide what I was going to do with that, uh, I thought, hmm, this is not, you know, it’s quite an intense thing. It makes people cry a lot of readers say, and, and I had to get, work out who the characters were and how they got to that point, And it was quite a journey. To get to that point.

So, yeah, it’s not always the meeting of the all right. With the all lady, the, the girl climbing heavy, um, privately through the window and the old lady, that comes for about three or four chapters in, if they’re not all straight away, they’re not the opening scene necessarily. They’re just a crucial scene.

Patricia McLinn [18:20] So do you have some of them that you you’ve written down the scene, but you haven’t quite found the story that—

Anne Gracie [18:26] Oh, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [18:28] that. Okay. And you hold on to those then.

Anne Gracie [18:30] Yeah. Look, when, when, um, my one time, I know when my editor was saying, Well, you know, you’re finishing up this series, what’s going to be next? And I said, Oh, I don’t know. And, and because I didn’t have a particular one in mind. And so I went through my notebooks, I’ve got a stack of those notebooks that I’ve got so many story ideas, um, and half done stories and things there isn’t, you know, I could be going till I’m a hundred and eight. Um, probably won’t.

Patricia McLinn [19:02] From that initial story… How many of you books have come from, uh, from a scene like that? What percentage? Do you half of your books?

Anne Gracie [19:10] Yeah, no, I-I’ve never worked it out. I’ve, usually if a series starts with that, those books, those scenes are always the most powerful, whether they’re the most powerful in the book, but sometimes I’ll just have little, little scenes will come and, and bits of story or bits of scene.

You know, if I’m, if I’m immersed in the story and try to get to sleep or just waking up, sometimes the whole conversation between the hero and heroine will come and I’ll just go brum brum brum brum brum. And sometimes they’re, they’re the funniest or the best chit-chat, you know, better nosh. Um, uh, what do they call it? You know? Yeah. When, when it’s backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards and sometimes that’s just the best.

Patricia McLinn [19:59] Yeah, and it really catches, catches the core of their relationship.

Anne Gracie [20:03] Yeah, yeah. And it’s fun. Um, and, um, at that stage, my pen is absolutely flying to keep up with the conversation that’s happening in my head. So I couldn’t, I wouldn’t know how many, what percentage, but it’s a big part of my process. It’s much more a part of my process then logically sitting down and plotting out a plot.

Patricia McLinn [20:24] You know, the characters names at that point?

Anne Gracie [20:26] No, no I don’t.

Patricia McLinn [20:28] Okay.

Anne Gracie [20:29] Um, sometimes they declare themselves pretty quickly sometimes I think, Oh, I think she’s named so-and-so, and then she will refuse to answer to that name. Until I find the correct name. Yep, yep.

Patricia McLinn [20:39] Yeah. Early on in my books, there’s a lot of she and he, and it’s a good thing I know who they are because—

Anne Gracie [20:47] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [20:48] —it can be a little confusing.

Anne Gracie [20:50] Yeah. I usually start with a name, but then it becomes pretty clear that they’re not going to work or then they don’t like it. Um, I’ve had a series of Adams as, as heroes and they’ve never, they’ve never lasted past about chapter three, Adam just is never going to be one of my heroes it seems. I keep trying because I quite like the name. But no, no, sorry I’m not Adam, go away. Go find out who I am.

Patricia McLinn [21:15] So when you have that idea and it’s time for that, to deal with that book, you know, you’ve, you’ve finished the other one because those things almost always come when you’re supposed to be doing something else, don’t they?

Anne Gracie [21:28] Oh, yep.

Patricia McLinn [21:29] So, but you’re, you’ve got that scene, you’re coming, you’re going to deal with that book. How do you then take it from that scene, to a complete story?

Anne Gracie [21:40] With great difficulty.

Patricia McLinn [21:44] And many months of agony.

Anne Gracie [21:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. For me, it’s always how I have to cast around to find the starting point of the story and my stories don’t usually start out with a bang. Uh, I’d hope that I start with a whimper, but no. Um, they, it takes me a while to find the right thread and to start at the right angle so that you’d get to see the characters in the way that I want you to see them.

And then I do a lot of what ifs, and what’s next. And sometimes characters will come up with just something, you know, something will pop out of their mouth or they’ll say something and I’m thinking, Oh, this isn’t where I want it to go at all, but it’s right for the character, so I have to go there. So yeah, I push on and see, and I do a lot of rewriting, but yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [22:42] At what point in this process are you telling your editor what you’re going to write? Because it sounds like a synopsis would not be very, um, informative, for you.

Anne Gracie [22:54] No, well, it is and it isn’t because the synopsis is so, it’s reasonably general. I devoutly hope that my editor doesn’t sit there and compare the, the final story with the synopsis. And I definitely hope she’s not listening now.

Um, yeah, I’d look, my, I have to put in a synopsis for a proposal pretty early in the piece because they use that for the cover design and to start working out a back cover blurb. Um, it’s my best guess. And in, in general, there, there is some similarities. The act is kind of there. I know where they need to end up, but it’s how they get there, that’s the difficulty.

And you know, I’ve done, once I’ve got the synopsis in, done, I don’t actually worry about it until they stop doing the back cover blurb. And then I have to know a whole lot more. And usually I’m not even finished the story by the time they’ve got the cover and the back cover blue, it’s known as pressure.

Patricia McLinn [24:00] And, and that leads to a question from one of the readers who kindly volunteer questions. Um, and she asks when the cover image doesn’t match the character description, and she says that’s a pet peeve of hers, how does it feel for you? The author?

Anne Gracie [24:19] Okay. I’ve never had a character that looks completely wrong. Like I’ve, you know, I’ve had some of my friends have got redheaded heroines, who’ve got black hair or, you know, I’ve never had that. Uh, that said pretty much all of my cover people are not exactly how I’ve seen them. I was one of the earliest authors to have the headless heroines and heroes.

Patricia McLinn [24:47] Is that because you didn’t know what color hair they had yet?

Anne Gracie [24:51] No, no, no, no. It was just that it was just the time, you know, that was the new thing. Um, An Honorable Thief was the, was the book. Um, and then An Honorable Thief, you know, his and hers heads are chopped off. And that, a lot of people hated that. I didn’t mind because I thought it doesn’t matter, what the book is, the way I imagined the hero and the heroine and not even my books, any books, uh, they never are the person on the cover. So I’m very philosophical about the cover as long as it’s pretty and attractive and worth picking up, I’m happy.

Patricia McLinn [25:31] That’s very sane.

Anne Gracie [25:33] Yes. Well, you know, I’ve had to be. But a couple of times I’ve got the, the cover early enough to have, uh, cause often I’ll get brides on the covers and I’ve been able to incorporate the description of the bridal dress on the cover.

Patricia McLinn [25:47] Oh, nice.

Anne Gracie [25:49] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s been fun when I can do that.

Patricia McLinn [25:52] So as you’re, as you’re progressing through this book, you’ve, had, you’ve had this sort of waking dream scene and you’re trying to figure out what brought those people to that point and what, how they’re going to go on from there. I often liken that by the way, to eavesdropping on people in a restaurant that you see this vignette, and from that just that little bit, you can pick up a lot of what got them there.

Anne Gracie [26:20] Oh, yes.

Patricia McLinn [26:21] And you can speculate on what’s going to take them.

Anne Gracie [26:24] Yeah, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [26:25] Yeah. But yeah, if, as you’re going on with the process, which parts do you love of the process and which parts do you hate?

Anne Gracie [26:32] Easy. I love the bits where it’s going well, and I hate the bits where I’m struggling. Really that’s true. That’s, that’s it, you know, when it’s going well, I’m really happy when it’s not going well, I’m miserable. Um, and I’m all, but I always get to a point three-quarters of the way through the book where I’m certain I’m never going to make it work. And my writing friends are really, really helpful on this. I go to them, and I say, Oh, this book is going to be terrible, and people are going to hide it. I’m never going to win. And they say this really helpful advice. And you always say that, shut up.

Patricia McLinn [27:10] So much sympathy.

Anne Gracie [27:14] Yeah, that’s right. And you know, but I still firmly believe that, that, that struggle at that point makes me go deeper into the story and work harder at it and, and fix the things that my instinct tells me are not working and that everyone else says is okay. Um, and, and I think it makes it more biddable. So I think angst and me in the writing process are a partnership.

Patricia McLinn [27:44] Sounds like almost every book surprises you.

Anne Gracie [27:48] Um, yeah, look, I don’t think I’ve never found in a book. I’ve never just thought, Ah, look, just get it finished. Get it gone. I try, I, yeah, I’ve really worked at it. I love, I love the books. If all in love with the characters and I want, I want it to be right. I want it to be like they’re stuck in Vegas. So, yeah.

Single books into a trilogy, a trilogy into a quartet, the Chance Sisters series

Patricia McLinn [28:08] And that leads to another reader question who asked if, um, you as an author, do you think about the characters after the book is done? Do you wonder, you know, how they’re doing or do you know how they’re doing, and has it ever led to another, you writing a sequel, another book?

Anne Gracie [28:27] Yep. Look, my first books for Berkley. I wrote four books for Harlequin, and my editor did not want me to do any series at that point. And so the book that I sold to Berkley, I actually started with the intentions, sending it to Harlequin. Uh, but as always, my books were too long and I had to cut them, and I was another book that I was going to have to cut 40,000 words off to fit the Harlequin links, and I just thought, I don’t want to do that.

And I wasn’t, it wasn’t contracted. And so I ended up selling that book to Berkley. And the first thing my editor said when I talked to her about it, she said, which girl’s next? Because I had the, the heroine for that was the oldest sister, the plain sister in a family of, of pretty girls. And, and so it was about her, and I hadn’t even thought about the sisters at all.

Anne Gracie [29:23] And so, Oh, okay. Well, we’ll do something about the sisters. And so that was the editor sort of asking me, and that was contracted as a three-book series. And then there was a young, the youngest sister who was just a child in that first book and readers kept writing to me about it.

And, and I had so many letters, I mentioned it to my editor. And she said, go ahead, write Grace’s story. So that was a four-book trilogy. And then the next series that I had was to be a four-book series and it was a five-book quartet. With the—

Patricia McLinn [30:04] Math challenged, Anne.

Anne Gracie [30:05] Yep. Ah, with the Chance Sisters series that I achieved a full book quartet. Um, that’s only because I reckon it was, each one was a seasonal bride. So I had autumn, winter, spring, blah, blah. So there’s not that many extra series. So, ah, that restricted me. Seasons, sorry, extra seasons. Yes, they do, they do haunt me and, and these days, um, I’ve got a whole lot of half-started shorts, other stories that were not contracted.

One of them in particular, Marcus’s story, I get reader letters for him all the time. When are you going to write Marcus’s story? And I promise I’m going to write it, but it’s just fitting it in between the other things. And, and at some stage I’m going to write it and I’ve got the story in my head and bits of it on paper.

But yeah. Yeah. I just haven’t had the time to sort of put it together because, my head space is weird and I can only write one book at a time. So yeah. And I have to do the contracted ones. Some people will do several books at a time, and, but I’m not like that.

Patricia McLinn [31:12] Yeah. I’m one of those. But then, now when you, when you have these, you haven’t named the characters yet and say you, you name a secondary character and then subsequently realize, Oh, that person is going to be hero or heroine of another book. Have you ever gotten yourself in trouble with naming them or giving them a foible or, you know, creating the, the secondary character who you think, Oh, they’re just sort of a walk-on. And then they won’t let, walk off.

Anne Gracie [31:44] Oh, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [31:46] your own book.

Anne Gracie [31:47] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [31:48] And then you think, Why oh why did I do this with them? Have you ever had that?

Anne Gracie [31:52] Yes. And, and I have it all the time. I have to prune back minor characters all the time. And in one of my books, the Honor— Honorable, was it the Honorable Thief? No, it was The Perfect Waltz. Uh, in The Perfect Waltz, I had a secondary romance with the, uh, the hero, the hero’s best friend and his original intended heroine.

And, uh, and it was just a little bit of fun on the side and so many people said, We want their story. So, yeah, these days I think with independent publishing becoming a reality, if I can get my act together, I can write some of those stories and make them a bit shorter.

Patricia McLinn [32:33] Oh, yes.

Anne Gracie [32:34] And still publish them. Um, but you know, at the moment, it’s a theory rather than a practice.

Patricia McLinn [32:42] Well, that leads me to actually kind of two questions. One comes from a reader, and she asked, What is your favorite place to write and why? And does it have an inspirational view? And, and then from that, I want to ask if you have a writing routine.

Anne Gracie [32:59] It changes, my favorite place changes. Um, I, currently I write on a laptop on my bed and I’m looking out the front window of my house, which is a lovely bay, big bay window. And my dog sits in the end, on the end of the bed, on her corner and watches for, um, enemies like cats and people and warns me of their imminence.

Patricia McLinn [33:30] Yes.

Anne Gracie [33:31] Um, another favorite place to write is my local library, which has nice comfy chairs and small desks. And I, and I go there when, particularly I go there when I’m stuck. Um, and I hand write, I don’t take my laptop. I don’t play on Facebook or Twitter or anything like that. I just hand write, and my rule is that I’m not allowed to leave the library until I’ve got three pages. And this is, this is a large sort of spiral back notebook, and three pages nearly always turns out to be a thousand words or more. And often I’ll do a lot more than three pages. Once I start, I just, I’m off and running.

Another place, favorite place to write, I’m very lucky and I go away on a writer’s retreat with a small group of friends with, we’ve been doing it for ten years. We had our 10th anniversary in March and that’s how I knew it was ten years since we met, Pat, because after the very first one, I went to San Diego and to NInc. So, yeah, so we’re coming up to our 11th.

Anne Gracie [34:38] And, uh, and we go to the, we go up to the Gold Coast in Queensland. It’s, we have an apartment building right on the beach. We each have our own apartment. A couple of them share a two-bedroom apartment with a larger sitting room. And we all go there for meetings at lunchtime and night. And that’s a pretty or just some spectacular place.

But to be honest, once I start, I could, I could be living in a cave. In fact, I often say to people, I’m in the cave. Um, if the view doesn’t matter, the, the place doesn’t matter. It’s by a once I get started, the hardest thing is to get started. Once I get started, whoa, I’m off and running.

Patricia McLinn [35:21] I noticed you slid right by that retreat, cause I’ve been, oh, so strategically hinting that I be invited to that at some point.

Anne Gracie [35:36] But it’s a, it’s a closed group, these days.

Patricia McLinn [35:38] Um, yeah. No. These days? You closed it after I asked.

Anne Gracie [35:42] No, no, no, no, no, it’s been like that for, I dunno, about six or seven years, we kind of realized that it’s the same group all the time. And we kind of realize that so much has been shared, that it’s kind of difficult for, you, you know, other people to fit in. So, yeah. Um, that said, I am thinking of, of, uh, a couple of friends and I are thinking of organizing a different kind of retreat, uh, with a completely different group. So you’re still in with a chance.

Patricia McLinn [36:12] Okay.

Anne Gracie [36:13] If you still wanted to come.

Patricia McLinn [36:15] This one is going to be like, in a prison or something like that.

Anne Gracie [36:20] No, no, no, no, we’ll have a gorgeous spot. We’ll have a gorgeous spot and my rule is if it’s going to be retreat, it needs to be near the beach because I think water is very inspiring. You don’t have to swim, but yeah, you know, just looking at the beach and just looking out in the ever-changing water and the sea and the sky is just gorgeous and walking along the beach has just, you know, brainstorming with a friend is just brilliant, you know?

Patricia McLinn [36:45] It is. It is.

Anne Gracie [36:46] So, it won’t ever be in a hall or a prison or anything like that.

Patricia McLinn [36:51] Okay. I’ve got you recorded now, promising I’d be considered.

Anne Gracie [36:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [36:57] So how do you think you’ve changed and evolved as a writer since you were first published?

Anne Gracie [37:02] Oh, hope I’ve got better. I cut more than I used to. I think, I think look, um, I tend to overwrite. I tend to override in general and I have got better at cutting back and pruning back a lot of the extraneous stuff. Otherwise, I don’t know. I, I, I don’t, because I don’t re-read my old books because I heard someone say once at a writer’s conference that a book, as far as he was concerned, that a book is never finished. It’s just that someone takes it off him. And that’s exactly how I feel. Once it’s gone, the editors got and it’s published, I can’t change it. I’m not even going to look at it because I will want to change it. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [37:46] Yeah. Well, it’s been an interesting process with having the rights back to some of my books and putting them out because a number of them, I have felt that way, and I’ve changed some of them quite a bit. One of them, I really, in essence, I rewrote it.

Anne Gracie [38:01] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [38:02] Um, and then, and yet some of them, it feels like, Yes, I could go in and I could change things, and I’m a better writer than I am now, but they, uh, it’s uh, there’s a completeness to what it is.

Anne Gracie [38:14] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [38:15] As that finished book.

Anne Gracie [38:17] Yes. Yeah. Look, um, not so long ago, well, a while ago, Mary Jo Putney got my very first book, Gallant Waif, to read cause they put it on Kindle. And, and she said, Oh, I’ve just bought, got your first book, Gallant Waif, and I’m about to read it. And I went, Oh don’t, it’s terrible. And she read it, and she got back, and she said, You know, don’t worry. It’s lovely. It’s a book of its time. It’s, the storytelling is lovely. You know, don’t worry about it. You know, anyone will enjoy it.

And you know, she’s right. It’s a book of its time. Yeah. And the storytelling still works.

Patricia McLinn [38:55] Yes.

Anne Gracie [38:56] And the characters work and I don’t know, I’ve found it hopeless talking about my own writing, but you know, she reassured me that, yeah, it’s fine.

Patricia McLinn [39:02] Well, and as readers, we love to go back to those books written in other times, written in other, um, manners and styles—

Anne Gracie [39:10] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [39:11] —because they were the style of that time. So, um…

Anne Gracie [39:15] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [39:16] It’s just a little closer in time.

Anne Gracie [39:19] Yes, and I think, you know, something has been lost in this drive to eliminate adverbs and adjectives and, and all of that sort of stuff. I think there’s a lushness in some of those older books. I recently, re-read a bunch of Jayne Anne Krantz-Amanda Quick books, uh, from, uh, and also, uh, Elizabeth Lowell’s medieval, she did a medieval trilogy that has always been a favorite and the books are practically falling apart, and I bought them again on Kindle. And, you know, there’s a lushness about those books that’s just so, you just don’t get these days.

Patricia McLinn [39:57] I think what, one of the things I like in some of the older books is a different tempo. And I don’t want to say they’re necessarily slower, but they let characters develop over the course, and you don’t have, the course of the book and you don’t necessarily have to, to know, there’s a tendency to, especially with contemporaries, to throw author, characters into danger right away.

Anne Gracie [40:29] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [40:30] And maybe, maybe this is only me, but I think, I don’t care. I don’t know who this is. I need to know who they are before they’re in danger.

Anne Gracie [40:37] Yeah. Yeah, yeah. I completely agree. It, yeah, there’s characters opening in danger. Some people can do it really well. Dick Francis does it particularly well. Uh, there’s one of his and I can’t think of the story. Um, but it opens with a scene where the character is, uh, in a, handcuffed to the wheel of a car in the desert, sweating, um, you know, about to die first on the scene. And, but the character thoughts really intrigue you. And there’s another one. Um—

Patricia McLinn [41:12] So then you do care.

Anne Gracie [41:15] So you do care, that’s right. The character, you get to know the character by his responses. And I think that in the ones that you’re talking to… Lee Child did that with his first book, Killing Floor. Where he, you know, his character is sitting there, uh, in, in a diner, he’s just arrived, and he’s having, uh, his breakfast and, and the police cars are coming for him with guns and things. And, you know, he knows perfectly well he’s in danger, but he’s fought and he’s analyzing what’s about to happen and, and how it’s working.

You think this guy’s smart. He’s, he’s really clever and you’re with him, you know, whereas a lot of the times people are just reacting and you don’t actually get to know them.

Patricia McLinn [41:57] You have to feel the character.

Anne Gracie [41:59] Yeah. And, and I look, I did it in my Autumn Bride. Um, it was the first book of the series, and I was so worried about how readers would like that book, because as I said to friends all the time, uh, this book, isn’t really a love story between a man and a woman. It’s a love story between a group of girls, four girls and an old lady. And it kind of was. Because the hero—

I have a friend of mine, who’s an editor and a reviewer, and she said to me, came up to me at a conference later, and she said something like page 198. And I went, what, what are you talking about? And she said, When the hero arrived. And she was right. But, people really liked it.

People really liked that, you know, readers love to sort of, the relationship developing between the old lady and the girls. So they forgave the fact that it wasn’t instant love straight up. And, you know, I don’t do instant love anymore. You know, I don’t, I didn’t really ever, but you know, there was always the pressure to get them together pretty quickly. I’ll let the characters tell me now and hope that readers will follow.

Patricia McLinn [43:12] Now, are all of your books set in the Regency period?

Anne Gracie [43:15] Yeah, all my historicals are. I wrote one romantic comedy for Harlequin years ago, but didn’t continue that. That was contemporary. Um, I would love to write contemporary, romantic comedy, but I’m not a fast writer, so maybe not. Yeah. And I think it’s Georgette Heyer that, that, uh, you know, I kind of feel as though I grew up in Georgette Heyer’s Regency, so that’s, you know, it feels natural to me.

Researching, Tallie’s Knight, Grand Tour, and Egypt

Patricia McLinn [43:40] How, what’s your feeling about the research, and how do you approach that?

Anne Gracie [43:43] Okay, the research depends entirely on the book and the characters. Some, sometimes, if it’s only about the characters, you know, it’s the story is mainly about the characters and pretty much set in London, there’s not a lot of research to do because a lot of stuff that I already know. When it’s been set in wartime, I have had to do quite a bit of research and, and, and work out where people were one time and dates and battles and all that.

I set a book in Regency age, era, Egypt, uh, and that was a laugh. The research for that, it was fantastic. I used a lot of travelers, um, traveling in Egypt at that time, these days, it’s, the first one, the first book I ever had to do huge amounts of research for was, uh, my second book called Tallie’s Knight, which was set, pretty much set, most of it was on the Grand, taking the Grand Tour.

Anne Gracie [44:41] And so I had to do a lot of research for that, but what I found was a, um, uh, uh, uh, published, it was in the rare book collections of my state library, and it, it was a whole series of letters from a young woman doing the Grand Tour with a bunch of friends, writing back about the experience to her brother who was, uh, uh, apparently in Ireland.

Patricia McLinn [45:05] Oh, how wonderful.

Anne Gracie [45:06] And, ah, so yeah. And then, and that was fantastic. I ended up being able to buy that book. I bought it online from an Irish bookseller in the rare book library, but these days with, uh, the so many of those books and journals and collections of letters that are on, um, online and you can just get them. And so I had the most wonderful, you know, you can glean so much gorgeous data from those witnesses.

You know, people, if, you know, some people write really boring letters home, and others write really fascinating ones and, you know, that’s, that’s really good. So when I do do the research, it’s fun. It’s not a chore. And you know, I think people who write contemporaries have to do research too.

Patricia McLinn [45:51] Oh, yes. Yes.

Anne Gracie [45:53] Yeah. It’s a rumor that you don’t have to do as much research for contemporaries.

Patricia McLinn [45:59] Oh, no, you definitely have to do research.

Anne Gracie [46:02] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [46:03] I, I, I refer, I always have a moment in my books I refer to my granite steps moment in my books. My first book was set in Wisconsin, and I had this, it just, it’s an offhand line about them walking up granite steps to a, um, a courthouse, I think, but, uh, you know, a public building, I had the sudden fear as I’m reading over the, I think it was the page proofs at that point. Oh my God, what if for some reason they don’t have granite steps in Wisconsin.

Anne Gracie [46:37] Yep, yep.

Patricia McLinn [46:38] I don’t know why. I couldn’t think of any reasonable reason they wouldn’t. But so I’m on the phone calling, I called courthouses. Most of whom thought I was nuts. Didn’t want it. And then I had a, I had a court clerk whose son, um, studied rocks. All right. And she said, absolutely. They are granite steps. Ah, okay.

Anne Gracie [47:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [47:05] So, there is always something that you fret about, but the flip, the other side of that though, is that the, um, Regency readers are famed… Sorry for that background noise. That was my dog dropping her 18-inch long chew on the heat register.

Anne Gracie [47:30] My Milly dog is jealous of that.

Patricia McLinn [47:32] So, what I was saying is that Regency—

Anne Gracie [47:34] Yeah, the Regency readers.

Patricia McLinn [47:37] —readers are famed for knowing all of the ins and outs and the details. And have you ever been called to account by, by any of the readers?

Anne Gracie [47:47] Well, yeah, I have. Generally I get it right. Um, because, you know, having been brought up in, in with Georgette Heyer, you know, um, sort of mostly I’m right. The, there’s one in particular where I got things spectacularly wrong. And it’s the reg— It’s the research that you think you know, that you then don’t look up—

Patricia McLinn [48:10] Yep.

Anne Gracie [48:11] —that gets him into trouble. And, um, there were two things. One is I had a lemon tree growing in Shropshire, and I had a lovely English lady write and say, Look, by the way, our climate wouldn’t, would kill a lemon tree. There’s no way. You’ve got lemon trees growing, but see, the American writers did not pick that up. The American readers didn’t pick that up, it was just a local lady.

Um, my worst one was, uh, when I had my heroine’s mother, um, take a pilgrimage to Lourdes to pray for her son, she was a French woman, 70 years before St. Bernadette had her vision. And that’s because—

Patricia McLinn [48:51] Ooops.

Anne Gracie [48:52] —Anne thought she knew the dates and didn’t look it up, did she? And I had Catholics from all over the world, because I have a lot of foreign translations, I had Catholics from all over the world writing and saying, Uh umm. And I had to say mea culpa, I’m sorry.

Patricia McLinn [49:09] Mea culpa.Very appropriate.

Anne Gracie [49:15] So, yes. Um, but you know, it’s the things that you think you know and don’t look up that are most likely to get me at any rate into trouble.

Patricia McLinn [49:24] Absolutely, absolutely. To share some of your research on a blog with, um, multiple other authors, the Writing Wenches, um, how have, have you found that blogging has had any impact on your writing of novels?

Anne Gracie [49:42] Um, I don’t really think the blogging has, but for me, the, knowing the Word Wenches has been a huge thing in my writing career because in Australia, when I first got published, there were two other writers published in romance in Australia. One of them was Stephanie Laurens, who I know very well, she’s a good friend, but she was already out of my league. And the other was, lived far distance.

And I just didn’t know anyone else published in New York. Um, you know, to talk to. And so I actually met Mary Jo Putney and Jo Beverley and Pat Rice at that very same NInc conference in San Diego, where I met you. Um, and, uh, and, and, and I met, you said it was quite a small conference. And for me, that was brilliant because I came knowing nobody and, oh, no, sorry, I already knew Jane Porter. She came. Um, but yeah, I came knowing virtually nobody and I left there having made a bunch of friends, and then I went to the second NInc conference, my second NInc conference, which was in New York. And I remember you took me, you took me for a drink at the end of that, and I still owe you a cocktail, I’m sure.

Patricia McLinn [51:09] I’ll meet you back at NInc.

Anne Gracie [51:11] I’ve only fed you wine when you’re in Australia or whatever you do when you don’t feed. Um, but um, you know, being with those, that group of people talking, we talk a lot offline, online, sort of, you know, a little email group and yeah, they, I get some really good advice there. So it’s not so much that it’s affected my writing, um, but it is, it’s definitely affected my sense of my career, or yeah. Something like that.

Patricia McLinn [51:48] So more of the conversation is about career or is there also conversation about craft and getting—?

Anne Gracie [51:55] Oh, everything, everything.

Patricia McLinn [51:56] Oh, good.

Anne Gracie [51:57] Everything. You know, we’ll talk about craft, we’ll talk about dogs. We’ll talk about cats. We’ll talk about, you know, covers, we’ll talk about edits. We’ll talk about anything.

Patricia McLinn [52:07] I knew, I knew cats had to work in there with Mary Jo.

Anne Gracie [52:11] Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And I like cats. I’m just allergic to them. Yeah. It’s all sorts of stuff. And sometimes we, I’ll talk with one or two of them off, you know, in just a private email saying, you know, I’m not sure what do you think, blah, blah. Um, it’s great. You know, and, and I’m very lucky in that I get to read some of their stories before they hit the, uh, hit the stands, so that’s a little perk that we have. Um, so yeah, it’s great.

Patricia McLinn [52:38] And that for, for readers who might not be familiar, um, Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, and Patricia Rice have all also written, um, many historicals, wonderful historicals.

Anne Gracie [52:50] Yeah. Yeah. We’re, we’re actually, there’s, there’s eight of us. Um, uh, there’s Joanna Bourne as well. There’s Nicola Cornick from England. Um, there’s Susanna Kinsley, who, um, writes fantastic kind of time sleep stuff, she’s Canadian. Uh, Andrea Pickens, who also writes as Andrea Penrose and Sarah, not Sarah. What’s the, oh God, Cara Elliott.

We all, what links us all is the historical aspect of our writing. Susan King, sorry, is another one. She writes historicals, but not so much, not so much historical romance, but historical novels. So, but yeah, basically the Word Wenches are, um, historical and, uh, that’s, that’s what links us all.

Patricia McLinn [53:40] Well, as long as we’re talking about other writers, this is a good opportunity to ask a really interesting question from a reader. She says, If you could write a book with any author, alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Anne Gracie [53:56] Oh, look, I don’t know. I couldn’t, you know, take me back five years and I would have been happy to say, Oh, this person, that person, the other person. Um, but now I’ve done, I have actually written linked books. We did last a couple of years ago, the Word Wenches did a linked series of Christmas novellas.

Yeah. And, and it was really tricky as we, you know, we, it was all based around a particular event or a Christmas ball. And so just, just getting that in, I figured, Oh, it just became a nightmare at times, and it was fun, but it was tricky. And I realized how much of a control freak I am about my books. Um, and, and I think, I think everybody is. I think all writers are

Patricia McLinn [54:48] Yes.

Anne Gracie [54:49] With my friend Sarah Mayberry just wrote, co-wrote a book with, um, Sarina Bowen. And I’m a huge fan of both of them. They write contemporary romance. And I’m a huge fan of both of them. And I had dinner with, um, uh, lunch with, with, uh, Sarah recently and, and I was grilling her about how it went, and she, you know, she loved it.

She said it was wonderful and they, you know, they, it was just describing getting her to describe the process was fascinating. So yeah, I would, you know, I think I would like to, but it would just depend on who and their writing process, not so much the writing that they’ve produced—

Patricia McLinn [55:29] Oh, interesting.

Anne Gracie [55:31] —but their writing process. You know what I mean? Because, because I’m a huge fan of so many different people. And I read, I don’t just read romance. I read, uh, fantasy and crime and paranormal and all sorts. So, you know, any of those would be fantastic, but it’s, you know, I’m a huge fan of people’s writing, but I don’t know whether I would be able to work with them because it takes a certain amount of give and take.

Patricia McLinn [56:00] True. So how would you, would you, would you entertain, since this is fantasy, would you entertain, um, working with Georgette Heyer?

Anne Gracie [56:09] Having read her biography by Jennifer Kloester. Probably not. Look, I’ll tell you what, I’d probably be able to write with some and enjoy writing with someone like Mary Jo. Um, I would love to write with, I’ve got a couple of friends who write, um, contemporaries, uh, and I would love to write contemporary with some of my friends. Georgette Heyer didn’t even allow her editor to edit. Any suggestion from me, I think would come with a verbal slap.

Patricia McLinn [56:44] It would be interesting to be part of the process, you know, to watch the process.

Anne Gracie [56:50] Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [56:54] Yeah. Yeah. We may not have much input, but you wish you could. I think it would be a real interesting, um, learning experience.

Anne Gracie [57:01] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No, it would be. Um, and I think there’s nothing I enjoy, look one of the things that I most enjoy when I go on my writers’ retreat is, um, I always get together with a couple of, couple of the friends there, and we brainstorm. And I love brainstorming. And, um, I do a lot of brainstorming with friends on the phone, not just about my books, their books, too.

You know, it’s, it’s very mutual on, I do what you, you know, if I say it once, I’ve probably said it a million times to a couple of, you know, various of my friends, I’m just throwing spaghetti at the wall here, but what about, and I’ll just throw suggestions and I’m not tied to those suggestions. I’m not hooked to those suggestions. I don’t care if they say, No that’s rubbish. Um, I just love spinning possibilities. So, you know, yeah. I could work with somebody, but it would depend. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [57:59] Yeah, I, I’m probably better at brainstorming other people’s stories than having, um, brainstorming done for mine, unless it’s very specific because I have these, I have certain things that are so sharp and so clear and I can’t budge those and they could be idiotic. It doesn’t matter. I cannot budge those without losing the whole story without losing the feel of who those people are.

Anne Gracie [58:25] Yep. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [58:26] And, um, that can be difficult for other people to work on because they never know where these mines are going to be and going, Nope, he’s got to where, you know, he’s got to have a dog that has three legs, you know, that’s all there is to it.

Anne Gracie [58:41] Yeah, yeah, but that’s important, though, you know, you’ve got to, I hate doing the kind of brainstorming where you say to somebody, What about this? They’re like, Oh yeah, that’ll work. Thanks. You know, it never happens like that. With my writer friends, they say, No, that can’t work because of this. Um, and now, now I’ve done a lot of that yeah, but, no, it’s a great idea, but not for this story that, that’s not going to work. That’s not going to work with my hero. No, my hero is nothing like that. You know, it’s, it’s, that’s how it works. We all have, we’ve got to be the boss of this story because we, it’s, it’s all kinds of weird little intangible themes that make it a story and not an idea.

Patricia McLinn [59:23] That’s a great way of saying it, Anne, and yeah, I like that. So we’ve gotten all writerly here. Let’s take it back and talk some more about a little bit more about the readers. You said you have, you have letters from readers about what they, what stories they want to hear from you. Do you have, have you had other, do you have a lot of other contact with readers or, um, do you have great stories about what they’ve written to you or.

Anne Gracie [59:48] Yes. I have one in particular that was pretty funny. Um, uh, yeah, look, I, I, I interact mostly on Facebook with readers. Um, there’s a lot of lovely people who write to me and tell me stuff. And lots of people write emails, send me email cause they, they go to my website and, um, you know, anne@annegracie.com and it comes up, it comes up, um, emails. I get, I’ve got lots of emails and I try and reply to everything. Not always immediately, but yeah.

Funny email, best work behind her

Patricia McLinn [1:00:19] Any funny ones?

Anne Gracie [1:00:20] Probably, yeah. The funniest one was, this was, uh, from a, uh, professor in the U S, who wrote, I wish I could quote it, but I haven’t got it here. Uh, wrote me this fabulous letter. He just read, um, The Perfect Rake. Uh, he said, he thought I was the best writer since Jane Austin.

Patricia McLinn [1:00:47] Oh, my goodness.

Anne Gracie [1:00:48] Yes, and then he went on to say, And what must it feel like to have your best work behind you? Because he didn’t like the following book. He didn’t like the rest of the series. He didn’t like the heroes in the rest of the series. So, yes.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:07] Your best work behind you.

Anne Gracie [1:01:09] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. But you know what? He and I had a, an ongoing correspondence that lasted for quite a long time. And, uh, yeah, it’s an interesting bloke and, um, yeah, but, uh, it’s it, uh, that very first one where, you know, what must it feel like to have your best work behind you.

Patricia McLinn [1:01:29] And that is, that is, that’s so indicative of you, Anne, that you did have an ongoing conversation with him rather than just blasting him back or ignoring him.

Anne Gracie [1:01:39] Ah, look, I, you know, yeah. I look, he was fascinating. Um, and, I’m, I just I find people really interesting. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had nasty stuff, so, you know, I’ve never felt the need to be angry at anyone. You know, I think it’s fair enough if people don’t like some of my books, you know, there’s, there’s not a, there’s not a, an author alive that I’ve got. And I live in a house that’s absolutely drowning in books. Um, but not every, not every author hits the exact spot every time. And I just, yeah, if you don’t like it, fair enough. That’s okay. But he was, he was interesting. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [1:02:20] And I think, I think there may be an element of that for a lot of us who are writing that if we could find the perfect books, um, for what we wanted to read at the time we wanted to read it. We, I probably wouldn’t write as much. I’m often writing what I want to read.

Anne Gracie [1:02:37] That’s exactly how I started, you know, because that first book, Gallant Waif, I had a ,it’s about a girl who followed her father and brothers to war. Uh, or accompanied them into war and, and, you know, followed the army and, uh, ended up in a mess, as you do.

And I had read a book, I had read a book with a heroine who had kind of done the same thing, uh, but had waltzed through behind enemy lines, no problems at all.

Patricia McLinn [1:03:09] Oh.

Anne Gracie [1:03:10] Met nice people along the way, sort of did the whole journey in a red silk dress in boots with eyelets. And I just thought, you know, I don’t believe that. Uh, I think it would have been grimmer, and so my heroine didn’t have, you know, a blessed, easy time of things, and it made her a stronger and more interesting person.

Patricia McLinn [1:03:34] So you were writing what you wanted to read. Yeah.

Anne Gracie [1:03:38] Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think we do.

Patricia McLinn [1:03:42] So, in, of your books, a reader who’s new to you, where would you recommend that they start? Where’s a good entry point to your books.

Anne Gracie [1:03:52] Okay. Oh, I can never, I can never recommend my books. Um, look, a lot of people, the favorite hero is Gideon in The Perfect Rake. Um, a lot of new to me writers, readers, uh, picked up, oh, forgotten the book, forgotten the title. Um, a lot of new to me being read is also picked up The Autumn Bride and follow that series through. Yeah.

People… I had a bunch of not very good covers, and then I had a fabulous cover for, I think it might’ve been The Accidental Wedding. It’s got, it’s got a really beautiful passible, um, bride dress on the cover. And because, purely because of that fantastic cover, a lot of people picked up that book and really liked it, and then went back and read, you know, the backlist. So I’ve been lucky in that all my backlist with Berkeley is still in print. Um, so I think it’s kept alive because people pick up something and they like it, and they go back and read the backlist.

Patricia McLinn [1:05:13] Even with that, with people coming back into your, discovering all of your backlist like that, do you have any books that you think have, have not been read as much as perhaps they deserve and that even your, your loyal readers may have overlooked it?

Anne Gracie [1:05:20] Sure. Two books that I think, you know, the, my second book Tallie’s Knight, it was used in the UK as a giveaway, always too green to know what I was agreeing to. And, it was used in the US, uh, as an experiment to start a new possible line. Uh, and, and it was shelved in the bookstores away from romance.

Patricia McLinn [1:05:50] Oh, dear.

Anne Gracie [1:05:51] And so a lot of people never discovered it, and it’s, it’s a nice book. It’s my, that’s my Grand Tour book. Um, the other one is probably my worst cover ever, which is a baby poo brown background with a bunch of red roses and a white rose in the middle. And that’s my chicken pants, Regency England, uh, the Regency Egypt story. And you know, it, it, it won a few Best of the Year’s in the US and, and, you know, I’ve got some lovely reviews, but just because the cover told you nothing, it was, it nearly killed my career, um, that cover.

And then the following, then I decided to sort of have a look at what was happening. Cause my, my title had died and it was a good book. Um, and that’s when I got the beautiful book with a gorgeous, um, cover. And that, and that just bounced my career back up into living again. So, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [1:06:53] Well those are great recommendations for, for readers. And—

Anne Gracie [1:06:57] Yeah. And look, even though I write series, all my books are standalone as well as being a part of a series. So you can pick up anyone at any time.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:05] And you’ve, you’ve mentioned your, your website, but mention it again.

Anne Gracie [1:07:09] Okay. It’s www.annegracie.com and it’s Anne with an E and Gracie with an I E. Um, I’m on Facebook it’s just Anne Gracie, just, yeah, just do a Google search, it’ll pop up.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:25] And the, and the, um, give them the wenches.

Anne Gracie [1:07:29] Wordwenches.com, I think. I don’t know.

Patricia McLinn [1:07:36] We’ll have the URLs written for the people, and so much easier to click from that than it is from it… I’ve been known to try to write down URLs while people were talking, that’s very difficult. Um, Is there anything I should have asked you that I haven’t, or that you would like to answer that you haven’t been asked?

Anne Gracie [1:08:00] No. No, it’s been lovely.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:07] Well, we’re not done yet. I consider this the epilogue. It might be my favorite part at a rapid-fire either or questions. You can only pick one. I’ve had trouble with, with some other authors about that. So let’s go, um, binge watch or make the watching last as long as possible?

Anne Gracie [1:08:30] Make the watching last.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:32] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?

Anne Gracie [1:08:34] Cowboy.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:35] Tea—

Anne Gracie [1:08:36] I have red cowboy boots.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:38] Oh, Ooh. How high up are they? Are they, you know, just midcalf?

Anne Gracie [1:08:44] Just above midcalf, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:47] Um, tea or coffee?

Anne Gracie [1:08:50] Coffee.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:52] Really? Okay. That’s surprised me. Um, cake or ice cream?

Anne Gracie [1:08:55] Ice cream.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:56] Day or night?

Anne Gracie [1:08:58] Both.

Patricia McLinn [1:08:59] I knew you were going to be trouble. Um—

Anne Gracie [1:09:02] Yeah, I told you I was going to be trouble.

Patricia McLinn [1:09:05] Well, okay. I was going to ask you mountains or beach, but I think I know that one. So let’s, well, this is still—

Anne Gracie [1:09:10] Both. Both.

Patricia McLinn [1:09:11] Okay. Mountains or beach?

Anne Gracie [1:09:13]. One of my favorite, both, one of my favorite places is Lowland in, in Victoria, where there, there are hills in the background going into it, a little low mountain range, and it goes right down to the beach. That’s a bit of a perfect combination. But, otherwise beach. Otherwise, beach.

Patricia McLinn [1:09:30] So sailboat or motorboat?

Anne Gracie [1:09:32] Motor.

Patricia McLinn [1:09:34] Gardening or house decorating?

Anne Gracie [1:09:37] Gardening.

Patricia McLinn [1:09:38] Okay, then I can’t ask you this other one. Let’s see, uh, toenail polish or bare toenails?

Anne Gracie [1:09:46] Bare. I do wear toenail, oh sorry, I’m going to annoy you again. I do wear, in the summer I have toenail polish. In winter and the rest of the time, I have bare.

Patricia McLinn [1:09:57] Definitely more during the summer. Appetizer or dessert?

Anne Gracie [1:10:02] Appetizer.

Patricia McLinn [1:10:03] Let’s see, what else should I, oh, which is eerier to you, an owl hooting or coyotes howling?

Anne Gracie [1:10:10] I love them both. I’ve never heard coyotes howling and I have… No, we don’t have them. And I, and I only ever go to cities usually. So yeah, I don’t, I’ve never heard coyotes. Uh, I would love to hear coyotes. We have, uh, dingoes, but it’s not the same thing.

Patricia McLinn [1:10:28] You’ll  have to come and stay with me because I have both. And especially if they have, um, like fireworks, it sets the coyotes out. And then, um, I will, I will try to get my dog to go out and she looks at me like, Are you crazy lady? I’m not going out there.

Anne Gracie [1:10:48] I do have a dog that sings along to Ella Fitzgerald. Only Ella Fitzgerald, uh, she won’t sing to anything else, but put Ella Fitzgerald on and she howls like crazy. But, yes.

Patricia McLinn [1:10:59] And what is her name?

Anne Gracie [1:11:01] That’s the closest I can get. Milly.

Patricia McLinn [1:11:05] Well, that’s wonderful. On that note, I think we’ll say, Thank you so much, Anne Gracie, for coming all the way from Australia by the, the wonders of technology. It’s been wonderful as it always is when we have a chance to talk. And I hope the rest of you—

Anne Gracie [1:11:20] Yeah, really enjoyed it

Patricia McLinn [1:11:21] Great. I hope the rest of you will come back next week for another author. We can try to find out more about the stories behind the stories.

Anne Gracie [1:11:31] Yep. I will certainly be here listening to that.

Patricia McLinn [1:11:34] That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


Episode 7: Tools of the Trade, with Linda Cardillo

Host Patricia McLinn talks with Linda Cardillo about Linda’s writing process, favorite settings, and love of characters.

You can find Linda on:

*her website, and


Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers linda cardillo

authors love readers patreon

Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Linda Cardillo

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi. Welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker. Now let’s start the show.

Patricia McLinn [00:42] I welcome you to this edition of Authors Love Readers. Today my guest is Linda Cardillo, and this is interesting because a lot of the people I’ve been interviewing I’ve known for a long time. Forever basically. I haven’t known Linda as long, and we know each other more as readers in a lot of ways than writers, because we are both part of a book discussion group that’s all authors, which means we’re really cranky readers. I’m a cranky reader. Um, and so I come, I come to this discussion with Linda from a little different direction. Would you agree, Linda?

Linda Cardillo [01:25] Absolutely.

Patricia McLinn [01:28] Do you find sometimes that you try to predict who’s going to react what way to a book?

Linda Cardillo [01:34] I think I try to be more flexible about how I approach books, but I know that there are some, um, and, and part of it is I think I am in such awe of their critical abilities and what they know about writing books and how they bring that to the reading of books.

Patricia McLinn [01:51] I find I’m not particularly great at predicting who will like or not like a book. I’m not even always good about predicting myself. Um, and I think some of it is, we’re starting here on a discussion about reading, but I do think some of it is because my, my theory is that all reading is interactive. And so at least as much as the author puts in the reader is determining what is taken out of the reading. So a lot of it has to do with my mood and my, you know, what I need to be reading at that point. And sometimes the book that’s chosen answers that need, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Linda Cardillo [02:35] What I find certainly with the books, um, that we’ve been reading are almost all of them are books I might never have discovered by myself. And yeah, it really is. It’s really expanded, um, sort of my repertoire and my willingness to dip into something that, you know, I would have ignored in the past. And sometimes it’s very surprising.

Patricia McLinn [02:57] Absolutely. And discovered authors I would never have discovered on my own because I’ve gone on and read some additional books by, um, authors and that not necessarily that I adored the first book, but there was something in the voice. Um, possibly the worldview that or character that really caught me. Um, and I kept going.

Linda Cardillo [03:21] I agree. Yeah. Yeah, I’ve done that. Yeah. It wasn’t so much that I loved the first book, but there was something very compelling that pulled me and wanted me to find out more.

Patricia McLinn [02:33] Well, and as I said, you know what, it’s probably what I said at the beginning that, that book, that author, that voice, um, answered what I needed at that point. So I kept going back to that. Yeah. I wish I wish there were a better way to do that match, you know, the reader is looking for this sort of experience. This book will have it, but I don’t, I think our discovery mechanisms now are really clunky, really, really clunky. I hope, um, I hope this is someplace where technology can help us over the next decade or so. Um, but that’s my pie in the sky, so…

Claustrophobic, purple, The English Patient, Far from the Madding Crowd, and Endeavour

Patricia McLinn [04:17] Okay, let’s ask, let’s ask Linda some questions. Um, oh, we’ll start off with a hard one. Do you have any strong fears, and have you ever used them in a book?

Linda Cardillo [04:26] Okay. Yes, I do have one strong fear, I’m claustrophobic. Um, I discovered it, this is going back, it was not until I was in my twenties. And I was, um, traveling, uh, in the Black Forest with a couple friends. We were hiking. And we stayed in this hut, um, overnight, that was actually quite large. It was like sort of a dormitory and it had these sort of stacked wooden bunks. And I wound up with the bunk at the top that was very close and I did not sleep all night. It was just, it was so, um, really, uh, I just felt like I was being smothered almost. Um, and so ever since then, I’ve been very careful about small enclosed spaces, particularly over my head, you know.

Once I had to, um, my husband and I were, um, sailing on a schooner and we were, um, bringing a schooner under sail from, uh, Providence, Rhode Island to New Bedford. It was a boat that he had brought across the Atlantic. And the bunk was just like this, that I had in the Black Forest. Um, and I had to I, I sort of pushed myself to the edge of it and kept the curtain open so my head was out of the bunk because I could not, I just could not abide being in very tight space, but what’s interesting, you know, with your question, I’ve never used that in a book. And I think now, I will.

Patricia McLinn [05:53] Well, the first thing that occurs to me is in a former life, you were buried alive. Got to be, Linda.

Linda Cardillo [05:59] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [06:00] Ooh. Okay. I, uh, let’s go more cheerful. Uh, favorite color and why?

Linda Cardillo [06:06] My favorite color is purple, absolutely. Purple, I’m wearing it. Um, I was trying to think back and it goes back, I think to, um, when I was a teenager and, um, my sister and I shared a bedroom and it had my parents’ old furniture in it. Um, and we were getting new furniture and my mother said to us, You can decorate the room however you want. And the furniture was this sort of white, you know, sort of those little fancy pastel flowers printed on it, black bedspread and purple and orange cushions, like pillows put on the bed. And it was my first sort of statement, um, kind of separating me from my mother’s, um, sense of, of style, but that color purple just spoke to me in certain ways that, um, it was very bold and it was not, it was not at all a pastel.

Patricia McLinn [07:00] Well, I find it fascinating that you had orange cushions on it, because this is one of my theories is that most people who like purple don’t like orange and vice versa. So my next question, Linda, is what three movies would you take with you to a desert Island, a desert Island that has some strange ability to show movies?

Linda Cardillo [07:22] The English Patient. Far from the Madding Crowd, and every single episode of all five seasons of Endeavour. That’s little bit of cheating, but it’s my commitment.

Patricia McLinn [07:36] It is cheating, but creative cheating, but I like that. Okay. Um, most writers have a bad habit word when they’re writing. Uh, I’ve already confessed just and really are probably top on my list. What’s yours?

Linda Cardillo [07:51] Um, just was also one of them. Um, got, only as, um, I, I actually did a, um, a search on a couple of my manuscripts and I found like, you know, 250 instances, sometimes two and three on a page.

Patricia McLinn [08:08] We all have them. So do you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?

Linda Cardillo [08:15] The Secret Garden.

Patricia McLinn [08:17] Oh, that’s wonderful. I wonder if that, I noticed your, your movie picks have a definite, uh, English bent. And I wonder if The Secret Garden started you along that road.

Linda Cardillo [08:30] Very well might have, you know, and I think that it’s such, um, such a departure from the life that I was living, and really sort of took me out of this sort of urban Italian neighborhood that I lived in and was very enlarging of my world, when I read it for the first time.

Chappaquiddick Island, Ideas from Italian family dinners

Patricia McLinn [08:55] Well, this sort of touches on a, um, question that came from a reader. And I will, her question was, Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Linda Cardillo [09:19] Um, certainly I think, uh, a lot of the ideas for my stories come out of people I have encountered or, um, the stories that I’ve heard from them. Um, certainly the two Italian books are based on conversations around the dinner table and memory of, um, the memories of my aunts, for example, but other, uh, other sources, yes, it doesn’t last, you know, I still have a lot of work to do, but just at the beginning there, that voice is what gets me started.

Patricia McLinn [09:56] And is that, is that necessarily at the beginning of the book or is just the beginning of your process?

Linda Cardillo [10:01] It’s both. I mean, in some instances, it’s the beginning of the book. Um, but quite often, but I find is, and I’m finding it more and more as I write more books. Um, that quite often, those first words that I hear and that I put down on paper are not going to be the first words of the book.

Patricia McLinn [10:22] But at some core, at some vision of who the character is—

Linda Cardillo [10:25] Exactly. Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [10:28] —at least for me. Yeah. And whatever comes in that first part, it can never change. Other things about the character, uh, might change or get explored or shifted. But those first moments are in stone that that’s who they are. Yeah.

I was at, went to lunch earlier this week with a fellow, um, author. And I, first of all, I was really surprised that she gave me the choice of where to sit, um, because I find most authors, um, have a particular place they want to sit. And then I was really torn because I could tell one seat was gonna let me see the, the whole restaurant, but the other seat was going to be a better eavesdropping spot.

And, and in a way, this is research, listening to people and, and how people interact and, um, and the, the rhythm of dialogue and, and how, how that all comes together. Um, but more formal research. How do you feel about that? Do you do love it? Do you dread it? At what point in the book do you do it?

Linda Cardillo [11:39] I actually love it. Um, and sometimes I get myself a little bit too tangled up in it. I’m—

Patricia McLinn [11:50] Never happy.

Linda Cardillo [11:51] I, um, I just finished, uh, I’ve sort of an amusing story to tell about research. And I do, I mean, I do do a lot of book research, you know, as sort of, um, in librarians love me, and I, the research librarian in my local library just loves to see me walk in, cause she knows she’s going to help with my next book. But, um, so, but I was, um, I just finished a trilogy that is set on the Chappaquiddick Island, which is off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

And, um, the book was almost all written, but there were like little pieces of things that I needed, I wanted to be accurate about, because it’s, it, it’s, the book started in the 1940s with, but there were, there are still people around who remember things and would say, you know how sometimes people get really upset if you get even something very small in a detail wrong.

Linda Cardillo [12:36] So I spent the day, um, on the island and I, I, um, headed to the historical society to use their library. And, um, a man was there and really happy to help me. And he had pulled out like bound copies of the newspapers. And I said to him, I have one, I, there’s a scene, there’s a sort of bar brawl, um, and I need the name of a bar in Edgartown. And he said, Oh, you can’t say it’s in on Edgartown. It was dry in the 19th century. And which would have been a huge, you know, just really huge mistake. So he said, let me see if I can help you. And he went to his computer, he said, You know, we, we did some oral histories and we recorded, and sure enough, within the hour he had dug up an oral history of some guy reminiscing about a bar in Oak Bluffs and gave me the name of the bar. And it was still in existence.

Patricia McLinn [13:31] I had, um, I was researching, um, for the, probably for my, um, historical widow woman, but about the West. And I have more ideas for historicals. I just haven’t, I have a couple out, but I haven’t gotten to the, the other ones, but yeah, I got this great gift from a national park service librarian. Um, I think it’s the Museum of the West in St. Louis and, uh, was talking about trying to find out something very specific. And he said to me, the benefit you have of writing fiction is you don’t have to write what did happen. You only have to write what could have happened.

And I thought, Yeah! Yeah, that’s exactly it. So you want to avoid the things that couldn’t have happened or you just, like you talked about the readers are going to, um, and, and certainly I, as a cranky reader, are going to be thrown out of the book and go, Wait a minute. Like, I, I read this romance once where they had the, um, Kentucky Derby on the wrong day and I was like, Forget it, I’m not reading you. I can’t trust you. So, um, so you don’t want to do that ever if at all possible, but we don’t also have to say, as long as we’re writing fiction, what precisely did happen. Um, I thought that was a great gift.

Linda Cardillo [15:04] And that’s, you know, it’s very interesting because I’m, the book that I am, um, writing you know, it is actually, it’s about a real person. Um, but I recognize, and this was a fairly recent recognition over the summer. I mean, I’ve been working on this book for years and I’m finally, I had finally gotten my, gotten it together and gotten it to my editor and I got the, you know, the multi-page single-spaced, uh, memo, uh, back from her.

And I recognized this, I have some insight that I am not writing an, uh, um, a biography. Um, and I’m not even writing the life of, I am writing about some, you know, this whole experience with this woman, um, that inform who she is, but I don’t have to be, you know, sort of starting at the beginning and working my way linearly and also being able to, particularly in, you know, there’s not, um, not always everything available in terms of what happens in someone, in someone’s life. And you can, as a writer of fiction, I can use those, those empty spaces and put in there, you know, what I imagined could have happened, not, and I’m not bound to what did actually happen.

Patricia McLinn [16:19] Uh, I also, I found a book that was, um, privately published. And it was the account of a woman who had gone on this Western trail in the eighteen, late 1860s, I think. Um, and it was fabulous, and this was another great gift. Not only for, for her accounts of what happened, but it had both her diary and copies of her letters home. And the wonderful thing that I found is in her diary, she was much looser. And, and so that, that aspect of humanity and the, and the reminder that, um, you know, she sorta cleaned up her reactions to some things where, you know, some, somebody that she maybe didn’t like particularly had something happen to her in the diary. And it’s like, She deserved it, serves her right. And in the letter, like what a shame. And I thought, Oh, this is, you know, this is a person. This is, you know, so human, uh, and, um, that was another gift for me and in research and reading things that people have written and trying to get a view into who they are from what they’ve written. Um, and sometimes they’re cleaning it up.

Routines and disciplines in writing

Patricia McLinn [17:47] So, okay. Do you have a writing routine?

Linda Cardillo [17:54] I do. Um—

Patricia McLinn [17:55] I knew you would.

Linda Cardillo [17:58] Um, I am disciplined but—

Patricia McLinn [18:00] You are disciplined.

Linda Cardillo [18:01] I was not disciplined when I, you know, when I first started out, um. I’m very particular. Until I was five, my family lived in an apartment over, um, the office of my, um, where my father worked. It was, uh, his uncle’s construction company and Father was the general manager. And at night, sometimes he would have to go down downstairs to the office to do some work and he would let me go with him. And there was this big metal cabinet in his office, and inside that metal cabinet were all the office supplies. And he would allow me to take out a ruled pad and a pencil. And I used to draw pictures before I was able to write. And then I would, you know, when I first started writing it, I would only write on those yellow pads.

Linda Cardillo [18:51] And I think now that I really understand that was sort of where that comes from. It’s, it’s so interesting the, how we become attached to tools and we see those tools as sort of helping the, the process. And the other thing that I do that in terms of my process, which is absolutely key for me, is I have this little electronic timer that I set for 20 minutes. And I, um, as soon as I put the timer on, I turn it so I can’t see the minutes ticking away, but I’ve trained myself when the timer is on. That’s all I do is write. And I generally, um, we’ll do three 20 minute sessions and then I get given myself a break and just sort of barreling through any kind of block that I might have, or, you know, inability to get started. And it works like a charm.

Patricia McLinn [19:44] And you don’t have any hand problems with doing that much by hand?

Linda Cardillo [19:47] I don’t. I mean, I do, you know, I do sort of at, when I do those 60 min— After the 60 minutes, I sorta, you know, flex my fingers a little bit. Um, but I haven’t so far knock on wood right here on my desk. Um, that’s not been an issue. One of the things I’m trying out right now though, is a standing desk. Um, you know, ’cause there’s lots of issues about, particularly for people like us who sit at desks for a long time. Um, so I’m, uh, I’m really just like a week—

Patricia McLinn [20:18] Yes.

Linda Cardillo [20:19] —into having a standing desk. In fact, I’m standing right now cause I’ve, haven’t tried writing by hand yet. Um, standing because I’m not at that phase right now, I’m in the revision phase. So I’m working on the computer, but, um, it’s um—

Patricia McLinn [20:32] Okay. I have multiple questions off of this. So, so you hand, you hand write the whole first draft?

Linda Cardillo [20:37] And then I, and then I type it into computer.

Patricia McLinn [20:44] Ah. And then, then will you revise it again?

Linda Cardillo [20:48] Oh, yes. I probably, I would say most of my books go through at least four revisions. One of them went through five. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [21:00] And are most of them from the beginning all the way through to the end or, um, do you dive in and do an area and then maybe pull back out? And then—

Linda Cardillo [21:10] I have, I’ve written both ways. Um, sometimes, sometimes I will particularly, I think if I’m feeling sort of stuck, um, I will write a chapter that I know, you know, that’s a little, you know, maybe easier to get into. Um, and then, and then go back. I really did have to dig for it. Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [21:36] Okay. I will also say the first time I wrote a trilogy, I, I thought I’d written a standalone book, and a friend read it and said, Well, you know, this is the middle book of a trilogy, don’t you? And I said, You can’t fool me, a trilogy has to have three books and there’s only one book. So it can’t be a trilogy. And she said go back and look at it. And you have the prev—. You have all the, the pieces of the previous book are indicated in this one. And then you have to do this other character as third book.

And she was right. I was stunned at how much, um, my subconscious, I guess, had, had dropped in to that book and I wrote the first book very quickly. Um, so, uh, but I’m, I write out of sequence and not only within the book clearly, but I wrote a trilogy out of sequence and, and I’ve done it since then, too. Um, but, but the point being of how much is there that you may don’t realize on the top level of consciousness. And then when you go back and read it, it’s like, Ooh, look at that little gift. And Ooh, look at this. I got that too. And oh, there’s that.

Linda Cardillo [22:58] I thought I was writing a trilogy, but there is, there is something in that third book that I think probably could turn into a fourth book. And, um, I started playing with it this summer, and I was really excited about it. It was like, Wow, all right. You know, there is this, you know, I, this is one character who, who is fairly important for the second book, but it plays a relatively minor role in the third book. And I thought, Oh, it may be time to give her her own book, you know?

Patricia McLinn [23:33] And this, and this answers a question that I had from a reader who asked if, as authors, do we miss the characters once we finished a book? And do we think about them? Um, because the reader is saying, yes, she, she does. She thinks about the characters and when she’s really liked the book and once she closed it and then, you know, does it ever lead to additional books? So, boom, there you are. Ah, yep.

Linda Cardillo [24:04] Yeah. And I did. I, I, and I find particularly with trilogy, and I think because I had lived with these characters so long, um, that I really did miss them. And I missed this particular character, um, especially.

Patricia McLinn [24:16] Did, to go back for a second, talking about your, your lined, um, yellow pads and things. And I was thinking about tools. What’s the best money you’ve ever spent as a writer?

Linda Cardillo [24:32] Okay. Um, I was thinking about this and I, I think for me, it was, um, the, the first writer’s workshop. I only had one English speaking friend. All of my other friends were German. And I basically, you know, lived a German life, um, to bounce the ideas off and to say, can you read this and tell me what you think?

And, um, I, I knew I was, uh, I had to be in Boston one summer and I found this workshop because it was long before the internet. Um, but there was a New England workshop at Simmons college and I signed up and got accepted, um, and spent a week and, just immersing myself, um, and it was the first time that I got any validation as a writer, um, outside of my mother telling me, Oh, you, you know, that was beautiful. Um, and, and it was also my first sort of dive into understanding about discipline, writing as a discipline.

Patricia McLinn [25:48] Yeah. Well, that’s, that’s huge because I, I often think we, um, as writers, there’s sort of a, a sense, uh, at sometimes I refer to non-writers as civilians, um, that, that they, um, don’t as in many occupations, the people who are not in it don’t understand, um, don’t have that view of, of what you’re going through. And I think with writers, there’s also that, uh, way of thinking and way of looking at the world. So, uh, for me, the first conference was, Oh boy, there are other people weird like me, you know.

But for you where you had where somewhere where it wasn’t your native language and then to come into, uh, so you’re, you’re coming back into English and then coming back into sort of your native language as a writer, that must have been such an immersion. Has your routine, has your writing routine changed over the years? Has it being, getting published, changed anything about your writing?

Linda Cardillo [26:56] I think that the discipline issue and writing to deadline, um, you know, before you get published, your deadlines are sort of your own and internal. Um, and then suddenly you have external deadlines, which for me were very motivating. Um, Um, but, uh, I, I guess I’m, you know, I’m a very driven person.

And I think back when I was writing the first book and, um, my, my kids are small and my husband would sometimes take Fridays off to give me a full day. Um, I knew I had eight hours. And my goal was always by the time I left at five o’clock was to have eight pages written. Um, and I, I try to remember that hunger sometimes when I’m sitting down at my desk, or now standing at my desk, um, to, um, you know, not to get too complacent.

I guess is the key that I think, I certainly have learned an enormous amount about, about discipline, but the other thing I’ve learned, I do feel like every book, with every book I have learned more and I’ve gotten to be a better writer and I’m a far better writer now than I was ten years ago. Um, and I think that I’ve always been open and I teach a lot of workshops and crafts, but I, um, I’m always discovering new things. I have a much stronger voice now than I did, much more confident in who I am as a writer. Um, But I also think that I have, um, a lot more about what makes good fiction since I’ve been writing myself.

Patricia McLinn [28:50] Sometimes the opinions don’t agree of what makes good fiction. Um, and that has been one of the great lessons, um, from the, from the group that you aren’t gonna please, everybody, you’re just not going to.

Linda Cardillo [29:02] That’s right.

Patricia McLinn [29:04] Um—

Linda Cardillo [29:05] It’s such a personal connection to the words that it’s, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [29:11] Yeah. So in their process, what, what’s the part that you liked the best and what’s the hardest part for you?

Linda Cardillo [29:18] Revision is the hardest part for me. And I think because I’m in the midst of a very challenging revision right now, it’s the hardest, it’s the hardest one I ever, ever had. And I’ve, you know, because I’m just completely restructuring the book and rethinking my original premise, which is like, you know, you just, you get this reaction from your editor and, and, um, these opinions. And I’m just like, Does she really want me to do all of that? You know? Um, and, uh, it’s there, I, I’ve, I’ve really felt overwhelmed by this sometimes. And I feel like I, I’m a person who likes to have a lot of structure, and I feel very unstructured in this revision.

Patricia McLinn [30:10] Yeah.

Linda Cardillo [30:11] And, and looking for ways to create, um, some kind of structure for me. And I’ve actually, just within the last couple of weeks, found a way to do that. And I’m feeling much more, you know, like, like I know, I know longer feel like I’m drowning and I’m sort of dog paddling now, um, through revision.

But, um, I would say, you know, sort of the, the best part for me is hearing characters speaking. For me it’s the character. And that’s what gets me the most joy and gets me fired up. Um, when I really feel like I understand who this character is, um, and I can, um, weave their story. That’s, that’s the exciting part.

Writing and its strong connection to food

Patricia McLinn [30:50] So did you always want to have, uh, have, do something that had to do with writing?

Linda Cardillo [30:55] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [30:56] Uh, uh, did you—

Linda Cardillo [30:57] Yeah, yeah. Always.

Patricia McLinn [30:58] Always.

Linda Cardillo [30:59] Um, probably from the time I was, you know, maybe eight or nine years old.

Patricia McLinn [31:07] But you also have a strong connection, well, we all do with food, but I was thinking of, um, uh, that you, you often, food plays a part in your stories. Did you ever think about doing other things with, with food or cooking?

Linda Cardillo [31:25] Yeah. Yeah. I, um, I had a dream to open a restaurant, um, which, you know, sort of got postponed, deferred, um, and when my, my editor said to me, You always have all this stuff about food in your books, have you ever thought about writing a book that really focuses on food? And that’s when I wrote Across the Table, which is about this family that had the restaurant. And I got to, you know, I sort of vicariously run a restaurant through my characters. Um, and, uh, if I, if I had not, if I had not become a novelist, I think probably that’s what I would have, would have done is open the restaurant. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [32:12] It seems to me a fair number of authors that I know have, um, a strong connection with food in those ways. Do, do you see anything, is that the creative process? Is that, is there a connection there?

Linda Cardillo [32:30] Well, I think there’s such a, you know, um, certainly there’s the, this, um, I think a very cultural thing, connection to food and food is I think, expressive of emotion and family and relationship. And there’s so many sort of things I tied up in food that I think relate. I think some of the most important scenes that I’ve written in my books, it plays around food.

Patricia McLinn [33:03] There’s that coming together of characters.

Linda Cardillo [33:06] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [33:07] Um, and, and there’s also the, I think the, um, the passing down of things from one generation to another, or, or to the one after that, over food, um, over the preparation, during the preparation of food over recipes, um, I say when I, when I was a kid and we would have come back from church on Sunday, and we’d sit around the table in the dining room and we would talk for hours. We would have a toaster that we had at the end of the table and we’d just keep making toast and talking for hours.

Um, and when, my siblings are older, so when they started having significant others from college, who’d come and spend time with us, they were a little, you know, What do you do on Sundays? And we were like, we make toast and talk. What do you mean what do we do?

Patricia McLinn [34:10] So I have some questions that came specifically from readers and then some on behalf of readers. So, um, let me ask you what one reader asked, What is your favorite place to write? So where do you take your, your lined narrow lined notebooks and why? And they want to know, does it have an inspirational view?

Linda Cardillo [34:30] One of the reasons I wrote this book on Chappaquiddick is because we spent our summer vacations on Chappaquiddick. It’s a very isolated place. The cabin where we stayed, the cottage had no electricity, so there was no TV, not even a radio. Um, and it was surrounded by water on three sides. So I could sit on the porch and for hours a day with my pad, and that’s where I wrote. Uh, and, uh, it still is, you know, sort of a place of, of just absolute peace and beauty.

Patricia McLinn [35:05] Oh, that’s a great place. And, and you would do far better there than I, because I need the plug. So this next question, uh, is, uh, especially for those authors who are traditionally published, um, When the cover art image doesn’t match the character description, a pet peeve of mine says this reader. How does it feel for the author?

Linda Cardillo [35:35] It feels ahhhh!

Patricia McLinn [35.40:] It feels such a way that we’d have to bleep out a lot. I wonder if more so for someone like you, who has background in art, um, uh, as opposed, you know, I always have opinions about it, but I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler. So I think that the difficult thing is it is about marketing, and yet it’s so, um, it’s such an emotional reaction, not only for the author, but clearly for the readers as well. As this reader is saying, they, they invest in the characters, they connect with the characters. They, they have envisioned who the character is. I always figure if the, if the cover is different from how I have envisioned the character, the cover’s wrong, you know, it’s just wrong. I gotta be right.

It’s so, um, so we have another wonderful question from a reader. Um, If you could write a book with any author alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Linda Cardillo [36:40] I would say Margaret Atwood would be one of them.

Patricia McLinn [36:47] Yeah.

Linda Cardillo [36:48] Um, I read, I began reading her books when I was probably in my twenties. Um, and, uh, they were just very, very powerful for me as a young woman. Um, and helping me start seeing myself in a different light and helping you to become sort of just, you know, um, be brave, I guess, would be the word. To have more courage. And so I think too, and I think having courage as a writer, I think as I, as I get older and I’m more willing to take risks as a writer. What I saw in Margaret Atwood was someone who was not being careful at all. And I thought, Wow, I want to be like that.

Patricia McLinn [37:42] What a great compliment to her too. I think that’s, that’s wonderful. I love that. Somebody who has never read your work, which book would you recommend as a, as a kind of good entry spot for them to come into, into your writing and into your world?

Linda Cardillo [38:03] I would say that my first book, Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, which is the book that’s based on my grandparents’ love letters. And I have to, can I tell you an amusing story about it?

Patricia McLinn [38:17] Yes, absolutely.

Linda Cardillo [38:19] It has to do with, with marketing. Um, so I get this call from a newspaper reporter, and she said, I’ve just been assigned to do an article. Um, and I understand you’ve written two books. One is a Harlequin Romance and one is about the Lawrence mill strike. So I said, I think you’re mistaken, they’re both the same book. And she was like, sort of taken aback that Harlequin Romance could actually be about to something as important and serious as the Lawrence mill strike.

Patricia McLinn [38:53] You probably could have just ended it with, Is about something.

Linda Cardillo [39:03] Right, right. Exactly, yes. We ended up having a very interesting conversation and she did, and she put in the article, you know how surprised she was to be doing something like that. And so about two weeks after the article came out, I get this email from the director of the Lawrence Historical Society, who had, um, she said she had, she had Google Alerts anytime the Lawrence mill strike was mentioned, and that my book had popped up and we had this long conversation and she wound up taking the book in the Lawrence Historical Society library. And the conversation that we have was how quite often, um, conveying history is so much more accessible when it’s in a novel, than in a historic, you know, a book of history about Lawrence mill strike, which some people might see as seen as sort of not something that they would want to understand. But—

Patricia McLinn [39:53] So sort of the other, the other side of that, um, where, what’s a good place for people to start reading your books. Is, do you have any of your books that you would consider, um, a hidden gem book? I like to say a book that, um, even your loyal readers might have overlooked to this point.

Linda Cardillo [40:17] Yeah, I, um, uh, so the, the book that set in, in Cold War Germany, I think is like the novella itself is called The Hand That Gives the Rose. Uh, and again, it’s one of those books that, so it takes a moment in history, um, and its impact on individual lives. The heroine is a young woman who takes over the management of her family’s vineyards, um, unexpectedly. It’s not what she had wanted to do, but her father has a stroke and her mother can’t handle the vineyard by herself.

Patricia McLinn [40:55] And where can readers find out more about these books and your other books and about you?

Linda Cardillo [41:01] There’s obviously my website, which is, lindacardillo.com

Patricia McLinn [41:05] And that’s C A R D I L L O.

Linda Cardillo [41:08] Mmhmm, yeah. Um, so there’s certainly lots of information about me and, and all of the books and you’ll find, there’s excerpts of all my books.

Patricia McLinn [41:17] Oh, great.

Linda Cardillo [41:18] Yeah. And there’s also recipes because food is so important to me. I actually did a cookbook a few years ago of my, based on my two Italian books. And so these little excerpts from the two Italian books and recipes of the foods that are mentioned in the books. You can get that on the website too, but, um, uh, and then, uh, of course, you know, all of my books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Apple.

Patricia McLinn [41:43] Before I hit you with the, with the kind of epilogue questions, uh, is there anything I should’ve asked you that I haven’t? That was always my favorite question as a journalist, got some great stuff. Not that I’m putting pressure on you or anything, Linda.

Linda Cardillo [41:58] You can ask me what I read for fun, and that’s—

Patricia McLinn [42:03] Oh, good. Let’s hear what you read for fun.

Linda Cardillo [42:06] I read, I read medieval mystery stories.

Patricia McLinn [42:11] Well, fun might not have been the right word, but I’ll have to look into those. Okay? Okay. So here we go with some rapid-fire, um, dog or cat?

Linda Cardillo [42:22] Dog.

Patricia McLinn [42:24] Tea or coffee?

Linda Cardillo [42:25] Tea.

Patricia McLinn [42:27] Cruise or backpacking?

Linda Cardillo [42:29] Backpacking.

Patricia McLinn [42:31] So, sailboat or motorboat?

Linda Cardillo [42:34] Sailboat.

Patricia McLinn [42:35] Best china or paper plates?

Linda Cardillo [42:38] Oh, best china.

Patricia McLinn [42:40]Ooh, okay. Mustard or ketchup?

Linda Cardillo [42:42] Mustard.

Patricia McLinn [42:44] Uh, leggings or sweats?

Linda Cardillo [42:47] Leggings.

Patricia McLinn [42:49] Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Linda Cardillo [42:52] Toenail polish.

Patricia McLinn [42:54] Cake or ice cream?

Linda Cardillo [42:56] Cake.

Patricia McLinn [42:57] And let’s wrap up with save the best for last or grab the best first?

Linda Cardillo [43:03] Save the best for last.

Patricia McLinn [43:06] Uh, this has been a lot of fun, Linda. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it and hope, um, all you listeners will come back next week for another edition of Authors Love Readers.

Patricia McLinn [43:26] That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.



authors love readers patreon

Episode 6: Dreams, Bigfoot and Hot You-Know-What, with Laura Marie Altom

Host Patricia McLinn talks with Laura Marie Altom about Laura Marie’s dreams, characters and an encounter with Bigfoot that left her afraid of the dark. Laura Marie writes about men for every mood, and she and Patricia discuss Laura Marie’s spontaneous writing process in this delightful chat.

You can find Laura Marie on

her website,

* Facebook,

* Instagram

* and Twitter.

Thanks toDialogMusikfor the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers laura marie altom

authors love readers patreon

Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Laura Marie Altom

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions, some of them fun, some of them serious. And from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Laura Marie Altom [00:23] I’m Laura Marie Altom and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:28] Now let’s start the show. Hello, and welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers, the podcast. Today we have Laura Marie Altom as our guest, and we were just chatting a little bit beforehand and was saying, this is going to be interesting because we don’t know each other as well as a lot of the, um, previous people that I’ve had on. We would have had to be friends for 30 years, to know each other as well as a lot of the others.

Laura Marie Altom [01:00] We better get started.

Patricia McLinn [01:04] Yeah. Well, we’re at least a year in, right?

Laura Marie Altom [01:04] Oh, definitely.

Rodeo Knights and Renegade

Patricia McLinn [01:06] We were part of a, uh, group effort called Rodeo Knights with a K. K N I G H T S um, where we all released a book, um, in mid-June, June 20th. And it stemmed from three books that were originally done, um, about Rodeo Knights with Lisa Mondello—

Laura Marie Altom [01:29] Lenora Worth and Margaret Daley.

Patricia McLinn [01:30] Margaret Daley. Right. And they had done these three connected books, um, two years before. And then they said, uh, come back and invited ten of us to write books that, uh, touched on the same, connected to the same characters, but took the series, um, in different directions, which was really interesting.

And we were, we were on a group and we would, you know, say, well, I’m doing this with them. Or, you know, if so, if so-and-so gets married at this point, what does that do to, you know, the, the previous characters have to attend the wedding. So, so they can’t be out doing something else that weekend. And, uh, Laura’s book as Renegade, such a great title.

Laura Marie Altom [02:18] Thank you.

Patricia McLinn [02:20] —immediately makes me think of the, of the song, um—

Laura Marie Altom [02:23] Oh, it’s such a great song.

Patricia McLinn [02:26] Isn’t it. So tell us, tell us a little bit about your story Renegade.

Laura Marie Altom [02:30] It’s a, um, it’s part of my SEAL Team Disavowed series, which is a first for me because I’m kind of known through Harlequin for baby books, but I really love adventure books. So I’ve been doing this romantic suspense series with SEALs.

And, um, Margaret Daley, who you mentioned earlier, is kind of my bestie. She lives like a mile from me and she writes really awesome romantic suspense. And, I dunno, we were just talking at Olive Garden one day, and I said, You know, I’ve never done a serial killer book, but gosh, that seems just really harsh, I don’t know if I could do it or not. She’s like, yeah, you can do a serial killer. So I, yeah, we just did a serial killer. Um, but it was like, I’d never done anything that grizzly and, uh, I had to do quite a bit of research, you know? Blood coagulating—

Patricia McLinn [03:20] Yup.

Laura Marie Altom [03:21] —really creepy topics, uh, that I wasn’t in my normal wheelhouse, but I, I was real happy with how it turned out, and it just took some crazy turns.

Patricia McLinn [03:30] Yeah. I was just going to ask you, if you found that doing that research affected your mood.

Laura Marie Altom [03:35] It did. And it made me just feel real, like icky. Like then the book after that I had to research like nuclear weapons. And, you know, I was on those websites and like trying to get off really, really quick, I didn’t get on any crazy FBI list or something, but yeah, no, it’s, it was happy subject.

Patricia McLinn [03:57] Hey, authors could keep the, uh, NSA occupied full time.

Laura Marie Altom [04:00] I know, right?

Patricia McLinn [04:02] If they started going down the rabbit hole—

Laura Marie Altom [04:04] It’s scary.

Patricia McLinn [04:05] —of our searches. So, okay. Let’s go back and ask some, some short fun questions—

Laura Marie Altom [04:12] Alright.

Patricia McLinn [04:13] —here, just to get to know you better. What’s a surprising job that you’ve held.

Laura Marie Altom [04:18] I used to be a, um, nurse’s aid. And I guess it’s not so much surprising, but a friend of mine one summer, her mom was like a hospital administrator. And this is back in the days when like nurses wore hats and it was just very, I don’t know, formal and lovely and just kind of romantic, romanticized profession, um, or it’s still a fabulous, uh, if, if I wasn’t a writer, I think that’s one of your other questions, but I would definitely be a nurse cause I’m just, I love them, but yeah, it was just such an amazing job. Um, just loved it.

Patricia McLinn [04:55] Hard job too.

Laura Marie Altom [04:57] Oh my goodness, yeah. I’d go home. My feet would just be killing me, but just so rewarding.

Patricia McLinn [05:02] That’s terrific. Oh yes. Great, we said, we said, if there was dog barking on this, we would, we would just keep going. Cause we both have dogs. That was Chewy.

Laura Marie Altom [05:14] Yes. She’s a Yorkie.

Patricia McLinn [05:17] Okay. We were, we were trying to determine whose dogs, whether her three dogs would out bark my one dog or not.

Laura Marie Altom [05:23] I win. Yay!

Patricia McLinn [05:24] Well, she went first. We still haven’t done volume yet. Okay. What’s your favorite color and why?

Laura Marie Altom [05:31] Oh, I love aqua, and so, but not just any aqua. So like think if you’re like in Bora, Bora, the Maldives or even Mexico, like that kind of aqua of the ocean where it’s like really sandy, but blue and just like barely there. Does that make any sense at all? But—

Patricia McLinn [05:59] Well, I’m going to have to go to Bora Bora.

Laura Marie Altom [06:01] Well, yeah. I mean, I’ve only seen it in pictures. I call it like Caribbean blue or tropical blue, but just that—

Patricia McLinn [06:05] Ohh. Yeah.

Laura Marie Altom [06:07] —crazy iridescent blue.

Patricia McLinn [06:09] And what do you, so you associate it clearly with the water—

Laura Marie Altom [06:13] Right.

Patricia McLinn [06:14] So, okay. That’s a wonderful color. Do you have a favorite taste?

Laura Marie Altom [06:18] Uh, butter.

Patricia McLinn [06:21] I love that.

Laura Marie Altom [06:24] Ranch dressing.

Patricia McLinn [06:26] I like butter better. I think I’m with you there. Okay. Most writers have a bad habit word in there, that keeps cropping up, and a lot of us go back and check for it and take it out. And I have already admitted here that two of mine are just and really. Very slips in there too.

Laura Marie Altom [06:43] Oh my God. Just, really, very, uh, seeing how there, like the phrase, seeing how such and such, and it doesn’t mean, yeah, it doesn’t even make sense, but, yeah, very’s getting very bad lately. I’m having a lot of those, but you know, they come out easy enough. So it’s all right.

Patricia McLinn [07:04] Search and delete. Yeah, I do that with ands too, starting the sentence with an and.

Laura Marie Altom [07:11] Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Patricia McLinn [07:12] But then there’s some that needs—

Laura Marie Altom [07:15] Sometimes it works. It really does.

Patricia McLinn [07:18] Yes.

Laura Marie Altom [07:19] And I’m all about the rhythm and I don’t know. I, I was a band geek all through school, and a lot of my writing is very like musical in a weird way. Like if it doesn’t musically work in my head, then it’s off.

Patricia McLinn [07:33] Cause you hear it in your head.

Laura Marie Altom [07:34] Right.

Patricia McLinn [07:36] And then you, um, when you’re finishing a manuscript, did you play it back? Some people have the computer speak it back to them for a final edit. I do what I call a mumble through where I have a manuscript and I mumble it, it’s so I’m hearing the things. If I talk it, if I say it full voice, I lose my voice over the manuscript. That’s why—

Laura Marie Altom [08:00] I can totally top that. I have to read through it, not just me, but, in a fabulous British or Australian accent. And then I will catch everything. I do it like I’m performing a play.

Patricia McLinn [08:13] Oh, that’s cool.

Laura Marie Altom [08:15] No, and the dogs just look at me like you are crazy. No, I just, um, read it out loud in the craziest accent and sometimes the accents blend, but it’s, I don’t know, it makes it just fun instead of just, you know, drudgery, because at that point you’d read the thing so many times you just never want to see it again.

Patricia McLinn [08:37] Well, I wonder if doing it in an accent to kind of separates you, gives you a little separation from, from knowing what it should say.

Laura Marie Altom [08:46] Oh, maybe that’s it.

Patricia McLinn [08:50] Which is a lot of times what, when you’ve been working on a manuscript a lot, you stop seeing the errors because you know what it should be and, and that’s what your mind fills in.

Laura Marie Altom [09:00] Interesting.

Patricia McLinn [09:02] That would be very interesting. If I could do accents, I’d try.

Laura Marie Altom [09:04] Oh, mine are atrocious. But it’s, it’s just fun.

Patricia McLinn [09:07] That would be fun. Well, you should record one. Wouldn’t that be a riot?

Laura Marie Altom [09:13] Really, there would be great money in that, if I could do my own audiobooks.

Patricia McLinn [09:17] And in an Australian or British accent.

Laura Marie Altom [09:20] I know, right?

Patricia McLinn [09:22] A whole new cottage industry.

Laura Marie Altom [09:25] I get my Okie-Arkie twang out of there.

Pioneer camp, Bigfoot, and Angel Baby

Patricia McLinn [09:30] Do you have any strong fears, and do you use them in the book?

Laura Marie Altom [09:34] All right, I’m going to lay this sat there cause we’re, we’ve been friends 30 years, right?

Patricia McLinn [09:40] At least. Well, we’re starting on thirty years.

Laura Marie Altom [09:44] All right. When I was a little kid, my mother screwed up my summer camp reservations, and instead of my usual cushy cabin setting with my eight girls and, you know, the pool and all that, I had to go to pioneer camp. Gag. So here, I mean, I still like my Marriott’s today.

So, you know, I was out in a field in this tent and the bugs and the weeds and everything else. And one night I got up to pee and, um, I’m thinking it was probably 50 yards. I swear to God, I saw Bigfoot. Um, it was white, like a white ape. It’s the craziest thing to this day I have ever seen. And it scared me. Like even right now, like I kind of break out in sweat, like it was bad. And you know, I, I told counselor and everybody just went back to bed and I just laid in my bed, you know, praying I’d survive till morning.

And, um, I mean, I’ve told my parents about it and my mother’s like, Ah, somebody was putting a costume on just to make fun of you. I’m like, Mom, it was like three AM. Who’s going to have my white ape costume in Northern Michigan just to scare the children at 3:00 AM, like in the sev— you know, when is this, the seventies, I don’t know. But, um, Ever since then it just creeps me out. Like if I, you know, so I’m kind of scared of the dark. That’s a very long way to say I’m scared of the dark, uh yeah.

Patricia McLinn [11:16] Scared of the dark. I have multiple questions. You answered one. I wanted to know where it was and, uh, have any, um, Bigfoot researchers ever contacted you?

Laura Marie Altom [11:27] Um, oddly enough, I used to dabble in a group. And, um, I was so outside the norm that it just didn’t work. Um, you know, these are guys who are very comfortable carrying around AK 47s and, you know, with the snake things and tromping through the woods. And, you know, I just had my nails done and I really don’t need chiggers. And it’s just a little much, but, um, I did hear one time, I heard one of the wood knocks, and again, it was such a, just visceral fear. I remember it had just poured and I thought, Okay, good, you know, we’re safe. Nothing’s going to get us after it rains. And the clearest most vivid wood knock off, you know, like, you’d think you were watching one of the silly, that finding Bigfoot show or something. But I mean, it was like somebody had taken a baseball bat to a tree, and I mean, we were, there’s no way, I mean, I was with the people we were with, and it took a good hour or two four-wheeling to even get where we were. So it wasn’t anybody else. I don’t, I don’t know what would have made it. I still think about it to this day. I don’t know what made that noise.

Patricia McLinn [12:40] Then do you take the, um, that fear, whether it says, well, that specific fear have you used, you know, either fear of the dark or, or the more specific Bigfoot—

Laura Marie Altom [12:55] I would say Bigfoot has made cameos in quite a few of my books at least three or four, and he’s actually in the one … Oh my goodness, it might be out right now. Um, a Harlequin, it came out in November. It’s called The Cowboy SEALs Christmas Baby, and my hero finds, or he thinks he hears a baby crying and he’s a horse whisperer and he’s taking, um, this horribly scarred, mentally scarred horse on like its graduation ride in a hail storm or sleet or somehow storm and here’s a baby crying, but anyway, he finds a lady in a tent who just had a baby and she can’t remember how she got there, or what’s going on. But anyway, I’ve kind of flirt with Bigfoot in that.

Patricia McLinn [13:43] That’s cool. And sort of expiated that fear fight it that way.

Laura Marie Altom [13:51] And I collect, I have a fabulous Bigfoot T-shirt collection and little stuffed dolls and yeah, but it, I mean, it’s something that has stuck with me my entire life. Like, I, I don’t know what I saw. I don’t know what it could have been beyond that. And I mean, I was old enough to, to where, you know, wasn’t like a little kid having a fantasy or something. I mean, I definitely knew about boys and it was, uh, I don’t know.

Patricia McLinn [14:19] So the two other questions that, that one that occurs to me immediately is, was this on the way to the bathroom or, I hope, on the way back?

Laura Marie Altom [14:27] No, it was to and I don’t know—

Patricia McLinn [14:31] Oh, no.

Laura Marie Altom [14:32] Yeah. I mean, I had to have like wet my sleeping bag or something, I don’t know. Like I don’t have any remembrance of what happened after that. Other than trying to wake my counselor. She just rolled over and I climbed back in my sleeping bag and that’s all I remember until morning.

Patricia McLinn [14:48] Awww.

Laura Marie Altom [14:49] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [14:50] Poor kid.

Laura Marie Altom [14:51] I know.

Patricia McLinn [14:52] And did you ever go back to pioneer camp?

Laura Marie Altom [14:55] Oh, no, no, no. That was my last year I ever went to summer camp.

Patricia McLinn [14:59] Okay. Sort of a segue from that. Do you have anything from uh, segue from, uh, Bigfoot are not easy. So now, but do you, do you have, um, other earlier in life things that you fretted over that now you just don’t care?

Laura Marie Altom [15:18] I guess when I first started this crazy journey of being a writer, I was just absolutely obsessed with selling my first book. And, you know, it was probably my family and friends were just like, shut up already. you know, you’re never going to sell a book to shut up about the books we don’t want, we don’t care. And, um, it was just an absolute obsession, would I ever sell a book? So probably that, I mean, that’s what first comes to mind.

Patricia McLinn [15:49] How did you get interested in. And selling a book and wanting to write and publish.

Laura Marie Altom [15:55] My grandmother was, um, just brilliant. She’s a University of Chicago graduate and just all about the classics and always, uh, wanted me to read. And, um, problem came in, uh, her and my grandfather, this, we lived in Michigan at the time, and they would winter in Palm Springs, California, and so I would go stay with them at their condo and there’d be all these fabulous older ladies who were missing their grandkids, and they would just take me in.

And so one in particular, her name was Helen, she would bring over sacks of Harlequin romances that she had read. And, um, my grandmother, you know, she say, Here, these are for you, Laura. And my grandmother would just, I can tell you know, we’re going to take those straight to the Goodwill. And I read every romance, stay up all night read.

Laura Marie Altom [16:55] And I think it was in junior high. It just occurred to me, Well, I want to write one of those. So I set up a very strict schedule where I was going to write like a page a day and I kept it up for probably a good 70 to 80 pages, and that’s when I was on a typewriter and I don’t know. And yeah, junior high happens. I’ve found out about boys and quit writing and stuff. I don’t think I took it out again until college.

But once I had my twins, uh, affording daycare for twin newborns is just nuts. So I, we decided that I was going to stay home, and I think I was just cleaning out the attic one day and came across that manuscript. And I thought, and by this time we had a PC, you know, at our house that, you know, and back in those days, all it had was a word processing program, probably Dig Dug or some weird pong game or something.

Laura Marie Altom [17:48] So, uh, yeah, so that’s history, but in those days, I mean, there, I guess there was RWA, but that was the only organization and there were no self-help books at Barnes & Noble, there was no internet. You really had to want it.

Patricia McLinn [18:03] Yeah. I stumbled into going to, um, RWA cause I, well, it’s a long story, but, uh, librarian helped me and said, Oh, we’re having a talk here by, um, a romance writer and it’s Kathleen Gilles Seidel, who is, um, one of the original authors for Harlequin America—

Laura Marie Altom [18:24] Wow, that’s my line. Huh.

Patricia McLinn [18:26] —And has done a lot of, um, single titles subsequently. And there were four of us who went up to her after the talk and within, I think within two years, two of us were published.

Laura Marie Altom [18:38] Wow.

Patricia McLinn [18:39] One was the president of the local, the local chapter. I don’t know what happened to the other one. She was a slacker.

Laura Marie Altom [18:46] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [18:47] Kathy Seidel did pretty well out of that talk.

Laura Marie Altom [18:48] Oh, that’s great.

Patricia McLinn [18:49] So—

Laura Marie Altom [18:50] That’s a great story.

Patricia McLinn [18:51] Yeah.

Laura Marie Altom [18:52] Thank you.

Patricia McLinn [18:53] RWA has helped a lot of us, but there wasn’t, there wasn’t anything.

Laura Marie Altom [18:57] You really had to want it. And you had to like, be a detective about it. I mean, yeah, all of my first manuscripts were mailed in and I didn’t even know really how to do that. And I would print them on like a hundred percent cotton paper and like make it all fancy.

Patricia McLinn [19:13] Yeah. And then at the first, um, RWA, Washington Romance Writers, um, which is the DC chapter of the RWA, first meeting I went to a lovely woman named Nancy Richards Akers came up to me at first person to talk to me and said, What are you writing? And I said, A book.

Laura Marie Altom [19:33] Yeah.

On a desert island with Ethan Hawke, Matthew McConaughey, and Michael Biehn

Patricia McLinn [19:34] Okay. One of my favorite questions to ask is, what three movies would you take with you to a desert Island? I know this is weird because how many desert islands let you play movies?

Laura Marie Altom [19:45] Oh, mine would. Definitely.

Patricia McLinn [19:47] Lets not get particular.

Laura Marie Altom [19:48] No, it would.

Patricia McLinn [19:50] So which three movies, but you only get three movies.

Laura Marie Altom [19:53] Um, you’re so mean just three, huh? Okay. I’m going to say Great Expectations, but the Ethan Hawke Gweneth Paltrow version and it has amazing soundtrack. I really love the underdog story to it. They’re both very beautiful, and just the colors and the cinematography. It’s just fabulous. K2, which is a very underrated mountain climbing, movie. Uh, I think Michael Biehn, is he the one who played Terminator? I think so.

Patricia McLinn [20:30] I don’t know.

Laura Marie Altom [20:32] Well anyway, K2, fabulous mountaineering movie. If you haven’t seen it, you should. And then, um, let’s go with Contact, because—

Patricia McLinn [20:41] Interesting.

Laura Marie Altom [20:42] —it’s just such a, I remember seeing it the first time it was so riveting to me because, you know, you got to think something’s out there. And I really loved how, if there is something out there that really could be the way it goes down. I don’t know. It just, just seemed very fascinating to me. And you know, you can’t go wrong with Matthew McConaughey. So, yeah, I’d have Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey and Michael Biehn all with me on the island.

Patricia McLinn [21:14] Okay. So that’s the thread, I was trying to figure out. Aha, now I see. Do you have a saying that your mother or father used to say that now you hear yourself, coming out of your mouth all the time?

Laura Marie Altom [21:26] I really don’t. I no, I mean like Grandma always used to say like, c’est la vie and stuff like that. Um, it’d probably be more of like a, you know how your parents are like, Yeah, we approve, but you can tell they don’t approve kind of a thing. Caught myself doing that with my kids. And my kids are like 25. So really it’s, you know, not my issue anymore, but it is. I’ve made you, I will always approve or disapprove.

Patricia McLinn [21:54] All right. So we have some questions from readers that I will kind of sprinkle in here, but let’s start with one. Where, and this reader says, Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Laura Marie Altom [22:16] Oh, that’s so hard. I used to have really vivid dream books, but they were like epic and like, you know, back in the, I guess it would have been eighties where they’re like 500 pages long, that kind of stuff.

And one that stuck in my head, it was all I remember is that the hero rescued this, I dunno, let’s say she was 15. And he was like an 18-year-old GI, and she was like a Hawaiian girl. And somehow he like took her in and it was kind of just this sweeping saga of they never met up at the right time. Like he somehow got her to school and then while she was doing that, he got married and then.

She was out of school and then she got married and then his wife died and then, you know, how back and forth they used to go. And, um, I wrote out this crazy detailed outline and somehow that got lost in the move and it just made me so mad that I just never went back, but it would have been amazing. I have no doubt, but nowadays it’s almost like, I don’t have an organic flow to it because I’m so scheduled so far out as far as series or, you know, even my work with Harlequin, I have very narrow parameters as to what my brand is and quirks, that it takes a little bit of the fun out of just being able to write whatever you want to write.

Patricia McLinn [23:56] But you’re doing some, um, indie writing too.

Laura Marie Altom [24:00] Yeah. I mean, cause I’ve got my Disavowed series and it’s planned up through ten books. So, you know, I’m just starting seven. So, you know, I’ve got that. And then I just started a new SEAL Team: Holiday Heroes. And I’m finishing up book two in that, but that would be a twelve book series. So I’ve got a lot to go there. I do have some, uh, like book of the heart projects that are with my agent, but, you know, we’ll just see what happens. Uh, those would go with, you know, Big Six publishing houses.

Um, and then I’ve got other books that are just total, I, I want to write a dystopian so bad and I’ve got one started. Um, and my agent’s like, no, oh, there’s just no market for that. I’m just like, well, tell that to all the movies that are on.

Patricia McLinn [24:51] Right. And, and tell that to your muse, to whatever is pushing you to, to write that.

Laura Marie Altom [24:55] Um, you know what, just for fun, I might start writing, like, I don’t know, 250 words a day on that book, just so I can have something. Cause it’s, I just want to write that book. I don’t think I answered that question at all. I’m sorry.

Patricia McLinn [25:08] That’s quite all right. That’s quite all right. So you mentioned the sweeping saga book idea you had, that you outlined it. Do you always outline?

Laura Marie Altom [25:17] No, usually I will outline, well, I always have to do a synopsis for Harlequin. I would say I outline about once I get to know my characters, maybe by page a hundred, just so that the story stays tight. I will then do a rough scene list. And I’ve, I’ve been at this enough now that it’s, I kind of just organically know if something’s going to work or not or what it needs, you know, a little more of here or there. So no, to always formally outlining, but yes, to just kind of listing the closer I get to the end of what scenes I want to include.

Patricia McLinn [26:03] Do your books tend to follow your synopsis?

Laura Marie Altom [26:06] Synopsis, no. Even my list, synopsis maybe 25%. I mean the general flavor’s going to be there. But, I don’t know about you, but my characters, they just talk and I don’t, they just kind of take over and people show up and I’m like, who are, who are you? You know, like if you’re supposed to be here, they just take over.

Patricia McLinn [26:27] Well, one of the delights to me of being an independent author is I will never write another synopsis in my life.

Laura Marie Altom [26:34] Oh my gosh. They’re horrible.They really are. They’re they’re just such a creativity sucker.

Patricia McLinn [26:40] Now, when did you publish your first book? When did it get published?

Laura Marie Altom [26:44] I think ’97. Yeah, my kids are 25, so they were born in ’92. And my first book came out and they were in kindergarten. So ’97.

Patricia McLinn [26:55] Do you think that having that book published, that first book published, did it change how you approach writing or, or your process or—

Laura Marie Altom [27:04] Well, it made me think I was hot you know what, and, um, I mean, I was just a superstar and, you know, there’d never been any better writer in the history of the world and, um, I can go back and look, I just got the rights back to that book and I just kind of hang my head in shame like, Oh dear. Oh, dear. So if anything now, it’s like, I know I have so much to learn, but back then, no. So in that first book, uh uhn, it, I was done like get out my Emmy Academy award, Rita, whatever you got, I’ve earned it.

Patricia McLinn [27:44] That’s interesting how we, we keep becoming better writers. And, uh, I think, uh, I’ve taught writing and one student was saying, they’d been editing this book for three years and I said, Stop, you know, you just got to stop. And they said, but I’m better. I’m better. And I said, Of course you are, but you’re going to be on an endless cycle. You are never going to finish that book. You’ve got to let it go and go write something else.

Laura Marie Altom [28:13] Let it go. Yep.

Patricia McLinn [28:15] And then at that point, you will be better at the end of it than you were at the beginning. And you’ve got accept that and go on to the next story.

Laura Marie Altom [28:21] Yep.

Patricia McLinn [28:23] Where do you think your love of story came from? Do you think it was from the, your, well from your grandmother and that friend of hers? Or was it other things?

Hippies, boaties, Lake Michigan, storms

Laura Marie Altom [28:33] I was thinking about that. I think, I was an only child and spent a whole lot of time alone. Uh, we grew, or I grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan, and back then it was not like wild or anything, but, you know, there was lots of places that a kid could safely just get on their bike and not come home till dark. And I would, I had this game that I’d play where I’d like, pretend I was Barbara Walters and like interview just random miscellaneous people, whether they happen to be there or in my head, I don’t know. I was a weird little kid.

You know, my parents, we got around, like they were kind of hippies and, um, we were always like, they were real boaties. And not really yachties in a fancy sense, but more boaties, I mean, we always had a boat. We were always sailing. We crossed Lake Michigan several times. And, um, I think I just, I was alone so much that I would just was playing with my Barbies and spinning stories.

Patricia McLinn [29:39] And you’ve got to tell people who are not, I grew up in the Chicago area and went to Northwestern, which is right on the western side of Lake Michigan. But you’ve got to tell people who maybe are not familiar with Lake Michigan that it’s not a—

Laura Marie Altom [29:56] Oh no.

Patricia McLinn [29:58] —passive little lake.

Laura Marie Altom [29:59] Oh no. And we were in a—

Patricia McLinn [30:00] So sailing across it is impressive.

Laura Marie Altom [30:03] —hellacious storm and we left, and I’m sure there’s a sailing reason for this, but we left it dusk out of, um, I think South Haven, Michigan, and we were headed toward like the Milwaukee area, I think. I don’t know, couple hours in, and this was before radar, I mean, you didn’t know if a storm was coming or not. And, um, just hellacious storm. I mean that bro was he heaving something terrible.

And my dad, he loves to sail, I mean, he grew up in a family of sailors. And I just remember my mom, like I kept wanting to peek my head out of the hatch, you know, my mom, like just pushing me back down kind of like whack-a-mole, you know, like, no, just stay down. You’re going to die. I mean, just the water is like coming up over the bow. Oh, it was bad.

Patricia McLinn [30:52] Oh, wow.

Laura Marie Altom [30:53] Very bad. And actually—

Patricia McLinn [30:55] Have you used that in any books?

Laura Marie Altom [30:57] I need you though, but the problem is with, and I’ve got another… Oh, this is another dream story I had, um, that I can’t quite write because of the technical logistics. Um, and when, if you’re writing a book that’s totally taking place on the sailboat, there’s so much technical stuff you need to know to make it come across as realistic that it’s just daunting. Um, so anyway, no, I haven’t yet, but yeah, that was quite an experience.

Patricia McLinn [31:28] Unless you did it, um, they’re really close third person or first person from the point of view of somebody who was on the sailboat, but didn’t go sailing.

Laura Marie Altom [31:37] Ohh, that is brilliant. That is absolutely brilliant.

Patricia McLinn [31:39] Yeah.

Laura Marie Altom [31:40] Thank you, Pat. Like for reals.

Patricia McLinn [31:42] You’re welcome. I’ll look forward to that book.

Laura Marie Altom [31:45] I never thought of that.

Patricia McLinn [31:47] I look forward to reading that book. Yeah, because then you have the emotion, and you have the additional fear of the character not knowing what’s going on.

Laura Marie Altom [31:56] I love that. Thank you. All right, you’re going to get credit at the start of that.

Patricia McLinn [32:00] Well, thank you. So do you have other books that are in, now these are, well, the one you had outlined, but the, more in your head, do you have books that are like half finished or completed, but not published? And—

Laura Marie Altom [32:16] So many. I have so many orphan book babies.

Patricia McLinn [32:22] I feel about that way about them too. Do you give up on them or do you keep thinking this can come together?

Laura Marie Altom [32:32] Nah, one of these days. It’s not that I ended it, I just ended it just time restraints. Um, there’s just, and I got a break my Bravo TV habit, and then I would probably have tons of time, but, and Lifetime movies.

Patricia McLinn [32:48] Okay, re-readers out there, you have to get Bravo to stop broadcasting and we’ll have lots more books from Laura.

Laura Marie Altom [32:58] Um, they didn’t, yeah, it just comes down to time, which I need to be a much better time managemer, managamer. That’s a good word. So I mean, it’s, let’s say, so I’ve got one called, um, Kissing Frogs, and it’s like a time-travel where this prince comes back, and this was real old school. This was before I’d killed, um, Dorchester Publishing. So, um, I would love to do the sequel for that. And, um, I’ve got probably the first three or four chapters, and they’re really fabulous. Like even today, I still love those chapters and I got to get that out.

Um, I’ve got a little, uh, kind of a tween book called I’ll Die if I Don’t Make Cheerleading. And then the sequel is I Made Cheerleading and I’m Still Going to Die. And that’s another one I’m probably halfway through. I need to just go ahead and just do it. Yeah. I’ve got a ghost book. Oh, my God, I’m just obsessed with it. And actually, Harlequin took a nibble on it. But for one of their online only reads and the terms were just atrocious. I’d rather just sit on it. But anyway, so yeah, I’ve got lots and lots of book orphans.

Patricia McLinn [34:11] Yeah. I have a time-travel. Um, but just one time travel story idea, but it keeps coming at me and coming at me. So at some point—

Laura Marie Altom [34:20] See, and that’s the problem. How do you, how do you, I don’t know if reconcile is the right word, probably not, but you know, there’s such a tight focus these days on author branding. But, yeah, I want to do more time travels. I want to do a horror book. There’s so many things I want to do, but it’s not in my brand. And how, you know, how do you do that? Just do it?

Patricia McLinn [34:43] Well, I do, but that’s part of being independent and, um, you know, just wanting and doing what I want to do. So I started a mystery series and I’m going to start, I think, another mystery series and I have some other, um, wild ideas and I’m just going to do it and hope people enjoy it. But if they don’t, here’s part of my, my philosophy is that if you, if you please yourself as the author, that’s the only time you are assured, absolutely assured of having one person who loves the book.

Laura Marie Altom [35:20] True. True, true, true.

Patricia McLinn [35:22] So, and you spend all the time with, you know, you spend months and months with it. So my first goal is to entertain myself and, and get far enough along in the book that when I hit the bad spots, I feel guilty if I don’t complete it because I-I’m leaving these characters hanging. So that’s, that’s my, um, use guilt to write books.

Laura Marie Altom [35:47] Oh, I love that. Yeah. I can see that. That makes a lot of sense.

Patricia McLinn [35:49] And now, do you have a writing routine?

Laura Marie Altom [35:52] My routine would be my lack of routine. I usually get up freakishly early, like, I don’t know between five and six and I’ll get a whole bunch done by say nine, but then by that time, you know, hubby’s up, and he works from home now and he, you know, travels when he has to go do other things. So he’s a real imposition to my day, usually.

So yeah, once he gets up, it’s just whatever whim strikes him. Yeah. As long as he’s in his office working good, then I’m okay. But then, you know, once I get out of that Goldilocks zone, it’s really hard to get back in because then you start answering emails—

Patricia McLinn [36:35] Yes, it is.

Laura Marie Altom [36:36] —and your marketing, your social media stuff. And there’s always some old fire burning somewhere but, you know, So, you know how it is.

Patricia McLinn [36:43] It’s always easier to, to click from the creative to the practical, than it is from the practical—

Laura Marie Altom [36:50] Right. Right.

Patricia McLinn [36:51] —back to the creative. Yeah. So you have to protect that. And do, do you write in a specific place? You mentioned your husband’s office. Do you have your own office?

Laura Marie Altom [37:00] Well, here’s the thing, I have a fabulous office and I absolutely love it, but I also have a 15-year-old, uh, deaf and blind Dachshund. And she gets really disoriented. And so if I go upstairs, so then I have my, the rest of the posse. So I’ve got this giant dog that was supposed to be my daughter’s, but somehow he ended up mine, and he’s kind of a lab-mutt mix. And then I have my little bitty four-pound Yorkie, and then I have Coco, and she’s the blind one and she weighs probably 15 pounds.

So I basically to go up to my office, I have to have the dogs, so I have to have the Dachshund, the Yorkie, my laptop, my reading glasses, whatever I’m drinking. I mean, it’s just really easier just to write at the, the kitchen table. So that’s where I am. So, you know, bless her heart, one day Coco will move on to doggy heaven, but until then, you know, she’s content behind me, and… I have to kind of, my daughter of this idea where it’s like a little, uh, settee for one side of the table and then two chairs on the other. So it’s really comfy. So me and all three dogs fit very comfortably on the couch. There I am. And now—

Patricia McLinn [38:20] Don’t, don’t tell Kalli that she’s not supposed to be on the furniture ever. Although I’ve got it, I know that she comes and checks on me and sees how occupied I am in my office. And then she comes down to the, in lies on the couch in the family room. I thought she was checking on me. You know—

Laura Marie Altom [38:41] Of course she is.

Patricia McLinn [38:42] —she loved me.

Laura Marie Altom [38:43] No?

Patricia McLinn [38:44] No. It was, see if the coast is falling on the couch.

Laura Marie Altom [38:47] Oh, no.

Patricia McLinn [38:48] Yes. So once you get going on a book, what’s your favorite part of the process? Do you love, you know, deep in the throes or are you, uh, many of us talk about the middle being bad, but I know a few authors who love them.

Laura Marie Altom [39:00] No.

Patricia McLinn [39:02] Do you love those, or do you like—

Laura Marie Altom [39:04] I really do. It is, writing is so uncomfortable. I don’t know what there, it’s just, once I’m in the middle, I have to get it out of me. It’s awful. That sounds really weird. It’s just the most uncomfortable feeling and my mood darkens, the more anx my people were going through, like, I’ll catch myself, like my mood kind of reflects them. And, yeah, I just want it done.

Patricia McLinn [39:30] That’s why I wondered about the research. If that affected you. And I could see where the combination of that sort of, um, research into, um, serial killers and stuff like that, combined with the characters going through tough times would, would really bring you down and yet be a satisfying book to write.

Laura Marie Altom [39:50] It’s very, it’s a very, very strange process, that I, and I, I don’t even understand, like, I’ll read the book, say months later, I’ll pick something up or it’s nice on Kindle now. So since I’m in a series, I can refer back to, you know, books such and such and do a quick search on it and I’ll read it. I’m like, I don’t even remember re, writing that. It’s so strange.

Patricia McLinn [40:15] Do you, sometimes you talked about your first, first book and reading it now and going, Oh dear. But, do you ever read things that you’ve written and gone—

Laura Marie Altom [40:24] Oh, sure, sure. No, absolutely.

Patricia McLinn [40:28] Yeah.

Laura Marie Altom [40:29] Um, yeah, no, lots, quite a bit, but yeah. It’s, I think when I say something’s bad, it’s like passive and I say like a lot, Yeah. I need to cut all my likes. But just the passive phrasings of things, like I write so much tighter now that it’s very annoying to see huge chunks of just passive garbage. Like just chop it off.

Patricia McLinn [40:56] I think that’s something that a lot of us learn, and also, the writing has changed in those years. So a question from a reader is when, when you finished a book, do you find yourself missing those characters or thinking about them. Where they are now, you know, after the, after the book or, um, or thinking about different things in the book. And, and then I would add on the question to that, Has that ever led you to write a follow-up book, because you are still thinking about them?

Laura Marie Altom [41:30] Probably not so much with my series books because they are so tightly deadline controlled, but I wrote a four-book series for Loveswept that were all in first person, and those people are still with me. I love those books. So yeah, I think, I think they’re the only ones. I mean, every once in a while, I’ll have some characters you liked better than others, but—

Patricia McLinn [42:01] Do you think you’ll go back to them?

Laura Marie Altom [42:03] Probably not. Uh, I mean, it, it’s very complete. And it’s, again, in the end it’s owned by the publishing house, so I really don’t have any rights to anything. Um, and I don’t, you know, as far as the world, I pretty much covered, I mean, you can always add somebody in, but I just, I don’t see it happening.

Patricia McLinn [42:24] Which of your stories has surprised you?

Laura Marie Altom [42:28] Probably, it would have been in that same series. And the fourth book in that series, I knew had to be centered around Garrett, who was just an absolute despised character throughout the first three books.

And he was a straight up bastard, just a horrible person, and the things he would say to people, it was just like, Oh, you know, I would even think, how can he say that? So when it came time to do that fourth book, I, I just was like, how in the world am I going to redeem this guy? Yeah. I didn’t even like him.

How was I going to make a reader like him? And my editor, Sue Grimshaw, and she’s a saint, uh, absolutely adore her. She said, what if you did a stepbrother book? I’m like, what are you even talking about? She goes, well, there’s this hot, new trend where, you know, people get involved with their stepbrother.

Patricia McLinn [43:34] Oh, my.

Laura Marie Altom [43:35] I’m like, Okay. I’m always game for an experiment. And lo and behold, it kind of came out that like, Garrett is so grumpy because he has wanted Savannah literally his whole life, but it’s so taboo. I mean, you just can’t be with your stepsister, and you know, there is no way in any way related physically, you know, by blood or anything.

So, yeah, he really shocked me what a fabulous guy he turned out to be. Um, I mean, he fell on his sword for her, uh, that book, I obsessed with that book. I love it so much. Um, but yeah, so that’s, that would be my surprise book.

Patricia McLinn [44:17] Um, did that end up being a joy to write or was it still difficult to write?

Laura Marie Altom [44:22] Absolute joy to write. And the love scenes, oh my God. Uh, I found a certain song that just kind of fit the mood or the vibe. And I would just listen to that song on repeat. And, uh, I remember my daughter on Spotify. She’d like, Oh my God, Mom. So embarrassing. People are gonna think that’s me on my account listening. And it’s you. Stop playing that song. So—

Patricia McLinn [44:49] Well, what do you read for fun?

Laura Marie Altom [44:51] I read a whole bunch of action-adventure, love James Rollins. And that’s probably what’s gotten me started on my romantic suspense. Um, just, I love the, just what if, you know, and just a little bit of bad guy and a little bit of romance and. Just a good mix of weirdness.

Ugly covers, The Cowboy SEAL, Sentenced to Sabrina, LaVyrle Spencer

Patricia McLinn [45:15] Okay. And then we have a question from a reader who says, um, When the cover image doesn’t match the character description, and then, reader says a pet peeve of mine. How does it feel?

Laura Marie Altom [45:28] It feels gut-wrenching. I remember, God, my poor husband, he’s been through so much to me. I have this book called The Cowboy SEAL and this was supposed to be like, an absolute breakout book for me, my editor was so excited. Harlequin was just super behind me.

And at that point, I had invented The Cowboy SEAL and with both my editor and agent, we invented him at a conference in Anaheim RWA and, uh, when I got that cover, you know, I told everybody, you know, this is going to be the most epic cover of all times. It is the most ugly cover. I cried and cried and cried.

Patricia McLinn [46:13] Ohhhh.

Laura Marie Altom [46:14] I went to my agent. I said, Come on now. Like, he looks deformed, like some, you know, like aliens got ahold of him. You’ve got to do something. And, uh, you know, my agent tried getting them to change it. My editor was like, Well, I don’t know, I called the office, and they don’t think it’s that bad.  And I said, Come on now.

Patricia McLinn [46:33] No, they never do.

Laura Marie Altom [46:36] I mean, I was so upset. So yeah, if anybody sees The Cowboy SEAL, I’m sorry. That’s not what he looks like. And then my very first book to, if anybody really wanted to do deep research, uh, Sentenced to Sabrina. Uh, you know, you think, okay, my first book cover, it’s going to be so amazing, and yeah, it’s just really bad.

So yeah, Google Sentenced to Sabrina. And it’s like this nuclear green background and it’s just nuts. And I want to say she had really red corkscrewy hair and she doesn’t at all in the book. Okay. And the song. It’s called To Build a Home—

Patricia McLinn [47:21] Oh, yes.

Laura Marie Altom [47:22] —by The Cinematic Orchestra. And I want to say I grabbed it off of, I’m real bad about or good about grabbing songs, you know, Shazam while watching TV. So I don’t, I don’t even know where I found it, but it is just absolutely stunning. Really love that song.

Patricia McLinn [47:37] Build a home. Okay. I’ll have to listen to it. And what was the name of the book?

Laura Marie Altom [47:42] That book is Stepping Over the Line—

Patricia McLinn [47:45] Okay.

Laura Marie Altom [47:46] —with Garrett and Savannah.

Patricia McLinn [47:47] That’s great. Here is another question from a reader, which I think this is fascinating, some people haven’t. If you could write a book with any author, alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Laura Marie Altom [48:02] LaVyrle Spencer is an absolute goddess. She breaks every single rule so beautifully. I don’t know how she does it. I mean, she will head hop, so for readers, that would be like the point of view, like, you know, the hero has a point of view and the heroine has point of view. She will do it literally every other line.

I actually did a workshop on this one time and it’s fascinating how she does it, but yet you you never get lost. You totally know what’s going on. Uh, she is an absolute hands-down genius masterpiece. I love her. If I ever saw her, I’d probably break down in tears and, you know, just fall at her feet. Um, yeah, she’s amazing.

And I just read a book, one of her old books, and she started it with the hero drunk driving and throwing a beer can out the window. Who does that? You can’t do that, but she did, and it worked.

Patricia McLinn [49:05] Oh, that, she’s, she’s somebody who said I’m retiring and no, not going to write any more books. Would you consider, would you consider doing that?

Laura Marie Altom [49:16] No. Why? I mean my people need me to come out. No. My character people.

Patricia McLinn [49:26] I understand that completely then my head would get so clogged.

Laura Marie Altom [49:30] Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [49:31] What you do with all of them.Right?

Laura Marie Altom [49:35] Right.

Patricia McLinn [49:35] So—

Laura Marie Altom [49:36] What else would I do, in general? I mean, really.

Patricia McLinn [49:38] On that, I could find things, I would read. I would sit and read, I think. Um—

Laura Marie Altom [49:43] Wow. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [49:44] And, and so coming back to readers, do you have any, have you had any great encounters with readers?

Laura Marie Altom [49:51] Oh my God. I have this sweet couple. I think they live in Manchester, England, and every year for my birthday, they send me this giant box of English, chocolate and candies. And it’s gotten to the point now where the whole family, the whole family is like, Oh my God, you got your birthday box. And uh, if you’ve never tried Maltesers, oh, oh my God. They’re just absolute chocolate heaven. It’s like a malt ball, but something about English chocolate, it doesn’t have that waxy kind of like, it just melts instantly. It’s, it’s amazing. But anyway, Louise and Steven McLean, I love you. And they’re fabulous.

Patricia McLinn [50:36] How did, how did that start? Had they read a particular book or do you know?

Laura Marie Altom [50:45] I don’t know. Well, she, Louise started out, uh, reading my Control series, uh, that was put out through Loveswept. And we just somehow, you know, how you become just fast friends with people online.

Patricia McLinn [50:59] Uh-huh.

Laura Marie Altom [51:00] And, uh, she just is so funny and quirky and we just always got along. And just one day she asked me for my address and said she wanted to send me a present and I’m like, okay, send me a present. And so, and then after that, then I sent her a box of, uh, American things. It’s funny. She loves candy corn. I’m like nobody in America likes candy corn.

Patricia McLinn [51:23] You have to send her Indian corn, though, instead of candy corn. You know, Indian corn has the chocolate, it’s the brown and orange.

Laura Marie Altom [51:33] I’ve never heard that.

Patricia McLinn [51:34] Brach’s Indian corn. I love the stuff.

Laura Marie Altom [51:38] Okay, I’m going to have to get that.

Patricia McLinn [51:39] I tell myself at Halloween that I cannot eat Indian corn. Cause it’s, I can’t eat, um, candy corn, cause it’s inferior to Indian corn. And I can’t eat any brand except for Brach’s Indian corn.

Laura Marie Altom [51:51] Oh, Brach’s. Everything they make is good.

Patricia McLinn [51:55] That limits my, uh, my access to, to pure sugar.

Laura Marie Altom [52:00] Interesting.

Patricia McLinn [52:01] Definitely. I’m going to hide now Indian corn, because, Oh my goodness. It, it is, you know, an immediate sugar delivery system.

Laura Marie Altom [52:09] Yes, please.

Patricia McLinn [52:10] Okay. So we talked, uh, um, we’ve talked about several of your books, which of your books would you say is the best place for a new to you reader to be introduced to your books, to find out if you’re a good author reader fit?

Laura Marie Altom [52:27] Okay, this is, I just redid my website and because I do so many different kinds of guys, I try to think of a slogan. So I came up with A man for every mood. So, because I do have, I think I’ve got over 60 books now, so I’ve covered a lot of different guys. So if you like billionaires, you would start with my Control series.

If you like SEALs, I don’t even know, like there, you know, it lists all my SEAL books. So you, if you like a SEAL just by himself, then there’s those kinds of books. If you’d like a SEAL, who’s also a cowboy, I got those. So then I have another section that has a cowboy. So those might just be a cowboy. Or they could also be a cowboy and a SEAL. So, what you do, if you want to check me out, go to my website and you’ll see the three guys. So just click on one of the three guys that you, so say, I-I’m really in the mood for a cowboy book. So click on a cowboy and then you’ll see my cowboy books and just pick, pick the one that looks good.

And I really, any of my series, I try not to make it, each book will stand alone, even within the series. I mean, you might get a little more reading them, you know, in sequence, but you’re not going to miss that much.

Patricia McLinn [53:50] And which, uh, what’s your URL for your website?

Laura Marie Altom [53:53] Uh, it’s just lauramariealtom.com.

Patricia McLinn [53:55] Okay.

Laura Marie Altom [53:56] And I’m everywhere. Um, and it’s the same thing anywhere. Twitter, Facebook, my Facebook page, it’s all just Laura Marie Altom whatever, you know, via Instagram. And Instagram is my fun place. That’s where I, you know, any kind of family pictures or just fun, goofy things. That’s probably where I have the most fun.

Patricia McLinn [54:17] Yeah. There’s my dog is all over that. She’s also all over Facebook.

Laura Marie Altom [54:24] Yep. Yep. Lots of dog pictures on Instagram. So if you want to see my crew, that’s where they are, where I hang out.

Patricia McLinn [54:29] So are any of your books what you might consider an overlooked gem? One, one that even your loyal readers, even those who send chocolate from England, might not have been familiar with or know about?

Laura Marie Altom [54:45] I have this little book and it was my first one published by Dorchester. Uh, at the time it came out, it was called Blue Moon, and I re-issued it, uh, Angel Baby. And that book is the first one that ever made me just break down sobbing writing it.

Patricia McLinn [55:05] What’s it about?

Laura Marie Altom [55:07] It features a super seriously down on his luck widower, who has a baby who’s failing to thrive. And I did quite a bit of research on infants who failed to thrive. And it’s just heartbreaking. I mean, there’s, you know, they won’t eat, there was a way there, um, you know, on a downhill slide. So one night he’s cleaning his, uh, the restroom in his diner and, um, just feeling lower than low. And this woman walks in and you can tell something’s happened to her, but you’re not quite sure, she’s just not quite right.

So she uses the restroom and he goes about his work and doesn’t really think much of it. And when he comes out, he finds her back in his office, breastfeeding his baby. And actually, this was another dream I had and I totally forgot that this was, this came from a dream, but so right away, so he’s got this issue of, okay, my baby is suddenly eating. And this is a really good thing, but on the flip side—

Patricia McLinn [56:11] What the heck is this?

Laura Marie Altom [56:12] —uh, clearly this lady has a baby somewhere that she should be with. Uh, where is her baby? And, you know, obviously contacts the authorities, authorities don’t have a clue where she’s come from. She doesn’t know where she’s come from. I just, I love a good amnesia story, but that one just, oh my God. Oh, I still, when I think about when it, when it all starts unraveling, it’s bad, just real bad, but anyway, in a good way.

Patricia McLinn [56:42] Interesting that you mentioned amnesia because, um, I have amnesia. I have, I have lost three days from a car accident.

Laura Marie Altom [56:52] Oh my gosh.

Patricia McLinn [56:54] And, um, I didn’t really want to write an amnesia story until I could figure out how to deal with it. So, and oddly enough, my amnesia story has smartass humor in it. So my, my character pretends that she has amnesia.

Laura Marie Altom [57:14] Oh my gosh, that’s brilliant.

Patricia McLinn [57:15] That’s how I, I dealt with, I think it was a way of working out some of my thoughts about losing these days, uh, from my memory, which had, had been really spectacular, but not quite so, so good after that.

Laura Marie Altom [57:30] Wow. So how did you, okay, so now the writer in me is kicking in. I got to know like, I mean, are you okay to talk about it?

Patricia McLinn [57:37] Sure, sure. It was years and years and years ago. Yeah.

Laura Marie Altom [57:40] So what happened?

Patricia McLinn [57:43] I was driving to work at the Charlotte Observer after, right after Christmas. And I, the last thing I remember is going out to my car, um, and, but from police reports and witnesses, I was driving, um, four-lane highway, not divided. I was in the left lane, a guy lost control of his car from the other, coming the other direction and came 90 degrees across. And the other witnesses said that I tried to go, I tried to go left first to avoid, avoid him, but there was oncoming traffic. So I pulled as far and as hard as I could to the right, we ended, which meant that his car came into the, um, driver’s area of my car.

And, and we ended up on the front lawn of a, of a business. And then they said that, um, you know, they took me into the emergency room. They said that I had, I had regained consciousness. And what happened was, uh, a friend who is also the wife of a coworker, um, came to the hospital to be with me initially. And she was the one who recognized that I was asking the same questions over and over. I was articulate. I would ask, you know, ask good questions, but that I wasn’t retaining that I had asked them or whatever the answer was.

Laura Marie Altom [59:07] Wow.

Patricia McLinn [59:08] Um, it was, it was quite, quite the thing. They called my parents in Illinois and said, if the family’s gonna get here, get here now, because they’d had a blood pressure that dropped precipitously. And one time they figured out what it was and fixed it. They never really knew what the other time was. And—

Laura Marie Altom [59:29] Wow.

Patricia McLinn [59:30] The first thing I remember is, um, that day, but very, very small snippets. I can remember tipping my head back and looking to the left and seeing the machine monitoring me and seeing the lines fairly regularly and thinking, Well, that should be okay. That, that should be a good sign. And the next thing I remember was my parents being there. So this is, I don’t know, five, six, maybe longer hours. Um, oh, probably more like eight hours after. And my mom on one side and my dad on the other.

And there’s two things my, uh, I asked my mother two questions. Was anybody else hurt? And, Was it my fault? And the other thing I remember is holding, I was holding their hands, and my dad had a cold, and he had put, he always had cloth handkerchiefs, and he had put a clean cloth handkerchief between our hands, so I wouldn’t get his germs.

Laura Marie Altom [100:37] Oh, my goodness.

Patricia McLinn [100:38] And I can remember moving, working my thumb to move the fabric, to hold his, to touch his hand.

Laura Marie Altom [100:44] Ohhh. Oh my God.

Patricia McLinn [100:45] Yeah. And then the next thing I remember is like two days later when they were going to make me stay in the hospital longer, but my sister and brother-in-law and their five kids were supposed to come and visit for New Year’s, and I told the doctor, Either let them all in, either let me out, or you’re letting them all in at the same time.

Laura Marie Altom [101:09] Right. Right.

Patricia McLinn [101:10] The doctor looked at my mother, and my mother said she means it. So they let me out. Yep.

Laura Marie Altom [101:18] Oh my goodness.

Patricia McLinn [101:19] But then it was months and months and months where I would remember I’d asked the question and then I couldn’t remember the answer, that was really—

Laura Marie Altom [101:26] That had to be scary.

Patricia McLinn [101:27] And, uh, the neurologist said in very technical terms, Your brains have been scrambled. You know.

Laura Marie Altom [101:36] That’s real training.

Patricia McLinn [101:37] Yeah. Yeah. Um, that I had this, I had a severe concussion, very severe concussion. And, uh—

Laura Marie Altom [101:42] Wow!

Patricia McLinn [101:43] —you know, I was just going to have to wait to see how things sorted out.

Laura Marie Altom [101:47] Whew. Goodness, that’s quite a story.

Patricia McLinn [101:50] Yeah. I should use more of that in a book someday. Huh?

Laura Marie Altom [101:53] I think you probably should. You don’t, I will.

Patricia McLinn [101:57] Nope. Dibs. Dibs.

Laura Marie Altom [102:01] Isn’t that funny now, a lot of times—

Patricia McLinn [102:03] Yeah.

Laura Marie Altom [102:04] —we gotta call dibs on those stories.

Patricia McLinn [102:05] Yes. Now, what is your most recent book? Oh, you mentioned the one that is that November. Do you have another one coming up?

Laura Marie Altom [102:11] I have, uh, the November one and then I had December 8th, Christmas Cookie Baby drops. And that is the first in my new SEAL Team: Holiday Heroes series.

Patricia McLinn [102:24] Okay.

Laura Marie Altom [102:25] And so my whole tag on that is, oh, gosh, see if I can remember. Holiday fun with a dash of danger. So, they all open with kind of a life or death situation. And this one opens with a plane crash.

Patricia McLinn [102:40] Oh boy.

Laura Marie Altom [102:41] Uh, but it, this was fun. This was actually, it’s a, I got the rights back, and I thought this was the second book I ever did with Harlequin. And I thought, Oh, well this will be fun, just a fun release. You know, my readers will get to see it because, you know, it’s been out of print forever. And, um, once I got diving into that, it needed a total rewrite. So even if somebody ever has read this, it’s totally a thousand percent redone and, uh, just, that’s been a lot of fun just to revisit those characters in the town.

And so the whole series now is based out of this town, Kodiak Gorge, in Alaska. And so I’m working on the second book now and it comes out, so it’s Happy New Year, Baby. And it comes out December 29th. Please, God, if I can get it done in time.

Patricia McLinn [103:35] Always, always the hope, right? It’s interesting how you look at some of your old books and some of them stand up so well and amazingly well, and then some really, you think, Hmm. Okay. Okay. Let’s wrap up with, Oh, I want to say you gave your URL and we will have that in the show notes.

Laura Marie Altom [103:54] Oh, okay. Thank you.

Patricia McLinn [103:56] I always think it’s much easier to read than to—

Laura Marie Altom [103:59] Oh, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [104:00] —hang onto it in your head to listen to it.

Laura Marie Altom [104:01] For sure.

Patricia McLinn [104:02] Though for folks who, who want to explore that. So we’re going to ask you some, either or questions here just to get, just for the fun of it really. Um, cake or ice cream?

Laura Marie Altom [104:12] See, now it’s not that easy. What flavor of ice cream versus if it’s white cake with white frosting, I’d got to go with cake. If it’s like rum raisin, I’ve got to go with that. Can’t like, I’m more complicated than that. Next.

Patricia McLinn [104:29] Okay. Tea pr coffee?

Laura Marie Altom [104:33] See, there again. Is this like a mocha Frappuccino with whipped cream. See, and then tea it’s gotta be, you know, orange spice or else I won’t like it. I dunno. It’s another toss-up.

Patricia McLinn [104:48] Okay. I think, I think this one might be easier for you.

Laura Marie Altom [104:51] Alright.

Patricia McLinn [104:52] Dog or cat?

Laura Marie Altom [104:53] Oh, dog.

Patricia McLinn [104:56] Day or night?

Laura Marie Altom [104:57] Day.

Patricia McLinn [104:59] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?

Laura Marie Altom [105:02] Hiking.

Patricia McLinn [105:03] Really? Now that surprised me.

Laura Marie Altom [105:05] I Love to hike. I would hike any day, anywhere.

Patricia McLinn [105:09] Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Laura Marie Altom [105:11] Polish. French, please. I like a nice French pedicure with wide stripes.

Patricia McLinn [105:17] Oh my. Okay. Very specific. Um, leggings or sweats?

Laura Marie Altom [105:23] Can I do yoga pants? What do those, what do those fall under?

Patricia McLinn [105:28] Hmm. Um, really neither, because—

Laura Marie Altom [105:32] You’re teaching me a lot about myself. Pat.

Patricia McLinn [105:36] You’re not very good at either or.

Laura Marie Altom [105:40] No.

Patricia McLinn [105:36] Um, okay. Uh, gardening or house decorating?

Laura Marie Altom [105:45] House decorating, but I love both.

Patricia McLinn [105:48] Paint or wallpaper?

Laura Marie Altom [105:49] Oh, I love the wallpaper, but it’s not in right now. So I got to go with paint currently, but I’m hoping for a wallpaper comeback.

Patricia McLinn [105:58] Mustard or ketchup?

Laura Marie Altom [106:00] Oh, ketchup, can’t stand mustard.

Patricia McLinn [106:03] Best China or paper plates?

Laura Marie Altom [106:05] Okay, if I’m on deadline, paper plates, otherwise best China.

Patricia McLinn [106:12] Save the best for last or grab the best first?

Laura Marie Altom [106:15] Save the best for last, always.

Patricia McLinn [106:18] Okay, well, this has been a delight, Laura.

Laura Marie Altom [106:21] It has. It’s been fun.

Patricia McLinn [106:23] I really, really appreciate your taking the time and joining us today and hope all of you will come back next week to get to know another author.

That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


authors love readers patreon


Episode 5: Absolutely Go for It, with Laura Resnick

Host Patricia McLinn talks with Laura Resnick about creating worlds, developing characters, and how Casablanca should have ended. Patricia and Laura discuss Laura’s diverse writing career — from nonfiction to urban fantasy to short stories and memoir — and the way that she thinks about her characters and books.

You can find Laura on

her website,

* Facebook

* and Twitter.

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers laura resnick

authors love readers patreon

Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Laura Resnick

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Laura Resnick [00:23] I’m Laura Resnick, and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:33] Now let’s start the show. Hi, welcome to this edition of Authors Love Readers. And our guest is Laura Resnick. Laura and I have known each other for quite a while. Kind of just in the writing world, the way you kind of are aware of other people. And then back in 06 or was, well, 07, I guess, um, I was president of Novelists, Inc. And Laura was elected as the president-elect who, um, is kind of in training to take over the presidency the next year. And I will admit I had some trepidations because neither Laura, uh, nor I is, um, wishy-washy. How’s that for subtle, Laura?

Laura Resnick [01:24] I was going to say we met when you were young. I still am, of course.

Patricia McLinn [01:31] Yeah. You’re following just as fast as I am, girl.

Laura Resnick [01:37] Oh, that’s a good description.

Patricia McLinn [01:40] Yeah, so, but we did great. I thought we were a terrific team.

Laura Resnick [01:44] We were. We worked very well together.

Patricia McLinn [01:47] Yeah. And we, we hit some crises as often do, and we—

Laura Resnick [01:53] But I had bail money. So it all went well.

Patricia McLinn [01:57] That was to bail her out. I told her she could not go to jail until after I was done being president. That was the deal.

Laura Resnick [02:08] That was actually.

Patricia McLinn [02:09] Then she was on her own. So, Laura is the author of, um, a diverse, uh, kind of you’ve had a diverse career and now as publishing a great urban fantasy series. And we’ll come back and talk about that some more, but first let’s talk about, let’s do some quick corky questions just to kind of get to know you. What’s your favorite taste?

Laura Resnick [02:35] I like really, really salty foods. Stuff like, um, feta cheese, capers, Greek olives, uh caperberries. I like things often so salty that normal people don’t like them. Even thinking about it makes my mouth water.

No mystery how Nancy Drew addicted Laura to reading

Patricia McLinn [02:51] Okay. We’ll get off that. So we don’t make, you want to end, to end the discussion right away. Um, do you have a childhood book that addicted you to story?

Laura Resnick [03:02] I do. It’s basically the first book I ever got all the way through by myself. I was seven years old, and I read a Nancy Drew mystery called The Witch Tree Symbol. I was very intrigued by the title and I don’t remember the story much now. But I remember even as hard as it was for me to read the book, it was beyond my reading level, I was just so absorbed by the story, I really stuck with it, got all the way through the book, improved my reading level a lot, and that was when I became a voracious reader. And I read like the next 50 Nancy Drew books and lots and lots of other stuff. And that book is really kind of a turning point for me.

Patricia McLinn [03:41] Have you ever gone back to it?

Laura Resnick [03:44] You know, I have not. Something, uh, actually what I was trying to remember the title of it, I was like, I ought to do that. I have never gone back and reread it.

Patricia McLinn [03:52] I think it can be hard though, as, especially once you’re a writer to go back and reread books, um, that you loved when you were younger, because you, you see the mechanisms.

Laura Resnick [04:05] That’s a kid’s book, you know, not, I don’t know, not necessarily because it’s not really something I, I do or have read in years, but I have definitely noticed that with books I really enjoyed or writers I really enjoyed when I was say around twenty, that now often I, if I pick them up, I think, what did I like about this?

The rewriting of Casablanca and desert islands

Patricia McLinn [04:24] Do you have any stories or did you have a story before you were an author that you thought, Oh, this just doesn’t end right. I don’t like this. And then you at least mentally rewrote it.

Laura Resnick [04:35] For me, it was probably the same one it was for millions of people. I was a huge fan of the movie Casablanca. I still am. It’s probably my all-time favorite movie. And for years, as a girl, a teenager, a young woman, I thought that at the end of the movie, and here’s a spoiler people, but the movie is like 80 years old, so get over it, I thought that Ilsa should’ve gone off with Rick. Um, and so I would rewrite it in my head that way and you know, what would happen next and so on.

Um, now that I’m an older woman, I realized no, no, no, Victor Laszlo was much the better choice. Rick shouldn’t have even had to tell her that she should have known that. You want to go off with the man who like has a commitment and a stable job and is very understanding when he finds out about your adultery. You don’t want to spend your life with the, um, alcoholic who has raging fits of jealousy. But at the time, I didn’t really realize that I was young.

Patricia McLinn [05:30] Now I always thought that they should, she should go off with Victor. They should win World War II. And then she goes to Rick, once you get the serious, save the world stuff done, then you can have the great romance.

Laura Resnick [05:44] I don’t know. I mean, I love that movie, but the older I get, the more, I just find Rick really tiresome—

Patricia McLinn [05:49] Oh, you’re mean. How can you do that?

Laura Resnick [05:52] —I am, I mean, he’s a great character, but if you think of living with him, very tiresome.

Patricia McLinn [05:57] Far too practical. Okay. Do you have any things from earlier in your life that you fretted over? That you now, I actually am having a hard time imagining you fret over something, but okay. That you’ve read it over that now you don’t give a darn about?

Laura Resnick [06:14] This one will really surprise you. It will surprise anyone who knows me well now. When I was young, say in my twenties, I fretted over whether people thought I was nice. Yeah, who would think, but I did. I know now I’m like, Oh, who cares? Like in fact, I I’m very comfortable with not being thought of as nice, but no, it really, in my early twenties, I really, I fretted over that. I, you know, what can I say? I was young and dumb.

Patricia McLinn [06:39] How did you get past that?

Laura Resnick [06:42] You know, it just became too much effort. And when I, I stopped having the energy as life got more and more complicated to make the effort to try to be thought of as nice, I found out I was really much more comfortable. And people whose opinions actually mattered to me, they didn’t always think I was nice, but they liked me. They cared about me anyhow. So I think that was really good.

Patricia McLinn [07:05] Well, it’s very sane. Which you probably also don’t hear very often. Okay, so you have your reservations about Casablanca. What three movies would you take with you to a desert Island? Yes, this desert Island has the ability to play movies.

Laura Resnick [07:25] Oh, who cares. The issue is I’m stranded on a desert Island, I’m not going to be watching movies. I’m going to be trying to be rescued.

Patricia McLinn [07:34] What do you do at night when you’re tired? You have to decide between—

Laura Resnick [07:37] I build bonfires in the hope of being rescued.

Patricia McLinn [07:41] Three movies, Laura.

Laura Resnick [07:43] Well, Casablanca, obviously.

Patricia McLinn [07:46] So you can gripe about it, huh?

Laura Resnick [07:50] No, no. I actually love that movie. I just, uh, no longer think it should have ended differently. No, I love that movie. Um, I would also, I would bring Who’s Killing the Great Chefs of Europe because that is a comedy, and I will need cheering up. And it’s full of all of these fabulous, wonderful meals, and I’ll probably be missing good food. And I would bring, um, a Bollywood movie called Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which was a popular movie about 15 years ago that I enjoyed, and I would bring it because it’s like four and a half hours long, and I will have a lot of empty time to fill.

Patricia McLinn [08:28] In between bonfires.

Laura Resnick [08:30] Yes. So those would be my choices, I guess. Not necessarily the three best films I’ve ever seen, but, they would serve their purpose.

Patricia McLinn [08:37] Very practical. Um, okay, what’s a saying of your mother or your father that you hear yourself saying now?

Laura Resnick [08:46] Oh, it’s one of my favorites of my mom’s it’s um, that person you’re speaking of someone specific, that person is a silly millimeter deep.

Patricia McLinn [08:56] And which of your parents says that?

Laura Resnick [08:59] My mom.

Patricia McLinn [09:00] That’s great. That’s great. Okay. I don’t know why this fascinates me, but it does, your dominant hand, and you’re right-handed, aren’t you?

Laura Resnick [09:09] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [09:10] Yeah. Okay. Is your ring finger or your index finger longer?

Laura Resnick [09:16] My ring finger. And I have never noticed that before. Nor do I have any idea what it’s supposed to mean? I have lived with this hand for over half a century without ever noticing that.

Patricia McLinn [09:28] It’s my job to open your eyes to these new things in the world, right? Okay. I, see I’ve got to ask you this question. Do you have any strong fears? Have you ever used them in a book?

Laura Resnick [09:41] Yeah, I’m very frightened of snakes. And I’ve used that a couple of times in books. I’ve never actually made a character as frightened of snakes as I am, because I think readers would find it really over the top. But I, I’ve written— Yeah. Somebody I share that with actually is, um, I don’t think I’m giving anything away, Tammy Hoag. And she’s used that a number of times in her books.

Patricia McLinn [10:05] It’s strictly, literally as afraid of snakes, or do you think that’s also accessing that fear to explain other things?

Laura Resnick [10:12] I think it’s strictly snakes. I think it’s the real-life thing. Certainly when I was, you know, uh, very young, I was fascinated with the Freudian interpretation of that, but that doesn’t really apply. I don’t think, I think it’s really just snakes.

Patricia McLinn [10:28] The, the movement or the perceived—

Laura Resnick [10:32] I don’t even like talking about it in all honesty. Like I am that phobic. Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [10:40] Ah, darn. I was really going to delve into this. Oh, this is a question I haven’t asked anybody else, and I got to ask you because I think it’ll drive you crazy. If your writing were a color, what color would it be?

Laura Resnick [10:53] Uh, I think it would be a really fiery color, like a bright gold-orange sort of thing.

Patricia McLinn [10:59] Oh, that’s good. I like the, I like the gold with that. I have this reaction to some authors like it, to me, Agatha Christie is always orange, but it’s a more muted orange. It’s kind of a rusty orange, maybe old blood, huh?

Laura Resnick [11:17] Hmm. I never thought of it in terms of color, but. You know, I think of something like really bright like that, because what I like as a writer, also enjoy as a reader, but what I think I gravitate to as a writer is, um, larger than life characters and a lot of action, a lot of dialogue, a lot of pace. I don’t, uh, I don’t think I will ever write a, a gentle introspective novel about a woman, uh, you know, discovering who she really is. It’s, it’s just not something that attracts me. I like, you know, uh, let’s get like half a dozen zany characters together and send them on a chase, sort of thing is what I like to write. So I, I think about a high energy color.

Where writers’ ideas come from

Patricia McLinn [11:59] Okay, and this leads to a question from one of the readers who says, where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born?

Laura Resnick [12:15] You know, it’s funny, you should ask, cause I was complaining recently, like just three, four years ago, to one of my closest oldest dearest friends. Like God, why do people always ask where writers’ ideas come from? How boring, how, why does anyone even ask? We all know. And she looked at me, she’s like, People ask, you idiot, because they don’t know, Laura!

And it was an eye-opener to me to realize not everybody thinks like writers. I, because, uh, I’ve always thought this way. And as you know, I was raised by a writer. My father’s a writer and, uh, we had a lot of writers around the house growing up when I was growing up, and so on. I thought this was normal.

Patricia McLinn [12:59] Explain who your dad is.

Laura Resnick [13:01] Uh, my father is Mike Resnick. He’s a science fiction writer. He’s quite well known in his field. And he’s been writing since about the time I was born. So I’ve always lived with this kind of a lifestyle in this kind of thinking. And to me, stories come from absolutely everywhere. Every situation and every sight, every sound suggests a potential story idea, and that seems completely normal to me.

And it was only quite recently I realized, no, not everybody sees the world that way. I just assumed, uh, the only difference between writers and non-writers was writers are the people who then put their butt in the chair and crafted a full beginning middle and end type of story out of that. And everybody else was busy doing other things. So my book start from, or my stories start from all different sorts of places. And it’s a very natural, organic process that I, is so natural to me, I genuinely didn’t know everyone, doesn’t have it. Until quite recently.

Patricia McLinn [14:05] So that sort of answers, another question that I like to ask is whether you think, uh, writers observe the world and people differently, or, um, approach things differently. And you’re saying you didn’t realize that until just recently.

Laura Resnick [14:23] Yeah. I mean, I think clearly we do. I just wasn’t aware of it because the way, I know so many writers, I was raised around writers, the way we approach things, was what I believed was normal. And it turns out I’m mistaken, that rarely happens, you know.

Patricia McLinn [14:38] And, and even more rarely that you acknowledge it. So, okay. So you have this story idea, however, it comes to you, how do you start converting that from, uh, an idea or an impression or a character into a book?

Laura Resnick [15:01] Um, for me typically I’m very much of, um, I’m very methodical I’m, and I think the way people write is reflective of the way, in most cases, we also live. I’m very methodical about how I do most things. I’m, what do you say, a plotter, not a panster. Um, I, I’m the sort who, um, before I go anywhere new, I’ve got all of the directions printed out, and I’ve read them. That sort of thing. And I write that way too.

You know, there are writers who just like say, No, no, make it fun, sit down and have a creative rush. Uh, we had a mutual friend, um, since passed away, Jo Beverley. Who used to say, Fly into the mist and see where that takes you. I’d be like what mist? There is no mist. Um—

Patricia McLinn [15:48] There’s lots of mist.

Laura Resnick [15:50] Well, yes, but I’m not flying into it. Uh, I typically sit down, um, still the old fashioned way with a notebook and a pen. Um, cause there’s all this software you can use now. I’m like, Nah, now I have to think, technically that’s not really good for me when I’m working on a story idea. So I just sit down with a notebook and a pen and I’ll do this a lot for a while and I’ll just make a lot of notes and I’ll write down a lot of questions as I start to think of the story idea, you know.

Uh, I often start with a character, um, well, you know. Why would this person do this, or what do they want or who would they encounter? Um, or if there’s a story idea without a character yet, what sort of person would do this or would want this and who would they, uh, come into confrontation with? And I’ll, I’ll write a lot of questions like that to myself, and I’ll make all sorts of notes and arrows and diagrams, and I’ll fill a notebook with what I assume is indecipherable to anyone, but me. And I don’t really refer back to it that much, I think that this is just the process that starts helping me work out the cement, the cement paces of the story. What, now that I have, you know, a few ideas, um, an idea is different from a story it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a spark for a story.

Patricia McLinn [17:08] Mmmhmmm.

Laura Resnick [17:09] I don’t even know if it’s a starting place. It’s the spark. Now I have a starting place and I’m going beyond that to get some of the steps in the journey. And that’s where I start.

Researching your setting

Patricia McLinn [17:17] And how do you integrate that? How do you integrate that with, um, like you have world-building in your Esther Diamond series, wouldn’t you say?

Laura Resnick [17:29] Yeah, I do. I also did really elaborate world-building and, um, I have a traditional, uh, traditional fantasy trilogy. Um, the Silerian Trilogy I did, which was set in a make-believe world, as sword and sorcery fantasy often is. So there are, you’re starting absolutely from scratch with your world building. It’s not even a version of our world, it’s something else entirely. Um, I tend to think in my genre fantasy, and this is not how most people think. I think world-building gets really overemphasized.

It’s just setting and the differences rather than researching your setting, you know, rather than researching, um, 12th century Italy or 18th century France or 21st century New York, instead of researching it, you’re inventing most of it. But you want, in either case, um, the same level of detail, uh, not more, not less. And you want it to be kind of the same level of textured background to your story, so, I’ve pretty, you know, if I start with world-building, I kind of start with a concept like, um, uh, this is a society that’s been at war for so long, that war has become very profitable to everybody and almost nobody wants peace. And I could start there, but then I think of the characters and their conflicts next. And all of the little details of world-building like in fantasy, you have magic systems and ethnic groups and religions and weapons, all of that comes later, um, and it’s not separate it’s, it’s sort of an accessory to the core of the story for me. And it’s the same way with the urban fantasy.

Patricia McLinn [19:15] Are you doing that though separately from creating the action of the story and the characters of the story, do those, do those world-building details arise out of, um—

Laura Resnick [19:27] They arise out of the story.

Patricia McLinn [19:29] —what the characters are doing?

Laura Resnick [19:30] Yeah. They never come out separately. I never sort of have a story and then think, you know, Oh, let me go create a magic system. It always comes directly out of the characters and the conflict and the setting, um, um.

Patricia McLinn [19:42] But then as you establish those rules in your world that you’ve built, do they ever back you into a corner? In the writing?

Laura Resnick [19:51] Um, only in the sense that if you are setting something saying, you know, 15th century Spain, the reality of your research might back you into a corner, into a corner at some point that you’ve got to replot your way out of, only in that sense.

Patricia McLinn [20:05] Yeah, but then history did that to you. You didn’t do it to yourself.

Laura Resnick [20:10] Well—

Patricia McLinn [20:11] If you’re making up the world.

The Lithuanian Thing

Laura Resnick [20:12] If you’re making up the world, you have more flexibility, but, um, uh, here’s an example. I had, in the urban fantasy series, I, uh, created just this, this casual joke that found its way into the first manuscript where, um, the, the, sort of the gatekeeper of the fantasy world, a character named Max, who’s a 350-year-old wizard who runs, uh, an occult bookstore in New York City, 21st century, New York City. And he engages with a contemporary actress, Esther Diamond, the protagonist of the series. And he just sort of casually asked her in passing, Oh, by the way, you’re not Lithuanian, are you? And it just kind of worked its way into the, into the text. And I thought it was funny, so I left it in. And in all my revisions, I, I kind of thought it was funny and I left it in.

And, um, so it worked its way into the next book. And by the time it worked its way to the third book, readers were saying, So what’s the Lithuanian thing? And my editor said, what’s the Lithuanian thing? I had only dropped it in there, cause I thought it was funny. And now I’m like, Oh crap. I have to come up with—

Patricia McLinn [21:15] It has to pay off.

Laura Resnick [21:16] —has to pay off, or it’s just dumb. So the entire fourth book was based on explaining what the Lithuanian thing is.

Patricia McLinn [21:25] And did you tell your editor it’s a secret? I don’t want to tell you yet.

Laura Resnick [21:31] Sometimes, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [21:33] You’re desperately in the background going, Oh my God, what’s the Lithuanian thing?

Laura Resnick [21:37] Yeah, pretty much. That was how the third book, I’m like, Oh crap. What is the Lithuanian thing? And there are several ways in which I, I did that to my, I’ve done that to myself in that series, and you know, you come up with something and then it’s kind of like Chekhov thing. One of my favorite, um, guidelines for writing is, uh, it’s attributed to the playwright Chekhov when he’s said, If there’s a rifle over the fireplace on the first act, you’ve got to use it by the third act. And if you use a rifle in the third act, it has to have been over the fireplace since the first act. And I think that is just a great tidy summary for how plot and story and structure, and indeed world-building need to work.

And the good thing about writing is a much like sausage, no one sees the process. So in the context of one book, it can be a terrible mess when you start, by the time you deliver it to your editor, it can be very tidy as if you knew all along the rifle was there. Um, in a series you just kind of cover your tracks a little bit better and lie when you were in front of people. Oh yeah, I know what the Lithuanian thing is. I’m just, you know, building the suspense.

Patricia McLinn [22:48] So what’s your favorite part and what’s the worst part of the process for you?

Laura Resnick [22:55] Uh, liftoff is definitely the worst part of the process for me. Every book I’ve ever written, the first 150 pages, almost exactly the first 150 pages, are just torture. They’re just, they’re horrible. It’s slow. It’s sluggish. It’s not very good. I don’t enjoy it. Um, the part I really like is, uh, I like writing toward the end of a book. Well, I love having written, who doesn’t.

Patricia McLinn [23:20] Yeah.

Laura Resnick [23:21 I love it when it’s done.

Patricia McLinn [23:22] Yeah.

Laura Resnick [23:23] But in terms of process, um, I don’t do multiple drafts or rough drafts or anything. I write and then I fix what I’ve written, and I go forward and then I go back, and I fix and I go forward and I go back. I just keep fixing as I go along because I don’t know what comes next until everything that’s before it is pretty much the way it needs to be for this next thing to happen. So by the time I’m writing the last, say three chapters of a book, the whole rest of the book is really tight, it’s really set in stone, and I’m really focused and know what I need to do. And that’s the first time usually, those final chapters, where I really feel like I know what I need to do. And it goes pretty fast. Prior to that, it’s really, really a struggle.

Patricia McLinn [24:08] So do you have stories that maybe hit that 150 pages mark that never went beyond that that are half—

Laura Resnick [24:20] I do.

Patricia McLinn [24:21] —well, that would be less than half finished, cause you tend to write long.

Laura Resnick [24:23] I do mostly they’re from earlier in my career. I, um, I had my den and there were several times I wrote, uh, anywhere from 75 to 150 pages and kind of ran out of steam and realized, I, I don’t really have more than this. I don’t know where this is going. If you have a contract that tends to really motivate you to figure out where it’s going, if you do not have a contract, um, you tend to think I, yeah, I, I feel ready to put this aside for something, um, more likely to cover my mortgage payment and do it that way. So, but yeah, it hasn’t happened in a long time, but it did happen a few times.

Patricia McLinn [25:04] So do you still hold on to those? Do you go back and look at them? Do you hold that any hope that they will revive at some point?

Laura Resnick [25:10] Um, no, I did for a while. I have a folder where I keep all my ideas, whether they’re just like, you know, a couple of notes on one piece of paper or in some of those cases, chapters written, I keep a file there, and every year or two, I go through everything to see what am I still interested in and really want to do. And a lot of it will stay. The Esther Diamond series actually is one that I wanted to do for years. And back when you had to have a publisher to retreaters, nobody would buy it. And every year I looked at it and I still loved it and I would keep it there. And now I’m on the eighth book of the series, a with a publisher, but there are other things—

Patricia McLinn [25:47] Well, and a publisher did buy it.

Laura Resnick [25:50] Yeah. But there are other things that I go through the folder and after three or four or six years or five months, I look, I’m like, yeah, I’m not the same writer I was when I came up with this, I’m not that interested anymore. There are other things I’d rather do. And I delete it at that point. I don’t save it. And those projects I mentioned were all things I ultimately said, I don’t even, I’m not even interested in this anymore. And I moved on.

Patricia McLinn [26:11] But you haven’t thrown—

Laura Resnick [26:12] I did. I threw them out. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [26:14] Oh, you did throw them out.

Laura Resnick [26:16] Yeah, Yeah, I did throw them out. I’m not a saver. I throw out anything I’m not really engaging with. I always have, I’ve actually thrown, I threw out a completed manuscript that was one of the early things I wrote. I sold two books. I had a third completed manuscript that nobody would buy. I kept it for a few years. And then one day I read it and went, okay, I see why nobody would buy this. It’s really flawed. And I threw it out at that point. I’m not a saver.

Patricia McLinn [26:37] I still have one that, a completed manuscript that, um, actually I have two, but I haven’t thrown them out. I keep thinking there could be something I could do with it.

Laura Resnick [26:50] And who knows, maybe there is. I mean, I think that when I feel like I’m not interested in this and that’s when it’s time.

Patricia McLinn [26:55] I’m a big packrat, but I think you have a really great point about how we change as writers and that what, what we wrote and could write early, earlier in our career, changes as you go along. Both I, I think you become better, but in some ways I also think you become, um, more tied to a certain way of viewing the world. Uh, and the, cause it’s not so much technical as I think is worldview.

Laura Resnick [27:28] Yeah. I think it is, um, absolutely worldview. I’m sure when I was a younger writer, I tackled stuff I maybe didn’t have the craft skills or experience to do well, but I was ready to tackle it, that didn’t stop me. It’s more, when I look back, I don’t throw out something cause I think, Oh, it was a great idea, but I didn’t execute well. I think I’m not interested in that concept anymore in those characters, that story, that tone. I’ve, I’ve moved on, I’m just not interested. It’s not that the skill isn’t there, but sometimes it’s not.

Patricia McLinn [28:00] You also write short stories.

Laura Resnick [28:03] Yes, I do.

Patricia McLinn [28:04] Can you tell at the beginning whether it is going to be a novel or a short story?

Laura Resnick [28:08] Yeah, I can, for me, I’m uh, it’s ironic cause people I’ve, I’ve published like, I think it’s about 70 short stories now, a lot. So I was surprised to find out that a few of my friends thought I was, um, think of me as, you know, someone who is a natural, short story writer. I’m not at all. I don’t think in short story terms, I don’t read short stories. Um, short stories are hard for me to come up with and sort of the evolution of how I wound up with all of these short stories is, uh, it’s a very popular form in my genre, science fiction fantasy. So there’s lots and lots of opportunity.

And, um, lots of people are putting together, and have always been putting together, books and anthologies and collections where they’ll invite a bunch of writers in based on a theme. So I, I think out of 70 short stories, I think 68 of them, I was invited by somebody to write based on a theme. And what I have found is if somebody kind of gives me some sort of guideline or parameter or premise that’s, you know, unifying the, the theme of the anthology that helps me. Awful lot. Come up with a short story.

If it’s just a, Laura, this editor, this magazine likes your writing, send them a short story. It can take me two years to think of something because I’m not a natural short story writer. And the reason being, uh, short stories, I mean, I am, I’m a character writer. That’s what interests me in a novel. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what my strengths are. It’s what I tend to focus on character development and relationships and how characters change through conflict and their relationships and over time and so on. And that’s a novel format. Short stories are much too short to show a long evolution of a character or a relationship. Uh, you can do it, but because of the form, it would be kind of gimmicky. Short stories are really idea fiction, and I’m not an idea writer.

Laura Resnick [30:08] So, for me, one reason I know something’s a short story is I have been asked to write a short story that’s almost always how I do it. And I’ve been asked on the basis of a theme and the difference to me is very clear between a short story, it’s, it’s, idea-based, it’s a gimmick, it’s a concept. It’s something pretty brief, and a novel is something about the journeys that characters take.

Patricia McLinn [30:33] Do, do, have you ever had short stories or ideas for short stories that have become part of novels? I could see where they weren’t necessarily the germ for a novel, but they could be a tangent almost.

Laura Resnick [30:49] No, but I have gone the other way. Um, again, when I was trying to sell the Esther Diamond series. Um, I just had this concept for the second book that I loved. Doppelgangster, um, and the title alone attracts people and it kind of sells it. And the idea being that mobsters are being bumped off in mysterious ways shortly after seeing their own perfect double. And I’m not normally a concept writer, but it was just this really tight concept.

Well, I couldn’t sell the series, and I couldn’t sell the series. And, um, I came to believe after like five or six years of this, I would never get to write that book back when you could only get things out there if you had a traditional publisher. So I took that concept and I used it in a short story called Doppelgangster. So I went the other way with that. And I did that a few times over the years when I had some sort of concept that was kind of going to be the MacGuffin for a novel and for one reason or another, I thought, you know, I don’t know if I’m ever going to get to write that book. So I would take that concept and pluck it out and use it for a short story. So I went the other direction, but the short stories were not, you know, remotely, like what I had pictured for the novel, with that concept because the novels were really character-driven and short stories generally, are not.

Patricia McLinn [32:10] Explain what a MacGuffin is for any listeners who aren’t familiar with it.

Laura Resnick [32:14] That’s the, sort of the kickoff concept of a book like, um, you know, the MacGuffin of Gone with the Wind is, uh, at the start of the Civil War, this spoiled Southern Belle is torn between two men and will spend the rest of the book, uh, bouncing between her attraction for them, and her changing role, uh, in this changing world that she lives in. And for Doppelgangster, the MacGuffin is this thing about mobsters seeing their perfect doubles before they die.

Patricia McLinn [32:44] At which of your stories, novel or short story, has surprised you the most. And how did it surprise you?

Laura Resnick [32:53] It was definitely In Legend Born. Um, that book was a huge journey for me. It’s the first book of the Silerian Trilogy. It’s traditional fantasy novel sword and sorcery epic fantasy. When I started it, uh, I pictured it as, you know, this 90,000-word book. It’s a fairly short book, a book you could read in a couple of evenings, probably. Fairly short book, a coming of age story about a teenager written in the first person point of view. The actual book is, um, about 250,000 words, it’s almost three times the length of what I imagined. And, uh, it has ten point of view characters. It’s written in the third person, ten point of view characters and this enormous epic sweep. And it was not something I even thought I could do. In fact, I remember saying at the start, I can’t do this. This is not what I do. I can’t do this, not capable of this. And so that book in many ways just kept surprising me.

Patricia McLinn [34:01] Did you try to write it in first person at, at the beginning? How did it, how did it evolve from you thinking first person to third person? I can see how a book could keep growing.

Laura Resnick [34:12] It was really the only time ever in all of my dealings with literary agents. It’s the one time a literary agent, um, gave me good advice and did something that helped me rather than, um, hurt me. Um, and I don’t deal with literary agents anymore cause I had just so many really bad experiences with them that held me back. But this is the opposite of my normal experience. I showed this, um, the first chapter or two of this book with the outline to my literary agent, and me just having said, you know, world-building’s not really the thing. He liked the world-building a lot.

What he said is, you know, having looked at it, Well, I like this, but you know, if I take this to an editor, we’re going to get like a little $5,000 deal. And the book’s going to be released straight to paperback and forgotten very quickly. But if you kind of take this, this concept you’re working with, cause it was going to be the first of three books or something. So you take this concept. And if you could expand it to an epic canvas, something really big, that would, that would really get us a good deal. We get a good, hardcover deal. You’d be launched really well. It would really do a lot for your career.

And I didn’t think I could do this. I didn’t think it would work, but I went back to the drawing board and I took back a much bigger idea to him. It was still in first person, and he said, You know, this has really shown so much improvement, but I think first person’s going to limit the story. Could you try it in third person? And I thought, Oh, I really can’t do that. That’s not a good idea. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll do it and show them it’s not going to work. And once they started doing it, he went, Oh, actually this is better. So he, I have to say for all that, I have a lot of negative stories about that agent, he made a tremendous difference for me in that instance, and I’ve always acknowledged that.

Uh, and that was really sort of the launch pad. And even at that point, having come up with, I had like this 25-page outline of this incredibly big sweeping and complicated plot and all of these larger than life characters. And I had about 70 pages of, uh, text chapters that really launched it, I still didn’t think I could do it. And I was at least halfway through that book before I was like, Oh, look, I’m doing it. Getting to, you know, roughly a quarter of a million words with this thing. So that book—

Patricia McLinn [36:32] But you were going to show him. You were going to show him.

Laura Resnick [36:36] No.

Patricia McLinn [36:36] You were going to show him.

Laura Resnick [36:37] I really didn’t show him. I was, um, I had a contract to fulfill at that point. He sold it really quickly. And now I had, well, if I want the, you know, if I actually don’t want to have to give back the money and be, you know, crawl away with my tail between my legs. Now I actually have to deliver this book I’ve described. And that was what got me there. And, um, the whole process to me on that book was just a big surprise. It was a huge leap forward in my craft, my storytelling, uh, my, my vision of, uh, how much more brave I should be when tackling projects, everything really.

Patricia McLinn [37:11] It’s echoed through your subsequent books.

Laura Resnick [37:13] Yeah. I mean, they aren’t all 250,000 words. Thank God. But yeah, it’s just taught me, you know, go for it. Just absolutely go for it.

Patricia McLinn [37:21] That’s a great lesson.

Laura Resnick [37:22] It is.

Patricia McLinn [37:23] Isn’t it. I have to keep learning it.

Laura Resnick [37:26] I do too. It’s not like they got it perfectly after that.

Patricia McLinn [37:30] Uh, you talked about when we were talking about world-building you talked about, um, that if you were doing, you know, historical research, you know, 15th century Spain, you would be restricted by the realities of it, that research. Do you find that you also need to do research for your books in addition to the world-building, and how do you feel that enjoy research?

Laura Resnick [37:52] I enjoy researching, and, yeah, I do quite a lot of research. Um, for, uh, epic fantasy, um, where you’re, you’re kind of coming up with a make-believe world, the research you do depends on, um, how you’re structuring your world. Basically, I did for the Silerian Trilogy. Lots of research about weapons and, um, hand-to-hand combat. And combat with bladed weapons because, uh, it’s a very violent trilogy. And one of the main characters is an expert swordsman. So I want it to be able to convey that in some credible way. I didn’t want to write something that, you know, the very first person who’s ever taken a fencing class would read it and go, Oh, this is garbage. She didn’t know what she was talking about. And that’s one example of the kind of research that goes in there.

With my urban fantasy series, um, yeah, I do quite a lot of, a lot of research there because I am introducing a magical fantasy concept to the real-world setting of New York City. And I do a whole lot of research about—

Patricia McLinn [39:00] So you have to have reality first.

Laura Resnick [39:02] So I do a lot of research about New York, and part of the conceit of the series is each book uses a different specific, um, setting or background in New York. So one book would be entirely, um, set in, well, almost entirely set in, uh, say a theater in the West Village. So you want to make sure, uh, you know, what goes on in a theater and what the different rooms are called and, um, what kind of equipment is back there and what it smells like, and, uh, so on and so forth. You want to have some reality there.

But in a much more complicated, um, background research I did in that series, one book is set, uh, The Misfortune Cookie, it’s set entirely in Chinatown. And, um, a lot of the characters are Chinese or Chinese Americans. And I did tons of research on that because, uh, you want to get the veracity and the texture. I also did a lot of onsite research, which I do for that series, which I really enjoy, like when I have kind of picked, uh, the settings for the next couple of books, I like to go to New York and spend a lot of time on site getting as much, uh, hands-on background as I can. And I feel that’s helped the books a lot. Um, somebody said to me, you know, New York is like another character in these books and that’s what I want. So I think it’s well worth doing that level of research.

Patricia McLinn [40:31] Do you find that as you’re doing the research, it can change a story because of something you’ve found, either closing off the door or opening other doors?

Laura Resnick [40:42] Yeah, both of those. I typically, you know, I don’t plot a book and then go do my research. It’s when I’m thinking, right, I want to set the next book in Chinatown or, um, I want to set the next book on Wall Street, and I go there and I start doing the research and that will start shaping some of the details or, um, markers of the story in my mind.

And there may be things I thought before I, I did my research or go on my trip that once I get there, I realized, well, that won’t work, but it’s not a huge change because I don’t really have a storyline yet. For the most part.

Patricia McLinn [41:17] Do you tell people what you’re doing while you’re researching? Do you, and do you talk to people?

Laura Resnick [41:24] People always ask the same questions when they, when you say you’re a writer, Oh, have you ever written anything? Yes. That’s why I say I’m a writer. Have you read anything published? Yes, that’s why I say I’m a writer. Oh, have I read anything you’ve written? How the f*** do I know what you read?

Patricia McLinn [41:42] I don’t know.

Laura Resnick [41:43] Sometimes it depends on the circumstance, but very often I do not say. Though, when people see me taking lots of notes and asking very detailed questions, if they start to look suspicious, then I say, what I do, it depends.

Patricia McLinn [41:57] I recently was on a cruise is, um, as you know, and I have this idea for a murder mystery. And so I, um, arranged with some persistence to talk to one of the officials on the, uh, ship and ask about what they do if they find a body who, that does not appear to have died from natural causes.

Laura Resnick [42:21] Oh, they must’ve enjoyed that.

Patricia McLinn [42:23] He was very nervous initially, very wary of me. Eventually, I won him over, though with my charm and innocence.

Laura Resnick [42:37] Now, if I wanted to kill someone using this pliers, exactly how would you recommend I do that?

Growing up in a writer’s house

Patricia McLinn [42:46] Research is fun. So with, with your background, did you ever think that you would do a different job from writing? Were you always thinking you were going to be a writer?

Laura Resnick [42:58] No, growing up in a writer’s house, I never wanted to be a writer. Uh, I saw what kind of lifestyle it was. I remember as a child, seeing my father walking to the mailbox every day, wondering if he’d been paid yet. And, you know, and I saw that he spent, uh, all of his working life just alone in a room, in a grubby sweater, unshaven, um, type, type, type typing away madly. Uh, all of his friends were weird as writers are. I just didn’t, you know, it wasn’t the life I wanted for myself.

Uh, I actually really wanted to go on the stage. I wanted to go into theater, on, I trained very seriously as an actress, but I really didn’t have the temperament for it. I, um, I think a huge difference between acting and writing is when you get rejected as a writer, you’re at home alone in your comfortable space, reading a letter or email telling you why you’re being rejected. As an actress, you’re kind of standing up there in front of a table of people who are staring at you as they reject you and other people are watching this, and then you have to go home alone, and I didn’t have the temperament for any of that. I found it excruciating.

Um, whereas getting a rejection as a writer doesn’t seem to bother me that much. So, and I, I really prefer kind of, it turns out being alone in the room with the characters in my head compared to, um, doing eight shows a week, or, you know, doing a lot of, um, as an actor, you’re often doing material that’s not that good. And as a writer, you mostly get to do the best work you’re capable of. Um, so there were just a lot of ways in which I was always much better suited to this life and I did wind up writing early on. I think I sold my first book at a 25. So I started pretty young comparatively speaking.

Patricia McLinn [44:52] I would have thought that one of the things that, that would appeal to you about writing over, um, being an actor, would be control?

Laura Resnick [45:01] Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [45:03] I was right on that.

Laura Resnick [45:05] As an actor, it was among other things, you know, it’s very hard to actually to act if you haven’t been hired. You know, cause you need other actors, you need a space, you need production, you need time. As a writer, uh, all your, all I needed to get started was a notebook and a pen and a few hours to myself. And I could do whatever I wanted as a writer, whether or not you get published as another matter, but you, you don’t need anything outside of yourself to write a book. And I liked that about it. I still do.

Patricia McLinn [45:32] Yeah, that’s, that’s interesting. And I, I suppose you do in, in, um, in acting to you, but you, you definitely need yourself and you need to be able to go inside yourself, I think, to write. Um, which can scare some people off.

Laura Resnick [45:50] Well, it’s very solitary, um, extremely solitary. And I, I think there are people who don’t like that about it. I think there even writers who don’t like that about writing. Um, it’s, you know, writers are frequently people who actually enjoy being alone in a room, a lot of their lives. I’m one of them.

Patricia McLinn [46:10] Yeah. There, there will be discussions online where somebody will say, Oh, my gosh, I had take a shower and go out and meet people. And all these other authors are going, Oh, you poor soul. And civilians are going, What? Huh?

Laura Resnick [46:29] Exactly. Yes.

A natural baker

Patricia McLinn [46:32] So this is a, this is an out of the blue question. Um, what is something or several somethings that you are really good at that people don’t know about?

Laura Resnick [46:41] Well, um, my friends know, but otherwise I suppose not, uh, I’m a very good cook. Um, and I love cooking because it’s the opposite of writing, you know, writing you do, it’s so much in your head. Or just at a keyboard on a screen or a piece of paper that only you see, it’s very intellectual. It’s very, uh, private. When you’re done with it, uh, you send it off to an editor who just tells you everything that’s wrong with it. And then it’s like a year before it’s published and you share it with other people.

Writing by contrast, I mean, cooking by contrast, you go into your kitchen and it’s very sensory oriented. You’re smelling and tasting, uh, you’re cutting and chopping and kneading and wrapping and wrestling stuff. It takes about an hour to make a nice meal and you immediately share it with people who appreciate it and compliment you. So, yeah, so that’s a lot of what I enjoy about it. I enjoy experimenting. I have an enormous cabinet chock full of spices and herbs and some things in there I don’t even know how to use, and it’s fun to pull them out and say, Well, you know, let me try this, and if it doesn’t work, I wasted an hour and I’ll have one bad meal, rather than if you try something in a novel that doesn’t work, you might be wasting months and losing a lot of income. So there’s a whole lot about cooking. I really enjoy, and doing it a lot makes me good at it.

Patricia McLinn [48:07] Do you follow r— Do you follow recipes or do you make things up?

Laura Resnick [48:12] I do both ways. I, I tend to really enjoy following recipes, like the first time I make something, and then I start tweaking it to make it more my own.

Patricia McLinn [48:20] What’s the best thing you’ve made lately?

Laura Resnick [48:22] My new thing is I’m learning to make British meat pies. I lived in England for three years and I really love meat pies, things like Cornish pasty, and steak and kidney pie and things like that. And we really don’t do that over here. And it finally occurred to me years after coming back, you know, instead of just pining for that stuff, what if I just learned to make it?

And so I got a British cookbook on making savory pies and I’ve been making some of those and, uh, I’m not very good at the pastry yet. I’m not a natural baker. I’m improving on that, but I have made, uh, I made, uh, a roasted vegetable pie two weeks ago that came out really pretty well and was very pretty. And I’ve made a few things like that. So that’s kind of my new, um, project and I’m quite proud of my efforts so far.

Patricia McLinn [49:13] What do you think makes somebody a natural baker?

Laura Resnick [49:16] Um, I don’t know because I’m not one, but you have to be good at it, and I think you have to—

Patricia McLinn [49:22] Okay, what’s the difference between a baker and a cooker in skills or temperament or—

Laura Resnick [49:27] Well, one reason I’m not a natural baker, I don’t enjoy the ingredients. Like, you know, I’ve described how much I enjoy working with the ingredients of cooking, even really gross ingredients, like raw chicken, which is disgusting. I enjoy that, but I don’t really enjoy working with flour, sugar, baking soda. Um, I don’t particularly enjoy mixing batters.

Um, I hate kneading bread. So one thing is I think a natural baker enjoys those processes, whereas I don’t. And I think baking everyone always says, and I think it’s true. You have to be very exact in baking. And I’m not really that exact.

Patricia McLinn [50:05] Oh, that’s interesting.

Laura Resnick [50:06] I’m more organic, like the way, you know, like the recipes handed down from my mother say things like, um, you know, add half a palmful of rosemary, and I know how big my mom’s palms are, so roughly what would half of her palm be? And I toss that in there and if I don’t have rosemary, I’m like, well, let’s see how it tastes with sage since I’m out of rosemary. And I liked that process, and in baking that’s disastrous, but in cooking, it tends to work just fine.

Patricia McLinn [50:35] I am, I tend to bake more than—

Laura Resnick [50:36] That figures.

Patricia McLinn [50:37] —or I think my focus is more on baking, but I’m not exact. Um, but I tend to do recipes that I know really well and, uh, I will eyeball them.

Laura Resnick [50:50] Well, the other thing too is you do so you get better at it because I don’t really enjoy baking. I’ve never done it enough to get good at it. If you enjoy it and you’re doing it, you’re doing it enough to get good at it, and you can eyeball it.

Urban fantasy or epic fantasy

Patricia McLinn [51:00] On your, you were talking about not joining the ingredients, and I think, But you didn’t mention butter. And you, you mix flour and sugar with butter, and you don’t need anything else. Okay. Well, we really got off on a fun tangent there. Um, but, and this is something I wanted to ask you earlier, and then we, we got off oddly, Laura, I don’t know how this happened. We got off on another tangent. Um, so let’s go back to talking about your genre. Um, and this could go either for either both urban fantasy or the epic fantasy. What, what are the big things that people think they know about those genres that they get wrong?

Laura Resnick [51:47] Well, one that slaps me in the face immediately, um, in urban fantasy, there’s a very common, I think at this point we could call it a common cliché that people think is a requirement, and no, it’s just a cliché. They think that your protagonist in an urban fantasy novel has to have magical powers. And I know people think this because it’s often common Esther Diamond, the protagonist of the Esther Diamond series, does not have magical powers. She is an ordinary person who gets mixed up in magical misadventures. The series is comedic. Um, and I have seen people, um, like—

Patricia McLinn [52:28] Oh, uh, before we, before you go any farther, tell some of the titles.

Laura Resnick [51:47] Um, Disappearing Nightly, uh, you’ve heard Doppelgangster. There’s, um, Vamparazzi, uh, Abracadaver, Polterheist, um, and so on.

Patricia McLinn [52:47] Yes, I like them.

Laura Resnick [52:48] So, um, and the titles are really—

Patricia McLinn [52:50] Great titles.

Laura Resnick [52:48] The titles are killer to come up with cause they have to be, each one has to be a self-evident supernatural pun that my editor thinks is funny. That is a pretty big list to fill. So the titles absolutely kill me. But, um, anyways, Esther doesn’t have magical powers. Um, Esther knows a few people who do, but she doesn’t. And from the start I saw people saying anything from, Oh my God, that’s so different, an urban fantasy heroine who doesn’t have magical powers, to quite a few people saying, Well, this author doesn’t know anything about the genre because she doesn’t realize her heroine is supposed to have this.

But, no, you know, there was, I think, uh, definitely more or less a requirement in fantasy that there has to be some sort of fantastical, magical, mystical, supernatural, non-realistic element. Um, in that phrase, I would include say, um, literary magic realism, because there is something in magic realism, which is not realistic as we understand it in our culture, but no, there’s absolutely no requirement that any specific character or indeed any characters have to have magical powers. I think that’s a very common misconception.

I think these days I haven’t run into it that much myself, but just, it seems all too predictable that if you are writing epic fantasy, big sword and sorcery fiction, people will think that George Martin’s work is the baseline for it, and you need to do things the way he does it because people tend to cleave onto something that is that influential and believe that defines the genre. Uh, in much the way that I’m sure many people would say, you know, Agatha Christie defines what a mystery novel or cozy has to be. I think that that’s probably fairly common, at a guess, with George Martin these days.

Patricia McLinn [54:45] And you’re, you’re writing the Esther Diamond series, are you, um, open to thinking about wanting to continue to, um, write epic fantasy also?

Laura Resnick [54:58] I am. Absolutely. I, um, got burned out on it for a while and moved away from it. I really, really wanted to do this urban fantasy series. Um, and now I’m definitely feeling an interest in, um, I want to keep doing the Esther Diamond novels, which I thoroughly enjoy. But yeah, I also want to kind of mix it up a little now, before I get burned out on urban fantasy, maybe, you know, alternate and, um, I have an epic fantasy project I’m starting to make my notes about. That, uh, I would very much like to get to work on. Part of it is just, I’m not that fast. And so, uh, I’m moving slowly. But yes, definitely.

Patricia McLinn [55:37] So, which of your books would you say is the best place for a reader who’s entirely new to you to start.

Laura Resnick [55:46] Um, you know, a lot of people seem to start with Doppelgangster and really like that as a starting place. Uh, it’s—

Patricia McLinn [55:54] And it’s the first book—

Laura Resnick [55:55] No, it’s actually the second book.

Patricia McLinn [55:56] —in the Esther Diamond series.

Laura Resnick [55:59] It’s actually the second book in the Esther Diamond series, but because of the publishing history of that series, uh, I wrote Doppelgangster with the idea that it might be the first one people pick up. Because what happened with Esther Diamond was, um, after years of not being able to sell it, uh, I fired my agent and I immediately sold Esther Diamond to a publisher, Luna Books.

And they released the first book, and it all went very badly. It was the wrong publishing house for Esther. I think they liked the book, but they didn’t really know how to publish it very well, and I think there were problems with their program. And, um, so the first book disappeared overnight, Disappearing Nightly, and they canceled the rest of my contract. And I then fired my next agent, and I resold the series to Betsy Wollheim at DAW Books, which is where it’s been ever since.

Laura Resnick [56:52] But the, uh, I got all the rights back, but the first book, Disappearing Nightly, was still under contract at Luna. And it had just been published. We couldn’t start with that. So Betsy was willing to try and launch the series with book two, even though it would be book two. So I, and by then book one wasn’t even available in bookstores anymore, but the rights were still tied up. It couldn’t be reissued yet.

So I wrote book two, Doppelgangster, with the idea that it was going to be a while before we could actually publish a new edition of the first book in the series, which, uh, it was about two years before we can do that. So Doppelgangster is kind of a good place to start. Uh, I think I was a much better fit with DAW Books, so I think it’s a much better book, in fact, than Disappearing Nightly. But Disappearing Nightly’s fun. And, um, I think people really seem to enjoy the concept too, of these, you know, um, delving into the, the mafia and everything in this sort of ludicrous way. So I think that’s a good one to start with. And if you don’t like that, you probably aren’t going to like my writing.

Patricia McLinn [57:54] Do you have any books that even your dedicated readers might have overlooked as a sort of hidden gem?

Laura Resnick [58:04] Uhhh. Well, not everybody who reads the Esther Diamond books even knows about the Silerian Trilogy because I wrote the two series pretty far apart. Um, and I’m very proud of the trilogy. So I would encourage people to look at that. I also have a nonfiction book called Rejection, Romance and Royalties, and that is a collection of essays about, uh, being a working writer and what this life is like. And it’s pretty fun. Um, it’s actually based on a whole series of columns I did for Novelists, Inc., uh, some years ago. And because it was, you know, it was released by a small press and had a fairly short shelf life. That’s one that I think a lot of people don’t know about.

Patricia McLinn [58:48] That’s a great recommendation, especially for anybody who’s either interested in the real realities of the writer’s life. Um, especially in the traditional model, um, or as an aspiring writer. It’s also, um, one of those amusingly depressing books.

Laura Resnick [59:10] It’s a good way to put it.

Patricia McLinn [59:11] Because it is realistic about that traditional model.

Laura Resnick [59:14] Um, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [59:15] Okay. I have some, I have some questions from readers, additional we’ve, we’ve already asked a few. One is, When you finish a book, do you miss the characters?

Laura Resnick [59:27] I do. I miss them a lot. I’ve been living closely with them for months.

Patricia McLinn [59:33] Yeah.

Laura Resnick [59:34] And after I finished a book, I’m still very absorbed in them for a while. I think about them for several weeks afterwards. And I do miss them. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [59:41] And have other, uh, subsequent books ever arisen out of that period of missing them, you know, do you come up with new ideas for it.

Laura Resnick [59:50] Yeah, back when I was a romance writer, um, I started out years ago as a romance writer writing under a pseudonym. My work was very different than, but it did a few times then. I would have a character in a book I really liked, and it was just like, okay, let me make this the hero or heroine of my next book. And I did that a few times.

Um, more recently, I’ve been writing series anyhow, you know, and when you finish the end of a trilogy, uh, I’d put those characters in the Sil— through the Silerian Trilogy through so much. I felt they had a well-deserved rest. They, they, they should be left alone for a while now though, I miss them a lot. Um, and Esther Diamond, I’m still in the middle of. So some, there are characters though that I developed an Esther Diamond that I think they’re going to be in one book and I really liked them, so I make them kind of part of the regular cast. So yes, sometimes it does result in something new.

Patricia McLinn [100:39] Great. This next reader asks when the cover image doesn’t match the character description and she says a pet peeve of mine. How does it feel?

Laura Resnick [100:50] Well, I have so many stories about book covers, as do we all. I think the thing to keep in mind about that, uh, at least from a writer’s perspective and in hopes of maintaining one’s sanity, is that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the cover of a book is supposed to be an accurate advertisement for your book. And the thing I look at when looking at it, I asked myself when looking at a cover is, Does this cover accurately portray the tone and feel of the book? Does this cover convey the most important information?

For example, The most important information about an Esther Diamond novel is that it’s fantasy. It’s funny. It’s a series, a, it’s urban fantasy. It’s humor. It’s a series, the cover’s got a tray. Those three things. If it doesn’t, it completely fails, no matter how much the model might look like Esther Diamond. And in fact, when Luna Books, uh, which originally published Disappearing Nightly, the first book I mentioned earlier, when they published that book, the cover didn’t convey even one of those things. You couldn’t tell it was a fantasy novel.

Patricia McLinn [102:07] Oh, dear.

Laura Resnick [102:08] You couldn’t tell it was humor. You couldn’t tell it was part of a series. So it failed on all counts, which was one of the reasons I felt sure as soon as I saw that cover, that the book was going to fail because it didn’t add, the cover didn’t accurately in any way, it also didn’t advertise the tone correctly, nothing. Uh, the covers that DAW puts on there, correctly convey all of that and correctly convey the tone.

So I look at that a lot more than I look at, do the models look like the characters. I have had some covers though, that when I’ve looked at them, they were so bad that literally, I cried, I shed actual tears. I thought, in fact, I thought that with Disappearing Nightly. I thought this is going to kill this book, this cover is so bad. And I’ve had that happen a couple of times, and it is incredibly disappointing.

Patricia McLinn [103:00] I th— I think one of the aspects from the author’s point of view, you know so many of the nuances, and you know the ins and outs and the hearts of the book. And it’s, it’s sort of like when people want you to write a blurb and I’m, I come from a journalism background, I can be, write headlines, but if I could have told the whole story in 300 words, I wouldn’t have written 75,000, you know, and to boil it back down is brutal.

Laura Resnick [103:32] And once you’ve written 75,000 words, wouldn’t you be so pissed off to find out you could have told the story and just 300.

Patricia McLinn [103:40] Yes, God. So, so there’s sort of that element with the covers too, that the, the cover can never portray, or convey the, all the intricacies that are in the book. And as you say, the best they can do is give the reader, um, uh, an entree to the mood of the book, to what they’re going to get from that book.

Laura Resnick [104:10] Yeah. And that’s, I think what they should do, and that’s all that they’re intended for, it’s all there needed for it. It’s what they’ve absolutely got to do well. Um, I actually—

Patricia McLinn [104:20] But I really empathize with this reader too, because it drives me nuts.

Laura Resnick [104:23] I actually write my own cover blurbs. I learned to take it over from editors because I found I was doing it better. And, um, and then they tweak them. They maybe put them more into, you know, sale kind of language. And here’s kind of a tip for aspiring writers. The way I learned to write a synopsis of a book. And also the way I learned to write cover blurbs. I started out by spending a year. Every time I read a novel by someone else, I would then write a synopsis of it. And I would write a cover blurb for it, because you have that separation from someone else’s work. And that’s how you teach yourself the techniques to do it well for your own work.

Patricia McLinn [105:00] Okay. Here’s my contrasting tip for aspiring writers. Become an independent, where you don’t, you never again have to write a synopsis. You do have to write blurbs now and then, but just you’re saying the idea of writing synopsis of other people’s books makes me want to bang my head against the table. I hate those so much. Oh my gosh.

Laura Resnick [105:22] Because I’m very methodical. I, well, I would never do other people’s now. I’m like, Oh no, that sounds like so much work. But back then it was valuable to me. I kind of like writing synopsis for my own book. I always write a synopsis before I start writing the book. It’s just kind of is like a roadmap for me because I’m very methodical, and it doesn’t mean I’m shackled to it or constrained by it, or must do what the synopsis says.

It, it means that just like if I were driving from here to Los Angeles, I’d like to have a map. Uh, even if I’m going to deviate from it for me, it’s the same. If I write a synopsis, now I have a map.

Patricia McLinn [106:00] In case, in case listeners can’t tell I’m a total pantster. So, um, okay. Another lovely reader asks, what is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view?

Laura Resnick [106:17] No. I live, I have a view of a—

Patricia McLinn [106:20] But it’s still your favorite place to write.

Laura Resnick [106:17] I live in the city, I have a view of a parking lot. Um, years and years ago, I lived in a crummy, crappy little place where I happened to have a wonderful view out the window. And I absolutely loved that view, and I still miss it. Since then, I have never again lived in a place with a view, which is why I still think about that particular view.

Generally, I like to write at home. Um, I write either in my home office or my bedroom, there’s, I write at my desk or in a chair or in bed. I like quiet. Uh, I like privacy. Uh, I like to have a certain setup of notebooks and reference books and things spread around me in a pretty organized way. So that’s what works for me.

I don’t like to write in cafés or in public. I’ve written in all sorts of places, when you have to do, what you have to. I mean, I have actually written an airport waiting lounges and things, but, uh, I’m generally not someone who takes my laptop on a trip so I can write while I’m away. I don’t like to write in other places. I, I tend to write at home.

Patricia McLinn [107:30] And this is, this is a question I am eager to hear your answer to.

Laura Resnick [107:33] Oh, dear.

Patricia McLinn [107:34] And this is from a reader. If you could write a book with any other author, alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Laura Resnick [107:45] It’s so easy. I think I would choose Sarah Caudwell, who is dead.

Patricia McLinn [107:51] Ohhh.

Laura Resnick [107:52] She was a British mystery writer. She died around the year 2000 or 2001, uh, at the age of 60, she had only written four books. They are some of my favorite books. Uh, they’re mystery novels. So charming and delightful and erudite and intricate and entertaining and engaging.

I met her once well before that at a conference, I met her. Probably in the late eighties, early nineties. And the reason I started reading her books was she was so charming and funny and interesting at this conference, I just thought I got to read her work.

Patricia McLinn [108:29] Very dry humor.

Laura Resnick [108:31] Very dry, very witty, very British. And I just think to do anything with her would be so much fun. So that’s who I would choose.

Patricia McLinn [108:39] Oh, that’s a surprising answer and a great one. Your most recent release was?

Laura Resnick [108:46] Oh, it’s been a couple of years, now. It was Abracadaver. The seventh Esther Diamond novel.

Patricia McLinn [108:51] So you have seven in that series that, so people—

Laura Resnick [108:54] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [108:52] —have some catching up to read with that.

Laura Resnick [108:56] Yes. Also that ser— I just wanted to say that series in the past this year, that series has been, all seven books have been produced as Full Cast Audio productions—

Patricia McLinn [109:09] Oh, what fun.

Laura Resnick [109:10] —by GraphicAudio. Which is the coolest thing. And I sent a sample of that to your podcast address, if you want to post that.

Patricia McLinn [109:17] Yes.

Laura Resnick [109:18] There’s like a two-minute sample.

Patricia McLinn [109:20] Absolutely.

Laura Resnick [109:21] Um, it’s really neat. Graphic Audio’s, um, promo or mark, their, their description of their format is a movie in your mind. So, they hire different actors for all the different characters in the book, they have sound effects. So if, uh, Esther Diamond’s narration says, there’s an explosion, you hear the explosion. If she said, um, you know, uh, the crowd panicked, you hear people stampeding and panicking.

Patricia McLinn [109:48] Oh, what fun.

Laura Resnick [109:49] Um, there’s background music. It’s a wonderful format for these books and they’ve done a terrific job. Um, I actually had some anxiety about adaptation, but I’m so pleased with the way they’ve done it and they’ve done a great job. So those were all released this year.

Patricia McLinn [01:10:04] That’s really great. Um, and I’m glad it’s been a good experience for you too.

Laura Resnick [01:10:10] It has been, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [01:10:11] That’s terrific. So for readers to find, um, where’s the one best place for them to go to find out more about you and about your books.

Laura Resnick [01:10:19] On my website, lauraresnick.com.

Patricia McLinn [01:10:22] Okay. I will also say Laura has a section there for aspiring writers and with information, uh, writerly information. I often send people there, uh, to, to find her links, they’re very useful. Um, okay, now we’re gonna, we’re gonna wrap up with some rapid-fire questions you have to say either, or, um, I’m going to start with an easy one. Appetizer or dessert?

Laura Resnick [01:10:49] Appetizer.

Patricia McLinn [01:10:50] Would you binge watch or would you make the watching last as long as possible?

Laura Resnick [01:10:55] Binge watch. We could all be dead tomorrow.

Patricia McLinn [01:10:58] Cake or ice cream?

Laura Resnick [01:11:00] Cake, but that’s a tough choice.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:04] It is a tough choice. Day or night?

Laura Resnick [01:11:07] Night.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:12] Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Laura Resnick [01:11:10] Bare.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:13] Mountains or beach?

Laura Resnick [01:11:15] Hmm. That’s a tough one too. I guess I’ll go with beach.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:21] Next one, dog or cat?

Laura Resnick [01:11:23] Ironically dog, but I have a lot of cats and no dogs, but it’s, I’m a dog person, but cats currently suit my lifestyle better. I like all animals, but I would say primarily I’m a dog person.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:41] Tea or coffee?

Laura Resnick [01:11:42] Coffee, but I like both.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:45] Garden. Gardening or house decorating?

Laura Resnick [01:11:47] Hmm. That’s another tough one. I’m learning both as a new homeowner. Um, house decorating, I guess.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:55] Paint or wallpaper?

Laura Resnick [01:11:57] Paint.

Patricia McLinn [01:11:59] Sailboat or motorboat?

Laura Resnick [01:12:00] I get seasick.

Patricia McLinn [01:12:03] Okay. Uh, save the best for last or grab the best first?

Laura Resnick [01:12:10] Grab the best first. We could all be dead tomorrow.

Patricia McLinn [01:12:13] There’s a theme here. Um, cowboy boots or hiking boots?

Laura Resnick [01:12:17] Hiking boots.

Patricia McLinn [01:12:18] Oh, I thought you were going to say neither one. Okay, I was wrong about that one. Well, this has been delightful, Laura. It’s been wonderful spending some time with you again, and we didn’t even have to run the world this time.

Laura Resnick [01:12:33] Well, thank you very much for inviting me and best of luck with your new podcast venture.

Patricia McLinn [01:12:38] Thank you so much. And I hope all of you listeners will come back next week for the next edition of Authors Love Readers.

That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes. And you can find out more about me at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week, wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


authors love readers patreon

Episode 4: We See the World Differently, with Barbara McMahon

Today, Patricia McLinn talks with Barbara McMahon, author of 87 romance novels and counting. Patricia and Barbara discuss sources of inspiration for writers, the dedication and consistency required to write so prolifically, and the “scathingly brilliant” ideas that sometimes change the course of a book.

You can find Barbara on

her website,

* Facebook

* and Twitter.

Thanks to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast.

authors love readers barbara mcmahon


authors love readers patreon

Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Barbara McMahon

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast, where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions. Some of them fun, some of them serious, and from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Barbara McMahon [00:24] Hi, I’m Barbara McMann. I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:28] Now let’s start the show. Welcome to another edition of Authors Love Readers. And this time I am delighted to have Barbara McMahon here. Barbara McMahon is one of my great writing buddies. We met, you know I don’t know what year it was, but it was, uh, the Romance Writers of America national conference in Hawaii.

The last time they have had the conference in Hawaii, I don’t think they ever will again, cause it was a fairly small group, which I thought was wonderful. And Barbara and I sat next to each other, McLinn and McMahon, at the literacy signing that they always have. And it’s usually at the beginning of the conference and Barbara thought I was funny. So, forevermore we have been friends.

Barbara McMahon [01:19] And I still think you’re funny.

Patricia McLinn [01:21] Yay. Yay. And Barbara has written how many, how many romances?

Barbara McMahon [01:29] Eighty-seven.

Patricia McLinn [01:31] Oh, my gosh. Oh my gosh. She started as she wrote for Harlequin and Silhouette. Writing for a Harlequin romance, right?

Barbara McMahon [01:41] Correct.

Patricia McLinn [01:43] And who else? Tell us all the ones you wrote for.

Barbara McMahon [01:45] Okay. So I also wrote for Silhouette Desire for Silhouette Special Editions and for Harlequin Superromance.

Patricia McLinn [01:52] Yes, all sorts of books. And now she is an independent author. She has the rights back to, um, some of those past books, and she is also writing new romances.

Barbara McMahon [02:05] That’s right.

Patricia McLinn [02:06] We’re going to start with some quick questions here just to let people get started to know you.

Barbara McMahon [02:10] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [02:11] I’m going to say, what is your favorite taste? And I do mean food, although it’d be interesting. She asked me do I mean food or do I mean clothing? So now I want to know both.

Barbara McMahon [02:21] Oh, okay. So I guess my favorite is pizza followed by dark chocolate. I, and I don’t have a, you know, I don’t have an ethnic one, like Italian or, or Tex-Mex or something like that. But my favorite food is pizza and I love dark chocolate. And then in clothes, I go through really casual Western attire.

Patricia McLinn [02:40] Do you have cowboy boots?

Barbara McMahon [02:42] Absolutely.

Patricia McLinn [02:43] Absolutely. Okay. What is your favorite color?

Barbara McMahon [02:46] Blue. Dark blue. I have nine dark blue T-shirts. I can go weeks without ever wearing another color.

Patricia McLinn [02:55] Well, how did that start?

Barbara McMahon [02:57] I have no idea. I have always liked blue, and I like all the shades, but I really like navy. And so, you know, anytime I go somewhere, and there are navy blue T-shirts on sale, I buy them. And then I realized the other day, cause I do laundry once a week, that, oh my gosh, how long could I go with nine shirts and never wear another color? Probably infinitely.

Pre-author jobs: guide for blind skiers, flight attendant, VP of software firm

Patricia McLinn [03:19] My next question is, what surprising jobs you’ve held.

Barbara McMahon [03:23] One you may not know about is I was a guide for blind skiers.

Patricia McLinn [03:28] I didn’t know that.

Barbara McMahon [03:30] Yep. I had to go through training.

Patricia McLinn [03:31] When did you do that?

Barbara McMahon [03:32] It was several years ago, actually, shortly after I had done several, I fell and injured my knee, and I haven’t been able to go skiing again, but I did it for one season, and it was a lot of fun. And, um, mostly I had kids, teenagers that were blind and special programs would bring them up to the snow, and then our group would guide them.

Patricia McLinn [03:52] So you should tell people where you live in general.

Barbara McMahon [03:55] Oh, I live in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, not too far from Lake Tahoe.

Patricia McLinn [04:00] So she has lots of, lots of opportunities to, to have the snow to ski.

Barbara McMahon [04:04] Absolutely.

Patricia McLinn [04:06] That’s cool.

Barbara McMahon [04:07] I have snow at home too.

Patricia McLinn [04:08] So I have to ask you if, then I have to ask you a related question to get the answer I want.

Barbara McMahon [04:13] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [04:14] Uh, what other day jobs have you held?

Barbara McMahon [04:16] I was a flight attendant during the Vietnam War, and then I ended up being a vice-president of a software development firm before I quit to write full-time.

Patricia McLinn [04:25] And did you want to do those jobs? I mean, did you always want to be a writer and you were doing those other jobs to support yourself, or were those the jobs you had hoped to have and then you went naahh.

Barbara McMahon [04:37] No, I actually have been writing since I was a teenager, and we had a “quote,” a literary magazine at my high school, and I used to write for that. And then a friend of mine and I would spend our summers writing these mysteries and things like that, but I didn’t think of being a professional writer. What I really wanted to do was work in the Foreign Service. Then I, I did a stint as a flight attendant and got to fly all around the world, which I loved, and that was my goal.

Then I ended up getting married, and my then-husband did not want to be a person attached to a foreign person, you know, in a foreign embassy or something like that. His job was in the Bay area, so we stayed here, and I gave up that dream. And then I just worked and worked and, but wrote on the side. And then after I had published several books, I thought, well, I’m just going to quit this other job and write full-time.

Patricia McLinn [05:28] Good for you.

Barbara McMahon [05:29] It’s been fun.

Patricia McLinn [05:30] Good for you. So when was your first book? When was your first?

Barbara McMahon [05:33] Um, 1982.

Patricia McLinn [05:35] And when did you go full-time?

Barbara McMahon [05:36] It must’ve been 1992. So for ten years, I wrote on weekends and sometimes in the evening.

Patricia McLinn [05:44] Do you have a strong fear? And if so, do you use it in your books?

Barbara McMahon [05:48] No. I mean, I don’t like spiders, but I don’t use them in my books. I guess I could, but it’s like, don’t tell people that, I mean, I’m kidding.

Patricia McLinn [05:58] Barbara is very sane. No, no fears, no phobias. I was sorta hoping there’d be a closet one that, that I’d hear about.

Barbara McMahon [06:08] Yes, exactly.

Patricia McLinn [06:09] That I could use against you.

Barbara McMahon [06:10] But, no. Sorry. Sorry to disappoint.

Patricia McLinn [06:12] Okay. Do you have a saying that your mother or father used that you hear yourself saying now?

Barbara McMahon [06:18] Because I said, so that’s why.

Patricia McLinn [06:21] And does it work any better than it worked on you?

Barbara McMahon [06:25] No, not really. And mostly, I can only say to my grandkids, and they are intimidated just a wee bit, but now my, my daughters, they just laugh when I say it.

Patricia McLinn [06:33] Okay. Most writers, now Barbara may be the exception here, have a bad habit word, you know, a word that crops up and, you know, hopefully we know about it and we go back in and check for it, but it, it’s showing up when it should not. I, I have said this over and over. Some of mine, uh, include just and really. Very will show up too. What do you, what’s your bad habit?

Barbara McMahon [07:00] Two. I would say one is just, like you were saying. And at the end of the book, I go back and search on just and eliminate them or change the word sometimes to merely, but mostly eliminate it, because it’s like, Oh my gosh, I said it again. And the other bad habit I have, and it’s not really a word, it’s starting without a subject. You know, just jumping in with the, the phrase that includes the verb and going forward. And then when you read back, it’s like, well, that’s very abrupt. So then I’ll add an I or a he or she or something like that.

Patricia McLinn [07:32] Oh, that’s interesting. I have a tendency to use the phrase, um, it was not dadadada, it was… Which actually is harder to search for because it has the variable in the middle of it.

Barbara McMahon [07:47] Uh, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [07:48] So I, I get a lot of, it was nots that I wanted, but they can’t find this other phrase without going through the, it was nots. So, I have multiple bad habits. I have bad habit phrases.

Barbara McMahon [08:02] Oh, I do too. One is the dark of midnight. And I had a, I had a reader who got a whole bunch of my books at one time. And then she wrote me and she said, I really enjoyed them, but do you know, on every book you say, In the dark of midnight? And it was like, Oh no, do I? So I haven’t said, I don’t think I’ve used it once since that reader brought it to my attention, but apparently in six books, I said it.

Patricia McLinn [08:24] That’s terrible though, that now you’re so conscious of it. So there’s probably a spot where it’d be exactly perfect to use it, and you can’t use it.

Barbara McMahon [08:31] I would not let myself use it.

Patricia McLinn [08:34] You told us that the phrase that your, that your folks used and that you now use, how about, do you have a motivational or upbeat quote that you like?

Barbara McMahon [08:42] The one I like best is, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. It’s from Philippians. And it is one that I have used for many, many years. It gets me through everything.

Patricia McLinn [08:53] That’s, that’s a real foundation—

Barbara McMahon [08:55] Yup.

Movies for a deserted island: Where Eagles Dare, Kelly’s Heroes, and The Sound of Music

Patricia McLinn [08:56] —for you. Okay. What three movies would you take to, with you to this strange desert Island that allows you to play movies?

Barbara McMahon [09:03] Okay. Let me see. You’ll probably laugh at these. One I would take would be, um, Where Eagles Dare, which was a Richard Burton/Clint Eastwood action flick. And another one—

Patricia McLinn [09:15] Ohhh, a World War II—

Barbara McMahon [09:16] —I would— Yes, World War II. And the other one would be Kelly’s Heroes, which was Clint Eastwood, also in World War II. And then the other one I think I would take would be The Sound of Music.

Patricia McLinn [09:26] Well, those are interesting. I was thinking the first two, there’s sort of a theme there of overcoming adversity, certainly, you know, all war—

Barbara McMahon [09:36] Yeah, big odds to overcome.

Patricia McLinn [09:39] Interesting. And then why The Sound of Music?

Barbara McMahon [09:40] I don’t know. It’s so upbeat and cheery. And of course, once you hear those songs, they resonate through your head for days afterwards. That would keep me company on the desert Island.

Patricia McLinn [09:49] So you be off singing the songs.

Barbara McMahon [09:52] That’s right. And dancing around like Julie Andrews did on the hillside. I know you can picture me doing that even in jeans.

Patricia McLinn [09:57] I can, I can, I can very much picture that. Okay. I’m going to ask another kind of strange little question. If your writing were a color, what would it be?

Barbara McMahon [10:10] Well, of course, it would be blue.

Patricia McLinn [10:12] Oh, okay.

Barbara McMahon [10:13] Blue is my happy color and I’m happy when I’m writing, so it would be blue. But it would probably be a light smoky kind of blue, not navy.

Patricia McLinn [10:20] Not navy. Yeah. I can see that. Okay. So where did your story, your love of story come from?

Barbara McMahon [10:28] I can’t remember.

Patricia McLinn [10:29] Do you know?

Barbara McMahon [10:30] I, I, my mom had told me, I started reading when I was about four and I can’t remember ever not reading. And I can remember as a kid, I had a bedtime, I’m not sure kids do these days, but I did. And so I would dutifully go to bed with a flashlight and a book. And as soon as they said goodnight and closed the door, I was under my covers reading.

Patricia McLinn [10:50] Oh, yep.

Barbara McMahon [10:52] So classic for that generation. Don’t you think?

Patricia McLinn [10:55] I did that too.

Barbara McMahon [10:57] Did you?

Patricia McLinn [10:58] Under the covers with a flashlight.

Barbara McMahon [10:58] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [10:59] No, like no adult could see through that.

Barbara McMahon [11:03] Well, I actually—

Patricia McLinn [11:04] Through the sheet.

Barbara McMahon [11:06] I shared a room with my sister and I was afraid the light would wake her up. So that’s why I would go underneath, and you know, and I’m sure you did it too. I’d be up so late, I’d be so tired the next day, but I couldn’t tell anybody why.

Patricia McLinn [11:18] I don’t think they expected anything of me except for being tired the next day, because I’ve long been a night owl.

Barbara McMahon [11:24] Oh.

Patricia McLinn [11:25] So I didn’t have to explain, but the other thing I used to do, I’m the youngest by a bunch. So my older siblings and my parents would be downstairs and I swear all the fun started when I got sent to bed, I’d be sent to bed and all of a sudden, there’s all this laughter downstairs. So I would sneak down. The first half of the stairway—

Barbara McMahon [11:44] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [11:45] —to where, where it opened up into the, into the downstairs room.

Barbara McMahon [11:50] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [11:51] And I’d be there listening. And my mother would say, Are you in bed? And I would pound up the stairs and jump from the landing to the middle of the bed and then say, yesss, like she had no clue what I was doing. So, yeah, I, I don’t think I was cut out to be a spy.

Barbara McMahon [12:17] No, probably not.

Patricia McLinn [12:19] Question from a reader.

Barbara McMahon [12:22] Okay.

What sparked the idea for One Stubborn Cowboy

Patricia McLinn [12:23] She says, Where do your stories come from? I know one author who dreams her stories. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So how are your beautiful stories born? I love that. She says the stories are beautiful.

Barbara McMahon [12:38] I will see something and it will spark my imagination. I came out of the grocery store one night, um, and in the handicap parking place was a pickup truck with this really cute cowboy sitting inside behind the wheel. And as I walked by, I saw a wheelchair in the back of the truck. And so right away, I thought that’s gotta be his because whoever else was in the truck is no longer in the truck.

So then I started thinking of an injured cowboy. How would that happen? While he was rodeo cowboy, he got, um, injured being bucked off the bull or something like that. And then it just developed into a whole story, which was One Stubborn Cowboy, one of my first Desires. Another time—

Patricia McLinn [13:20] That’s great.

Barbara McMahon [13:21] Another time I was at the Amador County fair. I live in Amador County, and it’s a rural county. It’s, it’s big on cows and cowboys and things like that. And I was sitting down resting and eating an ice cream cone, because we’d just been walking all over the fairgrounds and this cowboy, of course, with two little girls, I mean, maybe nine months each, one in each arm. They were big enough to sit up by themselves and look around and all, but they looked like they probably weren’t walking much.

And I thought, well, that’s a great idea. What if there’s a single dad with twins. So that was another book, Daddy and Daughters. Another one I got was from a Lacy J Dalton song, which is country music. And, um, I put it back from that. So I get ideas from everywhere and then they just sparked something in my mind.

Patricia McLinn [14:18] Okay. So when you start, you have that idea, then how do you actually start the book? How do you start writing? Do you do work with that idea? Do you outline, do you take notes or do you just start writing and do you start writing at the beginning? Um, or—

Barbara McMahon [14:32] The first couple of books—

Patricia McLinn [14:34] —somewhere that’s not the beginning.

Barbara McMahon [14:35] Unlike you, my dear. Um, some books, I wrote two or three books, um, back in the day, when you had to write a whole book before they would buy it, at least Mills and Boon wouldn’t buy it without the whole book. Then when I started going to contract with just proposals, they insisted on an outline. So then I’d outlined the book and then my editor would say, You never follow this outline, but it’s okay, cause your books turn out okay. But they would insist on the outline every time. So in a way, I have a very vague outline on what’s going to happen, but a lot of it just as I’m typing, it was like, I have this scathingly brilliant idea, and then I add that to it. So, and then I have to go back and lead up to it. So I, I consider myself an outliner that’s a panster.

Patricia McLinn [15:20] So you have to track back—

Barbara McMahon [15:22] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [15:23] —in the, so you’re writing a sequentially, but then you have this scathingly brilliant idea and you have to go back and, and drop in hints and stuff to make it work from the beginning.

Barbara McMahon [15:33] Exactly.

Patricia McLinn [15:34] So you’re sort of, you’re sort of sequential, but you do jump.

Barbara McMahon [15:38] Yeah. So does that make me a hybrid?

Patricia McLinn [15:41] Yes.

Barbara McMahon [15:42] I think so too.

Patricia McLinn [15:43] And now that you are, you are a totally independent author, as am I, has that changed the way you write at all?

Barbara McMahon [15:48] No, because the habit’s in place after eighty-seven books, it’s, it’s hard to change what’s ingrained.

Patricia McLinn [15:54] What’s been the easiest book you’ve written. Can you think of one off the top of your head, out of the eighty-seven, it was just a joy to write?

Barbara McMahon [16:00] It was the One Stubborn Cowboy, and I had a week’s vacation and it was during the time my kids were in school. I wrote solid for one week and got the first draft done. I’ve never before, nor since done that, but that story just flowed like crazy.

Patricia McLinn [16:18] Oh, that’s wonderful.

Barbara McMahon [16:20] But I wish I could do it again.

Patricia McLinn [16:22] I was just thinking that I would love to recapture it. When, then this is a question from a reader. When you finished a book, do you miss the characters? Do you think about them afterwards? And, and if you do, has that ever led to, uh, an additional book about characters?

Barbara McMahon [16:41] It has. Yes. Yes. I miss the characters because I’ve been living with them for months and, you know, I write for a period of time in the morning and then the rest of the day, I’m thinking of what I’m going to write next or doing some research or something like that, about the book.

And, and so I’ve really lived with these people for months, and it’s like a friend that visited and now has gone, and you miss them. And I’ve never done a sequel because of it, but I have then gone back and added epilogues. Just like, Oh, well, let’s just think down the road a bit. And how did these people fair? And so that’s sort of fun—

Patricia McLinn [17:17] Interesting.

Barbara McMahon [17:18] —to go back and see, um, Oh, here we are nine months later and they’re still very happy.

Patricia McLinn [17:24] That’s cool that you add the epilogues. That’s a good idea too.

Barbara McMahon [17:29] Well, it’s, it’s nice because then your book doesn’t necessarily end with, with happy ever after and you wonder, is that true? And then it’s fun to see them later in the, they really, the love has even blossomed more, and they’re just really happy, and that makes me happy too.

Patricia McLinn [17:44] Yeah. Living the life that, that the book’s set up for them. I know you’ve heard me say this before. I often think of my books as not having happily ever afters at the end, they have happy beginnings. Cause what the characters have gone through and learned in the course of the book has taken them from two people who couldn’t have a real committed relationship at the beginning to two people who could have—

Barbara McMahon [18:09] Right.

Patricia McLinn [18:11] —a committed relationship at the end. And so the epilogue then gives you a, a glimpse into that beginning of, of their new life.

Barbara McMahon [18:20] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [18:21] I liked that. I may steal that.

Barbara McMahon [18:23] I’m happy to share.

Patricia McLinn [18:26] Well, thank you. Um, do you have books that are unpublished or half-finished that it just never quite jelled and, but you’ve held onto them?

Barbara McMahon [18:37] I have three historical ones that I wrote back when Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss were so popular. And I actually sent one of those off. And, um, the, I don’t even remember what house it was in, this was down before, this was like in the 1970s. And it came back with this three-page critique, and I didn’t know anything then.

And I said, Sadly, they don’t like my book. Had I known then that an editor doesn’t spend three pages of critiques, if they’re not interested in the book, my whole life could be different now. But I put it away, I put all three away and, um, no, I never did anything with them. And I don’t know. I mean, I still have them, but they’re typed. That was before computers.

Patricia McLinn [19:26] You could get those scanned in.

Barbara McMahon [19:28] Yeah, I could.

Patricia McLinn [19:29] What, what era were they? What historical era?

Barbara McMahon [19:32] Revolutionary War.

Patricia McLinn [19:35] Oh, interesting. My favorite. I really liked that period.

Barbara McMahon [19:40] I do too.

Patricia McLinn [19:41] Which of course is the reason I wrote my historical and 1880s Wyoming. Just spending all my life studying colonial and revolutionary—

Barbara McMahon [19:51] Right.

Patricia McLinn [19:52] —in the US, where I knew the research. No, no, I went to do the harder stuff. But, see, I think there’s a future there for you, Barbara, if this contemporary gig gives out—

Barbara McMahon [20:05] You have a backup.

Patricia McLinn [20:07] —no problem.

Barbara McMahon [20:08] I was a history major in college. And so I thought, well, I’d write about this because, you know, I get to do all this research and all, and after, and I only tried with the one book I had in the meantime had written the others, waiting for the response and, um, and I thought, you know, this takes forever to research and if they’re not, and to buy it, I’m wasting my time. And that’s how I went contemporary. Cause I thought, I know this timeframe. I don’t have to look up, you know, how they dressed or what kind of conveyances they rode in or stuff like that. So yeah, if this ever goes up, I might go back to it. Unlikely.

Researching tools: cattle ranches, fire station, Google Maps and Google Earth

Patricia McLinn [20:39] Let’s talk, let’s talk a little more about research because some people think, well, there’s no research in contemporary cause you’re living the time, but I find there always is every book there’s research. Um, do you like research? Do you do it all before? Do you have, do you have a routine that you follow with the research search?

Barbara McMahon [20:58] I do research. And one reason I like to write cowboy books, and like I said, I live in a rural county, I have a friend who actually owns a cattle ranch, and anytime I have questions, I ask her things. Um, I did a book once for, about a wildfire, which are prevalent in California as you well know. Um—

Patricia McLinn [21:16] Yes.

Barbara McMahon [21:17] —and so I called one of the local fire people, and he spent a long time telling me about the nature of fire and what to expect in the terrain I was picking up and things like that. And my biggest, biggest win has been Google Maps and Google Earth. Because it used to be if I was writing for another location, I would go and get all the travel books I could get from AAA or from the library and read up on everything I could about the topography and the architecture and customs of that area and stuff like that. And now you can go online and actually walk the street practically that your heroine’s going to walk or ride the range.

Barbara McMahon [21:56] I did a, uh, long jump, which is what’s called, um, hot air balloons that go long distances. They’re like contests, you know. And so it was set in Spain. And so I took off in Barcelona and in Google Earth, you can go, you can say how up, about how high above the earth you go. So I went as high as hot air balloons go, and then just went in the direction the balloon would go. And I was able to describe all of what they would have seen.

Patricia McLinn [22:27] Isn’t that amazing.

Barbara McMahon [22:28] I love Google Earth. So yeah, I guess I do research on almost every book, at least some facet of it. And it’s easier when doing the Western ones because I’ve got, um, friends that are in the cattle industry, but you know, I like to do other things too, and there’ll be readers who aren’t enamored with cowboys, and so I try to do rich guys and sexy guys and business tycoons and things like that, too.

Patricia McLinn [22:55] So, do you have a favorite type of character to write about?

Barbara McMahon [22:58] Yeah, I like cowboys.

Patricia McLinn [23:00] There is something about them. When you’re working on a book, do you have a certain routine that you follow?

Barbara McMahon [23:07] Yes, I get up every morning and have breakfast. And then I, some people don’t eat breakfast, so, and then I sit down—

Patricia McLinn [23:15] That’s true.

Barbara McMahon [23:16] —and I work probably from maybe eight or eight-thirty in the morning until about twelve-thirty, and then I go have lunch. And then in the afternoon I do, you know, any research I need to, or other things I, you know, I’m involved, there’s things, I’m a volunteer for different organizations. So I’ll, I’ll do stuff like that. And then the next morning I’ll get up and the same thing.

And I listened to the same classical music I have for twenty-some years, because it’s like when I have on those headphones and that William Tell Overture starts, I go into this zone and the time just flies by.

Patricia McLinn [23:49] That’s such a great piece of music too. I mean, I think we take it for granted because it’s used for commercials—

Barbara McMahon [23:55] Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [23:56] —and things like that. I love the pace of it, and I, I listened to a variety of music, but one of the pieces I listened to our, um, theme songs from Errol Flynn movies. And I find the faster the music goes, the faster I type.

Barbara McMahon [24:06] Me too.

Patricia McLinn [24:07] So, when it’s going **Hums a tune** I get a lot of words in. We’re good, we’re going to have to put together a collection of fast-paced, classical music for writers to be productive.

Barbara McMahon [24:21] Oh, that would work. That would be really good.

Patricia McLinn [24:23] So what’s your favorite part of the process, and what do you, what’s the most difficult for you too?

Barbara McMahon [24:29] My favorite part is starting. It’s so hopeful and, and it’s building a picture of the character that I hope the reader sees is as what I see, you know. I have a picture in my mind and I try to describe them, not just physically, but personality-wise as well, so that others will see what I’m envisioning in my head.

And then the middles are hard sometime. I know where I want to go, but it’s like, how do I get there logically, you know, I don’t want, I don’t want something to feel contrived or, or too coincidental or something like that. So, so that part’s probably the hardest for me. And then I sort of slow down at the end because I’m getting ready to say goodbye, and maybe I’m not ready to say goodbye to them yet. And I do slow down a little at the end.

Patricia McLinn [25:15] So is it is the end, your least fav— No you said the middle is kind of your favorite.

Barbara McMahon [25:19] The middle, yeah, that’s my least favorite.

Patricia McLinn [25:21] Do you have tricks to get past that?

Barbara McMahon [25:24] Yeah, sometimes I start mid-book and try to, um, brainstorm other ways to make it fresh and a bit different and unexpected. Sometimes I like to say, can I just make this unexpected, and then go a different way. And so, sometimes I do that, and then if I get the scathingly brilliant idea, then I can include that here. And then I have to go back of course, and lead up to it.

Patricia McLinn [25:44] What, now you’ve written so many books, and you started eighties when, again, as I was, you started when you were a toddler, I’m sure.

Barbara McMahon [25:54] Of course.

Patricia McLinn [25:55] Um, having been a toddler flight attendant, previously.

Barbara McMahon [26:00] Yeah, I was probably—

Patricia McLinn [26:02] Those little three-year-olds walking down the aisle of the plane, telling you to put your seatbelt on.

Barbara McMahon [26:08] That’s right. Oh, you’ve captured the scene perfectly.

Patricia McLinn [26:14] So, but you’ve written these books and, and you’ve had, um, a very career, a very successful career. How do you think you’ve changed as a writer over the years? And have, have you had just one change or has, have you, can you see sort of the ages of Barbara McMahon as an author?

Barbara McMahon [26:36] Well, I started out writing for Harlequin in their London office and they’re a bit more formal in their speech and sentence, um, set up than Americans are. And so I do notice that if I go back and look at earlier books, they seem more, almost literary rather than fast-paced and keep moving so you see what’s happening to the characters. And my more recent books in the last fifteen years or so maybe, um, I think are, are more suited to our lifestyle now, you know, you, you’ve got some fast-paced things going on and then you take a break and that would be probably where someone to put the book down and go cook dinner or something and then come back and pick it up again.

Barbara McMahon [27:17] So, yeah, I definitely see a change, to a degree, not hopefully not too much, but to a degree in that. And since I’ve gone independent, one of the things that Harlequin harps on, bus or sweetheart, is making it very generic because it’s going to be sold to, you know, a gazillion foreign countries and in foreign languages and things like that, so it needs to be very generic, and I feel I can really write more to the American market now that I’m, um, an independently published author, so that it’s a lot more like the lifestyle I lead.

Patricia McLinn [27:51] And more specific, yeah.

Barbara McMahon [27:53] More specific to the United States.

Patricia McLinn [27:56] Yeah, and more specific to the character, I think, often because the character is in the United States, but, um, I used to have those, ahem, discussions with some of my thirty-two editors that I had for my—

Barbara McMahon [28:11] Oh my gosh! Thirty-two? Oh my God.

Patricia McLinn [28:14] Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. And you know, they, they would want things that could apply to anybody. And my point was, but this character isn’t anybody, it’s this specific person.

Barbara McMahon [28:27] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [28:28] So yeah, we were never a great, I was never a great fit there. Um, so that the publisher and I were never a great fit, but those days are past, now we’re Indies.

Barbara McMahon [28:38] And I love the freedom now. I mean, I feel like I can, can write as fast as I want, or as slow as I want. Um, I can write what I want and not write to the market, so to speak, just write what makes me happy and hope it makes people who read it happy.

Patricia McLinn [28:54] That’s interesting. Cause you have even been published, always in romance?

Barbara McMahon [28:58] Yes, always in romance.

Patricia McLinn [29:00] What things do you believe that people think about the romance, um, genre and are sure they know that just isn’t so. In other words, what misconceptions do people have about it?

Barbara McMahon [29:17] I think if people are not already reading romances, they think they’re fluff. And I have a, I was on a nonprofit committee with another woman, and it came up what I did, as a romance author. Uh, I never read those, I read histories. And I’m thinking, they’re genre fiction too. So, so I think the perception is they’re not as in-depth reading, and yet they, more than anything, have universal appeal because you’re going for the assumption, I mean, what’s better than falling in love?

But, but then also you can connect into sadness sometimes or anger or envy. I mean, you can go through all the emotions that everybody feels, and that’s why some people do so well in other countries because it doesn’t matter too much about the situation, they’re touching into those universal feelings that, that we all have. And I think it’s enriching to find out how some people deal with those, even if it is fiction.

Patricia McLinn [30:17] How do you feel when you’re writing about characters who are sad? Do you find that that affects you?

Barbara McMahon [30:23] Oh yeah, I’ll be sad. And I still have some books that if I go back and reread them, I start crying and I wrote the stupid things. So it’s like what in the world, but, but hopefully, the sadness of that situation comes across. And I’m not sure that every book’s an emotional roller coaster, but I think if you have different emotions surface, it makes it a more enriching read rather than just straight through. So I been trying to get just a little bit of difference out of that underlying emotion pain, being falling in love.

Patricia McLinn [30:58] You mentioned emotional roller coaster and my mind immediately went to, um, every book is an emotional roller coaster. For me as I’m writing it. But ups and downs, a lot, a lot of scary turns. So, when you’re writing, um, I know you’re, you’re a little more even keel, but, um, do you celebrate different, do celebrate beginning a book or ending a book or having it be published?

Barbara McMahon [31:28] Sad to say I no longer do, but in the early days, every time I’d get a new contract, my husband would take me out to dinner and we’d celebrate. And then, then when I finished a book, we’d go out to dinner and celebrate and, and then after awhile it became like, Okay, they bought another book, but I’m busy, I can’t go out to dinner. And then we just, after a while it’s like, okay, well this is your life. This is not an extraordinary thing anymore. It’s, I mean, I’m blessed to be able to write this long, but in my own lifestyle now it’s not an extraordinary thing. So no, we don’t celebrate as much as we used to.

Authors are people too

Patricia McLinn [32:04] Well, that’s a, that’s an interesting point though, about the, this is your life. And I think, um, sometimes people meeting writers, uh, think we have these very different lives from, from other people. And I will often post on Facebook or Twitter about, you know, taking leaves out of the gutter. Oh yes, the glamorous author life, you know. But do you think that writers view the world differently from other people or approach things different? Are we, are we that, are we different? I guess.

Barbara McMahon [32:45] I think we’re different. When I have spoken to groups, they always ask, where do you get your ideas? Always. I have yet to meet another writer who asks me that. And I think the difference is, we have more ideas in our head then we will ever live long enough to write. And people who are not writers don’t. And so, yeah, I think that makes us different. It was a gift that we were given than other people were given other gifts to, you know, to do in their lives. And that was a gift given to us.

And, you know, I love to, like, if we go to Disneyland, I’ll sit out with the grandkids so I can watch people walk by. I like that kind of stuff. If I’m riding on the train, I eavesdrop on the people talking just to hear, you know what they’re talking about, how they’re saying things, trying to guess what might come next. That kind of analytical kind of stuff maybe, and my friends don’t do that, my non-writing friends don’t do that. So yeah, I do believe we see the world differently.

Patricia McLinn [33:41] Yeah. Barb, I’ve said this in some other, um, talks that I’m an eavesdropper. Uh, and when I go like to a restaurant with other authors, sometimes there’s this sort of scrambled to get in the best spot to either eavesdrop or watch the whole room or the, or the super-duper, the, the double, daily double is to have a place where you can do both. And Barbara is one of the authors that I wrestle with who’s going to sit in the best spot. Try to get to the good chair first.

And you can tell there’ll be a group of authors at a meal. And, and we tend, because we spend a lot of time alone, um, when we do get together, there’s a lot of talking and then all of a sudden there’ll be this lull, and you know, there’s a good conversation going on at a nearby table and everybody’s mentally taking notes.

Patricia McLinn [34:41] So, okay. Here’s a question from a reader. You actually answered kind of one reader’s question about where your stories come from. So we’ve covered that, but what is your favorite place to write? Does it have an inspirational view, and why is that your favorite spot to write in?

Barbara McMahon [34:58] My computer is set up by a window. I live in the Sierra Nevada mountains, so when I look out, all I see is trees. And to me, that is peaceful and serene and tranquil, and I really like it. Sometimes in the fall, the, um, some of the needles, not all of them, but some of them fall, especially from the fir trees and they’re gold, they turn gold. And so if they’re falling in the sunshine it’s just like golden snow almost falling down. Of course you only have to blow the driveway cause they make a terrible mess. But, yes—

Patricia McLinn [35:29] The glamorous life of a writer, right?

Barbara McMahon [35:32] Exactly. But while they’re falling, they’re gorgeous. And you know, I got my desk by the window and I’m just there every day. And again, you slip in front of the computer, you put on the earphones with the same old music I’ve been listening to for decades, and you just zone out and write. And I have tried taking my laptop out on my deck. I’d have even a wider view, but, but no, it doesn’t work.

Patricia McLinn [35:56] Oh, really? You, you can’t work out on the, on the deck?

Barbara McMahon [36:00] And I’m sure some of it, and maybe it would work, because now I’m thinking about it, I have, when we’ve had a power outage or something up here for a long duration, I have gone to the library and been able to work there, but I also think I miss my music and listen to it while I’m working.

Patricia McLinn [36:18] Yeah, I do think that. Maybe authors in particular are, um, trainable, like Pavlov’s dogs, you know, that we, we get certain cues and when, if we’re smart, we create those cues so that we can get back into the writing mode.

Barbara McMahon [36:33] I absolutely agree. I mean, I just consider that my training over, you know, I’ve been doing this for thirty-some years and that’s what works and, and I do often say I’m like Pavlov’s dog. You know, I put the earphones, I can’t hear the phone. Don’t answer the phone. Um, my husband knows not to come up and talk to me when I’ve got earphones on. And, um, and then between writing books, I do editing of course, before I’m ready to release it and I don’t listen to the music then. Um, and so it’s a different mindset in a different way of working. And then when I’m ready to start creating again, I go back into the same mode.

Patricia McLinn [37:11] Yeah. I find when I’m editing, even if. I, I, I’m listening to the words, at least in my head from, you know, from when they’re on the page, when I’m writing, I’m listening to the voices in my head.

Barbara McMahon [37:23] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [37:24] If that—

Barbara McMahon [37:25] Yeah, it does.

The freedom of self-publishing and Play-Doh covers

Patricia McLinn [37:26] —makes sense. Yeah. So you do your books tend to, once you, you start, you have the idea. Well, you’ve said you’ll have scathingly bright, brilliant ideas during, so do they tend to, to change a lot from the start, from your conception to what they end up as?

Barbara McMahon [37:42] They don’t change a lot, but often the ending will be different. And, um, and it’s like, you know, this is what I envision right now today. And as I get into the stories and, and, you know, develop the characters and, and come up with these other things to make them distinctive, and it says, Oh, well, he really wouldn’t do that kind of thing. And so then I’ll slightly change it, which then ripples through and goes all the way to the end. So the basic concept is there from start to finish, but yeah, I will often have the different ending than originally anticipated. I say it used to drive my editor nuts, but, but she knew, I mean, she never asked me to go back and change it like I had it on the outline, and now I don’t have to answer to anybody but me, and so I can make the change whenever I want.

Patricia McLinn [38:29] I don’t know if the listeners, um, can get the visual of when you’re saying you don’t have to answer to anybody but you, and probably on both ends of this call, there are authors going taladadada dancing around the room. Don’t have to answer anybody else. Uh, following up on the stories whether they changed from conception to publication, have you had any that really surprised you?

Barbara McMahon [38:56] No. I don’t think so. I don’t know what you mean by really surprised me.

Patricia McLinn [39:01] So you have, it sounds like you have a pretty good grasp on what the story is at the beginning. Some of us don’t.

Barbara McMahon [39:09] Oh, no. Yes. I’ve heard about writers like that. I can’t fathom—

Patricia McLinn [39:16] And you love us.

Barbara McMahon [39:17] I do. I do, but I can’t fathom how that works. I’m very linear. I start at the beginning and go to the end. The, the road there might veer slightly and have a different ending, but it’s still pretty beginning to end.

Patricia McLinn [39:31] Okay. I love you despite that so, we’ll forgive you. Here’s a question from a reader that will, I think, take you back to your traditionally published days. When the cover image doesn’t match the character description, a pet peeve of mine says this reader, how does it feel?

Barbara McMahon [39:53] Oh my gosh, I hated it. We have, as, when I worked for another publisher, all of those that I worked for, we had these elaborate fill out the cover detail sheets. I mean, there were pages long, and they asked, what color are their eyes? Who cares, you can’t see the eyes anyway, and they’d ask you the hair color and like, what do they look like? And what are they wearing? And where’s this—

Patricia McLinn [40:15] What jewelry they wore.

Barbara McMahon [40:16] —then it’d be something totally different. And you think, what in the world is that? And it wouldn’t match anything. And it’s like, I spent hours doing this form that you had, that was several pages long. And it’s like, Well, put that one aside and let’s go with this one. And, yeah, it used to drive me too. Pet peeve, hmm, yeah, I think so. Did I, was I, too strong? I used to drive me nuts!

Patricia McLinn [40:41] It does. It is a crazy method.

Barbara McMahon [40:43] I have to tell you this one. I did this one story and, um, I had the guy be blond, and the hair came back on the cover, looking like Play-Doh like yellow Play-Doh, and I never have had a blond hero ever since I said, if this is what they do with the blond, they’re dark from now on.

Patricia McLinn [41:03] Oh, but now see, I get to challenge you to have a blond hero, now that you’re an independent, and see what you come up with, I bet you come up with something that is not Play-Doh. For readers who are, who might be new to you, where, what are a couple books that you would say would be a good place to start reading you?

Barbara McMahon [41:25] I don’t know. I have eighty-seven favorites, so narrowing down all these children to one or two is really hard, but maybe one that I was really fond of was The Rancher’s Bride. And it was a modern-day marriage of convenience story for older people. He already had a grown son and I have like two stories going in it. His, the, the heroes love affair, and then his son’s love affair. I liked that one a lot.

Patricia McLinn [41:53] Oh, nice.

Barbara McMahon [41:54] And then another one that I liked a lot was Angel of Smoky Hollow, and it was, uh, a burnt out violinist from New York Philharmonic, goes down to Kentucky of all places and learns to play bluegrass. And there’s more to the story than that—

Patricia McLinn [42:12] Cool.

Barbara McMahon [42:13] —but I thought that was a nice story.

Patricia McLinn [42:15] Well, and those, those are good stories for new readers to be introduced to, to your works. That’s great. Uh, how about, um, even with your most loyal readers, and I know you have a lot of really loyal readers, there must be a book or two that maybe you think has been overlooked a little bit, that isn’t as well known by your, by your loyal readership as others. Do you have those hidden gems?

Barbara McMahon [42:44] Actually, none come to mind. Pretty much, pretty much, they all seem to sell, you know, within a range of each other. I haven’t had any that, that nobody’s ever read or never has gone anywhere.

Patricia McLinn [42:58] Okay. Well, we’ll leave, maybe we’ll leave that question open. If any of your readers have books they want to nominate and say are one of Barbara’s hidden gems—

Barbara McMahon [43:07] I’d love that.

Patricia McLinn [43:08] —they don’t think has gotten as much attention as, as the stories deserve.

Barbara McMahon [43:13] That would be really interesting to see. I like that idea.

Patricia McLinn [43:17] What’s coming up. What’s well, what’s your most, really most recent release. Let’s start with that.

Barbara McMahon [43:22] I had a novella out in December called The Cowboy’s Special Christmas. And a year ago I did A Soldier’s Christmas, and I’m trying to start a new deal of every year having a novella out at Christmas and, um, so I’ve got two down and hopefully quite a few more to go. And then, um—

Rocky Point series and Christmas novellas and more cowboys

Patricia McLinn [43:43] And will you do it like a different occupation each year?

Barbara McMahon [43:45] Yes. I’ve already thought of the one for 2018. He’s going to be a doctor from Doctors Without Borders. So, it’ll be the Doctor’s Christmas or the Doctor’s Hometown Christmas, but you know, something they’ll have Christmas and doctor in it for the title. I don’t have the title yet, but, um, yeah, I’ve already got the idea for the hero for that one. And then, um, I have, I did a series of Christian inspirational books called Rocky Point, Maine, and I have the latest, one of that one that’s due out in the spring called Rocky Point Inn. It’s about an innkeeper and the, she’s, she’s watching, her best friend died and she’s watching her daughter until the best friend’s estranged brother shows up to claim the daughter. And you can imagine if the sister and brother were estranged, how close that family wasn’t.

Patricia McLinn [44:32] Yeah. And when will that be early out?

Barbara McMahon [44:35] Probably April, but maybe as late as May.

Patricia McLinn [44:38] And are you working on something else for, for past that? Do you have something else in mind?

Barbara McMahon [44:43] Yes, I have, um, uh, cowboy series. Cowboys again. Um, one is The Reluctant Cowboy. One is The Cynical Cowboy, things like that. It’s an eight-book series of brothers and cousins that, um, live on or around this ranch in Wyoming. I’m going to Wyoming too. I love Wyoming. I love your book set in Wyoming.

Patricia McLinn [45:02] When are you going to Wyoming?

Barbara McMahon [45:04] Oh gosh, I haven’t been there in years. I need to go again.

Patricia McLinn [45:08] Oh, okay. Yes. Oh, you meant you were going to Wyoming in your books?

Barbara McMahon [45:11] In my book? No.

Patricia McLinn [45:13] Yeah, it’s great.

Barbara McMahon [45:15] One of my favorite states.

Patricia McLinn [45:18] And where is your ranch set? Where in Wyoming is it?

Barbara McMahon [45:22] Near South Pass.

Patricia McLinn [45:24] Okay. That’s an area I have not been in very much, actually, haven’t been in at all. I’ve been, so I still have much more of the state to explore. Road trip.

Barbara McMahon [45:34] I know, I know. Isn’t that fun. And I haven’t been there in a while. We should go back. I should talk my husband into going back.

Patricia McLinn [45:39] It would be a lot of fun.

Barbara McMahon [45:41] It would be.

Patricia McLinn [45:42] Okay. And so tell readers where they can find out more about you and about your books.

Barbara McMahon [45:47] Okay. I do have a website, barbaramcmahon.com. And, um, I have books on all platforms from Amazon to Google, to Kobo, Apple, Nook, all of those. And, um, I have a readers list. If they want to sign up, they can go to my website, and there’s a signup place there. And I’ll send you information when new books are coming out.

Patricia McLinn [46:08] That’s great. Is there anything, this is my, my favorite journalism question, is there anything I haven’t asked you that I should have?

Barbara McMahon [46:16] Oh my gosh, I don’t think so.

Patricia McLinn [46:18] Okay. Then we’re going to go to the rapid-fire epilogue questions. You have to say, you have to pick one or the other.

Barbara McMahon [46:25] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [46:26] And we’ll start with appetizer or dessert?

Barbara McMahon [46:29] Dessert.

Patricia McLinn [46:30] Binge watch or make the watching last as long as possible?

Barbara McMahon [46:34] Make the watching lasts as long as possible.

Patricia McLinn [46:37] Oh, you drag it out. Do you? Okay. Cake or ice cream?

Barbara McMahon [46:41] Chocolate cake.

Patricia McLinn [46:43] Day or night?

Barbara McMahon [46:45] Day.

Patricia McLinn [46:47] Toenail polish or bare toenails?

Barbara McMahon [46:50] Bare toenails.

Patricia McLinn [46:51] Dog or cat?

Barbara McMahon [46:52] Dog.

Patricia McLinn [46:53] Tea or coffee?

Barbara McMahon [46:54] Tea.

Patricia McLinn [46:58] Now that was a tough one for you.

Barbara McMahon [47:00] Well, I like lattes, but they’re mostly milk.

Patricia McLinn [47:03] Cruise or backpacking?

Barbara McMahon [47:07] Backpacking.

Patricia McLinn [47:09] Sailboat or motorboat?

Barbara McMahon [47:11] Motorboat.

Patricia McLinn [47:12] Which is eerier to you, an owl hooting or coyotes howling?

Barbara McMahon [47:17] Hmm. I guess the owl.

Patricia McLinn [47:19] Mustard or ketchup?

Barbara McMahon [47:21] Mustard.

Patricia McLinn [47:22] Best China or paper plates?

Barbara McMahon [47:24] Paper plates.

Patricia McLinn [47:26] Save the best for last or grab the best first?

Barbara McMahon [47:30] Save the best for last, especially if it’s dessert.

Patricia McLinn [47:35] On that note, we’ll wrap up. I will say, thank you so much to Barbara for, for joining us this week. Hope you all have a great week of reading and we’ll come back to Authors Love Readers next week. Bye.

Barbara McMahon [47:53] Bye. Thank you.

Patricia McLinn [48:01] That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. And thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes, and you can find out more about me, at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com

Until next week. Wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.


authors love readers patreon


Episode 3: Situations and Suspense, with Patricia Lewin

Patricia Lewin writes contemporary suspense and romance novels. She’s published 11 novels and is currently writing Out of the Woods about her favorite character, Erin Baker.

In this discussion with host Patricia McLinn, Pat shares her love of storytelling, her favorite books and authors, and how locations in her life are relevant to her stories.

You can find out more about Patricia’s suspense novels at PatriciaLewin.com. Her contemporary romance novels are available at PatriciaKeelyn.com. You can also connect with her on:


Twitter and


Thank you to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast!

authors love readers patricia lewin

authors love readers patreon

Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Patricia Lewin

Patricia McLinn [00:00] Hi, welcome to this week’s Authors Love Readers podcast where we delve into the stories behind the stories. We’re asking authors questions, some of them fun, some of them serious. And from their answers, you’re going to learn things you never knew about the people who write the stories you love. My name is Patricia McLinn. I’m your host and designated question asker.

Patricia Lewin [00:23] Hi, I’m Patricia Lewin and I’m an author who loves readers.

Patricia McLinn [00:27] Now. Let’s start the show. Hello and welcome to this edition of the Authors Love Readers podcasts. Our guest this time is Patricia Lewin. I had to hesitate because she’s also known as Patricia Keelyn, and Patricia, who I will probably slip and call Pat at some point, maybe throughout, is one of my best writing buddies one of my longest term writing buddies too. We met, shall I say the real year?

Patricia Lewin [00:59] Well, I don’t know which is worse, saying the real year or how long ago it was.

Patricia McLinn [01:05] We were both toddlers. It was, it was my very first Romance Writers of America conference in Boston, and I had sold my first book but it hadn’t come out yet. It was 1989. And it was standing in line to register for the hotel. She claims she doesn’t remember, she forgot me. But I remember. So we have known each other all this time, ups and downs, few tragedies here and there, lots of good news, lots of fun times and changing our writing too, we both have ventured in different ways.

Patricia McLinn [01:54] So this is going to be an interesting conversation because, as I said, she has two names. That’s because she’s writing two things. Patricia Lewin is doing thrillers. And Patricia Keelyn has the romance, and where Patricia, Pat started her writing. So to get us started, get us loosey-goosey here, we’re going to do some quick, quirky questions.

What are some surprising jobs you’ve held, Pat?

Pre-author days: chemistry lab for frozen potatoes and IBM programmer

Patricia Lewin [02:22] Well, um, surprising I worked in a chemistry lab as a chemical lab technician. I was a little different, um—

Patricia McLinn [02:30] Did you blow anything up?

Patricia Lewin [02:32] No, it was, it was for a potato, a frozen potato company. It was a long time ago, and we did testing to make sure that there were no chemicals in the frozen products. Um, it was a lot of fun actually.

Patricia McLinn [02:45] You didn’t blow up any frozen potatoes? Oh, what an opportunity.

Patricia Lewin [02:48] Wouldn’t that have been a mess? Yeah, but um, but I only did that for a short time, but my main job before writing was that I work for IBM as a programmer computer program. And also surprising or not.

Patricia McLinn [03:03] Well it is I think it is a little bit surprising because a lot of authors come from teaching, few number of us from journalism, there are a fair number of escaped lawyers, but not so much from the computer world. So that’s interesting. Okay, do you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?

Patricia Lewin [03:25] Yes, the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley.

Patricia McLinn [03:30] Oh, oh, I love those.

Patricia Lewin [03:32] I could not get enough of them and my, I started with those, um. I have three older sisters, and one of them, I’m sure I was annoying her, she took me to the library to get rid of me and took me to the section of the book, the kids store, and that’s where I found the Black Stallion, and she never had to worry about getting rid of me after that because books worked.

Patricia McLinn [03:55] That’s, and that’s a great series. And a lot of people don’t know as a whole series that it wasn’t just the first book.

Patricia Lewin [04:01] Oh, yeah, and nothing in for a while after reading that is a kid, and I’ve actually gone through this with kids I know now, nothing was ever as good for quite a while after that.

Patricia McLinn [04:13] You know, there’s a whole series of books like Misty of Chincoteague and—

Patricia Lewin [04:18] I read those too.

Patricia McLinn [04:20] By Marguerite Henry. Yes. She was from the little town in, Illinois that was next to my little town in Illinois.

Patricia Lewin [04:26] Really?

Patricia McLinn [04:27] Yeah.

Patricia Lewin [04:28] That was, that series was part of my search to find something as good as Black Stallion. And what was the other one though? The black race horse? What was it Black Beauty. Black Beauty wasn’t as good either. Be interesting to read them as adults and see what I think of them now.

Patricia McLinn [04:45] I don’t know if I want to read them as an adult because I want to hold on to that feeling and especially as adult writers because it can make it harder to read books, purely as readers.

Patricia Lewin [04:59] That’s true.

Patricia McLinn [04:50] So I may not look at them again. But, okay. Did you ever have a story from your pre-author days that you rewrote the ending at least in your head because it didn’t end right?

Patricia Lewin [05:13] The Black Stallion. Are you detecting a theme here?

Patricia McLinn [05:18] Yeah.

Patricia Lewin [05:20] I really do not remember because it was a long time ago. How I rewrote the end but the ending bug me, and I didn’t want it to end that way. So that’s why I rewrote the ending myself.

Patricia McLinn [05:33] And do you think that led you a toward being a writer?

Patricia Lewin [05:38] Possibly. I mean I started becoming a little obsessed with it at that point. I don’t think is as a kid it ever occurred to me that I could actually write as a profession, but that was the first experience I had with writing and then moved into other stuff when I was in high school there was different too.

Patricia McLinn [05:55] You know, Pat, most authors, at least this is my theories, have a bad habit word. Often they use it all the time and have to take out. So what’s yours

Patricia Lewin [06:07] You want mine now or my original one when I first started writing—

Patricia McLinn [06:11] I want both.

Patricia Lewin [06:12]—my first start, my first books I wrote, I was the queen of should’ves and would’ves and could’ves.

Patricia McLinn [06:19] Ohhh.

Patricia Lewin [06:20] Yes, and I had a critique partner who at that point was very vocally pointed out to me that that was incorrect. There was no should’ves, would’ves, and could’ves, but then later on, I moved into— I’m very good with the words still and yet. She did something still … or yet. So now to this day, I still have to go, still have to go and find some of those words and pull them out because I tend to go crazy with them.

Patricia McLinn [06:52] Oh, that’s it. That’s really interesting. One of mine is really.

Patricia Lewin [06:55] Really?

Patricia McLinn [06:56] I have to I do—

Patricia Lewin [06:57] Really?

Patricia McLinn [06:58]—search and replace or search and delete it’s— Yep. And very and just

Patricia Lewin [07:00] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [07:01]—when I’m trying to intensify it’s the really and the very. And when I’m trying to diminish it’s the just, and you know, you just have, you just, there I go, you have to use the strong enough for the right, the right word for the situation and not rely on those crutches.

Patricia Lewin [07:21] That’s true.

Patricia McLinn [07:21] I like my crutches.

Patricia Lewin [07:23] But still.

Patricia McLinn [07:24] Yes, but still and yet.

Patricia Lewin [07:28] And yet. Yes.

Movies for a deserted island: Avatar, Lord of the Rings series, and Aliens

Patricia McLinn [07:29] Okay, what three movies would you take with you to a desert island that somehow let you play movies.

Patricia Lewin [07:35] Oh my gosh, Pat and I are going to disagree on these so much.

Patricia McLinn [07:40] yeah, we’re gonna be on different Islands.

Patricia Lewin [07:42] I know. Different Islands. Um, Avatar. Can I say the whole Lord of the Rings series?

Patricia McLinn [07:51] Oh, that sneaky.

Patricia Lewin [07:53] Yes, and this is one Pat really isn’t going to like, Aliens the second one. Not the first one. Aliens.

Patricia McLinn [08:01] Yeah, we’re on different move, different islands.

Patricia Lewin [08:03] But we’ve known that for a long time.

Patricia McLinn [08:05] Yes, we have. Yes, we have. Okay, I’m gonna ask you one more. On your … you’re right-handed.

Patricia Lewin [08:12] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [08:13] On your right hand, is your ring finger or your index finger longer?

Patricia Lewin [08:19] My index finger. Well, no. It depends on how I twist the fing— My ring finger.

Thrillers written under Patricia Lewin name, such as Blind Run

Patricia McLinn [08:24] Okay. I’m just curious that it has no significance that I know of. I’m just curious. All right. Now we’re going to talk about some, some more about the, about writing in your works and your books. What’s the easiest book you’ve written? That it was just a joy to write.

Patricia Lewin [08:44] Probably Blind Run.

Patricia McLinn [08:48] Okay. And that’s the first of your thrillers?

Patricia Lewin [08:50] First of my thrillers is a stand alone. Although I have gotten so much feedback about having a sequel and I did set it up for a sequel. But it—

Patricia McLinn [09:00] Including feedback from, oh, somebody else who might be on this podcast, maybe?

Patricia Lewin [09:06] Possibly. Have you told me that I need a sequel? A lot of the, I mean—

Patricia McLinn [09:10] I’ve told you that.

Patricia Lewin [09:11] I actually set it up for a sequel, and I wanted, I plan to write it the sequel, right after writing Blind Run. I had it all plotted at that point, and my publisher at that time didn’t want the sequel, they wanted something completely different.

Patricia Lewin [09:32] But as far as the writing goes, Blind Run came fairly easy easily to me. I had, it was just something I wanted to write thrillers so bad that it just kind of came.

Romances, such as Keeping Katie, written under Patricia Keelyn name

Patricia McLinn [09:38] Mmm, and at that point, how many romances had you published?

Patricia Lewin [09:42] Nine.

Patricia McLinn [09:44] Do you think that, that we— Do you feel like you were always meant to write thrillers?

Patricia Lewin [09:50] Yes, I do. I think that that is, I enjoy writing romance, and I enjoy, I enjoy reading romance more than I enjoy writing romance, but the suspense came, comes easier to me than the actual writing of action and with some emotional components obviously, but the actual tension and everything suspense comes much easier to me than the, the tension in a romance.

Patricia McLinn [10:18] What do you think people who ask you about writing romance and writing thrillers? What do they get wrong about, the, about the different approaches to the two different genres?

Patricia Lewin [10:35] The different approaches to both romances and thrillers?

Patricia McLinn [10:40] Yeah. I’m just, I’m thinking that there’s probably expectations from readers about how a romance author might attack a thriller and, and then go back to a romance. How, how you would shift gears and I’m wondering if those expectations are right, or if you think it’s what your experience has been.

Patricia Lewin [11:06] To me, they are two separate ways of thinking when I’m writing, and I’m not sure I’m answering your question the way you want. It’s, one is the focus, in a romance, the focus is on the relationship and on the love story and you can trickle in some suspense, which I tended to do in my later romances, was there’s always the more romantic suspense lite, LITE than heavy romantic suspense.

Patricia Lewin [11:26] Whereas the suspense or thriller is almost the exact opposite. All the focus is on, you know, the bad stuff and you in the more if you can put an emotional component with that that, that makes the suspense of the thriller stronger. I mean there are very successful thriller writers who write just straight action and that’s not me. I need to add that component, that emotional component. And I actually think that writing romance first helped me write better suspense, because I can’t completely get away from the emotional component of the characters.

Patricia McLinn [12:17] So it made makes you go deeper into your characters in the thrillers.

Patricia Lewin [12:23] Right. You’d asked me earlier somewhere about my favorite quotes and just made me think of one. Michael Haig says about, that all story is about emotion whether it is the sweetest romance or the most hardcore thriller or science fiction story. And I think he’s right. If your characters don’t feel, whether it’s just fear or whether it’s love, they have to feel something, and I think writing romance, helped me to put elements of emotion into my suspense whether they are fear or whether they are love. Does that make any sense?

Patricia McLinn [13:01] Yes. You said that you said that it was a different way of thinking. Do you find if you’re, that your mood or how you’re feeling about things Is affected by what you’re writing?

Patricia Lewin [13:16] You mean affects the genre that I want to write in or just affects the writing in general?

Patricia McLinn [13:21] No, affects your writing. Say you’re writing a thriller, are you then in a, in a different kind of mind frame because you’re writing a thriller from what you might be when you’re writing a romance? In other words, which one should I wait for you to be writing before I call up and ask a favor?

Patricia Lewin [13:42] No, I don’t think, I don’t think that my mood affects which of the genres that I want to write in. My mood is actually there I can write.

Patricia McLinn [13:51] I was asking the opposite, whether the genre affects your mood.

Patricia Lewin [13:55] No, I don’t think so.

Patricia McLinn [13:56] Okay.

Patricia Lewin [13:57] Sorry.

Patricia McLinn [13:58] You even keel people you. So when, when you published your first book— When your first book got published, and Pat started out in traditional publishing, as did I. How— Did that change your writing process at all?

Patricia Lewin [14:17] It did quite a bit. I was working at IBM when I wrote my first book. Actually, I wrote three books before I sold one, and I was working at IBM. So I was writing on weekends and on lunch hours, and instead of going on vacations. I would write so it was constant and a month after or a month before my very first book came out, I left IBM. It was a variety of circumstances, it was not because I thought I was finally going to be able to support myself writing one book. But then, so then, suddenly I had to write full-time, and it was, it was a transition to suddenly go from writing in every available moment to having time.

Patricia Lewin [15:09] And at first it worked because I had a very insightful young editor, who threw a contract out on at me and said we have a slot open, but you have got to write this book in eight weeks and I don’t think I can do that now, but I did it then so it got me into the process of, of setting up my time, you know so many hours a day, although I actually I do page counts. How many page counts a day? So that’s what happened

Patricia McLinn [15:34] And you still do that. How many page count, pages—

Patricia Lewin [15:36] I’m not as good as I used to be. There’s a lot more distractions now. It’s easier the, what I found over time, it’s easier to get distracted, and it’s easier not to have a steady rhythm when you have all day.

Patricia McLinn [15:54] Mmm, that’s true.

Patricia Lewin [15:55] And there are people that are extremely good at that. I am good at it in spots. Sometimes I, you know, can go every day and write whatever my page count is, and sometimes I can’t.

Patricia McLinn [16:08] What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Patricia Lewin [16:11] Oh, I love story building. Story building and creating, creating worlds and connections and people and, and scenarios. I love story building.

Patricia McLinn [16:22] So is that necessarily before you start writing, or is that while you’re writing as well?

Patricia Lewin [16:28] Both, I start off beforehand. You know, I have this whole thing going on in my head, and then the story building goes on as I write. And on the flip side, the hardest thing for me is the actual putting words on paper. Well, not a paper, on the screen, because I’m bit of a wordsmith, and so I sit there and fuss, you know, over sentences or paragraphs instead of just getting the story out. The story’s all in my head, you know, but it’s a little harder for me to actually, you know, get the words in the screen.

Patricia McLinn [17:11] And then how does that affect your editing? So if you’re, if you’re fussing word-by-word in the draft process, are you pretty well set when you go to edit?

Patricia Lewin [17:24] Yes. Yes. I’m, I’m pretty close to a first draft writer, meaning by the time I get done with the book, it is pretty close to being finished. I do go through, of course, again. And when I was writing for traditional publishers, they went through it several times. And I always had to do some revisions, but the book is the actual writing and everything is pretty clean when I get it done, um, the first draft. Now, there may be structural issues sometimes or planning problems more of those than there are actual craft issues.

Patricia McLinn [18:01] Have you ever edited something out of a book or, or had something edited out, that you still mourn?

Mourning character names in Once a Wife and It’s a New World

Patricia Lewin [18:08] A character name.

Patricia McLinn [18:11] Oh.

Patricia Lewin [18:12] I, my—

Patricia McLinn [18:13] A character name.

Patricia Lewin [18:15] —Um, in my book, Once a Wife, which I think was my third. Give me a sec, I think it was my third, third book.

Patricia McLinn [18:23] And it’s, and it’s back out now.

Patricia Lewin [18:25] It’s back out now and actually. Since I thought about this question, I thought, Oh, maybe I can go back and change this now. My character and my editor told me years later that this was in her opinion the best of my books, my romances.

Patricia Lewin [18:40] The character is half Shoshone Indian and she was raised on a reservation and her, I picked her name as a shy name. It was Kya, KYA, and when I submitted it, the senior editor, not my editor, but her boss, told me that I couldn’t use that name because it sounded too romancey. This is a romance, right?

Patricia McLinn [19:05] Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia Lewin [19:06] So for all the editing process, I had to change her name, change it to Sarah, which is a little standard romance author, a romance character name, but I could not stop thinking of her as Kya because that’s what she was to me through the whole process of writing the book, but I thought—

Patricia McLinn [19:26] That—

Patricia Lewin [19:27] Go ahead.

Patricia McLinn [19:28] I was just going to say I have a similar story.

Patricia Lewin [19:29] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [19:30] and I did change the character’s name back when I brought the book out myself. It’s A New World, my second book. The heroines first name is Eleanor, and she becomes involved with a man who is a modern-day Irish immigrant to the United States, and she, I very carefully found her name. I wanted it to sound a certain way. I wanted some hard sounds, and I wanted it to be connected to Gloucester, Massachusetts, which is where the book is set.

Patricia McLinn [20:00] And I also spent, this is back pre-internet days, I spent an hour plus on the phone with this wonderful woman from the Chamber of Commerce on Cape Ann, which is where Gloucester is, looking up to make sure that there was no family that actually had that name, because I didn’t, I said nasty things about the family and I didn’t want there to be a real family that I accidentally insulted.

Patricia McLinn [20:30] So in my, in my world, her name was always Thatcher. Eleanor Thatcher. There’s a Thatcher Island by Gloucester and no, there was then no Thatcher family. And the editors came back, I think it was a senior editor again and said you cannot call her that because our UK readers would be upset with a woman named Thatcher sleeping with an Irishman.

Patricia Lewin [21:01] That is so ridiculous that, that is as weird as mine. You know, I—

Patricia McLinn [21:08] Yep.

Patricia Lewin [21:09] Traditional publishers, sometimes they had very strange ideas.

Patricia McLinn [21:12] In the traditional published edition, she was, what was she? Halston, I think, which I never liked, so I blithely changed her back.

Patricia Lewin [21:25] Even the last name change that is even stranger than a first name change.

Patricia McLinn [21:29] Yeah. Yeah.

Patricia Lewin [21:30] Well—

Patricia McLinn [21:31] So, we both had that, that episode. And now, how do you go about naming characters?

Patricia Lewin [21:38] It’s kind of a varied process. I kind of troll around. I look through baby books, and I really am stuck on a story until I get that name, but I’ll use Xs for a while, but the name has got to have the right feel for me. And I will go look up meanings of names like, I did in my last romance that I just put out an April. The character’s name is Daniel, and it just fit. He is a beast, and he communes with animals, and it just seemed to fit with the whole biblical.

Patricia McLinn [22:11] Oh, yes.

Patricia Lewin [21:16] Daniel and the lion, you know.

Patricia McLinn [22:18] That feel. Yeah.

Patricia Lewin [22:25] Yes. So names, I go a little crazy with names and find the right one. And that’s why Sarah in Once A Wife, really bothers me because although Sarah is a beautiful name, it just did not fit this character. And it just, you know, what I would love to hear from your readers if they responds, if I would change the name now the book has been out again digitally for, I don’t know, a year and a half more, it is probably one of my bestselling books. What if I change her name now? Is it too late?

Patricia McLinn [22:54] No.

Patricia Lewin [22:55] Would I drive everybody crazy?

Patricia McLinn [22:59] Why would it? Because the people who have already read it have read it, and it would be for the new readers coming to it.

Patricia Lewin [23:06] Yeah. I might do that.

Patricia McLinn [23:07] I say change it.

Patricia Lewin [23:08] Okay. I’ll do it.

Patricia McLinn [23:09] You know me. I’m a rebel. Touching off how you look for names, this sort of connects. This also goes back to the world building. What sort of research do you do, and how, when do you do it and do enjoy it or is it a chore?

Patricia Lewin [23:28] I do my research differently for both for the romances and for the suspense. When I started writing my Lewin books, my thrillers, I did an immense amount of research with, for about the CIA because my characters— My books are not really about the CIA, but my main characters are CIA officers or ex CIA officers who kind of … go off the rails, so to speak. I did a lot of research on the CIA, I read everything I could find out then.

And then I also had a connection with a woman who was one of those serendipitous things, where I met her I was looking, originally I was looking for something, I actually originally I was going to make the character and I say and it just wasn’t working and I met this woman and she was an ex CIA analyst who was a budding writer. And she couldn’t write anything like I was writing because of her non-disclosure agreement with the CIA, but she could help me to certain extent.

Patricia Lewin [24:28] So I did an immense amount of research on that, on the CIA because it was so integral to the story. Now other types of research like for my romances or actually for some of the peripheral stuff in the suspenses, I kind of write through it and then go back and look and see if I’m right. Especially the romances I did this a lot. If I wasn’t sure about something I’d write something through it.

I’d write through it and I highlighted then I go back and I found that 90% of the time that I was right that I would had guessed right, you know, like locations or things like that. The suspense I can’t do that because obviously I didn’t know anything about CIA before I started and then locations, you know, I try and visit locations or I write about places I’ve lived and then I love going to research locations.

Patricia Lewin [25:28] Anyway, I do have a funny story about a location research thing that Blind Run was set the San Juan Islands, which is off the northern coast of Washington, and I had lived in Oregon, in Portland, for years. So I had a really good feel for the Northwest and what it was, and there’s some pieces is an island and it’s some pieces that were about Northwest weather and how you know, it’s very cloudy and rainy there and cool. And so there was that, kind of a lot of that in Blind Run. And I recently got a review back from somebody who was telling me that I obviously had never been there because the San Juan Islands was a one of the few places in the Northwest where there was not rain. Okay, so I was freaked out.

Patricia Lewin [26:15] Well, recently this summer I went and spent some time on Orcas Island, which is on one of the northern, big islands in the San Juan’s, and come to find out there is a portion of the San Juan Islands in the Olympic Rain Shadow, which doesn’t have a lot of rain, but the rest of them are all rainy and cloudy just like I said. I asked two or three tour guides about this, and they always kind of looked at me, and they said that’s reasonable. Why would I think there isn’t rain here, it rains all winter long. So that was kind of an interesting thing. Anyway.

Patricia McLinn [26:38] To be proven, right? That’s always wonderful.

Patricia Lewin [26:41] Well, it’s freaked me out because I thought, Oh my God, did I get this book wrong? You know and it was just one reviewer and, and he obviously had been to the part of the Olympic Rain Shadow where there, wasn’t raining. My book is set in the fake Island on the very north side of the San Juan’s almost a bit ago.

Patricia McLinn [27:01] In this rainy part.

Patricia Lewin [27:02] In the rainy part.

Patricia McLinn [27:04] Okay. Here’s, here’s a question from a reader. This says, Where do your stories come from? And the reader went on to say I know one author who dreams her stories. Pat and I have a mutual friend who dreamed her stories, their special one. Another has a character suddenly taking up residence in her head. So, how are your beautiful stories born?

Patricia Lewin [27:27] I think that a character or situation just kind of starts intruding on my thoughts or situation. Blind Run came to me because I had this idea about a man having to protect children. I had a vision of the desert and I had a vision of him having to protect kids and him being, you know, wishing he was, he’d rather be dead than alive, but he doesn’t have the nerve to pull the, the trigger and then these children redeem him. So that’s where it started with that one. Sometimes. I can’t even tell you where it starts but it usually is a situation that pops into my head and then I have to find characters that fit it or sometimes it’s character, but I’m much more situational where I start with a situation then and then I find characters that can play out that situation.

Patricia McLinn [28:08] Yeah, I’m much more characters. They start talking in my head.

Patricia Lewin [28:12] I know I’m the weird one.

Patricia McLinn [28:14] You are. I’m totally normal, I hear voices. What’s your problem? So from that, from that start, from the situation that comes in your head. Do you, do your stories often change a lot from that point to where you publish it?

Patricia Lewin [28:39] Yes, very much so. I mean, I start playing around with it. I start, you know, working out the details and, and trying to find how the situation can work and that it often changes before the end. I remember one of my romantic suspenses, I don’t even remember which one well, I was writing as Keelan. I had a reviewer come back to me said, Oh my gosh, this is so wonderful. I didn’t know what was going to happen next.

Patricia Lewin [29:14] And I thought to myself, That’s because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I mean, I learned before I wrote the Lewin books that I had to plot these things out but, those first romantic suspenses that I wrote it as romances, I didn’t know what I was doing, and I didn’t know where the story was going to go. So I would write myself into a hole and then had to figure out how to get those characters out of the hole I put them in. I was lucky that it worked. I don’t think it would have worked that easily with the, with the thrillers.

Patricia McLinn [29:37] So how do you plot ahead of time? Do you outline? Do you write a synopsis? Are you just doing notes? How do you plot those thrillers?

Patricia Lewin [29:47] I do a free-flow outline with an idea, you know, I mean, I just I, knowing that, knowing that the outline can be changed, nothing cast in concrete, but I just write bullet points and then sub-bullets and every now and then I’ll, a piece of it will grab me and I’ll write maybe a section of dialogue and then as I start writing if something is bugging me if I’m not, if I’m not finding a solution or the way I had originally done it is not working, I will then take a little side thing I do another outline like, why is this?

Patricia Lewin [30:10] You know, how, what about the scene? What am I trying to accomplish in this scene? And will it move the story forward? The other thing that I find for Thrillers that I actually I was working as an editor for a while, and I did I would do this with some of my thriller authors, my romantic suspense authors, is I have to define what the bad thing is. What is the bad stuff that my character is going up against and then, and that is really integral because until you, until you know what your characters are fighting against you’re kind of, you don’t have story. So I will also add that on the side. So it’s kind of a free flow type of outline type thing.

Patricia McLinn [31:10] And do you do a lot of work with your, with your bad guy characters or bad women characters?

Patricia Lewin [31:17] I do. I find a lot of times that the, um, your antagonist is what, is could be a really interesting character and sometimes you have to be careful that they don’t take over the story and it’s come to them in different ways.

Erin Baker series, Out of Time and Out of Reach

Patricia Lewin [31:30] For instance, in the second of the Erin Baker series, Out of Time, which takes place in Cuba, which was so much fun, but anyway. I had a character, she wasn’t the main antagonist, but she facilitated the main antagonist and she was a brilliant researcher while I had it as a man, like, you know because who knows why. Because that is the tried and true, you know. He’s a—

Patricia Lewin [31:45] And one of the people that was helping with the researcher was a friend of mine who has a MD PhD in molecular genetics and she says, Why does he have to be a man? Can it be a woman? And I don’t know why I never thought of that. I was using her as research, I mean and, so that was kind of cool. So then I could once I had her as a woman instead of a man, then I could really flesh her out and she became a much more interesting character than if it had just been a man.

Patricia Lewin [32:15] Plus then I named it after, I named the character after my friend, so she really loved that.

Patricia McLinn [32:22] What— Did she get destroyed at the end of the book or could that character show up again, sometime?

Patricia Lewin [32:40] She disappeared.

Patricia McLinn [32:42] Aha, which of your stories has surprised you the most?

Patricia Lewin [32:48] I think Out of Reach because I fell in love with my main character.

Patricia McLinn [32:50] Okay. Well, wait now let’s explain Out of Reach. So, you did Blind Run was your first thriller.

Patricia Lewin [32:52] Right. And it was a stand alone.

Patricia McLinn [32:53] And Out of Reach was your second thriller.

Patricia Lewin [32:55] Yes and it was the first—

Patricia McLinn [33:06] They’re not related. But then Out of Reach is the first of a series.

Patricia Lewin [33:10] Yes. Out of Reach is the first in what will be a three book series at this point. I’m working on the third but Out of Reach was the first one and it is about a CIA officer, Erin Baker, and I just fell in love with her. She always say that not only do I like her, I want to be her. She’s tough and she’s brilliant and she’s got lots of baggage. So I fell in love with her as a character, and I tend to be, I tend to more fall in love with my male characters, but this one I really like Erin. And that’s why there had to be a second and, now working, which is Out of Time. This is the one that takes place in Cuba. And now I’m working on the third one, which I’m hoping to get out early next year.

Patricia McLinn [34:06] You going to get it out early next year?

Patricia Lewin [34:08] It’ll be done by early next year. We’ll have to go through the whole editing process and everything and we’ll, we’ll see

Patricia McLinn [34:12] That, that sort of segues into, I was going to ask if you miss characters as you did with Erin in Out Of Reach, where you kind of missed her when, when the book was done and you wanted to do another book with her. Do you miss characters when you’re done with them? A reader asked this and it was because she misses the characters when she’s finished a book that she really likes.

Patricia Lewin [34:38] Well, I was obviously obsessed with Erin Baker it, for my other books, earlier books for my romance was I was more obsessed with the characters while I was writing them, you know calling family members my character’s name et cetera. But Erin just kind of. Stuck in my head, her story was not done in my head and she’s still the character I think about well, of course because I’m writing the book, that part of it, but I will also admit that the Blind Run characters have stuck with me and it just goes back to the fact that the thrillers grab me. Some of the characters in in Blind Run have stuck with me too, but mainly Erin I think of all my characters is one that I just had to write more about her. I had to know what was going to happen to her.

Patricia McLinn [35:27] When you when you finish a book, do you celebrate or do you celebrate beginning a book or publishing or, you know, do you have do you have particular celebrations?

Patricia Lewin [35:38] I don’t have particular or things that I do other than just collapsing or doing nothing or you know going to movies or having a glass of wine or two, but I don’t have any particular ritual that I do. It’s just kind of like something is come out of you when you’re done. It’s like oh my gosh, it’s over. Okay go on. Let’s go on.

Patricia McLinn [36:00] Re-entry to normal life.

Patricia Lewin [36:02] Re-entry and everything gets put off at the very end there, you know, the house gets to be a disaster. You know, I haven’t talked to my husband or kid in, my daughter, in a while, you know that kind of things and so all that stuff can resurface after you get done with the book.

Patricia McLinn [36:17] Do you remember the movie Romancing the Stone?

Patricia Lewin [36:20] I do.

Patricia McLinn [36:22] The beginning sequence—

Patricia Lewin [36:23] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [36:24] —she’s finishing a book and she goes around and she can’t find anything to blow her nose on because she’s run out of all these things.

Patricia Lewin [36:32] Yes. That’s, that’s very much the way it is. Yes.

Patricia McLinn [36:35] Reality-based people think that’s funny. It’s not so funny. When it’s you.

Patricia Lewin [36:41] When my husband would follow me around the house sometimes and I would do things like, you know, put the milk in the stove or the microwave away or put things away in the wrong places obvious wrong places, like cold stuff in the because your mind is elsewhere. Your mind is not on the everyday stuff.

Patricia McLinn [37:00] I had a neighbor and Virginia who rang my doorbell one day at like ten-thirty in the morning, which is very early for me.

Patricia Lewin [37:08] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [37:09] And I came down was quite grumpy and she said, I know, I know you’re on deadline, but I was worried because you left your car doors open all night.

Patricia Lewin [37:21] Yes, I can see you do that.

Patricia McLinn [37:23] Which is very unlike me in ordinary times and, it’s okay. You’re forgiven. I think she had this vision of a massacre in my, in my house. Of course, that started me in other story ideas. What do you read for fun?

Patricia Lewin [37:40] You know, I read all over the place, but I read a, something that I have not let myself write, and so I enjoy it immensely is Science Fiction and Fantasy, you know, I because I don’t, you know, you like stuff you don’t like it, but I know tend to tear it apart like I do suspenses, you know, I write is somebody else’s suspense. I’m, I’m trying to figure out how they put it together when it works. You know, why is it so good or. Why is it not so good? I don’t do that with Science Fiction and Fantasy. If I don’t like it, I just stopped reading it, it’s tempting to actually write it because I do love it.

Patricia McLinn [38:17] In addition to writers looking at things as writers, and I refer to it as seeing the man behind the curtain, do you also think that writers look at the world or other people differently than most people?

Patricia Lewin [38:33] It’s possible. I mean, we’re always looking, we’re always seeing story ideas and every little thing. I remember years ago my critique group and, this is going to this is going to sound, maybe heartless when JonBenét Ramsey was murdered and we were sitting around in our critique group the comment was, If I was writing this book this is who would be done it, who would have done it. Yes, we look at story ideas and say story things are happening in the news and saying okay. This is how I would do it.

Patricia McLinn [39:04] There are a lot of studies now that story is part of the human condition and that that the brain processes story mostly the way it does real events, and I wonder if kind of the flip of that is true that story is our way of processing horrific things.

Patricia Lewin [39:30] It’s true.

Patricia McLinn [39:30] Or other things that are happening that we’re observing and possibly experiencing and to, to look at it as a writer you’re, you’re involved in it emotionally, and yet you’re also observing which I think in some ways is protective.

Patricia Lewin [39:55] Very much so.

Patricia McLinn [39:55] Or you could.

Patricia Lewin [39:56] Yeah, because I for you know, something is something is bothering me a lot I have on occasion written a short story where I changed things. Or if you’re upset about something you can and I’ve done this with a couple of things and if I write a little short story about making things different or changing things. It makes me feel better. Even if it’s just a story. Does that make any sense?

Patricia McLinn [40:29] Yes. Absolutely it, we have control.

Patricia Lewin [40:34] Well, you know, I think that’s what it is. I think this I think most writers, we do have a bit of a control issues. You know, when we write we control the universe.

Patricia McLinn [40:43] Isn’t that lovely and we did such a good job of it.

Patricia Lewin [40:45] We do and good always triumphs, you know, the world is set right.

Patricia McLinn [40:51] In our books. Yes.

Patricia Lewin [40:52] And our book, yes.

Patricia McLinn [40:54] Okay. Here is another question from a reader says, What is your favorite place to write and why? Does it have an inspirational view?

Patricia Lewin [41:03] I have to write at my desk in my office on a desktop. And no, no inspirational viewing. I have the blinds closed. I do use music though. I listen to classical music while I’m writing and my usually Chopin piano concertos, my-my thought is, you’re going to laugh, is genius will inspire genius. But no, I, um, I know a lot of writers use their laptops and things and go and write in different circumstances, and I haven’t quite gotten the, I haven’t quite got the comfort level of right I would feel like I’m playing when I’m writing on my laptop. So I’m at my desk in an office setting, and it’s right here in front of me. I know that’s not very exciting, right?

Patricia McLinn [41:47] So you’re trying to possibly block out some of the other visual stimulation so that you’re not distracted from the vision that’s in your head.

Patricia Lewin [41:58] Exactly and also well also because it’s a writing cue or a trigger when I’m at my desk. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing. And that’s why I listen to classical music. I can’t listen to any music with words in it, because I will start singing and then we know we won’t get any writing done.

Patricia McLinn [42:18] I will start typing the words.

Patricia Lewin [42:20] Hold on up either tried it, but so I, so you’re right up and it’s like the music is white noise. It’s beautiful white noise, but it’s white noise and it does block things out.

Patricia McLinn [42:33] Well, and especially I think if you play the same music over and over it defin— It’s a, an element of Pavlov’s dogs. I hear this music I write. And it also it’s a there’s a certain rhythm to the music and I think that can carry you through, and keep you writing where you might otherwise have gone with a distraction.

Patricia Lewin [42:57] Yeah, you’re probably right. I mean it just it does and I do listen to the same music. I know authors some authors write different music for different books, and I’ve tried that it doesn’t really work for me. I always keep going back to the piano the Chopin piano concertos. I mean, there’s lots of other classical music with that, words out there, but why do I keep going back to the Chopin? I don’t know. And I think what you just said is probably it’s just it’s a trigger. It’s, it’s what I’m used to and it just soothes me and gets me concentrating on the words I’m trying to put down.

Patricia McLinn [43:32] That’s a great thing to have found for you.

Patricia Lewin [43:34] Yeah, I don’t know where I’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t know where it came from.

Patricia McLinn [43:39] Okay. Ready, ready for another reader question.

Patricia Lewin [43: 41] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [43:42] This, this is more applicable more to the traditional world. But let’s see if it has any in your Indie publishing too. Says, When the cover image doesn’t match the character description, a pet peeve of mine says the reader, how does it feel?

Patricia Lewin [44:03] Drives me crazy. I have been blessed—

Patricia McLinn [44:09] I knew that answer.

Patricia Lewin [44:11] Yes. I um, I must have had some really great covers and no really horrible covers, but my original Blind Run cover, the original suspense, although it was a beautiful cover, it drove me crazy because it’s two characters and it looked like a, um, older girl, kid and a younger boy racing out on a pier into a really glassy ocean.

Okay. Well. It drove me crazy because the boy in the stories the older and the girl was younger, and there’s a third person, and they’re an adult running with them, and they’re running off to a pier in a turbulent Pacific. I know these are really minor things, right, so it drove me crazy because the cover just, I said, you know, you got this all wrong, and they basically told me to be quiet and go away.

So that is what that was one of the first things I changed when I went indie with this book was that I got the cover the way I wanted it. So yes, it drives me crazy when the cover is wrong.

Patricia McLinn [45:13] I see, I thought I knew what the answer to that one was going to be.

Patricia Lewin [45:16] You did, huh?

Patricia McLinn [45:17] I did.

Patricia Lewin [45:18] What do you think it was gonna be.

Patricia McLinn [45:19] That answer.

Patricia Lewin [45:20] Oh, okay.

Sally Field moments and mistaken for lost relatives

Patricia McLinn [45:22] So, do you have other, do you have good stories about communication with readers or encountering them, or how have you dealt with readers? For how long have readers dealt with you?

Patricia Lewin [45:36] You know when my first romances came out and I would go to writers conferences, it would always surprise me when somebody would come up to me and say, You’re the writer. You’re the author who wrote Keeping Katie or whatever, and it was like I’m looking behind me trying to figure out who you’re talking to, you know, that can’t be me. But now online, I get some really, I don’t have any, overarching stories but except for the fact that you do get some really great readers communicating with you sending you email or, or reviewing your books or talking to you. Sending you private notes when they read stuff that you know, that might be considered, you know, you know because we talk a lot online and the calm you down about things so I have been very. Thankful for my readers. They keep me writing.

Patricia McLinn [46:30] I remember receiving my first letter from a reader with my very first book, and I got it, and I looked at the return address and it’s from Oregon, and I thought I don’t know anybody in Oregon. What, how is this possible? And when I read the note it was, it gave me chills because she got from the book what I had hoped people would get from the book. And I often say reading is interactive that we as authors put material out there, but that’s only half of it. The other half is what the reader takes from it. So this was, this was a click what I put out was what she, she got from it and then she wrote to me saying how much she loved it and I was like, Oh my gosh!

Patricia Lewin [47:26] It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?

Patricia McLinn [47:30] It was, it was a fabulous feeling. There was also this little tiny piece of me that said, Oh my God, strangers are reading my books.

Patricia Lewin [47:26] I find that with looking at good reviews too. It, just when somebody loved something that you put so much time in, it’s just like, oh my God, they’re talking about something that I did and it’s very surprising for all the readers out there, it really is surprising when people like what you did because you just, you know, we live in our little bubble.

Patricia McLinn [47:58] It’s a Sally Field moment.

Patricia Lewin [47:59] A Sally Field moment?

Patricia McLinn [48:01] They like me. They really like me.

Patricia Lewin [48:03] Exactly. I had, actually, your talk about the same you think about a funny story I had about a reader when I was writing romance, who this really isn’t about the book, this is about how she contacted me. She contacted my publisher, who sent me a letter because they will never give your address out, and put me in contact with this woman who was convinced that I was her husband’s sister who had been put up for adoption when I was born.

Patricia McLinn [48:33] Oh my God.

Patricia Lewin [48:33] And I could not convince her that I was not this person and she kept saying all I know it’s really upsetting to find this out and blah, blah, blah. But you know, I was number four of six kids. Believe me, after three, they would not have adopted a fourth, but it was very interesting.

Patricia McLinn [48:52] And it’s not like you guys don’t look like each other at all.

Patricia Lewin [48:55] Oh, yeah, we, yeah.

Patricia McLinn [48:56] Some of you.

Patricia Lewin [48:57] Yeah, but she was convinced because of my last name that I was her brother’s long-lost sister. And I kept saying I wish I could say I was, but I’m not.

Patricia McLinn [49:07] There’s a book in that, Pat.

Patricia Lewin [49:09] Actually. I never about that, but you’re right, there is a book in that one.

Patricia McLinn [49:13] Dibs.

Patricia Lewin [49:15] My story. You probably get it done faster than I would.

Patricia McLinn [49:19] Of all your books that are done so far, as opposed to the ones you’re going to write really fast now, ahem, are any of them what you would consider an overlooked gem something that even, even your loyal readers may not have come across?

Patricia Lewin [49:39] Well in the romances, I think, well from any suspense, Running for Cover always surprises me because it’s kind of buried in the— I’ve two series in my romances, and it’s kind of the theme series, you don’t have to read them in order. It’s kind of buried like third or fourth in that series and people don’t seem to get to it. And if you like, you know romantic suspense is more romance than suspense, although they are obviously running through the entire book, I think for romance readers, that’s the one that I think that gets overlooked a bit. And as far as the suspense is go, I mean, I don’t know I, you know, I loved Out of Reach, but then I love the whole Cuba thing and Out of Time. So it’s kind of hard to say, but for romances, I would say Running for Cover.

Patricia McLinn [50:24] Well, so for somebody who’s new to you, hasn’t read your books yet, what would be the best book for them to enter say the romances first and then the thrillers.

Patricia Lewin [50:35] if you like, you know, family-oriented romances, then I would say Keeping Katie because those three books are part of a series called a mother’s heart. They’re all about women who are mothers but in different ways, I mean not necessarily biological mothers, and they’re more about family and the love of family and children as well as the romantic loves.

Yeah. Keeping Katie is my first book and I loved it. So, so I would say if you like family-oriented stories that you would start with that. Those books are all themed, it doesn’t matter which order you read them in. if you like something a little more action than you start with the, The Protector series which are all, all the heroes in those books are ex-protectors, military or cops or something. And they all have a little bit more of an element. Some of them have more suspense than others.

So the first one in that series is Loving Lindsey, but it doesn’t matter what order you read them and you could read them all over the place.

Patricia McLinn [51:38] How about your thrillers?

Patricia Lewin [51:40] You know the series, I mean Out of Reach is, Out of Reach seems to be the book that I have got, when I was traditionally published originally in hardcover and I got the best reviews on Out of Reach of any of my books as far as in Publishers Weekly and everything, you know, Blind Run is kind of my baby and I do plan to write the sequel to that, but Out of Reach is the book that seems to have the most seems to be more compelling I guess this is maybe the right word.

Patricia McLinn [52:10] And this is another question from a reader. I love this one. If you could write a book with any author alive or dead, who would you want to work with and why?

Patricia Lewin [52:20] Oh my gosh, that would be a really hard decision. It’s almost the same thing as asking me who my favorite authors are, which is, since everybody I know is an author, is an unfair question. But, you know, I’m going to cop out and go with, you know, one of the big names. I would I mean just to meet somebody like JK Rowling’s you know, I don’t write that kind of book. So maybe that’s not a good answer but you know—

Patricia McLinn [52:48] Well why, why would it?

Patricia Lewin [52:50] Because of her incredible skill of detail. And putting stories together that are immensely complicated. I mean you can like the books or not, but they, you can’t ignore the skill there. The skill of any, remember story building is what I love most about writing, and her to be able to put together this really complex world and have it all mesh. I think that is a phenomenal talent.

You know the other author that I adore his skill is still storytelling is Stephen King. I don’t write that kind of stuff either. So why would I want to work with him? I don’t know, just because he has this really great storytelling ability. For people that I write what I write I probably Lisa Gardner I would want to work with Lisa, you know, because she writes the same type of book that I write and you know, it would be interesting to work with her.

Patricia McLinn [53:50] Okay. Is there anything, I’m thinking of I’m, I’m sitting here thinking of authors and working with them and what you learn and, and I think even like Stephen King even though you don’t write what he writes. I think there could be a great deal that you would learn that anybody would learn—

Patricia Lewin [54:09] He’s an incredible storyteller. I mean, he really is, and so you would learn that aspect of it from him. And you know what? When I say Lisa, I really like her books to, that would be more of a collaborative type thing where I don’t know. I’m sure she could teach me something. I’m sure but not like, you know, Stephen King or JK Rowling’s you know that you could actually, you know, I could actually identify what it is they could teach me.

The other author that I would really love to write work with is Robert McCammon. He is probably one of my all-time favorite authors, and his incredible ability to tell a story and, and it doesn’t have the complexity as JK Rowling, I don’t know if anybody does, but he does. He’s also a great storyteller and a great writer. And I would think there would just be an incredible amount to learn from him, and he writes all over the place rights all kinds of stuff.

Patricia McLinn [55:07] It’s a fun question, isn’t it?

Patricia Lewin [55:09] Well, it’s an interesting thing to think about because I never even, you know, I have a list of authors I’d like to meet but would I like to work with them? I mean in a certain sense working with somebody like JK Rowling could be very intimidating, you know, and even more intimidating than Stephen King. I would be so in awe of her ability that it would be a sin intimidating. So I never even thought about actually working with another author.

Patricia McLinn [55:34] I think I would tend to take somebody who is dead, just because there’s always the possibility you could run across the live person, you know in real life and but the dead person you can’t so you take the opportunity of the question to go for somebody who is impossible in real life.

Patricia Lewin [55:55] But if you’re working with him—

Patricia McLinn [56:00] How’s that for logic?

Patricia Lewin [56:02] But if you’re working with them, it’s okay to run into them, right? Because you’re working with them.

Patricia McLinn [56:06] So, as we’re close, getting closer to the close here, tell us about your most recent release.

Patricia Lewin [56:09] The one I’m working on or the one that just came, that the, um, the last book in—

Patricia McLinn [56:13] The most recent release. The one that came out.

Patricia Lewin [56:15] Okay, that was be Out of Time. And that’s the second book in the Erin Baker thriller series.

Patricia McLinn [56:20] What’s the significance of that title?

Patricia Lewin [56:22] Because she’s on a deadline. She has to she, it takes place in Cuba. She gets sent into Cuba to investigate a missing agent or officer, they don’t call CIA offi— agents. They’re officers, and there is a real short time span. She goes in, she’s half Cuban. Looks are so Miami, which I spent most of my life in South Florida so that fit, and she goes in to investigate and the way they get her in undercover is that her estranged father runs a medical facility that’s something like Doctors Without Borders. But I did make up a thing, didn’t use Doctors Without Borders, and that’s her way in but that’s not who she goes investigate.

Patricia Lewin [57:22] She goes to investigate a missing officer who happens to be a friend. So I have the dynamic there of an estranged father who left her at a very young age, and she has all these built, this is the emotion thing all these built up emotions, and she’s very unhappy with the CIA at the moment, but she is only there because of this friend of hers is missing so we have the combination of the emotion and the action and this bad stuff. She goes in they think it’s going to be a slam dunk that she’s going to go in and come right out. And of course that never happens in books right has to get worse and worse and worse.

Patricia Lewin [57:50] So I really. I loved writing that book. The whole Cuba thing was fascinating, having spent most of my life in South Florida with the huge Cuban population, and, um, and I had to do a ton of research on Cuba. I actually tried to get into Cuba and at the time I had to submit an application to the State Department, and they turned me down. But so that is—

Patricia McLinn [58:10] They’re so short-sighted and not thinking that book research is a good reason—

Patricia Lewin [58:15] Yes.

Patricia McLinn [58:16] —for any trips.

Patricia Lewin [58:18] I might be able to get in there now, but I couldn’t at the time. And, and you know, I had friends say, Oh just fly through Cuba, I mean, fly through Canada or fly through Mexico and I’m thinking, oh, yeah, I’m going to do that and then I’ll be the one they make an example of an American in Cuba and get charged. So I didn’t do that.

But one of the things that I loved about this book, and I won’t tell you, but the ending to me leaves Erin, I always like to leave Erin with little bit more baggage, and she does end up with a lot of baggage to this book and which is the trigger for the book I’m working on now. The one that’s her follow-on.

Patricia McLinn [58:50] Have the title for that one yet?

Patricia Lewin [58:53] Out of the Woods.

Patricia McLinn [58:56] Ah, okay.

Patricia Lewin [58:58] Yes, and it started as a short story, and it just kind of, because I was trying to have her reconcile where she was at the end of the book, and it just became much bigger than a short story can handle and, and basically she has to come to terms with the kind of person she is. And she is basically a protector. That’s what her, her whole thing in life has been she’s a protector and a warrior and she’s been fighting that forever. And in this book, she has to come to terms with what she is. And what she is meant, why she is here. Does that sound a little too philosophical for you?

Patricia McLinn [59:34] No, no. Pat, where can readers find out more about when Out of the Woods is coming out and about your other books?

Patricia Lewin [59:43] Well, they can go to my website, which is PatriciaLewin.com and Lewin’s, I have excerpts out there. I have a brief blog, and I will post about Out of the Woods as I get a little further along where I can actually give you a time that’s a little bit closer than early next year.

Patricia McLinn [01:00:10] And how about the romance books?

Patricia Lewin [01:00:11] That’s at PatriciaKeelyn.com. And you spell Keelyn, K-E-E-L-Y-N is much more active than my Lewin website, and I can’t even tell you why that is but that, there’s always something going on there. I’ve blogs and giveaways and things like that. At this point, I don’t have any crossover between the two, and this is actually going to be a question for your readers is that I find that there are a lot of, a lot of romance readers read everything. There’s a lot of crossover that my romance readers will go read my suspense folks. I don’t find that there’s crossover the other way around, and so I’ve been considering putting both websites under an umbrella site with links to both websites so that you can cross over, and I’m not sure whether that’s a good idea or not.

So I’d love to hear what readers think about that an umbrella site that would either be my, I don’t know, just something where you go to one place, and then you can go to either my suspense books or my romance books. So I’d love to hear what readers think about that.

Patricia McLinn [01:01:18] Okay, and we will also have those URLs and others in the show notes for folks to find Patricia’s books. Now, we come to the what I call the epilogue. Rapid-fire either/or questions.

Patricia Lewin [01:01:36] Okay.

Patricia McLinn [01:01:37] No warnings. Well, I’ll give you a warm up one, appetizer or dessert?

Patricia Lewin [01:01:43] Appetizer.

Patricia McLinn [01:01:44] Day or night?

Patricia Lewin [01:01:45] Day.

Patricia McLinn [01:01:46] Toenail polish or bare?

Patricia Lewin [01:01:48] Toenail polish? After you said bare, I’m thinking Bears. I’m going, what is one thing have to do with the other.

Patricia McLinn [01:01:54] You’re thinking EAR instead of ARE.

Patricia Lewin [01:01:57] Exactly. Polish, definitely polished

Patricia McLinn [01:02:00] Tea or coffee?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:01] Coffee.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:02] Dog or cat?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:03] Cat.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:04] Knew we wouldn’t agree on that one.

Patricia Lewin [01:02:05] Yeah.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:06] Which is eerier to you, an owl hooting or coyotes howling?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:11] Coyotes.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:12] Sailboat or motorboat?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:15] Sailboat.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:16] Save the best for last or grab the best first?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:19] Save the best for last.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:21] Paint or wallpaper?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:23] Paint.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:23] Mountains or beach?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:25] Oh, this is a really hard one because I can never make up my mind. I used to play this with my daughter, and I love both the mountains and the beach, so I would have to have a mountainous beach. I really don’t know the answer to that one because I love them both

Patricia McLinn [01:02:39] Cake or ice cream?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:41] Ice cream.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:42] Yoga or walk?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:44] Walk.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:45] Garden or house decorating?

Patricia Lewin [01:02:47] Do I have to do either? Probably house decorating of the two would-be least of the two evils.

Patricia McLinn [01:02:55] I was good guessing that one. Leggings are sweats?

Patricia Lewin [01:03:00] Sweats.

Patricia McLinn [01:03:01] Cowboy boots are hiking boots?

Patricia Lewin [01:03:03] Hiking boots.

Patricia McLinn [01:03:04] Oh, I thought that might be another do I have to do—

Patricia Lewin [01:03:06] To be honest, I don’t like boots period of any kind, and cowboy boots, you know, hiking boots have a function cowboy boots, don’t seem to have one. Well, I guess if you’re a cowboy.

Patricia McLinn [01:03:10] Yes, they do.

Patricia Lewin [01:03:12] If you’re a cowboy, they are, but—

Patricia McLinn [01:03:20] Okay. Well, it’s been lots of fun to have one of my longtime, we won’t say oldest, we’ll say one of my longtime writing buddies here, and hope that the listeners will come back for another session of Authors Love Readers and hope you have a great week of reading.

Patricia Lewin [01:03:39] Thanks, Pat.

Patricia McLinn [01:03:40] Thank you. That’s the show for this week. Hope you enjoyed it and thank you for joining Authors Love Readers podcast. Remember, you can always find out more about our guest authors in the show notes and you can find out more about me, at www.patriciamclinn.com. You can also send in questions to be asked of future authors at podcast@authorslovereaders.com. Until next week wishing you lots of happy reading.



authors love readers patreon