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.
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Acclaimed author Judith Arnold has published over 100 books spanning the romance and mystery genres. In this wide-ranging discussion, Patricia and Judith discuss how Judith creates her stories, conducts research for her books, and approaches the writing process.
Judith’s newest book, Kick the Bucket, is a Lainie Lovett mystery and is now available. Readers can find Judith at:
* on BookBub
Thank you to DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast!
Transcript: Authors Love Readers with Judith Arnold
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.
Judith Arnold [00:23] I’m Judith Arnold, and I’m an author who loves readers.
Patricia McLinn [00:31] It’s my pleasure today to introduce Judith Arnold and I truly mean my pleasure. I’ve known Judith for we’re not going to say how many years because we’re younger than how many years we’ve known each other. We frequently roomed together at writers conferences, and one of the saving graces for us is that she’s a morning person and I’m a night person, so we never argue over the bathroom.
Judith Arnold [00:56] We are very compatible that way. Yes.
From H&R Block to Playwright and writer of mysteries, cozy’s, romance, and more
Patricia McLinn [00:58] We are. So we just get along fine. And Judith was an established, renowned author when I was just starting. She has so many wonderful books that you could spend the next year reading her terrific books. She writes romances, mysteries — fun, cozy mysteries — and women’s fiction. And does that cover it, Judith?
Judith Arnold [01:26] I think pretty much I have written some very bad poetry, but we won’t go there.
Patricia McLinn [01:33] She’s also a playwright. She has educated as a playwright, and has had plenty is produced. So to get to know her a little bit on a fun level, we’re going to ask her some questions. I might have just taken one answer. So what’s a surprising job you’ve held?
Judith Arnold [01:51] A surprising job I’ve held is a tax preparer for H&R Block.
Patricia McLinn [01:57] I didn’t know that.
Judith Arnold [01:58] See? Surprise.
Patricia McLinn [02:00] Yes!
Judith Arnold [02:01] Yes, I did that before I had sold my first book, my husband was so convinced I was going to make tons of money he suggested I take an H&R Block course so I could learn how to do our taxes when I was making all this money. And I took the course and I did so well in it, that they offered me a job and I’ve been very superstitious and felt if I don’t accept this job, I will never sell a book. So I took the job and it was from January to April, obviously heavy tax season. And I sold the book the first week in February, sold my very first book, but then I was stuck working at H&R Block until April 15. Because they could not let me go before then. And that was my, my most bizarre job.
Patricia McLinn [02:49] That’s terrific. And what a great background for an author.
Patricia McLinn [02:54] What’s the saying of your mother or father that you hear yourself saying now?
Judith Arnold [02:59] Oh, this is really kind of embarrassing but can’t a person get some peace and quiet around? And my mother used to say this to me when I was a child and I was so wounded and I would think I will never ever say this ever but of course I say it all the time a little less now that my kids are grown and out of the house although I do have to say to my husband sometimes, but yeah, that’s the one I hear coming out of my mouth and think oh, no, I’ve turned into my mother.
Patricia McLinn [03:27] Yeah. Okay, you’re right handed correct?
Judith Arnold [03:31] Yes, I am.
Patricia McLinn [03:32] Which is longer on your right hand, your index finger or your ring finger.
Judith Arnold [03:36 They are you know, they are identical in length. I don’t know what that means.
Patricia McLinn [03:39] Are they really? I don’t know what it means either. But that’s weird.
Judith Arnold [03:45 As long as they work on the keyboard, I don’t care.
Patricia McLinn [03:48] Good point. What’s your favorite color and why?
Judith Arnold [03:51] I think my favorite color is turquoise. It just makes me happy when I see it. It makes me happy when I wear it. Right now, you can’t see this but I have a turquoise scarf around my neck, a silk scarf that my husband gave me as a gift and I just love turquoise. It’s just a happy, happy color for me.
Patricia McLinn [04:10] I love that color too. So do you have a childhood book that addicted you to stories?
Sleuthing with Freddy the Pig and saving spiders
Judith Arnold [04:17 I have a few, there is one group of books that I read as a child that I’m really so excited about because now I’m writing mysteries too. They were Freddy the Pig books, which were a mystery series. And they were wonderful. And many years later when I had my first agent, it turned out that he was the agent for Walter Brooks who wrote the Freddy the Pig books, which was—
Patricia McLinn [04:41] So Freddy the Pig was the sleuth.
Judith Arnold [04:43] He was the sleuth and all the books take place on an Upstate New York farm. And it’s all you know, anthropomorphic animals and they’re very funny and witty, and I read them to my children. And as an adult, I discovered there was so much subtext, that I was not aware of as a child, but they were absolutely brilliant and wonderful and I would happily read them again right now. And the other book I would think of was Charlotte’s Web, which blew me away as a child and blows me away as an adult too. E.B. White’s classic is just such a wonderful, wonderful book. I love spiders because of that book.
Patricia McLinn [05:22] Okay, you can kill all the spiders in any rooms with spiders.
Judith Arnold [05:27 I don’t kill spiders. I let them live because I keep thinking they could be Charlotte, you know.
Patricia McLinn [05:32] Okay, you could place them outside the room.
Judith Arnold [05:35] That’s fine. Okay,
Patricia McLinn [05:36] Let’s move into the more substantive questions. Before you wanted to be a writer, what did you want to be? I’m thinking not a tax preparer.
Judith Arnold [05:45 I did not want to be a tax preparer. It was funny, until I decided I was going to be a writer, I always assumed I would do other things but write because I always was writing. I wanted to be a lawyer because I thought I could be the first women on the Supreme Court. Fortunately, we did not have to wait for me to do that. For a while I wanted to be an astronaut till I found out how much science you have to know.
Patricia McLinn [06:09] Oh, yeah, draw back.
Judith Arnold [06:09] And I wanted to be a rock star. Of course I was in some rock bands growing up. And actually majored in music in college and wrote a lot of very kind of Joni Mitchell like songs. So yeah, I was gonna be a rock star too. But I was always writing no matter what. And finally, it occurred to me, Wait, I don’t have to be those other things. I could be a writer.
Patricia McLinn [06:30] Do you think writers look at the world and people differently from non-writers?
Judith Arnold [06:36] I think so. I think writers, for one thing, we have to understand motivation. And I, you know, maybe I’m speaking in broad generalizations here. But I think, you know, when people do things, I’m always trying to figure out what their motivation is. Why they feel this way, why they said that, why they did this. And so that’s one way I think that we see the world differently? Another way, and maybe this is just me, but I have always processed my experiences in words. It’s like, when I’m observing something, I hear it in my head in words. And I’ve known like artists who visually see everything. I… I, you know, they process the world through their eyes, and I sort of process it very verbally.
When I’m thinking through a problem, I think it through in paragraphs in my head and then there’s sometimes I even edit the paragraphs. And, you know, I just, you know, when I’m lying in bed at night, if I’m having trouble falling asleep, I just, words are just always in my head. So it’s kind of a way of interpreting the world for me and I assume other writers probably experienced something similar. We’re just, we’re so immersed in words. The words … words are the way we connect with the world.
Patricia McLinn [07:58] When you start a story, where do you start? How does the story start for you?
Judith Arnold [08:04] Uh, usually it starts with some characters taking up residence in my head and saying, Here’s our story. Here’s our situation. I wish they would tell me more of this story, usually they only tell me their situation. Here we are. Here’s our problem, you write it out and solve it for us. And sometimes I pay attention and sometimes I will tell them, No, I’m not interested in your story, go away. And sometimes I’ve done that and they just won’t leave me alone. So I finally give in. They just nag at me and nag at me, but I almost always will start with character. And usually, you know, after interviewing the characters for a bit in my head, I will have an understanding of what they want in life, kind of the goal, their motivation and what’s standing in their way and then the story sort of blossoms from there.
Patricia McLinn [08:58] What’s your favorite part of the process? And what’s your least favorite part?
Judith Arnold [09:02] Well, I would like to say my favorite part is typing The End. Ha-ha, I’m done. I actually do like the revision process. I like to in a way sometimes, this is going to sound like I’m an artist rather than a writer, but I think of it almost as a sculpture. And the first draft is a very rough-hewn part, and then I like to go back and polish and smooth and tweak and play with the words. It’s, I get more of a chance to play with the words in the revision process. So I really do enjoy that. And, and, and, you know, it depends on the book. Some books are just so brutal to write, they just don’t want to come out. And in those cases, the writing itself is a real, real torture. But usually I like the conception part, the part before I start writing when I’m interviewing the characters and getting to know them, and I love the revision and the rest of it, well, I love having written as a lot of people.
Patricia McLinn [10:03] When you have a book that is brutal like that, do you find the reaction from the readers, do you think that other people get that sense that it was brutal or for even for you in the rereading it or editing it, can you tell that it was brutal?
Cry Uncle, writing during the tough times
Judith Arnold [10:20] They come out, they come out pretty much the same as the ones that aren’t brutal which amazes me. I’m usually, when I have a brutal book and then I go back to do the revisions, I’m usually astonished to find out this, this doesn’t suck, you know, I thought it sucked while I was writing it, but it doesn’t. I have one of my books, Cry Uncle, it was originally published by Harlequin and now it’s available in an updated digital edition. But I wrote it during a really awful time in my life. My sister was battling cancer and she was not doing well, and this was a comedy. It was a funny book.
And every day you know, I would go to visit her in the hospital and I’d come … because she was in this isolation thing, she was getting special experimental treatment, and I’d come home, and I’d have to force myself to write this book because it had a deadline. And I finally finished it. And I mailed it to my agent and said, Please read this overnight, because it was due, I was very close to the deadline. So he read it overnight and tell me if it’s as bad as I think it is. And he read it and called me the next morning and said, it’s fine. I’m sending it off to your editor.
And the book was not only successful, the editors loved it, readers loved it. It was very funny. I don’t know how I got through that but it took me years and years and years to be able to go back to that book because all I could think of when I read it was this terrible time in my life and how torturous it was to write.
Patricia McLinn [11:45] The real life view associated with it.
Judith Arnold [11:47] Yeah, but actually it was very funny and came out fine. I, you know, sometimes I think the Muse takes over or some spirit inside you takes over when you don’t think the writing is coming, somebody else, some kind of supernatural spirit comes out and gets the writing done for you. But they are fine even if they’re horrible to write, they still seem to come out okay.
Patricia McLinn [12:14] Maybe that book came to you then because you needed that respite.
Judith Arnold [12:18] It could be, it could be it was a little bit of an escape, you know I could come back and say I can control this world I can’t control what’s going on in my life right now but—
Patricia McLinn [12:27] Yeah.
Judith Arnold [12:27] —I can control these characters, although again, sometimes characters just don’t want to be controlled. They go off their own way, they have their own minds. But yeah, it was kind of fun to kind of slip back into Key West and all the crazy kooky people in Key West and the Haitian Voodoo Lady and the bratty five-year-old and all these other characters in there and just you know, lose myself with them for a while.
Patricia McLinn [12:50] You brought up sometimes the characters don’t cooperate, do you find that your books change a lot from conception to publication?
Judith Arnold [13:00] Absolutely I am… I am a pantser, you know, I write by the seat of my pants. I do not like to outline my books before I start writing because the outline is part of the discovery. And once I’ve discovered the whole thing, I, you know, who wants to go back and now write it, I already know what happened. So, again, I usually start with the characters and their situation and their problems or whatever their conflict, and then I kind of see where they take me, and sometimes they take me down a blind alley, and I have to yank them back.
I usually have an overall idea obviously, if I’m writing a mystery, I know there’s going to be a dead body in the beginning of the book, and there’s going to be a solution at the end. But sometimes I don’t even know until three-quarters of the way through who the actual villain is, which I think probably comes through in the writing so that the readers are kept guessing also because they may not realize it, but the author is kept guessing of who did it, but you know, I have that basic architecture I know.
In a romance, I know there’s going to be a couple and they’re going to fall in love, they’re going to have a lot of conflicts, they’re gonna have to overcome some major problems and they’re going to end up together. So I have that basic overall structure in place, but how they get there? Who knows? Sometimes they surprise me. Often they surprise me. And usually the surprise is good. Sometimes the surprise is not so good. We have to kind of backtrack and find a new, a new route to where we’re going.
Patricia McLinn [14:30] Sometimes for me when that happens, the answer is in research. Do you do you enjoy doing research? Or—
Judith Arnold [14:38] It depends.
Patricia McLinn [14:38] —dread it.
Researching dangers for sexy lingerie or the best poisons
Judith Arnold [14:39] I will say that, you know, when I first started publishing, there was no, well the internet may have existed, but it was not what it is now. So there was no Google certainly. When I wanted to research something I had to get on the phone. You probably know this from your background in journalism, you had to get on the phone and call experts or I had to go to the library. And now of course, research is just so easy. You just, you know, Google something and of course then you know, the downside of that is like, I’ll be writing a book in which the heroine, it’s a romance and she’s gonna wear some really sexy lingerie, so I researched sexy lingerie and then for the next six months I’m getting ads for crotchless panties showing up on my browser, but the research it can be…
Patricia McLinn [16:03] We blame it all on research.
Judith Arnold [16:04] Of course. Of course. And of course with the, with the murder mysteries, I am always a little worried, you know, you know, when I do try to use books more than the web for, you know, like when I’m researching poisons or weapons or something, because who knows, I don’t want the FBI to show up at my door saying, you know, why are you doing all this research on cyanide? I do have a few books for that. But yeah, the research can be fun. It’s, you know, it can be dangerous because you just get so absorbed in it. You forget that you’re supposed to be writing a book, you just keep clicking along and saying, Oh, but that looks interesting. Oh, let me check that too. So yeah, I do enjoy that though. And it’s, of course, it’s so convenient nowadays that you can just sit there and do it right at your desk.
Patricia McLinn [16:08] So on your most recent release— What was the title of your most recent release?
Judith Arnold [16:13] It’s called Kick the Bucket. It’s the fourth book in my Lainie Lovett murder mystery series. It just was released on Halloween, October 31.
Patricia McLinn [16:22] What research did you do for Kick the Bucket?
Judith Arnold [16:25] Well, I did actually did some hands on research for that because it’s set in an independent living senior residence, very similar to the one where my mother lives. So I’m a little worried about what she’s going to say when she reads it because I, I’ve told her several times, this is fiction, this is fiction. You know, I’m waiting for the paperback edition to be released right now. It’s only available in digital and my mother does not read digital. So she has to wait until the paperback version comes out.
You know, I having, having her live there and you know for the past eight years and I spend a lot of time there visiting her and it was, it was on-site research. I did have to do some research on, on poisons for that one but my younger son gave me for Christmas last year a book about poisons. I requested it. It’s Dear Santa, will you bring me a book on how to kill people? But—
Patricia McLinn [17:25] I think that’s on the naughty list.
Judith Arnold [17:26] Yeah, yeah. So I did do some research and I actually no, that must have been two years ago because I researched a lot for my third mystery, the one that came out before Kick the Bucket. But that’s a handy one to have, handy book for if you’re writing mysteries and it’s probably a little safer than going online and looking up all these things. And although I do, I mean I do look up poisons online too. And I haven’t been arrested yet. So I guess we’re okay.
Patricia McLinn [17:52] I look them all up online.
Judith Arnold [17:53] Okay, and you have been arrested yet either
Patricia McLinn [17:55] Not yet and I figure if they come knocking at my door, that’s good research.
Judith Arnold [17:59] Well, you know, if we both get arrested we can be roommates in jail, since we do get along so well.
Patricia McLinn [18:05] And you can dispose of the spiders.
Judith Arnold [18:07] That’s right. Yes, I will take care of all the little Charlotte’s.
Patricia McLinn [18:10] When you finish a book, when you wrap it up, do you find that you miss the characters? Think about the characters once you’ve finished that book?
Judith Arnold [18:18] Usually I do. In a couple of you know a couple of those torture books, you know I’m just so glad to be rid of these people, go away I’m done with you, that’s it. But with most of them, yeah, I do want the characters to hang out with me afterward. You know, on some occasion like with the mysteries, that’s a series, so I always know that Lainie the heroine and her sidekick friends and her kids are going to be around and her two occasional boyfriends, they will all be around in subsequent books, so it’s never really goodbye it’s just sort of go take a vacation. I have to write some other books now. And you know, I’ll let you know when I’m ready for the next book. But yeah, characters become so real to you when you’re writing their stories, you’re living their lives with them. And yeah, it’s sometimes very hard to say goodbye.
Patricia McLinn [19:08] Has that led to having additional books come from the first book?
Judith Arnold [19:13] Yes, yeah, well certainly it has. I have two books which I’m hoping to update and reissue now that I’ve gotten the rights back to them. The Bloom Family books, which were originally published by Mira, and the first book I just wrote, and everybody loved, including me, loved the characters so much I wrote a sequel.
Patricia McLinn [19:35] And what were those two titles?
Judith Arnold [19:37] The first one is called Love in Blooms. And the second one is called Blooming All Over.
Patricia McLinn [19:41] And tell us a little bit about the story.
Judith Arnold [19:44] Well, they’re about a family in New York City that has owned and run a gourmet food emporium, kind of like Zabars, if you know New York City delis. When I say deli, I think people think of a sandwich shop but this is much grander than that with imported cheeses and artisan breads and all kinds of gourmet stuff. And the first book just kind of came out. It was, it was fun to write, I did a lot of research there and would go down to New York City.
My parents were living in the city then and they’d say come on down and do research. And my father and I would go up to the deli that the Blooms’ deli is based on, and we’d come home with shopping bags full of all kinds of gourmet treats, and my mother would say, Enough with the research I’m gaining weight from this book.
You know, people to it was just it was fun to write and the story came out great and people wanted to know more about the Blooms family. So the first book was about one of the Blooms sisters and the second one was about her younger sister, and I do have an outline, a very vague outline for a third book. Once I reissue the first two books, I plan to write the third book and just party with the Blooms family. Because they are, they’re crazy, wonderful people.
Patricia McLinn [21:03] Do you have any—? Will any of the lead characters be guys?
Judith Arnold [21:07] In the romances, I write heterosexual romances in the heroes and heroines are pretty evenly balanced. Sometimes the book is a little more hero oriented, sometimes a little more heroin oriented. And with the Blooms Family, of course, they were two sisters. But there were plenty of men in the family also, I don’t really ever think about it. Should I write a book that’s really you know, more about men or more about women? Again, in my romances, I tend to think they’re pretty balanced.
Patricia McLinn [21:34] What do you find the most difficult about creating a character of the opposite sex?
Judith Arnold [21:40] I don’t find it that difficult because I raised two sons and watching … you know, it was amazing watching boys grow up, it helped me to understand why men are the way they are so much. I mean, you see it from an early age there, you know, I’m a militant feminist and wanted to raise feminist boys, and I think I did, they both are very good cooks and very helpful and very respectful of women and view women as their equals. But there are certain things that are hardwired into men that originate when they’re, when they, you know, they pop out of the womb with their little Y chromosomes and, um, and watching them grow up really, really gave me a lot of insight into guys.
I have messed up some things I know. Sports — this will break your heart — but I do remember I wrote one book in which the characters were discussing the Harvard Yale football game and the book is set in October and my husband went ballistic. He said no, that game is always played on Thanksgiving. What is wrong with you? But he’s the only one who ever noticed that I did not get you know torrent of letters from readers saying, Why did you have them discussing the game in October? But so I might get some of those details wrong but and, and yeah, occasionally my husband who’s read a lot of my books and he will say, you know, real men wouldn’t think that way when he’s reading a romance and I always say yes, but these are fantasies.
These are these are, what women wish men would be like. So I don’t find it that difficult. I think part of the job of a writer is to get into the heads of people we aren’t, you know, in the same way that it is difficult for me to get into the head of a five-year-old because I’ve written some books with young characters, or an elderly woman or, or someone from another country or another ethnicity. You know, it’s just, it’s I consider it part of my job to really immerse myself in those characters’ heads and see things through their eyes.
Patricia McLinn [23:52] When you talked about having difficult books, you know, that were really hard to write. Have you had any that you’ve had the give up on or that you have given up on or that you set aside temporarily, you know, ideas that just would not gel for you?
Judith Arnold [24:07] I do. I have, I have a whole file on my computer of started books that are going nowhere. If I was really ready to part ways with them, I would delete them all but I don’t because I keep thinking, well, maybe someday, if I’m stuck for an idea, I’ll go back and revisit this idea and see if it’s if I can make it work or see if it speaks to me in a different way now than it did then. So I saved them all, but yeah, and you know, in the pre-computer days, I have a drawer full of rejected manuscripts or completed manuscripts that I read and buried and said no one will ever see these. And yet somehow, I have not thrown them in the fireplace. So I guess somebody may see them someday. I will be dead by then. So they can’t embarrass me.
Patricia McLinn [24:54] But have you had some that you have given up on that you have thrown out?
Judith Arnold [24:58] I don’t know. I’m kind of a packrat, I don’t know if I’ve thrown any out, I’m sure, I’m sure I’ve given up on most of them. I mean, some of them date back 20, 30 years and I haven’t looked at them since. So, yeah, yeah, you know, I do think that every book you write or even every book you start and don’t finish it’s a learning experience. It’s uh, you know, I learned something about myself or, or something about my writing. So I don’t consider them a waste of time. But I don’t know that I’ll you know, again, I don’t, whenever I think I’ll never have another idea. Suddenly another idea pops into my head. So I’d rather pursue that idea then go back to some other idea that didn’t work out ten years ago.
Patricia McLinn [25:39] Do you have a specific name for the computer folder that you put those files in?
Judith Arnold [25:43] No, they’re all, they’re all, actually, it’s my WIP folder — works in progress. And everything, whether it’s a successful book or an unsuccessful, aborted project, they’re all in that folder. Once a book is finished, on its way to publication, it gets pulled out of the WIP folder, and you know, gets its own folder then because I’ll have other material that I want to, you know, affiliated with blurbs and the reviews and whatever else I have for it. But until it’s completed and on its way to publication, everything is in the WIP folder, including I look, sometimes I look at the WIP folder, and I see a title of a book, and I think really, what was that I remember it. And I suppose I could open that file and read it and say, Oh, that was what that was, but I don’t have the time right now, because, again, there’s always a new idea and I’m so busy focusing on that.
Patricia McLinn [26:35] Of the books that have made it from the WIP folder to the published folder, do you have any that you would consider an overlooked gem, a book that even your loyalist readers might have missed?
Judith Arnold [26:49] I do I have one book, in particular, it’s called The April Tree. And this was a book actually, you asked if I ever go back to failed projects, the first time I tried to write a version of this book. I was 12 years old. I came back and forth with it for years and years. And I discarded for ten years at a time. And but there were all these ideas about this book that I really wanted to write at some point. And I finally, a few years ago, I thought my career had flatlined. I thought I was never going to sell another book. And I just said, well—
Patricia McLinn [27:25] After how many books?
Judith Arnold [27:27] Oh, gosh, that was probably around 85 or 90 at that point. 85. But, you know, I had left my publisher, I had no agent. And I just said, I can’t stop writing. I mean, I have tried to stop writing. And it’s, it’s, I can’t, so I said, but you know, if I’m never going to sell another book again, maybe it’s time to bring out The April Tree and really work on it. And the timing was right, I just, the story flowed out of me. It was a very different telling than it was when I was needless to say when I was 12, or when I tried it again, when I was in my 20s, or when I tried it, it went when I was in my 30s.
But I wrote it. And right after I wrote it, I wrote my first mystery. And I sent them both to the editor of a small, midsize press. I had sold the book to the Bell Bridge Books. And I said, You know, I think you’ll like the mystery cuz it’s funny and it’s, you know, commercial. Would you do me a favor and read this book too, and tell me if I should, you know, bury it in the bottom of the drawer or what? And my editor started reading it first, before she read the mystery. She called me up, a couple of days later, she said, I’ve just finished the first chapter and I can’t stop crying. And she ended up reading it and insisting on publishing it. And it’s very different from my other books. It’s more literary, it’s, uh, it deals with some very heavy issues. It’s about how three friends cope with the inexplicable death of their fourth friend, and it was inspired by—
Patricia McLinn [29:02] And how old are they?
Judith Arnold [29:04] They? Well, in the beginning of the book, they’re 15, at the end of the book 20. It’s written in two parts. One is when they’re in high school, and one is when they’re in college. But when I was, when I was 12, my best friend died, and it made me question so much about, about life and what I understood and faith and all of those things. And these were questions obviously, they’ve been rattling around in my head ever since. And so writing this book out, allowed me to explore those feelings and it’s, it’s really I think, it’s a beautiful book. It is such a special book to me. I hope more readers will find it some someday it’s again, it’s called The April Tree and it was published by Bell Bridge Books and just a very special book.
Patricia McLinn [29:46] And it’s available both as a paperback and digital, isn’t it?
Judith Arnold [29:50] That’s right. Yes, it is.
Patricia McLinn [29:51] That’s a particular kind of read. Do you think that you have other books that would be an easier place or the best place for new to you readers to start with? With your works because you are now over 100 books published. Are you not?
Judith Arnold [30:10] That is true. That is true.
Patricia McLinn [30:12] Yay. So of those hundred, do you have a couple you can tell us a reader who has never read Judith Arnold before?
Judith Arnold [30:20] Well yeah, I would say if you are a mystery fan and like white funny, clever mysteries, you should start with the first book in my Lainie Lovett series, Still Kicking. It’s a fun, fun book, but it’s a good mystery. And Lainie Lovett is just a really cool middle-aged schoolteacher who plays soccer and ends up solving mysteries.
If you’re a romance fan, I would suggest you try my Magic Jukebox series. The first book of that series is called Changes. And again since these are series it’s probably best to sort of read them in order Changes is— The Magic Jukebox series is about a… It’s— They’re all set in a kind of a seaside town north of Boston. I live in Massachusetts and there’s an old kind of, you know, working-class tavern in the town where a lot of town people hang out, and in the tavern is an antique jukebox. And no one can figure out how it works. All they know is if you put a quarter in, you’ll get three songs you don’t, you can’t choose the songs, you have no idea what the songs are going to be, but they’re going to be old songs old enough to have been recorded on vinyl.
And every now and then the magic jukebox will play a song that somehow casts a spell over two people in the tavern, and they will ultimately fall in love. And that’s the premise of the series and Changes is the first book in the series. It’s the song in that one and is David Bowie’s Changes, his song. Each of the books is named after the song that somehow connects the hero and heroine and they’re also there. They’re pretty short. They’re fun. They’re, um… Some of them are darker. Some of them are lighter, but they’re just, they’re a lot of fun and readers really seem to enjoy them.
Patricia McLinn [32:06] I would also recommend the Daddy School books.
Judith Arnold [32:09] Yeah. Oh, they’re, they’re… Yeah, they’re great too, the Daddy School. Originally they originated when I was still writing for Harlequin. And again, I’ve gotten the rights back to them and updated them and reissued them. That’s a series, the first book in that series is called Father Found, which when it came out originally it was it received the Reviewers Choice Award from RT Magazine for the best Harlequin Super Romance that year.
And the premise of that is that men want to be good fathers but sometimes they need some instruction, and so all of the books have a child in them or a baby or somebody struggling, it’s not always the heroes child either. In at least one of the books, it’s the heroine’s child and the hero wants to fall, he’s falling in love with the heroine, but he hates children. So he still has to learn how to deal with kids too. And they are a lot of fun. Again, some are a little lighter, some are darker. But the first book in that series is called Father Found. That’s a fun series, too.
Patricia McLinn [33:12] Yeah. What… What do you read for fun?
Judith Arnold [33:15] Well, it depends on what I’m writing. If I’m working on mysteries, I try not to be reading mysteries. If I’m working on a romance, I try not to read a romance. I really do like what I guess falls under the kind of vague genre of women’s fiction, which I think you know, it’s a funny name. I always joke that if somebody took The Great Gatsby and put a pink cover on it, and it was written by Zelda Fitzgerald, it would be considered women’s fiction. But I think, I think women’s fiction are books about relationships, books about… They’re character driven, they usually have strong, interesting heroines. So I love women’s fiction. I’m pretty eclectic, guys.
Frequently, I will just read a book that somebody handed to me or that that might be Book Club is reading or I recently read a couple of manuscripts from friends of mine who wanted some input on them. It varies, right now I’m reading a women’s fiction book by a friend of mine and enjoying it a lot.
Patricia McLinn [34:16] Do you find that when you read manuscripts like that, where somebody is asking for input, is that a different reading experience for you from reading a finished book by somebody you don’t know?
Judith Arnold [34:27] Yeah, yeah, it is definitely for one thing, when I read a finished book, I know that my input is not going to make any difference. I can’t, I can’t call them to say, you know, I think that you could build this plot thread a little stronger or whatever, and so there’s no point. I don’t read those books with a pad and pen next to my hand. But yeah, when I’m reading critically for a friend, yes, I’m looking at very specific and I’m looking not just I’m not looking for problems, but I’m looking for whatever I can tell them that will help them strengthen the story.
You know, sometimes the story is… if the story is flawless, well, bravo. But you know, if a story has promise, but needs some work, you don’t just want to say this has promise and needs some work. You want to be able to kind of guide them. Say, here was the question in my head when I read this section, here was what I was wondering what the heroine really wanted in this, in this moment. They have something that they can work on, if they want, you know, I mean, I don’t take it personally if they read my critique and say this is this doesn’t make any sense to me and they can toss it, you know, it’s up to them. It’s their book.
Patricia McLinn [35:36] You’re probably better at reading published books without that critical aspect to it than I am.
Judith Arnold [35:44] You know, I know. It’s— No, it’s really hard there, there have been times when I have bemoaned the fact that I am a writer because it has, in some ways really diminished the joy of reading for me. Because, yeah, we read everything as, as writers and we think, Oh, I would have done it this way or, Oh, she really blew that or, Oh, you know, he didn’t develop this the way it should have been developed. Yeah, it makes you very, very critical. I used to liken it to a magician watching another magician’s performance and thinking, Oh, I know how that works. Oh, I know how he did that.
Patricia McLinn [36:18] Yes.
Judith Arnold [36:19] Yeah. So yeah, yeah, it does. It does reduce the joy. And that’s one reason that I sometimes enjoy reading books that are completely not what I write. And just because I can sort of separate myself from it more and not think, Oh, he should have done it this way. She should have written it that way.
Patricia McLinn [36:36] I like the magician because that sometimes it’s not that we’re thinking how I would do it or change this or do that. It’s just seeing the man behind the curtain. So you know what’s happening and you know what’s going to happen well before you should in the rhythm of the story, and it just, it makes it hard to be as immersed in the story. A lot of times I go back and reread things that I first read before I became a writer because I can still access that reader feel—
Judith Arnold [37:10] That’s wonderful.
Patricia McLinn [37:11] —with those.
Judith Arnold [37:12] Sometimes I do that I go back to them and I think, Oh, why was I so transported by this way back when. So it can go either way, but sad that that fresh eye and that almost naïveté when you read that book. It’s like, oh, wow, this is a whole new world, now I’m, I can jump into it.
Covers: Wanting MacGyver and getting Doby Gillis
Patricia McLinn [37:31] Yes. And speaking of reading and readers, we had some questions from readers, one may not apply as much to what you’re doing now as an independent author. But she asks when the when the cover image doesn’t match the character description, and the reader says, a pet peeve of mine. How does that feel?
Judith Arnold [37:55] Oh, it is a pet peeve of mine too. When I work with publishers, especially with Harlequin, they would always ask for these very detailed descriptions of all the characters or they did the cover art. And then they’d send you the cover flat and you’d say, huh? I do remember I had written a book I had visualized the hero is looking like I think it’d be with Richard Dean Anderson. It was MacGyver, the original MacGyver. Really kind of a blond guy. And I specified this on the … and, he was kind of a quirky, high tech genius too, so it made sense. And then they sent me the cover flat and instead of MacGyver, I got Doby Gillis, and I was just oh, no, I hate it, too.
Back when I worked with publishers, I had no real input into it at all. So Reader, believe me, I sympathize. One of the nice things about being an indie author is that I can veto a cover, I can ask for redesign, and I can say this is what I want. These are the characters I want on that cover, so it is less likely to happen. Sometimes you just can’t get exactly what you want. But yeah, you read these books, you fall in love with these characters, you visualize them in a certain way.
And then there are these people on the cover who look nothing like them. I had written one book, which I have reissued in digital recently called Going Back in which the heroine was, she was kind of funny looking. And that was one of the premises of the book, she just was not very pretty. And part of it is that the hero, he falls in love with her, he realizes that he loves her anyway, because he’s gorgeous. And, you know, at the end of the book, it ends with their, they make their lifelong commitment to each other. And he says that, you know, would you consider getting contact lenses because you really look dorky in the glasses, you know, so it’s not like she suddenly, you know, not like the librarian who pulls up, puts down her hair and takes off her glasses. She’s always going to be funny looking, but she’s just a wonderful person and he loves her. And of course, I got the cover and there’s this absolutely gorgeous woman on the cover.
Patricia McLinn [40:00] Oh no.
Judith Arnold [40:01] That’s not how I pictured her. But what are you gonna do?
Patricia McLinn [40:04] I got one cover. And I said out loud as I looked at it. Who are these dorks? And what did you do with my character? He’s a rancher, and they’ve got him in a suit. And, you know, just this is one of the reasons most of my covers now don’t have people on them. Because I can never find the right people. I could spend days looking at stock photos and none of them are exactly who I have in my head. So I tend not to have people, I tend to have something that represents either landscape or something that represents something happening in the book because that’s a lot easier to get right. So that is a great question, Reader.
Judith Arnold [40:48] You know, the other thing I would say to the reader or to everybody, is that when you do read digitally, I mean, I do most of my reading on Kindle now. The cover, because the cover is a good tool to capture your interest in the book, but once you start reading, you don’t ever look at the cover again. So that sort of helps me when I have, when there’s a cover that I don’t think is right for the book. But then once I’m in my Kindle, I don’t really have to look at the cover anymore.
Patricia McLinn [41:16] It’s a really good point. I tend to read a read digitally, but across multiple platforms and audiobooks, too. Whereas with a paperback book, you’ll see the cover physically because it’s sitting there…
Judith Arnold [41:20] Right there.
Patricia McLinn [41:21] …and you’ll see it multiple times. So it has more impact on you, I think, than that first one first sight that you get with a digital or an audiobook. So another reader question. Well we sort of covered where do you stories come from? And you talked about the characters setting up shop in your head. Okay, this is about where you work, your workspace, and it says, What is your favorite place to write? Why? Does it have an inspirational view. And I’m gonna say, I’ll tell you, Reader, that her usual workspace does not have an inspirational view and it’s a mess.
Judith Arnold [42:10] I was … I was waiting for that, unfortunately Pat has seen my office and she’ll tell you all the rest of my house is very neat and very tidy.
Patricia McLinn [42:20] True. True,
Judith Arnold [42:21] But my office is like a menagerie. It’s just a zoo. I will say there actually there is a window on the side of my desk, and it overlooks this small patch of woods in our backyard.
Patricia McLinn [42:34] Okay, I saw it at night
Judith Arnold [42:36] You saw it at night, so you did not did not see that, but I have always had to have a window right near my desk so I can gaze out the window at something pretty. And I mean, when we bought this house, I got to choose which room was going to be my office before we doled out the bedrooms to the kids. And I needed, I needed a room at the back of the house so I could look out at the woods rather than on the street.
But yeah, I do work at my desk most of the time. My desk is very cluttered. Among the clutters not just folders of information, research materials, you know, just all that kind of stuff, but I also have like a whole pile of stuffed animals. I have a bunch of them there and they are all significant in various ways. I have a bunch of books, a couple of two thesauruses, several dictionaries, my most important reference book I have besides the book of poisons is my 10,000 Names for Babies because I’m always looking for good names. Just a bunch of books like that. And again, piles of stuff. I have a couch in my office that has room for one person to sit on because the rest of it is piled with books. I have bookcases that are—
Patricia McLinn [43:52] But wait a minute. Timeout, timeout because if that one person sits on the couch, this is the voice of experience, that person is then covered by an avalanche of books.
Judith Arnold [44:04] Because they all slide down toward you, I know. I know. But I also find I can work when I have to, I take my Netbook or my little laptop, and you know if I’m traveling or when my kids were growing up, I used to take the laptop to their Little League games because they’d have to get to the field an hour before the game would start. I never missed watching the game, but during the hour warm up and practice I would just take my laptop and sit in the bleachers and get a lot of writing done. I did have to be careful because sometimes a kid would suddenly, I realized some kid was reading over my shoulder and if this was a sex scene that would not have gone over well you know. Or the lounge outside their music teacher’s studio or when … one of my son’s is recovering from cancer right now, but I have gotten a lot of writing done in the waiting area while he was getting his chemo and so—
Patricia McLinn [45:02] And he’s doing great.
Judith Arnold [45:04] He is doing really well. He is in remission, no signs of cancer in him right now and we’re very pleased. And I’ll give a shout out to Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, they are miracle workers. But so you know, I do find sometimes that I get more writing done on my laptop because it doesn’t have you know, I could access Facebook on it but I don’t you know, it’s sort of more focused in it’s not as comfortable a machine for me to go around playing and I certainly can’t play Solitaire on it very easily.
So I do write on that sometimes if need be, but I am very comfortable in my office. It’s my little hidey-hole and that’s where I get most of my writing done amid the clutter. I keep thinking, how can I write with all this clutter, but somehow I think it works for me. I’ve actually reached the point now where I’m afraid if I cleaned the place up, I would never be able to write again. So that’s my excuse anyway.
Patricia McLinn [46:01] Yeah, it’s so weird because as Judith says, the rest of her house is very neat and orderly and having roomed with her, she’s, she’s generally neat. And this room—
Judith Arnold [46:11] You stopped when you walked in. Oh my God.
Patricia McLinn [46:15] When you were talking about little kids seeing what you were writing on your screen, are you conscious of that on airplanes?
Judith Arnold [46:21] Fortunately, the seats usually have pretty high backs. If there’s somebody sitting next to me, I’ll kind of tilt my machine a little bit just to make sure they can’t see what I’m writing.
Patricia McLinn [46:33] It’s not, it’s the people diagonally behind you because I look at people’s screens. So I know people look at the screen, so I’m very conscious of it with mine.
Judith Arnold [46:46] Thank you for that advice. I will bear that in mind, so I—
Patricia McLinn [46:48] Yep. So watch what you’re writing on airplanes.
Judith Arnold [46:51] I will be very careful about that.
Patricia McLinn [46:52] From when you first got published, have you changed the way you write? Changed your process?
Judith Arnold [47:00] Oh, yes, yes, it has a lot. Um, I first I sold my first book in 1983, before when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. When I first started writing, you know, I was reading a lot of romances and trying very much to, to mimic, in, not to copy, but to kind of capture that voice and capture that, that kind of language. I know, I slipped a lot because my editor always would tell me, you know, I was reading your book, every time I read one of your manuscripts, I always have to look up at least one word. And that kind of irked her but I have a big vocabulary, what can I say?
But as I, as I began to feel more confident about what I was doing, I began to color outside the lines a lot more. Now, I think my writing is, my writing voice is a bit more streamlined. It’s about bit more direct and I feel much more comfortable that way. And in terms of the writing process, I used to, I used to get the best writing done in the morning now I get the best writing done in the afternoon. It’s, it’s…
Patricia McLinn [48:14] You’re coming to the dark side.
Judith Arnold [48:16] Well, no, it’s because I’ve now I’m out jogging in the morning and taking care of errands and things like that in the morning. There’s something about by, I usually have a real dip in energy in the early to midafternoon. And somehow that, um, that dip in energy, you think it would make it harder for me to write, but it sort of strips away any kind of inhibitions, that is not quite the word.
Patricia McLinn [48:40] Internal editor.
Judith Arnold [48:41] Yeah, that’s, that’s it really, and I just, I just say, Okay, I’m exhausted. I’m just gonna spew it all out. However it comes out. And I get a lot of writing done in a very short stretch of time, usually in a couple of hours. You know, I like I have to build up and build up and build up until about 2 or 2:30 in the afternoon, and It all comes gushing out of me. And that seems like a very undisciplined way to work except that it works. So I don’t question it. I think that’s one of the things I’ve learned over the years is if something is working, just go with it and don’t say I should be doing it this way or should be doing it that way. Just do it the way it works.
Patricia McLinn [49:16] Accept it when it works.
Judith Arnold [49:18] Yeah. And be grateful fall on your knees and say, thank you. Thank you. It’s working.
Patricia McLinn [49:2] I think that touching on that internal editor, I think that’s our internal critic. It’s something that a lot of people either don’t recognize or they think they’re the only one that happens to. I think a lot of us write with at least two voices going on at the same time in our heads. The voice of the story of the characters, and we’re writing that along and then there’s this, Shouldn’t have done that, you should have done this better. That isn’t very good. What is what are you doing here? Oh, no, you can’t go there. You’re going down this track, that’s not good. And then there can be another voice even saying should be spending your time on this other project. Why are you working on this project? There’s this other project you should be doing. I probably have five voices going most of the time. Now if you tell me I’m the only one—
Judith Arnold [50:17] We’re schizophrenic. Well, I, I, yeah, lots of voices. The Three Faces of Judith or The Three Faces of Patricia. Yeah, I … you know, I, we have talked with some of our writer friends who use dictation software to write verbally, and I could never do that because I’m constantly editing as I write, you know, write a sentence and say, Oh, no, I have to change that word. I can’t move on to the next sentence until I feel if I have like a word that I’ve repeated several times in a paragraph and I think, Oh my gosh, you have to fix that paragraph before I can move on to the next paragraph. That’s kind of the internal editor nagging me. Yeah, there’s there are lots of voices and then there were the character voices in there, too. Shouting wait, wait, it’s my turn for a big scene, you know? Yeah. So yeah.
Patricia McLinn [51:05] Yeah. Unless dictation picks up cut and paste and backspace delete. I don’t think I will be able to use it. Because I’m using— I’m going backwards at least as much as I’m going forward. You, you mentioned naming characters. And do you have thoughts about how you name your characters? Are you looking for specific things when you’re coming up with the name? Do some of them come pre-named? Do they ever announce their name to you?
Judith Arnold [51:32] Some of them do, most of them don’t. There are certain things I do look for in names. One really important one is if a book has a number of characters in it, I want their names to be different enough that there won’t be confusion, unless confusion is an important part of the plot. You know, I try it like in romance, I will try to make sure my hero and heroines names do not start with the same letter. I don’t know why I just sort of feel they need contrast. Certain names fit certain personality types. So yeah, if I have a certain kind of character, I can’t name him something that’s just not going to fit his type. And usually, you know, I’ll go through the book through my 10,000 Names for Babies book. And as I’m thumbing through it suddenly certain names will leap out at me. They’ll say, yeah, this name would fit him really well.
I do, I do pay attention to the last names also. Because the last names will frequently tell us something about the character’s ethnicity, and you know so not all of my characters are WASPs you know, I have I like to have Italian characters, Jewish characters, Polish characters, Irish characters, and so their last names, may be reflecting that. And then I wanted the first name and the last name to have a nice rhythm to have a nice flow. When I first started out writing romances, I was always very conscious about whether the heroine’s first name would go well with the hero’s last name because I knew they were going to get married at the end of the book. But you know nowadays lots of wives— Anyway and that is no longer a major concern for me.
But you want the names to tell us something about the character. Um, sometimes a person’s name really reflects the kind of person they are or reflects something about their background because I you know, I pay a lot of attention to my characters backgrounds, you know, their childhoods what their parents were like, where they grew up, you know, I had in the second book in the Magic Jukebox series, the hero, his family came over from Russia when he was a small child, you know, that affected the kind of person he was because he became a very rebellious American teenager who kind of troubled his parents. But it also reflected you know, a lot of names and things like that to. His name is Max which is a good for a Russian immigrant, because you also I mean, if your characters if it’s a romance hero, you want his name to be kind of sexy also, you know, there, I wanted sell people by naming some male names that are not very sexy, but—
Patricia McLinn [54:14] You’re going to get yourself in trouble, Judith.
Judith Arnold [54:17] I know, I know.
Patricia McLinn [54:18] Have you found that since you first published in 1982, you said?
Judith Arnold [54:24] 83. 83.
Patricia McLinn [54:25] 83. Okay. Have your names changed or…
Judith Arnold [54:26] When I was five years old.
Patricia McLinn [54:31] Can you go back and look at the names of characters in those early books and see that they were, you know, oh, look at those 80s names, or look at those early 90s names?
Judith Arnold [54:42] I’ve tried not to do too many trendy names, actually, the heroine and the hero and heroine of my first romance were named Kate and Russell. And I’m not sure where I came up with those names, except I liked them, but they’re not particularly 80s names are. Well Kate was, I guess, pretty common name at that point or for babies, but, you know, I’ve never I, I’ve always had this sort of feeling what I would read certain romances in the hero’s name was, you know, Flint or something like that. And I would think, what were his parents smoking when they came up with that name? I don’t know. You know, I’ve tried to have kind of normal names, you know, names that people can, can relate to. I did, I had one hero named Cody, this is a fun, fun book. It’s called Married to the Man, but he was definitely a bad, bad boy. Until I had the title down for that book, I just, my working title for it was Every Writer Needs a Hero Named Cody. And so I had my—
Patricia McLinn [55:46] That’s a rather long title.
Judith Arnold [55:47] Yeah, well, it was just it was what I had in my head. You know, he was gonna be my Cody. I was gonna write my Cody book. Did you ever have a yearning Cody?
Patricia McLinn [55:56] No, I don’t.
Judith Arnold [55:58] Aha, well, every writer needs to have one.
Patricia McLinn [56:01] So I still gotta write more books.
Judith Arnold [56:04] Yeah. Better write a Cody book soon. But for the most part, my characters have pretty ordinary names. I think another reason I like to give them sort of ordinary names is because I want them to be relatable to the reader. You know, I want the reader to say, Oh, yes, someone I could know, this is someone I could be. This is someone I could fall in love with. I choose names that convey that.
Patricia McLinn [56:27] I have another reader question. And 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?
Judith Arnold [56:38] That is a good question. I would, because collaboration is a tricky thing. And you know, there are writers who I absolutely admire and love, writers who have changed my life I would say, one writer—
Patricia McLinn [56:53] Like who?
Judith Arnold [56:53] Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. That book changed my life. That was the book that made me decide, Yeah, I want to write, I think, you know, I was writing before I read that I think I read it for the first time when I was 10. But it just knocked me sideways. That book just floored me. And, and it still floors me when I read it. But I can’t, I mean, I would be so intimidated, the thought of collaborating with her, I’d say, Oh, I will, yeah, I will. I will be your secretary, you just dictate to me and I will write it down. I think it would be probably more fun to collaborate with someone you know, whose writing style is kind of different from me. I did once collaborate with a friend on a play. And we both thought the play when we were done writing it, we thought it was absolutely brilliant. And I sent it to my then theater agent who said, Well, that was a fun project. Now get back to work.
Patricia McLinn [57:48] Oops.
Judith Arnold [57:48] I still think of that. He was, he was a very talented writer. He has written some children’s or young adult fantasies and at the time we worked on the play, he was a writer for Mad Magazine. Yeah. Very quirky sense of humor. And we really had a good time writing the play. But collaboration is hard.
I would love to, I would, I would love to write with E. B. White, who again gave us Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, and my absolute favorite books when I was growing up. But then he also wrote all this grammar books, and he probably be smacking my hand and saying, don’t split that infinitive— I mean, I really admire people who can collaborate. It’s a difficult thing to do. You have to, you have to be able to assert yourself and not just subsume yourself in the other person’s voice. But you know, Pat, we could have fun collaborating, I bet. We get along so well.
Patricia McLinn [58:40] I bet we could have fun. Yeah.
Judith Arnold [58:42] All right, some night when we’re—
Patricia McLinn [58:44] Or it might be the end of a beautiful roommate-ship.
Judith Arnold [58:50] Some night when we’re sharing a room at a conference if we have a lot of wine on a hand.
Patricia McLinn [58:56] We do, we do write occasionally at conferences, but what we’re usually sitting across the table from each other that’s writing our own stuff on our own our own computers that the good thing about that is I look up and I’m ready to, you know, goof off or something I look up and Judith is writing away so I slink back to my keyboard and keep writing.
Judith Arnold [59:21] You know, again at the, at the last conference where we room together and we spent that last afternoon and I kept looking over at you and saying, Oh, she’s so writing. I better get back to see we’re good for each other.
Patricia McLinn [59:33] Mutual guilt. Yes. So okay. You told us a little bit about your most recent book but tell us some more. This is book four in your mystery series, which is called—?
Get a kick out of Lainie Lovett Still Kicking, Kick Back, Drop Kick, and Kick the Bucket
Judith Arnold [59:44] The Lainie Lovett mysteries and all of the books… Um, again, Lainie, Lainie Lovett, she is a fourth grade teacher, widowed, middle age. She has two nearly grown children. One has Boomerang back to the house after college and the other one is still in college. She loves her children. She loves her teaching. She loved her husband very much. And she loves this recreational soccer team that she plays on. And her closest friends are a couple of her teammates on the soccer team. All of the books have a certain soccer title soccer game and they all have the word kick in them.
The first book is called Still Kicking. The second one is called Kick Back. The third one’s called Drop Kick. And the fourth one is Kick the Bucket. And they’re very funny. And as one thing I learned, if you want to write funny mysteries, you always have to make sure that the victim is someone who’s pretty despicable because otherwise if it’s a beloved person, nobody’s gonna find the book funny, but if it’s if it’s an obnoxious, creepy, everybody’s kind of happy he’s dead. And that’s kind of the attitude I have in getting… Kick, Kick the Bucket is they’re all set in a moderate size town, in the Boston suburbs. If you saw my town, you probably would recognize some of the scenes in it. I’ve changed the names but you know, our little favorite Mexican restaurant in our town is called El Camino in the series. And Lainie and her friends, after soccer practice they always go to El Camino for Margaritas.
In the first mystery she is, she is kind of dragged into the mystery quite against her will and by accident, but now once she solves that mystery people sort of revere her as a person who can solve mysteries and in the fourth book in Kick the Bucket, one of her soccer friends brings her to visit the soccer friend’s aunt who lives in this senior residence, independent living residence because there are a number of mysteries in the residence and they all want that famous friend of yours who can solve mysteries. Figure out why things are missing. Of course, given who the residents are some of the things are missing because they’ve misplaced them. Or because you know, they’re there to one in, well, I don’t want to ruin the book but you know, things like that.
But you know. when somebody dies and Lainie points out people are old in this place, you know, so I guess that’s not surprising, but she begins to suspect there’s something very suspicious about this death. And she just kind of gets sucked into it. So she, but they’re a lot of fun. And there there’s a real kind of suburban feel to them. And although the third book in the series is set in and around Boston, it has more city scenes, because you know, you’d have to be careful you don’t want to get into what I call the Jessica Fletcher Cabot Cove situation where, you know, everyone comes to this little town in Maine and dies.
And you know, so you do want to kind of open things up a little, so it doesn’t, so Rockford is the town. The town is named the town Rockford because I used to love watching The Rockford Files that Is my homage to James Garner. You don’t want people to think that Rockford is a town people go into die so I have had some of the murders you know, one of the murders is set outside Rockford and actually in the second book, in Kick Back, the murder victim lives a town away from Rockford, but she works in the school where Lainie teaches.
Yeah, so at the end of Kick the Bucket it was, it was fun to get her into this other community with these older people. I had a lot of fun writing about them. She in order to have an excuse to keep coming back to the place she offers to teach a class in, in memoir writing. And I have had a lot of fun having these people arguing about their memoirs and writing paragraphs about you know, 40-year-old and 60-year-old grievances and things. So it was a lot of fun to write. And I hope it’s a lot of fun to read, too.
Patricia McLinn [01:03:56] So what do you have coming up next? What’s the next release on the schedule? Do you have one?
Judith Arnold [01:04:01] Well, I don’t have a release date yet. I’ve just started work on a new Magic Jukebox book. This book is called Rescue Me after the Aretha Franklin song. I love that song. One of the things when I’m writing these, when I’m writing the Magic Jukebox books, is that I listen to the song that is the theme song of the book over and over, so I’ve been listening to a lot of Aretha Franklin singing Rescue Me. In it the hero is a police officer in town who’s trying to help the heroine, who’s being stalked by someone. But in a way, he needs to be rescued from traumas in his past also, so they end up rescuing each other in a way. He’s a police officer and she’s kind of a, she’s a yoga teacher who comes from a very flaky background. And so it’s an opposites attract kind of book, they end of rescuing each other and because…
Patricia McLinn [01:04:58] I like mutual rescues.
Judith Arnold [01:04:59] Yeah, I do too. So that’s it’s just I’m just starting it now in the first chapter but hopefully I will be able to write it quickly because my readers keep saying when is the next Magic Jukebox book coming out? So, gotta get it done.
Patricia McLinn [01:05:13] So where can readers find out about that book and the Lainie Lovett series and all your other books?
Judith Arnold [01:05:20] My website is www.juditharnold.com and I have a Facebook page which I think is JudithArnoldAuthor. Or they can follow me on BookBub, I have, you know, I have followers there, too. All of my books are available on Amazon and iBooks and you know all of the retailers and I’m out there and contact me through the website and we’ll talk.
Patricia McLinn [01:05:54] And we will have the URLs in the show notes where it’s so much easier to just click and go find out more about Judith. And now we’re going to do a little epilogue on this. These are rapid-fire, hopefully fun questions. No forewarning.
Judith Arnold [01:06:13] The lightning round.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:13] And it’s an either or. Yes, you have to pick one or the other. Okay, I’m going to start you off with dog or cat?
Judith Arnold [01:06:25] Dog
Patricia McLinn [01:06:26] Tea or coffee?
Judith Arnold [01:06:27] Coffee
Patricia McLinn [01:06:28] Cowboy boots or hiking boots?
Judith Arnold [01:06:30] Hiking boots.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:31] Cake or Ice cream?
Judith Arnold [01:06:33] Ice cream
Patricia McLinn [01:06:33] Day or night?
Judith Arnold [01:06:34] Day.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:36] Which is eerier to you, an owl hooting are coyotes howling?
Judith Arnold [01:06:42] Coyotes howling.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:44] Cruise or backpacking?
Judith Arnold [01:06:45] Oh, gee. Um. Cruise. I’m getting old. You know, 40 years ago I would have said both, now I’m getting old. Okay. Cruise.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:55] Mountains or beach?
Judith Arnold [01:06:57] Beach.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:58] Leggings or sweats?
Judith Arnold [01:06:59] Uh, sweats.
Patricia McLinn [01:06:59] Save the best for last or grab the best first?
Judith Arnold [01:07:05] Saving the best for last.
Patricia McLinn [01:07:06] Okay, that will be our last question for today. Thank you so much Judith Arnold. Really appreciated your coming on Authors Love Readers and having this conversation with me. And I don’t think we’ve told any, any real secrets. We’ve been pretty good. I was a little concerned about that. Because when we get talking.
Judith Arnold [01:07:29] We will keep them, that’s why we’re still friends. Although you did tell about my messy office, I don’t know. You revealed my dirty secret about my office. Thank you so much for having me. It was wonderful. Because I always love talking to you.
Patricia McLinn [01:07:44] Yes. I love talking to you, too. Hope to talk to you again soon.
Judith Arnold [01:07:46] Okay. Thank you.
Patricia McLinn [01:07:48] Bye for now. 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 at AuthorsLoveReaders.com. Until next week, wishing you lots of happy reading. Bye.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Hello from author Patricia McLinn. The Authors Love Readers podcast will be interviews with fellow authors for our readers – we talk about books and life and quirky, fun things. I’ve gathered questions from readers, adding them to the many, many, many I always have.
To start, I did an interview with Kay Coyte, my intrepid assistant, whom many of my readers know from her handling giveaways as well as answering questions and such. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know her better, how we work together, and her experiences in stepping into the whirl of publishing. : – )
Among the first authors I interview are Judith Arnold, Patricia Lewin, Laura Resnick, Emilie Richards – and many more! We cover lots of genres and all kinds of books.
Music by DialogMusik for the instrumentals that accompany this podcast!
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 McLinn [03:33] Now, let’s start the show.
Patricia McLinn [00:35] Hi everybody. This is Patricia McLinn and I am here with Kay Coyte. Those of you who on my reader’s list or on my Facebook page often hear about Kay or are asked to communicate with her as my assistant. And I thought it would be fun for you all to meet her in person say hello, Kay.
Kay Coyte [00:58] Hello, everyone.
Patricia McLinn [00:59] And also to get to know, get to know a little bit about how we work and how we started, um, working together. We actually started working together. Mumble mumble mumble years ago—
Kay Coyte [01:15] Many years ago.
From the racetrack to the Washington Post
Patricia McLinn [01:16] —many years ago, yes. At the Washington Post and, uh, Kay was working there part-time and additionally, in addition to working a full-time job at a horse magazine, um, so you want to tell them a little bit about the horse magazine or your background with horses?
Kay Coyte [01:33] Yes, I’m, I’m a graduate, uh, grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, graduate of University of Kentucky. And while I was an undergrad, I actually worked on the racetrack in the mornings, um, mucking out stalls and walking the horses until they cooled off. Um, so I sort of parlayed that into my first job at a newspaper in Upstate New York to cover horse racing at Saratoga and went from there to a national trade horse racing magazine based outside of Washington, DC.
Kay Coyte [02:02] And I think I must be the only person who came to the Washington Post from a horse racing trade magazine. But I got my toe in the door to work part-time on a sports copy desk, and I really wasn’t very good at first, but, um, I got a bit more and more tied on as I stayed there, and I really wanted to make it work. So I did. Um, and when Pat came on, um, uh, I was probably a pretty regular Steady Eddie part-timer at that point.
Patricia McLinn [02:34] Yes.
Kay Coyte [02:35] And I did eventually go full-time not long after Pat arrived.
Patricia McLinn [02:38] And I, I arrived as a full-timer from the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, North Carolina, where I had been assistant sports editor. Um, the Post had recruited me and I thought, you know, I will never have another chance to try the Washington Post without having written a query letter. So that was my big reason for, for doing a tryout with them. Um, because I liked Charlotte, I liked it a lot. But it, it turned out. Oh, and the, the AME for sports, the assistant managing editor for sports, told me the winters were no worse in Washington DC than they were in Charlotte. And the first winter, when it was really bad, I said, Hey. And he said, I lied. Yeah, you will recognize that. Right? Kay.
Kay Coyte [03:28] Right.
Patricia McLinn [03:29] Our mutual former boss. So we worked together on the sports desk for quite a while on the copy desk. Eventually, I was a copy chief, um, defacto, for sure. And by that time though, I was also starting to write and publishing, I think, um, Kay was the only one at the Post who knew that I was writing until I’d actually sold the book. Um—
Kay Coyte [03:51] And then let me interject there. Those, that year and a half or so, it was like the hardest thing I ever did in my whole life, because Patricia was working on a book about, that was the book that became Hoops. So it was sports related, basketball coach meets a student advisor, and I wasn’t allowed to talk about it to anybody. And I like to talk about things. So, um, but I have to say that. You know, we often would, we had the way the sports copy desks work. We often had a full hour long lunch, and that was to give us something to do in between additions of the newspaper, but keep us there late at night for late-breaking sports news. So I learned a lot about the publishing business right along as Pat was learning about the publishing business, it was, it was kind of interesting.
Patricia McLinn [04:41] Yeah, that was, that was the old publishing business.
Kay Coyte [04:44] Yes.
Patricia McLinn [04:45] Um, and so then as I started publishing more regularly, um, I eventually went part-time, and I had, I come to, uh, a crossroads where I either was going to apply for higher up jobs, um, including, uh, um, day editor. I was asked if I wanted to apply. And I said, yes. And I thought about it overnight. And I thought, what do I really want to do with my life? And I, it was, um, writing. So I came back the next day and said, no, I don’t want to apply for that job. And I’m going part-time. So, as far as I know, I am the only person at the Washington Post who ever got a going away party for going from full-time to part-time. And worked both days, the two days in a row with the— One day I was full-time. One day I was part-time. So then our paths sorta crisscrossed for awhile cause you went to Detroit—
Kay Coyte [05:47] Right.
Patricia McLinn [[05:48] —right?
Kay Coyte [05:49] Yep.
Patricia McLinn [05:50] And then you came back to the Metro section.
Kay Coyte [05:53] Right. That’s exactly right in between that time I had a child. Um.
Patricia McLinn [05:58] Yes.
Kay Coyte [05:59] So I went part-time in order to be with my son more often and followed my husband up to Detroit. I sort of vowed that I would never work— Before I left, I was with the new service, and that was the first time that, that as working colleagues, um, Patricia and I crossed paths again, she was at the new service before I was, um, but I was also working on other desks, financial desk style desk, Metro. Um, and I went back to work in sports in Detroit, which was a lot of fun, cause it was such a great sports town, but sadly that newspaper went on strike shortly after we moved there and I went, went running back to the Washington Post full-time on the Metro desk, um, and stayed there for a couple of years before an opportunity came to, to get back on with the new service.
Patricia McLinn [06:44] Yeah. And by that time, I, because initially when I was part-time I worked for sports financial and the new service. I was doing a lot of juggling. And, um, eventually I, I went to working strictly with the news service, um, which was so different from the six deadlines a night of, of sports and, and lots of pressure. And how much can you get done in twenty-two seconds? Um, and handling lots of stories. Uh, so it was a different pace, had different requirements, especially as we got more involved with graphics. But, uh, I continued there and then I left the Post in 2007 to move to, um, Northern Kentucky because I could write full-time here because it was so much less expensive to live in than, um, Northern Virginia where I lived.
Patricia McLinn [07:39] And Kay continued at the Post, was the head of the news service. Um, and then retired actually retired a year later than she was supposed to, according to what she’d told me, and when I was going to start her having be my, be an assistant. And then a little over two years ago, so in the fall of 2015, she finally retires and she sort of got thrown into the deep end of being an assistant for an indie published. Well, I think I was. I was like, no, I just finished being hybrid at that point, so I was strictly indie, um, because my previous assistant, um, had pulled back because of family issues. Um, so instead of gaining help, I had Kay really, as I said, got thrown into the deep end. And, um, I, I had told her going in, there are a lot of moving parts. So what’s been your biggest surprise about this, Kay, the past two years?
Kay Coyte [04:48] I think the biggest surprise is just how things continually change. So I will think I have got something learned, um, and then we evolve. So a good portion of what I do, of what I do is a lot of physical uploading of Patricia’s books to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, et cetera, um, and making, and price changes on those sites with their sales, that sorts of things. And seems like there’ll be snags or problems or, you know, just different things and, and they, there’s just changes all the time. Um, and there’s changes all the time in, you know, of course we do a lot of social media, um, work on Facebook in particular and Twitter and other platforms. And that is kind of constantly changing.
Kay Coyte [09:41] What is, you know, what is most visible and, um, it’s just always changing. And then, then of course, there’s some things about the publishing business that to me are just counterintuitive. I think at one point when I had, um, you know, sort of some free reign to do some book sales, I think I set a book at a dollar ninety-nine, I think it was. And, and I got this kind of universal, you know, like blow back from Pat, but I think I was at a meeting where other people went, Oh no, not a dollar ninety-nine, because apparently has to do with, um, we’re royal to where the, where the dividing line for royalties jumps in. So there’s just lots of minutia that I, I didn’t know, but I will say this about how, how sometimes it’s interesting how past jobs dovetail into present jobs. Um, back when Pat and I were both working on the news service, I used to joke that it was the Reader’s Digest, condensed Washington Post, because that’s what we did. It was at a time when there was more staff, more newspapers, and part of our job was to boil down these Washington Post stories and to concise stories other newspapers, who didn’t have as much space, they could use these.
Patricia McLinn [10:53] Right.
Kay Coyte [10:54] So it’s really been helpful in, you know, in doing those stories, the Washington Post, I was mindful of each reporter’s voice, you know, I wanted to keep their voice, not just lop off the bottom ten inches of this story, but try to keep the voice, if it was humorous or you know, keep it balanced. It was strictly news. And this has been helpful in sometimes I’ve had to boil, um, book descriptions to smaller things, or I’ve had to boil something down—
Patricia McLinn [11:23] Right.
Kay Coyte [11:24] —to what I think is how Pat would describe something. And I think this gives me at least a little bit of confidence to be able to do something like that.
Patricia McLinn [11:32] I’ve always said that being an editor of any sort requires you to be a chameleon, being a good editor, because you do have to adapt to that voice, uh, of each, not only each writer, but each work, each story.
Kay Coyte [11:47] That’s true.
Patricia McLinn [11:50] Um, because they can vary so much so, and it, and it helps a lot that, you know, we’ve, we’ve talked five days a week for mumble mumble years, and we’re not going to go into that, uh, exact comment of yours. So, um, I think we do know how, how each would respond to things and, and might phrase things. Um, and I, I think the changes, uh, are not going to stop by any means. In fact, I think they’re going to accelerate. And the upshot or the upside of that is that, you know, they say that learning new things keeps you young, so we are never—
Kay Coyte [12:23] That’s right.
Patricia McLinn [12:24] —going to get old, Kay.
Kay Coyte [12:25] The changing in the publishing business, um, as I was leaving the Washington Post, um, we were, the news service was in the process of updating its very outdated website, and we were putting together one that was pretty good. Well, about the time we were in, this was a years’ long process, and that’s when Jeffrey Bezos bought the Washington Post and there became many more good tech folks available to make this a better, sharper website, but at one point, one of our officials on the desk, not a news-based person, but one of the more sales-based people said, well, you know, we’ve got to get this website right, because we won’t keep changing it. We won’t change it again for oh ten years. Most looked around the table, and I thought, ten years, you know, ten years, we might be just thinking about things and they’re going to appear somewhere somehow. No one can predict—
Patricia McLinn [13:33] Right. Right.
Kay Coyte [13:34] —no one in the web, the internet publishing business, where anything is going to be ten years from now.
Collies and mutts with a Lassie heart
Patricia McLinn [13:40] Yeah, that’s nuts. And as a side note, I was back at the Washington Post in April, this April of 2017. Um, writers’ conference took me there. Um, and I got together with some former colleagues, your ears must’ve been burning, Kay, cause we were talking about you a lot. But that the Post, since I left, had moved from the old spot where it was on 15th and L to a couple of blocks away. And I will tell you, the new building is very snazzy. And my comment to the former colleagues is, Hey, when I was here, we had mice. Now you’ve got marble, you know, this doesn’t seem right. This isn’t fair, but, um, but I gotta say I, I missed people from the Post a lot. I miss the DC area a lot, but I don’t miss working every day, so for the, for that kind of work, I like the writing, um, and the writing world. So as you, um, listeners, uh, communicate with, with me through the newsletter. Oh, and one of the things Kay is doing now is the pets. You want to talk about that.
Kay Coyte [14:58] Sure. We just, um, we all know that Patricia is a huge dog fan and particularly a huge collie fan. You’ve seen pictures—
Patricia McLinn [15:08] Yep.
Kay Coyte [15:09] —of Kalli and previous collies and mixed mixtures of collies. Um, and actually, I had a dog in my, many dogs—
Patricia McLinn [15:18] Named Lassie.
Kay Coyte [15:19] —some named Lassie, which was ironic because my dog named Lassie was like a little brown mutt that looked nothing like a collie.
Patricia McLinn [15:29] She had a Lassie heart.
Kay Coyte [15:33] Yes, she did have a Lassie heart. Um, but, uh, so we, those, uh, people, Patricia’s readers love reading about the dog and dogs also figure prominently in her books, many of her books. Um, so we started maybe seeing pictures that people were, were posting on Facebook and thought, well, let’s just ask people to send their pictures in and we’ll, you know, make it a little regular feature of the newsletter. So we do that now once a month, we feature two or more pets. Um, and we’ll, I’ve, I’ve got, uh, quite a few more, but I’m always on the lookout for more pet pictures.
Patricia McLinn [16:09] It’s been fantastic. They’re they, they always make me smile every, every time we have them in and they are just so cute. Um, oh, I love that. And Kay is doing another feature in the newsletter too, in honor of my mystery series, Caught Dead in Wyoming, the sleuth who’s Elizabeth Margaret, also known as E. M. Danniher is, um, a consumer affairs reporter in this little tiny station in, uh, Wyoming, which is a major life change for her. So Kay is doing, um, uh, consumer protection type, uh, posts on my blog and in the newsletter. And then they show up in the blog too. So do you have any favorites of those that you’ve done?
Frank Abagnale and consumer protection
Kay Coyte [17:00] I don’t know about favorites, but one of the, um, uh, one thing that occurred here in Louisville recently was, um, a speech by Frank Abagnale, who is the real-life character from the Catch Me If You Can movie. He was played by Leonardo DiCaprio in a movie, and he came to speak in Louisville about identity protection, um, and I went down to hear him speak. I expected, you know, kind of a dry, um, presentation, but it was really a very heartfelt presentation, a lot about him personally. Um, but because of this background that he has, and he pointed out during that speech that he was not particularly smart.
Kay Coyte [17:45] He was just, you know, a young man who was observant and knew how to to take advantage of vulnerabilities and systems. And this is how he managed to pose as an airline pilot and fly all around the world and as a doctor and other professions. Um, but he’s applied that across, um, you know, banking and other, um, things that we use every day. So he’s, uh, you know, he’s had a complete 180 turn in his life and now dedicated to informing people about scams and fraudulent practices. So I reported on that, uh, the first one, and I’ll keep reporting on that off and on in newsletters as we go along, because it was just really very interesting and some things I wasn’t thinking about. Um, but I think some of the ones that kill me are scams that prey on old lonely, you know, elderly, lonely people, or, um, some of the most vulnerable people, a whole nanny scam where people were pretending or scamming people are scamming nannies by pretending that there was jobs available for them. And, um, just, you know, just how low people can go to make a buck is just very sad to me.
Patricia McLinn [19:02] It is sad, but it’s all the more important that people are on the alert and aware of them and, and the most recent, uh, Caught Dead in Wyoming book backstory, one of the scams that figures in it is, um, people calling up and saying that you, uh, you missed jury duty and you’re going to get this huge, horrible, fine, unless you, um, and, and be arrested unless you pay the fine and you have to do it right now over, um, you know, using your credit card or, you know, they have various, um, ways that they do it. So I always think one of the lessons is, you know, you don’t do anything on the phone right away. You always check, and you check, you don’t call the number they give you, you go find the, the, um, main switchboard number for an organization or, or legal or business or whatever. And then, and then you do the tracking down.
Kay Coyte [20:07] And that, that was another, that was one of the ones I wrote that was very personal for me because something like that, very similar to the jury duty scam is the, um, the granny scam where, uh, uh, uh, a person calls and pretends to be the grandson or nephew of an older person, and they use their confusion and their concern about this person to use Western Union to wire them money. And my mother nearly fell prey to this. And of course this was, you know, family lore that, that this was the case. And then my sister’s husband, even though he knew about this, he almost did the same thing because it was so realistic. Um, but thankfully, both of them, you know, realized when it was a scam hung up and didn’t pursue it.
Patricia McLinn [20:54] Yeah. That’s, that’s so scary that, that it can happen to, to anybody. And it’s taking advantage of your concerns, which is why they succeed and why they keep doing it, so— Well, we may be having new features for you in the coming year. Not saying exactly what, what it will be. Um, this might actually be a surprise to Kay, but you never know when these things are going to show up. So it’s been lots of fun talking with you. Uh, we talk pretty regularly, and, but letting the readers in on this conversation and I hope you all have enjoyed it too. And we’ll come back as we have more recordings of various kinds, um, about the books, about writing, who knows where, maybe about dogs, huh? Who knows where these recordings will lead.
Patricia McLinn [21:54] But for now, we’ll say, Hope you have a great day. 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.