An Interview With Linnea Sinclair
Below is an interview I had with Linnea in mid-November 2007, via e-mail. To learn more about her work, visit the links within the interview after you've read it.
I’ve been writing stories since I could wrap my chubby little fingers around a Crayon, quite honestly. It may come from being an only child—a lot of my playmates were imaginary ones in my head. By the time I could form letters on paper, or reach my mother’s trusty typewriter, I began putting the adventures of those imaginary playmates on paper.
first non-professional sale was back in my fan-fic
days. I’m going to guess in the early to mid 1980s? The novella was called TALES
OF THE BLUE TIGER, it was very much space
opera, and at the moment I can’t think of the ‘zine
it appeared in. I did see a copy of the ‘zine for
sale on eBay a year or so ago and was outbid. I’ve lost my copies a long time
back and it would have been nice to have
first professional small press sale was in 1999 to LTDBooks,
a Canadian small press and e-publisher. That was the fantasy novel, WINTERTIDE.
first professional small press sale was in 1999 to LTDBooks,
a Canadian small press and e-publisher. That was the fantasy novel, WINTERTIDE.
My first New York sale was in 2004 to Bantam. That was a lovely three-book contract for FINDERS KEEPERS (RITA Award finalist), GABRIEL’S GHOST (RITA Award winner) and AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS.
you asked how old I was when I made
these sales? Hmm, age is a state of mind. And I lost my mind a long time ago.
Did you take any writing
classes when you were just starting out?
One of my undergrad degrees is in journalism, so yes, to some extent, I was trained to wrestle with words. I’ve written news copy, feature articles, advertising copy, you name it. During and after graduate school, I worked in radio, newspapers and for an ad agency. I’m something of an education-junkie and have also taken adult classes in creative writing (just because working tends to rot the creative side of the brain). The first creative writing course I took was where WINTERTIDE and my (yet to be finished) Dr. Jynx San’Janeiro books were born. The second was responsible for the birth of Chaz and Sully in GABRIEL’S GHOST.
I think voracious is a better word. I love science fiction, fantasy, Regency romance, romantic suspense, police procedurals and New Age non-fiction.
now, being deep in deadline hell, I do. I was writing daily for a very long
time. But life this year—2007—has been interesting, I guess is the best way
to put it. It’s very much gotten me off my game, with car accidents, the death
of my father, illnesses, and far too many conferences and conventions (Note
to Self: learn to say “no.”). Basically, I start writing around 10 a.m. to 11
a.m. (before that it’s Answer Emails and do the Business of Being An Author
stuff) and finish writing for the day around midnight.
Is there anyone you credit with helping you get into writing?
But the desire to write fiction never went away, no matter how much I tried to beat it down with Sensible and Responsible Thoughts.
Probably the person who convinced me or who was initially most influential on my giving fiction writing a shot was author Nancy Gramm a/k/a Kate Maguire. She’s a former Harlequin romance author who, bless her, took me on and critiqued my early books, including FINDERS KEEPERS and GABRIEL’S GHOST (you’ll see a mention of a Kate Maguire in GABRIEL’S. I put her in the book.) Having a real, published NY author tell me my books were good was what spurred me to give it a try.
Well, my cat, Daiquiri, is Tank the furzel in GAMES OF COMMAND. He’s also the front and back cover cat. The cover artist, Stephen Youll (also owned by a cat) used Daq’s photos to create the cover images. When you’ve been owned by a fur-person, you understand just how important they are in your life. At one point my husband and I have seven fur-persons and four feathered-persons in our household. So that’s rather reflected in my books but most notably in GAMES OF COMMAND.
Also in GAMES OF COMMAND is a aircraft crash scene. That was directly taken from my experiences crashing in a small plane (an American Grumman underwing single engine). I was co-pilot not pilot, by the way. It had been a number of years, though, so it was great that I could run the scene past jumbo-jet pilot, Susan Grant, a marvelous SFR author in her own right.
number of my characters take lime with their gin. I have no idea where that
Can you tell me about
your writing methods? For example: do you write from the beginning of the story
to the end, write scenes in random order, or have a development cycle of some
I’m very linear. I start at page one and keep going. I used to be a poster-child for pantser methodology (ie: non-plotting) but writing to deadlines has altered that. Now I leap-frog plot. Essentially, write a chunk (three scenes, two chapters, whatever) then plot the next chunk. Write that, plot. I do write a synopsis before each book because my agent requires that. But my editor is wise-enough to know my book may, when finished, not resemble the synopsis all that much. Or it might.
books unfold much like a movie in my
head. I’m not unique in that—a lot of authors I know “see” their stories the
same way. In that sense, yes, I may glimpse a scene farther along that I am
at that point. But for the most part, it’s linear.
What tools do you use
when you research a story?
It depends on the story. THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES is a combo science fiction romance-police procedural (think: Men In Black meets CSI: Miami) so I spent a lot of time in police forums and, when I snagged them, pestering several real life law enforcement officers with questions. GAMES OF COMMAND—being a world solely of my own devising—I used any number of the usual SF writer reference books, such as Bova and Lewis’s SPACE TRAVEL or Cavelos’ THE SCIENCE OF STAR WARS, plus NASA’s site and more. So I use reference books, I use experts, I use the Internet. Several of my critique partners are published authors, so they have input.
work hardest on world building logic and consistency. I write space opera. If
you want a scholarly discourse on brown dwarf stars and why they radiate in
the infrared, don’t read my books. You won’t find that. I keep my science to what is known and accepted
by science fiction writers (ie: hyperspace is real in my worlds) of character-driven novels.
I will, to write my book, know why brown dwarf stars radiate in the infrared,
but I’m not going to give it a lot of paragraph space in the book.
Do you have any favorite
writing resources you'd like to suggest to aspiring authors?
Dwight Swain’s TECHNIQUES OF THE SELLING WRITER. I think it is hands down the best book out there if you want to get published, no matter what genre you write. It’s plain, common-sense writing methodology. It works.
The other is to take the various craft of writing classes offered by sites like Sime~Gen and by RWA chapters on the internet. Even if you don’t write romance. These are classes taught (for the most part) by recognized, published authors. You’ll get real time advice and very useful information. The ability to get feedback on your writing is invaluable. Some places to find classes are:
strongest writing skills are characterization, dialogue and conflict. The last
I owe greatly to the influence of Jacqueline Lichtenberg (see, I do use those
writing sites I tell you about). My weakest skills are organization (my desk
is an unholy mess) and plotting (I hate it). The fact that several recent reviews
of my books from highly respectable venues laud my plotting makes me (and my
crit partners) laugh. They know I’m a basket-case when it comes to plotting.
So I really, really, really have to work at it. I guess it paid off.
What do you think is
the most important thing for writers who want to continue to improve?
the craft of writing with other authors, keep taking classes. Read books that
get you excited and analyze how the author did that to you.
I've read elsewhere that you don't edit your stories, but rather you "tweak" them. Can you explain what you mean by that?
tweaking happens after the first draft is finished and I go back over and add
in more description or plump up a emotional reaction a character has. It’s a
fine tuning of sorts. Sometimes I get a paragraph completely right first time.
Other times I know I'm 85% there but if I waste any more time at that point searching for the perfect
adjective, the quintessential phrase I’ll lose momentum. So I note it and go
back and tweak it later.
Let's talk about about THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES, your latest release, just
out from Bantam Books. Where did you get the idea for the story? Was it character-first
or an idea-first story? How long did it take you to develop the story? Was it
fully developed before you started writing, or did it 'come to you' as you wrote
I’m a character-driven writer so all my stories come to me first as characters, second as plot as it relates to the characters. Having said that, it’s often difficult to separate characters from plot as it’s the characters’ conflicts that call to me when I “meet” the characters in my mind’s eye. And conflict—quoting Jacqueline Lichtenberg here—generates plot.
I’m not exactly sure where the idea for ZOMBIE BLUES came from, other than I’d written all my novels to date “out there” (as I call it) and I wanted to try something different. One reason was that at the various reader/writer conferences I’d been to, I’d heard a few readers state that they didn’t like SFR set on other planets or in outer space. Well, then, they’d never read me, I thought. Bummer. How do I compensate for that? Aha! Write something set in Florida, USA, Earth, Sol System. So in a way THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES was deliberately written to court paranormal romance readers who had an allergy to outer-space.
For a number of years I’d had this movie scene in my mind (not a real movie, mind you, but how I perceive scenes in a novel) where someone from another star system with technology advanced from ours arrives here in the middle of a crime and hooks up with the law enforcement personnel on scene, albeit a bit undercover (for obvious reasons). When I decided to court the allergic paranormal set, that was a “movie still” that said, Oh, pick me! Pick me! So I did, setting it in an area of Florida I knew well (St. Petersburg/Tampa, where I had my private investigative agency for ten years).
The story line was pretty much fully developed once I started writing it, in that I knew it involved a Florida cop, an outer-space babe would could kick ass, and that it would end with an HEA (romance industry terminology for a Happily Ever After). All the rest was up for grabs.
started writing ZOMBIE in June of 2003, originally
as a novella for an anthology that never took off. I began to seriously work
on it in 2005 when my agent wanted a second three-book proposal to submit to
Though I haven't had
the chance to read THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES yet - after all, it just came
out a few days ago - I have read the reviews. They classify it as SF romance.
Do you agree? Or would you call it a Paranormal Mystery?
I’d call it a science fiction romance-police
procedural but that’s me and you’re never going to find that shelf in a bookstore.
It’s not a mystery per se because it doesn’t fit the requirements of the mystery
genre (it’s not a whodunit). Science Fiction Romance Police Action Adventure?
Men in Black meets CSI: Miami is probably the best.
I've read many of your
posts on the Alien Romances blog you co-write with Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Margaret
L. Carter, and others. Jacqueline defines a genre she calls "Intimate Adventure."
Would you place any of your stories in that category?
I love the term Intimate Adventure. My books are all high action with a very
strong romance plot. The emotional adventure of the main characters is of equal
importance to the life-and-death action. And the emotional adventure is not
just kissy-romance, either. There’s a lot of friendship/platonic emotional issues
as well as self-acceptance.
I know you mentor writers
sometimes. Can you tell us why that's important to you?
mentor because I was mentored. Karma. It’s simply good karma. Plus, I want more
good books out there, especially in SFR. I don’t for a minute believe I’m in
competition with other writers. It’s not that I’m better or they’re better. It’s that readers can read books faster
than any of us can write them. The more good reads are out there, the more readers
will read. Very simple. Feed the addiction.
Do you have any advice
for the aspiring writers in our audience?
::Points to the answer about writing resources::
Swain. Online classes. Go to valid writing conferences and take the workshops, meet with published authors, editors and agents. Write, write, write and never think you can’t do it better. You can always improve your writing. Read extensively in the genre in which you want to write. KNOW what genre you want to write. I’m boggled by the number of writers I meet who have no idea what genre their story is. Know your genre, know the requirements of your genre (ie: do you need an HEA?).
When I started writing fiction (seriously) in the late 1970s, the resources available today didn’t exist. You couldn’t join a writing class online or join your favorite author’s Yahoo group or read his or her blog. I have many aspiring writers on my personal fan group on Yahoo and we talk craft of writing a lot.
A few years ago I had a beginning author write me a fan letter. There was something about it that caught my eye and when I answered it, I offered to read her first three chapters (and no, I can’t do that for everyone and I can never do that when I’m on deadline, like now. But if I’m not on deadline, I may). Anyway, her first three chapters knocked my socks off. She’s now published with a small press, Echelon, and will make NY soon. Trust me on that. Her books are superb. She’s author Stacey Klemstein and one of my dearest friends now, as well as a crit partner. Something like that just couldn’t have happened as easily in, say, 1978.
use the resources which are now plentiful for writers.
If you had it to do
all over again, would you do anything differently?
would have started younger. I would have believed in my talent more. I don’t
write any differently today than I did in 1979. I just didn’t believe in myself
A lot of writer wannabes
- myself included - spent a lot of time writing fanfic.
And so did you. What genres did you write in? What fanzines? Are any of those
stories still available?
I wrote Trek-based fanfic. I say Trek-BASED because we wrote in the Trek universe but not Roddenberry’s characters, though they might be alluded to in the backstory. It was a round-robin kind of writing where we photocopied our “logs” and snail-mailed them to the other members of our “crew.” Each log/adventure built on the previous ones. It was a blast.
I have no idea where those logs or stories are now. Yes, some made it to fanzines but again, long gone. I even missed out on the one on eBay (though that wasn’t Trek but original space opera).
If you go to the Intergalactic Bar & Grille on my site, you’ll find several short stories, some of which were my fanfic from back then, like To Dance With Death.
My book covers at Bantam are by wonderful artists Dave Seeley and Stephen Youll. I do create some of the illustrations on my website. But my book covers are done by professional cover artists who work with Bantam and other NY publishers.
GHOST was written to be a two-book series but Bantam bought the second book
only recently. Sully’s and Chaz’s story was just too
vast for one book, honestly. They’re both fascinating and complex characters
with a lot of conflicts yet ahead of them. Here’s the official back cover blurb
(unless it changes before release, which is always possible):
For two fugitive lovers, space has no haven,no mercy, no light—only...
SHADES OF DARK
Before her court-martial, Captain
Chasidah “Chaz” Bergren was the pride of the Sixth Fleet. Now she’s a fugitive
from the “justice” of a corrupt Empire. Along with her lover, the former monk,
mercenary, and telepath Gabriel Ross Sullivan, Chaz
hoped to leave the past light-years behind—until the news of her brother Thad’s
arrest and upcoming execution for treason. It’s a ploy by Sully’s cousin Hayden
Burke to force them out of hiding and it works.
With a killer targeting human females
and a renegade gen lab breeding jukor war machines,
Chaz and Sully already had their hands full of treachery,
betrayal—not to mention each other. Throw in Chaz’s Imperial ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie, and a
Kyi-Ragkiril mentor out to seduce Sully and not just loyalties
but lives are at stake. For when Sully makes a fateful choice changing their
relationship forever, Chaz must also choose—between
what duty demands and what her heart tells her she must do.
SHADES is a gripping, deep novel in the same first person point of view as GABRIEL’S and promises to be just as intense. Ren returns (he’s a fan favorite), as do Dorsie, Marsh and Verno, along with Chaz’s ex-husband, Admiral Philip Guthrie. It’s a fun book to write because many of the characters aren’t clearly “good guys” or “bad guys”. There are a lot of shades of gray, shades of dark. And as with all my books, an HEA—even though I’m sure there will be points in the book readers may doubt that. I should have teasers and snippets on my Yahoo Group as early as next Spring, so stay tuned!