Monday, November 21, 2011

Linda Lovely: Perseverance Is The Key To Finishing A Novel

About Linda Lovely...
Linda Lovely is the author of DEAR KILLER, a mystery set on a fictional Sea Island in the amazing South Carolina Lowcountry, known for its Gullah roots, historic plantations and beach resorts. DEAR KILLER is the debut novel in a mystery series featuring  Marley Clark, a retired military intelligence officer who now works security for a gated island community. NO WAKE ZONE, the second book in her mystery series, will be released by publisher L&L Dreamspell in 2012. Her stories dish up a main course of suspense, action and adventure with a generous side of romance.

Though a native of Iowa, Linda has called the South home for more than thirty years. A journalism major, Lovely has spent most of her career in public relations and advertising. Now she’s focusing on her first love—fiction. She’s president of the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the South Carolina Writers Workshop. Her manuscripts have made the finals in 15 contests, including RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier competitions and mystery contests such as Deadly Ink, Murder in the Grove and Malice Domestic.

On Linda's Journey…

Linda, thank you for joining us today.

What has this journey been like for you?
 I was a journalism major in college and have always made my living as a writer. Over the years, I’ve written a wide range of nonfiction—speeches, magazine features, newsletters, brochures, software documentation. However, I love to read novels, especially mysteries, suspense and thrillers, and writing fiction was always my long-term dream.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”. How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?
 I signed up for my first fiction-oriented writing class a dozen years back. Since then, I’ve completed four manuscripts and have another in the pipeline. If you consider how many times I revised those manuscripts while improving my craft, I’ve written the equivalent of at least 20 books.

What inspired you to write your first book?
 I was asked to write an “as-told-to” book. Half way through, my clients changed their minds about the wisdom of publishing and ended the project. The experience convinced me I was ready to write a book of my own.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?
 That’s never been a problem. I love writing, storytelling.

On her book and characters…

Could you share a bit about your latest book, DEAR KILLER, and its characters? Marley Clark, a retired military intelligence officer, works security for a Sea Island community simply to keep busy. A single night patrol transforms the feisty widow’s yawner of a job into a deadly battle of wits when she finds an islander drowned and bobbing naked amid a potpourri of veggies in a Jacuzzi.

Asked to serve as the lead investigator’s liaison, Marley is startled to discover she’s become Deputy Braden Mann’s target as well—for romance. Yet their steamy attraction doesn’t deter the pair from sorting through a viper’s nest of suspects as the body count grows and the pun-loving killer plans a grizzly epitaph for Marley.

My heroine is smart, fit, sexy, and she has a sense of humor. Arlene, my best friend since kindergarten, is a retired military intelligence officer, so she generously provided background on her military background and postings. However, readers need to blame Marley’s outlook on life on me.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
 Important themes for me include the value of love and friendship, loyalty and tolerance. I think those values are embedded in this story without preaching. Mainly I want readers to enjoy a puzzle, have an occasional good laugh, and, when they close the book, feel good can triumph now and again.

If you had to choose, which scene in this novel is your favorite?
 In my mind there’s a three-way tie. But describing the scenes—all action-suspense scenes that take advantage of Lowcountry settings—could ruin the surprise for readers.

Which character did you find hardest to part with?
 Since DEAR KILLER is the first in a series of Marley Clark adventures, I didn’t have to say goodbye to my heroine and several of my favorite characters introduced in DEAR KILLER are back in upcoming sequels. I do hate to say adios to really bad villains. They’re so much fun to write.

On her writing process…

What are the challenges/rewards of writing romantic suspense?
 The challenge is to ensure your story delivers on both readers’ romance and suspense/thriller expectations about outcome while introducing unexpected surprises along the way. The reward is a reader saying your book was a fun, page-turner.

Some authors say their stories are ripped right from the headlines. Has an idea for one of your novels ever been sparked by real people and events?
Several of my story ideas have been triggered by presentations given by law enforcement experts at meetings of our regional chapter of Sisters in Crime.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on?
 My heroines and heroes are composites. They’re not superior beings. They have quirks, flaws and suffer self-doubt, just like we all do. For example, Marley Clark, my heroine, is all the more heroic when she forces herself to do something that terrifies her.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?
 Marley Clark is 52 years old and a widow. The deputy who romances her in DEAR KILLER is 40 years old, divorced and a father. Their wealth of experience lets them connect on a number of levels beyond physical attraction.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part with which you struggle?
Sometimes I find myself floundering in the middle of the book. The trick is to keep writing. Later what eluded you will become clear and you can come back to fix it.

Do you have specific techniques you utilize for getting into the heads of your villains? Would you care to share them?
I try to keep in mind the oft-repeated writing advice that a villain is a hero in his own mind. No matter how vile his actions are he thinks they’re justified even righteous.

What are the challenges in developing a layered, plot-driven story of suspense that rivals others in the market?
Do you have any particular plot techniques you’d care to share?
The advice I’ve heard at many conferences holds true—try to imagine what would most raise the stakes for your heroine/hero in a given situation. For example, Marley Clark loves her Aunt May. A situation that puts May in danger obviously ups the ante for Marley by making her desire to catch the bad guys personal.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
 Perseverance. If you keep writing, you’ll get there.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
 Bogging down their opening chapters with backstory.

On her personal life…

What is a little known fact about yourself?

Hey, I’m pretty much an open book. When I’m not reading or writing, I love to swim, kayak, play tennis and garden, and I have fun making holiday candy.

What book are you reading right now?
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

If you could have dinner with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
Mark Twain. I love his irreverence and he even lived in my hometown of Keokuk, Iowa, for a spell.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on two manuscripts—the third book in my Marley Clark series, which will once again be set in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and a romantic suspense set in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1938.

Linda’s question for readers.

As I mentioned, I’m working on a romantic suspense novel set in 1938, a fascinating time period. Given that my Marley Clark mystery series is contemporary, most agents and publishers would argue against this project because it’s not what fans expect. My question: If you like an author’s work in one genre and/or time period, will you follow them to another?

Book may be purchased on at Barnes and Noble and from
Contact Linda at her website


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great interview Linda. As for as an author switching time periods I don't like it if they are writing under the same name. It's a brand and as a reader I expect a certain type of book from that writer. When a well-known author switched from contemporary mysteries to paranormals with vampires, it bothered me because I associated mysteries with her. I'm sure she's laughing all the way to bank, but I am not a fan of paranormals with oversexed creatures. So if you want to write the story, use a pen name.

Ruby Johnson said...

Thank you for visiting us in Texas.
We've enjoyed the conversation. Regarding your question. I know of one author who changed her name when she switched genres. When Gerilyn Dawson went from writing funny historical westerns, to contemporary sweet stories she changed her name to Emily March. She said she felt that readers had come to expect a certain type of story from Gerilyn Dawson and she wasn't writing that type of story with her current series. Food for thought.

Linda Lovely said...

Thorne & Ruby--

Thanks for the comments. I think a different pen name is a good solution. Then, once you become famous (aka Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb) you can put both names on your books. It's okay to dream, right?


Polly said...

I don't see why you would change your name if your 1938 novel is a romantic suspense. I see that as a change in time period, not genre, unless you're calling it a historical.

I write under two names, but I doubt the reader of one genre would want to read the other because they're both so different.

Ellis Vidler said...

I hope you're right about the middle--keep writing and it will become clear. I have my fingers crossed for a flash of insight.

I agree with Polly. Keep your name on the 1938 novel. It's not so different that romantic suspense readers won't love it too.

Linda Lovely said...


Thanks. I guess that's the question--if you're writing mystery and romantic suspense and just the time period is different, would it disappoint a reader who has read your contemporary books? Maybe in this case the pen name could be consistent as long as the cover clearly indicates the time shift.


Robin Weaver said...

Another great blog!

Anonymous said...

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In conclusion , allow me thank you for your patience with my English as (I am confident you have figured this at this time ,), English is not my chief tongue thus I am utilizing Google Translate to figure out what to write what I truly wish to articulate.

Donnell said...

Linda and Ruby, sorry I'm late. I'm a huge fan of both of yours, and I agree with the other. No need to change your name for the 1938 novel. Like Dear Killer it will be fabulous and your readers will want to follow you!

Linda Lovely said...

Donnell and Robin--

Thanks for dropping by. Donnell I appreciate your confidence boost, always needed with a work-in-progress. I'm at the maybe-I-really-should-clean-house-instead- of-writing stage. But this will pass--hopefully before the T'day leftovers are gone.


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