Monday, February 6, 2012

Linda Style:You Can't Fix An Empty Page

Linda StyleAbout Linda Style…

About Linda Style...
It’s our pleasure to welcome Author, Linda Style to our blog. Linda is the award-winning author of 14 novels published by Harlequin Super Romance. She’s also the co-founder of Bootcamp for Novelists Online where she teaches the advanced level writing courses. With degrees in behavioral science and journalism, Linda has worked as a case manager, a human rights advocate, a program director for mental health services, a management consultant, and as the editor-in-chief for AZ View Magazine. In addition to her novels, Linda has written both fiction and nonfiction for newspapers and magazines.
Linda loves talking with other writers and frequently speaks at writer’s meetings and conferences. Her books, described by reviewers as emotional, fast-paced stories that keep you riveted to the page, have won several awards, including the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence, the Orange Rose award for Best Book of the Year. Linda was recently featured in a USA Today interview where she talked about her current release, A SOLDIER’S SECRET. We're happy she could stop by  and chat with us about writing and her newest novel.She has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her book on Friday to one lucky person who comments.

Your book, A Soldier’s Secret, is a romance with a heroine who has a PTSD, a syndrome that affects many soldiers. How much research was involved before you began writing this book?
I did quite a bit of research on PTSD, but with my background in mental health, I was already familiar with the disorder. I also knew someone who had PTSD, so I had some firsthand knowledge. There were really 4 main areas of research for this book, the PTSD, some military and helicopter flight research since my heroine is an Iraq war veteran…and currently a search and rescue helicopter pilot. And because my hero was adopting a child from a foreign country that doesn’t allow that practice, I had to dig deep to find out how that would work. Fortunately, I love to do research. Too much sometimes. I never use all the material I collect, but it helps to know each area as thoroughly as possible.

You’ve been involved with the Wounded Warriors Project and are donating a portion of the profits from your book to them. Could you tell us a little about what this organization does and what you’ve learned from your involvement?
My research brought me into contact with veterans who had suffered with PTSD for years before finally getting any help, and one of the many things I learned is that the issues women veterans face when coming home are unique and have been largely ignored. Studies show that among women vets who’d served in Iraq and Afghanistan, almost 20 percent have been diagnosed with PTSD. And now, with the pullout in Iraq, we can expect the numbers for PTSD in both sexes to rise. I discovered we have a long way to go in providing extended programs and services for our returning soldiers, and was pleased to learn the Wounded Warrior Project does just that. The WWP started as a program to provide comfort items to wounded service members and quickly grew into a complete rehabilitative effort to assist veterans as they recover and transition back to civilian life. The WWP offers a variety of programs and services to help veterans with every type of injury—from the physical to the invisible wounds of war.

On her book and characters…

Could you share a bit about your book and its characters?
A SOLDIER'S SECRET is the third book set in Spirit Creek, Arizona, featuring three women who are best friends. Each woman has her own story, and A SOLDIER’S SECRET, the third book, is Natalia Sokoloff’s story. Natalia is an Iraq war veteran, a former rescue helicopter pilot who has taken her skills into civilian life where she pilots for a search and rescue team in the mountainous areas in Arizona. David (Mac) MacAllister is also an veteran who worked with Natalia in Iraq as a medic and continues to do so at Mountain Air Search and Rescue. They are buddies, good friends. In fact, Mac saved her life in Iraq…and now he needs a favor from her. He needs her to agree to a temporary marriage so he can convince authorities he’s fit to adopt the son he fathered while on active duty in Iraq. But Natalia has wounds from combat that no one can see, and if anyone finds out, she could lose everything she’s worked for. Being around Mac in such an intimate setting, is too close for comfort. But she owes him… She owes him everything. How can she refuse?
At its heart, this is a true love story, but it’s also about some very serious problems facing many of our veterans every day.

If you had to choose, which scene in this novel is your favorite?
That’s a great question, and a difficult one. It’s like asking which book is my favorite. It would be a toss up between the most dramatic/emotionally intense scene…and the most romantic.  I think the most romantic scene is one in which Natalia and Mac are slow dancing at a party and must fake being in love. They’ve been friends up until now…pals…buddies, so it’s the first time they’ve ever been so close in such an intimate way, and before long, both have forgotten about acting. Come to think of it, this scene fits both criteria for romance and emotional intensity. J

What inspired you to write romances? I have a degree in journalism so writing romances wasn’t even on my radar at first. But I always liked to write fiction. One of the first fiction pieces I wrote was a Robin Hood in space fantasy. At that time, I was working in behavioral health services and would write in my spare time. I was all over the place, writing everything from children’s stories to poetry, and I saw a tiny blurb in the paper about a new class at the community college on “How to write a romance novel.” On a lark, I took that class and realized romance novels were so much more than I’d imagined. I liked that the stories are character driven, that they can show the power of love…while still empowering women. The rest, as they say….is history!

What are the challenges/rewards?
The biggest challenge is one often mentioned by Nora Roberts. The old “butt in the chair” challenge. It’s takes a disciplined person to consistently sit down and write the necessary pages to meet deadlines. Getting off schedule is too easy, and the results aren’t pretty. It’s called deadline hell. The rewards are many, but when someone tells me my story has changed something in their life, THAT beats everything else. A man in prison wrote me a letter that said reading one of my books moved him so much he vowed to be a better father when he was released from prison. I can’t tell you how much that letter moved me. To know that I can affect someone else’s life in a positive way is the best reward of all.

On her writing process…
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? 
All of them.

When you sit down to write a book, what is the first aspect you focus on? Characterization? Plot?Conflict?
Character…always character.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them?
The first step is making the character sympathetic and providing a “universal element” (emotional) that readers can relate to and empathize. Empathy is what makes readers care about the character and caring is what keeps readers reading. Creating depth is a whole nuther thing. Depth in a character comes from knowing your characters deepest wants,needs and desires…and their greatest fear. More importantly, you have to know where the wants, needs and fears came from.  It’s all a part of a character’s “driving force”... the deep-seated “need” that propels him to do what he does. That’s where the depth comes from. It’s psychological and the character is usually not even aware of it. But the writer must be aware of it…and much more.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the  characters. I really don’t find it a challenge because I build each character from the ground up and the relationships and bonds develop organically.

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received? 
Find your passion. Write…and keep writing. You can’t fix a blank page.

You also teach writing in your Boot Camp workshops. When is the next workshop scheduled?
My next class is Escalating Consequences…which I believe is one of the most important and helpful classes in the program.  It covers dramatic purpose, story escalation and dramatic tension, raising the stakes, raising emotional stakes, dynamic conflict…and much more. I’m also offering a new one-on-one coaching program that I’m very excited about. Information can be found at

What’s next?
I’m working on a three-book series set in Detroit, tentatively titled STREET LAW. Since Superromance has gone back to the longer format of 85,000 words, I have more room for subplots and deeper character development, so I’m very excited about that.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat today!
Thank you for inviting me, Ruby. It’s been my pleasure. I love to share and talk with readers and other writers.

Linda’s question to readers. 
I would love to know what draws you into a book…after the cover, the blurb, and the first page. What is it that captivates you and keeps you reading?

You can learn more about Linda and her books at her website You can also follow her on Twitter@LindaStyle_ or Facebook

Please leave a comment for Linda and don’t forget to leave your email address in order to be entered into the contest for her book.


Jeff Turner said...

'...providing a “universal element” (emotional) that readers can relate to and empathize...'.

I agree with this 100%. I write non-fiction and you always have to do more than tell a story, you have make it relate to the experiences of those who read it. Hence making something "universal" widens the appeal of your content.

George said...

You told me about your characters and the plot in 158 words. Not only did I get the gist of A SOLDIER’S SECRET, but I already care about the characters and admired the plot.
Don’t be surprised if you see me in your writers’ bootcamp.

“What draws me into a book?” When an author’s description can fit on the back of a business card, I know they own the material, and their work is going to be one tight, smooth and enjoyable read.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Linda, what a great interview. Thanks so much for sharing your process with readers.

Ruby, another terrific guest.

Ellis Vidler said...

Good interview. I enjoyed learning about Linda.

The first thing that draws me into a book is being interested in the characters and wanting to see what happens to them.

C. A. Szarek said...

Thanx for the awesome insight. You are definitely on my TBR list now! :)

J.A. Bennett said...

Lots of great food for thought here. Thank you for sharing Linda!

SusieSheehey said...

Thanks for sharing! I'll be checking out bootcamp very shortly!!

Linda Style said...

Hi all,
I was gone today and it was great to come home and see all the comments.

Hi Jeff. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, you're so right. The same applies to non-fiction--whether it's a human interest story in a magazine, a blog or the back of a cereal box. When you tap into that universal element your audience can widen dramatically.

Linda Style said...

Hi George,
What a nice compliment. I'm glad to hear I got the story across. Actually, 158 words is quite a few for me, and if I were doing it as a pitch, it would be only two sentences. I ask students to practice this, too, because when they get it right, that's when I know they truly understand their story.

By all means, check out the Bootcamp. I would love to see you in class some day!

Linda Style said...

You are all so gracious. Thank you so much Caroline, Ellis, C.A., J.A., and Susie. The writer's community is the most welcoming of any I've been involved in and it's always a pleasure to share and talk with other writers.

Ellis...we are on the same page. It's always about character for me, too. In fact, "I" have to really care about my characters in order to write about them. :-)

BTW, if any of you do check out the bootcamp, please feel free to email me with any questions if you have them.

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