Winner of the prestigious national book award, the RITA®, science fiction romance author Linnea Sinclair has become a name synonymous for high-action, emotionally intense, character-driven novels. Reviewers note that Sinclair’s novels “have the wow-factor in spades,” earning her accolades from both the science fiction and romance communities. Sinclair’s current releases from Bantam Dell are GAMES OF COMMAND (PEARL Award winner and RITA finalist), THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES (PEARL Award Honorable Mention), and SHADES OF DARK, with HOPE’S FOLLY on the shelves in late February 2009.
A former news reporter and retired private detective, Sinclair resides in Naples, Florida (winters) and Columbus, Ohio (summers) along with her husband, Robert Bernadino, and their two thoroughly spoiled cats. Readers can find her perched on the third barstool from the left in her Intergalactic Bar and Grille at www.linneasinclair.com.
1. Tell us about your latest book.
On February 24, 2009 Bantam will release Hope’s Folly, which is the third book in the Dock Five series that started with the story of Gabriel Sullivan—mercenary and telepath—and Captain Chaz Bergren in Gabriel’s Ghost Folly is Admiral Philip Guthrie’s story. Philip is Captain Chaz Bergren’s ex-husband, and while in Gabriel’s he straddled the fence between being a hero and being an obstacle, in Shades of Dark he had quite a lot happen to him, and as one blogger noted, was starting to sport his hero duds. He’s blossomed into a take-control, very sexy man and in Folly, he faces one of the toughest challenges of his life:
It’s an impossible mission on a derelict ship called HOPE’S FOLLY. A man who feels he can’t love. A woman who believes she’s unlovable. And an enemy who will stop at nothing to crush them both.
Admiral Philip Guthrie is in an unprecedented position: on the wrong end of the law, leading a rag-tag band of rebels against the oppressive Imperial forces. Or would be, if he can reach his command ship—the intriguingly named Hope’s Folly—alive. Not much can rattle Philip’s legendary cool—but the woman who helps him foil an assassination attempt on Kirro Station will. She’s the daughter of his best friend and first commander—a man who died while under Philip’s command, and whose death is on Philip’s conscience.
Rya Bennton has been in love with Philip Guthrie since she was a girl. But can her childhood fantasies survive an encounter with the hardened man, and newly-minted rebel leader, who it seems has just become her new commanding officer? And will she still be willing follow him through the jaw of hell once she learns the truth about her father’s death?
Romantic Times BOOK reviews magazine just awarded Folly their TOP PICK designation, and gave it 4-1./2 stars, which is their highest rating.
2. How did you get started as a writer?
I’ve been writing for so long I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I’m an only child and making up stories in my head was a favorite pastime. I began putting them on paper in junior high school. In my twenties, I was active in Trek fan-fic. But I never took the plunge to write fiction full time until I’d completed successful careers as a news reporter and a private investigator. At that point I had a few of the ubiquitous manuscripts under the bed, so I unearth them, dusted off the cat fur and took a critical look at what I had. Polished off a few, sent them to a small press publisher who accepted them. When I started winning awards for the books—against major, much more well-known NY authors—I decided to take a stab at the larger publishing houses. As Fate would have it, I was sitting in a bar (no surprise, that) in a writer/reader conference when noted author Robin D Owens (HeartMate, Heart Duel, etc) asked who my agent was. I said I didn’t have one, she put me in touch with hers who then gave me a recommendation to another agent…who read my work, put me under contract and three months later, sold me (or rather, my books) to Bantam. Serendipity in action.
3. What does a typical day look like for you?
Wake up because Daq-cat, my Maine Coon-Norwegian Forest (rescued) mix, is howling incessantly. Pull on sweat pants, sweat shirt, shove feet into Crocs, stumble past husband reading newspaper in kitchen, grab harness and leash and take Daq for his morning walk (yes, my cat walks on a leash.) Half hour or so later, shoo cat into pool area, head for coffee-maker. Fortified with caffeine, thread way past whatever my latest promo project is, strewn about the floor, and find computer, download emails and wonder how I could possibly have over 4,000 emails in my inbox when I cleaned out 1,800 of them only last week. Perform email triage which, depending on what’s going on, can take anywhere from an hour to several. File whatever blogs I’m due to file that day. Get more coffee. Move cat off of notepad. Bring up last chapter worked on in current book-under-contract, bring up notes, remove cat tail from keyboard. If the husband goes off to play golf, then I will have several hours of uninterrupted time to get my characters in and out of trouble. If the husband does not go out to play golf, then I will spend a goodly part of time listening to him play Bubble-Pop on his computer (behind me), listening to him talk golf on the phone with his brother in Ohio, or being asked where his socks are. Writing then will happen after dinner when Seinfeld reruns keep him busy.
4. Describe your desk/workspace.
Organized chaos. With cats.
5. Favorite books (especially for writers)
If stranded on a desert island (with power and wifi access), and being perpetually on deadline, I’d want
Techniques of the Selling Writer – Dwight V Swain
GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict – Deborah Dixon
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Browne & King
The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes – Jack Bickham
6. Tell us 3 interesting/crazy things about you
(1) I’m a retired private detective. I know what the business end of a gun looks like and it’s not pretty. High-speed automobile surveillance is not fun. Being a PI was one of the most interesting and rewarding careers I’ve ever had.
(2) I’ve killed off people I don’t like in my books. A lot of authors do that so I’m not so sure it’s all that crazy. Or maybe we’re just crazy enough it seems normal.
(3) I can wiggle my nose like Samantha on Bewitched. Which also gives away my age (in that I even remember that old TV show).
7. Favorite quote
I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing then teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.
8. Best and worst part of being a writer
Best? That I get paid to do what I’d be doing anyway? That’s probably a big part of it. The other is the thrill of seeing your book come alive and sharing your dreams and fantasies and adventures with other readers.
Worst? I think it’s a toss-up between the whole marketing/promotion issue and the work-at-home issue. I love doing promotion but as author Nancy “Bad Hair Day Mysteries” Cohen told me years ago, you can’t write and promote at the same time. The muses are just different. I need forty-hour days and ten-day weeks. The work-at-home issue means people often don’t see you as actually working, so you get hit with stuff (Where are my socks?) that you’d not ever hear if you were in an office.
9. Advice for other writers
First, read. Read as much as you can in the genre in which you want to write. Second, realize that writing is both an art and a craft. Yes, the muse must speak to you. But it’s up to you to put that creative inspiration in a grammatically correct form, or you’re wasting your and the muse’s time. Study and understand plot structure, characterization, conflict and dialogue. For all that fiction is freewheeling creativity, it’s also rules and regulations.
There are plenty of books out there to help you do this. My favorite is Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. When I teach writing, I tell my students that if they can buy only one book, buy that one. It’s essential. Almost every published author I know has a dog-eared copy. From there, look for the how-to books by Jack Bickham, Nancy Kress, Debra Dixon and Renni Browne/Dave King. These books work no matter your genre.
Then find a writers’ group—locally or online—that has at least one published author in its ranks (preferably more than one). Get your work critiqued. Learn to give critiques in return.
I’d also tell beginning writers to never forget that writing is part art, part craft and part business. Ignore any of those three and you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Yes, you have to have the art—the desire to write the story that’s burning up inside you. But you have to have the craft—grammar, spelling, pacing, understanding of GMC and a story arc—to make that burning story come alive for the reader. Then you absolutely must understand the business: agents, editors, marketing, reviewers, etc. or you’ll either get royally ripped off in the business or professionals won’t choose to work with you because you’re not a professional.
Writing a publishable novel is hard work. Blessedly, it’s also a tremendous amount of fun. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing—except, perhaps, piloting a starship.
10. Tell us a story about your writing experience.
One of my most popular books—one I get the most fan mail about, one that probably got the most blog coverage and whose hero constantly is sighed over by various readers, reviewers and bloggers—is GAMES OF COMMAND, a whopping 125,000-word science fiction romance that has with all due affection been called a ‘doorstop.’ What a lot of readers don’t know is that GAMES was never meant to be a book. It is actually derived from a series of emails that went to a dear friend going through a horrible divorce a few years back. That friend is Doc Eden Fynn in the book and the stories were adventures I penned simply to give my friend something pleasant to think about—and to dream about. The cat-like creature in the book, Riley, is her cat Radar. So it was written with love, never intended for publication, but I guess the emotions showed. When my agent and my editor at Bantam saw it, they both insisted I clean it up and make it into a book (it was about 300,000 words of emails at that point). GAMES went on to win the PEARL award and was a finalist for the RITA®.
So I guess the adages of “do what you love” and “write what you know” do actually apply.
Where can people buy your books?
You can find my books wherever paperbacks are sold (Borders, Books A Million, etc.) as well as online bookstores. My website is www.linneasinclair.com, and from there you can find links to my blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Goodreads and more.