Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February Author Interview: Linda Grimes

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I met Linda Grimes at the Books and Writers Forum, and boy, am I glad I did! Her paranormal urban novels will rock your reading world. The sharp characterizations and wry sensibility of her main character Ciel Halligan will have you glued to your seat and turning pages. They should carry a warning: Compulsive reads—if you start, you will not stop.

Her latest, The Big Fix, is just the ticket to let you in on what those of us who have read all of Linda’s Ciel Halligan books know—this is one sexy, sassy, sarcastic aura adaptor. Don’t call her a shape-shifter unless you want to be smacked with a lecture on the impossibility of that. ;-)

I suggest you read them all to relish the whirlwind life of Ciel Halligan.

Aura adaptor extraordinaire Ciel Halligan, who uses her chameleon-like abilities to fix her clients’ problems—as them—is filling in on set for action superstar Jackson Gunn, whose snake phobia is standing in the way of his completing his latest mega-millions Hollywood blockbuster. There’s only one thing Jack fears more than snakes, and that's the possibility of his fans finding out he screams at the sight of one. Going from hero to laughing stock isn’t part of his career plan.

Seems like a simple enough job to Ciel, who doesn’t particularly like snakes, but figures she can tolerate an afternoon with them, for the right price—which Jack is offering, and then some. What she doesn’t count on is finding out that while she was busy wrangling snakes for him, his wife was busy getting killed. When Ciel goes to break the sad news to the star, she finds out Jack was AWOL from her client hideaway at the time of the murder.

Ciel begins to suspect Jack’s phobia was phony, and that he only hired her to provide him with an alibi—but if she goes to the police, she’ll have to explain how she knows he wasn’t really on set. Up against a wall, Ciel calls on her best-friend-turned-love-interest Billy, and her not-so-ex-crush Mark, to help her set up the sting of a lifetime.

ZM: Linda, your characters are deep and rich.  Do you have any specific exercises that you use to get to know your people? Do they develop as you write, or do they come to you as complete people from the start?

LG: Thank you! You are so kind. And thank you for inviting me here today.

Ciel was pretty much who she is from the start. She appeared in my head as a complete personality. Of course, she's growing as the series goes on, but the basics were all there from the beginning. Same with Billy, who elbowed his way in right away, daring me to try to ignore him (which turned out to be impossible—the guy is irrepressible). Mark, on the other hand, has always been more of a mystery to me. He's been slower to reveal himself, but he's getting there. I'm learning more about him—some of it quite surprising—with each book.

ZM: What’s your writing and publishing journey been? How do you get your stories out to readers?

LG: It's been like sliding my way, barefoot, across a frozen pond strewn with banana peels. In the dark. Never knowing where I was going, forever fighting cold feet … 

Oh, all right. Maybe not quite that bad, though it did feel uncertain in the beginning. But every time I fell—i.e., got rejected—I picked myself up, brushed the frost off my rear, and kept on going. I'm stubborn that way.

Seriously, I got kind of a late start with publishing, probably because I suck a multitasking. I started my first novel (Catspaw, a paranormal suspense I might let out of the drawer someday, but no guarantees) way back in the dark ages. Then I got married, hopped around the globe for a bit with my husband, had a few kids, and settled down. Read tons, wrote for my own distraction. Found the Compuserve Writers Forum, and started thinking maybe … just maybe … I could actually do something with my "hobby."

When my youngest went off to college, I decided if I was ever going to make a go of writing, I'd better prioritize it as my job. I wrote In a Fix, to make sure I could write more than one novel, while giving the aforesaid Catspaw a cooling off period. Turned out I really liked writing funny stuff better serious stuff. Huh. Who knew?

I started querying agents, many of whom were quite taken with the concept of aura adaptors, but weren't sure how to sell it. It got to be kind of a joke around here: query, send pages, get agent reply of "I'd totally read this book, but I'm not sure where to sell it—good luck!"

Most of the responses were encouraging enough that I stuck with it. (Definitely not all the responses, but I conveniently ignored those. Stubbornness and denial: two tools that work for me.) I finally found the right agent (Michelle Wolfson, of Wolfson Literary Agency). She loved In a Fix enough to convince me she'd work her butt off to find it the right home. And she did, even though she had the same responses from editors as I had had from the previous agents I'd queried—they loved the concept and the humor, but most didn't know where they'd sandwich it in on their list.

I was at the point of giving up on Ciel and Co. (thinking to move on to another project) when I got The Call. Michelle had sold not only In a Fix, but the next book, too (which, no, I hadn't actually written, but figured I probably could). My egg cooker signaled my hard-cooked eggs were done at exactly that moment. I tried to take the top off the cooker with one hand, and burned the crap out of my fingers. I'm pretty sure Michelle thought I was screaming in delight—and I was—though not only delight. Talk about having something burned into your memory!

As for how I get my stories out to readers … well, my publicist at Tor (doesn't that sound fancy? I'm one of many Tor authors she works with, so not really that special) sends out advance reading copies to reviewers, sets up signings, things of that sort. I do what I can via social media. I have a website (www.lindagrimes.com), a Facebook author page, and a Twitter account, all of which give readers easy access to me and my books. When I have a new book coming out, there are usually several kind bloggers who feature it in some way (thank you!), which is the best kind of exposure.

ZM: I’ve seen your books described as paranormal, urban fantasy, and mystery. What genre do you think fits the best? Have you ever written other genres?

LG: They're a little bit of all of those, I think. Tor labels them as urban fantasy (UF). I think of them as light urban fantasy, because much of what is called urban fantasy is darker than what I write. So, for me, LUF it is. (Don't you just LUF that? *grin* Or perhaps that should be *groan*…)

ZM—Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?

LG: I couldn't possible pick a favorite genre—I read and love so many of them! It all depends on my mood. I'm drawn by any book that engages my curiosity—and I'm curious about a lot of things. What can I say? I'm nosy by nature.

My absolute all-time favorite author is Diana Gabaldon (no surprise there). I couldn't for the life of me tell you what genre she writes, unless, I don't know, is "BIG" a genre? Her books are feasts for a book-lover's soul—anything you could possibly want in a read. Action, adventure, mystery, romance, history, humor, tragedy, and, yes, even some science fiction—all can be found between the covers of her books. (As opposed to my books, which are, admittedly, more of a snack than a feast. But I comfort myself that sometimes, if you're only a little peckish, a light snack is just the ticket.)

 Linda grew up in Texas, where she rode horses, embarrassed herself onstage a lot, and taught teenagers they'd have to learn the rules of English before they could get away with breaking them for creativity's sake. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband, whom she snagged after he saw her in a musical number at the now defunct Melodrama Theater in San Antonio. (There's nothing like a rousing chorus of "If You Wanna Catch a Fish You Gotta Wiggle Your Bait" to hook a man for a lifetime.)

Like her globetrotting main character, Linda has spent her fair share of time overseas, though fortunately under less stressful circumstances. Kidnapping and daring rescues are all well and good in fiction, but she prefers sanity in her real life.

Next Week: I join the Insecure Writers Support Group. Tune in to find out what's it's all about. ;-)