After obsessively reading through Linnea’s backlist, a kindly extraterrestrial gifted us with an ARC for her upcoming new release, Shades of Dark…and Ana and I decided it was time to get this marvelous author to speak with us and share her words of wisdom!
And so, without further ado, we present to you our Chat with the marvelous Linnea Sinclair!
Linnea: The pleasure is all mine! Just bear with me as I have a brand new ergonomic keyboard—rather bizarre looking and it’s taking a bit of getting used to.
The Book Smugglers: Shades of Dark is your new book, set to hit the stores in July, and the sequel to Gabriel’s Ghost – the first sequel to any of your stories! Why did you decide to keep writing Sully and Chaz (not that we are complaining of course)?
Linnea: Shades of Dark, which was originally titled Chasidah’s Choice, was written several years ago right after I finished Gabriel’s Ghost. I’d always intended for Sully and Chaz’s story to continue but it wasn’t until after Bantam bought the book and Gabriel’s won the RITA that there was any interest in the continuation of the story. I’d long ago envisioned doing what I called The Dock Five Series (Dock Five being that delightfully disreputable space station in Gabriel’s Ghost) and I hope to be able to at least do part of that with my 2009 release, Hope’s Folly, which will continue with the Gabriel’s universe though not through the eyes of Chaz Bergren.
I think there’s a lot going on in Chaz’s backyard, so to speak, and I know there are more exciting stories to tell. Shades peels back the layers on several familiar characters and introduces some new characters and, as usual for a Linnea Sinclair adventure, every situation and problem is not wrapped up all nice and pretty. (Real life doesn’t happen that way so why should books?) I always enjoy having reasons to go and see what my old friends are up to.
The Book Smugglers: The name of the book is rather appropriate too: it is, in our opinion your darkest story to date. Up until now, we could consider your stories pure fun, and entertaining. But Shades of Dark deals with some disturbing aspects of Sully’s personality and it ends in a rather dark place; even though Sully and Chaz are still together, there are still much to be discussed between then, especially about Sully’s actions in the end. Why did you decide to take things in that direction?
Linnea: My editor, Anne Groell, helped with the name. As I said, it was originally and for years Chasidah’s Choice but Anne didn’t like that when it came time to finalize the cover and she asked for alternates. Shades of Dark was just one of several ideas I simply threw out there, freewriting, if you will. It worked for Anne and the more I thought about it, it worked for me and the book. Which, at that point, wasn’t even halfway written. That’s not unusual for me, though. Very often I have a title before the book is at the halfway point, and in the case of The Down Home Zombie Blues, I had the title within the first few paragraphs.
The book has some dark elements but I’d always known that. Gabriel’s does, too and since this is the continuation, there’s a natural progression of the story and of the tone. Sully—without getting into spoilers—has a lot to learn and karmically has to deal with the consequences of his decisions.
Sully is perpetually caught between doing the right thing for the wrong reasons and the wrong thing for the right reasons. He really is an extremely good person at heart but he gets his fanny caught in bear traps with increasing frequency. And the stakes simply become larger. Shades of Dark is one example of that. To “lighten” the outcome or reduce the impact of the decisions Sully makes would, to me, not to true to the character or the story. And I think ultimately the savvy reader would have sensed that.
The essence of a novel is conflict ::bows to noted SF author Jacqueline Lichtenberg:: and character growth is spurred by conflict. Sully has bucketfuls of conflict. He’s growing. He’s an extraordinary person and to lighten his load and stunt his growth would be short-changing him and his potential. It would also do a disservice to Chaz. She’s a guiding light here and her purpose in his life—beyond the love and romance aspect—is to act as his balance. That’s seen most clearly in the scene just after Sully confronts and interviews Gregor, and Chaz is there. Again, I won’t get into spoilers because the book’s not out but for reviewers and bloggers who’ve read it, you likely know the scene I mean. Chaz learns and realizes—even more than she did on Marker—just who and what Sully is. And that the good comes with the bad and vice-versa. She also has very hard decisions. That’s why that scene is pivotal and why the book takes the tone it does.
Linnea: Different times, different world. I wrote GG in 2000 and at that time was only small press published with no serious contractual pressures. I was younger, thinner and definitely not menopausal. As some of you know, 2007 was a year in which I was hit by a car and a few months later my father died. It was an eventful and stressful year and, as we’re still caring for my elderly mother, things have not substantially un-stressed. And the car accident and resulting shoulder and arm injuries are why I just today bought one of those wacky ergonomic keyboards and likely will buy that No-Stress mouse. Suffice it to say I’ve lost feeling from my right ear to my right wrist, and the good days are becoming less, and the painful days more.
Oh, and did I add the arthritis deforming my hands?
I’m a trip, no? And you all wonder (well, no, you don’t) why you all always find me at the bar at writer cons, sucking down gin and tonics. With two limes, please. It’s the Vitamin C.
At any rate, SHADES took me a lot longer to write. I just checked my document files and it looks as if I began really writing it (not just playing with plot lines or world building) around late July 2007 and sent the final manuscript to my editor just before the Christmas holidays in December 2007. Keep in mind at that time ZOMBIE was hitting the shelves so I was also hip deep in promo on that book at that time.
Nope, not thirty four days. I doubt I’ll ever see that luxury again. But I remember it and it was exhilarating.
The Book Smugglers: The next book in this same universe is called Hope’s Folly and the protagonist is Philip, Chaz’s ex-husband. Can you tell us a bit more about the book? Will Chaz and Sully make an appearance or do you intend to carry on with their story in a fourth book *big, pleading eyes* ?
Linnea: Hope’s Folly is still in progress but as of right now, I don’t see Chaz and Sully having a huge physical presence in the book though their presence is very much felt. The semi-official back cover/promo blurb is:
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?
Philip, who is long used to being in command, is going to get seriously emotionally broadsided in Hope’s Folly. That’s the really fun part. I think the bad boys are used to looking for someone trying to pull the rug out from under them. The good guys, they’re so naive and unsuspecting. It’s just a joy to spend time with Philip and Rya. Theirs is a May-December romance, by the way.
For those not interested in the romance aspect, Folly is going to be an intense action-packed novel of the good guys trying to do right in spite of impossible odds. You have an underfunded rag-tag space fleet trying to come to grips with an impending major invasion. “Flying by the seat of your pants” will be the norm here. There will also be lots of tense, interpersonal “workplace” politics and some unsuspected treachery. I think the book will work well on both the romance and SF levels.
And, oh, there’s a cat in Hope’s Folly. I made the cat a male but he’s based on my cat, Fat Tammy the Slut, who was a whopping 20+ pounder with an equally as large attitude. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge (kicking serious ass as she did so) at the age of twenty-three a few years ago. She was quite a feline.
Linnea: To date, no, but quite a few have surprised me by their appearance in the book or by a role larger than I thought they’d have. Philip (Gabriel’s Ghost) Guthrie is the first that comes to mind in that. I had no clue Chaz had an ex-husband (minor spoiler to those who’ve not read GG) nor the larger role he’d play. And Kip’s role and reaction to Jorie in The Down Home Zombie Blues was larger than I’d anticipated.
Games of Command I’ve been writing or messing around with for so many years that it was more of a matter of just letting the characters out on the playing field. Speaking of dark, the original “book 2” which comprised the latter part of GOC had a very dark element. That was nixed by my agent and my editor.
The Book Smugglers: You have been a journalist and a Private Detective, but now are a bestselling, groundbreaking author in the fast growing science fiction romance genre. What made you change career paths and decide to become a writer?
Linnea: Wow, thanks for the bestselling! I don’t know if I’m quite there yet but we’re trying. Groundbreaking, well, that requires a nod to authors Susan Grant, Robin D. Owens, Jacqueline Lichtenberg and a few others.
I never really changed career paths. I’ve always written and much of what comprises my stories is the same as the Trek fan fic I wrote almost thirty years ago. I hammered out my first completed novel—Wintertide—when I was in my late 20s, and used a standard non-electric typewriter. But before that I wrote several “action adventure space opera romance” novels and novellas—none finished—but one became Finders Keepers (RITA award finalist). I wrote stories all through high school. The earliest story I remember writing was Le Petite Chat, about a little girl and her cat on a tropical island. I wrote it when I was about four.
The Book Smugglers: We have read, reviewed and loved Gabriel’s Ghost, Shades of Dark, An Accidental Goddess and The Down Home Zombie Blues here at The Book Smugglers. Part of the reason are the wonderful strong heroes and heroines you create. If you had to pick one character, who is your ‘favorite’? (yes we are eeeevil like that!)
Linnea: Very eeevil. For guys it would be a toss up between Sully, Kel-Paten and Philip Guthrie. For gals it would be Sass, no question. We won’t go into why. Oh best overall favourite would be Tank the Furzel. Daq cat made me say so.
The Book Smugglers: What is your usual writing process like? Can you describe a day at work for us?
Linnea: My days at works lately have been anything but normal. We just built a summer cottage on a golf course in Ohio, which is where I’m sitting now. My usual abode is in Naples, FL. My general productive writing day (haven’t had many of those lately) would start around 10AM, going through emails and attending to the business end of writing, because at that part of the day the husband is home and if he’s home I can’t do the creative part of writing (because it’s hard to concentrate on character and such when the husband is asking, Honey, where’s my green golf shirt?). Once he leaves, if there’s no pressing business (and don’t think for a minute that an author doesn’t have a goodly amount of business), I’ll go over the previous days’ work and try to pick up where I left off or play with some advance plotting. My very best times to write are at night, from about 10pm to 3am. But life—and the husband—don’t always permit that.
When it’s crunch time, and it always comes to that, then I just barricade myself in my office and warn the husband to enter at his own peril. I’ll basically write non-stop for several days. The last four or six chapters of Games of Command were written in about three days straight, no sleep. Just caffeine. Honest. That’s the way it often goes.
I need to get back into some kind of writing routine but since early 2007, life has been throwing curveballs at me.
The Book Smugglers: You’ve mentioned that you subscribe to certain writing techniques, in particular Dwight V Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer and to Jack Bickham. How much of an impact do these techniques have on your writing? Would you recommend any certain techniques/teachings to new/aspiring writers?
Linnea: Swain’s Techniques had a huge impact on my writing. It made me focus on the engine of the novel, the reason people read. Swain says “readers read to experience tension” which is another way of saying what Jacqueline Lichtenberg does, “Conflict is the essence of story.” Swain also teaches “it’s the author’s job to manipulate the emotions of the reader.”
When you combine all those, you get a strong sense of the impact of your words, your characters, your plot, you setting. I’d never quite considered that element before—I’d always enjoyed reading and very much enjoyed creating stories for my own amusement but I’d never sat down and really focused on WHY certain scenes of my stories, or of those I read, really grabbed me.
That defined it and when I defined it, I knew I could utilize it. It’s like suddenly realizing the reason the coffee is nicely sweet is because someone added spoonfuls of sugar. So when you want sweet, you add sugar. Deceptively simple but if you’d never known WHY before, the concept can be elusive.
I recommend Swain in all the classes and workshops I teach, both online and at national conventions. From Swain, go to Bickham, Browne & King (Self Editing For Fiction Writers) and Dixon. I have a nice list of helpful books on my website in Writing Tips.
The Book Smugglers: Could you share with us the story of how your first novel got published?
Linnea: There are actually two stories: the story of my first small press sale and the story of my getting an agent who would then sell my books to a major NY publisher. The first happened strictly through submitting to small press houses that indicated they were open to submissions. Nothing glamorous in the recounting. I subbed Wintertide to several—I don’t even remember who anymore, and LTDBooks of Canada contacted me with an offer about two weeks later.
The NY story is better. I’d been small press published for about four years and was sitting in the bar (fancy that) at a Romantic Times BOOKlover’s Convention with Robin D. Owens. Robin asked who my agent was, I said I didn’t have one, Robin whipped out her cell phone and left a message for her agent (Deidre Knight) to look at my stuff. I sent my stuff to Deidre when I got home, Deidre loved it but wasn’t acquiring BUT recommended an agent friend who was (Kristin Nelson). I sent it to Kristin with Deidre’s recommendation, Kristin read it, offered a contract and about four months later we had an offer and contract from Bantam. That was nothing short of miraculous.
The Book Smugglers: Katie(babs) (Ramblings on Romance) in a recent post brought to our attention an article from the Boston Globe about how writers suffer the pressure to publish at least one book per year. Do you feel this kind of pressure from your publishers? If so, how do you respond to that?
Linnea: The pressure in commercial genre fiction, especially romance, is to produce at LEAST three books a year if not more. Most authors I know, including Susan Grant and Robin Owens, are churning out three or more. And Susan flies 747s trans-Pacific for a major airline.
My first two contracts with Bantam were three book contracts. My agent and I bumped this last contract down to two books because quite honestly my health is suffering. I feel terribly guilty about doing only two, yes.
There is a real pressure to keep the pipeline filled, to keep your name out in front of fans. It’s part of the job. Part of it, yes, is competition. If you don’t have a book to fill that slot, the publisher will find someone who does. But it’s not so much that the publisher will drop you, as you fear fans will forget you. You have to keep the “buzz” going.
Eons ago I used to dream of basking in the glory of the day your book is release. The reality is that the days my books are released I’m usually up to my patootie in writing and late on deadline, and am barely aware that my next book is now on the shelves.
The Book Smugglers: As Science Fiction Romance is a genre still in its early stages (but is gaining more and more of a readership each day), could you share some of your influences as to why you chose to write in this genre?
Linnea: My biggest influence—no secret, that—is CJ Cherryh. While Cherryh doesn’t pen romance per se, she does pen phenomenal alien cultures and action adventure and space opera and there is, at times, a strong relationship subplot (Bren Cameron and Jago in her Foreigner series). Why I chose to write SFR is that for as much as I adore Cherryh’s SF—and I do, hands down—I missed the relationship parts. I love an HEA. I require an HEA and I found myself writing the “missing scenes” of SF books I read.
So then I decided to just go ahead and write the whole damned book.
The Book Smugglers: What are you reading right now? (And edits/revisions don’t count!)
Linnea: Let’s see, today it was a list of things I needed from Home Depot, including a lamp finial. My past two weeks, since we closed on the cottage, has been a series of lists from light bulbs to finials to curtain rods to towels to wine. Can’t forget the wine. I do have two of Marianne de Pierres books here with me in Ohio but by the time night rolls around, I’ve been too exhausted to read. My TBR pile also holds Sherrilyn Kenyon, Bonnie Vanak and Laurie R King. But I have to finish writing Hope’s Folly first.
I did have the pleasure of reading Susan Grant’s Moonstruck in its final phase as a beta reader for her, and it’s one helluva terrific book. I also beta-read Lisa Shearin’s Magic Lost series and that’s another set of books I can fully recommend.
One of the downsides of being an author is that reading for pleasure is a busman’s holiday—you just don’t get that much of a chance to do so. The upside is that you get to beta-read for some of the best in the business. That’s the real fun part.
Daq cat just sat down in front of the computer monitor. It’s time for mommy to get some sleep, he says…
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 are GAMES OF COMMAND (PEARL Award winner and RITA finalist) and THE DOWN HOME ZOMBIE BLUES (PEARL Award Honorable Mention), with SHADES OF DARK on the shelves in late July 2008.
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
The Book Smugglers would like to thank Linnea for taking the time to chat with us!
And in closing of our Long Weekend with Linnea Sinclair, we have ONE copy of Shades of Dark to give away. All you have to do is leave a comment by Saturday midnight! We will announce the lucky winners on Sunday. Good Luck!