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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Author Interview: Linda Kage

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Linda Kage, whose latest book Hot Commodity was released this past November.

Linda told me that she became interested in writing through the people at school.

"I had some wonderful teachers that always made me feel like I could actually write. You begin to believe something about yourself when teachers tell you you're good at it," she explained. "Plus...on the bus to school, I'd ALWAYS find myself sitting by people who read books. So, I decided if my seat buddy was going to read instead of talk to me, I was going to read too. But when I started reading, I became hooked. Stories grew so fascinating to me, I started coming up with 'what ifs' in my head. What if the character had done this instead of that, and soon, I was creating my own version of the story in my head. Then I started creating my own characters and their own stories. Writing turned into an obsession after that."

And characters are very important to Linda. Her favorite books to read are ones with really good, unique characters, so she considers this the most important element of good writing. Creating an interesting, round character can be accomplished by how the author makes the character react in certain situations, through the character's dialog, and from the relationships they form with others.

"I can handle a dry, tacky, or overused plot if the characters make the events interesting," she told me. "I can even overlook info dumping, head hopping, factual errors and bad prose as long as I'm feeling some kind of emotional connection to the character. It's all about the people for me."

"When did you first consider yourself a writer?" I asked her.

"I was leery about joining Romance Writers of America because I wasn't published. I was sure I wasn't worthy enough for such a prestigious group. But I read through their on-line website so many times, their membership section assured me aspiring writers were welcome too. So, I joined, still uncomfortable about my unpublished status...until I went to my first local meeting. After introducing myself, everyone was stunned I'd completed so many stories. I was stunned that they were stunned and blurted out, 'But none of them are good,' like that made a difference. It took almost a full year of being in the group when one member emphatically announced 'everyone here is an author' for the realization to kick in," she said. "To her, it didn't matter if you were aspiring for publication or not, you WERE a writer. That's when I started to believe maybe I was a writer after all. A couple of months later, I sold my first book, which made me think no one else was going to believe I was an author until I believed it first."

And she has written a lot of stories, having finished eighteen full-length (50,000 words or more) novels.

"Honestly, most of them are so horrible, I'm kind of embarrassed to claim them," she admitted.

She finds that the endings of her books are always the hardest part.

"Sometimes there are so many ways to resolve a conflict, I become terribly undecided on which path to take," she explained. "And once I make a decision, I can never come up with a good last line. Plus I always worry I didn't tie up all the loose ends."

On a personal note, she doesn't want a dog, not even a little. Although they are cute and fun to watch, she always feels like she has to go wash her hands after petting one.

"Then I get all guilty because that seems so demeaning to the poor creature, like I don't think it's clean enough for me," she said. "Plus doggy breath and face licking is totally not my thing."

I asked Linda if she had any strange handwriting habits, like capitalizing all her R's or dotting her I's with hearts. She had to check her handwriting and discovered, to her surprise, that she does capitalize her R's, but only if they are at the end of the word. Otherwise they are lower-case. She also switches between cursive and print a lot, but not on specific letters.

"In one word I can have a cursive e, l, and d but a print m, i. and s, but in the next word it can be just the opposite," she told me. "I don't understand it at all."

Her strangest habit? Apologizing.

"I just feel so sorry about every wrong I've ever done," she said. "I'll even apologize to a door after I run into it."

As a matter of fact, she's never even made a crank phone call—saying she was too much of a goody-two-shoes to do that.

"Depressing, huh?" she asked.

Linda has a little one at home who will be a year old next month. She would love to know what her daughter will be like when she's older: shy or outgoing? Will she like to curl up with a good book or always be out and about, getting into mischief?

"I love watching her grow and learn how to do new things, but I'm so freaking curious what's going to happen next."

"Do you like thunderstorms?" I wondered.

"Living in the Midwest, it gets annoying always having to be alert and ready for a tornado warning to pop up in a storm. But when there's no chance of bad weather, yeah, it's nice to cuddle up in bed and fall asleep to the sound of rain on the window."

Linda used to need total darkness to be able to sleep, but she has to get up and check on her daughter during the night, so she learned that by keeping a few nightlights here and then, she saves her toes.

Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"

"Be patient, have fun, stay open to change, and never give up," she said. "No matter how fast you reach your writing goals, trust me, it will still feel like forever to get there, so if this is what you truly love to do, you might as well have some fun doing it by trying different ideas to see how they work, even if you feel positive they won't stay that way. Strangely enough, you might like something else better that you hadn't expected to like. Plus, when you start getting edits and critiques, it'll be mentally easier for you to revise. Your words can easily become your preciousssss; you don't want to let them go. But usually it's better for the story as a whole to change them. So, from the start, make sure you're prepared to delete, add, and alter text because at some point you WILL have to do just that."
You can keep up with Linda on her blog,

1 comment:

Rosemary Gemmell said...

A lovely interview, Linda. I definitely think joining any kind of writers' group is an essential part of progressing as a writer.

And I agree about the importance of characterisation!