Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Linnea Sinclair: Award Winning Author of SF Romance

Welcome to “Up Close & Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing her views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Linnea Sinclair. She is an award winning SF Romance author, former news reporter and retired private detective. She lives with her husband in Naples Florida.

E. I. Welcome, and thank you for stopping by. Would you tell your readers what were you like as a teenager? Please tell us more about Linnea Sinclair -- the woman behind the author.

Linnea: As a teenager? Oh, Lord. I was short, blonde and wore glasses. I’m still short, blonde and wear glasses, just a lot older.

I loved school and was an avid reader. I guess I was a geek except the term wasn’t popular back then. I attended a very small private high school in New Jersey. There were 25 kids in my senior class. The focus of the school was academic excellence, which meant things like proms or cheerleading didn’t exist. And since it was a private school, my classmates weren’t my neighbors. My best friends lived in towns miles away. The local public high school ended their day at 2:30, if memory serves me. My school day ended at 4:00. I spent a lot of time with my nose in a book.

E. I. Could you describe your path to publication--any stumble along the way? Is there anything about you that you would do differently, knowing what you do now?

Linnea: I found my agent who then sold me to Bantam after I’d spent a few years in the small presses and e-publishing. At the time I decided to seriously pursue writing commercial genre fiction (specifically science fiction romance), the sub-genre of SFR wasn’t quite accepted. NY wasn’t buying what I was writing. I had too much tech to qualify for the futuristic market and too much romance to have SF look at my work. Three years later, however, authors like Susan Grant, Catherine Asaro, Patricia Waddell, Robin D Owens and S.L. Viehl—among others—were pushing on that envelope from the SF side and the romance side. Readers who grew up lusting after James T Kirk or Han Solo were demanding those kinds of stories in writing. My agent sold me in about three months, which I gather is damn near Warp Factor 10 in the literary world.

The stumbles were getting caught up in the lack of professionalism in certain aspects of the small press/e-book world. Non-payment of staff—such as editors and artists—was as common as non-payment of royalties to authors. There were and still are several excellent e-book and small press houses out there (and I was blessed to have one of my small press publishers be thoroughly professional and a pleasure to write for). But there were also a lot of rip-offs.

What I’d do differently would be to have more faith in my writing from the get-go and not be so quick to sell my writerly soul to just any e-book or small press house “promising” publication. It’s hard to concentrate on your next book when you have to spend half your time hunting down your “publisher”, trying to get paid.

E. I. Many writers describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which are you? What do you find to be the hardest part of writing?

Linnea: Character writer, definitely. Although all my stories start in my head with a “what if”, the what if is clearly tied to and generated by the characters.

The hardest part of writing for me is deciding which POV to use per scene/chapter (when I write tight third, which is most of my books). That’s obviously not an issue with GABRIEL’S GHOST (2006 RITA award winner) which is first person POV, and won’t be an issue with the sequel, CHASIDAH’S CHOICE (2008 from Bantam). But in my other books it’s a constant consideration and it’s not usual for me to write a chapter from one character’s POV only to rip it out and rewrite it from another’s POV. I work from the adage of “writing from the POV of the character who has the most to lose/most at risk” but sometimes that’s a toss up.

E. I. In your opinion, how important is it for a writer to have a writing degree?

Linnea: A writing degree? As in Creative Writing or English Lit? One of my degrees is in journalism and while that taught me to adhere to deadlines (and to write first draft) I don’t see it’s essential. To be a published author you do need an excellent command of the language in which you’re going to write and the grammar for same. But I don’t know if having done your thesis on F. Scott Fitzgerald will necessarily open more doors for you to become a published author in commercial genre fiction.

I think you do need to be an observer of human nature, you do have to have a natural ability to hear and recreate dialogue, you do need to have the ability to sense the “cadence” of a paragraph in the same way a musician would. But I don’t think a BA in World Literature is a requirement.

E. I. Let's talk about your latest book “Games of Command ” how did you come up with the title and idea?

Linnea: GAMES OF COMMAND is a compilation, redaction, rewrite and general hodge-podge of three novels I had planned to produce through a small press/e-book publishing house that closed its doors. The first book-COMMAND PERFORMANCE—was published. The second in what I termed “The Alliance Command Series” was partly written. The third was somewhat plotted. Actually, all grew from about 300,000 words of emails of “adventures” sent to a dear friend several years ago, strictly for shits-n-giggles. I never intended for Sass and the admiral’s story to be public. But when my then-publisher asked if I had anything else, I unearthed those emails and the response was extremely positive (much to my surprise).

Title. Bantam didn’t want to reissue COMMAND PERFORMANCE and they didn’t want the Command series. So when I mushed—at their request—two and a half books into one, the title was really up for grabs. I just tossed out GAMES OF COMMAND as a working title. I never meant for it to stick and initially, neither my agent nor my editor liked the title. But when I said, give me something better—no one could. So it stuck.

E. I. What can we expect from your characters Captain Tasha “Sass” Sebastian, Admiral Branden Kel-Paten, Dr. Eden Fynn and rebel Jace Serafino?

Linnea: I write space opera romance. I don’t think that’s an actual publishing term but to me it’s what I write. So what you can expect from Sass, Branden, Eden and Jace (and the furzels) in GAMES OF COMMAND is a rollicking good time with fast ships, fast action, nasty evil alien energy sources, some cool telepathic critters, lots of snarky dialogue and a decent handful of “oh shit!” moments.

The book has a Saturday Afternoon at the Movies feel to it. If you like Star Wars, Star Trek, the Indiana Jones sagas and Firefly, it would be your cup of tea (providing the romance aspect doesn’t give you the ickies).

E. I. How much of ‘Captain Tasha Sebastian life is planned out in your head? How do you know where you will go next with her or with any of your characters?

Linnea: Sass is different from the rest of my characters because I’ve been writing her for a very long time. Like, twenty years or more. She was my stock character in the stories I’ve written—strictly for my own fun—since the 1980s. So I know her as well as I know myself. She’s “starred” in lots of adventures and scenarios I’ve penned that have nothing to do with GAMES OF COMMAND. She was the original heroine of FINDERS KEEPERS.

As to where I go next with any of my characters, partially that’s up to my agent and my contract with Bantam. But as to what proposals I submit, that depends on what character(s) scream the loudest to have their stories told.

E. I. If you were allowed total control of a Hollywood version of Games of Command who would be in it? In your own opinion, who do you think should direct?

Linnea: Director would definitely be George Lucas ::genuflect, genuflect:: I’m sure that’s no surprise to anyone who’s read my books. Casting it? That’s tougher because I’m not a television watcher, rarely go to movies (unless they’re Lucas, Speilberg or 007) and don’t read People magazine or the like. Sass could be (a younger) Linda Hamilton or Cameron Diaz or Charlene Theron. Or the woman who plays Starbuck in the current Battlestar Galactica. Doc Eden could be that lovely plus-sized fashion model, Emme, I think her name is. Jace Serafino…actually when I had my investigative agency years back I had an investigator working for me who was definitely a stud-muffin and his personality was VERY Serafino-like. But Cote Reynolds isn’t famous so other than myself, my husband and Cote’s wife (and I performed the wedding ceremony for Cote and Karen)… that doesn’t mean a thing.

Kel-Paten is a tough one. I’m not, as I said, an avid TV-viewer or People magazine afficianada. I did love old movies so if I say that he’d have the aloofness and elegance of Gregory Peck, many people would be puzzled. Maybe a younger Tom Selleck without the mustache? Not quite sure.

Tank the furzel is easy. He’s my Maine Coon cat, Daiquiri.

E. I. What can fans look forward to from you in the coming months?

Linnea: The Down Home Zombie Blues is the next book on the launchpad, with a November 2007 release. This is a combo police procedural-sci fi-romance, if you will. It’s like Men In Black meets Hill Street Blues plus a romance angle. It’s also my first book so far NOT set in another star system or galaxy but right here. Florida, in fact.

Here’s the back cover blurb for ZOMBIE:

Bahia Vista homicide detective Theo Petrakos thought he’d seen it all. Then a mummified corpse and a room full of futuristic hardware sends Guardian Force commander Jorie Mikkalah into his life. Before the night’s through, he’s become her unofficial partner—and official prisoner—in a race to save the Earth. And that’s only the start of his troubles.

Jorie’s mission is to stop a deadly infestation of bio-mechanical organisms from using Earth as its breeding ground. If she succeeds, she could save a world and win a captaincy. But she’ll need Theo’s help, even if their unlikely partnership does threaten to set off an intergalactic incident.

Because if she fails, she’ll lose not just a planet and a promotion, but a man who’s become far more important than she cares to admit.

It’s a fun, kicky and at times scary read. I’ve had a blast writing it and researching it. The law enforcement officers who’ve allowed me to poke around in their heads (and hearts) have been immeasurably helpful. I’ve always had an enormous respect for cops—I’m a retired private detective—but working personally with Sergeant Steven Huskisson, Detective Scott Peterson and retired police officer Joel Reyes, among others, has been a terrific experience for me as a writer. I think the most fun was getting to ask these guys: “And what would you do if you were kidnapped by an outer-space alien babe?” and watch their reactions. It was great!

The other neat thing about the book is that Traveling Ed Teja, a friend and noted blues guitarist, penned several songs for the book. The lyrics will be included in the novel because the male protagonist, Theo Petrakos, plays guitar as a hobby. I’d love if there was some way to tie in a CD with the book, but at this point, I don’t have anything saying I can do that.

Then in 2008, watch for CHASIDAH’S CHOICE, the sequel to GABRIEL’S GHOST.

E. I. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers?

Linnea: Remember that writing commercial genre fiction is an art, a craft and a business. It’s what I call the ACB’s of Writing. Neglect any one of the three, and your writing career will suffer. You have to be in touch with your muse-that’s the art part of it. The part the sings to you, the entices you with ideas and snippets of scenes you can visualize. The craft is knowing grammar, punctuation, spelling and word choice, but it’s also knowing correct manuscript format and how to write a query letter. The business is knowing your market, what publishers or agents would most likely read your work and, once you’re sold, it’s the business of promoting your book. Learn the ACBs and you’ll be ahead of most other writers around you.

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