Linda Hall has written 18 novels of mystery and suspense as well as many short stories. She also has a background as a journalist. At Write! Canada, Linda will be leading the Continuing Class, “Writing Fiction that Surprises and Engages: Fiction Writing Intensive” and also appearing on the panel,“Roadblocks, Detours, and Acts of God”
Growing up in New Jersey and marrying a Canadian has instilled Linda's love for Canada and the U.S. She and her husband both enjoy sailing in their boat, Mystery.
What are some of your fondest memories of growing up in New Jersey?
The beach. Seriously. Going to the shore. I love the ocean and can’t imagine living too far from it. I did for a long while, but now I’m happy to be ‘home.’
Was writing a career that you always knew that you would pursue?
Yes. I was always a writer. Even as a kid I wrote. It was what I excelled at. It was what I felt I was made to do. It is about the only thing I felt I could do. This is why I went to Moody Bible Institute where I majored in Communications/Writing.
What were some topics you covered as a journalist?
Oh my goodness – anything and everything. I wrote news and features for the Trail Daily Times in Trail, BC where I covered my town’s news. That included city council meetings, school board meetings, college board, plus fires, accidents and anything else newsworthy that happened. I also wrote features as they came up.
As well, I wrote regularly for the Canadian edition of Focus on the Family magazine (no longer published.), and ChristianWeek, plus many other magazines and newspapers.
When did you first realize that you enjoyed writing mysteries?
Probably when I was ten and started reading them. I have always enjoyed reading mysteries beginning with Nancy Drew. Mystery, suspense and thriller still remain my favorite reading material.
The ocean is always there. It’s always a part of the setting. I almost think of it as a character in all of my novels. The ocean can be a benign aunt or a raging serial killer. And there is no controlling it. Well, I guess there is one person who can calm the seas, but only one. We are land creatures and when we take to the sea in boats, we are at her mercy. I think it’s that tension that I find fascinating – in my writing and when we sail in the summertime.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I have so many and they constantly change! I get several mystery newsletters and enjoy downloading and reading debut mystery authors on my Kobo. I’ve discovered some wonderful writers that way. But some of my old standby favourites are Laura Lippman, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Linwood Barclay, Michael Connelly, Lisa Gardner, Harlan Coben… Oh my, the list is long – but these are authors that I actively wait for every new book they write.
At Write! Canada you will be part of a panel called: Roadblocks, Detours and Acts of God. What are some of the Roadblocks, Detours and Acts of God that you have experienced?
I'll save most of my experiences for the panel, but it's enough to say that my writing career hasn't gone along in the measured and successful fashion that I thought it would when I began, that is – one sale, one book building on the next and building on the next until I reached the great pinnacle of success and great riches!
I have had four mystery series stopped after two or three books, not my choice. I've been shuffled to new editors mid-stream who demanded book changes mid-stream. I am now contract-less for the first time since 1992, a scary proposition, but one that I feel strangely calm about. I don't know what the future holds in terms of my writing, but I guess I don't need to know. What I'll do is keep writing my stories (I can't not – no matter what the economy!), and seeking an audience.
But more of this at the panel!
Writing Fiction that Surprises and Engages, is an intensive workshop at Write! Canada. What do you hope the writers will take away from the experience of reading and commenting on each others’ stories?
Workshopping a story is always a good experience for authors. It is both affirming and instructive to get another writer's perspective and opinion. In addition, as the instructor, I will take the opportunity to talk about realistic dialogue, showing vs. telling, writing with passion, plotting, beginnings/middles/and endings, writing with sensory language.
Individuals can make an appointment with you to ask you to read their manuscript of up to 3,000 words in length. What are you looking for as you read someone's fiction work?
I want to be blown away by the first sentence, the first paragraph. Busy editors with six feet high slush piles rarely get beyond the first page. Often they don't make it past the first paragraph. When I read a story or the first part of a novel I want it to grab me. I want it to make me want to read on. I will be looking at that primarily.
I'm also looking for clear writing, a unique voice, realistic dialogue, language from the senses and showing rather than telling.
How has the writing experience caused your faith to grow?
Failure, rather than success, has caused my faith to grow. Writing is not an easy profession, and today like practically no other time (except maybe during the era of the invention of the printing press), the publishing industry is changing. This can be frightening and confusing. It has been for me. I have had to learn to leave everything with God. He's the only safe place in this up and down career.
Writing is my full time job. But even so, I can become lazy and find a dozen other things to do besides writing. There's always laundry and housecleaning to do! But, I write every day, often going to coffee shops and cafes to work on my novels. I find I can concentrate better when I'm at Starbucks or Second Cup. I write a lot by hand – that's with a pen on paper rather than with a computer.
What is some of the best advice that you have been given as a writer?
Get off the internet and write better books! I heard that piece of advice at a Romance Writers of America conference and have not forgotten it.
Do you have anything else you would like to share?
How about – get off the internet and write better books?
I look forward to meeting many of you at this year’s Write Canada
Linda was interviewed by Jenny Burr of the Write! Canada PR team.