Linda Palmer: After ten years and 21 books with Silhouette Books, I was very tired of genre romance. I really didn’t want to read it, much less write. I focused on other things for the next ten years, specifically my mother, who had breast cancer, and my daughter, who had a baby. I became “Nana” and had a ball with that. When I began to read again, I found Meg Cabot. Her YA novels absolutely captured me. I could not put them down. I decided then and there that’s what I wanted to write. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books have been a total joy, too, and really confirmed my choice.
Phoebe: Did you know what type of young adult romance you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you?
Linda: I deliberately dissected my favorite YA books to find out why I loved them so much. Based on that, I made a list of what I wanted in mine. I’ve tried to stay with that “formula” since it ensures a book that I would want to read, myself.
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote besides any school work? And do you still have it with you?
Linda: Writers write, and that’s what I’ve always done, starting with poems in grade school and moving up short stories in junior high and high school. I still have spiral notebooks of handwritten poems and romance short stories from that time period. Hopefully, no one will ever read them!
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research?
Linda: I research as I write, using the internet. Everything has to be looked up from the weather in a certain state to the food in a restaurant. Sometimes a quick peek will work, and other times I print off entire articles and maps. For the book I’m working on now, I’ve already printed off articles on the Appalachian mountains, a holistic health college, and the University of Alabama, as well as a list of mystical herbs…and I’m only twelve pages into the story.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your current release, The Cinderella Swap?
Linda: Meg Cabot’s 1-800-Where-R-You series really inspired this book. The heroine in those books is a tomboy with a psychic gift and a boyfriend to die for. Keeping those things in mind, I created Ren Montgomery, a girl who can’t stay out of trouble for all the right reasons. I deliberately brainstormed her psychic gift—seeing a flash of color that reveals character—trying to come up with something different.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your upcoming novel, Jaguar Moon?
Linda: Twilight and “Ghost Hunters” on the SyFy channel inspired me to think outside the box for this one. I wound up with Livvie Merick, an empath, who encounters a couple of ghosts and a shapeshifter in the course of the novel.
Phoebe: How do you come up with each of your characters for your novels? How do you choose their names out of so many names out there?
Linda: My characters just come to me. Not sure how. But I always have a clear picture of them in my head and can hear each one’s distinct voice. I choose names very carefully off the lists that are on the internet. I get last names from the phone book. I say them out loud and try to match them to my character. I also look at the meaning of the name, and sometimes I honor people or beloved characters from books or movies. For example, I got Livvie’s last name, Merrick, from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Almost all my characters have nick names. Ren is short for Serena. Livvie is short for Olivia.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your current release, The Cinderella Swap? Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your current release, The Cinderella Swap?
Linda: My favorite character in this book is Dugan, the hero. As senior, Dugan has a lot on his plate, including a mom and stepmom who’ve died of cancer, a dad whose not around, a stepsister going through her awkward junior high school phase, and a grandmother with Alzheimer’s. He’s hard working, self-deprecating, and totally perfect for Ren. That said, I relate more to Ren, who sympathizes with the underdog and often takes on more than she can handle.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite character that you really enjoyed writing about in your upcoming novel, Jaguar Moon? Did you have a character that you felt you could really relate to in your upcoming novel, Jaguar Moon?
Linda: My favorite character and the one I relate to most is Livvie, the heroine. She’s a bit of an outsider, as I always was, and has a very open mind. Unfortunately, I’m not psychic.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Linda: I usually start with a single scene and from there build up the back story. I make charts and lists and timelines. I also write short character summaries. I usually have a whole file of back-up stuff by the time I’ve finished.
Phoebe: Have you ever considered writing a series or are writing stand alone novels your preference? How would writing each be different for you?
Linda: I think a series would be hard to write if the same characters were used over and over because the relationship between the hero and heroine would have to be spaced out over the course of the books. That could get tricky since I’m all about happy endings. On the other hand, it might be fun to take minor characters from one book and give them their own story in another. I know that some of my “test readers” have wanted to read more about the secondary characters in Jaguar Moon.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Linda: The first time around, it took me 2 ½ years and four books to find an agent. The seventh agent I queried took me on. She sold my first paperback romance, Heart of the Matter, to Silhouette Books in six months. I didn’t know at the time how lucky I was. The second go round, ten years and a new genre later, I tried for 2 years to get an agent and bombed out. So I did a little research and turned to e-publishing. Though a lot of paper writers seem leery of e-books, I think they’re the wave of the future, and I’m having a ball writing them.
Phoebe: Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your novels?
Linda: I read. What goes in must come out, at least in my case. I read books that open me up to new ideas, for example Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books and Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books. Before long, I have to write again or explode.
Phoebe: What is your biggest reader pet peeve, if you have any? (stock characters, unresolved endings, predictability, everything wrapped up hurriedly in the end, etc.)
Linda: Point of view mess ups drive me nuts. I’m a real purist where that’s concerned. I’m also a grammar nut, which is not to say I don’t make mistakes. I do, but I try to catch and fix them.
Phoebe: Which aspects of writing do you enjoy the most and why? And what is your biggest writing pet peeve? (overuse of exclamation points, adverbs, bad guys named Wayne, etc.), if you have any?
Linda: I hate to plot. I’m lousy at it, and it’s stressful. Thank God for the friends who brainstorm with me. But once I’ve got the story in my head and a synopsis on paper, I’m good to go. And nothing makes me happier than finding the right word and condensing a ten-word sentence into a five-word sentence with clear, concise meaning. It’s all about word play and rhythm. It takes me about an hour to write a page, but when I’m finished with it, I’m finished. No second and third drafts for me.
Phoebe: What is the one writing tool can you not live without?
Linda: My computer. I started with a manual typewriter, worked up to an electric typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. Couldn’t live without it now.
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Linda: Good question. I’ve always worked full-time and written on the side, which means a lot of late nights, early mornings, and weekends at the computer. I try not to get stressed when I’m kept away from my story for weeks at a time, but it’s hard. And there are days when I want to give up. But the rewards are worth the sacrifices. I know that I’ll be able to retire from the “day job” in a couple of years, and then the challenge will be to stay off the computer.
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing? Do you have any hobbies?
Linda: I read and watch movies to relax and refuel. I also like to draw.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Linda: I can’t really think of anything. I will say that s lot of amazing writers helped me get on the right path by offering kind, constructive critiques.
Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Linda: The single most important thing I ever did was read Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain. That book showed me the way, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Another good book is Writing Novels That Sell by Jack Bickham. As far as promotion and marketing tips, I’m still learning those, myself. I think the main thing is to create a web presence. There are a lot of wonderful e-romance web sites out there, including this one. Take advantage of their promo ideas.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?
Linda: I’m totally into paranormal books at the moment. I particularly admire JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Meg Cabot, Charlaine Harris, and Jim Butcher.
Phoebe: What are you reading now? And what do you plan to read after that?
Linda: I’m re-reading Dead to the World by Charlaine Harris (love that Eric!). After that, I’ll continue with the Harry Dresden books. I’m on number six now and loving them.