So Just Why Did You Switch Genres?

If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?

A most fitting question since my genre is/was medical mystery suspense thrillers. A most comfortable fit with my background in academic medicine and cardiovascular physiology. My next book would be the 5th in the Lindsey McCall mystery series. I was looking forward to it because I planned to bring back several characters I had loved in the 2nd book, Do You Solemnly Swear? That is until the title, I, Claudia as in the wife of Pontius Pilate showed up while I was on a March hike with my dogs. This switch to historical fiction was wholly unplanned, so challenging as to be terrifying. Just the proper ingredients for a risk worth taking.

Writers usually have a particular Muse, but some also have a different Muse which inspired different books – does that apply in your case?

Yes… to the first part of that question. But the noun “muse” connotes something fanciful, as in mythological. There is nothing imaginary about the inspiration, even direction of my writing. This has been so for each of the novels but far more so while writing I, Claudia. That change was effected by changes in me: willingness to listen to that inner voice and trust it.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

Such an intriguing question. Although I did not think of it exactly like that, using a word like ethics, I was worried about these people I wrote about. Quite different from my characters in the Lindsey McCall mysteries who emerged from my imagination. These were people who had lived, dreamed and had goals and desires. About doing them ‘justice,’ making sure that what I wrote was at least plausible.

Of course, I did extensive research on both Pontius Pilate and Claudia by finding and studying what others had written. Just as I did on all the other novels I’d done. But eventually I got to the point where what I read did not ‘fit’ with Lucius (Pontius Pilate) or with Claudia. So it became time to stop reading what others wrote.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely, wholeheartedly, I can write only about material I and people worth writing…and reading…about: provocative yet credible. There are caveats, of course. ‘Believe in’ in the sense that the characters, story line and overall plot offer something to the reader. Something perhaps that challenges long-held assumptions, prejudices or biases. In I, Claudia, the high priest Caiaphas and Pilate himself are both men that many see as uni-dimensional. That’s true of no human being, we are all complex combinations of motives and capable of both extreme good and extreme evil.

Which of your books took you the most time to write?

The first: The Fragrance Shed By A Violet. True because I did not believe I could, or should be capable of writing it. It was a long and difficult battle with what Stephen Pressfield in his splendid book, The War of Art, calls “resistance.” Another muse, if you will, but this one is dark and dangerous.

How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?

HA! My husband and I were sitting and drinking a glass of wine shortly after Fragrance was published. (The first edition.)

He asked how I felt about it. I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well, Lin, you’ve written a novel. One that took you years to write…aren’t you proud of yourself?”

“No,” I answered, “I miss those characters! I cannot believe how much I miss them!”

“Well then, write a sequel.”

So, I did.

Guess that’s not a celebration, exactly.

If you had the choice to rewrite any of your books, which one would it be and why?

Along with that sequel I mentioned above, I also did the second edition of Fragrance. Why? Because a Kirkus review revealed that critical parts of the plot had been edited out to shorten the story. And that the overall editing job was incompetent. Naively, I thought the editors ‘knew better.’

Did you ever think you would be unable to finish your first novel?

All of the time. Yes, that’s why it took years. I listened to those voices that shout “You can’t..” “You don’t know how..” and a million iterations of these.

What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Letting go. Letting the story, characters take the lead. Trust them. With each new book, the process if the same. That constant struggle to control…the fear of not being right…

Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

Both. I think a perfectly edited book is a miracle. And is the result of a team of people.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Ceding control of the story over to inspiration, muse, God, inner voice, whatever term one chooses to use. And a new and I think essential attribute I developed and used during the writing of I, Claudia: delicacy. An awareness of the importance of brevity…of leaving room for the reader to interpret. Refusing to over explain, indulge in the details that fascinate me but not my readers.

Have you received any awards for your literary works?

Yes. Malthus Revisited has won five awards. Each of the others at least one.

Was there a time you were unable to write, At All?

Yes. Usually during each book there’s a period when I cannot write. So I have learned to accept that. Not worry about it and trust that the words will come. So I walk away. Sometimes for hours, sometimes for days. One time for several weeks. The worst thing  I can do is force the story.

Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?

Another HA! I wrote Finding the Narrow Path because I had promised a good friend that one day, I would write the story of why and how I walked away from God. And then back. It was not an enjoyable exercise in the least.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My editor and my publisher. They continue to exceed my expectations.

How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?

Because I spent my first career in the highly technical, clinical area of academic medicine, I began to write in my very early twenties. I found that writing about complex subjects was the best way−perhaps the only way to understand them. Fiction has occupied just the last twelve years…so close to over 30 years part−time.

 Do you believe in writer’s block?

No, I think it comes from fear.

Do you believe it is more challenging to write about beliefs that conflict with the ones you hold yourself?

Of course. But that’s the lure of fiction, isn’t it? During the writing of the third and fourth novels in the Lindsey McCall series, I created a character who had been a highly decorated Marine and then decided to switch to the dark side. The challenge of creating a plausible man who a reader can ‘see,’ even feel who switches from patriot to assassin can be done by carefully and methodically demonstrating how he got there. Difficult but extremely challenging and therefore exciting writing.

What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

The cover and the title cannot be overestimated, they are critical. In fact, there comes a time in the writing of each of my novels where I must see the cover. For I, Claudia, this very special cover helped me visualize her as nothing had before. And help me make the decision to stop reading what others wrote about her. A decision that feels like jumping off a cliff.

Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

For me this is true. But I think it’s contextual. While in my former career, I was seldom alone. Constant meetings, problem-solving, imagined and real crises do not lend themselves to much alone time. But after deciding to leave that field and perhaps augmented by our move to rural Nevada, I enjoy solitude…and silence. It’s tough to hear the voices of characters in the midst of noise.

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