I had a chance to learn some of Linda’s trade secrets and am happy to serve them up for mystery lovers today.
Q: You bring to life fascinating characters in action, especially Britt, a tough photojournalist and her on-again-off-again romance with Ben, a dedicated forest ranger. How do you come up with such dynamic characters?
A: Thanks for asking! I’ve published four books in my Spirit Lake series and am finishing a fifth, actually a prequel. My main character’s strong personality is based on her profession. She’s a Pulitzer prize-winning LA Times photojournalist who covers wars and disasters all over the world, in often life-threatening situations. She’s had to be strong to survive.
Between assignments, she returns to her hometown of Spirit Lake, Minnesota, to recharge. That’s an entirely different world, with family and friends who think she’s brash and reckless, the opposite of the respect and admiration she receives in her professional life. Initially, Britt clashes with everyone, but as the series progresses, the reader gets to know her warm heart and fierce loyalty to those she loves.
However, Britt never has a chance to recharge because her hometown of Spirit Lake is an ideal location for all kinds of dirty deeds: easy entry points along the vast wilderness of the US/Canadian border for trafficking humans, drugs and weapons, an Indian reservation that’s off limits to most law enforcement, and a dangerously mistaken perception that nothing happens in small towns. Something bad always happens that illustrates what a dangerous and small world it is, and Britt never gives up until solves the crime and has her story.
Q: Your Spirit Lake Mysteries take place in Minnesota, a state of interest to me as that’s where my father is from. What led you to set your novels there?
A: I’ve lived in California for many years, but I grew up in Northern Minnesota and get back there as often as possible. My family and many friends still live there. I believe the people, the Native American culture, the weather, lakes, small towns and green forests stay rooted in you, and I want to share that experience through my books.
Q: Your mysteries unfold by way of engaging plotlines, and I wonder how your writing process goes. Do you outline the story ahead, as a “Plotter”? Or does the story come to you as you go along, as happens for “Pantsers,” writing by the seat of their pants, so to speak.
A: My story ideas usually are taken directly from the headlines, in keeping with my main character’s profession. And I continue to ask myself “what if” until I have a plotline. I don’t do a formal outline but do nail down the basics before beginning to write: who, what, when, where, why and how. I like to be surprised by the mysteries I read and if something pops into my mind that surprises me, I’m pretty sure it will find its way into the story and surprise the reader as well.
Q: How would you categorize your series?
A: Traditional Mystery comes closest. My mysteries have an edge, but lots of heart and humor. They’re also about family and community, the people who pay attention, see our flaws and love us anyway. I write about the horrible things people can do to each other, and about the unexpected heroes who tip the balance and enhance our lives.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My latest in the series is Longshot on Murder. I’m almost finished! In Longshot, Britt has been benched by the LA Times for refusing to get help with her PTSD. On her way home to Spirit Lake, she gives a hitchhiker a ride to the reservation, and when she tries to help him solve a twenty-year-old murder, she unleashes a monster intent on killing both of them.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I write for a lot of reasons. For sanity’s sake, I’ve kept a journal for thirty years because that’s what balances and focuses me. I read all types of books, but the mystery genre is satisfying to write. The stakes are high, it’s fun to figure out the clues and hide them from readers and, as an author you can always make sure justice is served in the end.