Award-winning author Linda Hall has written eighteen mystery novels plus many short stories. She has written for Multnomah Publishing, WaterBrook Press, Random House and most recently for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. Most of her novels have something to do with the sea. When she’s not writing, Linda and her husband Rik enjoy sailing the coast of Maine aboard their 34′ sailboat aptly named – MYSTERY. Her newest release is STRANGE FACES, a collection of her short mystery stories.
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Linda: I think I was born writing. When I was a little girl I was forever coming up with stories that would get partially down, before I got bored with the actual process of putting pencil to paper. My favorite ‘game’ with my friends was something we called ‘stories’ (Very original title I know, but hey, we were just little kids.). We would come up with ideas, put them all in a pile and then would draw from this and then have ten minutes to write a story. Or, we would write a paragraph, fold over the paper and pass it to the next person to complete. I couldn’t understand why my friends got bored with the game after ten minutes. I was happy to play it all afternoon while sitting in the summer grass in the sunshine.
As a young adult I studied journalism and worked for several newspapers before settling on writing novels.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Linda: Do we ever feel successful as writers? Do we ever feel “good enough”? I’m a writer, it’s what I am. It’s what I do, but I still don’t know if I would add the adjective “successful” to it. There’s always someone more successful, ya know?
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Linda: Relatively quickly. Back in the late 80s maybe it wasn’t so hard to get a contract with a traditional publisher. You didn’t even need an agent then. I went to a writer’s conference, met with an editor who immediately liked my idea and proposal. About a month later I got a letter (Remember those?) asking for the complete manuscript.
After I printed my novel, boxed it up and mailed it (Remember those days?), it was accepted almost immediately. As the years have progressed, getting things published by traditional publishers has become harder, I think, or at least that’s my perception. Now that I’ve reached what some in this world call “retirement’ age, (although I will never retire from writing) I’ve decided to go out on my own and self publish. So far I’m loving the challenge.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Linda: I would have gone Indie way sooner than I have. The past few years – maybe five – have been a wee bit frustrating for me career wise. I was traditionally published by Christian publishers, and I longed to break out of that box and publish general market mysteries, rather than inspirational romantic suspense. That was my “brand,” yet I’d been trying to climb out from under that label for a long time. Just this past year I decided that if I want to do this in my life, I had better do it now. So, I have joined the ranks of the Indie authors and am finally writing general market mysteries.
To celebrate, on my birthday this past May I released a collection of short mystery stories called Strange Faces. I’m very proud of that book because it represents where I am now as a writer. In about a month’s time I will be releasing Night Watch, my first full length Indie suspense novel. And oh my, the cover is GORGEOUS! Can’t wait until the “cover reveal”.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Linda: It is scary and frustrating. First of all there’s a ton of social media, and more being invented, it seems, every day. There’s Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads and Instagram and Linked In and Google Plus and the list goes on. Plus, there are websites to keep up and blogs and newsletters to write, not to mention BookBub, BookSends, ENT, eBook Soda, Book Gorilla – and oh my, that list is never ending!
If I do five promotional things in a day, that little voice in my head says, “Yeah, but So-And-So-Bestselling-Author did six things today.” So, the guilt sets in.
I’ve come to realize that I can only do what I can do. And when it becomes un-fun then I’m just old enough and feisty enough not to do it. I enjoy Facebok and love interacting with my readers there. I’m also on Twitter and I blog and love writing my periodic newsletters.
So, I’ve gone on and on about the frustrations of promotion, when there’s also the writing.
Since I’m brightest in the morning that’s when I write. During the afternoons and evening is when I work on promotional things. Some promotional things only require scant attention, so I can sit with my laptop on my lap, watch TV and work on promotional stuff during the boring parts or commercials. I also try to read at least an hour a day – usually in the afternoon.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Linda: I think there’s nothing like getting that first major acceptance! When I got that phone call back in 1992, I can even remember the room I was in. I was holding the phone and dancing around the room. “It’s finally happening,” I said to myself. “It’s finally happening!”
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Linda: This question is sort of like, What sets you apart as a person? We are all different. And because we are all different, no two books will ever be alike – ever. My faithful readers who read my books will probably not enjoy the books of another author. And that other author’s readers would probably not read mine. The trick is to find those readers who like your books. And then treat them very well.
More specifically, I write general market mysteries set on the east coast which usually involve the ocean and sailing.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Linda: Everyone will tell you to keep on writing and don’t give up, so I won’t, because you already know that.
My single most important recommendation is to read. And read a lot. Read every day. Join a book club. Stephen King in On Writing says that he writes in the morning and reads in the afternoon. I know this is true (‘name dropping’ moment here) because I live right next to Maine and a friend of mine saw him in a coffee shop in Bangor one afternoon reading a novel.
If we expect others to buy and read our books, then we darn well better be prepared to buy and read theirs. Am I sounding like a broken record? I hope so. If anything is going to make me run screaming through the city with my can of spray paint is the writer who says, “I’m too busy to read.” If you are too busy to read, then quit writing and read for awhile. Books are a writer’s job. Okay. Now I’ll step away from the edge and get my breathing back to normal.
My second most important recommendation is to read writing that’s better than yours. The single best way to improve your writing is to let good writing sink into your brain, your heart, your very pores.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Linda: Probably my email newsletter. I’m trying something different this year in terms of contests and giveaways. To reward my faithful readers, I’ve decided that my contests and giveaways will only be for my newsletter subscribers, rather than my Facebook followers or on my website.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Strange Faces, May 2014, Independently published with the Alexandria Publishing Group
Critical Impact, Oct. 2010, Love Inspired/Harlequin
On Thin Ice, April 2010, Love Inspired Harlequin
Storm Warning, January 2010, Love Inspired Harlequin
Shadows on the River, April 2009, Love Inspired/Harlequin
Shadows at the Window, July 2008, Love Inspired/Harlequin
Shadows in the Mirror, Oct. 2007, Love Inspired/Harlequin
Black Ice, 2007 by Waterbrook Press/Random House
Dark Water, 2006 by Waterbrook Press/Random House
Chat Room, 2003 by Multnomah Publishers, Sisters, OR
Steal Away, 2003 by Multnomah Publishers
Sadie’s Song, 2001, Multnomah Publishers
Katheryn’s Secret, 2000, Multnomah
Island of Refuge, 1999, Multnomah
Margaret’s Peace, 1998, Multnomah
April Operation, 1997, Evangel Press, IN
November Veil, 1996, Evangel
August Gamble, 1995, Evangel
The Josiah Files, 1993, Thomas Nelson
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Strange Faces is a collection of seven stories that will take you to a place where killers can linger in your backyard but where magic can sometimes change everything.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Linda: I’m an “old folksinger.” Writing is my vocation, but music is my eternal avocation. Early on I remember coming to the place where I had to make a career choice – will I choose music or will it be writing. I chose writing. I had this mistaken idea that it might be Even so, back in the day I never refused an opportunity to play in open mike bars. Currently, I sing in two city choirs and once a week me and my 45 year old Martin guitar go to the nursing home where I get to sing all the songs I love. Hand me a guitar and I will sing for you.