Todays interview is with author Linda Fulton. From my corner of the U.S. I boarded my luxury virtual plane and flew to northern Louisiana near Arkansas. I was able to sleep well, tucked in amongst the fluffy clouds and the flight crew was great, getting me there for a morning visit.
Approaching Linda’s home was a visual treat. I swear there were flowers everywhere and the fragrances?…ahh just wonderful! Linda greeted me with a warm hug and offered me a seat in one of the rocking chairs on her front porch. With iced tea on the small table between us I sat back and breathed in the atmosphere. Several kinds of mint bordered that small veranda and there were gardenia and jasmine in bloom. (Linda identified it as confederate jasmine, a beautiful variety I was unfamiliar with) Scattered around the yard were vivid splashes of red in the roses and geraniums and against the fence was a luxuriant row of day lilies in purple and yellow with white fringe. All the beautiful splashes of color were stunning accents for the warmth of my hostess.
Getting out my notebook I began the interview. I placed two books on the table. Each book had a different name stated as the author yet I knew that Linda had written both.
“Tell me about your pen names.”
Linda smiled. “I make distinctions between the genres with different names. With my humorous short stories I use L. Walker. That author name is separate from my paranormal romance books which I use L.W. Browning. I’ll explain more about that in a bit.”
I nod. This is a common practice. “Tell me about your writing habits. Do you plot out your novels in advance or do you write on the fly?”
“I only wish I could plot. I have a set of scenes that I see for the characters. I also have an overall idea of how the story will go. I know what I want the reader to take away from the stories. How and why the characters will grow, etc. My job is to tie those scenes together from one to the next while getting the primary theme of the story across. Since I am writing a series, the characters don’t do all their growing in one book. I see the whole thing in my mind and how I want each one to progress for the entire series as well as each story that is told in a book.
“One of my favorite authors is Patricia Briggs. In an interview she once said that they wanted her to give them the outline of the story. She said if she did that, she would know how it ended and then she wouldn’t even want to write it. I love that answer.”
“When did you decide to become a writer and why?”
“I always wanted to write. I have told people for years that when I retired I was going to write. Many of them did not believe me. When I was young I bugged my maternal grandparents, aunts and uncles to tell me stories of the “olden days”. I was sure they had hidden treasures in their attic and wonderful stories to tell. They promised they had nothing in the attic and no stories to tell. My paternal grandfather had lots and lots of stories and he seemed to love to share them.
“One of my married in aunts was telling a very interesting story once that had been handed down from her great aunt about riding the train during the war. When she finished, I said… why don’t we have any stories like that. She said it was because my family did not have a storyteller. I decided I would be the storyteller. All those wonderful little tales that give us insight into the personalities of the people we come from, what a shame if all of those little stories are lost.
“The desire to be the storyteller has been strong with me as far back as I can remember. I love paranormal romance. I read a lot of paranormal romance. I read a couple of books where I was disappointed in the hero or thought the heroine should not have done something. So I decided, I’d just write my own paranormal romance and the hero and heroine would do what I wanted. Little did I know, the characters take on a life of their own. Sometimes after I write something, the character in that scene will haunt me. It’s the character’s way of saying… “I would not do that” so I have to go back and change it. I write the paranormal romance stories under the pen name, L. W. Browning. Yes, there’s a story behind the pen name too.
“I also write funny and true short stories of my adventures and life. I have been blessed with a funny life. I have told many of these stories to friends and co-workers through the years. A fellow I worked with asked me to publish them. He had cancer and wanted to read them while he took his chemo treatments. I have published the first book. I have two more on the way. Those are not Pulitzer material. The short stories are meant to make people appreciate that some of those things never happened to them. And maybe they’ll find it funny that some of those things did happen to me. I write those under my maiden name, L. Walker.”
As I take a sip of tea I spot a small grey cat stalking an unseen prey amongst the day lilies. I had heard that Linda loved animals and I would bet there were more living about the home. “Where is your favorite place to travel? Where would you like to go?”
“I love to travel. My husband and I go to Colorado as often as we can. I’m the kind of person who would rather travel to Death Valley than Las Vegas. I love scenery and I take many pictures. I come home and paint those pictures. I think most artists are trying to capture something when they paint or draw, a beautiful flower, an ocean wave, a feeling. Life is fleeting and artists spend a lot of time trying to capture it. It cannot really be done, but sometimes… sometimes the artist gets lucky and when people view their art, they can pass on the feeling, the beauty, the portrait or landscape.
“I draw inspiration in everything I see. People, mountains, landscapes, sky… I truly love life and everything that is beautiful about it.”
“Any advice for aspiring authors?“
Linda chuckles and gives her chair a couple of rocks before answering. “There is no such thing as an aspiring author. Okay, there may be a time between writing a story and finishing it. I guess that person might be an aspiring author then, but only for the first book. If you need to write, if it’s the desire of your heart, write. Read a lot then write. Read a lot more, then write some more.
“If someone tells you that your writing is bad, ask them why and/or how to fix it. If their suggestion has merit, then fix it. I re-wrote my first book about 30 times. I have been out of school a long time and all I did was technical writing for 30 years. I did not understand Point of View, active versus passive voice and a lot of other things writers need to know. Heck, they even changed the rule about how many spaces followed a period. Whenever someone told me I had this problem or that problem, I got a second opinion. Then I found out how to fix it, and I went through the entire story, again.
“Get some great beta readers, people you trust who know what they’re talking about. Get an editor, yes, you need an editor. Even if you have a degree in English, get an editor.
“What did all that trauma and drama teach me? I love my story and I love my characters. Now, I’m a lot more in tune with the characters and their personalities.
“Read books you like and ask yourself what makes you like them. Do what you like. I’m not a big fan of cliff hanger endings. Karen Marie Monning is. I love her Fever series, but there are no cliff hangers in my books. Don’t try too hard to please everyone, remember that ultimately, you have to please yourself.”
The grey kitty has now emerged from the Day lilies and is sitting with concentration focused upon a shadow in the hydrangeas. Only the tip of it’s tail is twitching. “How much impact does your childhood have on your writing?“
“A lot. My stories tend to be about people who don’t fit in. They have to overcome prejudice and their own feelings about themselves because of that prejudice. Each of us has to tap into our own inner strength and I think we were meant to share. We all have to know where our self-worth comes from. We have to share our stories and our thoughts and our ideas. The world is a fascinating place. Life is amazing. People are nice and not nice. We all have unique and wonderful experiences. I use mine to tell a story and I hope people who read those stories take away a little something that can help them to know and understand themselves even though the stories are pure fantasy.
“When I was young, my family moved every 2 to 3 months. We were pipeliners, a rare breed. I notice MS Word does not even recognize the word ‘pipeliner’. Funny. We ‘strung’ those huge 30 and 36 inch diameter pipes that bring natural gas to cities all over the country. Moving every 2 to 3 months meant 3 or 4 schools per school year. Now that was fun, and I was in the National Honor society. We made very good grades despite the fact that we moved so often. We would either be way ahead or way behind when we started a new school. The books were always different. My first library was textbooks from all those schools where we had to buy our books. I was the new girl a lot. My record for least number of days at a school was Hohenwald, Tennessee. I only went there 3 ½ days. It was one of those huge school buildings that everybody from kindergarten through high school from 3 or 4 counties attended. I had just found my way back to my room from recess and the cafeteria, but it was time to go.
“I also have a love of reading. If we moved to a new town during the summer, we did not have any friends there, we didn’t know anybody. We always made three stops at every new town, the bank, the post office and the library. We checked out as many books as they allowed and as soon as we read those, we got to go back and get another stack. My parents were depression-era kids. My daddy only finished 6th grade before he had to leave home for CCC camp when his family could not afford to feed him. I think he must have been brilliant because he performed complex mathematical functions in his head. I did not inherit that. My mother’s father sold a cow to buy her graduation ring when she finished high school. He sold a cow for every one of his six children so they could have a ring. Education was important to my family. I was taught that education was the only thing that no one could ever take away from you. My parents placed a high value on education. My daddy went to several schools in the army and several that he paid for himself when he got out of the army. He was a very smart man and we frequently discussed the books I read, especially the ones about WWII, which he was in.
“I was also taught that every person, yes, every one of them has something valuable to offer whether he is the janitor or the college president.
“I am still a voracious reader today. If there was a 12 step program for readaholics, I’m sure my family would have found it by now. If you know of one, please don’t tell them. I am clinging to my reading addiction and you know what they say about an addict, if they don’t want to quit…”
I took another sip or tea. “What are books for?”
“Books are for us escape, to grow, to learn, to enhance our lives and those around us. Books allow us access to all the accumulated knowledge of everyone who has gone before us. And most of that is free at the library. Books open up the universe to us. Not just the universe we live in, but the fantasy worlds that others have built for us to escape and enjoy.
“Books build us as people. They inspire us. Sometimes they make us laugh and cry. And on rare occasions, we learn something from reading a story that we would not otherwise have known about ourselves or others. A sentence or a word can have a profound impact on our lives, on who we are, on our self-worth. Books can be powerful motivators or just powerful.
“There is no knowledge that is not power. Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
Linda points and for a moment I’m distracted by orange tiger kitty coming from behind a rosebush. Silently he stalks the twitching grey tail near the day lilies. I can’t help but grin but go on. “Are you jealous of other writers?”
“No. My all-time favorite series is by Karen Marie Monning. I love her Fever series. I am glad she’s had success with it. She has written some fantastic stories that I truly enjoy. I’ve read her stories multiple times. She has already written those people and what happens to them. My people are different and they have a different set of obstacles to overcome. I could never write her stories better than she has already written them.
“I am excited that she’s doing well with that series. I hope she writes several more books for those characters because I love to read about them.
“Writing is a subjective art form. I have been fortunate to take art lessons from a world renowned painter. He is a very eccentric fellow who lives in the woods in Louisiana. Go figure. The Rockefellers have some of his paintings in their private collection. His work is amazing and I have seen many of the paintings he’s done through the years. He did one a few years ago that stopped me in my tracks. I just had to have it. He gave me a special student discount and we bought it as an investment. Also, I think he wants his students to have some of his work. The painting I got is not technically any better or worse than many of his others, but this painting, touched my heart. Looking at this painting does something to my soul. I cannot even explain it. It’s completely subjective. He entered a contest with it. The other two won awards, this one did not, but this is the one of all his work that I’ve seen that spoke to me.
“Some people will enjoy my stories and some will not. I am writing for those who enjoy my stories. We all take a chance when we buy a book by an author we haven’t read before. Sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised. Sometimes, we’re on fire about the story and cannot wait for the next one. Sometimes, we put it in the ‘do not read again’ stack. It’s like my daddy always said, “you pay your money and you take your chances”. I have found that applies to a lot in life.
“Jealous of another author… never. I am thrilled when other authors do well and I offer encouragement whenever I can. There are a lot of different people out there and we like different things. I cannot, could not ever, write a story that appealed to everybody. So I write a story I’d like to read, for people who like the stories I write. I am very happy with that.”
At that moment the orange kitty pounces on the twitching grey tail. There’s a surprised RAOW and the two tumble about until the matter is settled. The grey cat looks into the day lilies and with a feline shrug walks to another part of the garden. Linda and I both wipe the tears of laughter from our eyes. It seems natural to ask this, my last question “What makes you cry?”
She chuckles at the timing of my question but pauses in thought before answering. “Some days, I cry at dog food commercials. The one where that little dog chases the chuck wagon into the cabinet and he doesn’t get the food… that can do it for me sometimes. Other days, nothing could bring a tear to these eyes. I have no explanation and I don’t care. Emotions are there for us and we need to have them and enjoy them.”
I thank Linda for the memorable time and her willingness to answer my questions. Please check out her buy links for her books and if you wish to get to know Linda Fulton better visit her at her blog:http://lalouziane.wordpress.com