Contest and Interview with Linda Robertson



In anticipation of the release of my debut novel, I've been running a series of contests over at my blog, Organized Chaos. This month, Countdown: June! Contest will happen right here at the League. I've got an interview with a great lady and fellow-debut author, Linda Robertson, whose first novel, VICIOUS CIRCLE, releases June 30th from Juno/Pocket.

Here's how the contest part works: Comment and ask questions. It's that simple. Linda will pop in a few times a day to answer your questions, so ask away! All comments and questions count an entry into our Prize Drawing. One entry per participant, but you can comment as often as you like. The comments section will remain open today through Monday morning, June 29th. So you've got all weekend!

What's the Prize, you ask? An autographed copy of VICIOUS CIRCLE, to one lucky, randomly selected participant. And as in prior contests, the winner of this one will be put in the pot for an early copy drawing for THREE DAYS TO DEAD (to be held in the fall).


Witches and werewolves don't mix...

Being a witch doesn't pay the bills, but Persephone Alcmedi gets by between reading Tarot cards, writing her syndicated newspaper column, and kenneling werewolves in the basement when the moon is full--even if witches aren't supposed to mingle with wolves. She really reaches the end of her leash, though, when her grandmother gets kicked out of the nursing home, and Seph finds herself in the doghouse about some things she's written. Then her werewolf friend Lorrie is murdered...and the high priestess of an important coven offers Seph big money to destroy the killer, a powerful vampire named Goliath Kline.

Seph is a tough girl, but this time she bites off more than she can chew. She needs a little help from her friends--werewolf friends. One of those friends, Johnny, the motorcycle-riding lead singer for the techno-metal-Goth band Lycanthropia, has a crush on her. And while Seph has always been on edge around this 6'2" leather-clad hunk, she's starting to realize that while their attraction may be dangerous, nothing could be as lethal as the showdown that awaits them.

Welcome to the League, Linda!

--You play piano, the electric guitar, were in a hard rock band, and are an artist. How did writing a novel fall into the mix?

It’s all a kind of story-telling to me. People connect to music, art and books because they convey and evoke emotions. Art uses shadow and light, color and shape, but each person determines how that visual scene makes them react. In music, tone is set by the key and tempo, and using melody and harmony like phrasing, the beat like punctuation, it tells a story, too. Writing is the most direct—using words—but it leaves the art in your mind, letting you fill in the scene as you see it. They’re different tools. Put ‘em all together and you have movies.

--Had you always wanted to write and publish?

My mom recently dug out of her cedar chest a couple of “books” I wrote when I was 8 and 13, and neither was part of any school assignment, so I guess I’ve always had the writing bug. My senior year of high school, though, it became a firm goal when my Creative Writing teacher took notice. He offered to take some of my stories home and read/edit them over a weekend. His unexpected encouragement really cemented it—in a way that family and friends’ couldn’t.

In my late teens and early 20’s, I was on the hunt for a certain kind of book, a book with a credible, admirable female heroine. Since I wasn’t finding it, and since I tend to loathe the princess in need of rescue, I started writing them for myself.

--How did Vicious Circle and heroine Persephone Alcmedi come to be?

In 2004, at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans—pre-Katrina—I was waiting on a plane and—gasp!—bored. So I kind of fell into day-dreaming. Johnny came to me first; guess I was digging into my rock-n-roll past. As I recall, Persephone was his idea. I know writer’s often talk about their characters “interacting” in the creative process and I totally see how that could lean toward a psychotic diagnosis, but it’s true! That’s the way the Muse works with me. Of course it could’ve been something in the airport Po’Boy I ate.

--What was the publishing process like?

First, I’ve been chasing this dream for twenty years. Trying to get the right work in the right editor’s hands at the right time, for me, was like trying to get three 7’s to line up on a slot machine. I’m sure an agent would have made a big difference. That said, I heard about Juno Books, and had met and talked with editor Paula Guran at a World Fantasy Convention or two, so I sent her a submission/partial. She asked for the manuscript (SQUEE), but in the end she sent it back with a firm no and reasons why. Studying the text again with an eye on her reasons for rejecting it, I aimed to address those issues. Among other changes, characters were cut and, because of that, the ending had to be drastically rewritten. It was painful, but I did it. I asked if I could resubmit, she said yes. This time, she accepted it! (Let me say that a good attitude, a sense of trust in the editor, and being willing to work on changes seems to have served me well.) About mid-way the process, Juno teamed up with Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. That affected the time line and the initial plans, but it was unquestionably a great opportunity so there were no complaints from me!

--Who are some of your favorite authors/books, and how have they influenced you as a writer?

My adoration of books started with The Black Stallion picture book in elementary school because of the art; it lead to a “horse book” phase, followed by a “kid mysteries” phase. Then I moved into fantasy. I read the Dragonlance saga, Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Fred Saberhagen. If there was a sword or a cool creature on the cover, I was reading it. I loved Steven Brust’s Jhereg series. All fine stuff…but lacking that female heroine. Then Jennifer Roberson’s Sword Dancer series hooked me! Here was the strong female character I’d been searching for! Though told from a male point of view, the story was about the heroine, Del—a sword dancer who kicked the guys asses. (I may be wrong but I think in those days this was the only way to have a strong female: tell it from an unquestionably strong man’s POV and have him come to see her as an equal.) I’d found few sword-slinging heroines, and none of them none struggled as hard as Del—who earned it. She felt real because it wasn’t easy for her. But she was determined to achieve her goals. I wanted to be Del. And I want to give a shout out to Tanya Huff who graciously gave me the fantastic blurb for the cover. Her Blood Books have great, well drawn and believable characters, and the plots have kept me up late turning pages! And Victory is one tough lady!!

--What can we look forward to from you in the future?

Persephone’s story continues in Hallowed Circle, coming Dec. 29, 2009. It also features Don Sipley’s art on the cover (love it!) The tentatively titled Fatal Circle is scheduled for June 2010. I’ll be at Context in Columbus, Ohio the end of August, and at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia in September. I’m also doing a book signing with other fine Cleveland-area authors on Oct. 10 at Joseph Beth’s. (There’s a good question…ask me who else is going to be there….)

--Five Quickies for you:
Outline or No Outline?

A very basic, very rough outline.
Vampire or Werewolf?
If a bi-weekly schedule rotating between both isn’t admissible, I’ll take the werewolf.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Star Wars or Star Trek?
I can spew useless geekery/trivia from both. (*Episodes 4,5,6, respectively. Not so much on Episodes 1,2,3. I watched those only to see Hayden Christensen.)
Hard taco or soft taco?
Aw hell, gimme Chimichangas!!!!

And most importantly: Any good (*cough*) stories from your hard rock band days that you can share?

Hell, yeah!! My senior year of high school my almost all-girl band was the house band for a local bar. A former moose lodge, we had a practice room upstairs which meant: we had our own key’s man!!!! Being house band guaranteed us at least one gig weekend a month, we had first dibs on being the opening act for the low-ranking touring bands that came through, and had the dubious requirement that on Thursdays we played a set before the strippers started their show. I was 17, the drummer was 16. The strippers couldn’t take the stage until we’d both vacated the building!

And, best of all, we once opened for a band called Precious Metal. (We were called Corsair, proving I thought pirates were cool back in the 80’s.) This was the only show my dad ever came to. It was my mom’s second show. I convinced my writing teacher to bring his wife and come out. I’d even gotten in three kids from school to see us. During the opening song, as I sang back-up, the mic zapped my lip hard. When the song ended, as the singer was talking to the crowd getting them all worked up, I tried to ask the roadies off stage if they had seen an arc. They—in some kind of inebriated state—couldn’t understand me. Frustrated, I tried to explain and grabbed the mic. Bad thing. Electricity jolted through me, setting me on my ass! I couldn’t let go. I’ve been told sparks were flying off my guitar’s pick-ups. You know that “scream” when you suck in air in a gasp? I had the mic right in front of me and I was screaming like that. The sound squealed out of the PA system and I had everyone’s attention. Luckily, there were two folks there (out of a hundred or so) who understood why the guitarist was on the floor, screaming. They stormed the stage and yanked the mic away. We took a ten minute break, then came back out and, because of the electricity drama, we re-started our set and played AC/DC’s Live Wire first. The next day, I skipped school (yeah, it had been a school night). Classmates left at lunch to come over and tell me there was a rumor at school that I’d died.

Comments and questions are encourage (especially if you want to win!), so have at it!


Falcata Times said…
LOL, to be honest I have quite lot of questions but will ask two, one thats perhaps pretty surreal, the other just another writer enquiry:

1) How do you organise your plot outline? Ie the editing of what idea's will work for this project or need to be saved for another?

2) If music be the food of love, what is writing and please explain your answer?
Daelith said…
I'm also a fan of Jennifer Roberson’s Sword Dancer series as well as her Cheysuli series.

Did you ever read the Cheysuli series? If so, who was your favorite character? I was always partial to Finn.

Your books sounds great and I will be adding it to my wish list. Good luck with it and thank you for stopping in to chat with us.
Linda Robertson said…
Falcata : 1.) The most recent example of my "rough outline" is this: my WIP, book three in this series, I picked up where book 2 left off, so I kind of knew what to do. I get 1/3 of the way in and have to stop as all the lines are getting knotted. So I take sticky notes and make one for each thing that needs to happen. Then I start placing them around, sometimes this leads to more sticky notes, and sometimes a powerful sneeze makes you have to start all over. (this happened twice) Seeing the "things that must happen" like that lets me move them around for timing and impact. Then I create a bullet-point outline in the book document and get to work!

Falcata 2.) if music is the food of love then writing must be....hmmm (great question)What do folks need? food, shelter and clothing. music=food. (As in fuel for action, and shall we vote for music that equals a Red Bull?) So writing=shelter. (As in safe in our suspension of disbelief.) And art=clothing.(As in swathing tactile receptors in mood.)

Daelith I have not read the Cheysuli. I should, I know. Keep meaning too. :-)
And an FYI, even though y'all probably figured it out, Linda posts on Blogger as Wolfsbane and Absinthe.

FD said…
The except on your website spells "werewolves" as "wærewolves". (I hope the different spelling comes thru in Blogger.) In case it's not just my browser going wonky, is there a reason why you decided to go with the special spelling?
Linda Robertson said…
I used the ligatured a-e for wærewolf because in the book Persephone refers to her friends as wæres. Spell checker HATES "weres" so...wæres was born. I considered just calling them wolves, but I /might/ mean real wolves in some instances. So this odd spelling is hopefully avoiding confusion and not causing it. :-) /I think/ the publishers decided to use the more traditional spelling on the cover so people didn't have a "WTF?" reaction.
Jacqueline C. said…
Was there a reason why you didn't have an agent before you submitted your manuscript to Juno?
Linda Robertson said…
Couldn't get an agent! I've talked with a handful of various agents at cons, (bought adult beverages and did the whole schmoozing/ chatting thing) and though I've submitted different works over and over around the agent realms, had some requests for full, none of them made an offer to represent me. Juno didn't require their submissions be agented, so I took a shot. To my knowledge they still /don't/ require their subs be agented. And I still don't have an agent; am looking forward to meeting some this fall at Dragon Con.
Anonymous said…
I can't wait to read this book!

How hard was it for you to have to cut characters out of your story?

And what was the editing process like for you?

Amanda W.
Beth C. said…
Our childhood reading preferences are scarily similar - I was horse obsessed and read any books available, and at 12 I found Dragonlance and the fantasy genre. Can you see any direct influences from those books on your current writing?
Anonymous said…
I like the "wæres" usage, too. Very cool. I can't wait to read your book.

Good Luck.

BTW, this is 3rd try to post. Apparently Booger, I mean Blogger, doesn't like my shiny new PC or LiveJournal. Dang elitist websites. So I'll try doing it old school/anonymous.

Tom Gallier
macbeaner said…
Playlists seem to be a big thing among authors nowadays. What would be 5 songs on your playlist for this book?
Caffey said…
Hi Linda! So nice to meet you and hear about your debut!! This sounds totally unique! Love it already! With the neat mixture of a witch, a werewolf an Tarot cards and more, loved how it all came to you when traveling!

I'm deaf but I do feel music and do like to read lyrics. I used to hold on to my sisters guitar as she played it. She traveled with a band (I wished I knew which one) but my hubby and son who are both hard of hearing love AC/DC! So they were T-Shirts of them and all. But I never did feel their music. I should try that soon!

Linda, with your unique theme here, are there others you'd like to write? Other genres too?

Lexie said…
Ohh I remember the Sword-Dancer books (actually I just dug out the first book...i never did get around to reading the others ::sigh:: ) but most of the 80's fantasy books I have DO seem have Male POV's commenting on strong females. The few I have that are from a female perspective kind of fit that stereotype of the gutsy, beautiful sword wielder who sleeps around, might be a little bi-sexual and wears tight black leather halter tops and chainmail underwear to fight a few dozen troops. >.>

Oh! But the Tarma and Kethry books by Mercedes Lackey don't *exactly* fit that description. Told from the female POV, with two strong women in charge (one is a sorceress with a lusty appetite and the other is a warrior woman who is asexual by choice) that have sometimes amusing, sometimes way less amusing adventures. The Sorceress' um lusty appetites come in handy though since the swordswoman is trying to repopulate her slaughtered tribe's land, but she swore an oath to her Lady Goddess to be as asexual as her sword.

Er..right the question! (I tend to ramble)

::ahem:: Will we get to see any of your music in the book itself? What I mean is, a) do we get to see hunky Johnny actually performing and b) will that be inspired by real songs you sang or completely new ones?
Unknown said…
Hi Linda!

Amazing, Juno doesn't require an agent representation. I had no idea.

How do you research? How much time goes into it? How long does it take to get your ideas roughed out?


Dottie :)
Linda Robertson said…
Wow, you guys are keepin me busy!

AmandaW- Cutting characters was very painful (and tdious to get them out of the various scenes) but it allowed me to see them doing other things. I didn't throw those characters away. They are popping up as the books continue. As for editing...the first time I saw my manuscript back from the editor I thought, "Why did she even accept this? I SUCK!!!!" But she told me that is a typical 1st timer's reaction. I determined to learn from those mistakes. In book 2 she said I didn't repeat them, I just made all new ones! hee hee.

BETH- If those childhood books have influenced my current writing, it's a trickle down effect thats gotten blurry. I don't see it. A previous (unpubbed)novel of mine is more Fantasy and I can see the Dragonlance influence in it.

TOM--thanks. I hope "booger" is playing nice now.

MACBEANER-- I listen to movie scores when writing (lyrics get me singing and then I'm not writing) so how about the top 5 movie scores I listened to?
1.)Last Samurai, Hans Zimmer
2.) Lord of the Rings, Howard Shore
3.)Highlander I, II, III, various
4.)MI:2, Hans Zimmer
5.)Phantom, David Newman

CATHIE CAFFEY- you're making me think of Beethoven and how he "felt" music after he'd lost his hearing. (Love Beethoven!) Having played ACDC, let me tell you, ALL of their music is very similar, same basic chords just differing order, same structure, breaks, etc. so you might find that feeling one will feel just like another. :-) 'Cuz it sure does on the guitar. But I still dig 'em. Esp. old Bon Scott ACDC. And I would like to publish some old-style fantasy, hero and quest stuff in a foreign world.

LEXIE- I've always meant to read M putting her on the list! How did I miss her??? And yes, music is used in the first book, but we don't see Johnny on stage til book two. He quotes lyrics of his songs to Persephone in both 1 & 2. I actually scored one of my earlier books and /someday/ I'll have my own CD.

DOTTIE- I research before and during the process. I read a LOT of stuff that "might" be relevant and I couldn't guess at the hours I've spent (many wasted) weeding through pages to find that germ of inspiration, or that info that works with the story. As for roughing ideas out, book two went faster than book three, so I'd have to say each one must be different.

Thank you to all of you who have commented. Your kind words and enthusiasm mean so much! :-)
Sara M said…
Does your series have a name? I'm just wondering because I have this huge word document where I keep all the book I've read/want to read organized, and I tend to do it by series. (I know, I'm a nerd. Lol.)

I'll definitely be checking out Vicious Circle the moment it comes out!
Hi Linda!

My question is: Do you go anywhere to do your research? If you had a chance, would you write any other genre like maybe contemporary or historical?
Linda Robertson said…
SARA--All the titles, I hope, will have 'circle' in them, so they could be referred to as the Circle Series, but readers seem to often call a series by the heroine's name, in which case it would be the Persephone Alcmedi series. I've seen them referred to both ways in other blogs and such. Is there a trend revealed in your list, I wonder? :-)

I HEART BOOK GOSSIP-- I usually depend on my local library to have or order in books I want. For a previous unpubbed work I did travel to Mystic Seaport. :-) My heart is in UF right now, with Fantasy a close second. As for contemporary, that sounds like a non-magical story, and I'd be floundering! Historicals seem to have such depth and emphasis placed on that time, culture, etc. and I'm not sure that even if I made a serious effort to capture all that, that I would be successful. I think to write and write well the author must be passionate about the story he/she is telling, and my passion is magic, vampires and werewolves.
Valerie said…
I love the cover for Vicious Circle. It's truly beautiful and I'd totally pick it up in a bookstore, but I do have to wonder how well *you* feel it fits the book?

I know I've picked up enough books over the years that I can't begin to understand why a publisher gave them a cover that made no connection with the book itself.

Either way, the book sounds awesome! I'm glad I saw this link, that way I can add you on my debut UF authors list and pick it up once the book is out! Congrats!
Kimberly B. said…
Hi Linda! This book sounds just amazing, and Persephone in particular sounds like a great heroine. As a mythology buff, I'm intrigued by her name, and find myself wondering whether she's exceptionally close to her mother, or if she disappears for six months at a time. . .
In making Persephone a witch, I was wondering what system of magic you used for her. Was it something you made up yourself, cobbled together from different traditions, or borrowed completely from a single belief system? And which parts of werewolf canon did you keep or play around with?
Can't wait to read the book! Thanks for the great giveaway!
Sara M said…
I would say around half of the series in my list are named after the hero/heroine's name, and the other half are named after something specific to the series (which tends to be for series where they're multiple heroines/POVs, but not always). And there are a few that are named after the first book.

Oh, and I've spotted your book early at both Borders and Barnes and Noble! (In the Orlando, FL -ish area)
Donna said…
Your book sounds like my kinda book. I'm always on the look out for a heroine who can take care of herself. Add the music, I'm there. Two of my favorite things. I'll definitely be on the look out for Vicious Circle.

Do you write full time or do you have a day job that you write around?

Thank you for the interview,
L said…
Do you like to write at night or in the morning?
Linda Robertson said…
VALERIE- I truly love the cover! Don Sipley did a fantastic job, and he did Hallowed Circle's cover too. (It's awesome as well...!) There's a link to his art page on my website, just under the header of the home page. He's very talented.

KIMBERLY B- Oooo, I have to be careful answering your questions, don't wanna give away anything. My Persephone character's mother dumped her with her grandmother to raise, but /Nana's/ name is Demeter. (hee hee hee...) Seph is a solitary ecclectic pagan/witch, so I cobble things together. And the werewolves-hmmm. I've created a new origin for them but I can't say more in answer to your question. :-)

SARA- thanks for sharing that info about your list, that's interesting. Hadn't thought of the variation of multiple heroine series. And SQUEE! You've seen the book out already! I just squeed outloud and scared my dogs!!!
Linda Robertson said…
Donna and Aelxa sneaked in questions while I was answering the others....

DONNA- I was a realtor last year...awful timing, that decision. I learned ALOT, had fun and met some great people, but I sold only one house. Not enough to cover dues/licensing and keep me there. :-( But the book deal came in and now I'm full time writing. (around the kids, dogs, housework, etc.)

ALEXA- I write all the time. Every spare minute. I try to get my chores out of the way ASAP so I can get to the writing. I'm always in front of the computer, or working in some capacity toward the stories. I'm that geeky.
alanajoli said…
Wow, Hayden Christiansen and not Ewan McGregor? You sure you're not a vampire girl? :)

Given Persephone's name (and her Nana's), did you incorporate a lot of ideas from the Greek myth into your story? Or is it more a nod and a wink?

Great interview!
Tynga said…
Please sign me in for the draw!
Posted about this interview on my blog =)

tynga85 @ hotmail .com
Linda Robertson said…
ALANA--More of a nod and a wink, but as the series progresses Persephone, of course, goes through hell... hee hee.
Wendy said…
Hi, Linda! Do you have a plan on how many books you want to write about Persephone? Or is it sort of like when inspiration strikes?
Tanya said…
on the mechanics of writing - what type of software do you use to write your novels with?
Linda Robertson said…
WENDY--For now there are three, but I would love to keep going. I've tentatively got ideas for nine... If they do well the publisher will let me keep going, right? That's my hope. :-)

KIYOTE--Just Microsoft word and lots and lots of paper. I keep thinking some of the writing programs might be worth checking into, make me more efficient, y'know? But I haven't checked any out. Is there one you recommend?
Donna said…
Hi Linda, It sounds like it worked out all around for everyone. Good Luck on Vicious Circle's release on Tuesday!

Take care,
Wendy said…
Linda, totally! That's great, the more books the better! :)
Julissa Faw said…
This book looks like one I could get hooked on and Linda Robertson sounds like a cool person from the interview. :)
Llehn said…
Star Trek geeks and Star Wars geek unite!
Lynnette said…
I'm looking forward to reading this one.
Linda Robertson said…
JULISSA-- thank you!

LLEHN-- I agree, but I wouldn't know what to wear. :-)

LYNNETTE-- Thanks!

(And Donna, it has worked out well. :D )

It's Monday morning but I don't know if Kelly's cutting off the entries in EST, PST or what, but I'll go ahead and say /thank you/ to everyone who posted. This was such a fun way to do a contest. Good luck to you all! And read Kelly's book this fall!!!
Yep, contest closed. You guys are awesome! I have to run to work, but tune in this evening for the winner of a signed copy of Linda's fabulous debut!

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