When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I think I knew as soon as I learned how to read, which was when I was three or four if my mother is to be believed. It amazed me that someone could put words―just words, squiggly black scratches―on paper and create real people and situations. At least they were real to me. I wanted to be able to do that, and it's still my goal every time I sit in front of a blank computer screen.
How long have you been writing?
Well, it seems like forever. I wrote my first short story when I was ten and kept writing. Short stories. Poetry. I didn't attempt my first novel until I was in my late twenties. A novel seemed such a massive undertaking. I was terrified I wouldn't be able to finish it. Then I was afraid I'd never have another story idea. It was a huge undertaking, but once I realized the breadth of scope it offered, and I never looked back. And the story ideas come faster than I can write them.
How did you pick the genre you write in?
I didn't set out to write in any genre. I wasn't that knowledgeable or sophisticated back then. I'd written five novels that editors and publishers called "women's fiction" or "romantic suspense." It didn't matter to me what they called them as long as they liked them. Then I came up with an idea for a mystery, LIVE Ringer. Writing that first mystery was the most fun I've ever had, and I fell in love with the characters. I wasn't ready to let them go when the first book ended. There was so much more I wanted them to experience. That's how the LIVE series was born. LIVE Ammo was just released, and LIVE in Person should be out next summer. All the story ideas I come up with these days are mysteries, so I guess I'd have to say my genre chose me.
Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I used to be a dedicated seat-of-the-pants writer. I believed outlining would "stifle my creativity." Then the day came where I was halfway through a novel, and I was lost. I wasn't sure how I'd written myself into a corner, but I couldn't see any out except to scrap the first half of the manuscript. The problem was, I liked the first half. It took over a year to figure out how to fix that novel. Now I outline. Even if it's no more than a sentence a chapter, I have a map of sorts. I don't always stick to the outline, and the story often goes off in surprising directions, but the map is there if I need it. And I usually do.
What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?
My first novel was Our Ideal. I still love that novel. I was certain it was the best first novel ever written. I knew that, if publishers would just read the manuscript, they'd love it, too. I imagined bidding wars for the right to publish it. And yes, I tried to get it published. And tried, and tried. The publishers disagreed with my analysis of the manuscript. Looking back at it thirty years later, I have to, albeit reluctantly, agree with them. I've rewritten it a dozen times, but I still can't seem to get it right. I'll keep trying, though. How can you reject your first baby, even if it's not as pretty as the later ones?
How many rejections have you received?
Quite honestly, I quit counting after three hundred. I've been rejected by both agents and publishers. It happens. I consider it "paying the dues." I teach a class on "Making Rejection Work for You." God knows, I speak from experience. In class, I tell my students to write that first novel, send it out, and start the next one. When the first novel comes back, send it out again and start another one. Repeat as necessary. Well, there's actually more to the class than that, but I consider that the gist. By the time I got a novel published, I'd written five. Now that I have four in print, I've written nine. I just keep writing. I can't imagine not writing.
What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?
I think my greatest strength is that I'm such a good liar. No, really. How can you create fiction unless you're a good liar? I just plain like to make things up. These days, I try to confine it to my writing.
My greatest writing strength, I suppose, is character development. I write character-based fiction because my characters are alive to me. I can see them, hear them. I know what they'd do in given situations. They say things that would never come out of my mouth, and they crack me up all the time. I love them (or hate them, as necessary). I've read a lot of plot-driven fiction, but I always come away from one of those feeling let down, no matter how well the plot was developed. To me, the plot is like the skeleton of the creature. The characters are the flesh, the richness and beauty. They are what drive my stories, and everyone who's read my books talk about the characters, how real they seem. So I guess you could say they're pretty good drivers.
What do you do when you are not writing?
You mean those extra fifteen minutes every week? I'm exaggerating a bit, but until you're published, your writing time is just that: time to write. After you're published, you spend a whole lot of that time doing signings and traveling to appearances and conferences and teaching and generally promoting your books. That doesn't leave as much time for writing as I'd like, but it's a part of the price of being published, a worthy trade off.
Ditto with reading. It seems like I used to read all the time. It was and is one of my greatest pleasures, but it's hard to find time these days. I don't like to read while I'm actively writing a first draft because sometimes I find the style of the book I'm reading bleeding into mine. It doesn't present a problem when I'm editing, just during the first draft. Weird, but true.
Other than that, I spend a lot of time with my dogs. I have three: a German Shepherd, a half-Shepherd-half-something-else-big mix, both three years old, and a pint-sized Cairn Terrier―think Toto―who's thirteen. They're my live entertainment, and I spend a lot of time romping around the backyard with them. Well, they do most of the romping. I pretty much throw the ball and chase after them.
Who is your greatest cheerleader?
I can't tell you which is my greatest cheerleader―only that it would be one of my dogs. Have you ever noticed they love you even if you haven't showered or put on make-up?
Seriously, I have a lot of cheerleaders other than the canine variety, but my biggest cheerleader, as strange as it may sound, is me. I think every author has to be their own cheerleader. It's a 24/7 job, and that would be a heavy burden to place on another individual. I've had wonderful cheerleaders my entire life, beginning with my father. Unfortunately, he was enamored of Louis L'Amour and wanted me to write westerns. I didn't even read westerns. My family has always been wonderfully supportive. I think my kids' first words were, "Shhh. Mommy's writing." There have been many times when their faith in me was all that kept me going, or at least, kept me writing. I consider that one of the greatest gifts I've ever received from anyone.
Lynda Fitzgerald is the multi-genre author of a number of novels ranging from romantic suspense to mystery. Originally from Florida, she now lives in Atlanta, and both places are reflected in her writing. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, The Atlanta Writers Club and the Florida Writers Association. She is often called upon to speak and give workshops at conferences around the country. She is currently working on her next two novels, both mysteries. You can read about Lynda and her work on http://www.fitzgeraldwrites.com.
Who better than a cop would know how to stage a murder to look like a suicide?
Jean Aubutten is dead. Her son claims his father, the county sheriff, killed her, but the coroner rules it a suicide. Investigative reporter Allie Grainger doesn't know who to believe. As she searches for answers, the son attempts to block her every effort. A local deputy, fearing Allie is trying to railroad his hero, makes it clear he'll go to any lengths to stop her investigation. Knowing her continued investigation might just get her killed, Allie sets out to discover what really happened the day Jean Arbutten died.