Monday, September 22, 2008

Linnea Sinclair Day 2 - The Interview

Linnea's back for another day at the island! These are answers to all the questions you awesome DIK ladies sent in so enjoy!!

Is Ren ever going to get a HEA?
At this very moment, I have no idea. Ren’s essentially only nineteen or twenty years old. That’s rather young for a male protagonist in my books. I like my male characters a bit more “seasoned,” shall we say. Personally, yes, I think he does because that’s the kind of optimistic person I am. But I don’t know if it will become a book within the next two to three years.

What are your plans for the future? Any other HEA's from previous books?
Well, as I write this a tropical storm is making a bee-line for my house in southwest Florida, my house here in Ohio is torn apart due to a pipe bursting behind the walls and flooding of the downstairs hallways, and I’m in a hellacious deadline for Hope’s Folly. So my immediate future plans seem to involve lots of water and typing. By the time you all read this, all that should have passed—successfully I hope—and my brain will be back in some semblance of normalcy (ie: mayhem).

The only two books currently under contract are Hope’s Folly, which is a continuation of Admiral Philip Guthrie’s story and the Gabriel’s Ghost universe, and another book set in that same universe. The latter is untitled and though I have a possible plot idea, nothing is yet formalized.
After that…I have bunches of ideas. I always have bunches of ideas. Some my agent and my editor get excited about. Some they say, “eh?” Some ideas are ones I’ve had for over twenty years. Some just show up in the middle of the night, wrenching me out of my sleep (the husband says it’s menopause…I say it’s creativity).

My publisher has not asked that I return to any other previous universes and characters, other than their interest in Folly and the subsequent book. Readers have asked about Sass and Branden (and Tank) from Games of Command. I’ve not received any indication of interest in that from my publisher. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen—it means the people who sign my paycheck aren’t requesting that right now. How’s that for a long way of saying I haven’t a clue in a bucket?

Are you going to continue to write in this genre or branch out?
I’m seriously considering writing some romantic suspense, being I have decent street cred as a retired private detective. I’ve heard varying reports that the rom suspense field is overburdened and others that state there’s room to grow there.

My problem is—and this rather adds to my answer to the previous question—I have to write the story of the character who screams the loudest. If you’d asked me, last year, if I’d ever write Philip Guthrie’s story, I’d likely have given you a resounding no. Last year, Philip wasn’t talking to me. This year, he wouldn’t leave me alone (evidently Sully must have told him how to push my buttons). I can’t write to formula and I can’t write to order. If the characters don’t incite me to riot, I can’t write them.

Given that, I’m waiting for a couple of characters—PIs, cops, reporters—that populate rom suspense plotlines to make themselves known to me. Once that happens, yes, I’ll branch out.

I will continue, regardless, to write SFR. For reasons behind my control, when most of the characters walk into my office, they have just walked off a starship. I don’t see that changing any time in the near future.

How do you come up with your ideas?
A character walks into my office and demands—sometimes at gun point—that I write his or her story. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Sometimes they’re ushered in by a line in a song or something I see in the news. Sometimes it’s something I overhear in a bar or a restaurant. Sometimes there’s no salient reason. They just are there.
All stories do start, though, with a “what if?” But the what-if, for me, is vacant without a character to wrap it around.

What about research? How do you figure out cultures and planets?
I have several excellent how-to books on creating planets and other things requisite to alternate star systems. Unfortunately, as I sit here in Ohio, those books are on my office bookshelf back in Florida so I’m going to have to give you incomplete citations. But ones I’ve found not only helpful but terrific fun to read are by Dr Jeanne Cavelos and by Lawrence Krauss. The Science of Star Wars, The Physics of Star Trek and so on. Both authors give you workable examples of how to build everything you need for an SF story or movie—and also how NOT to do it. Why certain concepts work, why others don’t. And since they use Star Trek or Star Wars as the basis, the books are a hoot to read.

I also have the more scholarly tomes by Ben Bova and others for when I need to get accurately technical. And Google is my friend. I use NASA’s site, I use the Discovery channel’s site, I use just about any site you can think of, including SF RPG and other gamer sites (the latter tend to have excellent starship schematics).

For the “soft” sciences and cultures, I use our own world. I use news stories. I use features on other cultures and religions. We have a very vast and varied planet here, if you keep your eyes open. We have primitive cultures yet today in the Amazon, in Africa, in the Pacific Rim. We have advances being made in criminal profiling and understanding the psyche of the serial killer. We have a variety of religions. We have the Amish who exist in a time warp in America. We have followers who speak in tongues. We have believers who see a deceased SF author as a religious icon. We have our superstitions, our holidays, our quirks, our foibles.

I’ve studied the etymology of swearing. We denigrate the sexual act, defecation and bodily orifices. Amazing, when you step back and look at it critically.

What is the world-building process like, do you ever "fight" with your characters, etc.?
Those are actually two rather disparate questions: world building and fighting with characters. I’ll answer the easier one first: No, I don’t really fight with my characters. They know more than I do. I try to listen. The problems come with I don’t listen closely enough. If I listen—really, really listen—then everything comes through just fine. The best example of that is the thirty four days I listened to Chaz and Sully. That generated in those same thirty four days an entire novel.

World building—well, I’ve taught month long classes in that and blogged quite a bit on the subject as well. My world building isn’t essentially all that different from most other SFF authors. If there is one thing I do a bit more strongly or a bit more a la Linnea, it’s that I interweave my characterization from my world building. Just as I believe we’re influenced by our environments here, my characters are influenced by theirs. Are they religious or atheists? Do they embrace the local culture or rebel against it? Are they educated? What kind of education is possible based on who and what they are? Are they space-faring? If so, how does that affect their world-view as well as their personal ethics? Things like that. How my characters view their ability to love or succeed is based to a great extent on the family, the village, the space station they called home. It’s based on their family dynamics and how their culture views family.
Check out: and

Some of these things I know from the outset as I’ve spent time ruminating about the main characters before I write them. I “try them on for size” so to speak . Being with them, as them, I start to break down their reactions, their fears, their experiences, all based on where they’re from and where they are now.

Then when I get a good idea of how they feel about their city, space station, job, family, village, school or whatever, I step back and try to take a broader view of their situation, their culture, their locale. IE: They may worship a particular deity but overall that religion may be stifling the populace. I need to be aware of both sides of the story. I need to know how that religion evolved and why it’s still functional if it’s so oppressive. And I have to look at how my characters relate to it, and why. A lot of this won’t be detailed at all in the story. But it’s detailed in my mind as I understand the reasons my characters do what they do. That doesn’t mean things don’t surprise me. They do. I don’t understand myself fully and I’ve been me for over fifty years. Most of my characters are younger than that and I don’t expect them to have any super-human insights into themselves. They bumble around a bit just as we all do. I just watch their bumbling a lot closer than I do my own.

How important is it to make sure the romance and action is balanced?
I’m less concerned with whether the action and romance are balanced than I am with the balance of the overall story. I won’t write action just to have action and I won’t write romance just to have romance. Each story and each set of characters are unique as to what they have of each. Characters who’ve been together for a long time will have different romantic expectations and experiences than characters who’ve just met.

Cars flying over cliffs or starships crashing into asteroids for no salient reasons are useless unless those things are critical to the plot and logical escalation of conflict. I don’t think, “Oh, I need an explosion here.” I DO think, “What else can logically happen here to make things more difficult for my protagonists to achieve their goal?” The key is logically. I learned tons about conflict vs complication from noted SF author, Jacqueline Lichtenberg. Basically I use her and agent Donald “Writing the Breakout Novel” Maass’ advice when it comes to escalating action and tension.

Who is your favorite hero or heroine of yours?
Oh, good heavens. That’s a tough one. Generally it’s the one I’m writing at the moment so right now that would be Philip Guthrie and Rya Bennton. But I adored Theo “The Down Home Zombie Blues” Petrakos when I was writing him and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Branden “Games of Command” Kel-Paten. And Tank the Furzel.

Trilby Elliot in “Finders Keepers” was great fun and probably the character who most has my mouth. Although Sass…well, yes. There’s Sass. We really can’t get into the whys and wherefores of Tasha “Sass” Sebastian…or I’d have to kill you. So let’s leave it at Tank the Furzel. Daq Cat agrees that’s the best answer.

I know Shades of Dark released this year. For those who have never read you, tell readers what they can expect from this story.
Shades of Dark picks up about three to four months after Gabriel’s Ghost leaves off. Chaz and Sully are still looking for the labs that breed the mutant monsters—jukors—that they fear the Empire is going to use to create a civil war. But they know now that the problem is deeper than it first appeared—they need help. Help does come but then then so do new troubles—troubles that may change Chaz’s and Sully’s relationship forever.

Shades is an intense read, quite action-packed and highly emotional. Sully’s Kyi powers are growing and now encompasses Chaz, ramping up their relationship but also adding a new element. Obviously, I’m trying to dance around spoilers here… but suffice it to say that though their love is sorely and deeply tested, love does triumph in the end.

Shades received not only a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly but also Romantic Times’ magazine’s highest rating of four-and-a-half stars: "Chaz and Sully are back, and their lives haven't gotten any easier! Picking up after Gabriel's Ghost, the singularly impressive Sinclair thrusts her dynamic lovers into a maelstrom of trouble. The first-person, high-octane action is exhilarating. When it comes to futuristic romance, it doesn't get better than Sinclair!”

It was also a Top Pick at Romance Reader at Heart: "SHADES OF DARK is a romantic, science fiction roller coaster. If you like intricate plots and fascinating characters, you will love Sinclair's latest, the sequel to GABRIEL'S GHOST. ..Sinclair has done a spectacular job of world and character building with this book." —Heather Hiestand , Romance Reader at Heart

Please tell us a little about your upcoming 2009 releases.
In February 2009 Bantam will release Hope’s Folly, which is the third book in the Dock Five series that started with Gabriel’s Ghost. Folly is Admiral Philip Guthrie’s story. Philip is Chaz’s ex-husband, and while in Gabriel’s he straddled the fence between being a hero and being an obstacle, in Shades he has quite a lot happen to him, and as one blogger noted, is starting to sport his hero duds. He’s blossomed into a take-control, very sexy man and in Folly, he faces one of the toughest challenges of his life:

It's an impossible mission on a derelict ship called HOPE'S FOLLY. A man who feels he can't love. A woman who believes she's unlovable. And an enemy who will stop at nothing to crush them both. Admiral Philip Guthrie is in an unprecedented position: on the wrong end of the law, leading a rag-tag band of rebels against the oppressive Imperial forces. Or would be, if he can reach his command ship—the intriguingly named Hope’s Folly—alive. Not much can rattle Philip’s legendary cool—but the woman who helps him foil an assassination attempt on Kirro Station will. She’s the daughter of his best friend and first commander—a man who died while under Philip’s command, and whose death is on Philip’s conscience.

Rya Bennton has been in love with Philip Guthrie since she was a girl. But can her childhood fantasies survive an encounter with the hardened man, and newly-minted rebel leader, who it seems has just become her new commanding officer? And will she still be willing follow him through the jaw of hell once she learns the truth about her father’s death?

Thanks for the great interview Linnea! Please come back tomorrow for Linnea's last day here!!


Ciara said...

That's the second time this week an author has sung the merits of Donald Maass' book. I better go buy it. *grin*

I would like to tell your publisher that I WANT ANOTHER GAMES OF COMMAND NOVEL. and more Furzels, please.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

Thanks for the interview!

Ana said...

Great interview! I adore your books, Linnea (as you well know) and I can't wait to read Hope's Folly and any other book you can think of next. heck, I would probably read your groceries list.

ahem. Sorry, I had a fangirl moment here.

Shades of Dark is incredible, I was just writing down my top 10 reads of 2008 and it made it! : )

Linnea Sinclair said...

'Morning children!
Ciara, I'm a planster. ;-) I'm a pantser who plots under pressure (ie: contract deadlines). I don't do extensive advance plotting. That is, I don't outline the whole book before I write and I don't have 3x5 cards tacked to my office walls. I do know the characters' main goals and obstacles. But I don't know every minor goal and I don't know every minor obstacle.

Generally, I write three or so chapters, then "freewrite" what I think the NEXT 3 should contain. This keeps thing relatively fresh yet also keeps me on the right road.

But surprises still happen. In GABRIEL'S GHOST--originally--I'd plotted that Ren was to die in a scene. (**--FREE T-SHIRT TO THE FIRST PERSON WHO CAN NAME THE SCENE IN GABRIEL'S GHOST WHERE THEY THINK REN WAS SUPPOSED TO DIE--***) Obviously, he doesn't. I also had no idea that Chaz had an ex-husband when I was writing GABRIEL'S until Philip showed up on the page.

In FOLLY (Feb. '09), there's a scene where Philip plays a little joke on Rya that almost gets her killed. I had NO CLUE he was going to do that.

Where this comes from is integrating your characters as you write. You get into their skins, so to speak, and you function/write as them. What they would naturally do just happens...naturally, but you don't always know ahead of time.

Masss' book: interesting thing. I bought the book two years before I actually used it. I READ it, thought, okay, interesting but it didn't ring my chimes. Then my local FL RWA chapter had him as a guest workshop teacher. THEN his words struck me and when I was finishing SHADES OF DARK and again when writing FOLLY, I used a lot of his principles. I may or may not in then next book, which is Devin Guthrie's story (see, I now know THAT which I didn't know when I was answering the interview questions a few weeks ago). It's Devin Guthrie and Makaiden "Kaidy" Griggs.

Anyway, definitely read WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. It may or may not resonate with you. It took me two years. ;-)

Thanka, Ana, for your kind words on SHADES. As you know, that book put me through the wringer. ;-) As for my grocery list:

cat food



Carolyn Crane said...

Linnea, Thanks for visiting! You are such an inspiration, and so generous to the blogging community with your time, and I love your books. That Donald Maass suggestion is right on, too. I need to reread that one.


When would Ren have died? It's been a while since I read GG so I may have logistics wrong...the obvious answer would be when they infiltrated the lab, but I remember being frightened for characters, and I think it may have been Ren, when that bad woman who was on the ship about to be unmasked. Were you originally going to have her kill Ren on the ship?

Katie Reus said...

It's so cool that you're a panster! I'm all for the GMC method, but it gets so organic (and boring) mapping every little thing out ahead of time. Yay for pantsers!!

Pamk said...

I have loved what books of yours I've read. Really need to check your back list and catch up

Linnea Sinclair said...

**the obvious answer would be when they infiltrated the lab, **

Nope. ;-)

**when that bad woman who was on the ship about to be unmasked. Were you originally going to have her kill Ren on the ship?

Nope (the bad woman was Berri Solaria)

Keep 'em coming. ;-)

KT Grant said...

*gets down on knees and prays*
We so need more Brendan and Sass!
I want more furzel adventures also!
I have an interesting question. How do you come up with the names for your charaters?

oh before I forget ((SULLY!)) mines... mines...

Tracy said...

What a great, in depth interview. I love that your characters talk to you and that you listen! :) I've heard this from other authors but the way you put it I can just imagine them strolling into your office (sans gun), hunkering down and just talking away.

I'm ashamed to say I've not read one of your books, but they sound wonderful! So there are a couple of different series? I'm kind of anal about starting at the beginning of the series - which book should I start with?

Ciara said...

Tracy - read Games of Command. DO IT. It's stand alone. Can I bring a Furzel to my hut? ;)

Linnea Sinclair said...

Tracy, MOST of my books are stand-alones. I only have one series and even that's not a strict series.

Stand-alones: read at any time in any order

FINDER KEEPERS (RITA award finalist)
GAMES OF COMMAND (RITA award finalist)

Dock Five Series
GABRIEL'S GHOST (#1)(RITA award winner)
HOPE'S FOLLY (kinda sorta book 3 but not the same lead characters as 1 and 2--will be out Feb 09)
UNTITLED (kinda sorta book #4)(release date TBA)

I have lots of info on my site as to what the books are about, what reviewers say, etc.. That's probably where you should start.

Please bear in mind Bantam doesn't use series names or #s on the Dock Five books so you're going to have to get that info from my site. I've asked them to; they say it's against current policy. ::shrugs::

Hope this helps! ~Linnea

Shaymless Aymless said...

Hi Linnea! *bounces and waves*

Okay have read GG yet so can't enter T-shirt contest *sigh*, but its on top of the TBR. And have Games of Command (thanks for the autographing it at RWA). Can't wait to dig in!

Tracy said...

Ciara - um...furzel? Let me read the books first and then get back to you on that! lol

Linnea - Thanks so much for the info on the books. I ordered Finders Keepers and Games of Command from the library just now (they were the ones that could get here the fastest) so I'll be a Sinclairite soon. Or is that Sinclairian? :)

Anonymous said...

linnea and her books are awesome- I'm a devout fan, and proud of it! Definitely a fangirl. I've read all of Linnea's books, read Gabriel's Ghost twice, and parts of her other books several times over. I can't recommend her books enough. Go read them!

As for Ren's near-miss, I would have to guess it was when the Boru Karn was towing Chaz's ship, the Meritorius, and she had to use autodetruct to let her go (the Meritorius). The Boru Karn got caught in the backwash and Ren DID die; however, Sully, with Chaz's help brought him back to life.

Linnea Sinclair said...

Patty said: **SPOILER ALERT
As for Ren's near-miss, I would have to guess it was when the Boru Karn was towing Chaz's ship, the Meritorius, and she had to use autodetruct to let her go (the Meritorius). The Boru Karn got caught in the backwash and Ren DID die; however, Sully, with Chaz's help brought him back to life.


Yep, originally Ren died for good in that scene.

Way to go, Patty! ::and the crowd goes wild::

Email me your T-shirt size and your snail addy off-list here. Do not post that info here, okay? ;-) This planet is full of crazy people. Thank God I'm from another galaxy. ;-)

Linnea Sinclair said...

Great news, Tracy. I love libraries! Thanks for being interested in my books. ~Linnea

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Linnea! My well-thumbed and tabbed copy of GG is always near at hand. I really, really like Chaz and Sully's story so major parts of both of their books are seared into my brain.

I'm on pins and needles waiting for Philip and Rya's story. I have a feeling they are both going to be hero characters we will love.

Linnea Sinclair said...

Katiebabs asked: **I have an interesting question. How do you come up with the names for your charaters? **

I spend a lot of times on my main characters' names. That doesn't guarantee everyone will like them--I rec'd one email from a reader who hated Trilby's name (FINDERS KEEPERS). No, I didn't make the name up. It's an old Victorian or Regency era name (and also the name for a type of hat).

Most main character names I use I find in a baby-name book I have, or one of the name websites. I do look for unusual and in the instance of some of my female characters, I look for a name that can have a nickname. IE:
Chasidah = Chaz
Gillaine = Gillie
Tasha = Sass

Normal people have nicknames. Why shouldn't characters?

I generally look for strong names. I do believe we have preconceived notions about names/images. A woman named Tiffany or Mitzi brings a different image to mind than a woman named Bertha or Hortense. (This isn't just me saying so--there have been studies done).

I actually had Chaz's nickname first. Then I had to back it up into a full first name.

Alien characters names, like Ren--who is Frayne Ackravaro Ren Elt--I invent but I'm very attuned to sounds and cadence (I spent many years as a poet). With Ren, the order of his name denotes parentage and clan heritage. We have similiar situations like that on our planet--many Spanish names include the mother's maiden name, and so forth. Not every culture names as Westerners/Americans do.

Walk on characters or one-timers I choose names as random. OR I use a fan's name. Quite a few of my background characters are friends/fans and one (David Gray) turned out to be a somewhat main character.

It can be dangerous knowing me. I can make you immortal. ;-)

KT Grant said...

So, if you happened to make me a character in one of your stories? Would I have a cool nickname? lol

Carolyn Crane said...

Patty is so much more deserving of that T-shirt than I am! Look what a great and detailed answer!

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