Thursday, March 26, 2009

Interview with Lynn Gardner

I have been a fan of Lynn Gardner's since her Jewel series. The Maggie McKenzie mysteries are her new series and have quickly become of favorite of Lynn Gardner fans. Vanished, the first book, was an engrossing mystery with some interesting turns. Her new and much anticipated novel, Pursued, is sure to deliver another installment of fast-paced excitement.

Here's my interview with Lynn:

M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
AUTHOR: Apparently since before high school. In one of my year books, I vowed to publish a book.
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
AUTHOR: I wandered a beautiful golf course with my husband for a couple of years, concentrating on the story that was weaving itself in my mind more than on my golf game! At the end of those two years I had a finished manuscript. I went to a writer's conference at BYU-Hawaii, connected with Darla Hanks (now Isaacson) and she liked what she read and said to send it to her. I didn't hear anything for about five months, but in the meantime, I went to several other conferences, took writing classes, and discovered I really didn't know how to write a book, though I could tell a good story. So I rewrote it. I finally heard from another editor at Covenant (Darla had moved on) who said if I wanted to make the three single spaced pages of changes, they would look at it again. Of course, I did.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
AUTHOR: The only discouragement I've felt was when I first read the rejection letter. I was totally and completely devastated. But after I reread the letter, I realized it wasn't a final rejection. I talked to some published author friends who couldn't believe that an editor would take the time to detail so clearly what was wrong with the book. So, of course, I immediately set about rewriting the manuscript. Emeralds and Espionage probably went through five total revisions before it was published. There have been some setbacks with the latest book which have been discouraging, but you just bite the bullet, go back to the computer and write again and again until you get it right! M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
AUTHOR: I get up at 4:00 a.m. every morning so I can get prayers, scripture study and journal out of the way, and get into my writing before the world wakes up and starts its demands on my time.
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from for your books?
AUTHOR: The ideas for Emeralds came from the unique setting of the golf course - a wonderful huge old Oak tree that had a perfect pocket in the center of its intersecting branches to snuggle into and be hidden from the world. (I used to sit up in my apple tree when I was a girl and read a book. My younger siblings couldn't interrupt me and I could still keep an eye on them from up there.) Then there was a circle of stones surrounding a tall straight tree on the course, that was totally unlike any of the other twisted, gnarled trees there. It had to be a fairy circle. On the tee box of one hole, a tree had been hit by lightning and only about six feet of charred, blackened wood remained, but underneath that, a slab of rock was balanced on a big boulder. It looked for all the world like a sacrificial altar. A waterfall cascaded into a pool and the little stream that flowed from that were perfect hiding places. Some mornings, the mist nearly obscured the fairways, so the story really just evolved around all these things. Each of my stories for the gem series came from the headlines of the day, or a news article in the paper. Amethysts and Arson was born from a tiny little two paragraph article on churches being burned in the south to cover up the theft of valuable items from the church. The police had found a cache of stolen goods, but hadn't been able to find the owner of an antique amethyst altar cross. Vanished: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery came into being during the Bi-Centennial Anniversary of Lewis and Clark's historic Corps of Discovery journey to the Pacific Coast. I had been conjuring up an adventurous young photo-journalist and that was the perfect setting for her story to evolve. We were traveling to see two of our daughters, one in South Dakota and one in Louisiana, so I plotted the book as we traveled and stopped at all the places in the book to find scenes and settings for Maggie's search for the missing girl and research for her articles. Two cousins and a friend and I went to England and Wales on a family history research trip, and Pursued: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery was born. M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire tohave their manuscripts become books in print?
AUTHOR: Learn the craft. Most everyone can tell a story, but there are certain skills that have to be mastered before it can be turned into a saleable book. Write, rewrite, edit, and edit some more to make it as perfect as you can.
M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sitdown and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outlinefirst?
AUTHOR: I know the inciting incident - the thing the story will be built around. Then I put my characters in place, turn them loose, and follow them as they move through all the challenges and trials that will come to them. It's like a movie playing in my mind and I just describe what I'm seeing. I know my characters so well that I know how they will react in any given situation. I don't outline. I do know about where the story will end, but I have been surprised at times at where my characters have led me.
M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer'sblock? If so, how do you deal with it?
AUTHOR: I don't really believe in writer's block. I think if you experience something like that, you may have written yourself into a corner and you need to back track and see where the story went wrong. This will sound funny, but maybe your characters don't want to do what you wanted them to do. They really do have minds of their own, you know, and sometimes they just want the story to go a different way.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music whenyou are writing?
AUTHOR: I prefer quiet. In fact, when I'm really into a story, I will shut my study door and ask my husband not to interrupt me. When you are interrupted, you then have to go back and read where you were, and get back into the story again. That can cause you to lose the thread of where you were going.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
AUTHOR: Mmmm. Inspiration? Just a very active imagination, lots of in-depth research, and traveling to the places that I'm writing about so I can get the feel of the place, the smells, sounds. I want my readers to feel familiar with the place when they have finished the book. I want to know the history of what has happened there and why it was important, so I can pass that on to the readers.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
AUTHOR: I've been in a critique group for 14 years - mostly with the same people. A few have moved on for one reason or another and we have replaced them with others. In fact, we just included two new people in our group this year. It certainly changes the dynamics of the group. But we have one gal who looks for description of the scene, and if she can't visualize it (if I've been going too fast with the action to include a good description) she'll call me on it and I'll go back and fix it. Another of my critique group looks for motivation. People always have a reason for doing things, and if my motivation isn't obvious, I get to rewrite to put it there. One is really into conflict, so she makes sure that's in place. We have one who is a perfectionist in grammar and punctuation. You can see how all of these wonderful people can help in making sure you have all the necessary elements in place. Everyone should belong to a critique group.
M.B.: Anything about yourself that you would like readers to know about?
AUTHOR: I love reading. I love losing myself in a book and entering other worlds, and I imagine others readers feel the same. The world would be a much sadder place without the comfort of good books, the excitement of vicarious experiences through reading, the opportunity of learning about places and events and people that are not in our current sphere of activity.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
AUTHOR: I'd just like to thank those who have been my faithful readers for hanging in there and waiting for Pursued to finally arrive. It has been a long, painful process, but Maggie McKenzie is back and I hope they'll think it has been worth the wait when they read it. Look for Pursued: A Maggie McKenzie Mystery to be released in May.
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
AUTHOR: Any Seagull or Deseret book store, or


Jennie said...

Nice interview. I'm really looking forward to reading Pursued. I loved the first Maggie book.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Oh. My. Goodness. I am so EXCITED!!! I absolutely loved Lynn's Gem series and LOVED the first Maggie book! I've been so disappointed not to see more books from Lynn over the last few years. I'm so thrilled she has a new book coming out - especially in the Maggie series. I'd love to know if she's going to write any more in her Gem series.

Thanks for the interview, Michele! It was great!

Jewel's Gems said...

Great interview, Michele. I love your pictures. You never take a bad one:o)

kersten campbell said...

Sounds like a really exciting book!!

Heather Justesen said...

I'm so glad to hear Lynn has written another Maggie book--I've been checking the stores periodically to see if she had anything new out.

Great interview!