Interview with Linda Rodriguez
I knew Linda as an active member of the Border Crimes Chapter of Sisters in Crime who talked knowledgably about writing and asked insightful questions before I knew about her writing.
Her novel, Every Last Secret, won the St. Martin’s Press Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Competition. The publication date set by St. Martin’s Press is April, 24, 2012. She has published two books of poetry and won several awards for her poetry and her fiction.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was quite young—poetry and stories that I wanted to think of as novels—but I really began in earnest when I was a young, college-drop-out mother and wife. At various times in my life, poetry has taken precedence over novels and vice versa, usually because of time constraints. Novels, I have found, require a longer chunk of writing each day and over a longer period of time. Poetry takes as much work—one poem may go through twenty or more revisions—but that work can be done in shorter bits of time with longer absences from the work in-between.
What was it like to win the contest?
Absolutely heavenly and totally a shock! My editor called to notify me, and I became sort of a gibbering idiot. Fortunately, she didn’t take it right back. It was really like a dream. They paid my way for the presentation of the award to the national Malice Domestic Conference, which I’d not heard of and which proved to be such a delight that I imagine I will continue to attend for years. All the other established writers at Malice kept telling me how lucky I was to start with St. Martin’s, that they had the best editors and treated their writers really well. I’ve come to see that they were absolutely right.
What has being the winner required of you from the time you won to the actual publication date?
First, I had to go to the Malice Domestic conference to have the award presented. St. Martin’s sent me their standard contract. At the conference, I talked with my editor (and again, later, on a trip to New York) about edits (relatively minor) on the winning novel, Every Last Secret, and about the series this book was to launch, as well as about the second book in the series, Every Broken Trust.
My editor also asked me to fill out a lengthy author questionnaire that would be used in-house to help the rest of the staff get to know me and the book and to help them promote the book. They also asked for my suggestions on cover art and photographs of some of the towns and campuses that went into the creation of my fictional college town. I was surprised at how hard they worked to give me a cover I’d be happy with, and I do love my beautiful cover.
Then, I had to cut the book by over 20,000 words because the longer book would have to be published at a higher price, and they felt that would rob a first-time author of readers. This necessitated going through the book several times as if it were a humongous poem and tightening and compressing wherever possible. It was a bear to do, but I think the book is even stronger for it.
Next, I received the copy-edited manuscript and had to go over it in detail. I did the same with the page proofs, which had very few changes by this stage of the process. Now, I’m waiting on ARCs (advance reading copies) which are going to reviewers.
The other thing St. Martin’s wanted me to do was strengthen my online presence. I already had a blog and was on Facebook. They wanted me to go on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites and to develop a website.
So be careful what you wish for. Can you tell us about Every Last Secret?
My protagonist, Skeet Bannion, is a half-Cherokee, former Kansas City, Missouri, police officer who has moved to a small college town nearby and become the chief of campus police. She’s just settling in, away from her ex-husband and alcoholic father, when the editor of the college newspaper is murdered. He has been ferreting out the many disreputable secrets of people on campus and blackmailing them. College administrators demand that she conceal all college involvement in the murder, and in the midst of her search for the killer, Skeet takes up responsibility for a vulnerable teenager while her jealous ex-husband and seriously ailing father wind up back on her hands. Now, Skeet has to seek out all those skeletons in all those academic closets and learn who killed to keep their secret hidden.
The various scandals on college campuses lately (Penn State, Syracuse, and others) and the recent killing at Virginia Tech have brought campus crime and campus police into the spotlight. So right now, there’s much more interest in campus crime and campus police than there has been.
Is there a link where we can order your book?
My website, www.LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com, has links where Every Last Secret can be pre-ordered plus lots more information about the book, including many wonderful blurbs.
From your blog site it sounds like you have an interesting family heritage. Can you tell us about it and how it impacts your writing?
I have spent most of my life bridging Native American, white, and Latino cultures. There are different terms for people like me, mixed-blood, mestizo. Most of them are pejorative, but I feel that those of us who combine cultures in our heritage have a lot to offer the world. We see things from more than one culture, more than one history, more than one perspective, and that’s useful in this changing world. It’s also extremely useful for a writer.
Has your work or life experiences affected your writing?
I spent many years running a university women’s center, and that has translated directly for this series of books into background knowledge of the university setting and campus politics and procedures. It has translated also in a more general way throughout all my work into a concern for women’s issues and an option for and understanding of strong female characters.
I spent a good deal of time in my childhood with my Cherokee grandmother and aunt, whose influence on me shows daily in how I live my life and in almost everything I write, especially in this series of novels. I have another series I hope to write someday that would be permeated with Latino, specifically Chicano, culture and food—I once wrote a Mexican cookbook that remains a steady seller.
Just off the cuff without serious study or reflection, which 10 writers have most influenced your work?
Aaaggh! Not really a fair question since I’ve been an omnivorous reader since before I started school. For novels, the following have been very important to me.
Thank you so much for sharing with us. Best wishes for your success.
Linda has graciously agreed to give away a signed copy of her book to someone who comments on the blog, lives in the United States and includes a valid e-mail address with his or her comment. (So I don't have to track you down.)