- What are your inspirations or motivations for writing your novel/s?
When I’m deciding what to write next, I often start with a place, but it has to be a place that suggests a rich historical landscape for a story. I’m a terrible traveling companion if you don’t like museums and guidebooks. Italy is a natural, but I’ve also written about Prague and Vienna. I look for something about the history of that place I want to know more about. For The Italian Party, I started with a landscape that I knew well—Siena—because I had spent four years living near there and visiting regularly. But I intentionally chose a time period there I was unfamiliar with—the 1950s. I had to read a lot about that era, including Italian daily newspapers, so I could “see” what my characters were seeing. I love subcultures, too–one my main characters is a tractor salesman, so I spent a lot of time looking at videos of vintage tractors on YouTube, and going to my tractor-owning neighbors to take a closer look. At the same time that I’m thinking about a place, I also start to get a feel for the stories that seem to grow out of that landscape—I think that’s where inspiration and motivation meet. I need to feel there’s a story I’m motivated to tell. For The Italian Party, that was the way in which the U.S. played a role in shaping the Italy we know today. That felt like a story most people don’t know, and that would be interesting to tell on the micro/individual level.
- What are you goals for your readers (what would you like your readers) to take away from your books?
I hope my readers are deeply entertained, but also learn something. That’s what I like in a book. My true test of a great novel is if I’m reading it on a plane and I don’t notice the turbulence. I’m a nervous flyer, so if the book can hold my attention as the luggage compartments are rattling and plastic cups are sailing, then I’m happy. I feel like a great book enlarges your body of knowledge without even seeming to, so that you know a little more about the human condition after you’ve read it. Books create empathy by allowing us to “be” other people for a little while, and know what they know—I hope my readers feel enlightened by the experience, and have fun, too.
- How can you balance your family, career , writing and promoting your books?
Ah, the work-life balance. If I had the answer to that, I’d write the bestselling self-help book of all time! I can’t give advice on this because I desperately need advice: besides writing novels and scripts, I also teach English composition and literature full time at a community college, which means I have to read gazillions of essays. On top of that, I’m terrible at saying no, so I’m on every committee, and I volunteer a lot in my town, and I strive to stay close to friends. I like to correspond with my readers, too. And my house is always in need of work, and my animals want attention… I collapse in bed exhausted at the end of the day and vow that something has to change. But whenever I try to cut back on anything, I miss it. If one of you has the answer, please email me!
- What hobbies do you have or things you enjoy in your downtime?
I love to read, of course. The title of this blog, Linda’s Book Obsession, is perfect—I fit right in. My house is full of teetering, dusty piles of books. I have angry notices from the college where I work about overdue books. Besides reading, I love to hike in the Sierra Nevada, and when there’s snow, I backcountry ski and snowshoe. I own two elderly horses who seem relieved that I don’t have much time to ride these days, and I enjoy traveling, particularly to rural places. Most of all, I enjoy time with friends and my dogs and their dogs, preferably all together, and preferably with wine and pasta. And dog biscuits!
- Are you currently writing a book, and can you give your readers some information?
I’ve started a new project that I can’t say too much about, not because I’d have to kill you, but because I’m just getting it up on its feet. It’s at least partly set in Italy, and at least partly during World War II. The rest is still blurry…