Friday, October 23, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with Linnea Sinclair

Linnea Sinclair is a former news reporter and a retired private detective who yearned for more than a news story to "hold the presses" or case files that served as night time reading. For her, the role of starship captain was a dream long before Captain Kirk boarded the Enterprise, and today she's living her fantasy!

When she's not tinkering with sci-fi mechanics, she can be found plotting award winning novels that have garnered her honors in the FF&P's PRISM, a Paranormal Romance Staff Top Pick, the Best of the Year for Science Fiction Romance, a Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer's Choice Award, and the PEARL for Science Fiction and Fantasy. If you're trying to catch her, she docks seasonally in Florida or Ohio with her dear husband and furchildren.

I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting Linnea in person, unless she was one of those blurred faces introduced as a friend of a friend (Colby Hodge) in Atlanta several years ago. And though I'm not the sharpest tool in the box, I'm certain I'd remember meeting this lady if our paths had crossed! Last year, I was mapping a course to CRW in Charlotte to hear one of her legendary seminars. However, those plans were nixed when we got word she'd been nominated for a RITA at the RWA National Convention! Can't blame a woman for kicking butt and taking names in sci-fi, now can we?

Since then, I've delighted in exchanging e-mails and posts with her on Myspace and Facebook. Linnea is truly an awe-inspiring woman who loves to share her passion for sci-fi romance. I will admit when she said yes to this interview I did a little dance. I'm so pleased she was able to share her insights with us today amid deadlines and life's celebrations (birthdays and wedding anniversaries). Linnea has fought her way to the bridge, and is poised among some stellar peers to take us all on a wild romantic ride among the stars! I, for one, can't wait to have my boots knocked off again!



What drove you to write sci-fi action romance when the sub-genres forefathers were mostly men?

The genre of SF’s forefathers were mostly men (or women writing under male aliases), but the SUB-genre of SFR has, as its founders, predominantly women. The Galaxy Express has a terrific listing on the blog’s left side (http://www.thegalaxyexpress.net/). Some of the 1980s authors include Jayne Ann Krentz, Janelle Taylor, and Flora Speer. However, the romances written by Flora Speer and Janelle Taylor usually fall under the futuristic label, rather than SFR—the difference being the ratio of romance to SF/Action.

In the 1980s, authors who wrote more SF with a strong romance subplot included Lois McMaster Bujold, Debra Doyle and James Macdonald, Jean Lorrah, Jacqueline Lichtenberg, and the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. Most of those would be shelved in SF. It really wasn’t until the 1990s when SFR began to be noticed as a sub-genre somewhat different from futuristics and SF, with the advent of authors like Catherine Asaro and Lisanne Norman (on the SF side) and Nancy Cane, Dara Joy, and Tess Mallory on the futuristic romance side.

If this sounds confusing, know that it is. Which is exactly why I began writing it. I couldn’t find in futuristics the SF element or the world building element I wanted. I couldn’t find in SF novels the romance element I wanted. So I wrote the stories I wanted to read but couldn’t find (since shelving was so haphazard and the Internet wasn’t around to guide me), which turn out to be a fairly even split of SF/romance (which is the recipe for SFR).

I’m also a Trek/Star Wars/Battlestar fan. I wrote Trek fan fic for decades and many of those stories had strong romantic elements (as is common in fan fic.) But I wanted the adventure and excitement of other star systems and alien worlds as well.

Today I still read more SF than romance.


When did you imagine the concept for GABRIEL'S GHOST and lay the beginning of the Guthrie men's adventures?

GABRIEL’S GHOST is really the story of Gabriel Ross (“Sully”) Sullivan and Chasidah (“Chaz”) Bergen. Philip Guthrie—Chaz’s ex-husband, has only a minor role to play in GABRIEL’S and a bit larger role in SHADES OF DARK. But neither book—which are books #1 and #2 in the Dock Five universe—can really be considered Guthrie men stories. HOPE’S FOLLY is Admiral Philip Guthrie’s story, and his book grew out of his minor roles in GABRIEL’S and SHADES. REBELS AND LOVERS (March 2010) is Devin Guthrie’s story—he’s a completely new character who doesn’t appear in any previous book.

The rationale behind this was that Bantam wasn’t keen on sequels (same characters/different story line) but related books (same world, new characters). I would be perfectly happy doing five books on Chaz and Sully, but that wouldn’t make my editor happy. So I had to pull in new characters. I am going to try to do one more Chaz and Sully book, though, to wrap up the set, as I really feel the Dock Five universe is Chaz’s and Sully’s story at heart.

Chaz and Sully showed up on my computer screen about ten years ago when—having retired from being a private investigator—I signed up for creative writing classes, just for fun (and to keep my brain from rotting—my degree in journalism notwithstanding). One of the class assignments was to write a few pages based on an emotion: love, hate, jealousy, fear, etc. I chose fear and…


Only fools boast they have no fears. I thought of that as I pulled the blade of my dagger from the Takan guard’s throat, my hand shaking, my heart pounding in my ears. Light from the setting sun filtered down through the tall trees around me. It flickered briefly on the dark gold blood that bubbled from the wound, staining the Taka’s coarse fur. I felt a sliminess between my fingers and saw that same ochre stain on my skin…

…is what came out. If you’re dragging out a copy of the book and note that the above isn’t exactly word-for-word what you see on the page, you’re right. That’s closer to the original that was quickly dashed off back then.

I had about five pages, which sat for, oh, a year or three. Then one day the rest of the story just exploded in my brain. I wrote GABRIEL’S in thirty-four exhausting days. Chaz and Sully wouldn’t leave me alone. It was wonderful.

Because the story happened so quickly, I can’t say I had any particular reason or plot in mind. Or was more that the characters were telling me what was happening. However, that was a point in time when vampire romances were super hot and popular. I didn’t want to do that, yet I wanted a story or plot point that would interest readers of those kinds of romances. I wanted a hero who was tortured by the very things that made him strong but I didn’t want to write a vampire or werewolf. (It’s also not a ghost story, despite the title.) Without getting in to spoilers, I’ll say it has a shape-shifter element but it’s not vampire or werewolf in space. If a reader is also a Deep Space Nine fan, he or she will also likely find GABRIEL’S a worthy read.

GABRIEL’S won the prestigious RITA® award for Best Paranormal Romance, by the way. That was a huge surprise for me but more over, I was glad to see SFR get the recognition.


Why is it important to you to incorporate strong women who can hold their own--Chaz and Rya--in all your novels?

I don’t set out to write strong women per se. I write characters appropriate to their worlds. If you wrote about a female police officer in a contemporary novel, chances are she’d have several stronger elements in her personality because of her “world,” her career. I’m not saying there aren’t timid female cops out there. But in general that career attracts women who are more confident and aggressive.

Chaz Bergren is a former military patrol ship captain. Rya Bennton is a former Imperial Security (think: Secret Service or US Marshall) officer. Captain Trilby Elliot (FINDERS KEEPERS) is a starfreighter captain (think: long-haul trucker). Tasha Sebastian, Gillie Davre and Jorie Mikkalah are also all military. The very nature of their careers defines portions of their personalities. With Chaz especially, she was a military brat, with both parents in the military. Her mindset is different from, say, a librarian whose mother was an insurance agent and whose father was a college professor.

With REBELS AND LOVERS, I broke the mold a bit (and yes, my male characters are often military or law enforcement) as Devin Guthrie is, well, a geek. A corporate executive. In my mind, he’s my reluctant hero. He’s far more comfortable in the boardroom than the battlefield. Kaidee Griggs was his corporate pilot but she has an interesting history that gives her more ‘combat’ skills than he has. It was fun reversing roles like that.

I also write strong women because I think women today are stronger. When I was doing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Criminology, I was one of the few females in the class (I’m talking 1970s). Even when I had my PI agency (1990-2000), I was one of the few female investigators. Today things are different. So I write female characters that (I hope) younger women can aspire to and older women can admire, if not relate to.


Out of all your travels, which has been your most memorable? What other sci-fi/fantasy romance writers do you rub elbows with when you're swapping industry info at conference?

By travels, if you mean writer/reader conferences, probably every RT (Romantic Times BOOKlovers’ Convention) is the most fun one can have with one’s clothes on. There are still a lot of cons I’ve yet to attend, especially in the SF genre (though I did do ARCHON the year it was the NASFIC.) I’d love to do DragonCon. The problem is that when I’m at cons, I’m not writing. I generally teach workshops and/or host parties at the cons, and that takes up a lot of time—not just when there but in prep time. I’m already prepping for the 2010 RT in Columbus OH, and that’s not until next April.

At cons, I love to hang with Robin D Owens and Susan Grant. Both are terrific gals who, like me, are owned by cats. We talk writing. We talk cats. Isabo Kelly is a dear friend and one I spend time with at every RT. And Stacey Kade is not only my crit partner but one of my closest friends, even though I’m older enough to be her mom. Stacey and her husband often visit me and my husband in Florida, so we’re friends outside of the con circuit. You’ll also find me in the bar with J.C. Wilder, Jade Lee, Janet Miller, Catherine Asaro, Liddy Midnight, and Colby Hodge. Susan Kearney and I both live in Florida and run into each a lot a fair bit. Same with Nancy Cohen/Nancy Cane and Lucienne Diver.

Two of my biggest fan-girl moments came at ARCHON, though, when author Barbara Hambly (genuflect, genuflect) asked me to share lunch with her, and author Jacqueline Lichtenberg (genuflect, genuflect) had me join her and author Jean Lorrah at dinner. I’ve read Barbara Hambly for years—she’s arguably one of my favorite fantasy authors. And Jacqueline Lichtenberg is one of the most brilliant women I’ve ever met.

At the RT bookfairs I often get to sit next to author Pat Simmons (the tables are alphabetical). She writes multi-cultural inspirationals. We get along fabulously and I look forward to funning-around with her each year. I also enjoy her books—I read outside of my genre a lot—and I just picked up her crit partner’s—Lisa Y. Watson’s—debut novel, WATCH YOUR BACK. I know Lisa from RT because she always comes by our section in the bookfair to make sure Pat and I are being sufficiently naughty.

I’ve also had great times sitting next to author Nalini Singh at bookfairs. She’s a fabulous person with a wicked sense of humor.


How would you describe a perfect writing day? Do you have a favorite "furchild" keeping you company or a perfect snack that keeps you energized?

Lately, I’ve had no perfect writing days—life has become rather complicated in the past few years with family illnesses and other things that, when the phone rings, you have to deal with. I try to write daily—it’s my day job, so to speak—but more realistically I get three to four good writing days a week. In both our Florida and Ohio homes I have my own office (though in Florida I share the office with my husband).

We currently have four furchildren: Miss Doozy, Jimmy-James, Chester, and his brother, Brady. We lost my beloved Daq-cat (Tank the Furzel in GAMES OF COMMAND) this past June. That devastated me, as he died young and from cancer. As I type this, Jimmy-James (he’s a ten year old Maine Coon we rescued in July, after Daq passed) is sprawled on his window perch. Chester just left my lap (I was typing and not petting him enough—bad mommy!). Brady is sleeping in a cat bed in the corner of the office. Miss Doozy is probably under the bed because my housekeeper is here today and I can hear the vacuum cleaner running downstairs. Photos of all my felines are on my site: http://www.linneasinclair.com/cat.html

My favorite snack right now is a nice bottle of South African Pinotage, though I’m also partial to Paso Robles (CA) red wines. Oh, and Kim Crawford (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc.


What's on your horizon for the near future? Any signings, appearances or other info fans need to know?

I’m teaching a writing workshop and then participating in a multi-author booksigning in the Orlando (FL) area on November 7th. The workshop is for the Central Florida Romance Writers chapter of RWA. Details are on my site in NEWS:

http://www.linneasinclair.com/news.html

The direct link to the booksigning at the Altamonte Mall is here: http://www.cfrwa.com/?page_id=47

The signing is an annual event and proceeds are donated to charity. Authors attending include Bonnie Vanak, Nancy Cohen, Lucienne Diver, Gennita Low and more!

My appearances and workshops are always listed on that page. I also have a full slate of on-line workshops starting in January 2010. Most of the workshops are open to anyone—I love helping readers become writers!


Want to win some cool "swag"? Post a comment or question for Linnea and you could win a HOPE'S FOLLY tote bag or a multi-book tote emblazoned with all Linnea's covers since FINDERS KEEPERS!




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11 comments:

Mikey said...

Admiral Mikey checking in. Just wanted to say that Linnea is wonderful to work with. Although my own writing is very amateurish, I have to think it's improved since I started helping Linnea :~)

Hugs to Linnea.

M.

Lil said...

I enjoyed reading your interview and just had to say that I am glad that you decided to write the stories that you wanted to read. I have been a romance reader since I was a pre-teen and love sci fi stories, too. However, it isn't always easy to find them blended so well.

Heather Massey said...

What a great interview! Always a pleasure to read about Linnea Sinclair and her work. (Thanks also for linking to my blog, Linnea!).

Linnea's contribution to SFR has been huge, not only because of her books but also because of her perseverance in helping it reach a wider audience. I salute her efforts.

And HOPE'S FOLLY rocked the house!

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Linnea's stories are my favorite comfort books. I reread them multiple times a year. I have had to buy several copies of An Accidental Goddess because they wore out! I'm really looking forward to Rebels and Lovers.

Liz S.

ddurance said...

I'm still hoping to go to an RT convention some time...eventually...if I'm lucky.
They sure look like lots of fun!

Deidre

Patsy said...

You gave a good interview.Patsy H.

Carrie said...

I'd love for Linnea to write a companion novel to Games of Command with Kel-Paten's brother as the protagonist. I love them all, but Games of Command is still my favorite Linnea Sinclair novel.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

Nice interview with Linnea Sinclair!

She mentioned the 1980's proto-SFR we were striving to get published.

I also found a rundown of some of the contributions to those origins neatly arranged on this blog:
http://aimi.posuiji114.com.cn/new/301463

But the web page wouldn't allow me to post the following comment applicable to that post:

Thank you so much for assembling all those bits and snippets about my writing! That had to be a lot of work. I'd like to include this somehow in my rebuild of my homepage, http://www.jacquelinelichtenberg.com which has almost nothing on it right now. All my endeavors are linked through http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Some of your readers might be interested to know there's a new edition of my Romantic Times Award winning trilogy, DUSHAU, FARFETCH and OUTREACH now available on Kindle.

Free chapters and descriptions of the novels are on
http://www.simegen.com/jl/dushau/

Readers of this interview with Linnea Sinclair might be interested in that trilogy too.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Kimber An said...

Good one, Linnea! Keep 'em comin'.

Skylar Masey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skylar Masey said...

Carrie~

If you stop back by, please e-mail me at skylar0masey@yahoo.com! We've chosen you as a winner for a tote! Thanks!

~Skylar