Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome my guest-blogger for today, Linda M. Faulkner. Linda is a transplant from New England to Montana, which is the setting of her mystery novel, Second Time Around. In addition to writing fiction, she also pens a column, Business Sense, in The Weekender, a monthly entertainment newspaper (Orlando, FL) and articles for both regional and national magazines such as Three Rivers Lifestyle and Rough Notes. A tremendous body of Linda’s work appears in the insurance industry, where she has developed, written, and instructed numerous continuing education workshops and seminars. Visit Linda’s web site at: http://www.lindamfaulkner.com.
Well, Linda, it sounds like you’ve been involved in the writing world for some time! How far back does your interest in writing go?
LF: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I joined both MWA and RWA in the late 1980s and served as Chapter President of RWA’s New England Chapter from 1990-1994, during which time I came this close to publication. I first became published in 2002 with a monthly newspaper column in The Weekender, an entertainment monthly in Hunter’s Glen, Florida and went on to publish in several magazines, both regional and national. My first mystery novel, Second Time Around, was published in January 2009.
MA: You’ve written non-fiction features in newspapers, and non-fiction articles and training documents for the insurance industry…so what brought you to the fiction realm?
LF: Probably because that’s what I prefer to read. I like becoming involved in the characters; I invest myself in their lives and the outcomes of their decisions. I can do that with a very well-written short story, but it’s over so soon!
MA: I know what you mean about immersing yourself in your character development. I like to tell folks that I “mentor” my trilogy’s protagonist, Special Agent Patrick O’Donnell, much as I would mentor young officers in my real Air Force career. Did any of your experiences in your prior professional life contribute to your novel?
LF: In an ironic way, my writing inspired my professional career. I’ve worked in the insurance industry for over 30 years. After founding my first insurance agency at age 28, I found myself a bit bored 11 years later: you can’t climb up the ladder within an organization when you’re the boss! I was invited to teach insurance continuing education seminars by the local agent’s association and after a few years, began writing the seminars. That led to me opening another insurance business where I develop, write, and instruct insurance seminars. As a result of that endeavor, I’ve been recruited to contribute articles to a national insurance magazine. Writing insurance texts, on deadline, really helped me hone a number of my writing skills. And no, I don’t base my fictional characters on people I know—although I sometimes “borrow” the names of people I know for my characters, with permission, of course.
MA: I know you from the Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America chapter and email loop. Is there a “local color” to your novel?
LF: My debut novel is a mystery, which is set in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. What do you do when the dead body you stumble across turns out to belong to your father, the father you thought abandoned you in infancy? That’s what Timmie Campbell asks herself. Turns out her mother has been lying for years: about her father’s abandonment, about him not contacting them, about a lot of things. Unfortunately, Timmie can’t dwell on her mother’s deception because she has to deal with the stalker who’s monitoring her every move with cameras hidden in the trees outside her mountain home in western Montana–not to mention the additional bodies that begin piling up. Sheriff’s deputy Jack Kendall further complicates her life. He’s investigating the murders and is intent on resuming their relationship–the one he ended the previous summer. Unfortunately for Jack, Timmie’s not the least bit interested in romance. Her priority is stopping the killer before he eliminates everyone her family.
MA: I see. There’s a little Rocky Mountain romance to add a twist! How did you develop your characters?
LF: I tend to develop all my characters the same way. First, I choose 2-3 important personality/character traits, a goal/mission, and move on from there. In the case of Timmie Campbell, the protagonist in Second Time Around, I also made sure a couple of her personality/character traits conflicted with those of Jack Kendall, her love interest and “partner” in solving the mystery.
MA: What makes Timmie strong and what makes her weak?
LF: Timmie’s strengths are her compassion and perseverance; they’re also her weaknesses. I enjoy building characters in shades of grey rather than black and white; it makes for a more interesting personality and allows for changes and growth down the line.
MA: I presume since it’s a mystery you have one or two nemeses that Timmie has to deal with? Tell us about him/her/them.
LF: Well, the murderer is the “bad guy,” but her parents also played that role, to a lesser degree. Because of her upbringing and her parents, Timmie has issues with people who lie. That’s a thread through the story, which might be considered a nemesis.
MA: Since you live in the real-world setting of your fictional story, have any real experiences shaped the plot?
LF: The setting is real: pretty much my own backyard. And the critters are real, too, although I changed some of their names. The opening scene, where Timmie is walking her two dogs down her driveway in the forest when the dead body comes rolling down the hill, happened to me—except for the dead body part. My husband and I were walking our four dogs, and we heard a rustling in the forest. The puppies went on alert and, being the writer with the vivid imagination, I said to Stephen, “Wouldn’t it be neat if a dead body came rolling down the hill?” He said it would be lovely, but I don’t think he really meant it. The opening for the book was born.
MA: (Chuckling) You know, only mystery writers and law enforcement professionals think that way! What’s next after Second Time Around?
LF: I’m currently at work on two mysteries: Two-Timed, a follow up to Second Time Around, and Death Benefits. I’m hoping to complete each of them by the end of January.
MA: Will we see Timmie and Jack again in your next novels?
LF: Funny you should ask this question right now. I have always tended to move on when a book was complete. But my fans (gosh, I love saying that!) have been pushing for another book about Timmie and Jack. So, I’ve been asking fellow writers their take on writing series versus standalones to get a different perspective. When I began Two-Timed, it was with the same protagonists, Timmie and Jack, and I lost interest after a few chapters. But now that I’ve resumed the story from the POV of one of the minor characters in Second Time Around, a suggestion from another writer, it’s moving right along and keeping me very involved. I suspect I’ll be doing some of that in the future: writing several books from differing POVs of characters involved in all of them. But I also see me writing standalones, too.
MA: That’s a neat way to approach it – a series, but from the point of view of different characters…gives people a new perspective each time. I want to thank you for stopping by and chatting with me and my readers. I encourage everyone to visit Linda Faulkner’s website for more information about her and her new novel, Second Time Around: