AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: LINDA MCMAKEN
If I ever stop laughing from editing this interview it might get posted. Take a look at Linda McMaken’s tractor stories mentioned in the interview and you will understand….
What is your most current work out ?
My most recent book is also my first published novel, Baer Truth. It was released in August from Desert Breeze Publishing.
Tell us a little about Baer Truth.
Joe Baer and the Baer Brothers sort of sneaked up on me one summer day. My family and I were taking a trip to the western U.S. with tickets in hand for the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Cheyenne Wyoming. We’d never been that far west before, so for us Easterners it was quite the adventure with long stretches of prairie, mighty rivers, and vast cattle ranches.
Thousands of cattle dotted the hillsides. As conversations tend to get a bit weird when we travel, my kids began telling awful cow jokes and my husband started naming cows that were close to the road. “That brown and white one, that’s Mrs. Sirloin, over there is Mr. T-bone, and that large black one would be Mr. Pot Roast.”
My thoughts however, went to the ranchers and the families that lived there. I wondered who they were, and what their story was. Then I made the mistake of letting my muse actually speak aloud; (a rare thing as her thoughts are well, weird) “I wonder what would happen if one of these cattle ranching cowboys fell in love with a vegetarian?”
My Baer brother’s saga began. Add one amazing rodeo and a few hundred absolutely delicious cowboys attired in chaps, spurs and hats and the Baer’s became a family.
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
The characters are completely in charge, I am just the typist. In fact, pretty much all my books begin as a character sketch. These rebel character’s refuse to obey my instructions, and end up in the most unexpected places.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I actually began my writing life as a non-fiction magazine writer. I’ve had articles in dozens of magazines, and have worked as the PR person for a library for a number of years. I have a warped sense of humor and romantic comedy was the best place to channel that humor.
Although, I will be releasing an historical romance, The Granite Rose, also from Desert Breeze, in February of 2012. It is set in ancient Rome. Yes, I get that look very often. It’s just that I have this crush on Russell Crowe and well, those characters took over again.
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
In Baer Truth, I’d have to say Tessa Springer was my favorite character. She has a wicked sense of humor, without knowing she’s funny, and says out loud all those things most of us wish we could get away with saying.
Who was the toughest character for you to “get right” that you have written so far?
Joe Baer was a difficult man to get just right. I didn’t want him too tough, or too gushy. He has a hard edge that I wanted to keep, but also I wanted to show readers what was important to him – his family and his ranch. He has a family that’s been splintered and it really bothers him, he’s been betrayed by family and it has jaded him.
Abby shares a similar past and when she enters his world, she is nothing he’d ever imagined he wanted in a woman, yet she is everything he’s wanted.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
Abby my heroine, has a, let’s call it a “tractor incident.” I had a moment or two that inspired it.
As a young mom I was offered a job mowing area fields and roadsides by a local farmer, I’ll call Bill. I did know how to drive a tractor, and how hard could mowing be? It really was a great job. I could mow when I wanted, he paid me cash, and if I needed to go home to the kids, no problem.
Bill’s idea of instruction was, “here’s the tractor, it’s full of fuel, flip this lever to engage the PTO and mow.” With that, he went to his tractor and left me in the middle of a 400-acre field.
I could do this. Starting the tractor, I got that, using the clutch, that was a cinch, engaging the PTO, no problem, the circling of a tree – I so didn’t get that. I didn’t pay any attention to that 7-foot wide bush hog trailing along behind me and it didn’t exactly flow around a tree. I must have taken the lives of twenty trees with that bush hog before I realized what I’d done. Every new little sapling that had been lovingly planted was now only tiny spots of mulch in a vast field of grass.
When Bill came back to get me to break for lunch he stood beside those little spots of mulch, looked at me and said, “don’t you know how to square off with a tractor?” Then he looked across the field I’d mowed and said. “Are you drinking or on something?”
I was aghast. “No! Why would you even think such a thing?”
“Get off your tractor, stand here, and look down that field.” Well, there wasn’t a straight row of mowed grassed to be found. It seemed I was “tacking” to the right, and mowing in a very nice 30 degree arc. Bill shook his head, snorted and said. “Remind me to never let you plant my corn.”
I told him I was being creative and making crop circles.
We have a Renaissance Faire in the area where I live and we mowed the field where they park cars. A huge 200-acre field of scrub inhabited by rabbits, groundhogs and big-a** snakes. As I was mowing along, I saw this huge 100-foot long snake travel in front of my tractor.
Now, if there’d been a video camera around this would have been worthy of the ten grand. I’m on a big tractor that stands roughly six-foot above the ground, and pulling a bush hog with huge mowing blades under it. When I see this Anaconda (it seriously looked that big) I jumped to my feet on the tractor seat, screaming like a chick in a bad horror movie.
Bill came crashing across the field thinking I’d been swarmed by bees or was having a seizure. I’m screaming, “Snake, Snake!”
He points to my bush hog and says, “Run over the damn thing.”
I’m still screaming, shaking my head no, so he makes a pass in front of me and misses the snake. This thing’s head pops up, it’s hissing, and jumping, my screaming gets louder, as I am sure this snake on steroids is going to seek me out and bite me, squeeze me or whatever those wretched things do.
At this point, my tractor is plotting its own course across the field, with me standing on the seat screaming, and Bill is swiping back and forth trying to bush hog this snake, who is fighting him like a ticked off bull in a Madrid bull fight.
I came to a clanging stop against a metal farm fence post and was thrown off the tractor and into a wet, gunk-filled ditch where a pack of hungry blood sucking mosquitoes and chiggers attack as though I was their last meal.
By now, performers and vendors at the faire were in the field thinking someone was being murdered, Bill was making circles in the field his head snapping around like it was on a stick trying to bush hog that snake, and I was trying to climb over the fence and shut off the tractor.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
The distractions of real life! If only I could just sit and happily write stories. Right now I have over 70 outlines for books, seven completed manuscripts, two screenplays and hundreds of ideas for articles. I love, love, love my day job, as it is writing too, but need several more hours and lots more energy for all those characters conversing in my head. I wonder if you can get Vitamin B-12 with a Geritol kicker??
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
Shh, don’t tell anybody, but late at night, I sneak into my office and do my family’s genealogy. I’ve been piecing together my family history for several years. There isn’t anyone famous in that DNA pool, but I’m trying to change that. LOL
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Oh, I have so many! When I get a rejection, my solace is a Grande Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks, with a chocolate chip cookie.
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
I’m so simple, just a pen and paper, or my laptop. Occasionally, I do like to have a nicely scented candle burning. My favorite is Haley’s Butter Cream Frosting. That candle company is why I named my dog Haley.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
When I was writing Baer Truth, I could not get enough of Chris LeDoux. My eyes mist up every time I play “This Cowboy’s Hat.”
While writing my Roman historical, The Granite Rose, I discovered an amazing young musician on YouTube, Adrian Von Ziegler. His music is hard to describe, sort of Celtic, Goth, Classical. Phenomenal talent.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Anyone know Mr. Spielberg’s e-mail? LOL
I think Katherine Heigl might make a cute Abby. As for Joe, my idea is to hold auditions at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo and let me pick from the assorted cowboys!
Where were you when you got your first contract? Who did you tell first?
It was a difficult day. I was sitting alone at my computer crying, trying to write an article. My hubby was starting chemo for the second time, it was my birthday, and an e-mail popped up that Desert Breeze had accepted my book. I didn’t tell anybody for a few days, as I was kind of numb. Then I told my darling hubby. He was excited and happy, and I was just too worried about him for the moment to sink in. I finished the manuscript while waiting in doctor’s offices, it was my mental salvation.
He has just finished his last chemo treatment and the outlook is awesome, thanks to many prayers from family, friends, and strangers.
How old were you when you read your first romance book?
I read several sweet romances when I was 12 or 13, then progressed to more intense romances at around 15. I remember reading my first love scene in my high school English class of all places, staring around the room wondering if anyone knew I was reading about steamy, hunky guys and hot…..sex. It felt like I had such a grand secret. Honestly, those historical romances helped me ace history class.
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
There are so many that do that, don’t make me pick just one. (Insert whine here) I love Katie McAlister’s, she makes me laugh, Kate Douglas, she makes me need a cold shower, Cait London makes me want to be a triplet, and I just discovered Beth McMullen, she made me snort-laugh. Sorry, I can’t pick just one.
If you still have one of those pesky non writing jobs what is it?
All my jobs involve writing at some level. I am a scriptwriter for Circle of Seven Productions, Senior News Editor for Reader’s Entertainment; I write a library marketing column for RT Book Reviews, financial articles for Investopedia, and am a semi-mild-manner librarian.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
My next book is The Granite Rose, a historical romance set in ancient Rome, A.D. 101. It is based on real events, and features a few historical figures.
Here’s a brief synopsis:
Through the marble columns and ancient streets, over the cries of the Coliseum hearts still endured. My novel, A Granite Rose touches the hearts of two enemies. In a rare test of love and courage, enemies ignite each other’s souls and learn that love really does conquer all.
Sworn to uphold his Emperor’s orders, General Marcus Alexius must silence his inner voice to obey an Imperial command that his conscious is rebelling against. He is asked to perform a clandestine kidnapping of the Dacian Princess – the princess of a country that executed his brother.
The Princess of Dacia, Sianna Cynara, must endure the treachery of Rome, and is forced to face the horrible realization that her father might have sacrificed her to realize his dreams of Imperialism.
They are thrust together in a Roman Empire where the Emperor has no heir, and where the dark forces of Rome’s elite Patrician society work to ensure one of their own will be named the successor. The enemies of the Emperor bribe coerce and murder to ensure General Alexius will never become emperor and that the Dacian Princess becomes a spectator sport in the Coliseum. Thrust together by elements out of their control, two bitter enemies will find solace in each other’s arms and the courage to challenge the powers of the Roman Empire.
The Granite Rose will be available from Desert Breeze Publishing in February 2012.
Right now I’m finishing on Book Two of the Baer’s Trilogy, Baer Necessities, which will be released in May of 2012.
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
Oh, again with making me pick just one? Honestly, I’d love to write with J.A. Konrath. I love the intricacies of his plotting, his gritty style, his snarky attitude, and the fact that he is a marketing genius. No, Joe did not pay me for this endorsement. LOL
How do you pick your characters names?
I don’t they do. I’ve tried forcing names on them, but they revolt. They refuse to speak or talk, they won’t even sit or walk out a door until I get it right. Very often my characters are named after people I’ve known or at least a variation of their name, I have to protect the not so innocent, ya know.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
I prefer a steady growth. Who wants to bolt through the drive-thru if you can sit at a lovely café and enjoy fine wine?
What is your reaction to people who say one of the following…”Oh you write romance, I thought you were a real writer”, “Romance isn’t a real writing career” or the ever popular “Oh, one of those books”.
I smile (it’s a sarcastic smile, think Cheshire cat). I ask them what they read. They respond with, thrillers, mysteries, westerns. Then I strike – Really? Did you ever see the cowboy NOT ride off into the sunset with the girl? Well, no. Doesn’t the Army Ranger that saves the world in a thriller limp off with the “girl” that helped him? Well, yes, they meekly reply. I hate to break it to you, but you’ve just enjoyed a romance. (Smiling, bigger) Besides, without a little romance, you wouldn’t exist.
Where can readers find you?
Website – www.linda-mcmaken.com
Blog – www.makenwords.blogspot.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/makenwords
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/makenwords
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Chocolate that is warm and drizzled across my…..sorry, I was a bit sidetracked. I love, love, love Reese’s cups – if there is a food of the “gods”, its chocolate and peanut butter.