Join me in welcoming Linda Root today.
Writing is such a challenging endeavor. What got you started on it and what keeps you doing it?
I have been writing since high school when I was managing editor of an award winning high school newspaper the Helix Highland Fling, and went to college on a Union-Tribune scholarship. When I wrote my Botany II final in verse complete with illustrations, it created quite a stir, and made up for any substantive deficit in its science. During the 60s I wrote my first novel, sent it to a publisher who favored it with a personal rejection and referred me to the Reynolds Agency. But by then, personal issues and career changes intervened and I did no serious creative prose writing for twenty-five years. The arena of the courtroom held me captive until a Monday morning arrived when I realized I had achieved my goal as a trial lawyer. It was time to return to my unfulfilled desire to write. After a few years of fiscal readjustment and a family health crisis, I began to assemble a murder book for a true crime historical piece about Lord Darnley’s murder, and realized that Alison Weir had beat me to it. But by then I was locked into the life and times of Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots, and the result was my 2011 debut novel, The First Marie and the Queen of Scots. What keeps me at it is first of all, a profound love of it; and second, I cannot leave the characters of a half told tale in limbo. Hence, what started as a trilogy has grown into something with no definite end in sight.
What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?
My first effort, as I recall, is the draft of a 1966 novel The Legacy. The last I checked it was in a box in an outbuilding at property I own in Joshua Tree along with some inspired but poorly executed poetry and some yellowed copies of a poem I wrote when JFK was assassinated. That piece was read into the Congressional Record and was republished by several notable newspapers in the US, and published in a memorial edition of the Congressional record. It was widely read and yielded some interesting job offers, one with an underground newspaper, another as a political speech writer, both of which I graciously declined.
What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in?
Reading Tudor-Stuart history has been my lifetime recreation. I have a collection of books in that same outbuilding in Joshua Tree and a bookcase here where I live in Yucca Valley. I read Antonia Fraser’s landmark biography of the Queen of Scots when it was first published. Since then I have culled my library many times, selling some and donating more, but for some reason, I could not part with Lady Fraser’s book or anything at all about the Tudors. But two things locked me in for good. The first was a visit to Westminster Abbey in 2002, and the second was Alison Weir’s book and the temptation of its unanswered questions concerning the Queen of Scots. I found the lure of Maria Stuart’s Scotland irresistible.
What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?
What thrills me when I am writing is the mystery of the initial draft. For example, my debut book The First Marie did not start out to be a love story (not to be confused with the genre historical romance), but unfolded into a tale of profound love between two factual characters that many readers have never heard of—Marie “Mally” Flemyng, only known as one of Marie Stuart’s ‘Four Maries’, and the brilliant statesman Sir William Maitland of Lethington, whom Elizabeth Tudor called ‘the flower of the wits of Scotland.’ One of my fans calls First Marie a ‘love story for the ages’ a creation I had not anticipated until I sat back and read the book myself. Those who can get past its immense size and rough editing come away with the same reaction. It is very much Mally Flemyng’s story, not mine.
From the above remarks, it is easy to see what I dislike. Editing! I hate culling ‘my darlings’, sifting out the historical trivia, and most of all, I loathe sitting down to do a second and third line edit. The first round is fun, but from that point on, I need to hire myself an editor or incur the wrath of readers and suffer the loss in sales. Promotion is high on the list of things I dislike about writing but for an Indie writer, it is something I must do, like cleaning the dog yard.
Having survived more than a few microphone banks as a prosecutor, I am not the least shy about spouting off on the network news, and was always happy to promote myself and my law enforcement colleagues, but as salespersons of a product, I am totally inept. I can do a ten minutes stand up routine on nearly any topic, but put one of my own books in my hand and I clam up entirely. Creating a website that works is far more challenging than writing another book. I would rather write an epic than a blog.
If you write in multiple genres how do you make the switch from one to the other? Do you find it a welcome change, crazy-making or a little of both?
I have a work in progress that I love because it makes those who have sampled it laugh. It is a contemporary crime novel with a large dose of humor and a female cast loosely based on friends of mine. I call it tentatively, Hurricane Camille and the Morongo Blonds. So far, the women who recognize themselves in it have not complained, but privacy issues do concern me, so I am struggling with that issue. I find that when I am writing the first draft in my Queen of Scots Suite, I cannot work on Morongo Blonds or my other draft novel, Murder By the Innocent. The language and speech patterns are entirely different. Thought processes and concepts do not mix. So when I am in the first draft of a historical, I only work on Blonds when I have a writer’s block. Sometimes the shift helps loosen me up. I do not have the same trouble switching once the first draft is finished. Nevertheless, Blonds remains a work in progress, with little work and less progress during recent months.
Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?
I have learned from my research that I should never label a book ‘Book One of a Trilogy’ as I did The First Marie. The research on number two, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, led me to replace my proposed final installment, The Reluctant Countess, with an intervening book, The Midwife’s Secret which led me into an entire different venue—France during TheWars of Religion– and to the complex topic of French female monasticism. When I began to write Midwife, I was only half way through the story when I suffered what I thought was writer’s block until I typed the word ‘fin’. I had reached a natural ending of what I had written, a respectable 340 pages, but I had not finished the story that I wanted to tell. Hence, the Queen of Scots Trilogy became The Queen of Scots Suite. I am well into the fourth book The Midwife’s Secret, Part Two: The Other Daughter. My research for it has given me exactly what I need to move forward with The Reluctant Countess, about the interplay between Lady Jean Gordon and the Queen of Scots. I was surprised just how involved Jean became in her ailing husband’s mining enterprises. She was not the insipid woman historians often portray. And one surprise emerging out of my research is the high number of major characters in the 16th century who are linked to the Princess Diana. No wonder the Queen promoted her tragic marriage to the Prince of Wales.( Incidentally, to me and many other Americans, Diana remains very much an HRH.)
What do you to keep all your research information and plot ideas organized and accessible?
The internet certainly helps. Otherwise I would have an unfathomable mess. I am also blessed thus far in life with an exceptional memory. As to my most essential research materials like John Guy’s My End is My Beginning, and specialty books like Medieval Christianity, I keep two copies, preferably one of them in ebook form where bookmarking is easy. I also have some hardcopy files, thank goodness. There is little written material available on the abbess Marguerite de’ Kircaldie, La Belle Ecossaise, and what there is hard to find and expensive to procure. I printed those materials, send some out of country for translation, and filed the rest. Otherwise I would have lost it all in a computer crash. But yes, organization is a challenge for me, because I am very much the personality type that functions in disarray. As for my storylines, when I have what I call a plot epiphany, I immediately create a word document and file it.. I keep a file for each work in progress. I also have some extra thumb drives and a husband with a Toshy just like mine who downloads my work to his machine as requested.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?
It’s the same for a writer as for a trial lawyer: from Hon. Rufus Yent: “Find what works for you and stick with it.” And from Steve Donoghue, “Keep writing!”
Tell us a little about your current project.
The Midwife’s Secret: Part Two – The Other Daughter is moving forward well, and while not a historical romance, it has an emerging romantic theme. Daughter is a new endeavor for me, because my female ‘lead’ is totally my construct. The only factual basis for her existence is a reference that when Edinburgh castle fell, there was a laundress there who was pregnant with the child of the knight Kirkcaldy of Grange, and a suggestion that he was writing love sonnets to her while awaiting execution. My heroine is that child. What I do with her is completely up to me. The principal male character is Will Hepburn, also known as William Beaton, the bastard (or legitimate if you are Norwegian) son of James Hepburn, the notorious Earl of Bothwell. What is written of him can be contained in a single paragraph. He was the king’s browdinstair, or embroiderer, strange considering the fact he was son of the man widely believed to have been James VI’s father’s murderer. There is disagreement among historians to the identity of his mother, but many consider him the child of Anna Throndsen, and that tack works best for me. The storyline moves between Scotland, Denmark and France in a timeline from James VI’s marriage to Anne of Denmark until the events surrounding Elizabeth Tudor’s death. This segment should complete the plotline that begins with Kirkcaldy and the midwife. At least, that is the plan. I will have to wait and see what Kirkcaldy’s daughter and Bothwell’s son have planned. I have written the final chapter, but what happens in between is up to them. To find out, I have to keep on writing. Sometimes it seems almost supernatural.
What’s up next for you?
As soon as I finish what I project to be the last book in the Queen of Scots Suite, I will force myself to spend time on its promotion. Somewhere along the line, I will likely venture out of the genre and complete my crime novels Morongo Blonds and Murder by the Innocents. In my other life I am my husband’s caregiver, and that keeps me essentially housebound. I have not yet read a compelling Young Adult/Juvenile fictionalization of the life of Marie Stuart. I may tackle that at some point. Mine would be told from the viewpoint of others and in the third person—no doubt entitled The Five Maries.
I can be found on FB as Linda Root, (alternative FB page Linda Root, Indie Writer pending ) on the web at www.thefirstmarie.com (site perpetually under construction) and at email@example.com. I have a new Linda Root,Indie Writer at lindaroot.blogspot.com at