Meet Debut Novelist Linda Morris

Linda Morris writes across a variety of romance subgenres, including romantic suspense and western historical. Her first sale was Forget-Me-Not, a romantic suspense about Jacob Sumner, an amnesiac who struggles to understand who he is and why he has come to the Minnesota wilderness to find Lara Crosby. Linda quickly sold another piece, Montana Belle, a western novella set in 1882 Montana during the cattle ranching and gold rush days of the territory. Both are published by the Wild Rose Press.

Linda lives in central Indiana with her husband and young son. Her “day job” consists of editing and writing technical books, many of which go over her head. Her son wishes that her computer had a “pause button” so she could play with him more. (Although she plays with him a lot, he doesn’t think it’s enough.)

When Linda isn’t parked in front of the computer or playing with Legos, she can be found reading, baking, doing yoga, or listening to NPR. Her obsessions include Lindt chocolate and Mexican food.


Linda Embarks on Her Journey

With your penchant for words, your background working in publishing, and the fact that you’ve been a technical writer and editor, I’m guessing you’re one of those people who was born with a pen in her hand. Am I right?

Basically that’s true. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I could remember. I got in my own way a lot with self-doubt and procrastination, though.

I wrote my first novel in college, but it was absolutely terrible. I never revised it or attempted to sell it. I made many aborted attempts at writing a novel throughout my twenties. They all collapsed after a short time, but I learned something with each one. I also began reading writing books and educating myself about the basics such as point of view and writing strong dialog.

After my son was born (six years ago), I quit working full-time and began working out of my home as a freelancer. I can’t say that I had more time to write; in fact, I seemed to have less than ever. But I was in my mid-thirties and had still never submitted a novel for publication, and it just seemed like it was the right time. I had to get down to business.

So I decided to try my hand at romantic suspense novel. I’ve always had difficulty coming up with enough plot to fill a novel, so I thought that a suspense plot would help propel things along. That novel was Forget-Me-Not. I sold it to the third publisher I sent it to. After that, I wrote my western novella, Montana Belle.

You write in multiple sub-genres. What drew you to each of them?

I read in multiple sub-genres, so it wasn’t that much of a stretch. Also, I had so many frustrating experiences with novels that fell over and died after about five chapters that I really just wanted to experiment to see what worked and what I was good at. I tried romantic suspense because I thought writing a plot-driven story for once would help me keep things rolling.

With Montana Belle, I wanted to write a historical, but the thought was so intimidating. I first tried a Regency story, but I couldn’t get the voice for Regency-era English dialog in my head. A western came more naturally, but I was still intimidated, so I did some market research and discovered some markets for shorter-length historicals. Taking on a 300-page historical novel just seemed like biting off more than I could chew. Knowing that I had a chance to sell a shorter piece it if I completed it, I started writing.

Joys on the Journey

What were some high points en route to getting your first contract?

Hmm, that’s tough! Like many writers, I went through a lot of failure and rejection before I finally sold. It’s worthwhile in the end, but you have to develop a thick skin and decide what criticism to shrug off and what to take to heart.

I guess the biggest high point was when my son was a toddler and I’d decided to get back to writing after being away from it for a while. I’d showed my work to very few people, but I decided to take the plunge and join a critique group. I was submitting general fiction short stories, not romance, but the reception they got from the group was very positive. It was encouraging and helped keep my head up for some of the later rejections I got once I started submitting.

Linda’s First Sale

How did your First Sale come about?

After a couple of rejections from other publishers (one thoughtful and encouraging, and the other, well, not), I got a note from Julie Keenan at the Wild Rose Press, who is unfortunately no longer with the company. She had a lot of positive things to say about the story, but requested some changes. Mostly, she thought the ending was a little rushed and I used too much passive voice. (I’m working very hard to overcome that bad habit!) I spent a few weeks revising and re-sent it. This time, it was accepted.

Incidentally, during a Q&A with Wild Rose Press editors the other day, several mentioned that if they temporarily reject a story and request revisions, it doesn’t make a great impression when it shows back up in their inbox the next day. If you get a request for revisions, definitely respond and let the editor know that you plan to make the revisions, and maybe give them a timeline for when they can expect to get them back, but don’t just fire it right back to them. Accurate or not, it gives the impression that you didn’t take their suggestions to heart and didn’t revise much.

And then you received The Email. When did it come, where were you, and how did you react to the BIG news?

The day I got an email from my editor saying that she wanted to buy Forget-Me-Not, my first, I was at home alone. My husband had taken my son to see the in-laws for the day. I tried to call them a few times, but no one answered. They were on an outing and my husband doesn’t have a cell phone. I didn’t want to tell anyone else—I wanted him to be the first to know because his support has been so instrumental to my success.

I was about to explode keeping this news to myself for several hours. At one point, I went out to run errands, and I thought, “Please don’t let me have a car accident! If I die today, no one will ever know I was published!”

The good news didn’t stop there. Please tell us about your next sale.

Right after I had finished Forget-Me-Not, I started work on Montana Belle. Because Forget-Me-Not had sat in slush piles for months by the time it sold, I was already finished with Montana Belle by that time. I sold it on my second try, also to the Wild Rose Press.

This particular sale really tested my confidence, because my editor requested numerous rounds of revisions before she bought it. But I kept trying, and finally, after some well-timed critiquing by my husband, I sold it. Oddly, just because of the way things worked out, Montana Belle actually was released before Forget-Me-Not, even though it was written later.

Linda’s Writing Process

Character-driven or Plot-Driven?

I am notorious for writing character-driven stories. I am getting better with plot, though, really. At least now I understand that I can’t write an entire book of scenes of people having dinner. (Don’t laugh, some of my first attempts were like that.)

I’m also better about outlining more before I start writing. However, if my characters don’t want to go along with the plot I have dreamed up for them, the plot has to change. I just can’t cram characters into a story that doesn’t suit them once they start to come to life.

More Creative in the A.M. or P.M.?

I honestly don’t think it matters. I mean, I’d love to have the luxury of working at my most creative time, which would probably be nighttime, but I just don’t. Between a day job and a family, I have to squeeze it in where I can.

Research in advance or as you write?

I do a little research up front, just enough to make sure that my story is plausible and can work, and to get some color on the settings. But I always come across new things as I go that require me to do fresh research, which is fine.

Today I had to research what the name of that big muscle that goes down your neck and across your shoulder is called—the trapezius! I never would have thought to look into that in advance. But researching as you go means it’s fresh in your mind when you’re writing so I think it comes across as more authentic.

Go with the flow or follow a schedule?

I try to write in the morning for an hour or an hour and a half after I put my son on the bus, but I have to be flexible. Sometimes I’ll go back and do more work at night if I’m really trying to beat a deadline. If my day job is demanding a lot of my time, I may have to skip a day. It all depends on what’s going on. I get frustrated sometimes, but as long as I’m making progress, I have to be happy with that.

Linda’s Debut Novel

Please tell us about Forget-Me-Not.

Lara Crosby left Chicago when her career as a big-time political fundraiser went sour. Determined to put the past behind her, she envisions a peaceful new life at her cabin in northern Minnesota. Everything changes on a dark night when a mysterious stranger suffers an accident outside her cabin.

Jacob Sumner awakens in the wilderness after a car accident with no idea who he is or why he is there. Lara is beautiful and kind, but she’s a world away from the gritty world where he makes his living as a private investigator . . . or is she?

Let’s Learn a Little More About Linda

What’s the most incredible weather event you’ve ever been through?

When I was a kid, my father was the building manager for a large factory in our town when the Blizzard of ’78 hit. I was six. We got two weeks off from school for the storm, but the thing I remember most is my (perhaps too diligent) father going to the plant while the snow was still falling to make sure that the roof hadn’t collapsed and that no pipes had burst. While he was there, the state police announced that anyone out on the roads in a two-wheel-drive vehicle would be arrested. His old brown Pontiac didn’t have four-wheel drive, so he was stuck.

He called to say he was borrowing a factory vehicle to drive home. I remember nervously hovering with my mother near the front door, waiting and watching through near-zero visibility. Finally at the end of our street, a huge truck with a snowplow mounted on the front appeared. In my child’s memory, the truck seemed the size of a monster truck. We were so relieved! The next day, after the snow finally stopped, he used the plow to plow our entire neighborhood and all of our neighbor’s driveways for them.

Which of your birthdays do you remember anticipating with the greatest amount of enthusiasm?

It would have to be a childhood birthday. I sure don’t get excited about them now! To paraphrase Dave Barry, “There is an age by when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday, and that age is 11.”

If you could change the ending to any move you have ever seen, what movie would it be and how would you alter the way it ends?

Pretty in Pink. She should have gone off with Ducky, don’t you think? They spent the whole movie setting his character up as a lovable dork in contrast to the handsome jerk she was chasing, and at the end, she gets together with . . . the handsome jerk.

What three items would you say best represent you?

A book, a cup of coffee, and a yoga mat.

Cake, candy, or ice cream—and what kind?

Candy, but only Lindt chocolate. Did I mention I’m obsessed?

Linda’s Question for You

What’s the one thing that always ruins a book for you?

Linda’s Drawing

Linda has generously offered to give away an e-book of Forget-Me-Not.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Linda by midnight March 20th PST and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On March 21st, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well as in a comment and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

Where to Find Linda

Visit her personal blog ~ Linda Morris, Romance Writer

Friend her on Facebook ~ Linda Morris, Writer

Follow her on Twitter ~ @LMorrisWriter

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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19 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Linda Morris

  1. A.M. Kuska says:

    I don’t need an entry, if you’d rather give the prize to someone else, but buckle your seat belt cause I sure have an answer to that question. >_>

    Book Ruiner #1: I can’t stand it when I pick up a book with an outstanding blurb on the back. A tingle runs up my spine as I flip it open and read the first chapter. My mind is blown by the sheer power of the writing, the witty hook, the deepening prose…I run to pay for it, get home and…

    Every chapter after it sucks.

    It’s like the author spent all their time editing the first 1-3 chapters and let the rest stand as more or less rough draft. And it got published that way! I hate hate HATE that.

    Book Ruiner #1A:

    The book is brilliantly executed all the way through, with the story building, and building till you can hardly stand the tension. The book is AWESOME up to the very last chapter and then…then…what? O.o The last chapter ends the book in an entirely different, unexpected, and frankly unappreciated way. All the threads that have been masterfully pulled together for the event you are expecting doesn’t happen.

    It is as if the author says “Look! I have a TWIST! See how I am a masterful artist, because I have a twist.”

    Well thank you masterful artist, but honestly I’d rather not have the twist if it doesn’t go with the story. I’ve read 3 novels that all have that same bizarre twist ending after chapters and chapters of well thought out, carefully plotted material.

    Most of the time I don’t even get that far with the books I read. I put them back on the shelf because they seem poorly edited, have research errors, or the plot simply doesn’t dazzle me. I guess all readers are like that though.

  2. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Linda! It’s great to have you here and to learn more about you and your journey to publication. As another who underwent revisions, mine under my agent’s direction, I agree that it’s important to take your time. Like you, I did, and my agent sold the story not long after she read the revised version.

    Since I write historicals, one thing that can ruin a story for me is to come across a major factual error. Minor mistakes I can overlook, but I read a historical once that portrayed the Gold Discovery Site in Coloma, California as being a couple of miles from Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. I live in the heart of California’s Gold Country just eight miles from Sutter’s Mill where James Marshall found that nugget that set off a migration to the gold fields. Sutter’s Fort is some fifty miles away in Sacramento. Clearly, this author didn’t take the time to get a basic fact such as location correct and, therefore, lost credibility with me. I set the author’s book aside without finishing it and haven’t bought any others.

  3. Congratulations. How fun to share your first call. And the story that your husband wasn’t there. How frustrating, but comical on hindsight. smile

    Best wishes

  4. Sarah Grimm says:

    Linda-

    I remember the blizzard of ’78. What I recall most vividly (I’m in Michigan, BTW) is how high the snow was on the sides of the driveway and roads. On the path leading from our front door to the cars, the snow was piled higher than six feet. Incredible!

    I know I’ve said it before but… Forget-Me-Not is on my TBR list.

    What’s the one thing that always ruins a book for me? Weak, clingy heroines.

    ~Sarah

  5. I have enjoyed reading about your life and writing experiences. I am very familiar with technical writing from working for several years in the legal department of an electric utility company. Also, I lived through the Blizzard of 1978. It was that experience that made me decide I wanted to live in the south. I didn’t know about hurricanes then. Ha! Every place has its possible disasters. I like plot driven stories. It would seem that every plot driven story would still need great characters. I must read your books soon. Blessings to you…

  6. Linda Morris says:

    A. M., I know what you mean. Surprising the reader is great, but I hate it when twist endings make no sense or are totally implausible.
    The blizzard of ’78 was awful, and we’ve had a few other storms recently that tested my patience with midwestern weather too! But one of my best friends lives in Miami and survived Hurricane Andrew, so I guess everywhere has its pitfalls. I sure wouldn’t want to be living near a nuclear power plant in an earthquake zone, either. I’ll take snowstorms, thanks!

  7. Keli, as always a great interview and a terrific selection in Linda 🙂

    Linda, what ruins a book for me is either a too obvious “red hering” or an early give-away of the ending. Like your example of Pretty In Pink, why does the romantic novel always have to be the two most obvious characters falling in love, when it would also be nice to see the not-so-obvious … like Duckie.

    All the very best to you in your writing career. It sounds like you have a grand beginning 🙂

  8. Great interview! Your line about hoping you didn’t have a car accident b/c…….
    made me laugh. That is SO something I would think. haha
    Love western historical. 🙂
    Happy writing!

  9. Wilma Metcalf says:

    Linda I have enjoyed the interview & will try your books but would be nice to win one.:)

  10. Linda Morris says:

    Thanks for the kind words, guys. I agree that an obvious red herring can ruin a book. I stopped reading Agatha Christie’s mysteries when I began to be able to spot the red herring every time! Wilma, your name is in the hopper–good luck!

  11. Hi Linda,
    Great interview, I love chocolate too, any kind, I’m not fussy, I will eat any brand.
    I like the sounds of Forget Me Not, a character with amnesia always makes for an gripping read.

    regards

    Margaret

  12. Jill W says:

    Congratulations, Linda! No need to enter my name in the drawing, I don’t have an e-reader. I’m a hold the book in your hands kind of gal. 🙂 The one thing that ruins a book for me is getting to the end and realizing, nothing happened! Where was the conflict? The characters seemed weak. Then I ask myself, how did this book get published.

  13. Hi Linda, nice interview/blog. But then, Keli has a nice site, huh? I’m right beside you on my yoga mat with coffee and chocolate. LOL
    Good advice and good insight.
    If I can’t like the main characters, even when the story has a good plot, I can’t get into the book. I have to have understand the heroine, love the hero, love to hate the bad guy, or the book falls flat.
    Brenda

  14. Karen Kirst says:

    Great interview, Linda! I can identify with what you said about characters sometimes needing to move in a different direction than what you’d originally planned. That’s the magical part of writing, I think. What ruins a book for me? Well, I guess I’m an impatient reader so I want the hero and heroine together as much as possible. While I realize other characters are necessary, I don’t want to read page after page of the heroine and her best friend talking about the hero! I’ve actually skipped whole chapters where the writer did this and I suspect it was just to meet word count. Congrats on your new book! And I don’t have an ereader either, so don’t include me in the drawing.

  15. Linda Morris says:

    These are all good points–the characters have to be likable, and they have to be together a lot. I get impatient with stalling too, but as a writer, sometimes it’s a challenge to keep H/H together all the time! By the way, for those of you without ereaders: The prize is in the form of a PDF, so you can read it on any computer as well as an ereader.

  16. Bianca Swan says:

    Linda, I get goosebumps thinking of your first call. I got one actual phone call from Berkley when I won a contest. I didn’t sell then…but years later I have. It’s a hard, fun road isn’t it. Do I really want to stick my foot out there tomorrow? 🙂 Thanks for an interesting post.

  17. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by and to those who left comments. I’ve held the drawing for the e-book copy of Forget-Me-Not that Linda so generously offered as a prize, and the winner is Margaret Tanner.

    Congratulations, Margaret! I’ll be in touch.

  18. Linda Morris says:

    Thanks again to everyone who dropped by, commented, shared their thoughts, and entered the contest. I got a lot of interesting feedback to the question. Congratulations to Margaret, the winner!

  19. Great interview, Linda! I also well remember the Blizzard of ’78, from up here in northeast Indiana. A lot of people didn’t reach their destinations for awhile.

    Like most writers, what most ruins a book for me is simply bad writing.

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