Where did the inspiration for Let There Be Linda come from? Were the crazy characters based on people he had met? Did he have to do any research for this book? What are his thoughts on self-publishing?
What was the inspiration for this book?
I have no idea where the story came from. But the vibe, the silly, violent, bloody, hilarious spirit of the thing came from two of my favorite artists: Monty Python and Quentin Tarantino.
Have you ever met a comedian cop? a dwarf loan shark? If you have, were they inspiration for the characters in the book?
I’ve met cops who were funny but not comedians. And I’ve met comedians who were crazy but not cops. And I’ve met a dwarf or two though none who were loan sharks. I’ve never met a loan shark. But somehow all the people I’ve met in my life got rumbled around in my head, and the characters in my book fell out. A bit of human magic, I think.
Have you ever run across anyone who breathes life into dead things? Were the results the same as when Jenny breathed life back into them?
Define “dead.” There are people wandering around the street who seem kind of dead. It’s my hope that someone like Jenny breathes life into all of them one day. It’s also my hope that it works out better for than it does in my book.
Which character was your favorite? Was there a character you just didn’t like?
For sheer and utter lunacy, Gary Shuler was my favorite. But as human beings go, Ramona was a blast to be around. I love all my characters the same, just like I love all my children.
How did you choose the names for your characters?
I pick a name that sounds like it fits the character I’m thinking of. The character sort of says, “Yep, that’s my name. Don’t wear it out.” Not quite sure how that happens. Again, a bit of human magic.
How completely do you develop your characters before beginning to write?
In the outline stage, I make sure I know who they are, how they got that way, and what attitude they’re bringing to the story and why? But I leave lots of room for them to surprise me once I start stringing words into sentences.
Did your characters tell you all the crazy things they were going to do?
Absolutely not. I was as surprised as you were. I mean, I knew the story and how they were going to fit in and the kinds of things they had to do to move the story forward, but the bat-shit crazy stuff…I often had no idea until I was writing it.
Has there ever been a summer as hot as the one in the book in Los Angeles? What do you feel the extreme temperatures added to the story?
I remember one summer we were living in the San Fernando Valley, and we had 25 days in July that were hotter than 105. That was hot; let me tell you.
Which scene was your favorite? Which scene was the most difficult for you to write?
I don’t want to give too much away, but the attack scene with the poodle at the pool with Greenburg and his wife was great fun to write. I wish I could write it again, but it’s already written, so oh well. The only scenes that are hard to write are the scenes I don’t outline thoroughly enough. If I’ve done my work up front, the scenes write themselves.
How long did it take you to decide on a title for your book? Were there many other possible titles you had picked out?
This time, I had the title first. That’s not always the case. There were no other titles. It was Let There Be Linda from the get-go.
How much research, if any, did you have to do for this book?
Tons of research. Tons and tons. I research everything. And then I research my research. I’m certain all writers do the same. If the idea is to make the read as real as life, then research is called for and called for often.
How long did it take you to complete this book?
I think the answer is eight months. I probably outlined for two months. It’s a commitment, no doubt.
Did you plan out the entire book before writing it? Or did you just sit down and write?
I outline enough so I know the entire book, where I’m going next and why I’m going there and who’s there and what they’re doing there—beat by beat for the entire story. “What information must I convey to the reader in this beat,” I ask myself, and then I work through the answers. I’m as detailed as I need to be to have the courage and confidence to write the book.
Do you have a set time to write each day? Or do you wait to be inspired?
I don’t have a set time, but I write something every day. I’ve done that for 35 years or so. I guess I’m a writer. I’ll take craft over inspiration almost all the time. I’m not opposed to the occasional inspirational moment, but I like being a craftsman. I like knowing I can do it without being particularly inspired.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing?
Hard work. Wonderfully rewarding. After so many years in LA, I have a writer/director feeling about creativity that’s interwoven with the strands of my DNA, so control is part of my creative nature. I enjoy creating my covers, doing my interiors, overseeing my editing, orchestrating my marketing (such as it is), and so on. I hire and work with professionals in each of those categories, so the final product is trad-pub quality all the way…except I get the last word on what my books look like and feel like and sound like instead of someone else who didn’t write my book. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart or the thin-skinned or for those in a hurry, but it suits me.
How important do you believe having a good editor is for the success of your book?
Critically important. As important as the writing. Maybe more important than the writing. Hire a professional editor. And if you have enough dough, hire another one too.
When did you first have a desire to write? How did this desire manifest itself?
When I was nine years old, I wrote and directed a comedy show for our New Jersey neighborhood. My friends and I did it in a garage, and people came to watch. That’s true. I liked being in control when I was nine, for Pete’s sake.
Do you ever become bored with what you are writing? If so, how do you get past that point?
Not bored, per se, but I occasionally lose confidence in one aspect of the story or another. Fortunately, there is bourbon.
What is your favorite genre in which to write?
I like mysteries and thrillers, but I like them better if they’re funny. So I write them funny.
You have written a lot of books, but what kind of books do you like to read?
Books by Richard Ford, John Irving, Philip Roth, Donald Westlake, John MacDonald, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Stephen King…it’s a long list.
How do you manage to balance your time between family, friends, and writing?
Easy: family and friends come first.
Have any new opportunities come your way because of your writing?
My entire life came my way because of writing. That’s true.
If you could spend one hour with just one person, dead or alive, whom would you choose? Why?
Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Two brilliant, hilarious men. I think I would laugh the entire hour. John Cleese too. Brilliant. Hilarious. I know, that’s three people. I don’t care. If we played doubles tennis or bridge or croquet, then I could spend one hour with all of them at the same time. That should count for something.
Have you started your next book yet? What will it be about?
I’m more than halfway through the third book in my funny PI series McCall & Company. I should be done by the end of this year.
Do you have any advice for writers who are striving to be published?
Do it yourself. There is no point in waiting for someone in a tall tower to tell you your book is worthy of readers. But…strive like a writer possessed to make your book worthy of readers. Be as professional with your book as you are with the rest of your life and career. Be as caring as you are with your children. Nothing less should be acceptable.
Where can your fans find you on the Internet?
My website is laughriotpress.com. And they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I like when readers email me. I hope they will.
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