Welcome to the fourth post in my Author Spotlight series! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Linda Keith! Linda and I have worked together on her thriller Black Iris. We initially bonded over our love for Scotland, and we both love baking and reading books by Katherine Arden and Leigh Bardugo. Reading buddies for the win!
Bio: Linda Keith lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is an indie author and graphic designer with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alberta, as well as a diploma in Design Studies from MacEwan University. She is a member of the Crime Writers of Canada and the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. Her debut novel, Black Iris, is the first in the Black Iris trilogy.
In her spare time, Linda is an avid photographer, painter, and creator of spectacular birthday cakes. When she isn’t creating, she can be found enjoying the outdoors, listening to live music, learning to play guitar, or spending time with her amazing group of friends.
Q: What made you want to be a writer?
A: Is it cheesy to say I was born a writer? Probably. But I can’t remember making a conscious decision to become a writer; I just did it. In kindergarten, I remember learning to print, and when I got home I would practice by copying the text from my picture books into a scribbler. I enjoyed writing that much. It was my mother who said, “Why don’t you write your own words instead of copying them from a book?” And the rest is history.
Q: How do you choose your characters’ names?
A: Most of the time I’ll hear/see a name I like while going about daily life and I’ll write it down to remember it for later. I also have a book of baby names that is now so worn out it’s being held together by tape. For minor characters, I’ll often let fate decide by opening the baby names book, flipping to a page, and stabbing my finger at a name. For major characters, I usually try to put some meaning behind their names. For example, in Black Iris, Chandler the cat is named after author Raymond Chandler who wrote the Philip Marlowe detective series. There are many more examples of this that I’d be happy to share, but you know, spoilers. Maybe that’s an idea for an article in my newsletter: my characters and the hidden (or not-so-hidden) meanings behind their names.
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Yes. Before I started writing Black Iris, I didn’t know if I would be able to write a convincing psychopath. How was I supposed to channel a psychopath’s words/actions onto the page when my own worst crime was a speeding ticket? But when I started writing, the character practically wrote himself. I get chills thinking about some of the things he’s said, wondering where it all came from.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I like to write first thing in the morning when I’m at my most creative. Every day I wake up, read for about an hour while I eat breakfast and make the coffee, then sit down to write for an hour or two before I do anything else. The laptop I write on is banned from Wi-Fi so I can’t get distracted by reading emails or checking Facebook, etc. I start this routine very early in the morning (around 6:00 a.m., sometimes earlier) so I can get in my writing time before everyday life starts to get in the way.
Most of my best ideas come to me while out for a walk or in the shower. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an epiphany, and need to write it down before I forget, even if it’s 3 a.m. I also believe in stream of consciousness writing, where I type whatever thoughts come to mind in the moment. Doing that keeps me focused so that I can build on a train of thought without getting distracted.
Q: How much research do you do, and how long do you spend on research for one book?
A: I do quite a bit of research. Before writing Black Iris, I read several books on criminal profiling so I could understand the motivations of criminals and serial offenders, etc. I also read a fair bit about street artists like Banksy so I could get into the mindset of rogue artists. I don’t think I could pinpoint an exact number of hours I’ve spent researching because the trilogy isn’t finished yet, so the research is still ongoing. For Book 2, I’ve been reading about British law and the rights of victims of sexual assault.
But while I do enjoy the authenticity a well-researched fact can add to a story, I also enjoy making stuff up when I can. I write fiction, after all.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: Every author is my teacher. When I read something I think is particularly clever or well executed, I analyze how they did it and what made it so successful, and make a mental note of it. If I read something that is poorly written, I learn from that too. Some authors who have styles that I particularly admire are J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith, Gillian Flynn, Katherine Arden, Leigh Bardugo, Patrick Rothfuss, and Andy Weir.
As a self-published author, I also look to other self-published authors for advice on the industry. Two authors that I find particularly helpful in this area are Joanna Penn and David Gaughran.
Q: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
A: Publishing my first book hasn’t changed any of my writing rituals. I still wake up early to write while drinking my morning cup of coffee. But what publishing my first book has done is boost my confidence. I’m a shy person and am often unable to share my feelings in face to face situations, but I’ve never had trouble expressing myself on the page (maybe that’s why I like writing so much). When I finished the first draft of Black Iris, I had no intention of publishing it. I thought it would be a story for my eyes only. But after letting a few people read it, and hearing them rave about it, I became less wary about sharing and eventually came to the decision to publish. Since publishing, I’ve been much less hesitant to share my work.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: This is an interesting question because imposter syndrome is a major theme in Black Iris and something that plagues me as much as it does my main character (though maybe not in the same way). I haven’t beaten it, but to help me get through it I try to remember a particular quote I once found by the late Carrie Fisher. She said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I try to remember that quote whenever I’m afraid to do something new or don’t feel like I belong.
Q: What is your go-to snack and/or drink while writing?
A: Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. Coffee consumption has almost become Pavlovian for me: drink coffee, must write. That’s probably why my main character is so addicted to coffee, because I was channeling my own addiction (though if I drank as much as her, I would never sleep). Before the pandemic, I used to write in cafés. It will be nice when I can do that again because some of my best writing came to me during those café writing sessions.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m working on the second and third books of the Black Iris trilogy. The second is titled Scrimshaw and picks up three months after the last book finishes. I’m hoping to release it this summer (2021). The third book (not yet titled) is well under way but still in the first draft stage.
If you'd like to follow Linda on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her:
Goodreads: Linda Keith
Facebook: Linda Keith
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