Thursday, July 22, 2021

Grumbling, but succumbing - a guest post by Linda Lovely

Do you read books outside your usual interest? For example, do you read award-winning books out of curiosity, even if they aren’t your usual type of book? If you usually read thrillers, would you try a cozy if it was highly recommended? And vice versa?

Catriona writes: It is my intense pleasure today to welcome back a good friend of Criminal Minds: Linda Lovely. (Yes, that is her real name. If one were a romance writer, it would be the perfect pseudonym, but as a passionate writer and reader of the crime genre, Linda would surely have become a Linda Beat, or a Linda R. Herring, if she was tinkering. Of course, if Linda had decided to hyphenate when she married her husband, she'd be LInda Lovely-Hooker. But that's a whole other gener entirely.)

Back in the real world, Linda is here on her blog-tour for Neighbors Like These, a murder mystery introducing retired coastguard, Kylee Kane, and featuring some Home Owners' Associations like no others. We hope.

And now . . .  Linda Lovely.

Confession: I’m a
crime fiction addict. I could happily consume a steady diet of mysteries and thrillers day after day. Within this broad category, there’s plenty of variety—humorous cozies, police procedurals, historical mysteries, psychological thrillers, courtroom who-done-its, romantic suspense, and many more.  

More than a decade ago, a local bookstore owner strong-armed me into joining a book club she sponsored. I succumbed, grumbling that I’d successfully resisted being told what to read since my schooldays. Prize-winning literary novels? Historical memoirs? Coming-of-age tomes? Snooze-arama. Give me a crafty killer, an even smarter detective, and after the thrills and suspense, an ending that promises justice can win out. Yet, once a month, I’m coaxed into broadening my genre horizons.

While that local bookstore is gone, the book club it spawned lives on. Some readers have moved away, new readers have joined. Me? I’ve stayed without any coercion. I’ve even recruited newcomers. All these women are my friends. The books we read and discuss together allow us to learn far more about each other’s opinions, travails, accomplishments, fears, and hopes than would be possible in almost any other group setting.

Our book club includes women (yeah, no men have beaten down our doors to join) who’ve lived in all parts of the country, including Hawaii. There’s a twenty-year age range and occupations run the gamut from social worker to flight attendant and librarian to history professor.

I must admit I haven’t liked all of the books we’ve read. Unlike Mr. Boughton’s English class, our book club doesn’t require anyone to finish the month’s selection. That works for me, since I abandoned that compulsion eons ago. I always give a book at least fifty pages. At that point, if I am forcing myself to read on, I stop. Too many books by favorite authors and interesting debuts waiting in my to-be-read piles.

As a writer, I’ve learned something from even the reads I disliked. For instance, I’ve discovered I have an active dislike for novels populated entirely by despicable characters. I need someone to root for. Yet, on the whole, I’ve enjoyed most book club reads, regardless of genre.

Here’s the main reason I’d encourage every author—regardless of genre—to join a book club. It opens your eyes about what avid readers care about and look for in books. I won’t mention the title, but, in last month’s selection, the author switched point-of-view between paragraphs and dropped in lengthy exposition asides. My fellow book club members didn’t notice. I’ve also discovered grammatical errors don’t appear to be a reason for most of these readers to throw a good book across the room.

However, they do notice when descriptions, no matter how beautifully written, drag on, and cause the reader to lose the thread of the plot. Heavy-handed backstory is another no-no. They don’t easily forgive authors who simultaneously introduce so many characters it’s impossible to keep them straight. Character names that start with the same letters or rhyme are another cause-of-confusion pet peeve.

Yet book club members are quite tolerant if an author tells a good STORY—whether it’s a mystery, a memoir, or historical fiction. If an author can deliver that, almost everything else is forgiven. That’s a lesson all writers should remember.  

A journalism major in college, Linda Lovely has spent most of her career working in PR and advertising—an early introduction to penning fiction. With Neighbors Like These is Lovely’s ninth mystery/suspense novel. Whether she’s writing cozy mysteries, historical suspense or contemporary thrillers, her novels share one common element—smart, independent heroines. Humor and romance also sneak into every manuscript. Her work has earned nominations for a number of prestigious awards, ranging from RWA’s Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense to Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery.

Neighbors Like These - out now!


Linda Lovely said...

Thanks, Catriona! Yes, I could have come up with a much better pen name if I were inventing one. But Linda Lovely has provided some chuckles, too. At least people tend to remember my name. I'm hoping some book clubs will reciprocate my love and consider my book for one of their reads. Lots to discuss when homeowner associations are the topic--not to mention neighbors who invite thoughts of homicide!

Lorraine said...

I never joined a book club because of time but may reconsider. I read a variety of genres depending on my mood. I loved you latest book, With Neighbors Like These. HOAs are definitely an interesting topic and your characters are entertaining. Can't wait to read the next one!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for dropping by, Linda — and thanks for the interesting post.

Catriona McPherson said...

Welcome, Linda! I have never come all that close to a HOA, but the first real life story I heard was about one was a board member stopping off the day after a funeral to tell a widow the rocks edging her drive were not to standard. Some people should never been handed a clipboard, eh?

Frank Zafiro said...

Hi, Linda - great post!

And HOAs? Ugh. A smaller version of the PTA and City Council, blending of all the bad parts of both!

So, of course, a perfect setting for a mystery series. Nicely done.

Linda Lovely said...

Thanks, Lorraine! So glad you liked With Neighbors Like These. Glad mysteries are one of the genres you read.

Linda Lovely said...

Yes, Frank. I didn't respond to posts earlier because I was having my annual physical. When we got to the topic of stress, I told my doctor I relieved it by killing off the ugh! idiots in my books.

Brenda Chapman said...

Great post Linda and glad you're plugging bookclubs, which come in many shapes and sizes, and can be a lifelong source of friendships. I also like visiting bookclubs and often find it interesting what readers interpret from my characters and storylines - often unintended.

Linda Lovely said...

Brenda, you're absolutely right. When I'm an author guest at book clubs (which I absolutely love doing), I'm always surprised at some of the unintended themes readers find in my books.

Ann said...

The mayor of Rochester NY is Lovely Warren. No kidding. However she's under indictment for fraud, misuse of campaign funds, endangering a minor, and possession of firearms, unlicensed and unsecured in the home with her ten year old daughter. I don't think she's ever read a book, much less written one.

Linda Lovely said...

Ann, I did live in Rochester, NY, for a few years. But my Lovely name never got me elected to anything! And I'm not related to Ms. Warren, don't own a single firearm, and have yet to be accused of fraud for pretending to be an author.