Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interview with N.J. LINDQUIST

NJ Lindquist writes all kinds of stuff—including adult mysteries, coming-of-age novels for teens, and discipleship manuals. She is an author, columnist, motivational speaker, and writing teacher.

You’re a writer in several different genres and also a writing teacher. What prompted you to begin writing?

I’ve always loved stories. When I was very small, books were my best friends. I learned to read just by having my parents read the few books we owned—over and over and over…. Before I could write, I’d lay awake at night, long after my parents thought I was asleep, just making up stories. So it was never a decision to write. The stories were right there, in my head, so I eventually wrote some of them down.

For some reason, I’ve always felt I had something to say that people ought to hear. No idea how that happened!  My first published item was a letter to the editor of our small local newspaper that I wrote and sent in under a pseudonym when I was 12.

Tell us about the differences you experience writing for teens and adults.

I’ve always been drawn to teens, the way some people are drawn to babies. After I got married in 1972, I took a correspondence course in writing. I’d been teaching high school and working with teens in various ways (youth groups, camp counseling) and for some reason, when I began writing stories for this course, the point of view I used was that of a teenage boy. It seemed natural.

Even then, one of my frustrations with publishers was that so many of them claimed that boys don’t read, and published lots of books with girls as the main characters. Well, boys don’t read books with girls as the main characters. But girls will read books with boys as the main characters. Hmm. So might it not make sense to publish more books with boys as the main characters so both boys and girls will read them?

As to the actual writing, I don’t really find much difference writing for teens or adults, except it’s likely harder to get books for teens published. And you’re probably going to sell fewer books. But the reality is that a good story is a good story, and actually a lot of older adults who prefer a little less swearing, sex, and violence than one might find in some adult books, read books for teens. With my teen books, I find a lot of parents, especially mothers, read them too. And a lot of teens read my adult books.

Basically, if you can hold a teen’s interest, you’ll hold an adult’s as well. To most writers, our characters are real-live, human beings. At least in our minds. Why do you think that is?

For me, it’s because I “become” that character as I write about him or her, in the same way an actor “becomes” a character and feels that character’s emotions. I did a fair bit of acting when I was younger, and I had no difficulty getting “into” my characters. I find I do the same thing when writing. Ask most writers and they’ll tell you that when their character hurts, either physically or emotionally, they “feel” the pain.

That’s why, in my opinion, it takes more focus to write fiction than nonfiction. When my sons were small, I could write non-fiction at the drop of a hat, even in the middle of a room where they were playing or watching TV, and I could leave what I was writing and come back to it without a problem. But to write fiction, I have to be able to concentrate, literally blocking everything else out. When I’m in the middle of a novel, I turn my music up to drown out all other sounds, and my husband brings me food, and I just keep writing and forget everything else. I‘m not really there, you see. I’m another person, in another world…

One of my frustrations as a writer who has almost too many ideas is that I have these characters locked up inside me wanting to get out so other people will know about them. I feel quite guilty sometimes for not giving them more of my time.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Finding time to write fiction has always been the hardest thing for me. In a way, I guess because it seems so selfish—because I have so much fun doing it! Plus I have so many interests, it’s hard to choose. I’m working hard now to find time to write the 22 or so books I have started. Let’s hope I can actually focus on them finally!

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My most recent book is one I conceived, edited, and published called Hot Apple Cider: Words to Stir the Heart and Warm the Soul. It’s an anthology of work by 30 different Canadian authors, and we’ve sold over 12,000 books in addition to having World Vision Canada give out 30,000 of them at events for women and couples.

The most recent book that I wrote is Glitter of Diamonds, my second mystery. It’s kind of a “cozy meets police procedural.” It has humour and romance as well as a puzzle style mystery. The review from Library Journal said I’m a “master of plotting” which is very cool. And it, along with reviews from Publishers Weekly and others, likens my books to those of the “Golden Age” of Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Heyer, etc. Which is great, because that’s the style I’m aiming for: mysteries set in the present with forensics and all that, but, at the core, classic whodunits.

Glitter of Diamonds is set in the world of professional baseball and its surrounding media, but it’s also a novel about the price of fame. There’s even a Marilyn Monroe clone. You can read the first chapter, as well as several complete short stories, at

Both books are available online at a lot of stores, and any store can order them if they don’t have them. Or you can ask at your library. Many libraries have my mysteries.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m actually working on three books.

One is my third mystery, for which I have all the characters and the plot, and the opening chapters. The working title is Opaque Rays and its setting is rather unusual. It’s a complete floor of a high rise apartment building. The floor has been set up to house a number of elderly people who have all been involved in the arts, but who’ve reached the age when they need care. So they each have a separate apartment, and then there’s a central lounge and dining room, and a staff (cook, butler, nurse, etc.) who look after them all.

The second is a fantasy for ages 9-12 that came about because I have a very persistent granddaughter who asked me over and over for a book “for her age.” I wrote one book for her for Christmas, 2008, and now she wants another. I have some of the second book written, but now I’m trying to figure out what to do about finding a publisher for them.

The third is a memoir which I’ve been working on off and on for the last couple of years. I have about 30,000 words written, and I’m hoping to focus on it for the next couple of months. I grew up as an adopted child whose parents had no idea I was gifted and creative. I felt very different from other people, usually in a negative way, and yet I still liked who I was. I now speak on both raising gifted children and on creativity. One of the stories that will be developed more in my memoir was written for Hot Apple Cider. It’s called “The Diamond Ring” and it won two awards last year here in Canada. I have it online at

I actually have a Works in Progress page on my site where readers can keep track of what I’m working on.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Just one? I have whole workshops! Okay, I guess I’d say join a group of writers working in the genre you’re most interested in, and participate. Get to know them by reading their work; take advantage of any opportunities that come up where you can take a course from a professional writer or editor; have someone who is a professional critique your work if you can—yes, it’s worth paying for. You can learn a great deal—far more than a you’ll learn from a peer group or most teachers at colleges, who aren’t published in the genre of your choice.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

At the moment, Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, Writers Union of Canada, The Word Guild (which I co-founded), Advanced Writers and Speakers. I’ve been a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Crime Writers and several others in the past. I strongly believe in the value of working together and supporting and learning from each other.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I’ll be at Genrecon at the public library in Sarnia, Ontario, on May 15. I’ll be on a panel, but I don’t know which one yet.

I’ll be at Bloody Words in Toronto May 28-30 and I assume I’ll be on a panel.

I’m teaching a workshop and on a panel at Write! Canada, June 17-19.

I’m probably doing some speaking in western Canada during the summer, and in the Toronto area in the fall, but I’m trying to limit myself right now so I get some writing done. I have a “Schedule” page I try to keep up to date.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s): - the central site - my blog, where I talk about anything – the site for my mysteries - site for my teen novels - Hot Apple Cider - one where I talk about the how-to of writing
I’m also on Twitter and Facebook and about 50 other social media places – look for N. J. Lindquist.

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