Wednesday 7 March 2018

Author Profile and Interview with Theresa Linden

Author Profile and Interview with Theresa Linden

In the last year Theresa Linden has become one of my all time favorite authors. Linden is a Secular Franciscan, and a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and the International Writers Association. Linden has been a lifelong avid reader. She grew up moving every few years because of her father's military career. She believes that living a faith filled life is the greatest adventure. Her writings combine that believe with the goal of arousing the imagination f the readers to realities both visible and invisible. Her works remind me strikingly of Madeleine L'Engle's. I love that she is a practicing Catholic, who takes her faith seriously and incorporates that faith into her writings. Her writing is masterful! Recently she took some time out of her busy schedule from; being a mother, wife, homeschooler, …. to answer 20 Questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More. So here is her own words Theresa:

1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?

Hmm…well, I'm also a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. So even if I hadn't become a writer, I would still be at home with our three boys. But they are teens now, so if I didn't have writing, I might think about doing something outside the home.

I love learning about and sharing our Catholic faith. If I didn't have writing as a way to dive into Christian themes, I would need another outlet. Several years ago, I obtained a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University. And I also have a degree in electrical-mechanical drafting (making technical drawings). Is there a way to combine those interests into an actual paid job? Maybe a job at the parish as a catechist/drafter. 

2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?

A combination of things led to my becoming a writer. My father was in the Coast Guard and we moved every couple of years, leaving me with the impression that life was an adventure. Then in grade school, my sister and I made up role-playing games that were filled with adventure. As we got older, we used the characters from our games and took turns writing chapters of an ongoing story. 

Once my dad retired in Ohio, life got hard for me. I was a teenager, attending a school where it wasn't easy for me to make friends. And the weather got colder than I'd ever experienced in my life-having only lived in warm places. Knowing that we would never move again, I felt like the adventure had stopped. 

Then I joined a Catholic youth group and our group leader opened my eyes to an even greater adventure than I'd ever known-the adventure of faith! As a young adult, I realized that I could reclaim the adventure by writing stories that brought to light the amazing mysteries of our faith.

3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?

My husband has always been a strong supporter, encouraging me over the years, even when I didn't make a penny from my writing. But in the beginning, few others knew that I wrote. I suppose I felt a bit insecure and wanted to make sure I could actually do it before I told anyone that I was a writer. So I spent years writing in secret and reading books on writing. 

I really grew as a writer once I joined writing groups and began exchanging chapters with critique partners. The first online group I joined was Critique Circle. Later, I joined the Catholic Writers Guild and met writers and critique partners who have helped me fine-tune my skills over the years. (Shout out to all my CWG friends!)

4. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?

Find writing groups, in person and online. Years after I started writing, I joined a writing group at our local library, in addition to the online writing/critique groups. (Shout out to the gang at Elyria Public Library!) Here I began to see that everyone went through similar ups and downs along their writing journey. I wish I would've joined this group sooner, so that I wouldn't have gone through so many periods of discouragement alone. The support of fellow writers, sharing your work and goals, is indispensable. I've learned so much from other writers. 

5. What authors influenced your writing style and format?

I like to use a strong writing style-which as a writer means strong verbs and tight sentences that convey ideas in the fewest possible words. And I want my writing to be visual, appealing to as many senses as possible. 
My writing style has also been influenced by almost every author whose work I've read and enjoyed. I'll name two of my all-time favorites. 

1. J.R.R. Tolkien-influenced by his beautiful character and setting descriptions that transport you into the story, I try to make sure readers can visualize the scenes in my stories. However, I also try to do it in as few words as possible. I also love how Tolkien develops characters, gradually revealing things and leaving a reader to believe there is so much more to each one. 

2. Louis de Wohl-while I don't write stories about saints-not yet, anyways-I like to capture moments of profound grace in all my stories.  Wohl introduces flawed characters in historical settings and shows them facing trials and eventually coming face to face with the love of God in a life-changing moment. 

But over the years, my writing style has been influenced even more so by writers from the Catholic Writers Guild critique group, especially Susan Peek, Carolyn Astfalk, and Don Mulcare. Susan has great insight into developing threads in a story, deepening the theme. Carolyn is able to identify where characters need to show more emotion or other reactions, and she always offers well-worded suggestions for those reactions. And Don helps me to keep the characters "in character." I am so thankful to have met them-even if only online-and for so many other CWG authors.

6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?

1. Ideas come to me all the time, while watching the news, driving to the store, or listening to a homily at Mass…. So I try to keep a notebook on me wherever I go. I don't want to lose my ideas, even though I have so many that I could never follow through on all of them. 
2. Some ideas then grow into more and beg to become stories, so I begin an outline and character profiles. 
3. While I'm doing the outline, I also start the research needed for the story. 
4. Once the outline is complete, I write the first draft. When I allow myself to make a sloppy first draft, I can write a story in a short period of time. I slow the process when I start agonizing over better wording-which is a second-draft step for me. 
5. After the first draft is complete, I go back through several times making sentences stronger, filling in missing details, and reworking dialog.
6. The story has now been through several drafts and is ready for my critique partners! They go through chapter by chapter and help me catch things I hadn't noticed, keep my characters "in character," and develop threads.
7. Once the critique stage is done, I find a few beta readers. They read the whole story from beginning to end and often find overused words, inconsistencies, and places where the story drags.
8. Next, the manuscript is ready for an editor. 
9. If I plan to query publishers, I'll start doing that too. This involves researching agents and publishers, writing query letters, synopses of various lengths, and an outline that I can send to agents or publishers. Otherwise, I'll set a tentative release date and start creating promotional images and maybe even a book trailer.
10. I also design my own book covers, but I don't do this at any particular stage-just whenever I feel inspired. 
11. Once the edits are complete, I format the manuscript for paperback and ebook, and I create the cover and interior files for the printer.
12. Then it's time to start promoting. And that's a huge process too. All along I've been keeping my newsletter subscribers posted on my progress! Maybe someday I'll blog about all these steps.

7. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?

I am working on several books, all in various stages of completion. Tortured Soul is a story about a woman who is visited by a soul from purgatory. I am waiting to hear back from a publisher, but I've only submitted to one publisher so far. If it's rejected I'll need to decide what to do next, approach other publishers or agents, or self-publish. 

I am in the later stages for Anyone But Him, my first New Adult mystery romance! I am looking forward to receiving my proof copy of the book from the printer, and I am working on promoting this book now. 

At the same time, I am writing the first draft of the next book in the West Brothers series, Roland West, Outcast and I am getting ideas for the Confirmation-themed West Brothers book that will come next. I want to release that one before May of 2019, so I need to get a move on!

8. Some authors use playlists when working on specific books or series. Do you write to music? If so, do you use different play lists for your two series?

I don't have a play list for any of my stories, but I do often write to music. I choose songs depending upon the type of story, the mood of the scene, and the point-of-view character. Sometimes I listen to classical songs, like "Pachelbel's Canon"-if you've read Fight for Liberty you know the scene-other times Christian music, classic rock, or newer songs that capture particular moods. I don't want my stories to sound like I wrote them, so music often helps me step into the scene and the minds of the characters.

9. Your two series Chasing Liberty and West Brothers are very different. One is a dystopian science fiction type series, and the other is realistic contemporary religious fiction. These two series remind me markedly of Madeleine L'Engle's Kairos and Chronos series. How did you come to write series on such opposite ends of the fiction spectrum?

Just wait until you see what else I have planned! I enjoy reading different genres and I want to write in different genres too. I even have a fantasy story on the back burner. 

When I first felt inspired to write, I came up with the characters and a few ideas for the West Brothers series. The dystopian storyline came from watching the news and was developed by research into actual special-interest groups. Government overreach and unethical scientific developments had me questioning where humanity was headed. As a writer, these thoughts turned into a story. So Chasing Liberty was born and published even before Roland West, Loner, which is actually the first book I wrote. 

10. Speaking of L'Engle I once heard Madeleine state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated, "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?

Yes, my characters are real to me too! They have complete pasts. Their parents have stories and their grandparents-going back for several generations. I doubt I'll have time to write all those stories. And I also know what direction my characters are headed in, once they grow up. And what their children will end up doing…you know, like, the Sons of Liberty...?

11. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable, in both series. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations? 

Thank you! All my characters have little bits of me and of people I know-yes, even the bad ones. I want them to be as realistic as possible, with strengths, weaknesses, habits, hopes, and dreams. To create realistic emotional, verbal, and active responses, I try to dig deep into how I've felt in various situations. I also consider how others with different personalities seem to view life, respond to challenges, and enjoy themselves, etc. 

Toby, for example, in the West Brothers series, is based on my son Joseph, who has autism. So all of the quirky dialog, mannerisms, and behaviors are things Joseph has said and done when he was Toby's age. And Peter's responses to Toby are partially based on how Joseph's brothers have responded to him. 

I am always trying to look beneath the surface, because then I can create characters that people can identify with and that come alive in the story.  

12. If Roland West was to make a recommended reading list for your readers, what books would make his top ten list? 

Roland loves antiques, castles, and history related to his family genealogy, so he might have a few non-fiction books on his list. But I'll focus on the fiction. Roland loves a good mystery, adventure, medieval story, or a story with a strong main character who steps up to the challenge. And finally, his recent experiences have opened his eyes to the saints. So here is Roland West's list, in no particular order:

1. Amazing Adventures of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton (or, when he was a bit younger, the Father Brown Reader by Nancy Carpentier Brown and Ted Schluenderfritz) 
2. 7 Riddles to Nowhere by A. J. Cattapan (a favorite that he read in junior high)
3. The Sacketts by Louis L'Amour (and the rest of the series)
4. Crusader King by Susan Peek (and all her other saint books)
5. The Perfect Blindside by Leslea Wahl
6. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
7. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8. Lord of the Rings by Tolkien 
9. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
10. King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table by Howard Pyle

13. Of all the characters you have written who is your favorite? And why?

How can you ask me to choose between my children? I've been sitting here for ten minutes trying to come up with an answer.

Okay, I'm going to say Dedrick from the Chasing Liberty trilogy. Dedrick is a twenty-two-year-old colony boy who comes from a big family. A member of the underground group who risk their lives to rescue people, he is a man of few words but with a lot of skills. He's good at leading, orienteering, and finding creative solutions to problems. And while he has his share of faults, his love of family and community motivate him, making him willing to sacrifice himself for others and to strive for high ideals. He's not the kind of guy who falls in love with a girl simply because of her looks. He finds himself drawn to Liberty because of her strength, courage, and determination, and because she puts others before herself, especially the old and weak. He only wishes he could change one thing about her: the idea that she must do it all alone.

I've chosen him as my favorite because he brings out the best traits a man can have, especially devotion to family, perseverance, and a willingness to lay down one's life.

14. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?

J.R. Tolkien and Louis de Wohl influenced me as a young person because of the strong themes present in their stories and messages I took away from them. The Lord of the Rings trilogy inspires one to believe that no matter how small and unimportant a person feels, each of us has a purpose. This "sense of purpose"-this something that could be accomplished only by me-was very important to me as a young adult struggling to find my place in the world. This series also fed my longing for adventure. It hints at the greatest adventure, the spiritual side of life.

And while the history got a bit deep in Louis de Wohl's stories, I read almost every one of them because I was moved by the unique way each of the saints said "yes" to God. Having trials and failures of my own, I wanted to see them overcome personal obstacles to holiness and to see how God never ceases to give up on a person.

15. Who are some of your favorite contemporary religious authors to read? Either fiction or non-fiction?

Some of my favorite religious non-fiction authors:

I was really moved by Jean Heimann's book Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World. While I already knew much about Fatima, she renewed my interest and approached the subject in a new and thorough way that spoke to my heart and soul. I want to see what else she's written.

Matthew Kelly writes great motivational books that help me to keep my faith first in my life. 

I can read anything by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

And St. Pope John Paul II can get deep in his writings, but I always get something wonderful from them. 

I also love Joseph Ratzinger's The Spirit of the Liturgy

Call me boring, but I also love a good encyclical!

When I think of contemporary religious fiction, my thoughts go to all the wonderful authors I've discovered through the Catholic Writers Guild. I love that I can find Catholic fiction in so many genres, every story containing an element of faith, a moral message, or something thought provoking. And I don't have to worry about unwanted content.

I recently read the totally laugh-out-loud romance The Grace Crasher by Mara Faro and look forward to more from her. 

Erin McCole Cupp is another author that I follow. I especially enjoyed her Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan trilogy, a dystopian "reboot" of literary classic Jane Eyre. 

I love the way Carolyn Astfalk weaves JPII's Theology of the Body into her inspirational romances, a perspective which is so beneficial to understanding authentic love.

And maybe I'm biased, but I enjoy all the books that I've read by the authors at Cynthia Toney's latest release, The Other Side of Freedom, a historical young adult novel, is enjoyable to read and thought-provoking. Carmela Martino also has a new release, a beautiful historical fiction, Playing by Heart. Susan Peek recently released a heart-pounding, action-packed saint story The King's Prey, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And finally, I also like books by Dean Koontz (his later works). He writes suspense thrillers with elements of mystery and humor. And his more recent books, especially his Odd Thomas series, contain thought-provoking, religious themes.

16. Will we see more stories in the world of Chasing Liberty?

I like where this trilogy ended, but I miss the characters. If I do write more about this dystopian future, I think I'll jump several years into the future and Liberty's children will be the main characters.

17. Are there more books planned for the West Brother Series?

I have two more books planned for this series. I am currently working on Roland West, Outcast. Roland and his friend Peter Brandt are the main characters, and the theme of this story is speaking the truth with courage, in season and out. I am also planning a Confirmation story in this series and really look forward to writing this one. 

18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?

Higher education should help students to develop their God-given gifts and talents and, yes, I agree that it should teach a person to think for themselves. I also think higher education should continue to develop a student's love of learning, promote a spirit of striving for excellence, and develop values that will help a student to succeed in the ways that really matter. In one way or another, education should point students to the One who knows all things and who imparts all knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. 

19. If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?

Stuck on a deserted island, with no distractions or obligations other than staying alive-and maybe trying to get off the island-I would want books to help me grow in faith. Thus, my list contains mostly non-fiction books for the soul. 
1. The Douay Rheims Bible
2. The Ignatius Bible (yes, I want two Bibles!)
3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church
4. Man and Woman He Created Them by John Paul II (because, alone on a deserted island, I might have the time and attention-span for this 735-page book) 
5. The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila 
6. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A'Kempis
7. An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales 
8. The Little Blue Prayer Book (can't live without this one!)
9. Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI
10. Lord of the Rings trilogy (I must have at least one fiction for fun)

20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists particularly those looking to have their art reflect their faith?

First, pray about your aspirations, in thanksgiving and for direction. God has given you the gifts and the desire to do something with those gifts. Allow Him to lead you in every stage, from developing themes to finding great critique partners, and everything else in the process. Writers and other artists spend an incredible amount of time refining their craft, so this close relationship and openness to the Holy Spirit are vital for perseverance. 

Second, keep at it. Read books on writing, join critique groups-both online and in person, where you can give and receive critiques and advice. Read a lot. And write a lot. And then use your gift to set the world on fire!

Thank you, Theresa, for taking the time to answer the 20 questions. And you have given us much to think about, and many other authors to check out. And if you have not read any of Linden's books I highly recommend that you give them a try!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Theresa Linden:
Tortured Soul

Chasing Liberty Series:
01 Chasing Liberty
02 Testing Liberty
03 Fight For Liberty
Bound to find Freedom - Short Story


West brothers Series:
Roland West Loner
Life-Changing Love
Battle for His Soul

Standing Strong
Roland West Outcast
Fire Starters

Armour of God Series:
Belt of Truth
Breastplate of Righteousness
Boot of Peace
Shield of Faith
Helmet of Salvation
Sword of the Spirit

Armor of God Series Second Edition:

Other Books:
A Symbol of Hope - Short Story
A Battle for the Faith (with John Paul Wohlscheid)


Books contributed to:
Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body
Secrets: Visible & Invisible 7 Amazing Stories - Catholic Teen Books
Gifts Visible & Invisible 8 Christmas Stories for Teens
Treasures: Visible & Invisible 8 Stories for Teens


Carmela Martino said...

What a great interview. I love that Theresa's advice for aspiring begins with "First, pray about your aspirations, in thanksgiving and for direction." I think this is extremely important.
And thanks, Theresa, for mentioning my latest release. We do have some terrific titles on our CatholicTeenBooks site.
Blessings to you both!

Carolyn Astfalk said...

Wonderful interview! Theresa has made me a much better writer in so many ways. I'm grateful for her support, advice, and friendship, and her creativity and diligence inspire me. Oh, and I love reading her books!