Saturday, May 1, 2010
A Visit with Linda Barnes
Bestselling author of the Carlotta Carlyle and Michael Spraggue series, Linda Barnes's novels have won or been nominated for The Anthony, Shamus, America Mystery Award, and the Edgar as well as named one of the "Outstanding Books of the Year" by the London Times.
Linda, how did 6 ft. 1 in. redhaired private eye Carlotta Carlyle come to life? Tell us about her and do you share characteristics with Carlotta?
She came knocking at my door while I was writing a mystery with a male detective, Michael Spraggue. Spraggue was an actor. I'd intended him as a one-off, a break-in book, so that I could get my foot in the publishing door before writing a female PI. When I finally sold that first book, my publisher insisted that a woman PI would never sell. He wanted a sequel and I wound up writing four Spraggue novels, but all the while Carlotta was screaming in my ear, demanding to be heard. She and I are both tall, stubborn, and wear size 11 shoes.
Why crime fiction? What prepared you to write it?
Growing up in Detroit. That's the light response, but it has serious underpinnings. I lived next door to a cop who killed someone on my front lawn when I was very young. Then when I was 21, a dear friend killed himself. When I wrote my first mystery, I was trying to make sense of his death.
Do you prefer writing about Carlotta or Michael Spraggue? How do their crime detection techniques differ?
Absolutely Carlotta, although I have a warm spot for Spraggue. Carlotta's a pro; she's been a cop; she knows cops. She knows investigation techniques.
Over the years you’ve won or been nominated for a number of awards. Which one means the most to you?
Each means a great deal. Awards from your peers, like the Edgar, are wonderful. Awards from fans, like the Anthony, are even better. And awards from critics, like Publishers Weekly naming Lie Down With the Devil one of the best mysteries of the year, are incredibly helpful in terms of publicity.
Which of your books was the most difficult to write?
None of them are easy. How I wish they were. Heart of the World posed a special challenge because it was set in Colombia, a country I both love and fear.
What are the most important ingredients in a bestselling novel?
It's all character, plot, and language. But the most important of these is character.
Tips on acquiring an agent?
Real agents live in New York. Troll the internet till you find a reliable list of literary agents. (Their association used to be called the Society of Authors' Representatives, but now it has a different name.) Write a one-page killer letter saying who you are and why your book will sell. Send it to any ten names on the list. If your letter's any good, you'll get a least one request to read your manuscript.
The writer(s) who most influenced your own work?
Dashiell Hammett and Dorothy L. Sayers.
Advice for fledgling writers?
Keep at it.
Who would you like to be trapped in an elevator, past or present?
Dashiell Hammett or Dorothy L. Sayers.
Thanks, Linda, for taking part in the series.
Linda's blog site: lindabarnes.com