Author Interview: Linda Joy Singleton on The Seer series

Linda Joy Singleton on Linda Joy Singleton: “As a kid, I was always reading and writing. I even played writing games with my best friend Lori. We made up weird titles, put them in a bowl, and we had to write a story based on whatever title we drew out. I still have one of these stories: ‘Angel in the Bathtub.’ I kept many of my childhood writings, although I had more beginnings than completed books. Mom used to complain that I’d read her the beginning of a story then never finish it. But when I was 14, I challenged myself to write a chapter a day over Christmas vacation and finished an entire mystery called ‘Phantom in the Mirror Maze.’ That same year I wrote a fan letter to my favorite author, Margaret Sutton (Judy Bolton mysteries)(learn more), and she wrote back. We became pen pals and she even shared one of my short stories with her adult writing class. We finally met at my high school graduation party.

“Now with this start you’d think I’d sell my first book before I could legally drive. But I lost confidence and was side-tracked by life experiences like a teen marriage, divorce, a good marriage and two great kids. When I rediscovered my passion for writing at a local writer’s conference, I went after my writing dreams with obsessive persistance.

“For the personal stuff…I love cats, chocolate, nature walks, boating, camping, reading, writing and collecting girl series books (I have a library of about 5,000 books from Anne of Green Gables to Zanballer). I live on twenty-five acres in a house that my husband built. I am very lucky and feel grateful every day.”

What about the writing life first called to you?

Books have been dear friends for as long as I can remember. I started writing around age eight, and I still have one of those stories about a cat named Taben. I have a second version of this same story rewritten a year later, which is really fun to show at school talks (teachers love when I talk about the wonders of rewriting). When I was fourteen, I submitted short stories to American Girl Magazine and received some encouraging rejections. My biggest dream was to have my own published mystery series. Two decades later this dream goal came true.

What made you decide to write for young adults?

The first writing organization was Romance Writers of America and I worked hard on romantic suspense novels. But for fun I read books from my girl series collection like Trixie Belden, Beany Malone, Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton. One morning I just woke up with the idea for a teen sleuth character named Penny-Candy and wrote an entire chapter. That was a lightbulb moment which made me realize I was meant to write for kids (and for the kid inside of me).

Could you tell us about your path to publication–any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I had many rejections (and I keep them all in a big box). But two years after joining RWA–and then SCBWI–I made my first book sale, Almost Twins (Willowisp Press 1991). I sold this book on a proposal and did a lot of rewriting. The book was postponed and almost cancelled. When it finally came out, I took it with me everywhere–even to bed (at least the first night).

For those new to your work, could you briefly update us on your backlist?

I wrote five Sweet Dreams romances (Bantam) and #59 Sweet Valley Twin (Bantam). Then I got an agent who sold my first original series, My Sister the Ghost (Avon 1995). With disappointing bumps and blissful bursts of publication, I sold four more original series: Cheer Squad (Avon 1997), ReGeneration (Berkley 2000), Strange Encounters (2004) and The Seer.

Congratulations on the success of the Seer series (Llewellyn, 2004-)! What was your initial inspiration for these stories?

The first version was called “Psychic Sleuth,” about a spoiled, rich girl named Tessa who suddenly got psychic visions after a car accident. When Llewellyn expressed interest in this series idea, I read psychic biographies and learned most psychics are born with the gift.

So I tossed out everything and started over with Sabine Rose. I based her loosely on psychics I’d researched but mostly she felt like someone standing next to me sharing her story. She’s blond with a black streak of hair that’s a family mark of a seer. She’s afraid of the dark and desperate to fit in at school. She’s cautious, yet open; she’s genuine and a true friend. She feels like my friend.

What was the timeline from spark to first publication, and what were the major events along the way?

Okay, let me check my journal…

Feb 2003 I queried Llewellyn with the idea for The Seer series.

March 10, 2003, submitted a detailed series proposal.

March 28, 2003 The Call!

June 28, 2003 I turned in my first draft of Don’t Die Dragonfly.

September 2004, The Seer #1. Don’t Die Dragonfly was published.

The Seer #2 Last Dance came out in 2005; #3 Witch Ball in 2006; #4. Sword Play in 2006; and #5. Fatal Charm will be released in August 2007.

(In 2007, Witch Ball was selected as a YALSA Quick Pick.)

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) in bringing it to life?

Research is the fun part. I’ve gone to psychic fairs, enjoyed a seance, taken fencing lessons, watched jousting at a renaissance fair and interviewed a friend about astral traveling. The Seer is set in fictitious Sheridan Valley which is a compliation of Galt (where I used to live) and Calaveras County (where I live now). I mention real places that are nearby; a mall in Sacramento and theater in Lodi. I chose to invent Sheridan Valley for the freedom to create streets, schools, and businesses. My favorite business is Velvet’s Trick n’ Treats Shop where candy is sold in the front room and New Age secrets are sold in the back room.

What advice do you have for beginning novelists?

Join writing groups, attend conferences, read a wide variety of genres, pay attention to the publishers that write your favorite books since those editors may be a good match.

Don’t submit too soon; polish your work and make sure it’s submitted professionally.

I always recommend, which has so much writing information it’s like a free writing college online.

Also sign up for some writing listservs from yahoogroups. I’m subscribed to nearly thirty listservs and enjoy sharing, learning, loving everything related to writing. I also connect with readers and other writers on MySpace (visit Linda Joy Singleton’s MySpace).

How do you balance your role as a writer (research, writing, revision) and as an author (marketing, contracts, promotion)?

I work full-time as a writer. At least five mornings a week, I get up early and work on my current project. I exercise at Curves then after lunch return to my computer for emails, blogs, mailings, research, etc. I sometimes spend nearly my entire day at the computer. (Okay, this sounds like I’m dedicated…but seriously…I goof off a lot, too. Did I mention I’m addicted to reality shows? I’m watching one as I write this…!)

What do you love about your writing life?

Everything. Writing makes me crazy a lot but it’s all good. Sure, I have rejections and disappointments like books going out of print. But it’s a joy to work in worlds that I create, with characters I’ve created. Sometimes I almost burst with passion for writing; the thrill of taking a blank page and bringing it to life is wonderful. I was born to write…and as long as I’m writing, I’m truly alive.

What is its greatest challenge?

The industry. Sometimes it’s like extra gravity weighing me down; the uncertainty of sales and marketing. I’m always worrying about “the next book.” My fifth The Seer isn’t even out, and I’m already getting fan letters asking me if there’ll be a sixth book. I’d love to do more but it’s not my decision.

So I focus on what I can do–which is write. I’m currently writing an edgy urban science fiction YA (four-book) series with a heroine who was “born to kill her boyfriend.” Once I match it with a publisher, I’ll share the details on my blog.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Not writing? You must have me confused with someone else (g). Seriously, I put my family first, always. When my hubby gets a day off, I drop everything and go out with him. We love to take walks at a nearby lake, go boating, watch movies or go on wild drives in stormy weather.

What can your fans look forward to next?

The fifth The Seer, Fatal Charm, is due out August 07 (and available for preorder now!). In Fatal Charm, many of the mysteries from previous books are solved. Sabine spies on her secret half-sister, searches for an antique book with hottie Dominic, camps overnight on a horse-back trip, and witnesses a murder while astral traveling. There’s romance, too, with both Josh and Dominic. Sabine finally makes her choice.

And in 2008, my first hardback/midgrade mystery will be published by Blooming Tree Press (publisher interview). Into The Mirror is about an artistic foster child who runs away from her group home to a mysterious mountain community of scholars and dark secrets. She makes surprising friendships, climbs a hidden pyramid and discovers the real definition of home. This book is very special to me because it was inspired by my best friend and son. I can’t wait for Into The Mirror to be published!