Welcome to Linda Acaster
Where are you from and where do you live now? My formative years were in Kingston-upon-Hull – 2017 City of Culture, no less – and I now live 20 miles away on the Yorkshire coast, a gentle five minute stroll from a quiet promenade and views over Bridlington Bay to the white chalk cliffs of Flamborough Head. Aah, breathe in the salt air and re-laaax.
Please tell us a little about your writing. I’m a multi-genre writer, always have been. I started my career writing short fiction for any magazine that would have my work, from the national women’s magazines that paid me money to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Crime outlets that paid in printed copies. Although I now write mostly longer works, the multi-genre aspect has carried through, first to mainstream published historical novels and then to my indie-published trilogy and novellas. I like the scope.
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere. Since childhood I’ve been interested in the day-to-day lives of the Native North Americans of the upper plains, and for several years was part of a living-history group. Beneath The Shining Mountains came from that experience, that and around 400 research books. The Paintings came from a single line in an email exchange with an artist friend.
Are your characters based on real people? Never. Mostly they are based on aspects of myself, which to a reader will sound highly egotistical, but that isn’t how it works. I write very close in to my story via the viewpoint character’s senses. I become them via an emotional bridge – and lots of pre-planning of character motivation and fears.
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?I’ve met a person I didn’t like – maybe because overtly and very loudly she ridiculed my accent. Oooh, I can be nasty in print. Not that I hold grudges, you understand. Who, me?
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? I need masses, and of different types for different books. Research for The Paintings was 17 open tabs on my internet browser as I wrote. The Torc of Moonlight trilogy meant poring over history books and Ordnance Survey maps, then visiting the chosen locales to get a physical feel for them, knitting the place + history into the fictional premise, and then writing. The books are accurate enough to be used as walking guides to the modern locales, with the history hovering overhead. And no, I do not intend to take on such a complicated project again!
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? Most of my fiction has a theme, but I believe that every novel, and most short fiction, should convey some sort of information that often the reader isn’t aware of, alongside a pacy story. No one wants to be preached to. It’s one of those things that should rise quietly to the surface but stay once the reading is over. If it doesn’t I’ve failed to connect.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…)
Joint 1st: great characters & world-building – one simply can’t exist without the other or the entire edifice is out of balance and cracks will appear.
Joint 2nd: solid plot & technically ‘perfect’ because it is a symbiotic relationship, even if perfection is in the eye of the beholder. A plot can be as solid as granite, but if it is conveyed with the finesse of shovelling pig-muck, no amount of world-building or fully-formed characters are going to render the story readable.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? All my titles are available as ebooks via the major online retailers, and e-readers take care of large print. Beneath The Shining Mountains, my writers’ guide Reading A Writers’ Mind – Exploring Short Fiction, and the first two books in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy are also available in print. I’m still working on the third, but it won’t be long in following. Audio is a whole new world I still have to get to grips with.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I do self-edit, but I’ve been a reader for a London literary agency so feel I have some background experience. I continuously edit throughout the writing process (there is no quick & dirty draft), and again as a whole when it’s completed. Then the text goes through the automated Pro-Writing Aid which lists how many times x word has been used, queries sentence structure, punctuation, etc. Most of the items it flags I’ve specified for a purpose, but it does catch me out and I’m grateful for that. Then it goes to beta readers who are other writers, who look at the typescript with a critical human eye. I believe there is no such thing as a novel that falls direct from mind to page as publishable with any degree of integrity. A genius need not apply.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Most readers, and just about all digital readers, don’t care. I read lots of indie published fiction and have only wasted my time twice in the last year, which is about the same percentage as with mainstream published paperbacks. Readers expect a “good read” in a format in which they can immerse themselves. I don’t touch fiction using spaced block paragraphing. White space is important to the ebb and flow of a work’s rhythm. Having it inserted wrecks the pacing.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? Reviews are very important, and I always check on a handful when contemplating purchasing a book by an author I haven’t previously read. Then I ‘Read Inside’, and I make my decision. It isn’t usually the cost in money that is being weighed, but the cost in time. Who wants to get halfway through a novel and find the story has turned into limp lettuce? I’ve had my Native American novel lambasted because it was a novel and not a non-fiction book. Er, pardon? It annoys me that the particular review pulled down my ratings, but I’d never comment as I consider such troll-bait.
What are your views on authors reviewing other authors? Oh for goodness sake, it’s been done since books were bound. Amazon got itself into a pickle over this, but how can an author avoid it? Never review? Should hairdressers not review hair products? That’s ridiculous. I read, full-stop. Most authors are prolific readers, that’s why they’re writers.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
* Learn your craft.
* Pay for editing of a polished work at least once, and learn from it.
* Don’t indie publish everything you write, and never throw anything away. It will come in useful, even if for inspiration, further along your career.
Thanks for asking me along, I’ve enjoyed the challenge. If anyone wants to ask questions I’ll be lurking around the Comments list. See you there!
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Amazon (worldwide): http://Author.to/LindaAcaster
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaAcaster @Linda Acaster
3 thoughts on “Author Interview 123 – Linda Acaster”
Experience as a writer shines through this interview, as does that sadly misnamed quality, ‘common sense’. Linda knows the ropes and expresses her methodology well. She also writes great fiction: I speak as a reader who’s enjoyed everything of hers I’ve read.
Thanks for calling across and saying so, Stuart. It’s good of you to take the time. Enjoy your festivities.
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I’m not surprised to learn that you had 17 tabs open when writing The Paintings. Your meticulous research gives the reader a sense of foreboding from the start.