LINDA RODRIQUEZ on Fighting Dirty and Orphan Book Syndrome + GIVEAWAY

hiresLindaCropToday we welcome Linda Rodriguez, author of the Skeet Bannion mystery series that began with EVERY LAST SECRET and continues with EVERY BROKEN TRUST, with the third coming May 2014 (woo hoo!).

In Every Broken Trust, life has settled into routine for half-Cherokee Marquitta “Skeet” Bannion now that she’s gained custody of fifteen-year-old Brian Jameson—until a party at her house ends in a killing and an attack on Skeet’s best friend, Karen Wise, after a drunken man claims that Karen’s husband’s accidental death years earlier was murder.

Brian’s friendship with a politician’s rebellious daughter and Karen’s fixation on finding her husband’s murderer frustrate Skeet’s efforts to keep them both safe while she tracks down the killer. Not knowing who she can trust any longer, Skeet struggles against the clock to solve a series of linked murders before she loses Brian forever and her best friend winds up in jail—or dead.

every broken trustCrimespree Magazine said of it, “The first Skeet Bannion showed great promise for a series featuring a strong and complicated heroine. This sophomore effort cements Linda Rodriguez as a writer whose promise has been made good. Damn good book.”

Linda elected to take our Deb Ball interview and has offered to send one lucky commenter a copy of Every Last Secret—more details at the end of this post! Welcome, Linda!

 What’s your secret or not-so-secret superpower?

I can count. Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much of a superpower, but this counting got amazing results. When my youngest son was small, if I’d had to tell him too many times to do something or if he was dragging his feet at having to get dressed/clean his room/do his chores, I would threaten him. “If you don’t [do whatever it was], I’m going to count.” And I’d begin the slow, deliberate countdown—one, two, three… He would immediately scramble around to do what he was supposed to, crying, “No, Mami, don’t count. I’m doing it. I’m doing it.”

There was never any threat of what number I’d count to or what would happen to him when I reached it. The only threat I needed was “I’ll count.” It worked even as he got older, clear into his teen years. He says now, as an adult, that he doesn’t know why it sent him into such a panic, but it seemed “ominous.” It was the only punishment I ever had to threaten or give—“Do it, or I’ll count.”

Share one quirk you have that most people don’t know about.

I fight dirty. Most people don’t know about this because I avoid fighting. I’m the peacemaker, the diplomat. But many years ago, I was a teenage hippie living in crash pads, and I learned some street survival skills. One of them was that, if you have to fight (and it’ll usually be against someone bigger and stronger), use anything you can lay your hands on. Smash a lamp over your opponent’s head. Whip a pole around into your opponent’s legs. I actually won a fight with a Hell’s Angel who had beaten up my boyfriend. You really don’t want to fight me. Fortunately, I haven’t had to fight anyone in decades.

Have you ever tried writing in a different genre? How did that turn out?

I wrote a fantasy novel that was accepted over twenty years ago by a major trade house after some revision. Just as we were to go to contract, my editor left the house, and my manuscript was dumped back on my doorstep. It was then that I learned about “orphan book syndrome” and the way a book becomes unpublishable when your editor leaves before contract. If it were to be a hit, the old editor would get all the credit, and if it were to be a failure, the new editor would get all the blame. Consequently, editors don’t want to touch these books—and who can blame them.

I love to read fantasy and science fiction and have written another fantasy novel that my agent will be submitting to publishers soon. If it ends up being published, it will be the final remedy to a deep hurt incurred many years ago.

Have you ever met someone you idolized?  What was it like?

I have had this opportunity several times. As a poet, I loved the work of Gwendolyn Brooks. Twenty-five years ago, I had the chance to meet her, get to know her, and meet her again several times over the years after that. She was so warm and encouraging, just an incredible woman, and I was truly grief-stricken when she died.

I had long idolized the writer and activist, Sandra Cisneros, and her work. One day, I had the chance to meet her, and we became good friends, still are. This was such a miraculous opportunity. Sandra is one of the most spiritually developed people I know, as well as funny and smart. She used her MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” to establish a supportive community for writers and to set up grants and awards to give to writers who give back to their communities. I was fortunate enough to receive one and to call Sandra my friend.

In other situations, people I have known and been close to have afterward gained great fame. The most recent example is the poet, Richard Blanco, who wrote and read the inaugural poem for the second inauguration of President Obama. Richard is an old friend and is experiencing an almost bewildering amount of fame right now. It’s fun to see my talented friend coming into his own.

Do you have a regular first reader?  If so, who is it and why that person?

Yes, I do have a first reader. But nobody sees my work until I’ve revised it and revised it. When I’ve taken it as far as I can go, when I know there are still things wrong with it but I can’t pinpoint them, I give it to my husband to read. I know. That’s what everyone says never to do. However, my husband Ben is an editor who runs a university press as his day job and his own award-winning small literary press as his avocation. He’s the best editor I know, and there are important writers all over the country who agree with me on that.

When we married, we made an agreement. We were each getting a good editor out of the deal. We promised to always be completely honest with each other about the work that the other showed to us for comment. And we’ve kept that promise without either of us ever having to sleep on the sofa. I was Ben’s first reader for his dissertation and then for his scholarly book on Jewish theater and film. He’s been my first reader on all six of my books—a cookbook, two books of poetry, and three novels (counting the one that’s in production now for a May publication date). Marrying Ben was the smartest thing I ever did.

Thank you for having me here today! And best of luck to all of you as your debuts launch!

You’re welcome, Linda! So, readers, tell us about your superpowers. Come on, we know you’ve got some!

every last secretGIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday, November 7, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Every Last Secret. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck! (U.S. addresses only, please.)

Linda Rodriguez’s novels, Every Broken Trust and Every Last Secret, and books of poetry, Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration, received many awards, including Malice Domestic Best First Novel, Midwest Voices & Visions Award, International Latino Book Award finalist, Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Eric Hoffer National Book Award finalist, Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.

To learn more about Linda Rodriguez and her books or read her blog, visit her website http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com. You will also find Linda on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaRodriguezWrites and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/rodriguez_linda.

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

24 thoughts on “LINDA RODRIQUEZ on Fighting Dirty and Orphan Book Syndrome + GIVEAWAY

  1. I love your super power. All the women in my family have this power too. It works even better when we start counting in Spanish. I look at my teenage daughter and tell her, UNO…
    Before I can get to DOS she starts doing whatever it is she has to do to keep me from continuing to count. It is awesome!

    • It is an amazing superpower, and I wish I’d known about it for my older two kids–and that it worked on all those bureaucratic folks out there at places like the DMV and telephone company.

      So glad I’m not the only one who has this. We could form a Justice League of counters. “Congress, get this government open now, or we count!”

    • Lisa, from your mouth to God’s ear! It’s a trilogy about four strong but very different women faced with the inconceivable. It came about from my thinking about how horrible it must have been for the slaves kidnapped and brought to America or even women back when they were totally chattel–and how could one deal with such impossible situations.

      • That sounds wonderful, gripping, and topical, Linda. I think about women as chattel too often. It sickens me that the sex slave industry is booming. My mind can hardly fathom it …

        • It was a kind of thought experiment, Lisa. What would happen if I took several strong modern women and subjected them somehow to that kind of hopeless situation. To the slaves brought to America, it was like being taken to another planet where they didn’t know the language or culture and with no hope ever of going back home. How did they survive those rigors without all killing themselves?

          I’m interested in the capacity of the human spirit to rise above even horrible conditions, and I explore that in this set of fantasy books.

    • Thank you, Donna! I hope you’ll enjoy it. I would always recommend good chocolate and a nice hot drink, as well. Maybe a soft shawl around your shoulders or a lap quilt over your knees.

  2. have similar ‘counting’ powers…
    my flock are true believers way into adulthood that I have eyes in the back of my head, that work even better than those in the front …late teen aged grandson spilled the beans when he stated kf/nana pays attention, count on it.. wherever you are…that’s her real
    magic…

    • Kathe, that’s great. You can join Andrea and me in the Justice League of Counters. Boy, we’d clean up some of the mess out there PDQ with our motherly/grandmotherly magic!

  3. I enjoyed learning about your writing, and especially about Ben and his ability to read and appreciate your writing. His book on Jewish theater and film would be fascinating since that era was successful, productive, lively and I still miss the good old days when Yiddish was prevalent. Superpowers are hard to come by but I do try to maintain my composure at all times and this is a feat that is sometimes difficult when dealing with individuals whose integrity is sadly lacking. Best wishes and much continued success. Every Last Secret is captivating.

    • Pearl, thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed reading it.

      Actually, Ben’s book on Jewish theater and film is fascinating. Though it’s a scholarly reference book, he wrote it in a clear, lucid style rather than the turgid, jargonistic way most of those books are written. I’ll have to brag on my guy a bit now. He’s not only a great editor of many award-winning books, but an internationally known scholar of Yiddish drama and literature. Something no one expects to find in Kansas City. As a great Yiddishist said when Ben was introduced as a speaker at a conference in New York, “Golus fun golus,” which means, “In exile from exile.” 🙂

      You do indeed have a great superpower if you can keep composure when facing lack of integrity in someone you must deal with. I’d love to have that one!

  4. Gwendolyn Brooks and Sandra Cisneros? Wow, what an amazing opportunity to know and meet these literary icons.

    P.S. I love your book cover. I’ve been staring at it all week on our site!

    • Ha, Susan! When you’ve been around as long as I have, you get to know everyone. Actually, I consider myself blessed to have known Gwendolyn slightly and to be able to count Sandra as my friend to this day.

      The book cover fairy tapped me with her wand. I’ve published five books by four publishers with another on its way, and the covers of all six books are gorgeous. I’m so fortunate. The next one, Every Hidden Fear, is even prettier.

  5. What a wonderful asset–having a built-in editor husband! Fun interview to read, Linda. I share your counting powers as well. It must be a secret weapon we moms carry. lol. Thank you for sharing with us at The Ball.

    • Hurray, Heather! Another recruit to the Justice League of Counters. We’ll have to get some nifty costumes. I, for one, say no spandex. This body prefers something a little more drapey.

      Oh, Ben is a real asset. He drives me on book tours and goes with me to mystery conferences. He loves the mystery community and finds them a welcome relief after the dog-eat-dog literary world. If you attend Malice Domestic next year, you’ll probably see us. As a friend once said, “Just look for the woman who looks like Wilma Mankiller with the man who looks like Mick Jagger.”

      Thanks for having me at The Ball. It’s been loads of fun!

  6. So great getting to know you through this interview, Linda! And what an amazing opportunity to know both Sandra Cisneros and Richard Blanco. It’s amazing what Sandra has accomplished not only in her work, but in helping others’ voices get heard as well. And I’ve been fascinated by Richard Blanco since he read at the inauguration; I grew up in Miami so there was a lot of hometown pride when we found out he’d been chosen for this honor!

    • Oh, Natalia, yes. Sandra is truly one of the most spiritually enlightened people I know and yet one of the most fun. She’s one of my favorite people in the world. And Richard is a real sweetheart, too. He actually picked the title poem for my next book of poetry. I had planned a different title, and he insisted that this other poem was the heart of the book, and he was right. He’s a lot of fun, too, and a good friend of Sandra’s, as well. And he is such a Miami boy, even though he lives in Maine now. I’ve critiqued chapters for his memoir, and the stories of his childhood in Miami are delightful!

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