Today I have author Linda McLaughlin in the house, author of The Best Present, part of Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology by Debra Holland and Friends.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a semi-retired librarian who used to be a travel agent, as well as a writer. I fell in love with books as a child, and libraries have always been one of my favorite places to hang out, along with bookstores. When my husband and I travel, he knows he’ll lose me for a while every time we come across a bookstore. I may not buy, but I can browse for hours. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA., but moved to Southern California at the age of 14 and have lived there ever since, except for a year at University of Texas in Austin to get my library degree.
How did you get started writing? Did you always want to be a writer?
As a child, I daydreamed about writing books for children, coming up with elaborate plots in my head. Unfortunately, I never wrote anything down. In high school, we took a preference test, and my results showed that I had traits shared by people in three professions: teachers, librarians and writers. My parents made it very clear that two of those choices were acceptable, and writer wasn’t one of them. So I put those dreams aside. When I turned 40, I decided to give writing a try. (Forty was my magic number too!)
What was the hardest thing you’ve found in the process of self-publishing? What was the easiest part of self-publishing?
The hardest thing about being self-published is keeping track of everything. Spreadsheets help, but there are a lot more details to deal with that traditionally-published authors don’t have to deal with. Cover art, ISBNs, copyright, formatting, uploading, etc. The easiest part is not having to submit you work to an agent or editor and wait months, or years, or sometimes forever, to hear back. Mostly I like having more control over what happens to my stories.
Do you believe there is still a stigma attached to the idea of self-publishing? And how to combat any negativity you come across?
Yes, I think there is still a stigma, mainly because there are still poorly written and poorly edited books being self-published. Someone who wants to stigmatize self-publishing can find examples, if that is what they wish to do. However, self-publishing is now a lot more acceptable than it was even a few years ago. Nothing succeeds like success, and there have been enough indie authors putting out quality work and being rewarded for it to minimize the criticism.
Tell us about your main character. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses.
My main character in The Best Present, is ten-year-old Allison Harcourt, who is having the worst Christmas of her short life. Her dad has lost his job, her beloved grandmother has died, and her family is moving from Pittsburgh to Spokane. Life will never be the same. Allison’s strength is her resilience. But she’s a worrier, and she doesn’t always know when to keep quiet. Sometimes that gets her in trouble. She’s a lot like I was at that age. In fact, the story was inspired by some of the events of my childhood.
What are you reading now?
Three To Get Lei’d, third in the Tiki Goddess Mystery Series by Jill Marie Landis, a very funny cozy mystery by one of the authors in the Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthology. Sometimes I get a little melancholy at this time of year, and reading a humorous book helps.
Do you have any words of inspiration for aspiring authors?
Learn your craft: read how-to books, attend workshops or conference, take online classes and WRITE.
Find a support group: join a local writer’s organization, find a critique group or online partner. Unpublished writers can help each other hone their craft. Your strength may be someone else’s weakness.
Never give up. (Awesome advice!)
Do you or have you belonged to a writing organization? Which one? Have they helped you with your writing? How?
I joined Romance Writers of America and the local Orange County California chapter shortly after I started writing. I’d never have made this far with OCC. That’s how I found my critique and plot groups, plus the monthly meetings have been a source of learning and inspiration. RWA and its local and special interest chapters does a fantastic job of training romance writers and providing support.
Would you prefer to live in the mountains or near the ocean? Why?
Ocean. I grew up not far from the Allegheny Mountains, but I’ve always been fascinated by the ocean, even as a child. Of course, living in Southern California provides the best of both worlds. The Pacific Ocean and San Gabriel Mountains are both in easy driving distance, and the desert is, as well.
What's your favorite food?
Anything with chocolate in it. (Absolutely!)
Where can readers find you?
Website, http://www.lindamclaughlin.com/ or
Blog at http://flightsafancy.blogspot.com/.
Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Linda-McLaughlin/e/B007A3OMLS/
Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Debora.
The Best Present by Linda McLaughlin
Ten-year-old Allison Harcourt's life has been turned upside down since her father lost his job and her beloved grandmother died. She's not looking forward to Christmas, especially since she can't figure out how to finish the scarf she's making for her mother. An unexpected stop in Sweetwater Springs brings her and her parents to the boarding house of the widow Murphy. Sometimes sweet things can be found in the most unexpected places.
The Best Present is part of Sweetwater Springs Christmas: A Montana Sky Short Story Anthology by Debra Holland and Friends: E. Ayers, Linda Carroll-Bradd, MJ Fredrick, Paty Jager, Jill Marie Landis, Trish Milburn, Linda McLaughlin, Bev Pettersen, Tori Scott, Cynthia Woolf
Come celebrate the holidays in 1895 Sweetwater Springs, Montana, as ten Western Romance authors join New York Times Bestselling author DEBRA HOLLAND in telling SHORT STORIES of love and laughter, heartbreak and healing, and most of all, Christmas joy.
Buy link: http://amzn.com/B00G06W3SA
Montana, December 24, 1895
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.”
Allison Harcourt stared at the opening lines of her favorite book, Little Women, until the words blurred. Unable to read, she closed the volume.
Christmas won’t be Christmas without Grandma.
Sudden tears filled her eyes, and she turned her head to stare out the train window, blinking furiously to make the moisture go away. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. The words pounded rhythmically in her head to the clack of the train over the tracks. Mama and Papa hated seeing her cry, but it was hard to hide the tears with Mama sitting across from her. If only her seat faced front. Then Mama wouldn’t be able to see her.
Her mother heaved a sigh. “Why do you read that book when it makes you weep?”
Allison wiped her eyes and looked at her mother. For once Little Women wasn’t the reason she was crying, but she gave the same answer she always did. “Because it’s so good.” It was a familiar refrain, one they had exchanged the second and fifth and tenth time she’d read the book. Usually she only cried Beth to died, but now, with Christmas only a day away…
She slipped the book into her carpetbag and turned back to the window so Mama couldn’t see her face. The scenery outside sped by as the train clattered along the track, clouds of black smoke billowing back from the locomotive. Allison could barely see through her tears, but it didn’t matter. She was tired of looking at the prairie, so flat and boring, especially today with the sky a pale gray. There were supposed to be mountains ahead, but her seat faced the rear of the train. All she could see was what was behind her--not just miles of prairie, but her friends, her school, and her home back in Pittsburgh--before Grandma died and Papa said they were moving.
She wiped away a tear. It’s not fair. But Papa said life seldom was. Since she was only ten, Allison guessed she’d have to take his word for it. But leaving still didn’t feel right.
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda McLaughlin grew up with a love of history fostered by her paternal grandmother and an incurable case of wanderlust inherited from her father. She has traveled extensively within the United States and has visited Mexico, Canada, & Australia. A lifelong dream came true with a trip to England where she was able to combine sightseeing and theater with research for her novels. A native of Pittsburgh, she now lives in Southern California with her husband.
Her first book was Worth The Risk by Lyn O'Farrell. Now Linda writes historical and Regency romance. She loves transporting her readers into the past where her characters learn that, in the journey of life, love is the sweetest reward.
She also writes sexy to erotic romance under the name Lyndi Lamont.
Great interview, Linda...thanks for being here today! Great excerpt, too!