Tuesday, December 11, 2012
From Teaching Literature to Writing It: Lynnette Hallberg (aka Lynnette Austin)
Julie: Your new series with Grand Central will be published under a pen name, Lynnette Austin. What made you decide to use a pen name for this series?
Lynnette: We do have a lot in common, Julie! And, yes, I do like the Dave Matthews Band. “So Damn Lucky”—what a great song! But my true love in music is country-western. I earned my master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. Go Cowboys! :-) Gotta love’em.
I drive my two critique partners crazy with my “shower” writing. Although we live in Florida, one of us has a second home in South Carolina and I have one in the Georgia mountains. We run away to one or the other several times a year for a week of intense writing and critiquing. My books tend to come to me in out-of-order scenes and, when they do, I’ve learned to grab them and write them down. It’s not unusual for me to head into the shower and, by the time I’m finished, have four to six pages written. Tape recorders work well, too, there and in the car.
The scenes come fully fleshed-out. I see them in my head. My characters come to me that way, too. I keep a three-ring notebook and compile all my scenes, my notes, pictures, name charts, whatever comes along. Then I go through the mad mess, put the scenes in order, and I’m ready to start writing my book. I add to this WIP notebook as I go. So I probably fall somewhere between a panster and a plotter on the writing food chain.
Everything we’ve ever done or experienced helps to make us who we are. This is reflected in our writing. I taught eighth grade gifted language arts for more years than I can count! I’ve always loved to read and this was almost an extension of that. I had a chance to share great literature with my students and hopefully some of those authors’ expertise rubbed off on me, even in the tiniest way. And I know that some day I’ll see my students’ work in the bookstores. What incredible talent is coming along.
Julie: What have you found most surprising about the writing/publishing business? What misconceptions did you have when you first started?
Lynnette: When I first got serious about writing, I thought of the publishing world as this enormous unknown. There was so much to learn and I really felt as though everyone else had the secret code, and I didn’t. That’s so not true. There is, unfortunately, no secret code.
However, there is a great support system—other authors who have been there, done that. By belonging to FWA, members have already accessed a wealth of knowledge. If you’re just starting out in the business, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Writers are a wonderfully sharing group of people.
One of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me? Someone told me early on to keep in mind that the writing community is actually quite small. Editors and agents move around a lot. Don’t burn your bridges—ever. Always remember that this is a profession and behave accordingly. Don’t let your emotions rule.
Julie: We first met several years ago at the SleuthFest conference. Do you attend a lot of conferences? Which ones? And what do you find valuable about them? What advice would you give writers to help them get the most from a conference?
Lynnette: I do go to conferences. They’re invaluable for the networking and the information. They pump you up and get those creative juices flowing. It’s also a great way to stay current. A word of caution, though. Don’t write to trends. By the time you finish that WIP about the time-traveling vampire set in Bermuda because an editor said she’d like to see one, the market for that will be on the downside and you’ll be frustrated and will have wasted a lot of valuable time. Now if you’ve always had your heart set on writing about a time-traveling vampire who lives in the Caribbean . . . :-)
Don’t be afraid to volunteer. I met my former agent, Deidre Knight, at a conference when I acted as timekeeper for her agent/editor appointments. You make valuable contacts. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to people. Most writers are introverts. We enjoy sitting by ourselves in a room all day. It’s hard to step out of that comfort zone. But do it. You’ll gain so much. The knowledge and expertise at these conferences is mind blowing.