Saturday, March 31, 2012

Author Interview: Lyn Horner

"Our teacher asked me to read my rather long treatise in front of the class, and would you believe those kids clapped when I finished?"

Before you quit work to stay at home with your kids and write, you worked in the visual arts, including as an instructor for the Art Instruction Schools, known for their ads that ask, “can you draw me?” What was that experience like? In what ways do you think that experience has helped you in your writing career?

Working at AIS was a wonderful experience in that I got to know many talented artists. Some became my close friends. Correcting the same lessons over and over again could be tiresome, but I enjoyed advising budding art students with my demonstrations and letters. I believe my time there did much to build my self-confidence, and quitting to stay home with my two young children led me to write. As I’ve said many times, I started scribbling to save my sanity.

You were born in San Francisco and have since lived in Minneapolis, Chicago, and Texas. I’ve lived in three of those and the other is one of my favorite places to visit. Yet, with the possible exception of Minneapolis and Chicago, they’re vastly different. Would you tell us your favorite things about each place?

My parents and I moved from California to Minnesota, my mom’s home state, when I was only four years old, so I don’t remember San Francisco, except for one foggy memory of a gorilla at the zoo. He was staring at me through the bars of his cage. Beyond that, I remember my parents’ stories about Golden Gate Park, Fisherman’s Wharf and the San Francisco streetcars. Being handicapped, my dad did not like the hills.

Minnesota, where I grew up, married and had my children, is the greenest, most beautiful place anyone could wish for in spring and summer. The many lakes are like jewels on the landscape. Early autumn brings a breathtaking canopy of bright color. Then comes winter, a wonderland for ice fishermen and cross country skiers, but I’m not one of them. When my husband was transferred to Chicago by his employer, I was glad to go. I wished we were heading further south, but Chicago has much to recommend it: outstanding museums, fantastic restaurants and a dramatic history. That’s where I first thought of writing about the Chicago Fire of 1871, and I spent a lot of time researching it. Eventually we moved to Texas, first to Houston, then to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I tolerate our hot summers quite well (with air conditioning) and I love the big sky country beyond Fort Worth. This is where I was meant to be.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

No. First I wanted to be a painter, then a fashion illustrator. I did both, but looking back, I should have majored in history or English in college, rather than art. As early as junior high, I enjoyed researching historical subjects. Once when I was in 9th grade, I was assigned to write a paper about the Marquis de Lafayette, hero of the American Revolution. Our teacher asked me to read my rather long treatise in front of the class, and would you believe those kids clapped when I finished? Too bad it didn’t dawn on me then that I was fated to be an author.
One of your books is called Six Cats in My Kitchen. Tell us about this book.

Six Cats is a memoir, focusing on the role six special cats played in my family. As I state in the opening paragraph, it’s not a cute kitty book. Although I wrote it in a chatty style, with humor sprinkled throughout, the book touches upon serious topics such as grief, upsetting life changes, and coping with a genetic disability. Some of my cat care beliefs have drawn sharp criticism, but overall this little book has been well received. By the way, it includes pages of family photos.

Your Texas Druids series is a planned trilogy, with two books plus a prequel available, and the final book in the works. This is a historical western romance series with a touch of the paranormal or supernatural. What was your inspiration for this series?

First there was the Chicago Fire, as mentioned above. That led to sending my heroine, Jessie, west in search of love. I actually wrote her story as a straight western romance to begin with. I also wrote a sequel featuring her brother Tye. Neither story sold. Several years passed during which paranormal romances grew popular. This inspired me to introduce a supernatural element to my westerns. Jessie and her siblings became psychics. Their Irish lineage gave me the idea to make them descendents of Celtic Druids. Because I’d experienced prophetic dreams in the past, giving Jessie second sight was a no-brainer. Her brother and sister have their own unique gifts.

You mention in your biography that you like doing the historical research for your books. Darlin’ Druid, the first book in your series, covers a lot of geography from Chicago (with a tie in to the fire you referred to), then on to Utah and Texas. How did you go about the research to get the details authentic? Do you research with specific questions in mind or learn as much as you can and then sprinkle in historical details that fit your story?

When I begin researching a time period and setting, I apply the scattergun method, collecting general information from books and websites. Later, as the plot takes firmer shape, I seek specific details. This involves more internet research, ordering books on specialized subjects, making phone calls and occasional trips to view the settings for myself. For Darlin’ Druid I visited the Union Pacific RR Museum in Omaha and the Bosque County Pioneer Museum in Clifton, Texas. I also called the National Archives in Washington, D.C. to find out who was the commander of Camp Douglas, near Salt Lake City, in 1872. I was a tad nervous about doing that, but the man I spoke to was very helpful, not the least put off by my obscure question. People are often eager to pass on their knowledge.

Tell us about the route to publication for your books, and why you chose the route you did.

For years I tried the traditional route, submitting to New York publishers. I even signed with two different agents who had no better luck selling my work than I did. After submitting, rewriting, and submitting again and again, I stuffed the battered manuscripts in a closet. Now I must admit they were not ready for publication. My writing style needed improvement. Following years of practice, many stops and starts, lots of volunteer work and life changes, I’d pretty much given up writing when Amazon came out with the Kindle and gave authors the opportunity to self-publish. A friend and critique partner gently nudged me into giving it a try. My computer savvy son helped me set up a blog and assisted me with other tech matters. On November 4, 2010, I published Darlin’ Druid. It’s been a roller coaster ride ever since.

What do you think the biggest challenges for Indie authors are?

The two biggest challenges we Indies face are getting our books noticed and juggling time. I’ve tried every promotional tactic I can think of: blogging on my sites and guest blogging for others, chatting on writer forums, doing interviews such as this and requesting book reviews. I haven’t held any book signings yet because none of my books were in print until recently, when Darlin’ Druid became available in trade paperback size via CreateSpace and Amazon. Still, my sales are relatively small, although Amazon’s new KDP Select program has definitely helped.

Time management is a topic authors discuss constantly. It’s especially difficult for Indies because we must do everything ourselves. We don’t have a big publishing house behind us to edit our manuscripts, prepare book covers, print and distribute the books and publicize them. Since we have to do all those things ourselves unless we hire someone to do them for us, which gets expensive, our writing time is drastically restricted. I’d like be two or three people!

What are your plans after you finish the last of the Texas Druids trilogy?

I will shift my focus to Ireland. There’s a book I’ve had on the back burner for quite a while. Set during the 1798 Rebellion (the Year of Liberty) it’s close to half done, and I’m itching to get back to it. This manuscript made the semi-finals in the big Orange Rose RWA contest back in 2008. The second half of the book entails writing some battle scenes, which means more research. Oh goody!

What do you like to do in your leisure time?

Leisure time, what’s that? Okay, kidding. I do allow myself a little time off. Naturally I enjoy reading, and watching TV helps me unwind. Gardening is my only outdoor hobby, when I can find time. I also enjoy traveling, but not very often. (It’s that time problem again.) Several years ago my husband and I visited Scotland and Ireland. That was wonderful! Oh, and I love seeing our kids and grandkids. Fortunately, they all live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Who are your favorite authors?

Diana Gabaldon is my favorite author. I love her Outlander series. I’ve read those books so many time that her main characters are like old friends. I also like Linda Howard, Iris Johansen, Judith Ivory, Linda Lael Miller, and James Patterson for a change of pace.

Have you read books by your fellow Indie authors and, if so, are there any you’d like to recommend?

Well, I have a bunch of books by Indie authors on my Kindle, but I’m ashamed to say I haven’t yet read most of them. Again, it’s that blasted lack of time. However, there is one I’d like to recommend. The title is Dawn by the River. It’s part of a series by British author Elli Fitz. A contemporary romance with erotic tendencies, this is not my usual cup of tea, but it’s so well written that it instantly drew me in and kept me reading. There’s also a startling revelation at the end. Quite brilliant!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes, I’d like to mention a group blog site I recently joined called Cowboy Kisses. It’s hosted by western romance author Ginger Simpson, and it includes some of the best Indie Western Romance authors in the business, Jacquie Rogers, Paty Jager and Caroline Clemmons to name just a few. Each author has her own page linked to the main home page, and we will each be posting a blog at least once a month. For western romance fans, this offers a diverse source of author and book info.

Authors interested in participating in our weekly interview series can find the details here  

For More Lyn:

For more, visit Lyn's blog or the Cowboy Kisses blog mentioned above. You can also follow her on Facebook or twitter.


Darlin' Druid               Review  Amazon US  UK  Paper
Dashing Druid                         Amazon US  UK  

Six Cats in My Kitchen             Amazon US  UK  

Also mentioned:

Dawn by the River by Elli Fitz   Amazon US  UK


Rosanne Dingli said...

I agree, Lyn - no indie writer has any leisure time, and we'd all LOVE to clone ourselves so that one can write and edit, and the other can do everything else that needs doing at home!

Mira Kolar-Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen Wojcik Berner said...

I think you are absolutely right about time management, Lyn. Good luck with your work.

Lyn Horner said...

Morning, Roseanne and Karen. Glad to see you here. Reading comments is one thing I can always make time for! ;)

Ratan Kaul said...

One of the best interviews I've seen, giving an insight into Lyn's exciting journey as an author.

Lyn Horner said...

Al, thanks for having here today. I'm happy to share some of my writing experiences with you and your readers.

Lyn Horner said...

Ratan, what a wonderful compliment to both Al and myself! Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Very good interview Lyn. It's nice to get to know my friend even more.
I'm glad Darlin' & Dashing have made their way to my Kindle, both books I highly recommend!

Hugs ~Maggie~

Devon Matthews said...

Great interview, Lyn! I agree with above poster--one of the best (as in more diverse) I've seen. Nice to get to know you better.

All the best of luck with your Druids in Texas series! You're a wonderful writer and deserve all the success in the world. :)

Lyn Horner said...

Hi Maggie and Devon. Thanks for stoppin by. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

Note to all visitors: All of my books are enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select program. That explains why they are not available in digital format anywhere else. Darlin' Druid is available in print via Amazon & CreateSpace. Soon, Dashing Druid will also be in print.

mountainmama said...

Hi Lyn! What a great interview. So nice to see you here and hear more about your work. Having read one of your books and enjoyed it, I look forward to reading the others. Best of luck to you!

Alison E. Bruce said...

I've got Darlin' and Dashin' Druids lined up to read when I have the time... but we all know about time, don't we. It's got that when I'm told "There's been a delay, do you mind waiting," I say "Great!" and pull out my Kindle. Otherwise I'd hardly read anything that isn't research.

Robert Blanchett said...

Hi Lyn,

Fascinating interview but I'm still not sure how you learned to write so well. I've just finished "White Witch" and, though I thought that I would never read anything in the genre, I enjoyed it! I'm now well into the book about cats. (Well, it's about a lot more than cats, isn't it?) Great stuff.

Lyn Horner said...

MM,nice to se YOU here! Everyone, this talented lady produced my video trailers for both Texas Druid books. She's a wonder! See for yourselves:

Lyn Horner said...

LOL! Alison, I share your pain. I have so many terrific books waiting on my Kindle, and I'm lucky if I get to read a few pages here and there. Kind of sad.

BooksAndPals said...

Thanks for all the readers who have (and will) stop by, especially those who have commented. That's the best way for me to tell that people are enjoying this feature. And of course thanks to Lyn for doing the interview.

Lyn Horner said...

Robert, you know how to make an author smile. :)

I'm thrilled to know you enjoyed White Witch. I hope you'll try Darlin' Druid next. Uh, after you finish Six Cats, that is.

As to how I learned to write, it comes naturally in some respect, but I've put in more years than I care to admit improving my skills. Like anything else, writing takes lots of practice.

Lyn Horner said...

Al, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having my here today.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Great interview, both questions and answers! Lyn, I love how your books morphed to the paranormal aspect with the Celtic flavor. I also love how we don't have to stay inside the box anymore, and your books are proving it.

BooksAndPals said...

I agree, Jacquie. One of the things about being an Indie is no one can tell you your genre bending and mixing will never sell, except, of course for readers. And chances are, if it is something that appeals to the author, it there is a readership out there who will be interested as well.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Lyn, so nice to learn more about you, even though I've known you for several years. You are very productive and a very nice person as well. I always enjoy a book more if I know the author is a nice person. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Lyn Horner said...

Jacquie, you hit the nail on the head. Crossing genres has been a no-no decreed by big publishers forever, and it has driven away far too many promising authors. I firmly believe it's the reason Darlin' Druid wasn't picked up back in 2008.

I'd done well in the Orange Rose contest that year, with my unfinished Irish book. One of my final round judges, a Big Six editor, liked the book but said she couldn't offer for it because her company had just signed for a trilogy set in Ireland. However, she requested more of my work. I sent her a synopsis and three chapters from Darlin' D. She got back to me, saying she didn't want the book, but that I should not take out the paranormal element because it's what made the story unique. I believe it was that element that prevented her from buying the book. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

By the way, I host a thread on Amazon's Meet Our Authors forum, titled Books Unmolded: crossing genres, breaking cookie-cutters.

Lyn Horner said...

Caroline, thanks for stopping by, my friend. I'm reading your book, Out of the Blue. It's a fun read! See you at the next Yellow Rose RWA meeting.

Wicked Leanore said...

Awesome post Lyn, I love learning more about you. Love them Texas Druids!

Ginger Dehlinger said...

Thanks, Al, for including books and authors from all types of genres! I just enrolled as a follower of Cowboy Kisses. :)

Lyn Horner said...

Thanks, Wicked! I'm glad you galloped over.

Ginger, I hope you enjoy Cowboy Kisses. I'm quite partial to that sexy cowboy in the header. ;)

Walter Knight said...

I enjoyed the interview.

I've chatted with Lyn on Amazon threads, but it's nice to connect a bit more with my imaginary internet friends.

Write long and prosper.

Paty Jager said...

Wonderful interview! Great getting to know you better!

Lyn Horner said...

Ooh, Walter, another Star Trek fan! I've been one from the very beginning. Love your play on Spock's timeless line. I may have to borrow that. :D

Paty, thanks for popping in. Same back at yuh. I envy you your photo friend. He/she is gorgeous!