Okay, hold on. I have house guests and one of them is going to do the drawing (usually I go traipsing over to the neighbors’ house). And the winner is. . .ERIN SALUTA! WOOOO!
Thanks, all, for playing. And stay tuned, because Jove Belle has a slew o’ goodness lined up for everyone this month, and I’ve got an interview with a publisher coming up, as well as with another author. So stick around.
Hiya, peeps! Today, author Linda Morganstein joins us on the Fall Fiesta Tour here at Women and Words!
Linda is the product of a borscht belt childhood spent in the Jewish hotels of the Catskills, where her father worked and where she was surrounded by showbiz folks. In the 1970s, she wended her way West and Sonoma County would be her home, off and on, for three decades. She earned undergrad and graduate degrees in psychology and ended up at Iowa State University, where she worked with Pulitzer prize-winning author Jane Smiley. There, she earned a master’s in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She built a career as a business/medical writer, a videographer, and writing consultant. She also writes novels, short stories, and poetry. AND she’s certified to teach martial arts. [so don’t mess with her :D] She is currently based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Her martial arts skills are something she gives to the main character in her mystery series, Alexis Pope. And guess what? Linda is giving away ALL THREE BOOKS in the Pope series, to ONE LUCKY WINNER!
To win this fabulous prize, leave a comment here at Women and Words. DON’T put your email address in the comment body (we’re trying to save you from spambots patrolling the interwebs), but DO put it in the registration form for the comment. Only the elves can see it. For reals.
We’ll have the drawing tonight at 11 PM Eastern Standard Time US! Make sure you check back to this post because I’ll put the winner’s name at the top. I notify winners via their email address within 30 minutes of the drawing, so if you see your name here, but you haven’t heard from me yet, check your spam filter!
Now let’s talk about Linda’s work.
UP FOR THE GIVEAWAY! BOOK 1 IN THE ALEXIS POPE SERIES!
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Devastated after the death of her husband, Alexis Pope goes to Sonoma County from the East Bay to work with her gay cousin in a new resort. She heads into the new experience not sure what she’s looking for, if anything, until a series of vicious events forces her to use her abandoned martial arts skills. In the midst of all that she’s dealing with, she begins to explore her sexuality, and face her denials and repression with regard to her attractions to women. Will she be able to figure out what’s happening at the resort? Can she protect herself and others? Well, if you win, you’ll find out!
UP FOR THE GIVEAWAY! BOOK 2 IN THE ALEXIS POPE SERIES!
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Alex Pope, still fragile from an emotional meltdown following the death of her husband and realizations about that and her own repressed sexuality, she becomes friends with two theater people who have come to California wine country to work on a production. She’s drawn to the female playwright, and protective of the teenaged actress, who is being bullied by a bunch of local girls, which leads to disaster and questions.
UP FOR THE GIVEAWAY! BOOK 3 IN THE ALEXIS POPE SERIES!
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A film company comes to California wine country to work on a low-budget horror movie based on the beheading of John the Baptist. Alex Pope gets in on the action as a stunt double, and she’s drawn into intrigues between cast and crew and an event that will lead her, again, on the trail of a killer.
And here’s Linda’s other published novel:
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Snobby, Scarsdale teenager Nina Weiss goes to work in her uncle’s Hollywood studio in 1948, and she’s assigned to publicize a young actress named Stella Kane. But when a gay actor at the studio is threatened with exposure, Nina invents a romance between him and Stella, and it works well, but there are some complications. Like Nina’s growing attraction to Stella. Come for a behind-the-scenes look at 1950s Holly wood!
Got all that? Sound good? Well, let’s go have a chat with Linda!
ANDI: Hi, Linda! Thanks so much for joining us here at Women and Words. Let’s jump on in. You describe yourself as having a childhood in the Jewish hotels of the Catskills. Then, in the 70s, you left Vassar and went west, to Sonoma County, California, where you based for some years before heading to Iowa where you studied creative writing. At what point in your life did you think: “OMG I totally want to write!” Was it something you thought about early on in your childhood or was it something that occurred to you later?
LINDA: Actually, I wanted to be a psychologist.
ANDI: This has to be quite a story.
LINDA: When I was little, I hid in libraries to escape my dysfunctional family. When I wasn’t reading novels, I hung out in the psychology section. I think the fiction writer me was always latent, but I was very good in school and I wanted to please people, so I imagined becoming a psychiatrist. I was reading Freud when I was thirteen. How’s that for formative influences?
ANDI: Well, there are worse formative influences, I suppose. . .
LINDA: I was in a Ph.D. program in health psychology at UC San Francisco when I was twenty-six. I found out my twenty-two year old brother had leukemia. When he died, I fell apart and dropped out of the program.
ANDI: Oh, wow. I am so, so sorry to hear that. How devastating for you.
LINDA: I went back to the school where I had eventually gotten my B.A. to salvage a Master’s out of all this education. This was Sonoma State University, known in California at that time as “Granola U.” There, I discovered writing fiction. I wrote my first novel (unpublished). Later, I got another Master’s in creative writing in Iowa.
ANDI: That’s intense, granola or not. I’m kind of interested, now, to know what that unpublished novel is about. Hmmm. But I’m also interested in your mystery series, which features Alexis Pope, a self-defense instructor and “recovering cynic.” Alexis also deals with discovering a new aspect of her sexuality, when she realizes she’s attracted to a woman, which happens after the death of Pope’s husband. The series thus explores so-called “lesbian late-bloomers.” What drew you to write this element in the series and through Alexis Pope?
LINDA: I have known quite a number of lesbian late-bloomers, although I came out when I was twenty. Alex just seemed to me to be the right character to portray the women who, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t or wouldn’t come out until they had lived “straight” lives.
ANDI: I read an article a while back about women who married men, had kids, and then hit their late 40s/early 50s and realized they were attracted to women — usually one woman in particular. That’s not always the case. Some women realized they were attracted to women early on, but instead married men, repressing that aspect of their lives. Then, later in life, they ended up deciding to deal with it. Some researchers are exploring the possibility that sexuality changes as we age, that yes, it’s fluid in some ways, but becomes even moreso with age (at least in some individuals). [for readers who are interested, here]
Let’s talk mythology. I’m a geek. I own that. I spent hours as a kid and later as a high school and college student reading Greek and Roman mythology. I also took a course in ancient Greek while working on my BA. So the titles of the first Alexis Pope novels resonated with me. Because I’m a cynic in my own way, I liked the sense of Greek tragedy in Ordinary Furies. I also liked the use of the term “Harpies” in the second book’s title. That one deals with many issues, including bullying. Are you also a fan of Greek and Roman mythology? Did something in particular resonate with you in terms of the Furies and the Harpies?
LINDA: As mentioned, I was a psychology major. During my time at “Granola U.,” I became interested in Carl Jung and his emphasis on mythological influences on the human psyche. This became and remains a passion for me. Not just Greek and Roman mythology, but mythologies of the world. I re-interpret them shamelessly for my own purposes. I think Jung would approve.
ANDI: I have no doubt he would. You also seem to have a love of Hollywood. You’ve got a standalone book, My Life with Stella Kane, about a “snobby college girl” who goes to work at her uncle’s Hollywood movie studio in 1948. The third Alexis Pope mystery, On a Silver Platter, has Alex doing stuntwork for a film company. You’ve mentioned that you were surrounded by showbiz types while growing up. Could you tell us a bit about that? And did you ever want to do any acting-type things yourself? And, just cuz, what are a couple of your fave movies? 😀
LINDA: Love of Hollywood, no kidding! I’m obsessed not only with Hollywood, but the performance arts in general. The only acting I’ve done was my high school senior play. (I was the lezzie character in Agatha Christie’s The Mouse Trap — how’s that for synchronicity??)
My father was a handsome maitre d’ in the hotels. He knew everyone, it seemed to me. Buddy Hackett’s girlfriend was my babysitter. I sat on Red Buttons‘ lap. I could spend two paragraphs on nostalgic name-dropping, but I’ll control myself. The whole thing was wild and, as mentioned, I coped by dreaming of my academic escape. Still, I did love the glitz.
Writing, for me, is the melding of all those selves.
ANDI: I’m trying to use Jung and Freud to understand the links between those two films, but it’s probably easier to just assume that the latter is because of your own childhood spent in resorts. As for the former. . .anyway. So what drew you to write mysteries? And where did you meet Alexis Pope?
LINDA: To be quite honest, much of my early writing was very character-driven and a little weak on plot. I was drawn to the mystery format because it is by nature plot-driven. I wanted to challenge myself. Alexis Pope came to me initially from a real person who had a certain nature and some of the tragedy that Alex experienced. Like all my characters, she then began to take on a life of her own. I studied mysteries and read about the structure and then proceeded to violate those rules a bit in my first two books. I couldn’t help it! I did learn, however, a lot about structure.
ANDI: As it should be. I tell new writers that you need to learn structure and infrastructure so you know how best to break some rules in the creation of their own works. Structure offers really excellent and handy guideposts. But it’s okay to go off the map, once you know how those guideposts function.
Now for some kickin’ ass talk. You’re certified to teach martial arts, something that you wrote into Alexis Pope. You’ve said that you have a passion for empowering women so that they can physically defend themselves. Talk a bit about that. Where does that passion come from? What sent you down that path?
LINDA: Women being abused had always made me extremely angry. I wanted to write about it. I decided to observe self-defense classes. I was very intrigued. Pretty soon, I was studying self-defense and then martial arts and was hooked. Although I became certified to teach self-defense, I never actually taught. I gave that mission to Alex Pope.
For me, that’s how a character and a story evolve. I start pouring all of my current and old obsessions into a person and a story-line.
ANDI: Which may or may not be a good thing. . .I’m laughing, because writing can be sort of this weird gray area between therapy and anxiety. It certainly lends a character realism if you’re able to impart a bit of what you do/think into him or her, but it’s also really cool to work with a character who may be nothing like you.
You’ve also worked with Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley when you were studying in Iowa. You said she told you to “get over your obsession with death and abandonment.” Alexis Pope deals with both in the first book of your series. I’d argue that those are pretty potent themes in a lot of literature, so why did Jane tell you that?
LINDA: I’m still trying to figure that one out.
ANDI: LOL and clearly, it hasn’t affected your plotlines! Now that we’ve kind of dug into your skull a bit, tell readers about your writing process. That is, do you have set routine every day? Care to share some of it with us?
LINDA: In the ideal world (ha hah), I would make all of my money from writing. In the mornings, I’d write. In the afternoons, I’d read and play golf and bake bread. Although this remains as yet attained (but not abandoned, you never know), I have been able to take more time with my writing in the last few years. And I always find the time to write when I’m on a project. I get up at 4:50 am, meditate, then write for two hours before I go to work.
No matter what, I learned from Jane Smiley that it’s amazing how you can write under way less than ideal conditions, if you feel compelled to. I wrote while sitting in my father’s hospital room when he was dozing, my laptop plugged into the bathroom’s electrical outlet. Airports are good, especially if you have long flight delays.
ANDI: And earplugs/headphones. Though I can go into a writing zone in lots of different places. That’s a good skill to cultivate, too, fellow writers. Being able to write wherever/whenever you get the chance. Cuz in today’s world, you just never know!
Okay, Linda. Is there anything else about you that you’d like to share with readers? Like, do you make your own beer? Raise chickens in your back yard? Restore old cars? Inquiring minds wanna know!
LINDA: Funny you should mention brewing beer! My partner of seventeen years has become an avid brewer.
ANDI: I am so there.
LINDA: It started with little kits and now she has pots and tubes and wires and has started a plot of hops in the backyard. Me, I bake sourdough bread. I have a piece of starter that was born 150 years ago. I just entered a sourdough caraway rye in the bread-baking contest of the huge Minnesota State Fair. Not only does that make me feel like a true Minnesotan, but — although I didn’t get a ribbon — I got 90 of 100 points. I’m very proud and will try again next year!
ANDI: Hey, that’s a loaf of awesome-ness right there. 150 years? YOWZA! And you got 90 out of 100? Rock on with your bread self!
LINDA: Due also to my partner, who is an avid golfer (avid is a good word to describe her), I have taken up golf. I’m big on physical activity. I work part-time as a personal trainer at the St. Paul JCC. [Note to readers: Jewish Community Center] All of this keeps me grounded as much as possible, given my over-active imagination.
ANDI: So what’s next for you in the fiction pipeline?
LINDA: I am currently returning to my “literary” roots with a mainstream serio-comic novel that takes place partially in Hollywood (of course) and partially in Minnesota. Stay tuned.
ANDI: Sounds great! We’ll definitely keep an eye out for that. And thanks for stopping by, Linda. Good luck with your writing and next year, we’re hoping you win the bread competition at the state fair!
All right, folks. There you go. So if you’d like a shot at winning the Alexis Pope trilogy, leave a comment below. And you can find out more about Linda and her work at her website, and Regal Crest Enterprises.