Linda Sandifer Interview
Greetings friends. I have a treat for you today. This post consists of an interview with a writer colleague, Linda Sandifer. Linda is the author of thirteen novels. Her books, set in the American West, have found fans among both women and men and have been translated into numerous languages. Linda and her husband own and operate the ranch her grandfather homesteaded 100 years ago. She’s a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and the Blue Sage Writers of Idaho.
Will: I’ve known you for about ten or twelve years. When we first met, you were primarily a romance writer. Now, I understand, you are concentrating primarily on Western historical fiction. Is that correct, and what brought about the change?
Linda: There were stories I wanted to tell that wouldn’t work in the romance genre. Besides historicals, I have also written a contemporary novel set in Nevada, The Last Rodeo. There is a love story in it, as there is in all of my books, but it’s more about a man whose retirement from the rodeo, and his rekindling of an old flame, set into motion events that put him and his family on an unwanted journey of transition.
Will: I think my blog followers would be interested in knowing about your background, i.e., when did you start writing, and what brought about this interest in writing? I know you’ve said your father was a natural story teller. Perhaps you inherited some of that from him.
Linda: I’ve always enjoyed reading. By the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to write. I started writing stories and poems while in my teens. I wrote my first real book when I was about twenty-two. It wasn’t until I got married, though, that I got serious about getting published. I wrote “with intent” for eight years before I got my big break and my first western romance was picked up by Avon Books.
And, in answer to your question, it probably didn’t hurt to have spent a youth listening to my father talk about his adventures on the ranch. He could really captivate an audience. Plus, growing up on the ranch gave me the ability to write accurately about the West and its people.
Will: You have had numerous books published by traditional publishers. How is the publishing industry different today from the way it was when you sold your first book?
Linda: I think it’s a lot harder to get published now. Back then most publishers took submissions from authors, not just agents. I sold my first three books without an agent. Another thing that has changed is that a book’s “concept” is now almost more important than the actual story and the quality of writing There were also a lot of mid-list books when I started, hundreds of distributors, and dozens of publishers. Mid-list books were the bread and butter of the industry. It was also the publishers’ responsibility to market and promote your books. Authors now are expected to shoulder much more of it, if not all.
Will: Do you think it’s more difficult for new aspiring authors to obtain an agent and sell their work to a traditional publisher today than in the past?
Linda: Yes. Although there are opportunities with small, independent companies, there’s only a handful of big publishers. It also seems as if there are more writers so the competition is really stiff. And since there seems to be less opportunities for mid-list books, it’s harder to get that break..
Will: You have recently reclaimed the rights to a couple of your previously published novels and converted them to e-books and made them available at amazon.com. What is your take on self-publishing and e-book publishing?
Linda: I have the rights back on all my books now. And, one by one, I hope to make them available as ebook. The ones I’ve converted so far are also available at Barnes & Noble online. Self-publishing used to be a real stigma but it’s the rage right now. I think in some ways this is good because I’ve read a number of well-written, good books that probably wouldn’t have found a traditional publisher because they didn’t comfortably fit into a genre or a marketing slot.
On the downside, I think there are a lot of very poorly written self-published books out there, too, and when you buy a self-published book you are always taking a chance that it will be riddled with typos and that the author doesn’t know the craft. Whereas if you buy a book published by a traditional publisher, you usually have a better guarantee that it will be well written even if you personally don’t like the story.
Will: I have recently started rereading one of those novels Raveled Ends of Sky on my Kindle. I think this novel is part of the transition from romance writing to historical fiction because I can see you did a tremendous amount of historical research to incorporate into the novel. Tell us a little about how you do that research.
Linda: That particular book idea was a collaboration between an editor at Forge who asked me to write it for their Women of the West series. She had read one of my romances but couldn’t publish it because they weren’t doing romances at that time, but she asked me if I would consider writing a straight historical. She gave me a one-page, rather vague synopsis of her idea and I expanded it. It required a tremendous amount of research because the story was about one of the first actual overland journeys to California in 1843 as well as the events in California that led up to the Mexican War and the Bear Flag Revolt. I had research books scattered all over my office floor (which is about 16’x16′) for the entire eight months I was writing the book.
When I research, I start off doing a broad overview and then zero in on events that would make a good story. In the case of Raveled Ends of Sky, I chose the 1843 date because I thought it offered something new and different from the usual overland trail story. The research continues during the entire writing process, fine-tuning the big picture but also making sure all the minute details are accurate as well. It’s quite an undertaking, not for the faint of heart.
Will: And finally, I have to ask; do you have a work in progress that you’d like to tell us about?
Linda: Yes, I’m working on a new book set in the early 1900s. It’s steeped with Spanish and Native American supernaturalism and it’s quite different from my other books. It has been interesting to write. But of course, selling any book is usually the biggest hurdle for writers, even multi-published authors, so we’ll see what happens.