Thursday, July 06, 2006
INTERVIEW: Mystery Writer Linda L. Richards
Your website made me want to pack up my husband, children, dog, cat and fish and move to British Columbia. Tell us what is so magical about this place.
I think you must be referring to [when I] talk a little bit about finding where you belong, physically, in the world. I've lived other places—mostly Los Angeles and Munich—but when I don't live in Vancouver, my heart hurts. I just can't think of another way to say it. And when I move back, it does not.
The thing I talk about on my site is finding the place in the world where you belong. Again, the physical place. Some of us were born in that place, others spend their lives finding it. I was lucky: I was born there. It's saved me a lot of confusion.
Are your books set in British Columbia?
They are not. Or mostly not. Mad Money is set in Los Angeles and New York. The Next Ex is set in Los Angeles and a little bit in Seattle. The new book, Calculated Loss, is set mostly in Vancouver and was by far the most difficult of the three to write. I've discovered that I find it easiest to write about a landscape I know well, but that I'm not actually in.
You and your husband launched your own online mag, January Magazine, in 1997. Boy, does that sound stressful. How did the magazine come to be?
First, David is not my husband. He's my partner in life... we've been living in sin since... er... 1994. (We met in 1993.) The distinction is important to me. We're both a little fearful of messing up the works with an actual marriage. What if the thing that we have—the thing that is so lovely—was ruined by a formality? We've not wanted to take that chance.
Anyway... that's not what you asked. You asked about January. It's kind of a long story—and so long ago now—but I'll give you the short version.
Initially, January was intended to be an online portfolio of our work. David is a very talented photographer and graphic designer. And we'd done a lot of author interviews for various newspapers and magazines and I'd also done reviews for various markets. Plus we both have strong print publication backgrounds. So we created January Magazine just, you know, to have done it and, before very long—I'm talking just a few weeks—we were a Yahoo! Site of the day and—overnight—our traffic went from friends and family to quite literally thousands upon thousands. It was amazing and it was a real rush. At the same time, other writers and artists started approaching us and telling us they liked what we'd created and could they come play in our sandbox? And, you know, it just grew and grew from there.
I'm quite proud to tell you that January is considered to be one of the most respected voices about books on the Internet. It's not what we set out to do, but it's what happened. And I think that just says so much about the passion and caring that so many people have invested into it over the years. Heck! It'll be ten years in 2007. Wow.
You and David live with a mysterious yet loveable dog named Jett, whom you rescued. How did you come to rescue her, and why do you recommend taking in rescued dogs?
I call her the insane wonder dog. She's so sweet. She spent the first year of her life in a crate at—near as I can gather—a puppy mill operation. So she never really got socialized. Then she spent half a year at the SPCA. She was cute as anything but, somewhere along the line, she'd learned that if, when people came to look at her, she barked like crazy, they'd leave her alone. When we met her, she barked and barked and barked like crazy, but we cornered her to make sure she wouldn't bite—and she wouldn't—and then we adopted her thinking, you know, if we loved her for a few months she'd be fine.
Honestly, it took more than a few months and, in some ways, she'll never be entirely like a normal dog. Like when people come—and we have a lot of visitors—she'll bark and bark and bark and, when that doesn't scare them off, she'll run and hide. There are maybe eight people in the world that she's not afraid of and she has to meet you about 20 times before she even starts thinking you might be OK. For all of that, she's an awesome dog. When it's just David and me at home, she's just so sweet and loving and we never have to worry about her running away (because she's afraid to let us out of her sight). And she's good and clean and quiet and we've taught her some fun tricks... she just doesn't trust people very much. Though with her early experiences, I can't blame her.
And I guess I wouldn't recommend a rescue unconditionally. They're not for everyone. We sometimes also call her our special needs girl. Not everyone has the time or inclination for that. But if you do, it's very satisfying, knowing that her life is better now than it would have been without us in it.
Your first book, Mad Money, was called “a fiendishly complex tale.”
That's from one of the first reviews ever. I was delighted. Honestly, I think I cried. Because you write these things, pretty much in isolation, don't you? And you hope people will get it, you know? You hope they'll understand it the way it was meant. And when they do... it's just joyous.
The same review also said it was "a light in the noir," which just made my week.
How did you happen to write a book about the stock market and day trading?
A few years ago, I got bitten by the stock market bug. And I'm an incredibly enthusiastic person. When something grabs my attention, I can be obsessive about it. Part of having been a reporter, I guess. Or maybe why I became a reporter. But when I get that way, I want to know everything about whatever topic it is I'm currently obsessing on. I research it, I read about it, I do it, I dream it, I talk about it to whoever will listen. It oozes out of me. When I'm like that, I can barely contain the focused energy.
So I remember the day. It was August and somewhat hot and muggy. I guess that must have evoked LA for me. I was living on the West coast, as I do now, which means the markets close in the early afternoon in that time zone. I'd had a good day -- made some money and bought some stuff that looked good for the next day -- and I had this incredible sense of other. This stock thing, after all, was then something fairly new to me. I'd been a business writer at one point, but writing about public companies is very different from using your own money in the market and executing your own trades. Pretty much everything I knew about actually trading I'd learned on my own. My little successes had made me feel powerful and strong and accomplished. Perhaps, on this particular day, even tall and blonde, I dunno. In any case, with the markets closed and nothing to do with all this stock energy, Madeline was suddenly just there with me. I sat down and bashed out about 7000 words of what is now Mad Money in one sitting. Maybe it was projection, at least a little. Madeline was who I felt like on that day. Or maybe who I wished I could be—if I'd had a different background, not to mention different genes. But Madeline is a stock market goddess. Unlike me, she knows everything there is to know about that world. She's been incredibly successful as a New York broker, but has given it all up for a different kind of life.
And please explain in terms I can understand—I’m math phobic.
Now you'll have to explain to me: what does math have to do with the stock market? There is no math at all in my books.
I guess I’m Economics-phobic.
Were there lessons you learned from your first book that you employed in writing your next ones, The Next Ex and Calculated Loss?
Sure. But we learn all the time, don't we? We learn more and more about pacing and tone and characterization and... I guess at the point we weren't learning anymore—the point where we knew everything—it would no longer be fun. I don't see that point happening for me.
Your books have been recommended by the current queen of thrillers, Gayle Lynds. Have you met her?
I have not. She very graciously agreed to read The Next Ex and gave me that super blurb. I've gotten to know her slightly in e-mail since. She seems just lovely.
On your blog you wrote that Kenneth Lay’s death is a sort of cosmic justice. Do you believe in Karma?
Well, I do. But that's sort of an aside. I wrote the Ken Lay rant the day he died. And I guess I was somewhat touched by the whole affair because, in some ways, he personifies the sort of evil bad guys Madeline encounters in my books.
Now, had the Enron scandal happened in a Madeline Carter novel, Lay's end would have been similar, but much, much worse. That is, there would have been no wondering about why this happened or if there was such a thing as cosmic justice. That's the beauty of fiction: there is! And is that one of the reasons that we write this type of fiction and not some other? There is justice in these worlds we create. It may come in surprising packages, but there's justice, nonetheless.
Where can your fans find out more about you and your books?
My books are widely available: most bookstores carry them and, if they don't can get them in for you.
For straight up Linda-flavored information, you can check out my personal Web site:
For random thoughts and musings (and I warn you, they can be pretty random) you can peek at my blog:
Who is your all time favorite mystery writer? There, I’ve put you on the spot.
Oh, but what a lovely spot! I like it here. I have two favorites: they're tied. Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep in particular. I read widely—both in this genre and others—but I come back to these two for comfort whenever I can.