HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: How are you at juggling? Can you do two things at once? I used to think I could multi-task. Now I know--I really can't. I've learned--do one thing. Then do the next thing. The amazing LynDee Walker "gave up"--though that's the wrong phrase--a big reporting career for a different life. Now she's using that experience to create--well, let her tell you.
HANK: Reporter as crime fiction writer! Now there's a combination. I love how the two connect and intersect. How do you experience that?
LYNDEE: For me, it’s about getting to go back and play in a world I miss. Or at least, I miss parts of it. I left journalism (I worked in Dallas/Fort Worth, covering mostly cops and courts and local politics) to be a full-time mom, but started dabbling in fiction because I missed writing. I also missed people. Now I get the best of both worlds: I can be home with my little ones, and write about the newsroom (and I get to meet readers, which is wonderful)! Bonus: fictional surly cops and bereaved loved ones are so much easier to handle.
My journalism career informs my novels in so many ways, large and small. Some of the stories Nichelle (my main character) covers are versions of things I wrote about as a reporter, and the day-to-day details of the newsroom are second nature.
I stand in awe of you, though. How you manage to juggle your reporting career and your fabulously successful fiction career amazes me. Take a bow!
HANK: Aww. Thank you. Taking a tiny bow, and laughing at the same time. Bowing, and juggling. Very high degree of difficulty. Did you--as I did at first-- wonder if you could make stuff up?
LYNDEE: I did! When Nichelle first popped into my head I dismissed her, because I just knew I couldn’t write fiction. And I just knew I couldn’t write a whole book. I spent years learning how to write short, after all. But she wouldn’t go away, and once I started writing, I couldn’t stop (really. I finished a draft in five weeks. It was a mild case of insanity). Now, I love making up messes for her to get into and seeing how she gets out of them. I think I know going in, but she surprises me sometimes.
HANK: Wait. YOU finished a draft in FIVE WEEKS? How is that possible?
LYNDEE: I didn't sleep much. And I spent every second that I wasn't keeping my children alive holed up with my laptop, typing like a fiend. I wasn't sure back then where the story was coming from, and I was afraid it would go away any second, so I was obsessed with getting it into the computer. Plus, I was plowing through five years of missing writing. Oh, that draft was so long, and so messy. I ended up slashing out more than a third of the word count before I even considered submitting it. Now that I know I can finish a novel, just the idea of a schedule like that makes me tired.
HANK: So you don't write that way now? :-)
LYNDEE: I do not. When I'm working on a new draft these days, I shoot for between 1,500 and 2,500 words per day. That fits into my life much better!
HANK: Where do you write? Quiet, or music? Morning or night?
LYNDEE: Because I have three small children, I have to be flexible. During the school year, I usually write for an hour or so between when I put the older ones on the school bus and when the baby wakes up. If I need more time than that in a day, I either use her naptime, or I go out of the house to work after my hubby gets home. In the summer, it's much more chaotic. I love, love, love to write outside, though, so I often take advantage of the warmer days to sit by the pool and write while the children play. When I can't make anything else work during the day, I stay up after everyone else goes to bed and work. Oh, and I must have music. The 90s station is my writing playlist.
HANK: Tell us about Nichelle.
LYNDEE: Nichelle is my hero. Or she would be if that crown didn’t already belong to my hubby. She is determined, ambitious (she wants to cover the White House for the Washington Post) and smart. She can take care of herself, thanks to the body combat classes that help keep her in shape despite all the junk she likes to eat. She’s a career girl through and through, working 80-hour weeks at the crime desk at the Richmond Telegraph. She has a few good friends, a cute little dog, and a penchant for designer shoes she affords by shopping on eBay. She can run in stilettos (I know this is possible, because I have a friend who can. I cannot). Throw in a couple of sexy guys and some dead bodies, and she has an interesting life.
HANK: Yeah, I can run in stilettos. But I don’t recommend it. Does Nichelle always do what you think she’ll do? What are some of the things you’ve learned about writing fiction—you know, what Sue Grafton calls “the magic.” Ever encountered that?
LYNDEE: Nichelle loves to do the opposite of what I think she'll do! But I love it. For me, writing fiction wouldn't be fun without the magic (gosh, I adore Sue Grafton).
Joey (Nichelle's favorite Mafia-connected source, and growing love interest) is a great example of that in my books. I intended for him to be a bit player in one scene in Front Page Fatality, just there to add tension and give her a story tip. But he wouldn't go away. He just kept popping up, and now Nichelle and I are attached to him.
That's probably my favorite part of the process: the days when I get to sit in front of the computer merrily typing, only to have my jaw drop when the story throws me a curve I didn't see coming. It really is magic.
HANK: I also think my fiction has informed my reporting. Somehow I see the world differently. When you watch the news now, or read the papers—do you do that?—do you think of it from a different point of view?
LYNDEE: I do. I think it's because of the characters: to write good characters, you have to be inside their heads. For me, getting into other people's heads has made me look at stories and situations much more in grays and nuances. I consider motivations all around. When I was reporting (I was also so very young then) I tended to see everything in black and white.
HANK: Exactly. And give us a quick synopsis of your book! You know: Who, what, where and when.
LYNDEE: Here's BURIED LEADS in a nutshell: Sassy Richmond reporter in killer shoes digs up more than she bargained for when a corpse turns out to have bigtime political ties—on sale now!
HANK: Finally—how’s your life now?
LYNDEE: I am truly a girl blessed. After almost two decades together, my husband is still my prince charming, and my very best friend. I have three wonderful, bright, funny children who amaze me every day. And I get to be here to watch them grow up, yet still have this amazing career doing what I love. It's a wonderful life.
Thank you SO, so much for having me today, Hank. I am a longtime fan of Jungle Reds (and your interviews!) and this has been another part of this dream-come-true year!
HANK: Awww. It is such a treat to read wonderful new authors…and I am so thrilled with your success! Reds, lets talk about the news. Do you watch local news? Read the local paper? Do you like mysteries with reporters, ahem, as main characters? (Say yes, okay?)
LynDeeWalker grew up in the land of stifling heat and amazing food most people call Texas, and wanted to be Lois Lane from the time she could say the words "press conference." An award-winning journalist, LynDee traded cops and deadlines for burp cloths and onesies when her oldest child was born. Writing the Headlines in High Heels mysteries gives her the best of both worlds. LynDee is a member of Sisters in Crime and James River Writers. BURIED LEADS is her second Headlines in High Heels mystery. Her debut, FRONT PAGE FATALITY, is an amazon multi-chart #1 bestseller. A Headlines in High Heels novella will be in the anthology HEARTACHE MOTEL, on sale Dec. 10, 2013, and the third novel in the series, SMALL TOWN SPIN, is coming in April, 2014 (all from Henery Press).
LynDee adores her family, her readers, and enchiladas. She often works out tricky plot points while walking off the enchiladas. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is working on her next novel. You can find her online atwww.lyndeewalker.com
When an Armani-clad corpse turns up in the woods, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke smells a scoop. A little digging, and Nichelle uncovers a web of corruption that stretches all the way to Washington, D.C. Politics. Murder. And a dead lobbyist. It’s everything Nichelle’s ever dreamed of.
The cops are playing it close, the feds even closer, and Nichelle’s afraid her boss will assign the story to the political desk any day. Richmond’s new ATF SuperCop makes an arrest before she can say “Louboutin,” but Nichelle’s gut says he’s got the wrong guy.
Her sexy Mafia boss friend warns her off the case, her TV rival is hot on her designer heels, an ambitious copy editor wants her beat, and victims are piling up faster than she can track them down. As Nichelle zeroes in on the truth, it’ll take some fancy footwork to nab this headline before the killer nabs her.