Friday, November 1, 2013

This Just In--can you multitask?

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>.

Twitter: @LynDeeWalker

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.


Joan Emerson said...

LynDee, your books sound like they need to be added to my to-be-read pile . . . it’s wonderful, too, that you get to be home with your Little Ones . . . .
Absolutely love mysteries with reporters as the main character . . . .
Always watch the news, both local and national, read the local paper . . . got to know what’s going on in the world. But it’s getting tough to read the news online . . . too many of the stories are video clips, which make me crazy. I want to read, not watch . . . .

Edith Maxwell said...

LynDee, I just added your book to my TBR pile! I also started writing a mystery novel when I had young children at home - specifically when my younger went off to kindergarten and suddenly I had every morning to myself. It got put on hold for about 16 years when I reentered the paid work force, but I'm happy to report that I have two books out and three or more in the pipeline! Good for you for making your dream work.

I get my news from two newspapers and NPR and I'm a real junkie about both those sources. Sorry Hank, I simply don't watch any television, but I sometimes catch your program later online. Mysteries with reporters? Awesome.

Terri L. Austin said...

I don't know how you manage to squeeze everything in, LynDee. But it works, obviously. I'm jealous of Nichelle--wish I could wear heels and not topple over like a bowling pin.

Larissa Reinhart said...

Great interview, ladies! I've read all LynDee's Nichelle Clarke's (even her latest manuscript) and I can honestly say what clever and fun books they are. I love all the snappy newsroom dialogue. And when I read them, I think of Hank! (Although Hank takes more of the role of Nichelle's news reporter nemesis, but I know Hank is much, much sweeter) LynDee is truly gifted at balancing the little ones and writing. I'm so happy for you!

LynDee said...

Thank you so much for the lovely comments, Joan and Edith (and Terri and Larissa, big hugs!).

Joan, I love getting to be home and still getting to do what I love. It's amazing. I should add that it wouldn't be possible if my hubby weren't as wonderful as he is.

Edith, I'm an NPR junkie, too! I do watch local TV news, though, and I read several papers online.

Terri, I wish I could, too!

Larissa, aw, thank you! You know how much I love Cherry Tucker, too. :)

Hank and the Reds: Thank you SO much for having me today! I'm super excited to be here!

Terry Ambrose said...

Hi LynDee, your book sounds like lots of fun. I can't even believe you finished a first draft in five weeks. That's like, superhuman. Congrats on the book and best of luck!

Deb Romano said...


You sound as though as you have managed to find more than 24 hours in a day!I think all moms of young children have more time management skills than any CEO.

I recently purchased the first Nichelle book and looks like I need to push it to the top of the TBR pile so I'll be prepared to read book number two!

Hank, be assured that I love reading books about/by reporters! (I need some of those time management skills so I can fit in things like cleaning the house; reading always comes first!)

LynDee said...

Terry, thank you! I sort of can't believe it, either. That summer is a blur.

Deb, aw, thank you! I hope you enjoy them! I have loads of fun writing them, but I love nothing more than hearing from readers who enjoyed reading them! :)

Brenda Buchanan said...

I am an unrepentant news hound with a particular affinity for reading actual newspapers. The feel of the paper and scent of the ink just do it for me. I suspect our recycling bin may be the only one in town filled to the brim with newsprint each week. While I also read news online and watch news on TV, we still buy and read three papers a day at our house. Sundays are like Christmas.

Like you, LynDee, my first career was as a reporter and it is indeed difficult to get the news biz out of your system. I have a different day job now, but also write crime fiction with a newspaper reporter protagonist.

Congratulations to you on your success finding the sweet spot between raising a family and writing what you love. I will look for your books.

Tammy said...

Hey LynDee, welcome. Your book sounds fabulous. Enjoy the ride!

Linda Rodriguez said...

LynDee, your books sound fascinating! I'll be adding them to my TBR pile, I can tell.

Hank, I love mysteries with reporters, especially yours. I read real paper newspapers, online news, and listen to NPR. No TV, I'm afraid. (Not a values thing. Just sheer lack of time.)

Before you had to buy the box for HD or whatever (which we didn't buy because we hardly ever used it as a TV), the only TV we watched was the news, but alas, our local news broadcasts turned into infomercials more than actual news, so we stopped that, too. If we had your news programs here, we'd probably still be watching. When I was in Boston for AWP, I watched you on the news each night. Great fun!

LynDee said...

*Waves* Hey y'all! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Brenda, I think journalism is in a person's DNA. I don't know anyone who was ever really in it who's been able to get totally away. :)

Tammy, thank you! It's been a crazy ride, so far, but wonderful!

Linda, I hope you enjoy the books! I love to read about reporters, too (more of that "news as DNA" thing). Have a wonderful weekend!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thank you, Linda! x

I always wonder--because the public assessment of reporters is down with car salespeople (sorry)--so sometimes I think--will "the public" want to read a mystery centered around them? Hmm.

Yes, I read three newspapers every moring..and one of the joys of my life is weekends at the breakfast table with coffee and the papers.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

LynDee, when you wrote the book in five weeks (still can't get over it) did you know where the plot of the book was going?

Kaye Barley said...

LynDee - So good to see you here! This is a terrific interview. FRONT PAGE FATALITY just moved closer to the top of my TBR stack.

LynDee said...

Hank, I wondered about that, too. Whether people would like a reporter as a protag.

And to answer your question, I didn't! I really was writing it for fun, with no clue what I was doing. I remember it being like watching a movie in my head and transcribing it. And boy, was the middle of that movie a crazy mess of rabbit-trails!

It didn't occur to me to try to get it published until I was finished (my mom was a very persuasive lady). Hence all the slashing and rewriting. While the beginning of the story didn't change that much, the back half was almost entirely rewritten before it sold.

So the drafting stage of that one was fast, but I spent months and months redoing it and fixing it up as I learned about plot and craft.

These days, I try to come closer to getting it right the first time. :)

LynDee said...

Kaye, wow, thank you! I'm so excited that you plan to read it, and I hope you enjoy it! :)

Deb said...

Hi LynDee, from your fellow native Texan, who is still enjoying the heat and the food, and right now, glorious fall days!

I'll imagine your Nichelle as my daughter, who can run in high heels--something I could never do!

Five weeks--hats off to you, girl. Now I'm a little encouraged that maybe I can finish mine in progress in five weeks...

As for news, when I used to drive my daughter to and from school I was an NPR junkie. Not so much now--I usually use my time in the car to think. We watch our local ten p.m. news some nights, and I like the female anchors on all three stations. I don't watch national news programs except in a crisis; I prefer to read the news.

I get updates online, and for about a year I gave up print newspapers altogether. I hated it. Now I get the Dallas Morning News Wednesdays and Sundays, and the New York Times Friday through Sunday. Sunday is bonanza day now. I never get through all the sections I save but it's fun trying!

Lisa Alber said...

LynDee, I love the cover and title -- added to my TBR pile too! I've always admired working moms. I don't know if I'd have the self-discipline to get the writing in. I'd probably napping along with the kids!

Hank, I'm a big fan of reporter sleuths. I didn't realize public opinion is so low -- I'd like to think that's because the public throws paparazzi into the mix too. Maybe?

LynDee said...

Hey Deb! Have an enchilada for me this weekend! :) Glad the weather is being kind to y'all this Fall, too. And your draft? You can do it! Steady progress every day will get you there.

Lisa, there are days I want to nap with the kids, for sure. I try to keep in mind that I'm very blessed to be able to do this, and that helps keep me motivated.

I think low opinion of reporters comes either from folks who have dealt with some of the worst of the lot (not our dear Hank, of course, or me, I hope!) or from people with something to hide (who probably wouldn't like me, or Hank!). For the most part, so far what I've heard from readers is that they think it would be a fun, interesting job. Which it is. That's how it hooks you!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

AND THE WINNER of LArissa's book is:

PAt D!

PAt, email me at hryan at who dot com and I will put you two in touch!


Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, I think people assume reporters are...unreliable. Which is exactly the opposite of reality--for the good ones, at least!

And aggressive, and pushy. Which CAN be correct--but in pursuit of the truth. A good reporter can be determined--but classy and compassionate.

And yes, I think the paparazzi get lumped in with the NYTimes--sigh.

And yes, in the DNA a bit. The "curiosity" gene.

Kristi said...

Fantastic interview and great discussion in the comments section. Solitary among former crime reporters! My debut mystery (June) features an Italian-American crime reporter in the SF Bay Area. It is so discouraging to hear people rip on reporters and newspapers. Anyone who has worked in a newsroom knows that 99% of us got into the biz because we were idealistic and believed we could actually do some good in the world with our reporting. god knows not a single one of us got in the biz for the money! ; )

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, I agree, Kristi.. and people say to me,oh, I NEVER watch TV. Like it's a terrible contagious thing. So disheartening. (Plus, what's the goal of telling me that?) :-)

Kristi said...

You have to balance those people out with the ones who contact you to tell you that your story made a difference in their lives. I treasured those letters, phone calls, etc. and will never forget them.
And I know that your reporter stories, Hank, and I'm sure LynDee's, as well, have improved people's lives. We just have to cling to that when people try to get us/put us down!
And as far as telling a TV reporter they don't watch TV? I don't get it. Passive aggressiveness?
Sorry, I obviously have some thoughts on all of this! I'll go back to drinking coffee now!

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

You had me at "Armani-clad corpse"....... Can't wait to dig in!

LynDee said...

Hey Kristi! I definitely got into journalism because I wanted to help people. And I absolutely remember every single call from someone who said a story I wrote had helped them.

There was a college kid who died of the meningitis type that I can't spell (meningococcal? did I get it right?) and his family sat down with me and shared memories and stories for hours one evening, because I was just about the only reporter in town who wasn't a jerk to them. I stayed up until after 3 writing that story, and every time hubby asked me to come to bed I said "I can't. Gosh, I hope this boy's mother is happy with this story." She was, and she called, crying, to tell me so. I called her on the anniversary of her son's death for many years, just to let her know someone remembered. I still think about her every January.

And Hank, honestly ... what is the MATTER with people? I used to get the "I don't have time to read the paper" every once in a while, and I always thought "and you couldn't keep that to yourself?"

Susan—oh, hooray! I so hope you enjoy it. :)

Thanks again for having me, ladies! I had a blast!