Linda Berry - Fast-Paced Murder Mysteries
Linda was raised in a globetrotting military family. In Europe, having no TV, books became a ready entertainment and life-long passion. Retired from a career as an award-winning copywriter and art director, Linda now writes fast-paced murder mysteries full time. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, The Killing Woods.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Killing Woods is about.
Fleeing a failed relationship and the stress of being a homicide detective in a big city, Sidney Becker takes the job of police chief in her hometown. Life in the picturesque mountain community is peaceful—until a woman is found brutally murdered in the woods. The case instantly becomes intensely personal. Garnerville is a small town. Folks are inextricably linked. It’s unnerving to imagine that almost any man in town could be the killer, hiding in plain sight. As she conducts her investigation with her small force of three officers, Sidney finds she is pitted against a killer more cunning than any she has faced before.
In addition to the murder investigation, the story takes you into the heart of the community and the comforts and camaraderie of small town living. Woven into the mystery is a dose of romance, as three couples engage in developing relationships.
What inspired you to write about a detective who is haunted by grisly crime scenes and depraved murderers?
I have to deeply admire and respect my protagonist to accompany her on a journey through an entire novel. Sidney Becker is a classic heroin—highly intelligent, honest to a fault, and motivated by a commitment to duty. Though quaking on the inside, she will step into a danger zone and face a life and death situation like a Marine in combat.
As an author, I like to get into emotional tsunamis and explore a person’s breaking point, and how they deal with the challenge. Complex characters that are bitterly wounded or pathologically twisted are interesting to me. Contrasting the most vile and repugnant aspects of human nature to the most heroic and noble is, in my opinion, good storytelling.
Tell us more about Sidney Becker. How much of your own personality have you written into her character.
Sidney Becker is a composite of several female cops with whom I became well acquainted. To write authentically, I do extensive research. Before I wrote my first mystery, I did dozens of ride-alongs with female patrol officers in San Francisco. I chose the night shift when the city was rife with criminal activity, and I got to see these courageous women in action. I spent a lot of time observing them, and I interviewed them extensively. I saw beyond the uniform, to women who LOVED their jobs, and had completely different personas in their personal lives, where they took on the roles of wives and mothers.
As far as my own personality goes, I’m merely a choreographer. I move characters around from scene to scene from my position of comfort in front of my computer. Personally, carrying a gun and being compelled to use it, is as remote a concept as I can imagine. My sense of self-preservation would dictate that I run away from danger, not directly into it. I hope that Sidney reflects my own sense of fairness and integrity.
How did you conceive of the unique way the story is told?
It’s a trademark of mine to have several integrated stories told through the perspective of different characters. My stories reflect the range of characters each of us knows in real life. We all have people we admire, people who threaten us, or are just plain luny. I like to keep a reader alert and surprised by presenting a number of suspects, and creating several interrelated stories that ebb and flow through the main story.
Give us three "Good to Know" facts about you
Three characteristics that immediately come to mind are my friendliness, my sense of humor, and my optimism. I have always had a keen interest in people and I’m a good observer, passionately interested in humans and the world around me. I enjoy socializing but the greater part of my waking life is spent in solitude, writing, reading, and doing projects like gardening.
Where do you get your best ideas?
I pick up ideas from life—a remarkable event or person that I read about in the paper, or see on the news, or hear about in conversation. Everything influences my writing. I’ve always been a voracious reader: magazines, newspapers, non-fiction books, novels of every genre. Nothing is wasted. Reading builds creative muscle, a reservoir from which you draw ideas for a lifetime.
When working on a new book, what’s the first thing you do?
After thinking about the story for weeks and jotting down notes, I dive in and write the first draft of the first chapter, building up to the murder scene. I like to present my murder in the first chapter, when possible. At first, I don’t worry too much about the quality of writing. Though I know my main characters very well from previous books, I’m introducing new, secondary characters that I don’t know at all. By the end of the book I know them well, too, and then I’ll go back and rewrite the first chapter.
Do you suffer from writer’s block?
I don’t think of my respites from writing as writer’s block. I think of them as an opportunity to take some time off, clear my mind, and focus on others things, like catching up on my reading. I always have a stack of novels loaded on my iPad, waiting. As I read, thoughts start to percolate in my mind, and before I know it, ideas on how to choreograph a troublesome scene will materialize.
Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
I am disciplined in that I write first thing every morning, seven days a week. But I don’t outline. I don’t write a first draft of the entire novel. I write by the seat of my pants, often guided by a few loose ideas. My story unfolds as I walk through an investigation with my characters. As they follow evidence to solve a crime, so do I. I rarely know what characters are going to emerge as suspects, or even who the killer will be.
What are you working on right now?
I’m in the idea formulating stage right now for my next book. I just finished the Dead Chill, Book Two of the Sidney Becker Mysteries, and I’m taking a breath.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love to hear from readers. Reach me at [email protected]
Links to all of my books can be found on my website: lindaberry.net
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