Lynda McDaniel - Page-Turners that Engage and Inspire
Lynda McDaniel loves writing page-turners--both fiction and nonfiction. And she loves helping others to do the same, living into their dreams of writing books. She believes her success comes down to a respect for her readers and clients. Lynda says she is easily bored, so she works hard to engage and inspire her readers. Over the years, she has written more than 1,200 articles for major magazines, hundreds of newsletters and blogs. She is proudest of the 18 books she's written. As our Author of the Day, McDaniel tells us all about her book, A Life for a Life.
Please give us a short introduction to what “A Life for a Life” is about.
Della Kincaid thought she was escaping Washington, D.C. for a quiet life in the mountains of N.C. After decades of writing about gruesome murders and shady politicians, she’s ready to settle into a relaxed life. But while hiking she discovers a body and is thrust back into that world. Abit Bradshaw yearns for acceptance. Bullied and mocked for struggling in class, the teenager's problems only get worse after his father yanks him out of school. These two unlikely partners team up to prove the death is no suicide. Butting heads with the local sheriff, they search for answers, racing to unmask the killer before they become the next victims.
Why did you pick a small town as the backdrop for your story?
As a young adult, I carved out a new life in the mountains of North Carolina. Decades later, I realized that everything I value today—writing, hiking, wildflowers, birds, gardening, preserving food, bluegrass music, ecology—took root while I lived on a small farm there, making mistakes by the wheelbarrow load, but learning so much.
Tell us more about Della Kincaid. What makes her tick?
That’s easy—I’m Della Kincaid (though she confronts more danger than I ever have). She’s passionate about journalism and the truth. She can’t sit by quietly while people break laws or break hearts. Della speaks up for her disadvantaged neighbor, Abit, and loves him like the son she never had. Oh, and she’s nutty about dogs.
Some readers say that the book reminds them of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Are you a fan of the author?
Yes! To me, this is the finest compliment anyone could pay. And the fact that several reviewers said this thrills me. Harper Lee has long been one of my favorite authors, even though for most of my life, we knew only of this one book. I especially love the way she imbued her characters with such profound integrity.
Why murder mystery? What drew you to the genre?
I’ve always enjoyed the set-up and resolution of mysteries; the suspense keeps me engaged. Not all of my books are about murder; the second and third books feature crimes of con artists and escape artists. When my stories do include a murder, I prefer to write in the British style, where the dastardly deed is done “off stage.” I don’t like mounting body bags and over-the-top violence, but I do enjoy the chase for justice.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
I’ve been a professional writer for 40 years. Over the years, I seem to have worked through most of the stumbling places, e.g., self-confidence—Am I creative enough? Do I have what it takes?—and the discipline to keep writing, no matter what. For anyone new to the profession or considering writing a book, I can assure you that if you ignore the naysayers (both internal and external) and practice, practice, practice and then edit, edit, edit, you can do it too. Years ago I taught myself to write (I’m still learning!), and today there are even more resources at your fingertips, so no excuses allowed!
Was there a particular character whose voice you found it easiest to write in?
Naturally, since I’m Della, her voice came easily to me. I was surprised, though, how quickly I conjured Abit’s voice. The music of the Appalachian dialect has never left me; it’s a beautiful combination of Southern and Old English like no other. It’s practical, yet lyrical. Plain-spoken, yet profound. When he speaks (as well as other local characters), the dialect comes flowing back to me. Abit is also a reflection of me—the side of me that, all these years later, still wishes the world were a nicer place.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“Benefit of the doubt.” Once you read more of Della, you’ll see that she and I share a headstrong view of right and wrong. That’s good up to a point, but to find peace in this world and treat people with the respect they deserve, she and I need to give more people the benefit of the doubt. That’s a work in progress, but we’re working on it!
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle?
On days I don’t feel like writing, I go out and explore my world. Now that I know I’m not a laggard and that I will meet my deadlines, I trust myself not to force writing. Sure, sometimes I make myself stick to it, and I’m always amazed at what comes forth. But usually, in that situation, I go out and pay attention to the people and goings-on around me. Nine times out of ten, I see something that inspires me or gives me an idea to work on—and that gets me writing again. I am not a proponent of the current mantra that writers need to write every day; that sounds like drudgery to me. Instead, give yourself permission to take a break. Remove the earbuds, turn off your phone, and go observe the world. It’s amazing out there—and it’s packed with fodder for your writing—both fiction and nonfiction.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I work from a rough outline, which gives me direction but also allows for spontaneity. As the expression goes, the Muse shows up when you do—and she sends wonderful unsolicited ideas that I try to capture quickly before they evaporate like a dream.
What are you working on right now?
I am almost halfway finished with book four—working title “Murder Ballad Blues.” It’s a little different—more of a standalone book now that the trilogy is completed, but it features the same great characters: Abit, Della, Alex, Nigel, Fiona, Conor, and Mollie. And I’ve incorporated into it the serialized story “Forged in Fear” I shared last year in my blog, though I needed to make a few tweaks to make it flow.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website https://www.lyndamcdanielbooks.com/ includes more information about my books, my characters, and me.
It also features a free prequel to “A Life for a Life” entitled “Waiting for You.” I’ve pulled back the curtain on their lives before they met in Laurel Falls, between 1981 and 1984. You’ll discover how Abit lost hope of ever having a meaningful life and why Della had to leave Washington, D.C. https://www.lyndamcdanielbooks.com/free
My blog includes 12 serialized episodes of “Forged in Fear,” which I mentioned above. https://www.lyndamcdanielbooks.com/blog-1