IN A FIX:
Snagging a marriage proposal for her client while on an all-expenses-paid vacation should be a simple job for Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire. A kind of human chameleon, she's able to take on her clients' appearances and slip seamlessly into their lives, solving any sticky problems they don't want to deal with themselves. No fuss, no muss. Big paycheck. This particular assignment is pretty enjoyable...that is, until Ciel's island resort bungalow is blown to smithereens and her client's about-to-be-fiance is snatched by modern-day Vikings. For some reason, Ciel begins to suspect that getting the ring is going to be a tad more difficult than originally anticipated. Going from romance to rescue requires some serious gear-shifting, as well as a little backup. Her best friend, Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she's been crushing on for years - both skilled adaptors - step in to help, but their priority is, annoyingly, keeping her safe. Before long, Ciel is dedicating more energy to escaping their watchful eyes than she is to saving her client's intended. Suddenly, facing down a horde of Vikings feels like the least of her problems.
1. Linda, I'm pretty sure I read that you got the idea for IN A FIX when you saw the name Ciel on a license plate. Have I got that right and can you elaborate?
First, I'd like to thank you for inviting me here today. I can usually be found down in the comments, but it's great to have a crack at the main stage of a blog I enjoy so much.
You're remembering correctly—I did see the name "Ciel" on a vanity license plate. TG and I were toodling along in Homer (my Odyssey minivan—get it? For Homer's Odyssey? Um, yeah, I name my cars), hauling our son back to college, when I glanced over at a car in the next lane. I saw "Ciel" on the license plate, and thought to myself, I know her.
A picture popped into my head of a petite, strawberry blonde, early twenties, with freckles. I knew at once she had a special talent—she could look like anyone she chose. She was a kind of human chameleon.
From there, the story just kind of bloomed, more like someone was blowing the fog away from it than like I was making it up. I know! Sounds pretty woo-woo-wackadoo, doesn't it? But honest to Pete, that's how it felt. (BTW, who is this Pete, and why does he apparently deserve honesty more than anyone else?)
2. Was IN A FIX the first book you queried? Can you tell us how you landed with Tor Books?
Yup, it was the first book I got up the guts to query. (Not, I hasten to add, the first book I wrote. That one is hidden from view in my desk drawer, taken out and dusted off from time to time, patiently waiting its turn for some much-needed revisions.)
I landed with Tor when my agent (the lovely and hard-working Michelle Wolfson) had the good sense to approach my supremely gifted editor (Melissa Frain) with it. We'd been having a hard time finding editors who could envision a funny urban fantasy as a saleable product. They seemed to like reading In a Fix themselves, but didn't think they'd be able to get it past their editorial boards.
See, most urban fantasy tends to be a little darker than I'm able to write. One editor, who shall remain nameless, absolutely loved the concept of In a Fix, and asked if I'd be willing to make revisions. Being a naturally cooperative sort, I said sure. But then she basically wanted to change the whole personality of the book—to make it darker and more dangerous, in keeping with the UF genre as she saw it. I thought about it, actually considered doing it (by that time I wanted publication so bad I could taste it), but ultimately the whole idea of gutting the heart of the book—because humor is its heart—gutted me. Couldn't do it. And Michelle was in complete agreement, thank goodness.
Mel came along just as I was about to despair of ever finding my funny little heroine a home. She adored Ciel and her cohorts as much as Michelle and I do, and really went to bat for us at Tor. Luckily, she convinced the powers that be to take a chance on me. They bought In a Fix, and Quick Fix (the next book in the series). I still have my fingers (and toes and eyes) crossed that all those UF readers out there will appreciate a laugh, and that maybe I can even entice a few rom-com readers over. I like the idea of genre bending.
3. I believe you’re firmly on Team Pantster. What’s your first draft process like – and how many follow up drafts do you usually do?
I'm absolutely a pantster. Go, team!
I've described my drafting process as "Controlled CHAOS" – CHAOS being "Creativity happening again—oh, shi—er, snap!" And it is rather chaotic. No real planning. Just a seed of an idea, planted in my brain.
Basically, I sit down, type "Chapter One," and start writing as if I were reading. In fact, I like to think of it as interactive reading. I just type whatever I, if I were the reader, would want to read next. And I keep on until I'm done. (Yes, I'm a linear thinker.)
It's hard to say how many drafts I do, because I edit all the time, as I go along. If I could figure out a way to edit before I write, I'd probably do that, too. I'm a compulsive tweaker, and usually start each writing session by reviewing—and changing—what I wrote the session before. It's the way I warm up.
After I'm done with my "first" draft (she said, trying not to laugh), I send it off to my critique partners. With their input, I'll tweak some more, until I feel like it's done enough to go out into the real world.
I revise again after my agent offers suggestions, and yet again after my editor does. Oh, and then the copy editor has a go at it. (Honestly? I would be happy to go on tweaking and tweaking forever. I really love the tweaking part of writing. It's fun! But eventually, the publisher says "Enough already!" and sends it off to production.)
4. Out of the characters in your novel, which one was the most fun to write about? Were there any that surprised you?
Ciel, of course, is loads of fun to write. She's such a smartass. (Huh. Wonder where she gets that from…) But I pretty much knew her from the beginning, so I can't say she surprised me. Billy (Ciel's best friend and "honorary" cousin), on the other hand, popped onto the scene and totally surprised me. He's charming and witty, a born con man, who, I came to realize as the book went on, wants to push Ciel's longstanding crush out of the way so he can take over the spot.
5. Did you know Diana Gabaldon was going to blurb your book, or was it a surprise? (Did Tor make you ask her, or did they?)
Diana was my idea, but Tor leapt on it when I mentioned the possibility. *grin*
I met Diana online years ago at Compuserve's Books and Writers Forum (where she still maintains a high-profile presence). Back then, it was still a private forum, and most of the writers who participated got to know each other pretty well. Diana was (and is) gracious beyond belief to newbie writers, and interacted with all of us just like one of the guys. She was absolutely lovely about offering her congratulations when I announced my book deal there.
When it came time to consider possible blurbers for In a Fix, I thought what the heck. The worst that could come of asking would be that she'd say no, and I suspected even if she turned me down she'd at least be nice about it.
Sooo, I worked up my courage (a couple of Manhattans helped) and emailed her, assuring her that I knew how busy her schedule was and that I'd totally understand if In a Fix didn't sound like her cup of tea, or if she just plain didn't have time to read it. To my absolute astonishment, she agreed to read, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
6. What else would you like us to know about IN A FIX?
Only that it makes me very happy to hear when it's given a reader a good, hearty laugh. Making people laugh has to be my favorite thing in the world, and Lord knows the world could use a few more chuckles these days.
Linda, thanks so much for the interview! IN A FIX releases September 4 and is already available for pre-order here. I'm looking forward to meeting Ciel, and now I'm already rooting for Billy without even having met him, 'cause heaven knows I love an underdog!