Today, we are delighted to feature an interview with novelist Linda J. White. She's the author of several of my favorite mysteries, including her latest Words of Conviction published April 2014 by Abingdon Press.
Whether you start with Words of Conviction, or go back to Seeds of Evidence or Bloody Point, you're in for a suspenseful story featuring really cool FBI Agents and themes to think about once the last page turns. Linda's books are called White-Knuckle Fiction for a reason!
This is kind of a big question to start, but why do you write?
I write because I can’t NOT write—it seems to be the way I process life. Like Madeleine L’Engle: After a final, devastating rejection of “A Wrinkle in Time” just as she was turning 40, she decided she would give up writing and do something useful. Pacing around her room, crying and grieving for her lost art, she suddenly realized that in the back of her mind she was composing a story about rejection.
So of course, she couldn’t give up. And we’re glad.
Some people are just writers. And because my greatest passion is for Jesus Christ, I write to share Him. I believe in the power of story to share eternal truth.
What drew you to write suspense and mystery? (As a reader, I gravitate to these books because they often wrestle with life, contrasting dark and light and evil and redemption.)
Yes, you just about summed it up! I must confess that I was a tomboy growing up. My older sister did all things domestic very well. I had to make my mark in other ways. I sought out adventure, and was creating stories even as I played. As an adult, I found mystery/suspense to be my favorite kind of book—like you, I liked the fact they deal with the difficult parts of life, and show good triumphant over evil.
Ok... where did savvy Special Agent Kenzie Graham, the leading lady in Words of Conviction come from?
Who inspired her as a character?
In addition for the fact that my husband worked at the FBI Academy for 27 years, I taught adult Sunday School with an FBI agent for 10. We were quite a team—me, the nerdy writer, and John, the aggressive agent. It worked, though, because we both had a passion for Christ. (We also happen to have the same birthday—same day, same year.) One Sunday John brought another agent, Dr. Sharon Smith, to class and we’ve been close friends ever since (fifteen years, at least!). She was and is a forensic psycholinguist and so, of course, she is my inspiration for Kenzie.
Once you began writing about Kenzie, and researching her expertise, what surprised or impressed you most about the science of forensic psycholinguistics?
I’m amazed at how much psycholinguists can learn just from words. Like whether a note was written by a man or a woman. Like what part of the country the writer is from. Like whether there is deception in the language. It’s amazing!
My friend Sharon, while earning her doctorate, developed a formula that is quite accurate in predicting whether a threat will be carried out. That astounded even her professors. And we think God gave it to her.
Special Agent John Crowfeather. Between his knowledge of law enforcement and his slowly-revealed past, he's a fascinating character. How did this native Navajo Agent enter your story?
Good question! Crow seemed to walk in out of nowhere! Seriously, I don’t know a single Navajo!
But I guess part of his story (the death of his fiancée) was triggered by the real-life sacrifice of Specialist Lori Piestewa, a Hopi Indian killed in combat during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
As for the rest of it? Who knows…these characters do tend to take over!
(Readers... keep an eye out for the great conversations between Kenzie and Crow! Also, listen up when Scott Hansbrough speaks. He's a deep thinker and his dedication to the job and devotion to his family made him a favorite character. )
Is there a specific time of day you write, or a set-apart place?
I work in the morning in my “writing nook”—aka our guest room. I can edit at night, but I do my best creative work in the morning.
I must say that this schedule is fairly new—I recently retired from working as an opinion writer at a daily newspaper. While working, I wrote whenever I could!
And do you often have to scramble for a notebook to jot down new ideas? :)
I carry a Moleskine little black book with me, so I can be just like Hemingway.
What are your own favorites books? What are you reading right now?
I love Dickens, Jane Austen, Rosamund Pilcher, and Michael Connelly, among others. That’s in the fiction category. Non-fiction authors I read regularly include John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and C.S. Lewis.
I just finished two great books, “Burning Sky” by Lori Benton and “Sweet Mercy” by my friend Ann Tatlock. Both are finalists for Christy Awards and both books are stunning.
I’m right now reading John Ortberg’s new book, “Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You.”
What are your favorite things to do outside of reading and writing?
Besides playing with my grandchildren? I love teaching adult Bible studies and I train dogs. Right now, I’m working with my Sheltie, Keira, in rally obedience. She loves it and so do I.
Any prayer requests that readers can lift up for you?
Please pray that my books will have spiritual impact. Someone out there needs Jesus, and needs to know that God is sovereign, even in the storm.
Linda, thank you so much for being here today.
We love talking with you and featuring White Knuckle Fiction!