LynDee Walker is the national bestselling author of two crime fiction series featuring strong heroines and “twisty, absorbing” mysteries. Her first Nichelle Clarke crime thriller, FRONT PAGE FATALITY, was nominated for the Agatha Award for best first novel and is an Amazon Charts Bestseller. In 2018 she introduced readers to Texas Ranger Faith McClellan in FEAR NO TRUTH. Reviews have praised her work as “well-crafted, compelling, and fast-paced,” and “an edge-of-your-seat ride” with “a spider web of twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end.”
Before she started writing fiction, LynDee was an award-winning journalist who covered everything from ribbon cuttings to high level police corruption, and worked closely with the various law enforcement agencies that she reported on. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the U.S.
Aside from books, LynDee loves her family, her readers, travel, and coffee. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is working on her next novel when she’s not juggling laundry and children’s sports schedules.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most?
Thank you so much for inviting me! I think with regard to writing in general, I discovered it was something I wanted to make a career of when I was in the tenth grade, the first year I worked on my school newspaper. I had always enjoyed writing, but journalism merged my two favorite things in the world: writing and people. I loved learning extraordinary things about teachers and friends and neighbors and then going back to our tiny little office and writing about them, and I followed that to a journalism degree and several jobs as a reporter and editor. But when I became a mom, the long hours of the news business became impractical. After a few years of missing the real newsroom, I invented a fictional one.
There are so many things I love about what I do, but my favorite thing is the ability to provide an escape from harsh realities for my readers. I take that job very seriously, because I find refuge in books when times are hard. I love every email and message I get from readers, but the ones that stick with me the most are the ones that tell stories of my characters and their adventures helping people through chemo, through unimaginable tragedy, through heart-wrenching losses. There is no greater compliment a writer can get.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
I currently write two crime fiction series: the Nichelle Clarke Crime Thrillers follow a young journalist with a knack for finding trouble as she searches for the often messy truths behind neatly-packaged official stories; and the Faith McClellan series centers on a Texas Ranger who gives her all to every case because she knows what it’s like to be haunted by unanswered questions surrounding the death of a loved one.
Everything anyone wants to know is probably on my website at www.lyndeewalker.com.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
Anywhere. I usually start with a murder victim and build their story backward until I know who the killer is and why the victim is dead, and then I drop my main character into the case and follow her until she figures out who did it.
My characters all have pieces of people I’ve known, as well as fictional pieces that are uniquely theirs. I’ve had readers notice that each series has a character who is a former baseball player—that’s because my husband played baseball when we met. But Faith’s past tragedy and Nichelle’s run-ins with the mafia are not snippets pulled from my life.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I try to write every day, usually as close to first thing in the morning as I can manage. I wish I could work from an outline, but every time I’ve tried, my characters go off doing their own thing and I wind up having to scrap the outline a third of the way into the book. Usually when everything goes well, a rough draft takes me 3-4 months, with an additional six weeks or so needed for revision before I turn in a manuscript. My current project is the third Faith McClellan novel, NO SIN UNPUNISHED, due to release in March of 2021.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
Hmmmm… Probably Where the Red Fern Grows. I cried for days.
I can’t choose a single favorite author—I love so many and the answer differs depending on my mood. For dark, analytical suspense, I don’t think anyone beats Jennifer Hillier right now. In gritty, unflinching noir crime, S.A. Cosby is my favorite authentic voice. For deeply moving, surprising stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, Lou Berney is my go-to. And when I want to laugh along with my crime solving (which happens a lot lately), I never miss with a Donna Andrews book. The Meg Langslow series is incredible: I always close the book with a smile, and I always learn a few things, too.
Currently reading: LITTLE SECRETS by Jennifer Hillier. It is her best book yet, and that’s really saying something.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Well, I think this depends on how you measure achievements. For me personally, an email I received from a reader chronicling how my Nichelle books gave her an escape from grief after her daughter passed away was the most significant thing my books have or will ever do. I don’t even want to let myself imagine that kind of pain, and the idea that my stories could help lessen it even for a while is mind-boggling to me. That email is why I write on days when I don’t feel up to it.
As far as traditional industry achievements go, seeing one of my books on the Amazon charts national bestsellers list last November between John Grisham and Stephen King was pretty amazing, as was getting the news that LEAVE NO STONE has been short-listed for a 2020 Thriller Award.
I hope that five years from now I’m writing books that touch readers and help them find adventure or escape in their daily lives, maybe with a larger audience and a view of the ocean.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What are your thoughts about how the publishing industry is drastically changing in terms of traditional and self-publishing?
I don’t know an author who hasn’t dealt with rejection—publishing is a business that requires thick skin and perseverance. It’s hard to send something you’ve poured your heart and soul into out into the world and hear “this isn’t for us,” but the thing is, once that novel leaves your computer, it’s not just a piece of your heart, it’s a product. And that is a difficult distinction to make as a writer. Yes, the work is creative which means rejection stings, but it helps if you can look at your book not as the author but as a reader. Once I figured this out, it took virtually all the pain out of any kind of feedback. I have been known to beg editors to rip up a manuscript: when I get notes back that say “this is great,” (it does happen occasionally) my first instinct is always to reply “I know there’s something I could’ve done better. Tell me how to make it better.” My mission with every book is to deliver the best story in that series to my readers.
Self publishing is a wonderful tool: it allows readers to discover wonderful stories that might not have fit traditional publishing for a variety of reasons, and it allows authors more control over the packaging and marketing of their work. I have a long list of friends who self publish, some who do that exclusively (and very successfully) and some who have books with traditional publishers and self published works, too. I am not a salesperson. I don’t understand marketing metrics or online promotion algorithms, and I’m happiest sitting in my little corner writing my books, so traditional publishing works best for me because I get to do what I love, and brilliant folks who do understand sales do all the other stuff.
8) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself?
Oh sure, sometimes! Usually that happens when I’m in the revision process before I turn a book in. I come across a passage every once in a while that makes me go, “wow, that’s really good, did I write that?” But once a book is published, I do my best to put it on my pretty shelf and never look at it again. It’s not that I hate reading them, but I always seem to find something I wish I could change, no matter how severe the edits were, so I’ve found I avoid aggravation by just leaving them be once they’re out in the world.
9) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
Not at all! I know writers who didn’t publish their first book until they were in their 60s and 70s, and it did smashingly well. Chase your dreams, whatever your age, because even trying and failing is way better than wondering what might have been.
10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
Writing helps me make sense of things and work through heavy emotions. Because I write crime fiction, that often centers on injustices—as a journalist, I saw the pain of unsolved murder cases on the faces of the victims’ families firsthand. Similarly, marginalization of people deemed “unimportant” by others has always made me angry. My mother used to say I had a “helper” personality, because from stray kittens to classmates to strangers on the street, if I saw a problem I always wanted to do what I could to fix it. As a suburban basketball mom, I am limited in my ability to right the big wrongs in the world, but in my books, I can make sure the bad guy is caught, the victims are valued and honored, and the voices of the marginalized are amplified.