Okay readers this is my first interview – please be kind! Back when I first started my blog I didn’t know what I was doing , truly I am not computer savvy , basically the only way I discover things is out of sheer curiosity – what does this button do? What happens when I click this? – imagine my delight when an author of several Sweet Dreams books and a Sweet Valley Twin book stopped by! It took me a while and the prodding by one of my readers – why don’t you do author interviews – to get up the courage to ask her for an interview . I compiled a series of questions which I sent via email. Hooray! She answered them.
The author is the talented and friendly Linda Joy Singleton who wrote five Sweet Dreams books ( numbers 180, 190 , 200, 215 and 227 ) and one Sweet Valley Twins book #59 Barnyard Battle. She also went on to create lots of her own series and with over thirty books in her repertoire she’s still going strong! I’m reluctant to admit I haven’t gotten my hands on her
Sweet Dreams books – the 90’s books are harder for me to find than any of the Sweet Dreams books. But I’m looking and looking forward to finding them! Her more recent books feature fast paced fantasy and the paranormal and for the French Canadian fans out there , good news – The Seer and Dead Girl series have been reprinted in French.
The interview is rather slanted towards the Sweet Valley twin book mainly because I was intrigued by the process of how a series based on a set of characters could be written by many writers – what was the process? Read and find out but first –
I encourage everyone reading this to definitely check out Linda Joy Singleton’s website – she offers personal info on how she got started writing and offers writers advice- just click here http://www.lindajoysingleton.com/ and for the month of May only , her new book DEAD GIRL WALKING is a free download for Kindle or Nook! Also check out her book trailers on You Tube
Don’t you just love this SVT cover – Jessica and Liz get Grant Wood’ s American Gothic styling! You got to hand it to James L Mathewuse he’s got a sense of humor – especially for giving Jess the pitch fork!
Here We Go!
1. How in the world did you get involved in writing a Sweet Valley Twins book? Okay that comes out a little gruff but what I mean is – what is the process of being asked or offered to join in? Believe me – I would’ve loved the chance to write one of their adventures!
Linda – I had to work hard to get accepted for a Sweet Valley. This was at the beginning of my career. I had to “audition” by writing a chapter breakdown and two sample pages from material they sent to aspiring authors. I was told I needed to improve the way I’d written Jessica, but that I’d done a good job and was encouraged to try again. So I tried again and in July 1990 I had a letter (no email back then!) saying I would be considered for a future book.
2. Had you ever read any of the Sweet Valley books prior to writing one or did they send you a synopsis of the series?
Linda – I am a fan of series books and had read SV books before writing one. To write my audition, I had to read about 10 books and really study the style/format. I have a large collection of the books in my home library.
3. Seeing as how Sweet Valley High and especially Sweet Valley Twins followed certain story goals and patterns were you able to venture character changes or introduce a new character if you wanted?
Linda – Since I’m a fan of series books, it was important to me to put some of myself in the book. This wasn’t easy since the editors were very specific about what they wanted. I had planned to put in my kids’ names, Melissa and Andy, but coincidentally the book right before mine #58 included characters with the same names. So I named a character Melinda, and that name stayed. I also named characters based on my parents, the wife’s name got cut in the final version but the husband was called “Ed” after my dad.
4. The theme for Barnyard battle is the students of Sweet Valley Middle school visiting a pioneer farm – were there any personal experiences you drew on that helped create any of the scenes? By the way my favorite scene was Lila’s goose attack!
Linda – This book was perfect for me since I lived on 3 acres at the time and had little kids plus barnyard animals. Our geese were not very nice and would charge hissing at us. We had horses and chickens, too. For research, I went to a farm which had a pioneer setting and to Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento.
5. Were you given free reign on your idea or was it one that had to be accepted via a rough draft?
Linda – I was told very firmly what they wanted. This was their idea. I just fleshed it out with setting and dialogue. I had 3 editors marking the manuscript and rewriting it their way. One of the editors is now a famous writer, Ann Brashares who wrote the Traveling Pants books.
6. How did you feel about writing under a brand name that the readers, usually, gave all the credit to?
Linda – I took this job with high hopes and bursting excitement. Ultimately, it wasn’t as satisfying as when I write my own books. A lot of what I wrote (a dream scene about Jessica being a queen) was cut and I was told I couldn’t include this book at a book signing for my other books. I loved the challenge, though, of writing for hire and am very proud to have experienced what it’s like to be a ghost writer.
7. One of the aspects of Barnyard Battle is the characters doing without technology – music , t.v. and even the side story updates the twins with a computer and a portable boom box. Having reread the story, whose technical side can’t help but be dated – the twins would now be complaining about not being able to text or email or carry an ipod or blackberry – My question is this – do you find it hard writing novels now that characters are bisected due to such technology , limiting their actual face to face interaction?
Linda – I have my characters hang out face to face. They have phones and they text, but the stories would be dull if they never got up from the computer. I have to work hard to keep up on technology. I do Skype, have an IPhone, am going to have an IPod soon, have given power point presentations, have two book trailers (hired teens for this) and I read lots of YA novels to keep up with my audience (besides, I love YA books).
8. The battle of the sexes theme is one that usually cropped up in the 80’s but did it have more significance to you in trying to establish that pioneer women were just as tough as pioneer men?
Linda – I’ve always had feminist beliefs so this was an easy theme to write about. Also, I love camping and live in the country. I’m not a tough pioneer woman by any means but I respect those that are, and I like the idea of living more simply.
8. I haven’t got my hands on any of your Sweet Dreams yet ( the later editions are very hard to find ) 180 – Opposites Attract , 190 – Almost Perfect , 200 – Love to Spare , 215 – Deep in my Heart , 227 – Dreamboat. The subjects ranging from a 4H project at a dairy farm to cave exploring they look like fun! – Is there one that is your favorite or special to you?
Linda – Hmmm…each book led me to fun experiences for research. I taught a 4-H class (#180), went spelunking #215), my husband has bowled 300 games (#200) and (#227) I did research while on a cruise with my kids. Almost Perfect (#190) was inspired by a newspaper article about a dolphin rescue that happened due to a radio plea for help. This was the only book I’ve written starting backwards and working up to the story idea climax.
I9. I’m very curious about the technical aspects of writing for a thematic series that is out of a writers creative control – Sweet Dreams ( like most thematic series – even now ) seemed to have a uniformity to the stories offered – was there an actual set of rules or guidelines that you had to follow?
Linda – There was a specific tone for the books; a style of dialogue, internal thoughts and light romance. Otherwise I was free to write my own story. They were edited afterwards and I often found things changed in the final book. Mostly they were my own books and I had a wonderful five years writing them until the series ended in 1995. I read many Sweet Dreams and have about 3/4ths of them in my collection. I knew many of the authors and still keep in touch with a few of them.
10. I noticed on your website, that you too had and have a sweet tooth for series fiction, not just as a reader but as a writer – for years I tried to bring a series I had concocted to life but could never reign in my ideas – my inspiration was to recapture those wonderful friendships I had when I was in middle school. Is there any special reason you decided to go into the genre?
Linda – As a kid, my mystery series books meant a lot to me. I wrote a fan letter to Margaret Sutton (author of the vintage Judy Bolton mysteries 1932-1967) and she not only wrote back, but we became friends. I loved rereading these older-styled mysteries. When I was 14, I wrote on an essay that I wanted to have my own mystery series. I aimed for chapter books at first, and my first published series under my own name/idea was MY SISTER THE GHOST. I feel that juvenile writing is where I belong, and I continue to work hard to create new series books.
11. Do you feel you have more freedom now ,with a new generation of readers, or do trends inequitably raise their heads forcing you to write what the reader wants? That being said – I know nobody can force anyone to write what they don’t want to but is there any idea , project you have had to put on the back burner?
Linda – Publishing is harder now than ever before due to the economy, lack of bookstores, shifting from paper books to ebooks. Things are changing so fast now, it’s hard to keep up. But I’m still publishing traditionally. I have an agent and I have a book, BURIED, coming out from Flux March 2012. This may be the start of a short series about Goth Girl Thorn who solves mysteries. I’m hoping anyway. In the meantime, since I haven’t sold a new book in a while, I’m writing a book that I’ve been thinking about for a few years. It’s a futuristic teen mystery. I’m nearing 300 pages and hope to finish soon. After that I don’t know what will happen, but I’ll keep writing and trying to stay published.
Thanks again Linda Joy!
Here’s a little visual book shelf of just some of her works check it out!