Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Interview with Lindsay McKenna

Today I have the great pleasure of sitting down with Lindsay McKenna for an in-depth conversation about her life and career.

With over 22 million books sold worldwide, Lindsay McKenna has become a household name in the literary world. Honors include Romantic Times award for Best Electronic Book for 2000 and Romantic Times Magazine, Most Innovative Author. 
As a student pilot at 17 years of age, she went on to join the U.S. Navy after graduation to become an AG3, Aerographer’s Mate Third Class (meteorologist).  In time she went on to fly in Air Force military planes (B-52 and T-38), then a T-38 “chase plane” at Edwards Air Force Base. 
These experiences and many more have given her military romance books a real-life feeling.

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Interview with Lindsay

1.     You have quite an impressive writing history. How do you balance your work time and your personal time?

COMMENT:  I pace myself.  I write 20 minutes, get up and devote 20 minutes outside our 2 acre fruit tree farm.  I play with our dog, Cody, I go for a walk.  You can’t sit in a chair and create 24/7.  There has to be balance.  You set strong boundaries.  You are disciplined and organized. 

2.     Tell us about flying a chase plane. You have quite a history in aviation…Give us some anecdotes.

I called the Pentagon and told them I was an author and wanted to write about test pilot school—but that I needed to go out there and interview test pilots, check out their planes, fly in one, and so on.  The Air Force instantly said, “Yes!”  About a month later I was out there, met a PR colonel from USAF who worked at the Pentagon.  He showed me around.  I got to suit up in a G-suit and fly in a “chase plane” flown by a very pissed off USAF colonel who ran the Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB.  He was REAL unhappy to fly a “romance writer” around—he told me he had better things to do.  I smiled sweetly and said:  “So do I.  How about we fly?”  And smiled again.  He just scrunched his brows and his jaw turned to granite, all the curse words he wanted to say, swallowed.
    As he checked me out in the rear cockpit, he told me if I had to throw up, there was the bag (on the fuselage wall near my right knee). And that if I did throw up?  And I missed the bag?  I was the one who would be cleaning up this cockpit, NOT his ground crew.  Did I get it?  Yes, I did.  He meant every word of it.  I never threw up ;-).

I flew in the T-38 Talon, rear seat, with the Colonel.  We basically would fly up to 40,000 feet, zooming hard and fast for blue sky.  And then the Dragonfly jet which had a test pilot instructor and a test pilot student inside it, would go through testing of that craft. In the mean time?   The chase plane flies a one mile circle (spiral) around the test plane as it tumbles and twists/turns from 40,000 feet to 20,000 feet, where it comes out of it’s testing.  And then we zoom back up to 40,000 feet again and do the same thing over, and over again.
    My G-chaps were inflating all the time, squeezing the hell out of my thighs and abdomen, forcing the blood into my head so I wouldn’t pass out.  We were torquing 6-7 G’s at times.  It was a rush!  I knew my thighs were gonna be bruised black and blue when I got out of that cockpit. They weren’t, but they were very, very tender for about three days afterward.

My unhappy colonel was happy to get rid of me once he landed the plane back at Edwards after the test flight was over.  Never even said good-bye.  Just got out of the cockpit and stalked off toward the hangar, glad to be read of me. 
I ended up writing two books about it (see the WORD doc I sent you) after all that research.  I loved every minutes of being there.

3.     How many/much of your characters personalities/mannerisms come from your personal experiences?

COMMENT:  If any writer lies and tells you that none of their personality, quirks and kinks aren’t in their characters?  Laugh.  Because the truth is?  No writer can writer outside her/himself.  There’s plenty of the writer in many of the characters or perhaps the situations they write about.  You can’t separate that from being a writer…your experiences always show up in print one way or another. ;-)

4.     If you were just beginning your writing career, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?

Get rid of an editor I worked with for 15 years who held me down in mid-list and wouldn’t allow me to break out and try for the best seller author in the top 1% of writers in that publishing house.  But that’s the breaks. Editors have ‘favorite’ golden haired children/writers, whom they push and get up to the top ranks of writing.  I was the child with the coal in her sock and was ignored.  I was no one’s golden haired child since 2000 to the present.  Luckily, I have lots of readers who love what I write and that more than makes up for a bad editor who ignores your talent, your ability to write great page turners and great stories that keep the reader riveted.  That’s why I left and went Indie.  If the pub house wasn’t going to value me, I was going to value myself and what I brought to the table.  And I have, thanks to my terrific, loyal readers.

5.     When you finish your first draft, do you let it marinate or dig right in with editing?

COMMENT:  No, I let it sit at least a month and then go back to it.  I need to look and edit it with ‘fresh eyes,’ as they say.

6.     What is the average length of time it takes for you to complete a book.

COMMENT:  If it’s a ‘big book’ like Nowhere to Hide, or the first four books of the Delos Series?  That’s 100,000 words each.  I coined a saying:  “A chapter a day keeps the bill collector away.” And that’s the truth.  When I’m in the “writing harness” (meaning I write from 8 am to noon seven days a week  until the book is done) I do a chapter a day…up to 5,000 words.  Generally speaking, 23 chapters is 23 days.  But then I have to let the rough draft sit for a month and go back to do a final edit on it.  A novella, 8 chapters, takes me 8 days to write the rough draft.

7.     What would you like to see change in the publishing industry?

COMMENT:  That would take a book to answer!  Basically, that all writers get 50% net on their ebook contracts, get 10% of the cover price on their paperback books.  In three years, rights revert back to the writer.  And much, much more. Writers slave at traditional publishing houses for 6% or 8% for their entire lives.  Only the top best selling 1% get 10% (or maybe more, depending upon who they are).  It’s a travesty.  That’s why I went Indie.  I got tired of being the beast of burden at the pub house who treated me like an indentured servant and paid me nowhere near what I’m worth. 

8.     Tells us a bit about your years in the U.S. Navy and how you’ve used your knowledge in your writing, considering the changes/advancement of technology.

COMMENT:  My family has a history of military service: Navy, Army and Marines.  I went in at 18 because I wanted to serve my country.  I became an E-4, Aerographer’s Mate 3rd Class.  I was a weather forecaster in the air arm of the Navy.  I loved my time in, which was during the Vietnam War era.
I stared writing at 13 and wrote all the time.  The old saying, “Write what you know,” fully applies to me.  In my 3rd book, Captive of  Fate, 1983, with Silhouette Special Editions, I wrote the first military romance.  I wrote what I know.  I went on to pioneer and create the first 3-book consecutive series with Love and Glory in the 1980’s, which started Morgan’s Mercenaries.  I’ve always written romantic suspense even though it wasn’t called that until after 2000.  And I always will.
If I don’t know something I need to know?  I Google it.  Great place to find out just about anything you want to know. I also have contacts in the Industry and often go to experts, such as Chief Michael Jaco, US Navy SEAL, retired.  He was in ST 6 for ten years.  I call him on technical stuff because he knows it all.  He helped with Down Range and wrote a beautiful dedication in it.   For helicopters, I go to Bill Marcontell.  He was a Captain, USAF, retired,who flew Search and Rescue helicopters for the 38th ARRS in Southeast Asia in 1966-67. He helped me with Risk Taker and Degree of Risk helo scenes.  I fly fixed wing and I’m ignorant about helicopters, which is a whole other type of bird.

9.     Is there an anecdote behind your email address?

COMMENT:  Yes.  “Doc Bones” is an 1850’s name for a physician or doctor in the West of the US.  I have a degree in Homeopathy from Britain and have been in this wonderful alternative medicine since 1970 to the present.  I’ve written a number of books on homeopathy and am consider a world expert on epidemics.  I believe that love is our greatest healer.  And that is why I love to write romances and stories about people who are wounded (we all are, by the way, whether we admit it or not), and how love not only changes them, but gives them courage, confidence and permission to love another person.  I’m very fortunate to do something I love.  I wake up every day looking forward to it with great anticipation to see what the characters I’m writing about are going to do next ;-).

Meet Lindsay 

  Lindsay McKenna is a pseudonym of multiple-award winning  writer Eileen Nauman.  She writes military romances and romantic suspense.
    She has had 100  books published under the McKenna name since 1981, most dealing with military or mercenary subjects, for several publishers:   Simon and Schuester, Warner, Avon and Berkley, Harlequin/Silhouette. Another 9 books have been published by the writer Eileen Nauman, under Nauman’s name or other pseudonyms, for a total of 109 fiction books.
    She has sold 22 million books worldwide.  And she has books in 22 foreign languages.
    She is known as the “Top Gun of Women’s Military Fiction.”  She created the military romance in 1983 with the publication of “Captive of Fate”, Silhouette Special Edition under her Lindsay McKenna pseudonym.  Since then, it has become a vital and vigorous genre in the romance world.
    Was a featured author in the very first Christmas anthology in publishing: Silhouette Christmas Stories.  Her novella, “Forever and Always,” helped this  anthology climb to #5 on the New York Times best seller list.
    Valkyrie/Danger Close, was her first electronic/print-on-demand book, set for release December 1, 1999.  It became E-book of the year RT Reviews Magazine in 2000.
    In a second Christmas anthology in 2000, Silhouette Christmas Anthology: Midnight Clear, she wrote the novella, “The Five Days of Christmas.  This three-author anthology also went on the New York Times best seller list.
    She is the first best-selling author of women’s fiction to release a new book (Valkyrie/Danger Close) exclusively through an electronic medium.
    McKenna originated the military adventure/romance genre in 1983 with Captive of Fate (Silhouette Special Edition/Simon and   Schuester/Silhouette).
    She is the originator and pioneer of the first 3-book series to be published in the romance industry.  In 1999, LOVE and GLORY was published by Silhouette/Harlequin and it pioneered the concept that writers could create 3-books coming out in swift succession.
    She is the creator of Morgan’s Mercenaries, now 45 books strong world-wide, and created a global phenomena and best selling series, which was spun off the original Love and Glory series.
    She created SHADOW WARRIORS series, HQN, HRS, in 2013.  This is about men and women in combat.  Another innovative step in military romances.

Recognition and Awards

    Romantic Times Award for Best Electronic Book for 2000 with Valkyrie.
    She was nominated for “StoryTeller of the Year” at the prestigious “Romantic Times Career Achievement and Reviewers Choice Awards” in   Houston, Texas November 9, 2000.
    She is the only Women’s Military Fiction writer to sign autographs in the Pentagon bookstore.
    She has one book under movie option contract: DANGER CLOSE, HQN, December 2013.  The book was optioned by famous Hollywood screenwriter, Dorothy Fontana.  The script will be complete by the end of 2013 and her agent will pitch it to Hollywood moguls.
    McKenna has marketed her military adventure/romance books heavily in the burgeoning romance market, to great success. As a result, her   awards include the following:
        Romantic Times Career Achievement for Best Series Romantic Adventure, 1990-1991
        Romantic Times Awards Best Military Romance Author, 1989-1990
        Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Historical Romances 1987-1988, “Hostage Heart.”
        Romantic Times Magazine award, Best Continuing Romance Series, 1986-1987
        Romantic Times Magazine, Best Harlequin Temptation, “Touch the Heavens,” November 1985
        Romantic Times Magazine, Most Innovative Author, 1984

In the Military

    She was a student pilot at 17 years old and had 39 hours   upon high school graduation and joining the U.S. Navy.
    McKenna served in the U.S. Navy, 1964-1967, and was an AG3, Aerographer’s Mate Third Class (meteorologist).
    She comes from a U.S. Navy family tradition, and, as a   result, has strong, positive patriotic feelings for the United States. Her   father served during World War II on the destroyer, Fletcher, in the Pacific   Theater of War.

Test Piloting and Training

    She took high-altitude hyperbaric chamber training at   Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio in order to fly in Air Force military   planes (B-52 and T-38).
    McKenna has flown an Air Force T-38 “chase plane” at   Edwards Air Force Base, California to research a novel that featured test   pilots. She has also flown two missions in an Air Force Strategic Air Command   (SAC) B-52 bomber out of K.I. Sawyer, Air Force Base, Michigan. And, she flew a   12-hour day mission and a five-hour night mission for research on a B-52   novel.
    McKenna flew in a Falcon Coast Guard Jet out of the Coast   Guard Miami Air Station, Florida for research on a novel. She flew in several   search-and-rescue helicopters and training missions out of the Coast Guard Port   Angeles, Washington during a seven-day interview and research for a book.

Being a Firefighter and EMT

    She served as a volunteer firefighter from 1981-1983 with   the West Point Volunteer Fire Department, West Point, Ohio. She pioneered women   as firefighters and served with twenty male volunteers.
    She was registered as an Emergency Medical Technician-Basic in Arizona for many years.

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