An interview with Lynda Hilburn, the author of our first ever JFB title, The Vampire Shrink!
JFB: Did you always dream of becoming a writer? And if so, has it turned out to be how you always imagined it?
Lynda Hilburn: To be honest, I don’t think I ever thought about officially becoming a writer. For me, writing was a constant. Just something I did. I love words, both written and spoken. There was rarely a time when I wasn’t writing, starting with my diary and/or long, soulful letters to friends (before I had a computer!). The shift in my ideas about myself as a writer came when I switched from writing non-fiction to fiction. That’s when things got exciting and I began to hope I could someday be a published author. What I know now is that being a writer is much harder than I ever imagined! But it’s also more rewarding, too.
JFB: Do you write primarily from experience, or are you a keen researcher – and has that research ever changed the course of the story?
Lynda Hilburn: I write from experience. The fact that I’m not fond of research (the worst part of graduate school!) is why I write contemporary stories. I enjoy pulling elements from the current “real world” and adding paranormal aspects. Being able to make up stuff is the best thing about writing.
JFB: Who or what is your biggest inspiration? Why?
Lynda Hilburn: My author friends are my biggest inspiration. Witnessing their experiences, the joys and sorrows on the road to publication, reminds me that perseverance is key. Watching them overcome setbacks and rise from the ashes again and again energizes me when I go through those times.
JFB: Do you plan your books? And where do you begin a story, at the beginning, in the middle or at the end?
Lynda Hilburn: I’m not a planner or a plotter. I’m a pantser. I never know what’s coming next in the story. Since I tend to visualize my books as unfolding movies, I have to start at the beginning. It’s challenging for me to write scenes out of order, although I occasionally do that when I’m stuck. But I recently discovered the benefits of brainstorming a book with writer friends and jotting down a loose outline, so more organization might be in my future.
JFB: You’re throwing your Fantasy Dinner Party: who are your five other guests, living, dead, real, mythological or made-up, and why?
Lynda Hilburn: Of course, my gorgeous vampire, Devereux, would have to be there. He has lived so long and experienced so many things, that the conversation would be amazing. You can never have too much man-candy at a party (with that in mind, I might ask him to bring some of his enticing undead colleagues to serve the food and drinks). I’d invite Sigmund Freud because I have lots of questions about his psychological theories and I’d seat Gloria Steinem next to him, so she could take him to task for some of the chaos and repression his work caused for women. John Lennon will give his opinions on the state of the world today and he’ll bring his guitar to entertain us after dinner (three of his former group members might drop in to say hello). Deepak Chopra will discuss the latest expanded-consciousness research and share his theories about where humankind is evolving. There will be endless champagne and much energetic debate.
JFB: When and why did you first start writing?
Lynda Hilburn: I started writing fiction in 2003. From the moment I found Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a young child, I was a vampire fan. I read every book I could find and saw every movie. Anne Rice’s books were special favourites. In 2003 I discovered a new-to-me genre: paranormal romance. After devouring scores of the vampire-as-hero books I began to wonder if I might be able to pen a vampire tale myself. I started out writing short stories, which I eventually sold. One day at work (I’m a psychotherapist) a young client spoke to me about wanting to join a non-human group (not vampires) and her words reminded me of some of the books I’d read. I asked myself: What would happen if I went out to my waiting room and found a gorgeous vampire there? Excited by the idea, I went home that night and wrote the first few pages of The Vampire Shrink.
JFB: What was your favourite book as a child? And what was the last book you started but couldn’t finish?
Lynda Hilburn: As a very young child, my favourite was Peter Pan. I wanted to be Wendy. Shortly thereafter, my choice was Dracula. I can’t think of a specific book that I couldn’t finish, but there are several wildly popular books that didn’t click for me and I didn’t finish them. I love good storytelling above all else.
JFB: Other than writing, what would be your dream job? And what’s the most interesting job you’ve actually had?
Lynda Hilburn: I’m lucky to have been able to do everything I love – psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, intuitive counselling, tarot reading, newspaper editing, and music. My dream job now would be to have so much money I didn’t need a job at all! The most interesting job I ever had was working as a singer/musician in rock and roll bands. Of course, that job got me in the most trouble!
JFB: What’s the book – or who’s the author – you turn to when you’re sad, ill or worried?
Lynda Hilburn: I really enjoy the “In Death” series by J.D. Robb. Not only is it well-written, but the characters (the ensemble cast) are interesting and compelling. I always feel better after reading one of the books in the series. And, now that I think of it, I get the same uplift from the Elvis Cole books by Robert Crais and Kelley Armstrong’s werewolves.
JFB: What’s your view of eBooks and online writing – blogs, fan-fiction, etc? Are you involved in any online writing yourself?
Lynda Hilburn: I’ve never written (or read) any fan-fiction, so I can’t speak to that. But I do enjoy blogging. I’ve had a blog for several years and started posting on it even before I became an official author. I think it helped create name recognition for me, and it still does (although blogs aren’t quite as popular in the USA as they once were). The idea of e-books has radically changed over the last 2-3 years. Prior to that, there were a handful of epubs and a few genres were popular and sold well (mostly erotica). With the advent of Amazon’s Kindle, the Nook, etc., ebooks exploded. I do have a couple of small works available as self-pubbed ebooks, and my two novels were e-best-sellers while I had them available. Publishing is changing so quickly it’s hard to keep up, but it’s clear (at least in the USA) that ebooks are here to stay and some people believe they will become the most popular form of book. Others disagree. But it certainly is an exciting time to be an author!
JFB: How did you first get published?
Lynda Hilburn: I was first published as a newspaper columnist. I wrote a weekly column (The Psychic Counselor) in two local newspapers for years. My first fiction sale was a short story called Diary of a Narcissistic Bloodsucker I sold to an epub in 2006. Then I sold a novella to a different epub. Selling those stories so quickly was great, but it gave me an inaccurate idea about the challenges of getting published. A long learning curve followed!
JFB: How do you like to write: in silence, or with music? Do your books have a soundtrack (and if so, what’s the soundtrack for this one?)?
Lynda Hilburn: Since I’m a musician, I find music to be distracting. I can’t write when music is on. I just drift off, lost in the tune. I can’t think of any music that would make a good soundtrack for The Vampire Shrink. Maybe I’ll ask my readers for suggestions.
JFB: Do you have an “ideal” reader in your mind when you write?
Lynda Hilburn: Not when I write. I pretty much write for myself. But when the book is finished and I’m thinking about promo, there are a few different “ideal” reader groups I have in mind and I try to focus on each one.
JFB: What was the most difficult part of writing this novel, and how did you overcome it?
Lynda Hilburn: The Vampire Shrink really wrote itself. That was the easy part. Going back and doing rewrites and edits – now that was the difficult part. Before the book was sold, it was a matter of finding critique partners who’d get me but wouldn’t try to squelch my voice. That was more challenging than it sounds. I just kept having trial runs with various crit partners until I found the right blend at the time. It’s such a gift to be able to work with a professional editor.
JFB: What do you do when you are not writing?
Lynda Hilburn: I have a day job as a psychotherapist at a mental health centre in the Denver, Colorado area. It keeps me plenty busy.
JFB: Do you let your parents read your books?
Lynda Hilburn: My father wasn’t much of a reader and my mother likes legal thrillers. She probably wouldn’t enjoy the paranormal and sexual aspects of my books. I’ve never encouraged her to read anything I wrote.
JFB: Who is your favourite fictional hero/heroine? And what about your favourite villain?
Lynda Hilburn: My favourite fictional hero and villain is Dexter from the series by Jeffrey Lindsay. Somehow he made a serial killer likeable and someone to root for, while at the same time, reminding the reader that Dexter is a murdering psychopath. I thought that was pretty clever! One of my favourite heroines is Claire in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. She is a liberated woman for her time period (1946) yet still held captive by – and struggling against – the rules of the era.
JFB: Do you ever put people you know in your books?
Lynda Hilburn: I create composites of people I know. That way they won’t recognise themselves and get mad at me!
JFB: Here’s the question everyone’s always desperate for the answer: what advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Lynda Hilburn: If a writer wants to get published, it’s crucial to learn about the business of publishing. What tends to burn out new authors isn’t the writing, but the business aspects. And, regarding the writing itself: persevere. Never give up. Author J.A. Konrath has this statement on his blog: ‘There’s a word for a writer who never gives up: published.’ One thing is certain, you won’t succeed if you don’t try.
JFB: Here’s the Desert Island question: if you’re going to be stuck on a desert island for the rest of your life and you could only take three books, what would they be?
Lynda Hilburn: I really tried to answer this one. I thought and thought. I couldn’t come up with only 3 books that I’d take with me. Maybe something about the quantum nature of the universe to keep my mind sharp during my island stay (of course, my skin is so pale that being in the sun for that long would do me in and I wouldn’t have to worry about books to read for long). And perhaps if I could condense a couple of my favourite series into one huge book each, that might count as the other two. If nothing else, I’d grab the fattest fiction books I could find.
JFB: And finally: what’s the one question you wish I’d asked – and why?
Lynda Hilburn: How would you like your life to be in five years?
I’d like to be healthy, happy, financially abundant, self-employed, writing the books of my heart and having a joyful life. Finding the man of my dreams wouldn’t hurt, either.