Linda Rettstatt is an award-winning author of women’s fiction and contemporary romance. Linda’s short stories have garnered recognition and awards from Writer’s Digest and Pennwriters, Inc. Her writing has been compared to that of Nicholas Sparks and Elizabeth Berg.
Shelagh: Hi Linda, please tell everyone a little bit about yourself.
Linda: My very first writing gig was reviewing community theater productions for my hometown newspaper in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. I was an advertising clerk, but got the reviewing task because, frankly, no one on the news staff wanted it. But seeing my name in the by line was a thrill. I had wanted to become a writer after high school, but had no sense of direction and very little self-confidence. After years of working in music and social work, I rediscovered my passion for writing. I now have six novels published, with two more contracted for publication in this coming year. And I have an agent who is handling my one contemporary romance novel. I now reside in Southaven, Mississippi (where I get homesick every October until the first snow flies in Pennsylvania). I’m the owner and moderator of The Women’s Fiction Writers Exchange, an online critique group of women writers from across the United States and Canada.
Shelagh: When did you first begin to write, and in what genre(s)?
Linda: I fell in love with the written word early in life when my grandfather would read to me—until I was old enough to read right back. In high school, I wrote poetry and, later, song lyrics and music. But the dream to write novels never died. I sat down one January day in 2004 and decided to see if I could write a novel. I had fallen in love with women’s fiction, the books of Elizabeth Berg in particular. My first novel, And the Truth Will Set You Free, was completed in five months, published two years later and then finaled for an EPIC e-book award in 2008.
Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Linda: When I started writing, my only goal was to see if I could write a complete novel that would hopefully be worth reading. I now have six published with two more under contract. <shrugs> Guess I can.
On my website, I say of my own writing, “I write for women—stories of strength, love, humor, and hope.” I want to write characters with whom my readers can relate. I want my stories to give women laughter, tears, a sense of not being alone, and the permission to be themselves.
Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest book. Is it part of a series or stand-alone?
Linda: My latest book, Next Time I’m Gonna Dance, was released on January 2 by Champagne Books. It is the story of 44-year-old Emmie Steele who is facing her second diagnosis of breast cancer in two years. Adding insult to injury, her husband left while she was getting treatment following her first mastectomy. She draws on the support of her family and her four best girfriends—fearless women who will stand beside, push, pull, and carry Emmie through this nightmare. As Emmie ponders second and, hopefully, third chances, she realizes her one unusual regret: she never learned to dance. Learning to dance becomes a metaphor for Emmie as she undergoes surgery, treatment, and healing, and as she finds new love.
Shelagh: What’s the hook for the book?
Linda: Next Time I’m Gonna Dance deals with the issue of breast cancer. As you can imagine, the story carries with it a great deal of tension. The book opens as follows:
Emmie Steele paced across the doctor’s waiting room. She resisted the urge to place a hand over her left breast and prod, to prove there was no need to worry.
At the sound of her name, Emmie jumped. “Yes.”
“Dr. Gibson’s ready for you.”
Shelagh: How do you develop characters and setting?
Linda: What I admire about some of the writers I enjoy reading (Elizabeth Berg, Kris Radish, Lisa Scottoline) is that their characters seems like real people—women I’d like to sit down with and have a cup of coffee. That’s my goal in developing characters. I’d like my readers to feel the same way. As for setting, five of my six published books have some connection to the Pittsburgh, PA region where I grew up. But I’ve also taken some of my characters on jaunts to other parts of the country. I’m not fond of research, but I do enjoy researching other cities and states if I’ve not yet visited them. I actually wrote one book partially set on Mackinac Island, Michigan, then went there to see if I was right about the island. I can attest to the accuracy of their Visitor’s Bureau guide.
Shelagh: Who’s the most unusual/most likeable character?
Linda: I think the most unusual and likeable character I’ve created is that of Grandma Carmela, aka Sophialoren (all one word), in Finding Hope (2008, Wings ePress). She’s 80 going on 18, but with the wisdom and freedom that her age has afforded her.
Shelagh: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Linda: I’m pretty much a pantser, not a plotter. I’ve found that writing a brief summary of the story and character bios helps me stay on track. But, truthfully, I often don’t know the entire plot until I’m well into the story. I let my character lead me. After all, it’s her story I’m telling.
Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.
Linda: I loved this review from Manic Readers for Finding Hope (which has finaled for a 2010 EPIC e-book award).
Manic Readers Review
Reviewer: Valkyrie’s Lady
by Linda Rettstatt
What do you do when you’re tired of lying to the boss’ wife, tired of being the taxi service, gourmet chef and personal valet for your entire family? You quit! That is exactly what Janet DeMarco does – she quits her job with her husband’s brother (gives herself a month’s severance pay, too), she posts cleaning, laundry and cooking class schedules for the household and expects results. That’s the calm part.
Janet decides her new life needs a new name. She becomes Hope. Hope becomes a blonde, goes walking in the park, meets new and unique people and discovers that her mother-in-law isn’t near as foreboding as Hope/Janet once thought. Her grandma-in-law is a wonderful gal, thin, Italian, up for anything. When Hope shows her how to use her new laptop; Carmela immediately puts in “Bad Boy,” looking for a horse. That isn’t what she gets, believe me!
Finding Hope is one of the best books I’ve read this year. The scenarios of the family dealing with revolt from Mom, the renaming plan goes much farther than just Janet/Hope—all of it is just wonderful. Not only will you find Hope, you will also find Joy and Sofialoren. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a warm, funny story to pass a wintery afternoon with—you’ll love it!
Shelagh: What are your current projects?
Linda: I’m in the rewriting phase of a novel titled Unconditional. It’s an exploration of unconditional love and the ways life events test us. And I’m finishing a work titled Act of Contrition about a young widow who lost her husband and son in a tragic car crash and now must find a way to live with her guilt over having survived. She retreats to the home where her grandparents raised her on the coast of Maine and comes face to face with the man she walked away from eight years earlier, but whom she has never stopped loving.
Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Excerpts, reviews and links can be found on my website: www.lindarettstatt.com where readers can also send a message to be added to my quarterly e-newsletter mailing list. And you can check out my blog at www.lindarettstatt-author.blogspot.com
Shelagh: Thank you for joining us today, Linda.
Linda: Thanks so much for having me here today. And for all the readers here, I’ll echo Emmie’s wish: “I hope you dance, for whatever that means in your life.”