Special Feature: Author Interview with Lynda Hilburn
by Betsy Dornbusch
Lynda Hilburn is the best selling author of the Vampire Shrink Series. She's been a rock-and-roll singer/musician, a typesetter/copy editor for various newspapers and magazines, a professional psychic/tarot reader, a licensed psychotherapist, a certified clinical hypnotherapist, a newspaper columnist, a university instructor, a workshop presenter, fiction writer, and a single mom. You can find out more about Lynda and her books at her website, http://www.lyndahilburnauthor.com. (link below)
Tell us a little about your books and stories. What do you like to write and why?
I'm a paranormal fiend. All my writing - fiction and nonfiction - contains elements of the non-ordinary. My love of the supernatural and bizarre was a foregone conclusion, thanks to growing up in a family where talking to dead relatives was a regular occurrence. Of course, I can't blame everything on my strange family. I was born weird. My childhood consisted of "imaginary friends" [later discovered to be the aforementioned dead people], hide-outs at the local library [a beloved safe zone in my dangerous neighborhood], and a fascination with the monsters I watched at Saturday afternoon movie matinees. I find the paranormal world much more interesting than the "real" one.
How does your day job as a psychotherapist inform your writing? What most inspires you? How did you come up with the idea for a supernatural psychologist?
In addition to being obsessed with vampires and other extraordinary characters, I'm a life-long student of all things mental. From "normal" adaptations to our screwed-up society such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, to the dark world of serial killers, everything about human consciousness mesmerizes me. I tend to view everything through my psychotherapist lens. All my characters have multiple layers, neurotic quirks and self-awareness.
The idea for Denver psychologist Kismet Knight [her parents named her after the Broadway musical], came from a client session in my office. After listening to a young woman talk about wanting to join a non-human group, I began to imagine how much fun it would be to find a gorgeous vampire sitting in my waiting room. I went home that night and started writing. Kismet is an idealized version of me: she's thinner, younger, prettier, and having a lot more fun.
THE VAMPIRE SHRINK has seen various incarnations. What's the process behind this book and what forms did it take after you first sold it?
The book has definitely had a unique journey. I started writing it in 2004 [after the client session described above]. At that point, I knew zero about fiction writing. Previously, I'd written newspaper and magazine articles/columns, academic papers, training and self-help materials, as well as years of flow-of-consciousness journals. I had no idea there were so many writing resources online. Luckily, I stumbled across some of the generous folks at Colorado Romance Writers, who took me under their individual and collective wings. Even though I don't write romance specifically [but I always add strong romance elements], they taught me how to structure a novel. From 2004 through 2006, I rewrote Shrink several times, sending queries to agents and editors. By 2007 I had an agent, who despite his best efforts, wasn't able to sell the book [it had too many genres "they" said]. Finally, I was approached by a small publisher and against my agent's wishes, agreed to sell them 2 books in my series. Let's just say my agent was right. Hindsight: 20-20.
The Vampire Shrink came out in trade paperback in 2007. After the second book released in 2008, that small publisher and I parted ways. My agent and I also said goodbye. 2009 was a dismal year because I kept being told by agents that it was "impossible" to move a series from one house to another. Discouraged, I gave up writing for most of that year. What was the point? I figured I'd had the shortest publishing career on record.
Fast-forward to late 2009. Joe Konrath began singing the praises of self-publishing e-books through Amazon. Since my former agent had retained e-rights to my two novels for me, I thought WTH? Why not put them up myself? Nobody else was ever going to put up digital copies of the books. So, in March, 2010 I uploaded Shrink and the second book to all the e-book outlets. By the end of April, 2010, they were best-sellers on Amazon. I was actually making money. Good money.
Having best-sellers drew the attention of my current agent, who offered representation and sold 3 series books [starting with The Vampire Shrink] in a blended deal with Quercus Books, UK and Sterling Publishing [Barnes & Noble], USA. The latest [rewritten/expanded] versions of Shrink released 9/2011 in the UK and 4/2012 in the USA.
It looks like there will be an audio book of Shrink out in 2012 as well.
What's the future hold for the series? What forthcoming stories are planned for publication and how many books do you envision?
I'm committed to my current deal for the first three books in the series. New book #2, Blood Therapy, releases 9/2012 in the UK, and 2/2013 in the USA. What used to be old book #2 is now untitled [I'm still searching for the perfect title] book #3. I'm due to turn in that rewritten/expanded book to my editor at the end of December. After that, I don't know how the Kismet series will continue, but I intend that it will continue. I'm completely fine with writing more books, novellas and short stories in the series [including spin-offs] and self-pubbing them myself. I'm lucky enough to have a fan base for the series, so I'll keep writing it. There's really no limit to how many books there can be. If I get another print offer [which is becoming more unlikely across the board for everyone, daily], I'll be happy to give the print rights to a publisher. Of course, it's tricky when the publisher wants the e-rights, too. I guess we'll see what happens.
Given your experiences, what are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional?
I'm definitely a "this/and" person. If I get another book deal I can live with, I'll take it. If I never get another print contract, I'm fine putting up my own work myself. I'll continue to self-pub, regardless. And I might explore another genre under a pen name. It truly is an amazing time to be an author.
I'll echo what most other authors say: if you're going to self-publish, spend the money to get the best editor you can find. Actually, discovering a great editor isn't easy, so start looking now. Releasing unedited or poorly edited writing into the world will definitely come back and bite you.
What's your schedule with the actual writing; in other words: how do you get the words on the page and the job done?
I'm selectively undisciplined, so it's a challenge to keep my butt in the chair. But having no life beyond work and writing makes it somewhat easier for me to spend my hours in front of the computer. I do best when I'm under deadline - either a deadline imposed by someone else or by me. Especially if there's money involved. I tend to do something writing-related [did you catch the slippery "writing-related"?] every day. Today I'm going through feedback from my crit partners for the expanded/rewritten book 3 and adding anything I find helpful to my master copy. I include promo in my schedule, which takes a tremendous amount of time.
What's your favorite part of the process? What's your least favorite?
My favorite part of the writing process is typing the words - well, actually imagining the words - "the end." I love having written.
My least favorite is the relentless self-doubt I experience as a writer. Even my years as a professional singer/musician didn't create greater insecurity than being an author. Who knew?
Any advice for the aspiring authors in our audience?
Due to all the changes in publishing, writers have more power than ever [finally!]. Treat your writing as a professional job. Ask yourself what your goals are, then break the process down into small steps then take that first step. Learn your craft [according to what genre you write]. Surround yourself with writers who are better than you so they can inspire and teach you. Join writing groups. Find the best crit partners you can. Then, when you're ready to publish, hire the best resources available. If you think you can't afford an editor, don't publish until you can. Never give up. All those rejections are taking you closer to the "yes" you're seeking.
Thanks for interviewing me, Betsy. It was fun!