I have a real treat for everyone today. Please welcome romantic suspense writer, Fiona Quinn, to Creating the WRITE Reality! I connected with Fiona on Twitter almost two years ago. Honestly, when I first saw her lovely bio picture, my first thought was “Cool! Reese Witherspoon with guns.” From a marketing perspective, that made her immediately memorable to me. Celeb lookalike references aside, Fiona writes a popular kickass blog for writers called Thrillwriting, and has been my ‘go-to’ gal for all things forensics since I discovered her. Thanks to Fiona, one of the characters from my series, The Angelorum Twelve Chronicles, has a sub-compact gun strapped to her thigh that won’t slip down her leg as she’s running through the streets of Paris. Fiona’s blog was the starting point for me when I needed to get an idea what a dead body would look like after a week in the water. I highly recommend her blog, which contains a number of incredibly important posts for writers on forensics, body language, ballistics, fighting, etc.
That said, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to discover that Fiona had released a romantic suspense series! The first three books in the LYNX series launched between April 21st and June 21st. My intention was to read and review the first book in the series, WEAKEST LYNX, as part of this post. But by the time I got to the end, I was so hooked, that I devoured the next two! Honestly, the urge to binge-read an author hasn’t happened to me in a while, especially in a genre I don’t read consistently. That’s saying something! So, I’m reviewing them below as a series (SEE BELOW). I’m eagerly awaiting the release of her next book, CUFF LYNX, in September.
You have an amazing background based on your bio, when did you decide you wanted to be a writer on top of all that?
I always wanted to be a writer. I had envisioned a career in travel writing – hence degrees in art history, history, and foreign languages. I spent a lot of time travelling around the world and living/working in different countries. But life changed, as it often does, and I went back to school to accommodate the shift, receiving a psych degree and my masters. But still, that was stop gap, I truly wanted to write. Ta da, and here I am doing just that. It took a few decades, though.
I’m amazed at your social media presence on twitter with an incredible 25K+ followers. I discovered you way before the LYNX series, and actually searched on your blog for books you’d written. I found only a couple of novellas back then. To me, you are the textbook example of “building your platform before you publish.” As a result, your books are rocking it on the charts – the dream of any author, old or new. We all know that even with great books, discoverability is an issue. How long did it take you to build your platform? Any advice on what worked and what didn’t? How many tweets do you recommend per day? Any tools to recommend? Any other social media sites or platforms that you’ve found successful?
Social media – I am floundering like everyone else. As I was writing my books, I worked to build my platform and to be honest took about a year off writing novels in order to build my platform. That meant writing two blogs a week (they take a lot of work) and searching out, following, interacting with folks.
My platform didn’t come without hours and hours of effort.
One trick I learned along the way: I have two Twitter accounts – My big account is @FionaQuinnBooks. I felt I needed grow a backup account (@thrillwritingFQ) in case Twitter put me on its naughty list (by accident), again. Imagine my little freak out when I was blocked from Twitter the week I was about to come out with two books (published, so I had no control).
I use Hootsuite and vary the times on my spreadsheet 10, 15, and 20 minutes, which mean each account tweets about 90 times a day. It seems like a lot but my tweets are scheduled as four tweets of helpful information to one tweet about a book. I really do want to be supportive and interesting. And of course, I go on to Twitter at least two times a day to answer questions and interact with folks. Using Hootsuite saves me tons of time. It’s worth the monthly investment of ten dollars.
FB pages, to me, is a huge waste of time – though I have a presence, same for Pinterest.
I use my Facebook timeline to engage in longer conversations and get help from my friends who are experts in their fields. For example, just the other day I put up a dialogue, which was meh and asked my military friends to fix it for me. And something that read similar to: “His little antics put him in the FBI crosshairs. He’s not on my happy list.” (ech!) became: “His tactical goat-screw made him stand out like a turd in the FBI punchbowl. Right now, he isn’t even worthy of making my shit list.” So much better.
Lexi (Lynx) is such an interesting and refreshing character. A strong and capable female heroine, she is young but wise beyond her years with some unique skills. Two things that struck me were the un-schooling aspect of Lexi’s education (loved the Kitchen Grandmothers!) and the integration of Reiki, which happens to be near and dear to my heart and integrated in the main character of my series as well. Can you tell us a little bit about these things, the importance of them to you, and what inspired you in creating Lexi and this series?
Weakest Lynx was a book that I wrote in my mind on an unschooling adventure. I have four kids whom I unschooled – unschooling means that we stayed at home to educate, but we didn’t really follow a curriculum. More, we used mentors and experiences to inform us. And we read TONS of books. I had loaded my younger two kids, then aged ten and thirteen, along with my daughter’s service dog into the car and drove around the US for about six weeks, seeing and experiencing (and tasting) our way through history, science, art, literature and so on. I wondered how my children’s educational background would affect their thought processes as adults, and I imagined their unique education in a personality like Lexi’s.
An interesting point though is that if there is a critique of Lexi, it’s that she is too young to have the skillsets she has. I simply wrote down my oldest daughter’s skills and changed a couple of them out (my daughter is a hunter jumper equestrian/ Lexi was part of the Civil Air Patrol – so she knows how to fly but does not have a pilot’s license. And my daughter was an award winning artist, while Lexi does magic tricks.) It’s amazing the skillsets that can be accomplished when you spend your day building expertise and not studying for tests and writing papers – which neither Lexi nor my daughter did. In fact, some skills I dimmed. At 20, my daughter was a hospital telemetry nurse and Lexi only an EMT volunteer. So when people write that Lexi is too accomplished, I scratch my head.
About Reiki, I am a master teacher, and I wanted to include this in the story as an integrated part of Lexi’s life. Many of the energetic lessons I teach my Reiki students, I threaded into the story line of all four books. (Cuff Lynx book 4 is in edits now).
This series came out quickly, which was fantastic for me as a reader. Even though each book stands alone, they are part of one story with a common thread. How many LYNX book do you envision writing? How do you see the series evolving?
I planned on a four-book plot curve with all four books coming out in one year. Then I would take some time to develop the secondary characters in their own books (I’ll share about this in question 8a) I’ll definitely come back to write more about Lexi. She has a lot more to share – but the LYNX books are dense with information. I don’t want to throw them out there. I want each to be meaningful and interesting. It takes time to do the research and get the right plot.
You released the first book in the series on Kindle Scout, and then the next two on your own. All are wildly successful and in the Top 30 of their categories. Clearly an awesome strategy, what was the method to your madness?
I was working on my Lynx books, talking to lots of authors about their experiences and watching the industry undergo seismic shifts. Things are night and day from the point where I started writing Lynx way back at the end of 2010. One of the things I did not want to have happen is a lag time of a year to a year and a half, which is industry standard for traditional contracts. I have experience with traditional contracts, and there are pros and cons. I decided to try the Kindle Scout route with the intention of bringing the other three books out within six months. So far I’m on task, and people who read book 1 (for the most part) are finishing the series. I’m thrilled with the reception Lynx is getting.
Just curious, did you always intend to go indie, or did try the traditional publishing route (Big 5) before Kindle Scout?
When I began, Indie was fairly new and disreputable. I planned on traditional – but as I watched, I realized that many of my traditionally contracted friends were facing stiffer and stiffer odds. I had been particularly interested in the marketing and publicity of the big houses but even that has changed. Whatever your choice, as a writer, you MUST learn to market yourself.
Since you provide a lot of valuable content for your genre, your books have an authentic feel. What kind of research do you do? Do you have suggestions for organizations or groups that authors should work with? What’s the biggest pet peeve you see as you read in your genre?
Oy. What irritates me – I talk about that a lot on my blog: wrong guns, wrong bullets, wrong science, wrong medical effects, impossible fight scenes. . . Which peeve should I focus on?
Okay, I’m going to use Fifty Shades of Grey as an example simply because so many have read it. Do you remember the scene where Ana talks to the psychologist? He keeps using big words, excusing himself and then defining the word. Ugh. As a counselor, I can tell you this would not happen. Ever. (Well, unless the guy had serious personality issues himself.) Please do not use your novel to explain your fabulous research to me. It should be buried deeply in the prose. I shouldn’t see it at all.
Having said that, my character, Lynx (Lexi), often talks about “stuff”. She shares stories and scientific studies and explains them to the people who are working with her. But she does this because that’s the way she thinks. So. . . If it works, use it. And sometimes a character seeks out a resource for that very reason to have things explained. In a case like that, it might be very interesting – but you’d better be 100% sure you’re writing it right.
How do I research? I research by doing. Hands-on means truly understanding. (And making the connections with folks who can answer future question) There are great free classes available. I did the Citizens Police Academy, Citizens Fire Academy, the FBI has one. You can go to the firehouse or rescue station and hang out with folks. Show them your writing. Ask if they would say the dialogue you wrote. Ask if you can hold the tool. You can sign up for ride-alongs with the police, and then they’re sitting with you for eight hours in the car, ask away!
Writers’ try-it events like Authors’ Combat Academy and Silver Hart (resources and experiential opportunities) are fabulous!
Ask people who live what you’re writing about and, again, try it when you can – internet research will show up in your writing as flat.
Also, I use hubby in my research. He’ll walk and talk a fight with me (we’re both black belts), which means I’ll say, “I think she throws an elbow here.”
He’ll say, “Okay, but then he’d throw her like this. Or kick her knee out like this.”
“Hmm, I can’t let that happen. What if she was to chop his carotid?”
Fun and games at my house – though he says he prefers helping me choreograph the love scenes. And that’s not (usually) the sex scenes. “Honey, if I needed to tell you something really hard to express like XXX, and you were standing there, what would you do with your hands?”
I ask hubby what a guy might be thinking in such and such situation. In Cuff Lynx I have a whole scene where Lynx is talking about the scientific effects of cortisol, adrenaline, and testosterone on the body. So I sat with hubby and told him what she was saying, and I noted how he silently shook with laughter, and how he tried to hide it behind a stoic face, but his eyes still danced. And then, I went upstairs and wrote the scene.
Since all my children are four-legged and canine, I love that you incorporate dogs into your story. Bella and Beetle are great characters in their silent support, and I loved the way Lexi influenced the prison dogs in the second book. You have actually trained dogs in real life. How much of what Lexi could do was based on fact? What are some simple things that we can do to better understand / train our canine companions?
Yup, facts. All of it is accurate in the context it was written. The dogs she was working with at the prison weren’t lap dogs; they were trained, specially bred, working dogs who worked within a pack.
On training – With dogs the main thing to remember is that they want to please you. They become frustrated when they don’t know what you want. Break things down into tiny pieces. Here’s an example. If I say “I’m cold”, our dog, Bear, will come over and pull the covers over me.
How did I get there?
First, meals are training times. His food rewards his work.
I started with having him touch the blanket with his nose. When he did this, I gave him a single piece of food with a goodboy! Then gathered a handful of food, let him sniff my fist, and slowly brought my fist up to my chest then opened my fist and let him eat it.
After a few days, I didn’t give him the nibble treat until he put the blanket in his mouth. Nibble teat – goodboy! – fist of food to chest.
A few days of working at that level, he had to hold the blanket in his mouth for a moment – nibble, goodboy! follows food up to my chest. Next, he takes a step with blanket in his mouth . . . and progress. Time. Consistency. Effort. Hey, just like writing!
Note, I trained Bear to move from left to right. If I were to lay the other way around, he has no idea what to do. I would have to start at the very beginning to train that (very complicated) movement as a different trick. Once he is trained, in one place, I start again in a different room, or with a different blanket. After he can do the trick in about four different places with four different textures, he’s got it and will perform wherever.
Now that he has that task in place, I layer on other tasks he can do so the series is.
“I’m cold!” He covers me up.
“HaCHOO!” He pulls a tissue from the holder and brings it to me.
“I don’t feel well, I need a juice.” He goes to the cabinet opens the door, brings me back a Capri Sun and puts it in my hand.
He really likes the stimulation of learning new tricks it makes him feel very proud.
Let’s chat man candy: Striker. Yum. He’s the right combo of alpha and vulnerable. Just the way I like ’em. What inspired you to write him?
Striker is absolutely what I like best in my man-candy. Since I’m going to be spending so much time with the guy, why not make him the way I’d like him best? Capable, intelligent, strong, caring, and so cute!
Actually, each of the men on Strike Force came to me from different conversations I had with my husband. For example, when we were dating, hubby and I made dinner for the families at the Ronald McDonald House one Thanksgiving and the news station came in and filmed us. He grinned for the camera, and put his hand on his heart, with his southern accent he said, “Yes, ma’am, well I called my mama in Texas and asked her for the recipe.” At that moment, a character bloomed fully formed in my mind. I knew everything about him, and he seemed very real to me. You’ll find him in my books as Jean Marie Rochambeau better known as Gater Aid – though his mama calls him “mud pie.”
All the guys in Strike Force are great. Coming from someone who also writes a cast of hunky guys, you did a wonderful job of making them strong, distinct secondary characters. Any thoughts on giving them more page time or potential novellas?
Yes! In fact, they have their own series – STRIKE FORCE, starting in 2016. Book One, In Too Deep about Deep Del Toro. Each of the guys will get a standalone, suspense filled happily ever after. I can’t wait to learn more about them – especially Gater’s book which comes out second.
Any appearances or upcoming events?
The next time I will be teaching is at Authors’ Combat Academy in April, 2016 http://dev.authorscombatacademy.com I post my appearance schedule on my website, so please check that out. www.FionaQuinnBooks.com
Last, any additional advice for new writers in this challenging market?
Everything is changing so fast. Anything I tell you today could very well be dated in a month. All you can do is your best. Write your best work. Get the best editing and art that you can afford. Put in the time to make connections that matter to you. It’s not about numbers accrued in social network but trying to find great people whom you enjoy and edify you and in return you try to give back from your skillset.
I’m around. I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to answer your questions if I can.
On Twitter, Pinterest, and FB pages I’m: FionaQuinnBooks
REVIEW: THE LYNX SERIES
Weakest Lynx (The LYNX Series #1)
Print Length: 406 pages
Publisher: Kindle Press (April 21, 2015) / Createspace (Print)
Publication Date: April 21, 2015
Missing Lynx (The LYNX Series #2)
Print Length: 384 pages
Publication Date: May 21, 2015
Chain Lynx (The LYNX Series #3)
Publication Date: June 21, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
PRAISE for the LYNX SERIES:
“I felt like I was there in the midst of the action, breathing their air and feeling their emotions.” Darcia Helle VINE VOICE
“An engaging and captivating read filled with emotion and energy. ” A Navy Vet…VT town TOP 500 REVIEWER –
“Lexi Sobado is unique, tenacious, and a breath of fresh air for thriller readers.” Jamie Lee Scott, USA Today Bestselling Author
“Hair-raising action was nicely balanced with slower, tender moments.” Kate Kelly, USA Today Bestselling Author
“Snappy writing, great characters, and best of all: more books in the series!” Alan Orloff – Agatha Award Finalist
WEAKEST LYNX Book Blurb:
What Lexi wants is a simple life. What she gets is simply terrifying.
Lexi Sobado is a 20-year-old experienced intelligence consultant with a special psychic gift. However, her gift couldn’t prevent her from becoming the focus of a stalker’s desires. With a death threat shoved in her purse, she finds herself caught in the middle of a sinister web of crime and corruption.
Striker Rheas, a seasoned special agent, is charged with keeping Lexi safe. But can he keep his personal life separate from his professional life as he finds himself falling for his assignment?
What Lexi hides, what she reveals, and what she keeps trying to uncover is a delicate balancing act as she tries to save her own life and stop the killer. Can Lexi learn to love, trust, and harness the power of her psychic flashes before it’s too late?
MISSING LYNX Book Blurb:
In MISSING LYNX Lexi Sobado, known as Lynx, a young intelligence consultant with a special psychic gift, is kidnapped from her home in suburban Washington DC and hidden in a prison in Honduras. There she must use all of her skills to escape the clutches of Maria Rodriguez, a long-time enemy who wants to use Lynx as a pawn in her deadly game. Can the man who captured her heart, former navy SEAL Striker Rheas, and their team find her in time to save her life?
CHAIN LYNX Book Blurb:
Found in the debris of the plane wreck barely alive, Lexi Sobado is finally home. But home does not mean safe. Someone powerful, connected, and willing to kill is after her.
Lexi Sobado, the young Iniquus puzzling prodigy, puts her expertise to the test as she faces a dark enemy, threatening not only her and Iniquus, but American defense and safety. Lives are on the line, can Lexi find the puppet master in time?
My REVIEW: 5 STARS
As I mentioned above, this series drew me in from the first page, held on tight, and never let go until I read “The End” in Book 3. But it's not the end, there's still another book to go, and I'm eagerly awaiting it's arrival. Not your “same old, same old” heroine trope, Lexi provides a fresh and different kind of quirky, kick-ass girl to love. With a unique combination of gifts, combined with her unconventional upbringing, she is mature beyond her years in some ways, and refreshingly naive in others. It all works to keep the reader glued to Lexi's side as she faces some pretty extraordinary circumstances that the author bravely confronts without sugarcoating her fiction. Ms. Quinn's unique expertise lends a verisimilitude in spots that will have you suffering alongside of Lexi. On the flip side, strong relationships evolve between Lexi and the secondary characters, drawing the reader close to the men of Strike Force (not to mention, these guys are hot, and there's nothing not to like!) The fact that she burrows straight into their hearts and souls with home cooked meals makes me smile.
The chemistry between Lexi and Striker sizzles on the page, but their path into each other's arms is not fast, or without a lot of necessary thought. This makes for a more satisfying, and hard won union. He is my kind of guy all the way: alpha when it counts, but sensitive and caring enough when it matters.
The plots are self-contained with an underlying arc that will conclude in the next book. The LYNX series is smart, engaging, fast-paced, with well-drawn characters and enough romantic tension to keep you coming back for more!
I highly recommend the series!
About FIONA QUINN
Canadian born, Fiona Quinn is now rooted in the Old Dominion outside of D.C. with her husband and four children. There, she homeschools, pops chocolates, devours books, and taps continuously on her laptop. She is the author of the Amazon bestseller Mine, and Chaos Is Come Again, and is the creative force behind the popular blog ThrillWriting. She recently launched her Lynx Series with Book One, WEAKEST LYNX, Book Two, MISSING LYNX, Book Three, CHAIN LYNX, and coming fall, 2015 – Book Four, CUFF LYNX.