Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Godfreys Walk Into a interview with Linda Godfrey!

I am so excited today to bring you an interview with author Linda Godfrey. Linda and I are not, despite our superior surname, related. Oh, possibly somehow--I mean, we haven't discussed family trees, but as far as we know, there is no relation. But it doesn't matter because Linda is a dear person and you're in for a treat today.

She's recently released an ebook called God Johnson, and she's here to talk about that and how it got published.

Before we begin, long time readers of this blog (I say that like it's anyone other than myself or my mother) might remember that Linda once wrote my name on a Chinese take out menu and fashioned it into a fetching book cover and then stuck it where my book would go in general fiction in a bookstore. (Here's the post if you're interested.) I still treasure this picture.

Sierra: Your new book, God Johnson, is about unknown gods, hidden worlds and orange scones. Tell us about those hidden worlds and unknown gods, and don't skimp on the orange scones, please.

Linda: It came from thinking about how weird so many of the gods of antiquity were, and wondering what a lesser god would have to look like in order to make it today. I decided that a god resembling our most trusted national figure, Abraham Lincoln, would stand the best chance of netting a disciple. That's how he draws in my protagonist, Liberty Abbott -- along with promises to catapult her to superstardom and stock her pantry with unlimited orange scones. She learns, too late, that he is only one of an entire alternate universe of lesser gods left over from creation. They hang out mostly in their own space, which they call the Whetherworld, but intrude upon humanity as they like for feeding, entertainment and dating purposes. Even worse, each god has a secret Major Rule, and Liberty breaks God Johnson's just as she is starting to fall for him. To their mutual strong dismay, she must suffer a diabolical form of punishment the gods call "Wrath." The book is set in Madison, Wisconsin, a free-wheeling city affectionately known as the Berkeley of the Midwest - a place where humanoid scarab beetles, shapeshifting sphinxes, Lincoln doppelgangers and other odd gods can blend right in.

Sierra: That is such a coinkidink because I live close to Berkeley, California. And, I may have seen a humanoid scarab beetle or two before on Telegraph Avenue. Anyway, you mention on your website that God Johnson is three years in the making, and that's co-published with your literary agent (Jim McCarthy at Dystel & Goderich and Yassine Bukacemi also at D&G repping the ebooks). Take us through your process. How does your agent play a part in the co-publishing? Does he take a author credit?

Linda: I've been writing novels for about 10 years, and have three not-yet-pubbed fantasies lounging in a drawer to prove it. I came very close to representation and/or publication for two of them. I think my chief problem was figuring out the difference between nonfiction and fiction. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer - - one involves researched facts and the other you just make up, right? Wrong. They involve two different mindsets and to some extent, skill sets, and it took me a decade to begin to get it right. 

When Jim offered to represent my nonfiction, I was reluctant to mention that I had penned several novels, as well. I had previously submitted one of them, however, to a genre publisher which kept it for a year and then wrote me a really great rejection letter. I couldn't resist showing it to Jim, and he agreed with the publisher the novel's time leaps needed some strong tweaking. I said, well I have another one that might take less work - -God Johnson! It's the sort of book Jim calls a genre-buster, though; urban fantasy meets paranormal romance and maybe a few other shady things. I suggested that we try an e-book format, especially since D&G now has a digital publishing division. They receive the traditional agency percentage but it's for formatting, uploading to vendors, placing meta-tags, updating, and fund collection and disbursement. These are all things that I suck at. I'm still the author, and my part in the process involved the costs of cover design and copy editing. (I'm a professional commercial artist so I did the cover myself.) Of course, there are so many publishing options available now that my route wouldn't work for every writer, but for me it was a perfect solution.

Sierra: If the agent/agency offers a co-pub ebook option, how does that affect traditional publisher submissions? For example, would my agent only push me toward that or both or whatever made the most sense for my career/genre?

Linda: I really did not feel steered toward epub at all and I know that Jim gave it his best shot at finding a traditional publisher. If the book does well I think he'll try another round. I was the one who suggested the e-book, actually. I'm very excited about it for a lot of reasons but a big one is that I get to keep a whole lot more of the sales. 

Sierra: In the 1990s you wrote a newspaper article about an upright canine thing known as Manwolf. That article hit a nerve and took off. Where has it led you in your writing? What are your plans for future work covering the creature and others like it, like Bigfoot?

Linda: The Beast of Bray Road is the newspaper story that never dies. Stake it, shoot it with a silver bullet, it just keeps snarling back. My first book, however, was a historical true crime saga, still in print, The Poison Widow; a True Story of Sin, Strychnine and Murder. It's about the 1920s trial of a Wisconsin woman who fell in love with a college student boarding in her home. Between the two of them, they killed her husband by putting strychnine in his prune juice. Then she tried to kill her four beautiful children and things went crazily awry. Their trials were followed nationally. I spent six years researching the events and discovered she had a second life with people who never knew what she did. 

"The Widow" found a regional publisher very easily and when they asked me what else I had, I replied,"werewolves." I also had a blog chronicling odd and unusual things, and all of this brought me to the attention of the Weird US series editors at Barnes & Noble who asked me to co-author Weird Wisconsin and author Weird Michigan. 

I started my first novel, The Blue Grasshopper Lady, before I began any of the nonfiction books. One well-known agent liked it and asked me to revise it and send it back to her but I had no clue how to do that -- online writing resources had not yet blossomed to where they are now. I later ran into this kind agent in a bathroom at a writer's conference and, as we washed our hands at the sink, I couldn't help but commit the ultimate gaffe by introducing myself right there in the ladies room. She did remember the book and was very nice about it! I still didn't know how to fix it, however. By then I was busy writing nonfiction about strange things, people and creatures for various publishers, so I just kept going and continued to stuff my drawer with unpublished novels on the side. 

As for future coverage of unknown creatures, or cryptids, that will depend on where my research takes me and whether I continue to receive enough reports from eyewitnesses to continue to make new contributions to the field. I must add, though that every time I think I've written it all and am about to hang up my investigative hat, something new always seems to come along. That factor and the mystery of these beasts are what I love about this field.

Sierra: Tell us about your work on Monsterquest (which I got to see you on while flipping through channels one night -- I was SO excited. My husband said, "Look, there's a Godfrey." And I said, "OMG I KNOW HER! That's LINDA!").

Linda: Yes, I've sort of become the national go-to person for werewolf documentaries in print and film even though I prefer to call them unknown, upright canines. I don't believe in actual, traditional werewolves! I do a lot of TV and radio appearances to keep people updated on the latest sightings and developments, and Monsterquest is one of my all time favorites. I was in the first season episode titled American Werewolf which was based on my book, Hunting the American Werewolf, and also in the fourth season episode on the Michigan Dogman. I've also been on shows such as Inside Edition, Sean Hannity's America, Lost Tapes, and William Shatner's Weird or What. It's something I never could have imagined when I was writing that original newspaper article as a small-town reporter back in 1992.

Sierra: What projects are next for you?

Linda: I'm working on another book about strange creatures for Tarcher/Penguin and also the sequel to God Johnson.

Sierra: What are some recent books you've read and loved?

Linda: My current favorite author is Daniel Abraham and I have loved everything I've read by him, especially the four books in his Long Price Quartet series and most recently his Dragons Path series. I'm also making my way through the late, great Kage Baker's The Company novels, and I'm always engrossed in nonfiction on the science/paranormal edge such as DMT: the Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassmann. For comfort reading, I revert to anything by Thomas Hardy.

Sierra: Thank you so much, Linda. You're a delight. To quote you, here's a Godfrey fist-pump!

Linda's bio from Amazon:
I was born a poor, freckled child. Now I write books about strange creatures, things and people, and sometimes illustrate them, to boot.

This is exactly what I told my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Ione Kopitzke, I wanted to do when I grew up. I remember she replied, almost crying, "Oh Linda, I think you can do better than that." Her picture is now in the front of my book, "Strange Wisconsin: More Badger State Weirdness." Right next to freckled little me in my "L" initial blouse. That book won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers 2008 Best Book Awards, and a Midwest Book Review's Editor's Choice. See how neatly life shakes out sometimes?

Before I started writing books, I received an art education degree from UW-Oshkosh, taught art and was a cartoonist and newspaper reporter. I live in southeast Wisconsin with my husband, youngest son and Lhasa Apso named Grendel.

You might catch me on an episode or two of HC's Monster Quest and other TV and radio shows. Check out Linda's website for updates.

Check out Linda's books:

Connect with Linda:


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