This is the first of what I have planned to be a series of interviews with some of the unsung authors of some of today's best novels...
An interview with Linn Keller
Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author Linn Keller of Lagrange, Ohio. Linn is the author of three novels: The Sheriff’s Legacy, The Sheriff’s Betrayal, and The Sheriff’s Journal. The first two are “westerns” set in modern-day Firelands County, Colorado and introduce tough-as-nails Willamina Keller, the first female sheriff of Firelands County. The Sheriff's Journal, which was just recently released through AuthorHouse, is meant as a prequel to the others in that it tells the story of Willamina's great-grandfather, who was himself the sheriff of Firelands. Please welcome Linn to our stage.
SCP: Good morning, Linn.
SCP: Please tell our audience a little about yourself. Your hobbies and interests, your writing background, that sort of thing.
Well ... there's not much to tell, really ... I grew up in Appalachian Ohio, worked in the family oilfield listening to tales told by masters of the art.
Granddad was a moonshiner and a moon runner, and he taught me all he knew. -- hak-kaff! I mean I listened politely to his tall tales!
(assumes innocent expression)
Most young fellows are out to whip the world.
I set out to save it.
I put 21 years of my life into being a firefighter- paramedic, with 18 of those 21 serving simultaneously as a deputy marshal in an Appalachian village. I worked water and wastewater and got my licenses, became a nurse, and my wife tells me I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.
SCP: What made you decide to write your first novel, The Sheriff’s Legacy?
A friend of mine gave me a swift kick in the pants.
There is an ongoing story currently written on Belle Alley -- Firelands, four years old and not slowing down a bit! -- one of our correspondents, Bloomin' Yankee, was carefully engineering what she wanted to write into a scene -- but by the time she got hers crafted, polished and ready to cut and paste into the story, I had added about twelve installments in two days' time and the story was well past where she wanted to inject her character.
She sent me a private messsage and chastised me, which to be perfectly honest, I richly deserved! -- then she challenged me, and I bless her for it:
"If you're so good, start a solo thread. Write one yourself, and show us what you've got!"
I have since thanked her for that boot in the backside. Had she not been enough of a friend to speak very frankly, I would likely have never started the thread that became The Sheriff's Legacy.
SCP: How did you arrive at the idea to write the main character as a woman?
(chuckles) To be real honest, that was one of those idiot ideas that flies in from who-knows-where and lands on your shoulder. By the time I realized how bad the idea was, the story was started and was taking on a life of its own! I wrote this as a solo thread on Belle Alley and it wasn't until the tale got its legs under it and started to stride across the Colorado landscape that a little voice knocked on the inside of my skull and said, "Hello? Einstein? Say, Belle Alley celebrates THE VICTORIAN ERA YOU BLOODY IDIOT NOT THE HERE AND NOW! WHAT IN THE COTTON PICKIN' ARE YOU DOING???
Right about then the Sheriff swivel hipped her way across the Council chamber floor, seduced the Mayor without saying a word, at least until she grabbed him by the neck tie and yanked him across the table.
Why a woman?
Belle Alley was started by the Carolina Belles, ladies of the first water -- Ladies most deserving of the term -- and I wanted to write one for them. What better way than to bring in a female character?
Maybe the biggest reason for "Why a woman?" is because I was able to use that fact to yank the rug out from under the reader in the first chapter, and use that to keep the surprises coming.
SCP: Did you model Willamina Keller after a specific person?
Willamina is a complex and composite character who reminds me strongly of a number of women I've known. I can't say she is any one individual person; she draws from so many.
One, of course, is my mother, a woman of wit and of wisdom; another is Sandy Baker, with whom I worked as a firefighter, a medic and a lawman: Sondra Mae was fond of such things as picking up the portable generator and walking across the firehouse floor with it, casually, as if it were just a basket of clothes ... a generator that normally two men would pack.
Willamina's rotten sense of grinning, good-humored achievement, though, comes from my baby sis.
SCP: Where exactly is Firelands County? Is there such a place?
Firelands County, Colorado, was invented by another of the ladies of Belle Alley: Duzy Wales heard the name somewhere, thought it was neat, and started the Firelands thread. Regretfully, there is no Firelands County, Colorado.
The Fire Lands are actually in Northwest Ohio and refer to the Great Black Swamp, and was so named because it seemed to be perpetually afire or smoldering from lightning strikes, or being fired by the natives to drive out game for harvest.
SCP: The Sheriff’s Legacy and The Sheriff’s Betrayal have both been in print for some time, but The Sheriff’s Journal is hot off the press. Would you like to share a little background on the new book?
All things have a beginning; the tallest tree has roots hidden from the common eye, yet they are there and provide for its solid foundation.
The Sheriff's Journal was alluded to very strongly in The Sheriff's Legacy, and was an actual, hand written journal kept by a fellow with an iron-grey mustache, The Old Sheriff.
I did not realize how clear a picture I had painted of this old feller until my Mama, my beautiful bride and my baby sis stood shoulder to shoulder in Mama's kitchen, after they all finished reading The Sheriff's Legacy: with one voice the sayd "We want to know more about that old fellow, the Old Sheriff, what about him?"
... and of course, when faced with the wishes of ladies of that quality, the only correct reply is, "Yes, ma'am!"
SCP: Where are your books available for sale? I’m assuming that they are available online. Do you sell them yourself?
I'm selling autographed copies, yes, but my books can also be had through the publisher, Author House; Amazon, Borders, and The Sheriff's Journal is now available electronically.
SCP: What projects do you have planned for the future?
My baby sis is interested in the Sheriff's twin brother William, and my beautiful bride suggested a compliation of short stories about the Sheriff. Beyond that I''m feeling the "Author's Sag," kind of a sagging of the spirits, the normal post-elation letdown that happens every time a book makes print.
My fellow Medieval re-enactors have encouraged me to publish s book of my cartoons as well: my character the Sneetch (no relation to the Dr. Seuss creation!) is a self portrait: wild flyaway hair, er, feathers; big belly; perpetually wearing boots; capable of getting in trouble without getting out of the easy chair ... yes, very much a self portrait!
SCP: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with me, Linn. I’ve read The Sheriff’s Legacy, and it’s a great book with realistic action taken directly out of today’s headlines, and real human characters that a reader can get instantly involved with. I highly recommend it. Having co-written a long-running collaborative story with you on The Carolina Belles website, I am sure that The Sheriff’s Betrayal and The Sheriff’s Journal are both equally as readable and engrossing tales. I plan to buy them both soon. I hope those of you in the audience who enjoy losing yourself in a good book will do the same. I'm very sure you won’t regret it.
I appreciate your hospitality, and the kindness of your comments.
I can only think of one thing to add:
This has all been very much a surprise to me.
Our local library had me give a presentation on the writing of my first book.
When I finished I asked for questions or comments, and a woman in back spoke up and declared "I have a bone to pick with you!"
I spread my hands and said "Sling it right on me!" figuring she was going to chew the ears right off my head.
She shook her Mommy-finger at me and said, "I only have one complaint! I COULDN'T PUT IT DOWN! I tried to read it in my fifteen minute breaks at work and I kept saying "Oh just one more page, one more page," and finally I stayed up until TWO IN THE MORNING READING IT!"
Matter of fact, "I Couldn't Put It Down" is the one most common comment I've gotten!
Linn Keller can be reached via e-mail at LinnKeller@yahoo.com