I first got wind of Linda's books when a few copies showed up on my library work desk. She's local to Sacramento, and not only did I like the premise of her first book, THE CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB, but I found out the sequel, THE MYSTERY OF ZORSE'S MASK will debut September 15. Have a look:
No one at school knows that Kelsey, Becca, and Leo are secretly friends. They have nothing in common--until they rescue three kittens and form a club to help animals through volunteering, spying, and solving mysteries. In the first book of this series, Kelsey helps catch a runaway zorse (horse + zebra) with the help of another girl from school named Becca. The two are walking home when they happen upon a litter of kittens trapped in a dumpster and Leo Polanski is the only person around who can help get them out. The three unlikely friends decide to work together to help solve animal crimes with their secret club!
When a mysterious stranger claims to own Becca’s beloved zorse, Zed, something seems suspicious. Besides, if this person is Zed’s real owner, the Curious Cat Spy Club fears he might be responsible for abusing Zed in the past. Kelsey, Becca, and Leo are determined to uncover the truth before they have to give Zed away. But when a daring rescue attempt puts Kelsey in danger, does the CCSC have enough spy skills to save her or are they in over their heads?
Linda was also kind enough to answer some interview questions:
According to your website, you sent out short stories as early as age 14. What got you started writing, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?
I still have stories I wrote when I was 8. No one told me to write; it just happened. I believe I was born to write. I always loved series books best and read any juvenile mystery my parents could find for me. I enjoyed Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, Beverly Gray, Vicki Barr, etc, but my favorite series was the Judy Bolton mysteries by Margaret Sutton. When I was 14, there were no writing classes for me so my Dad, who also had an interest in writing, took a college class then came home and told me how to format my manuscripts and how to submit. I submitted teen stories to American Girl Magazine, and received nice personal rejections.
Also, I wrote a fan letter to my favorite author, Margaret Sutton, and she not only responded to me but continued a friendship that lasted until she died at 98. I co-wrote a Judy Bolton mystery with her called THE TAKING SNOWMAN. A fan’s dream come true!
Life took over for about a decade then I came back to my passion for writing in my late 20’s. Hearing about a writing conference on the radio, I attended and this led to my joining Romance Writers of America (RWA). I learned SO much, listening to editors and agents and published authors speak at local meetings. I submitted a lot! In just over 2 years, I sold my first book, ALMOST TWINS, to a small school fair publisher. It was probably the most exciting moment of my career.
I know what you mean about life taking over--and I'm glad you returned to writing. I love the concept for the Curious Cat Spy Club series. How did you translate the club you had as a child into such an engaging read for kids?
My best friend Lori and I were crazy about animals so made up a club called the Curious Cat Spy Club. We wanted to take care of animals, spy, and solve mysteries like the books we were reading. We both had cats and at least one dog. She sometimes helped her cousin clean a dog kennel and I’d go along. When a staple gun was stolen, we wanted to solve this mystery and eavesdropped on a neighbor through a fence and actually heard proof about who stole the gun. I think his parents made him return it soon afterwards – back then neighbors backed up each other if one of their kids did something wrong.
And there really were three kittens that had been dumped that were brought to Lori’s home, by her brother, I think. I have this vague memory that I saw one of the kittens grown up much later and it was a happy, chubby cat. The kittens were found in a box in a ditch; not a dumpster. But that’s the fun of writing a story; I take the facts and mold them into a story.
I never thought of using my childhood club in a story until one day during critique group, I mentioned the club to one of my writing friends, and she said it sounded like a great idea for a book. Zing! This stuck in my head, and a few months later when my editor invited me to send her ideas for a mystery series, CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB was the first one on my list. My editor LOVED it and I received a contract for 3 books to start this series.
It's great to know there will be more in the series! On your website, you also offer a “writing advice” tab for aspiring writers. What is one piece of writing information you wish you’d had sooner in your career?
Don't be too impatient to get published, and to make sure your work is written the best it can be. I was often so impatient; I’d rush to send my work out when it was still rough. I was lucky to make some of the sales I did because they needed more editing afterwards. I’m still impatient but now I’ve learned so much about editing/rewriting that I write slowly and rewrite each chapter until it feels right before going on to the next one. This is my process and everyone will work differently. Many writers I know like to just write a sloppy first draft then go back and fix it. Still I do believe it’s best to rewrite many times and have the help of a critique group to shine your rough draft into a polished book.
Wonderful advice. What are some of your current projects?
I’m currently writing the 4th Curious Cat Spy Club book. The working title is "The Secret of the Shadow Bandit." The first three books has each kid one-by-one able to keep their kittens. So my plan is for book #4 and any after that to have a new story arc about finding the right house to move into. Kelsey’s kitten, Honey, has a big part in book #4 too, as she’s the one who discovers the Shadow Bandit. Book #3 is called Kelsey the Spy and is a tribute to Kelsey’s favorite book, Harriet the Spy – so readers may guess what happens to Kelsey’s Notebook of Secrets--which leads to a ransom note and a dramatic cliffhanger. There’s also a 130-year-old tortoise named Albert and a Humane Society Fundraiser.
NOTE TO ANY LIBRARIANS/TEACHERS: Choose CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB for your kid book club selection and I will give each child a Spy Pack (puzzles, badge, etc.) plus donate a signed book and offer a free Skype with your kids. More information at www.LindaJoySingleton.com under Teacher/Librarian link.