Linda McQuinn Carlblom is a Jesus follower and children’s author. Her books include Bible Blessings for Bedtime, the Camp Club Girls books that feature Bailey, and Interactive Children’s Sermons, 52 Messages from the Psalms. She’s a regular blogger on the Christian Children’s Author web page, and on her own personal blog, Parenting With a Smile.
Besides keeping busy with her writing, Linda is the children’s minister at Lakeshore Bible Church. She lives with her husband and youngest daughter in Tempe, Arizona and can be easily bribed to do most anything with a slice of cheesecake.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
I started writing in high school. Mostly just poems to vent my emotions. I found it helped me process life if I wrote things down. I considered writing for publication in my twenties when my husband and I were thinking of starting a family. I wanted to do something to make money from home so I could be a stay-at-home mom.
How many words do you write each day?
I don’t have a set number of words I write each day. I don’t even write every day! I know some writers would think that’s terrible, but that’s how it works for me. Raising a family and now having older parents takes time and a flexible schedule. Writing comes after the needs of my family. I believe God honors that. So I usually spend a good chunk every Monday writing since my critique group meets on Tuesday morning.
Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?
Definitely an outliner, though it’s a loose outline! I just write a few sentences about what I want to have happen in each chapter. This doesn’t mean I can’t change things as I go, but it does give me direction as I write. If I hit a point where I don’t know what to have my characters do or say next, I go back to my outline and review what I wanted to have happen in that chapter. It usually gets me back on track.
When are you the most productive?
I’m most productive in the morning after I get my daughter off to school. I tend to get sleepy in the afternoon and sitting at a computer doesn’t help that!
What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
I read a book by an author I love or simply take a break from the writing, even if it’s just to lay on the bed for a half hour or so. Somehow, relaxing my mind always brings me fresh ideas. Also, getting out into the sunshine or doing something to help someone really seems to put things in perspective and recharges my battery. Being with other creative people like my critique group is another thing that revs me up.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
My first book, Interactive Children’s Sermons, 52 Messages from the Psalms, was probably the easiest. I was giving weekly children’s messages at my church where the kids would come up front and sit with me while I talked to them. I had used other books for my material, but eventually ran out. So I started writing my own. It seemed easy because it was something I had to do to be ready for each week’s talk. Before I knew it, I had a whole book! The hardest was probably the last Camp Club Girls book, Bailey and the Florida Mermaid Park Mystery, (to be released in Nov. 2011) because I was getting tired of writing about the same characters and keeping them fresh. Also, I had very tight deadlines on the last couple CCG books, so that made it very challenging.
Was it easier to write before or after you were published?
A little of both! I wrote my first book not knowing how difficult it usually is to get published. So I didn’t have the concerns about getting published that I might now. But now that I’ve been published I write with more confidence than I used to. I’m also not as afraid to write in my own voice, which was difficult to find as a new writer.
Are your characters completely fictional?
My characters are usually composites of real people I know. I might take the looks of one person and the personality of another and the sense of humor of someone else and meld them all into one character.
Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are everywhere! In conversations I overhear, newspaper articles, dreams I have, pure imagination, things people say to me. You get the idea!
What advice would you give young writers?
Learn the craft of writing. Go to classes or conferences or critique groups and listen to the advice you’re given. Grow a thick skin so you don’t take rejections from publishers personally. Be tenacious. Write, revise, rewrite, submit and resubmit. Believe in your story and your message. Don’t be afraid to show your work to someone who can help you polish it up.
What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I’m not sure if it qualifies as advice or not, but I was encouraged by some fellow writers to attend a Christian writers conference. It was the best thing I could have done to learn the craft of writing and to make solid connections with other writers, editors, and agents. It gave me a foot in the door when it came to submitting my manuscript to publishers because I’d already met them and gotten their OK to submit to them.
One other piece of advice I received that totally changed the way I thought of myself was to tell people I was a writer. If someone asked what I did for a living I told them I was a writer. It sounds so simple, but when those words came out of my mouth, I started believing that I really was a writer. There is power in the spoken word.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
I’m currently working on a fiction book for boys aged 8-12. There isn’t much out there for Christian boys to read other than action or mystery. My book is what I like to call “tasteful gross humor.” Is that an oxymoron? There are spiritual undertones, but it’s a book a kid could give his unbelieving friend and not be worried that he’ll be turned off by Christian terms or preachiness. It’s funny and gross in the best possible ways!