Friday, February 9, 2018

Interview with Linda Strader author of Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage

Today let's welcome Linda Strader author of Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage coming May 2018! Tell us a little about yourself.  

Originally from Syracuse, New York, I moved to Prescott, Arizona with my family in 1972. In 1976, I became one of the first women on a U.S. Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.

My publishing history includes many web articles on my expertise of landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about my firefighting adventures, the magazine, Wildfire Today, later published an excerpt. The article generated interest in my speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage is my first book, scheduled for publication on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. I am currently working on a prequel.

In addition to writing, I am a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. I currently live in the same area where my Forest Service career began.

What brought about the idea for this book?

After suffering a series of profound losses, including ending my 23 year marriage, the death of my mom, and 3 months later, my job, I fell apart. Because the future looked so bleak, I found myself looking to the past. My former career as a wildland firefighter had been some of the best times of my life, as well as some of the most challenging and difficult times. I decided to write about those times for prosperity. However, soon it turned into a book, and I decided to investigate publishing.

Sorry to hear about that.  Looks like you had a rough few months. It's great you could produce something positive even though it was a difficult time. Share a short excerpt from your novel

“Uh-oh,” Joe said, staring behind us. “There go our packs.”

My Pulaski froze mid-swing; I lowered it to my side, momentarily forgetting the wildfire in front of me. Smoke swirled between us. I leaned around Joe and saw nothing but pine trees on fire, which, all things considered, made sense. Where did our packs go? Was an animal dragging them away? Then it hit me. Our packs were up in flames. The forest fire had jumped our line. The narrow defensive belt of raw earth we’d feverishly clawed through the woods had been breached. All of our gear. Gone. Including our canteens of life-sustaining water.

This was my first fire; but not Joe’s. When he said we’d just rebuild the line, I thought, okay, no big deal. He seemed calm, and not too concerned about when we’d get more water, so I didn’t worry about that either. Even with our gear a pile of ashes, we’d no choice but to continue to build line. In my hands I clutched a Pulaski, invented by a forest ranger for just this kind of work. A combination ax and hoe, it made building line easier. Easier, but still brutal hard work. With flames a mere foot away, I removed fuel from the fire’s path, down to bare mineral soil, our fireline. Soon my arm muscles burned from swinging the ax at small trees, my back pinched from leaning over to scrape pine needles and the duff underneath them with the hoe. Intense heat from the fire and exertion made me thirsty. A drink of water would be good right about now. I had some gum in my pack, which might have helped, but it was a melted glob now. As I chopped and scraped everything to bare earth, I performed a mental inventory of what I’d lost besides my canteen: headlamp, socks, my Levi jacket. Damn, I really liked that jacket.

Linda have you been given any helpful advice? If so What?

It wasn’t until I spent 18 months in a writers group that I realized they were steering me the wrong way by giving me conflicting feedback or feedback that was not helpful. It began to feel like I was writing to please them, and that didn’t seem right. I quit going. It was then that I realized the best advice was the advice I’d been hearing all along online: It’s YOUR story. Don’t let others sway how you tell your story. Keep your voice.

That's good advice. I always say listen to feedback but in the end go with your gut, it's your book not theirs. Currently, what are you working on?

After finding a publisher for my first book, I became restless to begin another project. Because I kept detailed journals most of my life, I began reading them again. They inspired me to write a prequel to Summers of Fire. At this writing it is completed, and I am beginning the editing process.

Good Luck, editing is not my strong suit. I try and do some, I am sure my editor wished I did a little more before I pass a manuscript on to her. What has been the best compliment you have received?

When one of my beta readers said this:

“I hate to admit it, but you made me get teary at the end, both because of the challenges you faced and overcame, but I also had that feeling you get when you become familiar with a book character and then you reach the end of the book and you realize you won't be following that "friend" anymore.”

What a nice compliment.  How do you promote your books? Any tips you can share?

My publisher is handling much of my promotion, but I also know much of it falls on me. I have been contacting bookstores in my area requesting book signing opportunities, as well as offering to speak in front of women’s groups who have showed interest in my former career in a male-dominated field. I have offered to speak in front of memoir writing groups, and will apply at a local book festival for consideration. In addition, I write guest blog posts at every opportunity, and invite authors to write for mine. Many of these guest posts have generated requests for podcasts and live interviews.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind in book promotion is to not focus on your book, but rather focus on letting people get to know you as a person. Once people know and like you, they are more likely to read your books than if you simply say, “Buy my book!”

That's all great advice. Do you have people read your drafts before you publish?  How do you select beta readers?

I have elicited beta readers for feedback once I feel it is polished and ready to begin querying for publishing. I do not self-publish. My book will be professionally edited one more time by my publisher prior to release.

Who designed the artwork for your cover?  Or did you design it yourself?

I am working with my publisher on cover design.

How do you handle criticism when it comes to your writing?

Criticism is tough. It’s hard not to take it personally. When I was working on my first book and received some difficult critiques, I would allow myself some time to get mad, frustrated, even cry if needed. Then I would return to the critique and ask, “Is this valid? Will it help my story, or have no affect at all?” The comments with value, I would address. The comments without value, I would dismiss.

Is there something you learned from writing your first book?

Many things! One thing I’ll never get over is how one day you think your writing is brilliant, but the next day you hate every word. I think all writers go through this, which is why it’s important to step back from a section and reread a day or two later. But most importantly, I learned that my gut feelings were usually right. 

Thanks for sharing with us!  Find out more about Summer of Fire at any of the links below. Best of Luck with your book and Happy Reading!!

Bedazzled Ink Publishing

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