Friday, January 18, 2008

Author Visit: Linda Collison and Star-Crossed

Please welcome Linda Collison, author of Star-Crossed!

is the story of an 18th-century orphaned British teen who stows away on a ship bound for Barbados in a brash attempt to claim her father’s estate. An illegitimate orphan, and a female at that, Patricia Kelley finds she has lost her place in the world, now that her father is dead. Throughout the story she struggles to survive, ultimately cross-dressing and assuming a dead man’s identity. As she comes of age in the 18th century, Patricia (a.k.a. Patrick) finds adventure, love, and loss. Grappling with the complexities and injustices of her 18th century world, she begins to discover her true self, and her true love.


Linda Collison has worked as a registered nurse, a skydiving instructor, a volunteer firefighter, a freelance writer, a wife and a mother. With husband Bob Russell she co-authored two guidebooks: Rocky Mountain Wineries and Colorado Kids. Linda has received awards from Honolulu Magazine and Southwest Writers Workshop. In 1996 she was awarded the Grand Prize from the Maui Writers Conference for her fiction. Star-Crossed, her first novel, published by Knopf, was chosen by the New York Public Library to be among the BOOKS FOR THE TEEN AGE -- 2007.

How did you get the idea for Star-Crossed?

The idea came from my love of adventure, of sailing, and my fascination with history.

It was at night, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and I was at the helm of the Endeavour, a replica of Capt. James Cook’s 18th-century sailing ship. The three weeks I spent working aboard the Endeavour was an amazing experience, one that I wrote an article about for Sailing Magazine.

Standing a night watch, steering that remarkable ship, I realized I wanted to explore what it might have been like for a young woman to be part of such a floating world, back in the 18th century…

How long did it take you to write it?

Star-Crossed was seven years in the making; from conception to publication. Obviously, there was a lot of research involved. Also, I’m the kind of writer who writes, writes, and rewrites. My first drafts are all ugly ducklings. But in the first draft I capture the heart and soul of the story. The next 12 or 15 drafts are where I slowly and painstakingly try to sculpt the body of the story. Hard work!

Did you outline Star-Crossed or just let things happen while writing it?

After I was sure I had enough enthusiasm and commitment to write a novel, and after I had written the beginning and the ending, I outlined, yes. It was a free-form outline, and VERY flexible, but I was glad I did! Writing a novel is a very messy process and you have to impose order somewhere along the line. Even then, it sometimes feels like herding cats.

Let’s talk about character names. Do you have a formula for choosing names for your main characters?

“Who needs surnames?” I said, still muddle-headed. “They’re never our own anyway.”

Rachel’s smile was rueful. “How true. First we’re given our father’s name, then we take our husband’s. Only our given name remains the same.” -- from Star-Crossed

I went through a lot of names actually, before deciding on Patricia. (Her last name changes through the story.) I liked the sound of it, and the way it seems to fit who she is. I wanted her to have an androgynous name, or one that could easily become androgynous when she becomes a man. Like Patricia/Patrick.

The name Brian Dalton, I chose, because it’s a classic Irish/Scottish name, and because it’s strong and dependable-sounding. I had fun choosing some of the names, like Hugh Molesworth and Aeneas MacPherson…

A writer can become obsessed with names, (I know; I did!) but don’t let it snag your story. I’ll bet most writers see deep symbolic meanings behind the names they give their characters, but in the end, it’s very subjective. Call her Jane Doe, whatever, and get on with the real work!

Pretend you’re the main character in your book. In a few sentences, tell readers why they should choose this book.

“I was born to a wealthy, privileged man and raised in the best of English boarding schools. I thought my future was golden, that nothing seriously awful could happen to me. Then my father died, and I realized all I had was dependent on him. Without my father I had nothing, and in the world’s eyes, I was nothing. With a boat load of prostitutes, I slipped aboard a ship bound for Barbados. I intended to claim my father’s estate, for he had often said it would be mine someday. But a bastard child, and a girl at that, has no property rights. I had to do something drastic.”

What are some of your favorite books?

When I was young, I loved King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry. And Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. As a teen I devoured poetry and literary fiction, especially short stories. As an adult, I like biographies and historical studies. And I continue to love literary fiction. Such as Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovzky, which is a great book for deep-thinking teens, as well as adults.

Writing can be filled with rejection. How do you handle that?

I feel worthless, miserable, and fall into a profound depression -- for about six hours. Then I dust myself off and go back to the keyboard. I have grown a thick hide over the years. (It covers a tender heart.)

Lots of readers of this blog are aspiring young authors. What advice would you give them?

Don’t wait until you have your Masters in Fine Arts to begin submitting for publication. I got my first essay published before I entered college, and while I was a college student received my first check for an article for a trade magazine. (OK, it was a check for ten dollars, but so what? It’s not about the money!) Write, polish and submit your work! School literary magazines, special interest publications, teen magazines and e-zines are great markets for young people.

Enter writing contests. Contests are great motivators. A contest forces you to come up with an idea and see it through. It teaches you to take risks and meet deadlines. I entered (and won) my first writing contest in sixth grade. It gave me a big head which was later deflated many times. I’ve received enough rejection slips to wallpaper my office. But occasionally I have won the prize, gotten the essay published, been awarded the book contract. Practice makes almost-perfect, and persistence pays off.

Listen to criticism and continue to develop your craft. But never let anyone tell you, you can’t do it.

Whatever you can do or believe you can, begin it

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it! (Goethe – or some other optimistic soul)

What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

Ooooh! Ooooh! I’m so excited about my current projects! I’ve got a couple of irons in the fire, including wrapping up the Star-Crossed Trilogy, and working on the second draft of a novel about three teens on a road trip. I am loving my characters and their settings, and having so much fun I can’t believe it!

Star-Crossed (Knopf;2006) by Linda Collison

Available at fine bookstores, through Baker and Taylor, and online at Amazon

**Linda is generously giving away TWO signed copies of Star-Crossed to one Blogger and one LiveJournal reader. Leave a comment on either or both blogs by 9pm on Sunday night and winners will be announced on Monday. **


Chelsea said...

Great interview! I'd love, love, love a copy of Star-Crossed.

Anonymous said...

here is my entry for the contest

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Linda's book, and I'm not a teen girl! Having visited the Whydah exhibit at the Cincinnati museum a few months ago, I was particularly in tune to and impressed with Linda's ability to weave both historical information and information about sailing, into her fiction book. The references to the real life female pirates, the doctor's role on a ship at that time and the tools and treatments he would have used, the navigation, the hierarchy, the details about sailing (I could actually smell the smells of tar and rope in my mind!)---I really appreciated all of these things being incorporated into the book and these details took the story to another level. Linda is obviously very knowledgeable about her subject! Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Terri, for your feedback! I'm glad you enjoyed Star-Crossed.

Madison said...

Great interview!

I've seen Star-Crossed on Amazon and really want to read it.

Erin said...

This book sounds fantastic! Fun interview.

Anonymous said...

Star-Crossed is a book that once you read page one, you do not stop! The history and Linda's way of describing the voyage hardships, survival and what the medical conditions were really like at the time period; made one feel as though you were traveling with Patricia.
Thanks Linda for the great story and we are waiting for the next book to hit the market.

Anonymous said...

I've had friends who have read this book and it gets a five out of five stars. :)

Great interview - Great author!

Anonymous said...

Star Crossed is an amazing book and Linda does such a fantastic job of getting the reader involved in the story. I didn't know ANYTHING about ships or life aboard a ship before reading this book and now these topics fascinate me! It was a wonderful read and I had a difficult time putting it down. Can't wait to read the rest of the trilogy. Awesome book Linda!!
P.S. Thanks for the inspiration and advice for we young writers. :)

Anonymous said...

It fascinated me to learn about the great number of women and girls aboard ships back then. Must've been a hard life, in many ways. Yet plenty of opportunity for adventure!

Anonymous said...

I was very impressed by this book's keen details on historical fact while keeping its readers entranced in the livelihood of the characters. I would highly recommend this book for young adults as well as adults over all. Keep up the fantastic work Linda!

Anonymous said...

Linda, I meant to ask you how much your personal experiences in sailing influenced your writing in this book? Not only with your knowledge about the ship and sailing, but also in the ports you have visited, etc?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure many of my personal experiences are woven into Star-Crossed either directly or indirectly.

My husband Bob and I explored the waters around Antigua on a sailboat. And we spent time in England, Barbados, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis. Nevis was the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton. When I visited the house where he spent his early childhood, I knew he had to have a small part in the book.

Anonymous said...

I noticed you have written two other books.

Have you written any other articles for magazines? Are they all inspired with your travels?

Anonymous said...

Book and the cover is very eye catching and immediately made me want to pick it up and browse.

You must be an avid sailor to have written such a detailed account of the journey.

Looking forward to your second novel.

Anonymous said...

this sounds pretty interesting

Anonymous said...


Actually, I got my start writing magazine articles and essays. I've been freelancing since college. I've never made a great deal of money doing it, but it's a lot of fun. And it helped improve my writing, and gave me some publication credits. I've written for a broad variety of magazines... Parachutist, Sailing, Nursing, Ladies Home Journal, American Baby, Caribbean Travel and Life, Rocky Mountain Sports and Fitness, to name a few.

Anonymous said...

A freiend recommended this book and it is one that I have delayed purchasing. However, it will have so much more meaning to mean getting the indepth revues and reading the personal info on Linda.

Susan said...

Ooooh, this one looks awesome. I would LOVE to win a copy. Please, please toss my name into the hat!

windycindy said...

As always, I very much enjoy historical books. Thanks for a super interview and introduction to Linda's book! The cover is very unique. Thanks,Cindi

Anonymous said...

windy city,

I love the cover too, although I had nothing to do with it. Kate, the book designer at Random House came up with the concept, and it was executed by Griesbach and Martucci, an artist team. I'm thrilled that it was chosen to be in Spectrum 14 -- an annual of the year's best fantasy artwork. I just received my Spectrum 14 that I ordered from Amazon. It's amazing -- check it out!

Thanks for your interest, everyone.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a neat sounding book, I like how original the plot is. It's not something overdone. I am going to be looking for this one (if I'm not lucky enough to win it... ) I love historical fiction. Cannot wait to read this book!

Anonymous said...

Readers, all;

Thank you so much for your interest in Star-Crossed! I'm working on a trilogy, so keep checking my website for updates.

My appreciation to Jessica Burkhart for interviewing me. I enjoyed the parlay!

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an interview. I'd like to say hello to my friend, Linda. I already have a copy of Star-Crossed but would love one for my sister. We all adore your book and you.

Best of luck,kiddo.

Booklogged said...

I hope I'm not too late to get in on the drawing. The cover is wonderful and the story sounds great.

Anonymous said...

My name is Brian Dalton. Excellent choice dear. :-)

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