Thursday, July 16, 2020

2020 Interview: Linda Au

Linda Au: I enjoy typewriters, tech gadgets, crocheting, air conditioning, cats, guinea pigs, semi-tame squirrels in my yard, meandering around Sam’s Club looking for huge vats of salsa, and anything else that lets me be the adrenaline junkie I clearly am.

Do you have any hobbies?

No. I don’t have any hobbies.
Just kidding. Besides the stereotypical reading that most writers would list, I also enjoy playing board games with my grown kids or computer games alone, crocheting, listening to “Weird Al” Yankovic music, watching Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder movies, and going on cruises with my husband. (I think that last one is a requirement at our age.)

What is your favorite vacation spot?

Anywhere on a cruise ship! We’re not sure when we’ll be able to go on a cruise, or whether the ship would even be able to dock at any ports, but if the boat simply dawdles around the ocean for a week or so, going nowhere, I’d be totally fine with that.

If you were given a ticket to anywhere and spending money to indulge, where would you go?

Scotland! I’ve been to London twice (thirty years apart), and somehow missed getting to Scotland both times. So close, yet so far. Maybe the third time’s a charm.

Do you have pets?

I’m currently the slave to two annoying, demanding guinea pigs, Carl and Steve. Honestly, how can a creature this small make such loud noises?

What is your favorite color and what do you love about it?

Green, emerald green. I have no idea what I love about it, since it reminds me of all the weeds growing around our lawn and all the yard work I tend to neglect.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Black Beauty… which led to reading any book I could find in the library that had speaking/talking animals. Not the fairy-tale type animals of Disney movies, but more realistic animals living in nature. I wish I remembered any of these titles (I don’t remember even one!), but I do remember reading stories of anthropomorphic foxes in their dens and deer in the forest.

What is one thing about yourself you’d like to change or are trying to work on?

My weird concept of time management needs some work. Working from home means freedom… almost too much freedom. I’m easily distracted (look, squirrel!), and I tend to work in fits and starts, often staying up till three a.m. when I’ve hit a stride and can’t seem to turn off the muse. I’m a hopeless night owl, which is only a problem when some rude person insists that I be somewhere before noon.

What music genre/singer/band is your go-to for a bad day? For working?

Always “Weird Al” Yankovic. But when he’s not quite right (which is almost never), I turn to alternative and grunge music, preferably from the 1990s when I first discovered it. And yes, I realize it’s a long way from “Weird Al” Yankovic to Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails. I juggle it as best I can.

Do you reread books? If so, is there one in particular?

The only books I’ve ever reread are the Outlander series books by Diana Gabaldon. I was fortunate enough to get sneak peeks at the first book when she was uploading early chapters to CompuServe’s LitForum thirty years ago, asking for critique. I’ve been in love with the series ever since and am on my sixth or seventh reread. (I like to reread the entire series before a new book comes out.)

I’m also just starting a reread of the A Song of Ice and Fire series and will then take up Lord of the Rings again.

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert?

I’m definitely an introvert and never get lonely or fearful being alone. It’s not that I dislike being around people, and I don’t mind being in a large crowd as long as I don’t need to interact with everyone. But I do need high-end “alone time” once I’ve had to socialize with other people. The exemptions to this rule are my closest friends, my family, and my grandson. They get a free “Get Out of Introversion Free” card every time.

Does pineapple go on pizza?

No! What kind of barbarian do you think I am?
Pineapple goes in a glass as juice or on a fork as fruit. Period.

How many places have you lived?

I grew up on the other end of the state in Easton, Pa. I meandered out here for college (Carnegie Mellon) in 1979 and then pretty much stayed here. It’s been a good choice. So far. But it’s only been forty years, so we’ll see if it sticks. 😉

What was your first job?

I worked at our local McDonald’s at age 16 (like everybody else my age), then switched to the local Burger King at age 17. (When I was in my mid-20s and very poor, I took a night job at a local Wendy’s. This trifecta of fast-food jobs has given me definite opinions about each franchise.)

What is your favorite down-time activity?

I love playing computer games, fiddling around with book cover ideas in InDesign, binge-watching one of several miniseries, or rewatching the same dozen of my favorite movies while I fiddle around with those book cover ideas.

Are you an outdoor type? Have a green thumb?

I love camping (except when it rains, and it always rains). But I like it best with one of those pop-up tents and a comfy airbed. And only when it’s not 90 degrees and humid. So that almost means I really don’t like camping, I guess.

Yes, I do have a green thumb. Plants inside my house thrive to the point where I can’t give away replanted spider plants fast enough. And the weeds that grow up around our yard are a living testament to how much plants feel at home here. Just my luck.

However, I hate outdoor yard work. I mean, with a pure, undefiled hatred.

If you could live inside a movie, which would you choose and which character would you be?

I’d live inside Howards End, as one of the Schlegels, sitting in drawing rooms, reading books, talking with friends about books, playing piano, and having tea. But I’d skip stealing other people’s umbrellas. That never turns out well.

Are you the type to take a dare?

Nope. I am definitely not a risk-taker. Like, not at all. Unless it’s a goofy dare. I’d totally do that.

Do you have a favorite motto or quote that applies to your own life?

“Always remember you’re unique … just like everyone else.”

What is one thing you’ve learned through experience that you’d love to pass along to others?

Taking care of yourself in the world when you become an adult is a lot harder than most of us realized when we were teenagers aching to get out from under our parents’ houses. Oh sure, our parents were constantly telling us how tough it was going to be, but we weren’t listening, were we? No, we weren’t. Because they totally didn’t know what they were talking about. We knew better.

And yet, they were right. Darn it, they were right. Just surviving is a Herculean task.

What books, other than your own, would you highly recommend?

As I’ve mentioned, the Outlander series is outstanding as historical fiction and just compelling, grand storytelling. I also love Lisa Lutz’s series of The Spellman Files books—hilarious, witty, and constantly surprising.

On to writing: what inspired you to start creating stories/non-fiction? How long ago?

I can remember writing stories as far back as third grade, and I know for sure I was telling people I wanted to be a writer from sixth grade onward. How many kids ask for a typewriter for Christmas at age ten? I did. And I loved that thing.

I don’t know why I enjoyed writing so early on. I think I enjoyed entertaining people, but the introvert in me didn’t want to be in front of an audience or a camera. Writing fulfilled that need and has been the best of both worlds.

How do you choose your settings (fiction) or topics (non-fiction)?

Purely by accident.

Well, to be clearer, it’s often that I come up with a “hook” of some kind first: either a distinct, interesting character that I place into a bad situation or a fully formed, focused main plot point that I expand.

The nonfiction for me usually consists of humor essays based heavily on real events. I’m blessed to have family and friends with good senses of humor who allow me to cannibalize and condense those experiences into a few funny moments on paper.

Can you tell us a bit about your path to publication?

Many of my adult jobs involved working behind the scenes in publishing somehow: first as a secretary at my denominational publishing office, then as a proofreader and typesetter. In the past fifteen years, I’ve connected with other writers at writing conferences and online and have honed my craft. With decades of experience in prepress work and lots of time writing fiction and nonfiction (and winning a few awards here and there), I was ready to be my own boss and jump into the indie publishing world. I wear all the hats now and love it. It’s a lot of hats, but that probably just means I have a big head.

Finally, please tell us about your books and add your website so we can find you:

I’ve currently got the following books out there: the Red Ink Mysteries cozy series (three books so far), two humor essay collections, one women’s fiction book, one stand-alone humorous “spy” mystery, and a travel memoir of my cross-country bucket-list train trip.
You can find me, my books, and a freebie humor collection at

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