Today, I’m delighted to welcome Linda Huber to Virtual Book Club, an interview series in which I put questions to authors about their latest releases and the books they would like your club to read. If you’d like to pose a question, you’ll have the opportunity to do so at the end.
Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for disabled children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys and a rescue dog.
Linda’s books are psychological thrillers, and her plots come from daily life. The Paradise Trees (2013) was inspired by her father-in-law’s struggle with dementia, and she started writing The Cold Cold Sea (2014) shortly after learning that a child in her extended family drowned in the 1940s, aged eleven. The Attic Room (2015) begins in one of her most-loved places, the Isle of Arran on the west coast of Scotland. Chosen Child is her fourth novel, published in February 2016.
Q: Linda, perhaps you can begin by telling us how you came to be a writer.
When I was seven years old I joined the Brownies. Leafing through the ‘badges’ section of the Brownie Handbook, I saw the Writer’s Badge, and thought ‘Ooh, that looks fun.’ I wrote a story about a girl called Susan who lived on a farm (this from a child who grew up in the heart of Glasgow…). But even at that age, I felt how powerful words could be. The saying ‘sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never harm you’ simply isn’t true. You can destroy someone with words, you can make them laugh and cry, you can uplift them and change their life. Heady stuff.
Q: I know that you teach English as a foreign language. Does your day job a distraction or does it add another element to your writing?
Yes, I teach English in Switzerland, where I’ve lived for over half my life. Teaching makes me think about the structure of the language – which verb tense to use to make my meaning crystal clear, things like that. It has also taught me that simple words are enough – and often best – to put an idea across. A lot of my advanced students have read my books and that’s a really good feeling for them – and for me!
Q: You write psychological thrillers. What can readers expect?
All my books are about ordinary people who land in extraordinary, dangerous situations. While I was a physiotherapist I learned a lot about how people deal with stress in their lives. There are so many different coping mechanisms. None of us know how we would react if our child was badly injured or went missing, or if we discovered a dark and terrible secret in a family member’s past. For me, working out how my characters react is the most fascinating part of writing.
Q: Chosen Child is your fourth novel. Where is it set and how did you decide on the setting?
It’s the second novel I’ve set in Cornwall. When I was a youngster we spent several holidays there – I loved it so much. That sea, with its huge waves crashing up the beach, the smell in the scary dark caves, the vivid colours of the ocean and the sky and the cliffs. It was like nothing I’d seen before – a magical world. All the time of writing The Cold Cold Sea and then Chosen Child, I was back there in my head, and it was amazing.
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The pace is perfectly controlled even as it races toward the inevitable crash.
Gripping, fast paced, wonderful storytelling.
Q: Tell us a little about the major areas you had to research.
As the title suggests, Chosen Child is about an adoption, so that was the main research area. The idea came to me at my niece’s wedding when I was chatting to one of the guests, who worked in child welfare. I can’t remember how we got onto the subject, but she was talking about why an adoption might go wrong for the child, and wham! – the idea for my main plot was in my head and my fingers were itching. I grabbed her again the next day and asked about a hundred questions about adoptions, writing her answers down on a posh hotel paper napkin (which I still have). The Adoption UK website was a good source of information too.
Another research area for me is always police procedure. For my first two books this was quite tricky, but the aforementioned niece has now solved the problem by marrying a policeman…
Q: What is it about Chosen Child that you feel makes it particularly suitable for book clubs?
It’s about family – family dynamics, family secrets, and the search for security within a family. This is something every one of us can identify with, and we all have different experiences and different opinions about what’s good or bad or important. The central theme in Chosen Child is a mother-daughter relationship, and again, we all have, or had, mothers. Would we have acted in the same way as Ella in my book – or Amanda? And why? Talking about book characters can make us examine ourselves, which is always interesting!
Q: Would you say that being a parent heavily influences your writing?
Absolutely. All my books are about families with children, and being a parent myself gives me insight into how my characters might feel. We were a traditional family until my sons were eleven and thirteen. That year, their father died tragically and I was left a single parent. So I’ve seen life from both sides.
Q: Do any of your books have dedications? If so, to whom and why?
My dedications are to the important people in my life. The first three are dedicated to: my boys; my father and brother; and (in memory of) my husband and mother. Chosen Child is dedicated to five friends I made at secondary school in Glasgow. We’re all still in regular contact.
Q: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ (George R R Martin) Which are you?
I’m a gardener. I start with a more or less detailed seed, and during the writing I prune and shape, and depending on what grows I might add fertiliser or weed killer… I can’t plan too much in advance; the idea always changes during the writing process.
Q: Why did you decide to examine different characters’ points of view?
Different povs make it possible for the reader to have information unknown to the characters. If a main character is depending heavily on Mr. X, and the reader alone knows that Mr. X is the local psychopath, this can really increase tension. Also, having two or three different pov characters increases the chance that a reader will fully identify with at least one of them.
Q: I know you’ve had experience of both traditional and indie publishing. How do the two compare?
Both experiences were very positive for me. My first two books are traditionally published, and then I went ‘hybrid’. The decision to self-publish was logistical – I’m still on very good terms with my small publisher. However, I live in Switzerland, and attending author events etc. involved flights and hotels, and at the end of the month I’m a single mother with two kids at uni.
The main difference is I now have to organise everything myself. I work with the same editor who’s been with me almost from the very beginning, and I have a new team of proof-reading/formatting/cover image people. I love it!
Q: Finally, if you’re not suspicious talking about it, what are you working on at the moment?
Another psychological thriller! This one’s partially set in a hospital, which I’m very excited about. And again, the plot centres round a family with a child.
Want to know more?
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Written on February 23, 2016 at 10:53 am, by Jane Davis
Categories: Blog, Homepage, Virtual Book Club | Tags: Chosen Child, contemporary fiction, Cornwall, Indie Authors, Linda Huber, new fiction, Novels set in Cornwall, psychological thriller, Self-Publishing, Virtual Book Club, Writing, Writing life
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