Golden Heart Spotlight – Linda Lovely

Though she’s lived in Southern zip codes more than half her life, Romantic Suspense Golden Heart finalist Linda Lovely never untangled from her Iowa roots. Give her a pork tenderloin sandwich any day, but hold the grits and sweet tea, please. Her strong-willed, working mom taught her to stand up for herself and to laugh often. She tries to do both. She’s stubborn—hence her dogged determination to see one of her romantic suspense manuscripts published–and she’s lucky to have a husband (Tom) who loves to read as much as she does, believes in her, and thinks she’s good company.

While this is Linda’s first year to enter the Golden Heart competition, she’s participated in the RWA contest circuit since 2007. Her five manuscripts (four complete, one work in progress) have finaled 16 times and won three contests. Learn more about Linda by visiting her website. 

And now a little about Linda’s Golden Heart finaling book–COUNTERFEIT:

One night, Nexi Ketts beds a handsome cop and wakes when the imposter tries to kill her. She jams a screwdriver in his gut and flees naked, causing a fender bender and making it damn hard for Detective Barry Gerton to think clearly. A decade earlier, when she was a lonely, overweight teen, she changed her name to escape the shadow of her infamous parents. As a joke, she chose an anagram for “sex kitten.” Now, all grown up, she’s a sexy forensic accountant, who makes a living catching corporate cheats—partial atonement for dear old dad’s embezzling ways. A second attempt on Nexi’s life makes it clear she’s on someone’s hit list. Who’s trying to kill her and why? The search for answers leads to Jamaica, where a heart-stopping game of hide-and-seek takes Nexi and Barry from Kingston’s barrios to the wild Cockpit region and a harrowing showdown in Dragon’s Throat cave. 

Before we dive into Linda’s blog post, here are some questions I asked Linda to answer so we could all get to know her a little better:

1) How long have you been writing?
An alumna of Northwestern University’s journalism program, I’ve always made my living as a writer. The writing has been the any-project-for-a-buck variety—speeches, ad copy, brochures, newsletters, web sites, trade and travel magazine articles, Help documentation, radio and TV spots, etc. I first decided to try my hand at fiction a decade ago.

2) Did you always want to be an author or is this something you fell into later in life?
I’ve been an avid reader of romantic suspense, mysteries and thrillers since my college days. However, I never considered writing a book until I was hired to pen an “as told to” book. That project was shelved when my clients settled a lawsuit and agreed not to publish. That exercise gave me the confidence to believe I could write a book that would keep readers turning pages.

3) What do you do in your “other” life? (Day job, family, etc.)
I continue to tackle writing projects for long-term clients. I also handle communications for Advocates for Quality Development, Inc., a nonprofit that fosters responsible development in Upstate South Carolina. I live on a lake and love to swim and kayak. I also play tennis and garden, and I’m helping my husband finish our basement.

4) Who are your favorite authors?
My list is VERY long and eclectic, so I’ll limit myself to romantic suspense: J.D. Robb/Nora Roberts, Allison Brennan, Roxanne St. Claire, Suzanne Brockmann, Cindy Gerard, and Elisabeth Naughton, who hooked me with the first line in STOLEN HEAT—“All things considered, she looked pretty good for a six-year-old corpse.”

5) Do you have an agent?
No. I’m hoping to land an agent who loves romantic suspense, adventure and mystery and believes I have the talent for a successful, long-term career. 

6) Where do you see yourself in five years? 
Writing romantic suspense and mystery/adventure stories with strong romantic elements—even if I’m still unpublished. It’s hard to explain to folks who aren’t addicted how much fun it is to have colorful characters take up residence in your head and tell you their stories. Those characters never stop talking and love to suggest plot twists while you’re in the shower and nowhere near a piece of paper. I hope I continue to improve my craft and my ability to entertain readers (and myself).

(Oh, man, Linda…I so get those nosey characters in the shower!)

Okay, now on to Linda’s awesome post. I hope you enjoy!!

Critique Partners—Respect, Trust and Laughter

I can’t imagine writing in a vacuum. Many writers say they are loners by nature and shy. Not me. Yes, I can plant my butt in front of the computer and write in lovely solitude for hours on end. But, eventually, I need people—specifically critique partners I respect and trust—to read my stories, share reactions, suggest improvements, kick me in the behind if I start whining and make me laugh. And I learn even more craft secrets by reading their manuscripts, congratulating them on what works and trying to puzzle out why some things fall flat—even when the language is exquisite. (All my critique partners are superb storytellers.)

I’ve been critiquing with Maya Reynolds, the author of two erotic romances (BAD GIRL and BAD BOY) for years. Though we’ve never met in person, I cherish our friendship. We connected as members of an online critique group that grew out of a Sisters in Crime loop. The other members fell away, but Maya and I stuck it out. While we now write in different genres, we continue to critique. I can’t speak for Maya, but I’m always delighted to see one of her emails in my in basket. Among other things, she’s broadened my horizons—pulling me with her into erotic romance and paranormal. That exposure has freed me to take more chances in my own work. She isn’t afraid to call me on wordiness, question my character’s motives or point out holes in my plot. But she does so with kindness. We don’t always agree, but I know that if I ignore her advice I’d better have a darn good reason for rejecting it. I respect her, trust her judgment. She’s made me a better writer, a better storyteller, and a happier person. She makes me laugh. Critiquing, when it’s done right, is more than pointing out comma splices and overuse of adverbs.

While Maya is one of my long-term critique partners, Robin Weaver, a fellow Golden Heart and Daphne finalist, is one of my newest. Like Maya, she’s a treasure who writes in multiple genres and has a distinctive voice. We met through RWA’s online Kiss of Death chapter. As an added bonus, I get to be Robin’s roommate at the RWA National convention in July.

Of course, not all of my critique experiences have been this rewarding. You have to “get” each other’s work in order to offer constructive criticism. My advice to writers considering a critiquing relationship is to try a 10- or 20-page exchange with no commitment to read and comment on more. Then, if you don’t click, you can say goodbye without hurt feelings. If you do connect, you’ll never regret the time it takes to share your comments.

What do you want in a critique partner?

38 comments to “Golden Heart Spotlight – Linda Lovely”

  1. Gillian Layne
    May 25th, 2010 at 5:35 am · Link

    What a great interview! I agree, critique partners really need to understand and enjoy each others voice and style, so they know how to help without rewriting the work. Congratulations on all those finals! 🙂

  2. Mary Sullivan
    May 25th, 2010 at 5:57 am · Link

    Great blog, Linda! I agree that it’s important to have critique partners you trust and respect. OTOH, being a great critique partner is a difficult balancing act–to support your CPs with honest critiques without breaking their spirits.

    Congratulations on your GH final. Enjoy the ride!


  3. R Weaver
    May 25th, 2010 at 6:29 am · Link

    Hi Linda,

    Great interview. 😀 Nexi Ketts is an awesome name for a character. How did you come up with it?

  4. Donnell
    May 25th, 2010 at 6:32 am · Link

    Linda, you nailed what the critique partner relationship is all about 💡 I’m blessed to have an online and a local critique group — my on line is mystery and my in town is romance and it provides an ideal complement. I loved what you said about having a close relationship with a CP you’ve never met. My online CPs have been outstanding. Congratulations on all your accomplishments.

  5. Angi Morgan
    May 25th, 2010 at 7:49 am · Link

    Trust! I trust my critique partners, but I also want them to trust my gut feelings about my story.

    I WISH we all had more time and could just write and critique as often as we wanted.


  6. Keli Gwyn
    May 25th, 2010 at 7:49 am · Link

    Linda, how cool that you’ve made your living writing. Congrats on all your contest success.

    My CP and I connected through the 2008 GH. Anne is the best! I’m sooo excited that I get to see her in Orlando.

  7. CJ Chase
    May 25th, 2010 at 7:53 am · Link

    Linda, my cp and I have met twice in our 11-year relationship. And yet, I call her my best friend. She’s the person I call — not just for writing problems but for life problems. It’s hard to explain the relationship to non-writers.

  8. Elisa Beatty
    May 25th, 2010 at 8:04 am · Link

    Great interview, Linda–your life and writing both sound really interesting! Congrats again on the Golden Heart (and your MANY contest finals) and good luck with your books–sounds like you’re on your way!

  9. Jen McAndrews
    May 25th, 2010 at 8:22 am · Link

    Great post, Linda! So true that CPs have to trust and respect one another. And what a fine line that can be when you’re dealing with someone’s written creations. You sound as though you’ve been truly blessed with your CP — lucky you!

  10. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 8:44 am · Link

    Robin Weaver asked how I came up with the name Nexi Ketts for my heroine. The main character loves to play word games. She’s a teen when she picks a new name. As a lark, Nexi and a friend play around with the letters that spell “sex kitten.” While there are several options, our heroine picks Nexi because she thinks it sounds as if something good will come “next.”

  11. Kathy Bremner
    May 25th, 2010 at 8:53 am · Link

    Oh LInda, congratulations on the Golden Heart final! (you beat me – however if about six of you bowed out, maybe they’d take another look at mine.)

    Here’s the interesting connection. If I’d had the critique partners then, that I do now, I may have finaled too. I’m now a member of Lethal Ladies and they rock!

    As an example, several have jumped up to the plate in the last two days because I sent out an SOS for a surprise submission I had to prepare.

    And you’re right, those who write in other genre’s can have extra-usefull comments because they’re wired just a little differently than I am.
    I’ve learned lots about hooking readers while reading their work which is way over there in the paranormal world or elsewhere.

    I used to be a home-alone in my pajamas writer, now, I’m part of a critique group and my craft has improved immensely.

  12. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 8:59 am · Link

    Jen McAndrews noted that I’ve been truly blessed in finding a CP. Actually that should be plural. While I only mentioned two of my CPs by name in my blog, I actually exchange critiques with several writers–and I value every one of them. My critique partner, Howard, is a real treasure who tells me if my hero isn’t thinking or talking like a real man. Two of my other long-term CPs are dear friends from the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Ellis knows grammar inside out, and Polly is terrific in identifying plot weaknesses and unnecessary verbal clutter. My other CPs bring other strengths. And I enjoy reading all of their manuscripts, which range from mysteries and paranormals to romantic suspense and memoirs.

  13. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 9:37 am · Link

    Keli, how neat that you get to meet your critique partner in Orlando. I’m looking forward to meeting so many folks that I’ve only connected with online. What a treat!

    Kathy, keep at it. Finaling in contests is a combination of perseverance and luck. While I’ve finaled in a lot of contests, I’ve also missed the cut many times, too. Comments by some of the judges that gave me the lowest scores prompted me to make changes that really improved my manuscripts.

    CJ, I understand completely how you can call a distant CP a best friend. When you critique with someone for any period of time, you come to understand their viewpoints, humor and worries in ways that nonwriters never would. It builds a special bond.

  14. Sarah Simas
    May 25th, 2010 at 9:55 am · Link

    HI Linda and Elisabeth!

    I really enjoyed the interview and post. Congrats on your GH Final! Best wishes for tons of success!

  15. Susan M. Boyer
    May 25th, 2010 at 10:24 am · Link

    Great blog, Linda! You’ve really captured the essence of what makes a great crtique relationship, and I love your suggestion of an initial exchange before commiting to a partnership.

    I’m thrilled for you that you’re a GH finalist! Best of luck!!

  16. Kendra
    May 25th, 2010 at 10:45 am · Link

    Hi Linda, what a fun interview! You are very fortunate to have such great CPs! I’m looking forward to meeting you in Orlando and good luck with that agent hunt. 😉

  17. Ellis Vidler
    May 25th, 2010 at 11:38 am · Link

    Hey, Linda! Good interview. What you didn’t tell them is how good you are at smoothing a line and cutting the extra words when you critique.
    Congratulations on finaling in GH and in the Daphne. Good stories, well written. I’m happy for you and hope to see you in print shortly.

  18. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 11:52 am · Link

    Thanks, Ellis–though it’s hard to find things to critique in your work! Ellis Vidler is the talented author of HAUNTING REFRAIN, a mystery set in South Carolina.

  19. Cathy Pickens
    May 25th, 2010 at 12:44 pm · Link

    Linda, So nice to hear of an online critique partnership that’s worked so well. Too many scary stories about those who have gotten caught up in critiques that aren’t supportive scare people off. Knowing it works is encouraging!

  20. Danielle Dahl
    May 25th, 2010 at 12:52 pm · Link

    Lovely Linda,
    Enjoyed reading your interview–its you to a T.
    As one member of our BACK-STABBERS critique group, not only do I relish receiving your monthly submissions to critique, but also look forward to yours of mine–must be a sucker for tough love. Thanks to you, Howard, Jean, and Donna, my work improves steadily and I cannot imagine writing a single line of my memoir without each of you virtually looking over my shoulder, telling me right from wrong even before my fingers hit the keys.
    Congratulation on your GH final and good luck–your talent deserves it.
    Love your blog.

  21. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 1:10 pm · Link

    Danielle, I think Front-Stabbers might be a more appropriate name for our local monthly critique sessions! Nothing sneaky about the suggestions. And all wounds are superficial and come with pats on the back.

    Danielle grew up in war-torn Algeria and her memoir is a coming-of-age story that doesn’t stint on excitement or insights. I never cease to be astounded by her exquisite command of English given it’s her second language.

  22. Carol Kozma
    May 25th, 2010 at 2:06 pm · Link

    Great reading all the blogs, Linda
    You writers are in a whole new world to me – very interesting – remember I have to live long enough to read your published works. Congratulations on being a finalist!!

  23. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 2:13 pm · Link

    Cathy Pickens noted that it’s nice to hear of an online critique partnership success. True, there are horror stories, but they can be sidestepped. My worst experience happened several years ago when I agreed to a full manuscript exchange based solely on the author’s two-paragraph blurb about her book. It sounded like a lot of fun. It wasn’t–for either of us. For some reason, she expected my manuscript to be PG-rated. It wasn’t. And I had great difficulty finding good things to say about her manuscript (though I did come up with some positives). We were a horrible match. That’s why I stress how important it is to trade a chapter or two on a trial basis before making a major commitment.

  24. Pat Batta
    May 25th, 2010 at 3:06 pm · Link

    Great post. Honest critique of the work, while in progress, is so helpful to keep on track. For that I belong to a local writers’ group. It is better for me that we all write different types of things — the varied viewpoints inspire me. However, my local writers’ group is far too kind. When I finish the work I send it to Roberta Jean Bryant, who was the facilitator of my first writers’ group and continues to do consulting and manuscript evaluation. She told me to throw out the first book in the Marge Christensen Mystery Series. I didn’t, but I sure worked hard to make it meet her approval after that! Now I wouldn’t dream of going to my final editing/publishing phase until I hear what she has to say.

  25. Gabrielle
    May 25th, 2010 at 3:12 pm · Link

    Great post, Linda, and I *love* that idea of the 10, 20 pages intro critique–it gives you a good idea of whether you’re going to be a match or not.

    I have several writing partners. Well, one’s essentially a beta-reader, and she’s fantastic for her enthusiasm. The others are writer friends. I just got a critique back from one who had a violent reaction to a character. I considered all her points then decided that, while I truly, truly appreciate her comments, and will keep them in mind as a kind of checks and balance system, and make some things clearer, I liked the character as is. Fortunately, we have a lot of respect for each other and can say “I disagree” without anyone getting their noses out of joint. It’s when there’s no respect that the troubles begin.

  26. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 4:26 pm · Link

    Pat, I agree. It is possible for CPs to try so hard to be kind that their comments aren’t helpful. There has to be a balance–pointing out the good as well as noting warts that may be simple to remove once they’re brought (kindly) to the author’s attention.

    Gabrielle, you’re so right in pointing out that you should consider a CP’s suggestions but ultimately the decisions must be your own. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. Part of a successful partnership has to be that CPs don’t get upset with each other if suggested edits aren’t made. This is a very subjective business. What endears a character to one reader may irritate the heck out of another.

  27. Kelsey Browning
    May 25th, 2010 at 4:38 pm · Link

    Hi, Linda –

    Congrats once again on your much-deserved GH final!

    I have several different CPs, but three who are what I’d call my “stable.” Not sure they would appreciate being likened to horses, though 😉 . What was most important to me was finding other writers who were as serious about their writing as I was, who were willing to brainstorm and help with plot issues, and who truly have my best interests at heart.

    As a CP, I comment a great deal, so someone who doesn’t like that wouldn’t find me a particular good match. Every comment I make doesn’t indicate a problem; sometimes it’s just my “thinking aloud” as I’m reading the material.

    I’ll be in Orlando cheering you on!

  28. Sharon Lynn Fisher
    May 25th, 2010 at 4:40 pm · Link

    Great post, Linda, and congratulations!

    Lately I’ve been puzzling over the mystery of why some critiques are more painful than others. (And I’m talking about the constructive ones – those that are genuinely making an effort to help you.) For myself, I’ve found that if my CP gets the story, and lets me know along the way where she’s especially enjoying it, the criticism doesn’t even faze me. (And I feel blessed to have found a CP who does just that!)

    Hope to see you in Orlando!

  29. Maya Reynolds
    May 25th, 2010 at 5:21 pm · Link

    Hey, Linda: Thanks for the kind words.

    I’m thrilled to hear that you still get something out of our critiquing partnership because the Good Lord knows I’d be lost without you.

    I’m one of the lucky people who has already read COUNTERFEIT so I know just what a great writer you are and just how exciting Nexi’s story is.

    I’ll send plenty of chocolate when you win the Golden Heart!!!

    Lots of love,


  30. Linda Lovely
    May 25th, 2010 at 7:05 pm · Link

    Thanks to everyone who dropped in to Elisabeth’s blog today with best wishes and comments on critiquing. And an extra big thank you to Elisabeth for offering this opportunity to Golden Heart finalists.

    I’m looking forward to meeting many writing friends–old and new–in Orlando.

  31. Vanessa Barneveld
    May 26th, 2010 at 4:34 am · Link

    Fabulous interview, Linda and Elisabeth!

    Linda, congrats on your GH final. I’m sure this will open doors for you on the agent front. It sounds like you and Maya have a wonderful complementary CP relationship. I so agree that it’s great to have a CP who “gets” your work.

  32. Barbara J Williams
    May 26th, 2010 at 6:51 am · Link

    Loved both the interview and blog! All best wishes on being a finalist. My comment on having critique partners is setting some rules so that the work load is evenly distribulted. This goes back to a group where I felt some of the members were not contributing much, just wanted their own work critiqued, or, worse yet, expected free editing. Bah! Humbug!

  33. Betty Gordon
    May 26th, 2010 at 8:06 am · Link

    The critique comments were great. I went through so many critique sessions in college that I got burned out. The other problem for me (re critiques) is the time involved in attending ‘in person’ critique sessions. Perhaps online critiques would be the answer.

    Betty Gordon

  34. Linda Lovely
    May 26th, 2010 at 11:20 am · Link

    Betty, I do both. Our in-person critique group is small and meets once a month. We email copies in advance. The discussions–and differences of opinion–are very interesting. We limit these “group” exchanges to five, double-spaced pages each. However, when one of us is ready for a whole section or manuscript review, we do it online. Folks who can’t commit to a large project at that point in time are excused. But the members are generous with their time and support and it’s rare for anyone to “pass.”

  35. Heather Snow
    May 26th, 2010 at 1:36 pm · Link

    Hi Linda! Lovely interview 😉

    What’s important to me in a critique group is the common goal of getting published and developing the trust it takes to allow someone to really rip into your work and trusting each other that it’s only said in an effort to make our WIP more publishable.

  36. Lizbeth Selvig
    May 26th, 2010 at 7:38 pm · Link

    Hi Linda,
    I’m late to the party but I loved your blog. I, too, am lucky to have several crit partners I adore. I’m always “preaching” that, first and foremost there has to be trust between partners. After that, each person seems to fulfill a different need. One is a cheerleader, another a grammar ninja, some are fabulous story analysts. It really is an amazing concept. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  37. Lynda Bailey
    May 28th, 2010 at 5:14 am · Link

    Hey Linda~
    Nice job on your blog! I, too, am an Iowa girl-born and bred. Most of my stories are set in the Midwest. Beautiful country. Humid, but beautiful.
    What do I look for in a CP? Someone who understands HOW to give a critique. Who realizes their role is to help and not beat down. Establishing that kind of trust is priceless.
    Congrats again on being a finalist!

  38. Erica O'Rourke
    May 28th, 2010 at 12:41 pm · Link

    For a long time, I didn’t want a critique partner to waste my time with praise. My (flawed) thinking was that I wanted to improve my writing, and spending time on warm fuzzies was not going to help. Also, I am not terribly good at receiving compliments.

    Less than a year ago, however, I started exchanging pages with a critique partner who starts off every session with a list of the things she liked about my work — a very specific list, as in, “On page 138, six lines down, this phrase did a great job of revealing her motivation.” I tried to explain that it wasn’t necessary, but she disagreed. Her theory is that people need to know what they’re doing right, so that when they go back and revise, they don’t erase the good stuff, and because, by learning what DID resonate with the reader, they can add to their bag of writing tricks.

    I still blush and squirm when someone says something nice, but these days, I make a conscious effort to be as specific and concrete in my praise — and my concerns — as I possibly can.

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