16th June 2019

I’m afraid illness made me miss May but, this month, I am delighted to be back and welcoming Linda Huber to An Author’s Mind and this novelist will particularly appeal to those of us who like psychological suspense, exploring how human beings respond in certain situations. So, a very warm welcome to Linda!

Linda: And thank you for inviting me!

Lizzie: A great pleasure! I gather as an exemplar of your work you’d like to talk about Stolen Sister. Perhaps you could start by giving us a brief – no spoilers – summary of the story?

Linda: Of course. A young woman named Sylvie saves her friend Paula’s baby when the hotel they are staying in for a class reunion catches fire, but Paula and her husband Joe perish. Their other children, Vicky and Jamie, are with Great-aunt Maisie in Edinburgh. Maisie struggles to cope, and Sylvie offers to keep baby Erin for a few weeks. But something goes wrong… and Vicky grows up with no recollection of her sister. One day, she finds out about the baby, and the search begins.

Lizzie: Who is your favourite character and why?

Linda: That’s Vicky, definitely. Even in the first part of the book when she is still a child who has lost both parents, she fights to stay with her disabled brother. Jamie and Great-aunt Maisie are her whole family now, and I can well imagine Vicky’s thoughts twenty-two years later when Maisie dies after telling her that somewhere in the world, she has a sister.

Lizzie: Do your characters change in your story? Is this important?

Linda: They grow up! In Part One of the book, Vicky, Jamie and Erin are young children, and it was important, especially for Vicky, to maintain her personality and characteristics when it came to Part Two, where they are adults. A determined and stroppy small girl became a resolute, confident young woman, but the love Vicky has for her brother in Part One remains throughout the book.

Lizzie:  What moments in the novel do you like best?

Linda: Vicky and Erin, now reunited but still feeling their way around each other, visit their brother in his care home. Vicky wonders if she’ll ever love her sister as much as she loves Jamie, and Erin wonders if she’ll ever be an equal part of the sibling relationship. Later, a moment comes when Vicky has to choose between helping her brother or her sister, and only then realises her true feelings for Erin.

Lizzie: They say all fiction is autobiographical. What is the most significant event/setting for you personally in this story and why?

Linda: A truly macabre coincidence hit me while I was working on this book. Much of it’s set in Glasgow, where I grew up, and before starting, I went there and tramped up and down the streets my characters saw every day, and I chose a building for Vicky’s riverside flat. The finished book had gone to edit when my father became ill and was admitted to the Glasgow hospice. Here at home in Switzerland, I looked the hospice up on Google maps – and saw it was in the very next block to ‘Vicky’s flat’. I’d walked past it and never noticed it was there. I then spent the next three weeks sitting by my father’s bed as his life ebbed away, looking out at the River Clyde flowing past – the same view Vicky had from her living room window… It was almost a year before I touched the book again. The hospice moved to a lovely new building last year, but I’ll never forget the time I spent in the old one.

Lizzie:  When writing, do you like to plan in detail or set up a situation and see where it takes your characters?

Linda: I start out knowing where the characters’ journey is going to lead, then I plan the first few chapters and start writing, planning further chapters as I go. The story always changes en route, so I never plan more than about three chapters ahead.

Lizzie:  Where and when would you like to set another novel? Why?

Linda: I think it’s important to have the feel of a place when you’re writing about it, so mine are all set in areas I know well. But although I’ve lived in Switzerland for more than half my life, I’ve never set a suspense novel here – maybe it’s time I did.

Lizzie: Is there an important theme that this story illustrates?

Linda: How family bonds exist even when the family members have been separated and grow up with no knowledge of each other. Vicky and Erin have a problematic reunion, but the feeling of ‘sisters’ is there from the start.

Lizzie: How would you describe the genre of your book, if any? What drew you to this genre?

Linda: Most of my books can be described as psychological suspense – I grew up on Mary Higgins Clark’s novels, devouring each one the moment it came out. Having said that, I think Stolen Sister is more a mix of psychological suspense and women’s fiction. I must be getting soft in my old age!

Lizzie: What first draws you into a book? The cover? The blurb? The first sentence or two? Why? And how did this affect your production of this novel?

Linda: Unless it’s an author I know, the cover is what makes me pick up a book, then it’s the opening page that ‘sells’ it to me. There doesn’t have to be a hook, just an interesting situation and writing I can relax into. Stolen Sister opens with Paula waking in the night and smelling smoke in the hotel, a situation we can all well imagine. At the end of that chapter, a baby is saved – but what happens to her? I hope the opening makes people want to read on and find out.

Lizzie:  What comes next?

Linda: I have a book just past its structural edit, so that’s my main project this summer. Once I’ve done my part, there’s a tough decision to be made. I’m a hybrid writer and at the moment I’m undecided if I want to try for a traditional publisher with this book, or self-publish. There are pros and cons to both ways, and the jury’s still out… One I’m definitely self-publishing this summer is Wedding Bells in Switzerland, the final novella in my feel-good series set near my home by Lake Constance. These are written under my feel-good pen name Melinda Huber, and they’re great fun.

Lizzie: How far along are you with your new project?

Linda: I’ve recently started another suspense novel set in Glasgow. Like all my others, family lies at the heart of this book. I’m less than halfway at the moment; I know what the ending will be, though how the characters are going to arrive there is still a bit of a mystery – but that’s the fun of writing!

Lizzie: Thank you, Linda, for sharing all these insights with us. As readers – and writers – It’s always fascinating to know how a novel evolves.

Readers, Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and she has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Currently she teaches one day a week, and writes psychological suspense novels and feel-good novellas with (most of) the rest of her time.

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If you would like to buy Stolen Sister or any of her other novels and novellas, contact Amazon

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