By Renee James
If Linda Poitevin had been an inch or two taller, it might have all turned out differently. But she missed the height requirement for service as a police officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police years ago and instead became a civilian dispatcher for the local RCMP, where she met and married a cop.
Thus began the endless adventures (and misadventures) of family rearing, home relocation, and a variety of jobs. One constant, however, was writing. Poitevin had been writing stories since childhood, and used her passion to fill the few quiet hours in her family life. With the encouragement of her husband, she published her first novel, Sins of the Angels, in 2011.
Today, Poitevin has published seven books, with an eighth, SHADOW OF DOUBT—about a police officer whose life is upended when she crosses paths with a wounded ATF agent who’s been framed for murder—scheduled for release on May 10. Her work is notable for many reasons, not the least of which is that she has achieved artistic and commercial success as a self-published author.
The Big Thrill interviewed Poitevin by email in late March.
In SHADOW OF DOUBT, the beautiful damsel isn’t the one in distress—it’s the macho guy. What inspired you to tie a perfectly formed male hero to the railroad tracks?
Your question made me laugh out loud! I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess I kind of did, didn’t I? (And now I can’t get the image out of my head of Jonas tied to a set of railway tracks…)
I suspect it was a subconscious thing when I started writing the book, but when I look back, I was just really, really tired of the woman always having to be the one who needed rescuing. I mean seriously, what’s up with that? Most of the women I’ve known in my life (starting with my mother and my grandmothers) have been strong and capable, even when society tried to tell them otherwise. My mom helped build three houses (including roofs); I was far handier with a hammer than my husband when I met him; and when I was a dispatcher for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (many moons ago!), I’d seen first-hand how capable women are as police officers…and it didn’t make any one of those women less desirable.
In SHADOW OF DOUBT, I wanted to toss out the stereotypes and show that a man in jeopardy doesn’t have to be weak. As you point out, Jonas is still very macho and highly capable—he just needs a little help sometimes (as we all do), and that doesn’t make him less desirable, either. I mean, did you see that six-pack he’s carrying?!
In addition to being adventurous and romantic, SHADOW OF DOUBT introduces us to a hero and heroine who are multi-dimensional characters. What were you trying to do with Kate Dexter?
Kate hasn’t had a very good family life, and I think she’s a little jaded going into the story. She’s always been a good cop but hasn’t been particularly successful with relationships, and so the situation she finds herself in with Jonas challenges her on both a professional and personal level. I enjoyed watching her softer, compassionate side emerge even as she stayed tough and cop-like. She’s the perfect foil to Jonas’s more intractable approach to life—in fact, one of the things he (reluctantly) appreciates most about her is her sense of humor.
What about Jonas Burke? Is there more to him than desperate circumstances and a hot body?
Ah, Jonas. He was tough to write, to be honest. So stubborn, and so convinced that he has to be right about everything. He’s also been badly hurt in the past, many times, and this latest episode in his life has made him even more certain that no one can be trusted. (He rather reminds me of a porcupine, to be honest!) But there’s a great deal more to Jonas than his bad attitude, and when he realizes that Kate simply won’t give up on him, we begin to see the vulnerability and humanity beneath the oh-so-gruff exterior.
Nearly all thrillers have some kind of romantic intrigue as part of the plot. As one who writes romantic thrillers, how would you compare your approach to romance and danger to traditional thriller authors like Lee Child?
Because I’m writing romantic thrillers, the focus is definitely more on the romance side of things than it might be in a traditional thriller. In part because that’s what the audience expects, of course, but also because I love stories that throw two people together in a situation where they’re struggling not just with the forces around them but also the forces between them. Emotions can play havoc with reason, and I really love how a developing relationship can add all sorts of new conflict levels not just between characters, but to their circumstances as well. Romantic thrillers add a delicious intimacy to a story that you might not get in a traditional thriller, along with a whole other dimension that leaves readers not just relieved that the bad guys got what was coming to them, but also with a glow-y warm feeling that comes from seeing the main characters find a personal happy ending, too.
You’ve published a number of books, including the dark urban fantasy Grigori Legacy series and the Ever After Romance Collection. How is SHADOW OF DOUBT different from your previous work?
I think SHADOW OF DOUBT falls somewhere between the Grigori Legacy and the Ever After books. The Grigori books are more of a hard-core police procedural/supernatural thriller with romantic elements, while the Ever After books are lighter contemporary stories with some comedy elements to them—even though the second novel in the collection, Forever Grace, has its own suspense wrapped up in the story as well. SHADOW OF DOUBT straddles the line between those series, with both the strong police side of things and the developing romance.
Writing is both a calling and a business for you. How did the business side of that equation push you toward self-publishing?
It’s more like the self-publishing pushed me toward the business side, lol! I really didn’t have a clue about marketing or promotion before I decided to self-publish, but I quickly learned that it needs to be part of my job description if I don’t want to have my stories lost in the sea of online books. Since then, I’ve read extensively on marketing and promotion, tried a kajillion things that didn’t work, and now I’m taking some courses to figure out what will work. Given that most marketing and promotion efforts happen online these days and given how quickly things change online, it’s a work in progress.
One of the reasons you turned to self-publishing was the success you had with the Wattpad platform. What is it, and how did it work for you?
Wattpad is a social media platform where writers share stories and readers (hopefully) can discover them. Reading and sharing are both free (so you don’t get paid for the work you put up there). Many writers use the platform to get feedback on their works-in-progress, with readers leaving comments as the story progresses. To be honest, I had initially dismissed the platform, thinking of it as predominantly a beginner’s thing. But, while it’s true that many of the writers on there are just starting out, the platform also offers advantages to established writers, and so I figured it was worth a try.
To begin with, I released my self-published contemporary romance, Gwynneth Ever After, as a serial (one chapter a week). After a few weeks, I began including a link to the e-book at the end of each chapter for readers who didn’t want to wait for the rest of the story…and my sales soared. I ended up selling several thousand copies of the book, which prompted me to write the sequel novella, Forever After, and the spin-off novel, Forever Grace, doing the same Wattpad release with both. In the meantime, Wattpad itself has grown by leaps and bounds and now has a ‘Stars’ program which offers additional opportunities to some of its more popular writers—in fact, I sold the audio rights for SHADOW OF DOUBT to Hachette through their partnership program with Wattpad, so I’d say it’s worked quite well for me.
SHADOW OF DOUBT has the editing and production excellence worthy of a major traditional publisher. How do you approach the publishing part of the enterprise?
First of all, yay! And thank you! I consider the publishing side to be as important as the writing one, and I work hard to make my books as professional as possible. I love hearing that I’ve succeeded! As for the how, I have a fantastic team behind me, including a group of beta readers I’ve gathered through my newsletters (many of whom post reviews of my books as well), a professional substantive/copy editor, and a professional (and truly kick-ass) cover designer.
When you address groups of aspiring writers, what’s the most important advice you share with them?
Learn the craft. Anyone can tell a story, but if you’re not telling it well, no one is going to read it. Too many writers are trying to jump the line by putting out their books before they’re ready. Very few of us publish our first novels…for a reason.
Yes, writing rules can be broken, but only if you know how and why you’re breaking them. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, too, but they are precious few and far between. So take the time to learn the craft of writing—and that includes lots and lots and lots of practice, and lots and lots and lots of reading to see how others are doing it. Oh, and please don’t rely on your husband/sister/mother/best friend’s opinion alone. My husband thought my stories were brilliant right from the beginning. Those stories will never see the light of day, for that reason I mentioned above.
End of soapbox rant.
What’s the greatest compliment a reader can pay you after reading SHADOW OF DOUBT?
“I couldn’t put it down!” Those words are music to any writer’s ears, I think, and I love, love, love hearing that a reader was so absorbed in my story that they stayed up late reading even when they had to go to work or school the next day. Best. Compliment. Ever.
Creator of the supernatural thriller Grigori Legacy series, believer in magic, and life-partner to a veteran police officer who makes sure she gets the cop stuff right, Linda Poitevin can’t decide if she believes in happy-ever-afters or not. So in some of her books lots of people die, and in others there are weddings — and at some point in the future, she thinks both might happen at the same time. Just for fun.
To learn more about Linda, please visit her website.