Interview with Linda Kozar
Today, we feature a lively interview with Selah Award winner, Linda Kozar, who writes cozy mysteries and devotionals. But don’t hem her in; Linda enjoys coloring outside the lines.
Find all of her books and her podcast information at LindaKozar.com.
Episode 4 - Interview with Linda Kozar
[00:00:00] Kathrese: Today, we have the very first interview for Writing Pursuits, and we are super stoked to welcome award-winning, Christian fiction and devotional author, Linda Kozar. She gives us the scoop on being interviewed and how she faced a crushing rejection. This and more on today’s Writing Pursuits.
I'm your host, Kathrese McKee. I own Word Marker Edits and write and produce the weekly newsletter, Word Marker Tips for Authors. In addition, I am a speculative fiction author. Writing Pursuits is for authors who drink too much coffee, endure judgmental looks from their furry writing companions, and struggle for words. If you are a writer seeking encouragement, information, and inspiration, this podcast is for you. Let's get to it.
Linda Kozar is an award-winning multi-published author of traditional and indie-published fiction and nonfiction books, novellas and short stories, speaker and podcaster.
In 2021, Sunshine For The Soul took home a First Place Selah and Nonfiction Book of the Year at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
She was named ACFW Mentor of the Year in 2007 and founded The Woodlands Texas Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers. She also serves on the Christian Authors Network board, and is a member of ChiLibris and AWSA.
Linda and her husband Michael, married 32 years, live in The Woodlands, Texas and enjoy spending time with their two grown daughters, their wonderful son-in-law, sweet granddaughter Eden, and Gypsy, their rascally Jack Russell Terrier.
Welcome to Writing Pursuits. And thank you for being my very first guest.
[00:01:52] Linda: Well it's an honor, and I'm delighted to be here. And it is true that my Jack Russell is rascally because I put a barrier of the bottom of the stairs so that she couldn't come up and disturb me, but she broke through it. And she's at my feet.
She's rascally all right. She's at my feet right now.
[00:02:09] Kathrese: That's all right. We're pet friendly.
[00:02:11] Linda: As long as she doesn't bark.
[00:02:15] Kathrese: Well, so today I'd like to touch on your podcasting story. How did you get started with that?
[00:02:20] Linda: Um, quite by a divine accident, I would say. You know, I was interested. I've always been interested in broadcasting.
Um, and I thought, wow, I'd love to do radio or something like that. And then just out of the blue, um, in 2009, uh, when I, I got back from a Books and Such Writing Retreat. Um, I just, I got contacted by Red River Writers, um, it's a podcasting network and, um, the, the owner of it asked if I wanted to start a show, you know, featuring fiction and nonfiction writers or whatever I wanted.
So I did. And, uh, she, she instructed me, you know, just gave me some kind of basic instructions about how to do it. I didn't know what I was doing and she wasn't very accessible to help me. So it was just like, “Hey, learn to swim. I'll throw you in the water. Just swim.” Yeah. And that's what she did basically.
But I learned what I had to learn. I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned what I had to learn. And, um, I was with them for six years. But, um, kind of toward the end because they had a lot of secular, uh, shows on there, the other hosts and I decided that it was a good thing to break away.
Uh, when I first started, I decided to do a two hour show and feature four different hosts. And so I, I found three other people willing to do it and to cover other genres like Carla Hoch, who wanted to do speculative fiction and, you know, she was great doing the Geek Block and, uh, you know, and I've had, uh, genie when, of Wynn Wynn, and I've had, uh, a bunch of other people. You know, it was pretty hard because I had to do all the tech work and introduce each host.
So that meant two hours out of my, my day, you know,
[00:04:13] Kathrese: Oh, man. You've been writing a lot longer than that.
[00:04:17] Linda: Yes. Um, I first started writing in 2000. Well, I always wrote. I wrote for newspapers and stuff like that, and I was always, you know, I was the one writing on gum wrappers while I waited in the car line. And I was always writing, but in 2004, 2005, I finally felt like ‘Hey, I can do this.’ This is, this can work, you know, maybe, maybe if I work hard and pray a lot, I'll get published.
And so, um, I wrote my first proposal. I decided to go to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. Um, never been to a conference, um, went to that and I had an idea for a book called Moving Tales, funny stories about moving. And an editor liked it, and it went all the way to the board. But, you know, I didn't get, I didn't get that contract because I didn't have any credentials or anything. I was a newbie, you know.
[00:05:15] Kathrese: That's still encouraging.
[00:05:16] Linda: You know, it was like my first try and didn't get it. But hey, I went there.
[00:05:18] Kathrese: Well, now you have a Selah Award.
[00:05:19] Linda: Yes, it was exciting.
[00:05:21] Kathrese: And how did you come up with the concept of the Sunshine for the Soul?
[00:05:25] Linda: Well, Dayspring titles the books. So I didn't, I didn't have, um, a crack at the title. Um, cause I love doing titles. I mean, I love titles. It was exciting writing it. The devotions are pretty much the same as Sweet Tea for the Soul and Biscuits, Butter and Blessings. You know, in the in the same mood and the same humor.
And I try to reach letting you know, I tried to go to depths that, uh, other devotions don't get to go to, but I do it in a, in a lighthearted way. I want people to look up the Scriptures and say, wow, I never saw that in the Bible before. Yeah. Yeah, it's true. And because most of the devotions are come from my morning time with God, you know, I write down things and I do a little research. And so, so they have a lot more depth than me just sitting here, “What can I write a devotion about something?”
[00:06:19] Kathrese: My readers don't… or my Watchers? My listeners don't know of your kind of obsession with funny titles?
[00:06:28] Linda: Yes.
[00:06:28] Kathrese: What's your favorite?
[00:06:29] Linda: Well, I think my all time favorite of my books is Misfortune Cookies, you know, cause I just, um, I worked really hard on that title for a long time.I looked it up, I had to make sure that it wasn't out there yet. And I had to, I worked with unfortunate fortune cookies. I wrote down, you know, so many versions before I came up with that one and it worked. And since then, other people have copied me, but ah, you know, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
[00:07:00] Kathrese: I understand. I have a book. That's the same way I had the Healer’s Curse, and now, there's two or three others.
[00:07:07] Linda: Yeah. What are you going to do? It actually brings more people to you if they're looking for those titles.
[00:07:11] Kathrese: So I'm not mad about it.
[00:07:13] Linda: No, you can't be. And you don't own the titles anyway, so right.
[00:07:17] Kathrese: We're not, we're not Germany. I think that's the case in Germany. Oh, they get some really wild titles because they have to differentiate. Well, that's fascinating. I was wondering if you had any tips for authors who go on interviews, either with agents or editors or on a program like this?
[00:07:37] Linda: I think first thing you should do is shake it out, shake it out and take a deep breath.
Just like, uh, I belonged to Toastmasters for a couple of years, way back when, and, um, they would say just kind of shake it out before you walk up on stage or, you know, take a deep breath because it helps. If you go on stage without taking a deep breath, you're going to get breathless and start stumbling over your words and feeling like you're suffocating.
I've had authors on who were terrified to be on a podcast, even not a visual, just a podcast, you know, and not say two words to me; they would answer with yes, no. So I think the main thing to do is to make your guests feel comfortable. Like they're like they're sitting at the kitchen table with you over some coffee and, you know, you're just chatting about. And, uh, you know, if you can do that, then your, your guest is going to open up. You're going to open up as well.
[00:08:38] Kathrese: Yeah. It's kind of hard carrying a show when there's somebody else there, and you're trying to get them to answer questions.
[00:08:44] Linda: And then when you have technical difficulties. Like one time I was interviewing Robin Gunn from Hawaii, and I was like, oh, I was like a fan girling.
And, um, and of course I had technical difficulties at time after time, and I had to end the show. And I was so disappointed and so upset. That happened, but what could I do?
Another time, lightning struck, and it knocked out my internet connection. But as it turns out, if you're connected by phone, you're still connected, you know, so you can keep on recording. So I just kept on recording and, and it worked out great.
[00:09:23] Kathrese: Yup. That's a drawback from this method where we're actually on our computers.
[00:09:30] Linda: Right, but this is the better method, you know, with sound and everything. So…
[00:09:34] Kathrese: Well, hopefully, this is the first time.
[00:09:37] Linda: We will do it over if not.
[00:09:39] Kathrese: Okay. Well then, uh, I like that tip, where you come prepared at least to say something beyond yes and no.
[00:09:47] Linda: Well, yes. And if you're, if you're upset, of course, or if you freeze up, which, um, like if you play a musical. And in front of people sometimes. I don't know whether you experienced that, but you can freeze up and forget, just forget all your notes. that happens to some people when they get in front of a camera or a microphone,
[00:10:04] Kathrese: Your top writing tip to reach The End.
[00:10:07] Linda: I would say it's a simple one. It's pretty much keep writing, but I will say that once I reach 30, 40,000 words, I, I feel like I can do this. It's going to happen. Cause I know, I know at least the last 10,000 words, I'm going to change things. I'm going to do the rewrites, maybe even 20,000 words, I'm going to do rewrites.
I'm going to do add-ons I'm going to delete. So I feel like, okay, I'm on the home stretch. That's encouraging. But I think, don't get discouraged because sometimes you, um, you read back what you've written and you go, “Oh man, that's subpar. That's just not good. What am I doing writing?” I think, I think you just have to write that first draft and just get through it and, uh, don't get discouraged.
[00:10:56] Kathrese: You can't edit a blank document.
[00:10:59] Linda: No, you can't. And I think one good thing that helps me is reading the chapter before. And if I've been gone for a while, if I had to take a week off or something, I have to go through and read the whole manuscript to make sure I'm catching all the details. But, um, if you're just writing day to day, you know, a chapter a day or whatever, just read the chapter before.
So you don't miss those important details.
[00:11:21] Kathrese: That's a very good tip. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
[00:11:25] Linda: I'm half and half. Um, in the beginning, I just kind of free wheel it. I have an idea of where I'm going, but I kind of free wheel it, and then I start putting it all together because it kind of gels in my mind though.
And that's how my mind works. And so, yeah, I'm both,
[00:11:42] Kathrese: I call myself a puzzler cause it's kind of half and half.
[00:11:46] Linda: Yeah, that's true. Because when you're doing a puzzle, you get the end pieces, the frame first. That's how I do it and then kind of fill in toward the middle. So yeah.
[00:11:56] Kathrese: Oh, I love that word picture. That makes sense. Yeah. So how has your journey shaped you into the person you are today?
[00:12:03] Linda: It's helped me to trust God more. In the beginning. I, when I realized that, “Hey, this is possible,” that only happened because I feel like the Holy Spirit got me there. And when I came to a point before I got a contract from my first book in 2008, um, I had come to this point where I'd been trying to trying, and I wasn't going anywhere.
I didn't have an agent or have contract and didn’t have anything. And I realized it wasn't that long, but it felt that way to me. Cause I knew I was going to be a writer, but I couldn't convince anybody else, you know? And a lot of other writers feel that way. It's like, I know I can write and I know I can do this, but I can't convince anyone.
They're not listening to me. So I, I just, um, got before God and I said, “Lord, you called me to write, but I feel like I just ask you to either, please help me get published or take this desire to write away from me because it's just hurting my soul, you know?” And the very next day is when I, I got the call.
[00:13:04] Kathrese: So, tell me how long it took.
[00:13:08] Linda: I wrote Misfortune Cookies, the first draft in two weeks when my kids were at, um, tennis camp and I didn't have any interruptions and I just wrote and wrote and wrote, and I wrote the first draft then, and I didn't even know it was a mystery. I just wrote it. Yeah. And then, um, I submitted that on a whim.
I just said, “Okay, Lord, I'm just, you know, when you put your hand toward the computer and say, ‘Oh Lord, please bless me. Give me favor.’” And I sent it off to Spyglass Mysteries, and then I had that epiphany that moment, you know, that sad moment where I just said, “Ah, it's never going to happen. Take this away from me, Lord.”
And then the next day…
[00:13:45] Kathrese: Aw, that’s so sweet.
[00:13:47] Linda: It was so God .
[00:13:48] Kathrese: Yeah, it is. Okay. Then I've seen the cover of that book. It's it's really amazing. And how did you get those covers?
[00:13:57] Linda: Um, I heard that Nancy Mehl, which, you know, um, I think she just won the Carol Award from ACFW, um, Nancy Mehl as a mystery suspense writer and her son, Danny is a graphic designer.
So I found out from another author, Anita Higman, who'd had him do a cover that he did great covers. And I started looking at some of the ones he did for his mom and, um, some of her indie work. And I was like, oh, I'm going to ask him. So I made a, a deal with him. I knew I was going to do a certain amount of books.
So I made a deal with him that he would charge me a certain amount to do all these books. And he's, he's fabulous. I mean, he really captured the spirit of what I wanted because. I don't like, uh, for cozy mysteries. I like something light and cheerful and fun, not dark looking because a mystery, you know, mysteries happen in cheerful places.
They look. So, um, they're unsuspected. They're cheerful and fun.
[00:14:55] Kathrese: They're sneaky and these dark things happen.
[00:14:58] Linda: So I wanted that.
[00:15:00] Kathrese: So how do you kind of cleanse your palate or rest up before the next book?
[00:15:06] Linda: I write other things, you know, like I've dabbled in specular fiction. I dabble in movie scripts. I haven't had the, uh, I haven't let go of them yet, you know?
Cause it's, it's scary, you know, but I dabble in those. I do, you know, it's like a palate cleanser. You go on, and you do something a little different like historical romance. What I'm working on now, set in Texas. And so, I just like doing different things. I don't, you know, they, they used to tell you, oh no, you can only write in one genre and that's it.
But I never held with that. I just thought, no, that's not who I am. 'cause you know, I can craft, I can do this. I can do that. I can try this. I can do oil painting. I can do watercolor. I'm not going to be limited because someone tells me I'm limited. I agree. Yeah, you can do whatever you set your mind and your heart to.
[00:15:57] Kathrese: Well, I'm [not clear] the principles of writing fiction across genres. So I don't, I don't see the point in limiting yourself. You do need to know the tropes and the expectations, but the principles of fiction still apply.
[00:16:14] Linda: They do. I use fiction techniques in, in writing nonfiction. I mean, it's, it's so helpful. Uh, if, if someone just thinks, oh, there's, you know, I never going to cross that. That boundary in between fiction and non-fiction, it's very flexible for me because I go back and forth very easily.
[00:16:32] Kathrese: You can't do nonfiction without story. Right. Okay. Um, shifting gears just a little bit. Is there anything you'd like to share? Like new writers or discouraged writers.
[00:16:46] Linda: You know, there's a lot of writers out there who want to snag a contract.
You know, you want to go the traditional author route, and you haven't been able to yet. And maybe you've done indie. Um, back when I started, uh, everyone was against indie except me. I believed in it, and I even did a writing, uh, Meet the Christian Authors event where I invited traditional writers and indie writers.
And the traditional writers were all angry at me because they said, “Why would you sit me next to an indie author?” I said, “Because they're writer too, you know?” Uh, and now it's like, everybody's doing it, but, but it was something I've always believed in. It empowers us. To be able to, right now, I believe in being a hybrid author, it's, it's excellent to get those creds, you know, from being a traditional author.
But it's also nice when you know, a lot of people will tell you, oh, that book could never be published. Just stick it in a drawer and forget about. No. If I believed in it enough to write it, I'm going to see that it's published because you never know this could be the next big thing. You know, it could touch someone's heart.
[00:17:55] Kathrese: Cause some niches that have been developed, uh, since indie publishing kind of became a thing. I think it was a limiting thing on the publishers’ parts.
[00:18:07] Linda: Yeah, because they can only publish so many books, but now, now they complain the market is flooded with so many books. But hey, that just makes the competition greater, you know. The cream rises to the top, you know?
[00:18:20] Kathrese: I agree.
[00:18:21] Linda: Yeah. So I would say, “You've gotten a lot of rejections? Well, join the club. We've all gotten rejections, and it's no fun.”
Um, just buy a bag of chili, cheese Doritos, or didn't buy something, buy something that's like you're not supposed to eat and just eat it. You know, you know, have a Twinkie or something and just say, “Okay, I'll start again.”
After this, I've just made myself feel a little better, and I cried a little, but now. Press on. And, uh, and I'm going to do it one day. Give yourself a moment and say, “They just don't know what they're talking about. They don't know me, you know, one day they will.”
[00:19:00] Kathrese: I completely agree with you about starting with indie. If, if you can, it's kind of like, there's a large bar there that you’ve got to get through. Formatting and editing and book covers and all that stuff, but you're learning the industry. So I feel like it's a very healthy exercise. And then as you get more experience, you can start doing things like I've done with anthologies. And then you've got a few writing credits. And then you can move on to the query letters and ;the rejection.
[00:19:32] Linda: You can even enter, um, awards. In ACFW. I believe there were a couple of indie authors who won this year. So I was like, hello, that wouldn't have happened years ago
[00:19:43] Kathrese: and really make the bar high because they have what that, uh QIP.
[00:19:48] Linda: Yeah. The qualifying thing. Yeah, I know. Well, it's another hurdle to jump over. Yeah, we can do it.
[00:19:54] Kathrese: Right. Well, anything else that you have to share?
[00:19:57] Linda: I would just say trust in God, don't give up and, and get before God a lot. You can't do this by yourself. You know, if you think you can, or you. You know, buddy up to an editor or an agent and try to get them to like you and you know, that has worked for some people, but, but then it doesn't last. you know, uh, The only lasting, um, lasting thing you have is with God, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Just remember that. And so if you keep pressing in and you don't give up and you just give every failure to him and every success to him, yeah, it just laid before his feet and just say, “Lord, I'm ready for the next challenge, whatever it is.” Um, cause you go through dry spells as an author to where you think you get that first contract and that's everything.
Well, then you're waiting for the next one and the next one. How's that going to happen? So it's going from trust to trust to trust, and your faith grows in God. And
[00:20:55] Kathrese: I, I wonder then, because as you become a more professional author, how do you find new ideas? Where do you get your inspiration?
[00:21:06] Linda: I never lack for ideas, but I do write them down because if you don't write them down, you're going to forget about them.
I've even had dreams where I kind of like played out a scenario in my dreams and like, oh my gosh, that would be a great story, you know. So I write them all down and then, um, then I forget where I put them. And I, and I'll run across them. I have like a hundred notebooks filled with things I've written down, so I'll never run out of ideas.
[00:21:33] Kathrese: That's excellent.
[00:21:34] Linda: If we write in heaven, I guess I'll be doing it there too, but yeah, I mean, who knows?
[00:21:39] Kathrese: I'd be up for that. Okay, well, Linda, thank you so much for joining me today and being my very first guest. I just can't get over it; you were the one that kind of encouraged me to get into podcasting. You gave a presentation at a mini conference a few years ago. Do you remember that?
[00:21:59] Linda: The Bayou [City] Christian Writers Conference, which was great. I hope we can. It was an awesome little conference. I loved it.
[00:22:07] Kathrese: I loved that conference too. And then COVID.
[00:22:11] Linda: Yes, I know.
[00:22:14] Kathrese: But I wanted to thank you for doing that, kind of showing the way, shining the light. And I think I'm going to really enjoy this journey.
[00:22:21] Linda: Yeah. You'll love it. I mean, it's, it's really fun because too, you get to know a lot of other authors and you learn a lot about writing. You learn their writing journeys, you know, it's amazing the level of faith that all these authors have, you know, uh, it just blows my socks off
[00:22:40] Kathrese: You can't do it without that kind of like kernel of desire. And it definitely is a self-belief thing. And also a faith thing.
[00:22:48] Linda: Yeah, it's both. And you've got to believe in yourself, or no one else is going to believe you, you know. If you go to an agent or an editor at those little sessions, if you don't believe. You know, if you don't walk in and believe that you're an author, that's your, you're just an author who hasn't been published yet.
If you don't believe it, if you don't have that confidence. Like all nervous and you're not smiling. You're not going to get anywhere. You know, I've even pitched movie ideas and they told me, “Hey, send it.” You know, I mean, and that's exciting, you know, but how many times have you gone to a conference?
And they said, oh, send me your stuff. And then you never hear back from them. You know, that's the hard part about conferences. Cause you're all you're on this high, when you get. And I was like, yeah, I'm going to send this stuff and the money get a contract. And then you don't and you don't hear from them.
You know, I once got a rejection on Halloween night from Harvest House and they told my agent, ‘Don't ever send me any more stuff from this, this girl she can't write.’
So you, you get mean things, you know, now and then, and I'm not blaming the editors because they, you know, they probably get thousands of, you know, thousands of things sent to them and, you know, they get tired.
[00:24:09] Kathrese: Well, that's kind of encouraging, Linda, because everybody needs to hear that, that even the most experienced authors get rejection and sometimes terrible rejections.
[00:24:20] Linda: Mean. They don't have to be that mean. They have to step out of their bounds to get that mean.
[00:24:27] Kathrese: Right. And so I think it's a good thing for new authors to hear that even their heroes have experienced rejection.
I know Stephen King was rejected so many times. And then I think his wife pulled his first successful manuscript out of the trash.
[00:24:47] Linda: But then you move on to reviews. Then some people are, you know, they troll you in your reviews too, on Amazon and other places.
[00:24:55] Kathrese: That's an unfortunate phenomenon.
Well, I think that's our time for today, but I appreciate your time for coming today. [Musical chime.] And, uh, I look forward to hearing more of your books and your podcast program as well. I guess that's our bell.
[00:25:11] Linda: It's the bell. Okay. Well, thank you. Bye bye everyone.
[00:25:14] Kathrese: Thank you, Linda.
[00:25:16] Linda: Bye, Kathrese.
[00:25:18] Kathrese: Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a comment and follow the podcast. If you're new around here, I hope people join the Writing Pursuits Author Community for more content and to receive Word Marker Tips for Authors. That link and all the links mentioned in today's episode are in the show notes at WritingPursuits.com.
Please join us on Wednesdays for new episodes, and keep writing, my friends. Keep writing!