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20 Questions with... Linda M. Crate

Linda M. Crate (she/her) is a Pennsylvanian writer whose works have been published widely both online and in print. She has twelve published poetry chapbooks, the latest being: Searching Stained Glass Windows For An Answer (Alien Buddha Press, December 2022). Facebook: Linda M. Crate, Twitter: thysilverdoe, Instagram: authorlindamcrate

Please introduce yourself. Where are you from? What was your life like growing up?

Hello! My name is Linda M. Crate, and I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When I was one we moved to Conneautville, PA and that's where I was raised and grew up. My mother married my (step) father a week after my sixth birthday. Growing up my life was rather "boring" in my eyes. I would belt out the lyrics with Belle: "I want so much more than this provincial life." School was school. I was smart, but I could've applied myself more. I was mostly bored with everything we were being taught because I read and learned so much on my own outside of school. I got good grades in pretty much everything but math, but I wasn't a valedictorian or anything. The bullies were obnoxious and constant. I was a shy, quiet person who had a strong sense of justice and always tried to do the right thing and was well liked by teachers so I was an easy target; I guess. But the bullying really wore down on my spirit. The one time I tried to get help my guidance counselor blamed me and told me if I weren't so weird then I wouldn't be bullied. It made me angry because the school claimed to be anti-bullying but did nothing to stop the actual bullying. I wanted an adventure so badly.

Books, music, and nature were my safe havens. I used to want to have an adventure like my favorite protagonists in novels. Now I would give anything to have a simple life in the country where I can just read and write my books, take nature walks, and enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature all around me. As a kid I craved endless adventures, and while I still welcome adventures; I also understand the importance of relaxation and lazy days.

Did you always want to be a writer? If you also work, what do you do / did you do?

I always enjoyed writing. It was something that brought me great joy, and it was something that I had fun doing. I didn't really consider the idea of being a writer until I was in my teens because I was praised for my writing and my "interesting ideas" by some of my teachers. Currently, I am a food service shift manager at a convenience store/gas station. I've always been good in service jobs, but lately my patience with customers is growing ever thinner because since the pandemic has ramped up people have gotten more and more rude for no reason.

Tell us about your most recently published work in a sentence.

My book Searching Stained Glass Windows For An Answer (Alien Buddha Press, December 2022) is about coming to terms with my queerness and anger towards the church for their general attitude towards queer people and queerness, in general.

What are you working on right now?

I am always working on several projects at once as I am a mood writer. I am currently working on a novel or novella about an apologetic villain who gets revenge on her abusive husband and finds true love along the way. It has lots of adventure, sarcasm and snark, and it's an emotional journey for sure. I am also working on a collection of poetry about a former friend who is incapable of respecting my boundaries and leaving me alone. I also have ideas for other poetry collections rattling around in my head so I might get started on one of those, too.

Do you have a writing routine, and if so what is it?

I pretty much just wake up and start my day by checking my emails and replying to the ones that need to be replied to before I start my writing for the day. I get to do chores and have a shower when I can find time to break from my writing and then I head off to work, go to bed afterward, and start all over the next day.

Where do you write – always in the same space, or different places? Can you write ‘on the move’?

Typically, I write at home. But I have brought a notebook to the woods and started writing out verses or ideas when I was in the forest, I have written poems and gotten ideas while visiting my friends and family. I pretty much can garner inspiration from anywhere and anything so as long as I have a pen and some paper, I can usually get something out whether it be a poem to send in for a submission or a poem to include in a future collection. Or if it's an idea for a character in a short story or novel I'm currently writing or an idea for a future one.

What advice do you have for other authors who are starting out? What is the best advice you’ve heard?

Keep going, keep trying, keep pushing. Some days the rejections come in hard and heavy, but if you believe in yourself and your dream then it is possible to get work out there. Sometimes it's hard, but you've got to believe in yourself. The best writing advice I have ever read is: "Don't give up, and don't lose your stubborn belief that you have a story worth telling. I've had so many people tell me over so many years that I didn't have the qualities needed to be a writer. All my writer friends and I have one thing in common: We didn't listen to the naysayers. We kept writing. And eventually we have all been published." - Devi S. Laskar

It's true. I had a cousin tell me that my dream was impossible, and my mother was skeptical of my abilities to write until I started getting published in 2011.

Do you enjoy doing live readings or are they a necessary evil – or somewhere in between?

I have never actually done a live reading except in interviews. I would like to do a live reading sometime as I think they can introduce new readers to your work or spark some interest, but I'm not sure that it will happen any time soon. I'm extremely introverted and have really bad anxiety. But I have found every time I have put myself out there, it has made me feel better. So maybe it is a necessary evil.

Are there recurring themes in your work? Where do you feel these emanate from if so?

I write about many different things from love, rage, pain, loneliness, friendship, and everything between. I do notice that my characters do search for the true meaning of family a lot because their families usually are broken or they have a flawed parent so found family is a big one for me. It stems from my own need for found family, I think, because I haven't always been close to everyone in my family and have felt disconnected from myself. So it's a way for me to figure out myself while figuring out my characters and their lives/traumas. I also write a lot about fated mates or love at first glance because I have always loved the idea of someone in the universe being fated to another. How cool would that be if that were actually true? And while I have never experienced falling in love at first glance, I would like to believe it were possible as I have heard from other people that it's happened to them. I just think it would be neat to just know off of vibes alone that this person is the person for me. A lot of my characters are messy and imperfect because I feel like everyone has their pasts, but that doesn't mean that they don't deserve a good future.

Should writers have a moral purpose? What is the purpose of a writer in today’s society?

While I feel like everyone should have a moral compass, and a good one; I don't know if a writer has a moral purpose. My purpose for writing is trying to improve the world and make it a better place than the universe I was given. I don't know if it's necessary for a writer to have a moral purpose or not. I can only speak for myself. But I feel like every writer should know that writing has the power to change the world, and they should be mindful of the things that they write whether it is a warning or a hope for what the universe can become.

Do you write between genres or not?

Most of my writing is genre writing. I have tried to write straight literary fiction before and a dragon or a vampire or a faerie always ends up showing up. Fantasy and mythology were my lifelines as a kid, so I guess mythology and fantasy show up a lot in my writing.

I like writing sci-fi, romance, adventure, horror, and many other different things and sometimes I will throw a combination of things together because why not? It's fun to try new things and see where they can go.

Which living writers do you most admire?

Christopher Paolini - I really enjoy his Inheritence Series and I thought it was really neat that he was a teenager when he wrote Eragon. The novel that I wrote as a teenager never saw the light of day outside of my computer let alone become published, so he was a real inspiration to me.

There's no short supply of these but the living poets I admire most are: Kristin Garth, Stephanie Parent because her words are wonderful and she's very supportive of other writers and their works which is something I appreciate, Marisa Silva Dunbar because she has quite a way with words and has always supported me, Catie Garbinsky because their work is immersive and they are a wonderful disabled poet, Vanessa Maki because she is a nerd that can sling words - I particularly enjoyed her collection the chosen one because I love poetry centered around a fandom that explores the poet's life in some way.

Which dead writers do you most admire?

I really digged Edgar Allan Poe's works especially as a teenager. His short stories and poems were always fascinating to me. I think my favorite has always been The Raven, which everyone always quotes; but what can I say? It's a good story about an overthinker and a bird. I also really liked Emily Dickinson and her poetry. She had some interesting views on life and death and some of the things between. I also rather enjoyed Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles because I found them fascinating, and I really relate to her character Lestat. It kind of troubled me to see how much I related to that impulsive brat. I enjoyed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series. I really loved Sherlock Holmes and The Hounds of Baskerville. Mystery is always a genre that has fascinated me, but I'm a bit scared to put my toes into completely. Adrienne Rich is another writer who I absolutely adore. Her poetry isn't something I read until college but it took a hold on me, and I really enjoy the way that she slung words around. I also enjoy Diana Wynne Jones. I recently discovered her book series about the Wizard Howl. I loved the movie by Studio Ghilbi so I had to read the books that inspired it, and I will say the books and the movie are very different but I enjoyed them both.

What’s the book you wish you’d written?

Oh, that's a hard one because I love so many books. I know it would have been very different had I wrote it, but last book in The Chronicles of Narnia because Susan was my favorite and I absolutely loathe the ending that Lewis gave her.

What other external influences do you have: nature/place, music etc?

Nature, music, conversations I've had, situations I've been in, conversations that I've overheard, the weather, where I am. Pretty much anything and everything can become inspiration for me.

Do you suffer from ‘writer’s block’ and how do you overcome it if so?

Not often, but when I do I find that it is often cured by reading or taking nature walks. Sometimes your mind just needs a break from the grind. Sometimes you have to find a way to center yourself again.

What’s been your favourite reaction to your writing?

I think my favorite reaction about my writing was from editor Rasiika Sen who told me that my short story A Love Defiant (which was published in the 2nd volume of Soulmate Syndrome) was an important story as well as brave and sad. Because I am not always the most confident in my short stories (due to some very rude and dismissive editors) - it made me feel good inside to know that someone thought my short story was important and relevant in today's world. I have had many supportive and encouraging editors through the years which I am very appreciative of, but this one stuck with me because of her use of the word important. Everyone wants their writing to mean something, I think, outside of themselves.

How do your family and friends feel about your writing?

My friends and family are supportive of my writing. I find that most of my friends support my novels, novellas, or short stories more than my poetry which is a bit of a bummer since I write so much poetry. But my family support my books regardless of genre, and I am grateful for that because I know not everyone has that lifeline.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

I prefer small and independent bookshops, but I don't know if I can say I have a favorite. I like to support all of the little guys.

How do you see the future of writing? Will we become more or less dependent on Amazon?

I feel like writing will always be a thing, and I hope that it always authentic and honest. As for Amazon, it's really hard to say. I know that Amazon is seen as "bad" or "evil" by a lot of people because of the CEO and his practices. However, I don't know if it will ever really be eliminated because of Prime and their promise to deliver things quickly and efficiently. As an independent writer some of the anthologies and books I have put out myself are on Amazon so it's really hard for me to tell people that they shouldn't shop there because I think it is extremely important to support indie writers. I will say, just try to support your local bookshops and libraries in addition to shopping from Amazon, too. I guess only the future will tell what will happen, but I don't think people are going to stop buying from Amazon any time soon.

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