This week’s interviewee is veteran lesbian fiction author Lynn Ames, who writes everything from romance and historical fiction to thrillers and suspense.
Lynn is giving away two e-book copies and an audiobook copy of her latest release, Chain Reactions, so don’t miss the giveaway at the end of this post!
Welcome, Lynn. Please tell us a little about Chain Reactions and its prequel.
The idea for Chain Reactions and Secrets Well Kept was born from my wife, Cheryl, dropping a non-fiction book on my desk with a post-it-note on top that read, “I think there might be a story here.” The book was The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan. I read the jacket copy and was sold on bringing to life, and shining light on, these real-life heroic women whose story has been largely untold. If you believe in signs, I sure got one that I needed to write this book. That same day that Cheryl dropped the book on my desk, it turned out that Denise Kiernan was appearing at the local independent bookstore! We went to see her, and the rest, as they say, is history.
These incredible women—young girls, really—all traveled to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, a secret city, to do something for the war effort. They did not know what they were doing, they only knew that it would supposedly help the Allies win World War II. I started thinking about the moral and ethical dilemma that must’ve ensued when they learned that what they’d been doing was creating the fuel for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. On the one hand, what these women did helped win the war. On the other hand, that bomb killed more than one hundred thousand people, many of them innocent civilians. How would I have felt if I was one of those women? How conflicted would I have been? And that’s what I wanted to explore in these two books.
Diana, the main character of Chain Reactions, is a scientist. Was it hard for you as a creative person to tap into a scientific mindset?
Great question. While I’m notoriously horrible at math (particularly word problems), I always loved science. As a result, I was able to tap into my natural curiosity about how things work, and the science behind it, in order to create Nora’s mindset.
The plot of Chain Reactions intertwines the present with the past, in the form of the long-held secrets of Diana’s great-aunt. History plays an important role in many of your other books too. What draws you to history and historical fiction, and what is your favorite era to write about?
I was a history major in college, so I’ve always been drawn to history. I also have a passion for telling stories about women who may have been overlooked in history books. We must know and celebrate these stories. So, I’m passionate about telling these stories and illuminating these pieces of our forgotten and/or ignored history, recognizing that in many instances, my fictional work may be the first and only place where a reader learns about something historic. It’s incumbent upon me to get it right. I find I often gravitate to the early/mid 20th century, particularly World War II.
You’ve done a lot of really fascinating research for your novels, which often includes meeting the pioneering women who lived lives similar to your characters. Can you tell us a little more about your research process?
I began my career as a broadcast journalist, so my first inclination is always to go directly to the source whenever possible. There are things you simply can’t find online, or in books. How does an avalanche sound when you’re in the middle of it? What do you smell? To answer questions like that and to make the story come alive off the page, you have to ask someone who’s experienced it. So, I interview primary sources as a first line of research.
I also immerse myself in their world, reading everything I can get my hands on. If the sources are dead or I can’t reach them, then I do the next best thing and read what they’ve written on the topic. When I wrote a book about the Women Airforce Service Pilots called Eyes on the Stars, I went to meet four of them, and I found a working World War II airplane museum where I could talk to people who flew those planes. I visited the airfields, etc. For Chain Reactions and Secrets Well Kept, I interviewed one of the “Calutron girls,” who worked in Oak Ridge on the fuel for the atomic bomb. I also spent a lot of time with the official Oak Ridge historian and toured the facility where the fuel was produced, as well as the town and the museum.
For Bright Lights of Summer, the novel I wrote about the heyday of women’s softball, I spent years interviewing the real ball players, going through their scrap books, newspaper articles, pictures, etc.
And for my thrillers, either I tell stories in which I played a personal role, or I interview experts in their fields in order to create authenticity. I also make sure that experts read every section of my book that pertains to them and/or their areas of expertise. I always ask: “Is what I’ve written plausible and possible? If not, why not and how can I fix it?”
Your award-winning novel All That Lies Within is set in the glamorous world of movie star Dara Thomas. What role do movies play in your own life? If I’m not mistaken, you and Cheryl have regular movie dates. Have there been any not-to-be-missed movies lately you want to share with us?
I L.O.V.E. the movies—I always have, as watching old movie classics was one way our family connected. You are quite right, Jae; my wife, Cheryl, and I try to see a movie premiere every Friday, then we review it live on Facebook. You can’t go wrong with The Avengers: Endgame, and Captain Marvel, of course, and we loved The Best of Enemies.
As an indie author, you’re not just a writer, you’re also an entrepreneur. What advice about the business side of writing would you give writers who are just starting out?
I get asked this question A LOT. First, learn your craft. I mean REALLY learn your craft. Hire yourself a reputable editor. Second, build your brand. YOU are your brand. Everything you do and say becomes part of your brand. Third, think carefully about your publishing options. If you aren’t someone who wants to spend any time marketing your work, I strongly urge you to consider finding yourself a traditional publisher. Finally, write what’s in your heart. Worry less about what sells, and more about what your heart wants to write. If you write authentically and with passion, you’ll find your audience.
What personality trait has gotten you into the most trouble and why?
Honestly? My shyness has gotten me into the most trouble, largely because people are shocked to learn, and often reject, that I’m really painfully shy. Because my careers have required me to be “situationally extroverted,” many people, when they meet me one-on-one or in small groups, mistake my shyness for aloofness. Me, aloof? Nothing could be further from the truth.
If I’m not mistaken, you live with several cats. If you could ask them three questions, what would they be?
We live with three cats and a dog. I ask Harper, Bart, and Darwin (whom we’ve dubbed the three meowsketeers) questions all day long. In true cat fashion, they never answer. Still, if I could ask them only three questions, I guess I’d ask: a.) When you’re busy studiously ignoring me, is it because you’re messing with my mind, or have I truly offended your sensibilities? b.) What does “meow,” said with five different inflections, really mean? c.) What is the meaning of life?
What types of books do you like to read? Any favorites you can recommend?
I read widely. I enjoy everything from classics, to non-fiction (especially biographies and history), to lesbian fiction. My favorite book of all-time is Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, I’m a big Charles Dickens fan, as well. For history and biographies, you can’t go wrong with a Doris Kearns Goodwin, and, every lesbian should read Katherine V. Forrest’s Curious Wine.
When’s your next book coming out, and what are you working on right now?
Secrets Well Kept will be released in the beginning of July. In the fall, I will sit down and write the official biography of Dot Wilkinson—widely recognized as the greatest catcher ever to play the game of women’s softball. In 2015, I produced and directed a documentary about Dot titled, Extra Innings. And I wrote a factually based historical fiction novel about Dot and her Phoenix Ramblers titled, Bright Lights of Summer. Dot is like family to me, and I’m very much looking forward to telling her real-life story.
Where can your readers find out more about you and your books?
I encourage readers to check out my website: www.lynnames.com, friend me on Facebook (authorlynnames), and follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
Lynn is giving away two e-book copies and an audiobook copy of Chain Reactions.
Anyone can enter, but if you want to win the audiobook, you need to be able to access Audible.com (US). To be entered into the drawing, leave a comment on this blog.
Entries close on Thursday, June 20, 2018, 10 a.m. CET, when I’ll draw the winners using a random numbers generator. I’ll notify winners via email. Your email address won’t be used for any other purpose.
I’m posting several author interviews with giveaways and free books every month. If you want to make sure you don’t miss any of them, please subscribe to my blog.