Gregg: Linda, thanks for being the first of our interviews on The Writers Edge. You’re an accomplished artist and writer, and a businesswoman too, judging by what I see online. Your books, websites, your late husband’s books and the possibility of a few movies — can I ask you what motivates you to create? Is it the muse or the mortgage?
Linda: I write because I love to write and have a desire to satisfy my creative drive. I enjoy the inspirational flow and passion I feel as my creativity is expressed on the written page, and I enjoy sharing it. I have been told that some of my readers have found my nonfiction writing to be not only inspirational, but healing and comforting. As a writer, that is always so nice to hear and it warms the heart.
A writer has to be a business person as well as a writer. Writing is only part of the game. In the past, it was finding agents, publishers, and wasting a lot of time. I now self-publish, thanks to Amazon Kindle and Createspace. But I also have my husband’s body of work to manage, in addition to ours, and my own. So a writer’s work is not done when he or she writes “The End.”
Gregg: I enjoyed your book, A Walk Through Grief: Crossing the Bridge Between Worlds. In it, you talk about your writing partnership with your late husband, Don Pendleton. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times noted that Don’s 38 Executioner novels had sold more than 25 million copies around the world. Wow! I know there was some back and forth between the two of you about women’s and men’s points of view. What’s the difference?
Linda: Yes, Don was considered the “father of the action/adventure genre,” with his publication of his original The Executioner: Mack Bolan Series, beginning in 1969 with War Against the Mafia. In 1980, Don franchised the Mack Bolan characters to Harlequin and about 900 books have been written by other writers. Don’s original 37 Executioner novels were released in December as ebooks, for the first time, by Open Road Media. His Executioner books had female fans as well as male. Mack Bolan is the ultimate hero and appeals to men and women and young and old.
I really don’t know how to answer that question regarding our differences in the male and female point of view. We were such soulmates that we thought very much alike. In our collaboration of our book, Roulette, The Search for the Sunrise Killer — which features husband and wife police detectives who, as we say, are married more to their badges than each other — we very much enjoyed writing the novel and having the characters bounce off each other. The book was set to be published by a New York publisher, Donald I. Fine, and as good a long-time NY publisher and editor that Fine was, he wanted to take out some of our banter between the sexes. We refused to make changes and said, “no thanks.” I published it later.
Gregg: I read your first novel, Shattered Lens, and am mid-way through Fractured Image. Your main character is Catherine Winter, a sixty-some-year-old private investigator. I’m always feeling some pressure to lower the age of my protagonist, W. W. Ronin. I’m 63. A female action/adventurer, and someone in their sixties?
Linda: I wanted an older. widowed, Southern California private eye who has been in law enforcement for years, and can handle herself well in investigative work. I don’t consider the Catherine Winter series to be action/adventure, but more hard-boiled PI novels. I don’t think there has to be any age limit or formula for creating a character. Some of my protagonists in my other novels are younger, such as my two main characters in my thriller, Sound of Silence. The female lead is in her mid-thirties and the male lead is in his mid-forties. An author’s age should not have an influence on the age of the protagonist we create. After all, it is our creation, and we can make them any age we want, depending on the story we want to tell. As they say, you’re as young as you feel.
Gregg: I enjoyed the introduction you wrote to Don’s book, The Cosmic Breath: Metaphysical Essay and your afterward in his book, The Metaphysics of a Novel. Can you say more about your partnership?
Linda: Thank you. It was wonderful working with Don. He was such a gifted writer, and a great teacher, too. The nonfiction book, To Dance With Angels was our first collaboration. The writing and research for that book was really life-changing for us. Actually, for the most part, it was a reaffirming of beliefs we already held. We both had a life-long interest in metaphysics and the paranormal, and the book became such a personal inspirational and spiritual journey for us. As it turned out, since its publication in 1990, and five editions later, our book has been life-changing for many over the years.
Don and I wrote side by side, whether we were collaborating or working on other projects. When I wasn’t writing, I would love it when I heard him print out his latest chapter on one of his Joe Copp mysteries or his Ashton Ford, Psychic Detective Series, so I could read it. We shared the process of writing.
One thing we never thought we would be doing was to write comic graphic novels. We adapted and scripted Don’s War Against the Mafia. Sadly, the company went bankrupt before part four of the comic was published. That was so interesting, not only working with Don’s Mack Bolan character, but being writer, director, set designer — and I would draw stick-figure panels for the artist, Sandu Florea. Then following Don’s death in 1995, I adapted and scripted the second Executioner novel, Death Squad, to a 124-page graphic novel, again working with artist Sandu Florea.
Gregg: Looking back on Don’s work, he was a huge influence in my own writing. I can’t imagine anyone near as prolific. You seem to be getting there as well. What’s your writing discipline? And do you prefer to write fiction or nonfiction?
Linda: I don’t have a lot of discipline, I suppose, because I don’t have a contract fulfillment date from a publisher. I work best at night and sometimes, into the middle of the night. Normally, I will have more than one writing project going at a time. I’m currently near the end of a private eye novel, and I have another one about two-thirds done.
I enjoy writing nonfiction as well as fiction. I do like creating fictional characters and having them take over the story as mine do at times.
Gregg: In the ’70s, I earned a couple of divinity degrees at a Protestant seminary — a Masters in Divinity and later a Doctor of Ministry. Both reflected traditional Protestant theology and practice. I notice that you’ve republished certain 19th century spiritual writers. Can you talk a little about your motivation?
Linda: Yes, I have written introductions to several spiritual books that are in the public domain. I personally felt some of the Spiritualist literature should be available today and decided to publish some. One of my biggest influences goes back many years to the book, There is a River, the Story of Edgar Cayce. Years ago, when I read about Cayce, I never dreamed I would be writing and experiencing similar events. I have a lot of interest in the Spiritualist Movement of the 19th century, and much of that interest was sparked by writing To Dance With Angels about spirit communication, mediumship, and Dr. James Martin Peebles, who was a leading Spiritualist of that time. I have two online e-courses that are about spirit communication, and I also published How Thin the Veil: 150 Years of Spiritualism, with that same publisher.
I also have done introductions to several nonfiction books that were written during the California Gold Rush days—and they read like historical fiction, although they are nonfiction. As a native Californian, I found it to be a very interesting time in the early days of California’s history. It sounds as if you’ve combined historical fiction with spirituality during the late 19th century, with your own books, Gregg.
Gregg: I have. I focused my doctoral research on unchurched people, and just missed publishing a book in the ’80s entitled, The Good, the Bad and the Indifferent. As my agent said, after I took a year to write the extra chapter requested by the publisher, “Next time, strike while the iron’s hot!” It was an emotionally expensive lesson. My sense, personally and professionally, is that churchgoers and non-churchgoers ask and live the same questions.
I’ve thought about doing something similar with some of the 19th century sources I’ve used in my Western novels. Can you talk a bit about the process of re-publishing books from the public domain?
Linda: My timing for re-publishing those old books apparently was good as it was when Amazon Kindle was first becoming popular. Many others have had the same ideas on publishing public domain books. Now Kindle will only publish a small number of the same public domain books. Sadly, some books are being published without editing the scanned books, or without adding new material. There are a couple of publishing companies that are now publishing print books on Spirituality, including a number of books written by the terrestrial James M. Peebles. He lived from 1822-1922.
Gregg: It’s been said that “writers write.” It’s clear that some writers also read. What’s on your bedside table?
Linda: I don’t read as much as I used to. I just read Gil Cohen: Aviation Artist. It’s a beautiful book about Gil’s long career as an artist. For about 18 years, in the 1970s and ’80s, Gil did the cover art for the Executioner books. I read mostly nonfiction. I do have a couple of books waiting to be finished: Proof of Heaven and Consulting Spirit, A Doctor’s Experience with Practical Mediumship. I also have several novels (mysteries or thrillers) awaiting my attention on my Kindle.
Gregg: The Kindle is great! I read a great many more books because of it.
In a couple of your books, you comment about the strong attraction you and Don had for each other, even at first glance, saying it was as if you knew each other in a previous life. Which is it — do we live again or do we live still?
Linda: Both. I believe that consciousness and love live on after the death of the physical body. I also believe in past lives, that we’ve been here before, and am convinced we are here for lessons, and may choose to come back again. I’ve never felt that to be in conflict with my personal spiritual beliefs, even as a kid. Don and I both believed we had been together before, perhaps several times. As I said, soulmates, and a part of us recognized that at first glance — a knowing that is nearly impossible to explain unless you have experienced it yourself. The same goes for many “paranormal experiences.” Really nothing “paranormal” at all, but a normal part of life.
Psychiatrist Brian Weiss probably explains soulmates better than anyone in one of his books, Only Love is Real, A Story of Soulmates Reunited, which he published in 1996.
Gregg: I’m familiar with Weiss, and read Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives. It was intriguing and reminded me of The Search for Bridey Murphy. I read the book as a teenager.
Since we’re talking about the supernatural, Don writes in The Metaphysics of the Novel: The Inner Workings of a Novel and a Novelist, that some writers experience inspiration as “automatic writing.” When my words are “flowing,” I have a sensation in the left side of my head, which you’ve pointed out is the language center of the brain. (My writer/editor wife was incredulous when I told her this.) You’ll sometimes write into the early morning hours, you’ve said. What is inspiration like for you?
Linda: How well I remember Bridey Murphy! I can still recall seeing the headlines in the newspaper sometime about 1952 when the best-selling book came out. My father and I were both fascinated and had long conversations about it. I read the book shortly thereafter.
I admire Dr. Brian Weiss for the work he does on past life therapy. His books are wonderful. He’s one of several psychiatrists or medical doctors who have stepped out of the traditional to present their work. Of course, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was one of the first to do so, with her wonderful work on death and dying.
I recall a conversation my father and I had one Saturday afternoon watching a program about the best-selling author, Taylor Caldwell. She spoke about her novels and how she had no idea where the detailed information she had written had come from. She has stated that she often had no technical knowledge of the subjects she wrote about. I was fascinated by her comment that often her fingers were guided at her typewriter and she considered it automatic writing. In later years I was to learn more about her writing process. That information was even more fascinating. She spoke of a Presence around her when she wrote and at times she would communicate with that Presence, receiving answers to her questions and information for the novel she was working on. Maybe that Presence was Saint Luke, the subject of her book, Dear and Glorious Physician.
At times when I am writing, I have no idea where the inspiration is coming from, but I do believe it often comes from beyond me. I do have some psychic ability, so it’s possible I tap into the muses, guides and angels.
I’m a night person and that seems to be when I am most creative. I love it when I have that inspiration from beyond and am able to roll with that creative flow. It’s fun and satisfying.
Gregg: The title for our interview series on The Writers Edge is “Three Facts, One Lie.” When I was a youth pastor, I used to play the game as a sort of ice breaker. It helped kids get to know each other, and I was often surprised what teens decided to say. Here’s how we do it. There are four statements total. Be sure to obscure the one that isn’t true so that we can have some fun before identifying which of the four is false.
Linda: I don’t like lies or liars. I prefer complete honesty. That is a button-pusher for me if I find out someone lies to me. But I’ll play your game.
- I did a TV commercial.
- I was married to a police captain.
- I was an ice skater.
- I’ve used a PC since 1985.
Gregg: I’m guessing ice skater, given that you’re a beautiful woman (#1), write with great detail in your detective novels (#2) and we’ve both used personal computers since the eighties. Did I get it right?
Linda: I don’t know if you recall the TV series, I’ll Fly Away. It starred Sam Waterson as a southern district attorney and Regina Taylor played his housekeeper. It was set around the civil rights movement in the late 1950s to early 1960s. We loved the show and when there was talk it would be canceled in 1992 or so, I wrote the network and they asked me to do a TV commercial.
Years ago, when my kids were young, we went to an ice skating rink. I put on a pair of ice skates, tried to stand up, sat again, and removed the skates. You’re right, I am not an ice skater.
Gregg: It’s been a real pleasure, Linda. I’m enjoying your books. With my late son — Jared died in a mountain climbing accident in February 2012 — I read every Executioner novel your late husband wrote. It’s a distinct honor and I look forward to communicating with you more.
Linda: That’s wonderful that you and your son, Jared, were able to enjoy and share in the reading of Don’s Executioner novels. Those are wonderful memories for you to hang onto.
I’m glad you’re enjoying my books, Gregg. Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview.
Linda Pendleton has written in a variety of genres: mystery novels, nonfiction, ecourses, comic scripting, and screenplays. She coauthored books with her late husband, Don Pendleton, including the popular nonfiction books, To Dance With Angels, and Whispers From the Soul, along with the crime novel, Roulette: The Search for the Sunrise Killer. Other nonfiction books include A Walk Through Grief; Three Principles of Angelic Wisdom; A Small Drop of Ink. Her fiction includes her novel, The Unknown; Catherine Winter PI Series: Shattered Lens, and Fractured Image; Sound of Silence; and Corn Silk Days, Iowa, 1862. Although she devotes most of her time to her love of writing, she also enjoys genealogy.
Linda’s Websites: http://www.lindapendleton.com, http://www.todancewithangels.com, http://www.executionerseries.com/ Linda’s Blogs: http://worldofspirit.blogspot.com/, http://mydropsofink.blogspot.com/