Author on Fire
Las Cruces author Linda Jacobs' career heats up.
By Donna Clayton Lawder
Things are heating up for Linda Jacobs. Her third novel, Rain of Fire, is due to be released June 1 by her publisher, Medallion Press. The thriller is her second based in Yellowstone Park, the adventure-filled plot revolving around the possible eruption of a super-volcano.
Jacobs herself might feel poised to erupt with all the action in her life. Off to take care of family farmhouse property in Virginia, the geologist-turned-author—who moved to Las Cruces in August 2004—just found out she was going to be on radio in Wisconsin and on the Fox News channel in California. Also this month, she will be sending the manuscript for her fourth book, her second in the romance genre, to Medallion, while the publisher works on foreign language and movie rights for her earlier work.
Summer of Fire, Jacobs' first published book of mainstream fiction, deals with the infamous fire season of 1988. In real life, on August 20, the worst day of Yellowstone's fire season that year, strong winds spread the blaze to scorch more than 150,000 acres. In Summer of Fire, Jacobs took that real-life drama, added her own cast of characters to the mix, and the story ignited.
"My love affair with the Yellowstone Country began when I attended geology field camp just south of Jackson Hole," Jacobs says. "I would live near the park if not for the fact that I was raised in the South and that part of Wyoming has just 45 frost-free days a year. Oh," she adds, "and the fact that in Jackson Hole real estate, the billionaires are pushing out the millionaires!"
Jacobs was one of Exxon's first female field geologists. She lived in Houston and Dallas, working for a number of oil and gas companies on the front line where new fields are found. Today, she and her husband, fellow geoscientist Richard Jacobs, divide their time between their home in the Organ foothills east of Las Cruces, and her family's 80-year-old farmhouse in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
Fiction came to Jacobs when she was very young, she says. An avid reader, she'd hit a ball against a wall and tell herself stories about people who lived in New York City, Hollywood, Yosemite, Hawaii and other places she'd only read about. By age 13, she'd taught herself to hunt and peck on her father's old Royal typewriter and started putting her stories down on paper.
In 1992, she joined Rice University's novel-writing program, chaired by American Book Award winner Venkatesh Kulkarni. She studied with him for six years, until his death. The Rice critique group remains together to this day.
Her approach to professional writing is pragmatic: Just sit down and do it. "I think the best advice is the trite one," she says, "to write what you love. I wrote for years and would keep writing without being published or paid because I'm one of those fortunate souls who's driven to put fingers to keyboard.
"Before I wrote Summer of Fire, I worked for four years on a story, throwing everything at the wall and seeing what stuck. Editors and agents actually use the term 'kitchen sink manuscript.' There was a fire in it, and I later wrote about the Yellowstone fires of 1988 in Summer of Fire."
There was also an earthquake in that "kitchen sink manuscript," a plot that Jacobs "mined out" for Rain of Fire, her new book about the Yellowstone volcano. Even the theme for a romance novel came out of that four-year effort.
In between the publication of her two Yellowstone-based books, Jacobs published another, a romance novel set in San Francisco. Perhaps as hot as a wildfire in Yellowstone, Children of Destiny was published under the pen name "Christine Carroll."
"I used a pseudonym at the suggestion of my publisher, Medallion Press," she says. "They thought, and quite rightly, that after a smokejumper read Summer of Fire in June 2005, it wouldn't do for them to pick up my second novel a few months later, start reading something in the romance genre, turn to their buddies and say, 'This is a whole lot different from her other book.'" And so Christine Carroll was born.
Jacobs describes the romance as a Romeo and Juliet story but with a happier ending. Two of the characters from that book carry over into her second romance novel, The Senator's Daughter, also set in the Bay Area and Napa Valley.
Jacobs also hopes to strike more gold in Yellowstone with a third type of novel. "My agent is currently marketing a new series called The Yellowstone Country Novels," she says. "All three are historical, covering the time period from 1870 through 1927, a family saga of women who come to the West and their lives are forever changed. It consists of one finished novel and two book proposals. We're angling for a three-book contract."
And she has another romance burning in her, too. After finishing The Senator's Daughter, she plans to pitch a third Bay Area romance using some of the characters from the first two.
If that weren't enough to keep Jacobs busy, she is working on a whole new direction as well, rewriting a screenplay into a novel, an entirely different kind of thriller. "It's about a woman whose husband is arrested for assassinating the president of the United States. He commits suicide in jail and she never gets to talk to him about what did or didn't happen. Yes, I was inspired by what Marina Oswald must have gone through. Only in this thriller, neither her husband nor the president is really dead."
Jacobs says she'll be visiting Yellowstone, the park that's been so very good to her, later this summer.
"I'm thrilled to death to announce that I'll be signing the Yellowstone series of novels from Medallion, Summer of Fire and Rain of Fire, in Yellowstone. When I first started writing about the park, I told my husband that my dream was to sign books in the Old Faithful Inn lobby and the sunroom of the Lake Hotel. Old Faithful is scheduled for August 13 and Lake Hotel on August 15. I can't wait!"
You could even say she's burning to go.
For more on Linda Jacobs' work,
see her Web site, www.readlindajacobs.com.
Donna Clayton Lawder is senior editor of Desert
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