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Interview: July 20, 2007

July 20, 2007

Bestselling author Linda Greenlaw tries her hand at writing fiction with her latest release, SLIPKNOT --- the first installment in a mystery series featuring marine investigator Jane Bunker. In this interview with's Roz Shea, Greenlaw explains why she chose to shift metaphorical gears from penning memoirs to detective novels, and describes some of the real-life counterparts to the book's characters and settings. She also touches upon the global issues that are addressed in the story, discusses how she maintains her career in commercial fishing while writing and touring, and shares details about future books in the series. Anyone who has read your nonfiction books about the unusual career path of a female commercial fisherman is familiar with your Renaissance-woman background. Not content to rest on your laurels as an accomplished swordfish boat captain, nonfiction author and survivor of the greatest sea storms in history, now you pen a mystery --- and a darned good one. What made you turn your hand to detective fiction?

Linda Greenlaw: I considered the switch to fiction another form of shifting gears. Government regulations, seeking greener pastures, and hunting the last frontiers are all a part of the fishing industry, causing us to switch from one fishery to another. I’ve written a great deal about Linda Greenlaw, so the switch to fiction from nonfiction was a chance to focus on another person. Everyone knew the life and times of “me” --- changing genres would take the work in a different direction, but it would keep the material fresh for people who like to read my writing.

BRC: You have created a fascinating new female detective in a genre teeming with popular girl detectives! Jane Bunker comes complete with sass, brass, savvy and a fascinating back story that you have cunningly dangled before your readers. Is Jane based on yourself or someone you know, or is she pure imagination?

LG: Jane is a composite of people I know, and of course, some of my thoughts on life and opinions come through --- especially when writing in the first person. However, everyone I know would make a great character in any book, so I can pick and choose quirky things about people I know to apply to Jane.

BRC: The charming little village of Green Haven, Maine, seems palpably real. Is the tourist-trap inn where Jane has set up housekeeping with its eccentric Mom and Pop owners based on real people and places?

LG: Green Haven is loosely patterned after Stonington, Maine, a small fishing village with a population of about 500. Those places can be found all over Maine, so between the fishing industry and where I live, there are a lot of fascinating people in my life to draw from. My landlords at the inn are a composite of couples in their age bracket, perhaps even a little like my parents!

BRC: Does Jane Bunker have any hidden talents that might endear her to, or even shock, the eccentric residents of Green Haven? Perhaps something from her past in Florida that might surface?

LG: Well, Jane is a pretty basic person with a good work ethic. She is a real celebration of the average person who really applies herself, so I don’t see any unusual talents surfacing. However, her past in Miami and the childhood in Maine certainly make up who she is and will be explored.

BRC: In SLIPKNOT, you introduce at least two interesting and timely issues dealing with the fishing industry: the installation of off-shore wind farms and the introduction of non-native species to the coastal waters. Will your sensitivity to contemporary environmental and fishing industry issues be a continuing theme?

LG: Yes, there are a lot of major global issues in the fishing industry that affect us all. My next book will probably deal with the lobster industry, which I remain active in.

BRC: Where does Jane’s almost obsessive frugality come from? Is this a New England characteristic, or does her family background lead her to such extreme penny pinching?

LG: This was a way to distinguish Jane Bunker from Linda Greenlaw. I spend money like a drunken sailor and have no respect for a dollar bill and never have, so making Jane a penny pincher is a distinct departure from my nature.

BRC: SLIPKNOT leaves us with a sense of curiosity about Jane’s background in Miami. Will we learn more about Jane’s mysterious “mentor,” or her future in reuniting with her family on an island in Maine?

LG: There is more than one reason for Jane to come back to Maine, so both of these themes will be explored in future books, especially her mentor’s unfair imprisonment.

BRC: What about the romance gone sour, especially when there seems to be more than one eligible bachelor frequenting the Green Haven marina?

LG: Jane’s dedication to her work will keep her busy solving mysteries, but a little romance is always intriguing, isn’t it?

BRC: Jane pokes gentle fun at her landlady’s endless list of mussel dish experiments. You and your mother put together a cookbook, RECIPES FROM A VERY SMALL ISLAND, teaming with seafood menus with tasty wild berry desserts and side dishes. Any chance some of those recipes will make it into Jane Bunker’s saga?

LG: Jane will continue to be a guinea pig for her landlord’s dream of writing a book on cooking with mussels, but I don’t foresee sharing any of the recipes.

BRC: You wryly write about the amateur sleuth from Cabot Cove, Maine. Were you a fan of “Murder She Wrote?" And will Jane make Green Haven as risky a place to live?

LG: Yes, I’ve long been a fan, but I don’t plan to turn Green Haven into such a hazardous place. I guess it depends on how many books there are and how many bodies Jane finds.

BRC: Have you given up commercial fishing for the writer’s life, or do you see yourself quite literally keeping your line in the water?

LG: I’m definitely keeping my line in the water. I’ve been fishing for a long time and don’t have any plans to give it up. I’m still lobster fishing more or less part time and have 150 traps in the water now. My father takes care of my gear while I’m on tour. It keeps me fresh and lets me get out on the water and work off energy after a morning of writing.

BRC: How many new adventures with Jane Bunker have you tucked away in that vivid imagination of yours? When can we look forward to the next adventure?

LG: I have signed a 3-book deal, so there will be at least that many. The next one will probably be called FISHERMAN'S BEND, which is one of almost 7,000 knots recorded. And no, I’m not going for that many books!

BRC: Are you working on your next book while you’re on tour?

LG: I’m hitting 50 cities in two months, so it’s hard to concentrate on writing. When I get back on August 19th, I will start work on the next book.

BRC: One last question: Do you use a word processor when you write?

LG: No, typing is not one of my best skills, so I write the book in longhand and then type and revise the manuscript before I send it to the publisher.