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Interview with Linda Shenton Matchett

Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself out to dinner in a quaint New England town and overhear a murder plot at the table next to you—it might just be Linda Shenton Matchett brainstorming her next novel! Keep reading to learn more about where Matchett finds her story ideas and how frequent moves and a varied work history have contributed to her writing life.

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You've lived in numerous historical places in your life. Did you choose them or did they choose you? And what are the benefits and drawbacks to living in a place rich in history?
With the exception of my current location, all the other historical places I lived were thanks to my dad’s job. He worked for IBM which is lovingly referred to as “I’ve been moved” by most company employees. My husband and I chose our current town when we purchased a bed and breakfast in 2002. We thought the historicity of the area would be a big draw for guests. For me, the benefits of living in a place rich in history are the ambience of the town and knowing you are walking in the footsteps of so many who went before you. There are mandates that prevent big box stores and franchises from coming in, so the flavor of the town has remained the same for nearly 300 years. On the flip side, not having the convenience of every type of store imaginable can be challenging. When we were running the B&B, we would say we were “saddling the wagon to go to town” because the nearest large store where we could get the amount and type of supplies we needed (e.g. ten dozen eggs for a weekend) at a decent price was thirty-five miles away. For me, the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks.

You also have a variety of work experience. How does writing fit into your work life? And when/how did you decide it was something worth pursuing?
My folks must have seen a glimmer of imagination because when I was about seven or eight years old, they gave me a large notepad and package of pens and told me to fill the pages. They kept me supplied, and I’ve been writing ever since. It is something I’m driven to do, and as a result, I carve out time every day to write. Sometimes it’s only thirty minutes, but I always make time to write. My work week includes two night shifts, so I am able to use the mornings of those days for extensive writing time. After we moved to New Hampshire I stumbled into some freelance opportunities for travel and lifestyle magazines. As much as I enjoyed that, my first love is historical fiction and I had several stories in my desk drawer that I had written over the years. My husband encouraged me to seek publication about ten years ago. I was terrified at the idea of submitting my manuscripts, but he reminded me it was no different than my articles. So I took the plunge and sent off a couple of my stories to publishers. One of my submissions was to Barbour (this was before they required submissions to be agented), and I received a beautiful rejection letter from Senior Fiction Editor Rebecca Germany. She took the time to write a full page to explain what worked and didn’t work with my story, and she encouraged me to learn more about the craft of writing because she saw talent in my work. She then indicated I was welcome to resubmit in the future. Once I got over the sting of rejection, I realized I was still passionate about being published, and wanted to do all I could to make it happen.

Where/when do you dream up your story ideas? Where is the funniest/strangest/weirdest place a story idea has struck you?
I have a folder chock-full with story ideas. When something comes to me, I scribble it down and put it in the folder. When I’m deciding which project to start next, I rummage through the folder. I’ve gotten ideas while reading newspaper/magazine articles, the Bible, or books I think should have been done differently. Sometimes people catch my attention in public, and I come up what-if scenarios for them. Because of my human resources background, I tend to come up with my character first. My protagonists are women who hold unusual jobs or jobs typically not filled by women. Probably the funniest place I was struck by a story idea was when my husband and I were out for dinner one time. We were brainstorming a plot for mystery novel and got to talking about how I should kill off the victim, including the pros and cons of different weapons. After several minutes of discussion we realized the couple at the next table was very interested in our conversation. We tried to explain that I was a novelist, but I’m not convinced they believed us!

Tell us about your work as a docent at a World War 2 museum. What is one interesting tidbit you've learned from that?
Volunteering at the museum is one of my most favorite things to do. When I first go in, I circulate through the museum to dust the exhibits, clean the display glass, and make certain the placards/descriptions are in place, change burned-out light bulbs, and clean the bathrooms. These seem like mundane chores, but they are an important part of ensuring a great guest experience, and they often prompt conversations with guests who don’t think about the “behind the scenes” stuff. For the rest of my shift I engage visitors and answer exhibit or topical questions. Probably the most interesting tidbit I’ve learned is how the war impacted women’s lives. They went from a sheltered, provided-for existence with limited possibilities to a world that offers them an infinite number of choices from the kind of jobs they can hold to where they want to attend college or live. These changes gave women a confidence many did not have prior to the war because they learned they were capable of doing things they never thought they could (even if it was simply successfully running a household and handling finances despite shortages and rationing as a single parent because her husband was off at war.)

What draws you to the World War 2 period of history?
I’m drawn to WWII because of the individual stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things because their country asked it of them. Women went to work outside the home (whether they wanted to or not), men left families behind to answer the call to arms or work on defense contracts far from home, and in general people pulled together to get through an incredibly difficult time, after having just survived The Great Depression.

If you could have coffee (or tea or lunch) with an author, dead or alive, whose work you admire, who would that be? What would you ask him or her?
I would love to have tea with Grace Livingston Hill and ask her lots of questions. I was introduced to her work when I inherited my grandmother’s book collection. What intrigues me about Miss Hill is that she chose writing as a career to earn money, first as a widow and single parent, and then after her second marriage failed. She came from a family of writers, but I would love to know if that’s why she thought writing would provide the funds she needed to raise her family and support her mother. It’s certainly not a career that I would immediately think of if I needed a steady income to put food on my family’s table. I’d ask her how she balanced raising her kids and pursuing her career. I would ask her about her decision to alter her writing style to appeal to a more secular audience. What was it like working with the publishers who were most likely all men, and how she did feel when they initially removed overt religious references? And of course, I’d have to ask her if she’s an outliner or a “panster!”

What books are on your nightstand right now?
My TBR pile never seems to diminish! I recently finished Party of One by Clarice G. James which is a clever, funny chick-lit book. I’m now reading April Gardner’s Bitter Eyes No More and am thoroughly entranced. The book starts out with a bang and has kept me turning pages late into the night. On my nightstand are several books for blog tours which I love to do because I discover so many new favorite authors. Next up are The Bachelor Missions by Jes Drew and Into a Silent World by Carmina Edwards.

Any parting words?
Try not to get stuck reading the same type books all the time. Branch out by trying different genres and authors new to you. You never know what kind of gem you are going to find. And if you do find a new favorite, support them by being one of their cheerleaders: review their books, recommend them to your friends, family, and libraries, and encourage them through social media if you are able to. Writing can be a solitary existence, so it’s always a treat to hear from a reader.


Lisa Bartelt is a child of the flatlands fulfilling her dream of living near mountains in Pennsylvania. She loves reading, writing and listening to stories—true ones, made-up ones and the ones in between—preferably with a cup of coffee in hand. Wife, mom of two, writer, ordinary girl, Lisa blogs about books, faith, family and the unexpected turns of life at

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