Linda Joffe Hull is a Denver-based author. She writes mystery and contemporary fiction under her own name, and with author Keir Graff as part of the writing team known as Linda Keir.
A former president of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and board member of Mystery Writers of America, Linda was named the 2013 RMFW Writer of the Year. Linda has written multiple novels set in and around the Denver metro area including “The Big Bang,” “Eternally 21,” “Black Thursday” and “Sweetheart Deal.”
Recent titles as Linda Keir are available in all formats and include “The Swing of Things,” “Drowning with Others” and “The Three Mrs. Wrights.” A fourth Linda Keir novel is in the works.
Visit Linda at www.lindajoffehull.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@lindaejh).
The following is an interview with Linda Joffe Hull. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Each week, The Colorado Sun and Colorado Humanities & Center For The Book feature an excerpt from a Colorado book and an interview with the author. Explore the SunLit archives at coloradosun.com/sunlit.
The SunLit Interview: Linda Joffe Hull
SunLit: Tell us a little bit about the basic premise of this novel. It’s a story we’ve seen in various forms before. But tell us about the genesis of the story you and your co-writer, Chicago-based Keir Graff, created.
Linda Joffe Hull: So, at the time that this book came up, my co-author was really fascinated with the whole story of Theranos, the blood testing equipment, and how you could get billions of investment, or whatever was the amount, into something that was not at all realized, technologically speaking, and dupe all these big-time investors.
And at the same time, I had heard a story about a friend of mine who had a friend who was working in a lab at Duke and her boyfriend moved into her apartment building and then took her with him supposedly to the Mayo Clinic. And he had been married the whole time and was lying about it.
So together we created the story of a high-achieving businessman who was attractive to women and attractive to investors and a bright guy who was carrying on pretty serious relationships with three different women at the same time. And we wanted to know, in this advanced technological age, if you can really get away with that kind of bigamy and not get caught.
SunLit: What’s the story behind your collaboration with Keir Graff? You both had authored books on your own. Why did you decide to team up?
Linda: We were friends and we’d see each other at conferences sometimes. And we were chatting and standing with an agent who was a friend of ours. He said, “What are you working on?” I said I’d had a book idea that I wanted to write for years about swingers, but I tend to write dark comedy and I don’t think of that as a funny subject. I can’t figure out how to do it.
And Keir said, “That’s really funny, because I had sort of researched the same kind of idea, only I wanted to make it funny.” And the agent standing with us said, “You guys ought to write this together.”
And we kind of looked at each other like, what a weird idea. We didn’t know each other that well. So we talked about it for close to a year. We outlined a book and we wrote it and that book was eventually published — it’s called “The Swing of Things.” And neither of us are swingers, and neither of us are into any of that and we’re both happily married to other people.
But it was a great topic for fiction, we both felt, and we’ve been together as writers ever since.
SunLit: So can you put this excerpt from your current novel, “The Three Mrs. Wrights,” into context for us?
Linda: The way to put it in concept in context is that it I have to explain a little bit about our writing process in that when Kira and I write a book, we split up characters, you know we joke that one of us takes nouns and one of us takes verbs, but it doesn’t quite work that way. But we will split characters.
We thought it would be interesting to write this book from the perspective of three very empowered, very bright women who had careers and things going for them, that all happened to fall in love with the same bad guy. It’s their story, not his. And weirdly, I only wrote one of the three characters in that book. Usually we’re pretty 50-50 but for whatever reason, or variety of them, I chose Jessica.
I’m giving you the excerpt of her getting married to (Mr. Wright) down in Mexico. He takes her for a conference weekend and surprises her by having arranged a wedding on the beach, just the two of them. And she’s such a bright woman and she’s going all these places career-wise, but she’s fallen head over heels in love with him and she sort of allows herself to be talked into this marriage. I mean, it isn’t too hard to talk her into it. She sort of romanticizes the whole thing and he does the most romantic thing ever and she goes through with this beach wedding.
SunLit: So the story is told from the perspective of the three women who get duped. Is it ultimately a tale of revenge?
Linda: It is, and they get their revenge and a lot of readers find that divine and delicious. You do hear from him at the very end of the book. But I think it’s more of the story of these three women coming to this realization and figuring out what they’re going to do about it, based on who they are.
They’re slightly different ages — one is in her 20s one –Jessica — is in her 30s and the one he’s been married to for a long time is in her 40s. And we sort of wanted to look at it as an examination of how different women in different generations might handle a disgusting problem that is heartbreaking and comes into their midst for no apparent reason. Because he’s an emotional grifter. He’s not using them for their money at all. In fact, he’s giving them all sorts of wonderful stuff. But he’s ruining them emotionally in the process.
SunLit: Tell us a little bit about creating the book. You’re not only working with a co-author, but you’re working with a co-author who lives in another city, Chicago. So how did that work both creatively and logistically?
Linda: Well, for whatever reason, and it shouldn’t have worked this way, but Keir and I have an almost flawless working relationship. Why that happened I don’t know. It took us almost a year to outline the first book, and then probably another year to write it. And we wrote “The Three Mrs. Wrights” in five months, from beginning to end.
We realized we have to outline. We have to know what’s going to come next. It turns out that our lives and our processes are such that we were able to organize a system that just works well for us. He lives in Chicago and wakes up early to write, and he’s usually done with his drafting by about 9a.m., Chicago time, which is 8 a.m. Denver time. I wake up, get my daughter to school and all that sort of thing. And I’m usually sitting down to my computer around 9:30. By the time he hands me whatever he’s done, I’m ready to work.
SunLit: How does that arrangement produce a single, cohesive and coherent voice for the whole book?
Linda: Because we have set aside our egos. That’s the only way I can explain this. We have different characters that we’re working on, and we edit each other heavily. By the time the book comes out we’ve each gone over each other’s scenes multiple times.
He’ll go through and line edit, for lack of a better term, the shit out of my pages, which are not as clean as his. And I will cut gorgeous passages out of his prose that I love, and I tell him to save them for something else. It’s really hard to let somebody else look at your work when it’s naked like that. But having written graphic sex scenes with him, which should have been more embarrassing, I found that it was more revealing to give up writing that I’m not ready to let out into the world yet to somebody else to look over, and vice versa.
SunLit: What’s the next project you’re working on?
Linda: I can only tell you very little because we signed an NDA about it. But it’s a historical mystery set in the modern day that goes back in time quite a bit. It’s a roman à clef in that it’s based on real people now and in the past. It’s been really interesting because we’ve had to do a whole lot of research, which I’ve never done for a book before this to that degree. But we have a lot of latitude because we’re changing names and changing things enough that we can do some of the stuff we want with it.