When Linda Joy Singleton was 14, she completed an application for a writing correspondence course. She’d been keeping a journal and writing short stories since she was eight and figured she was ready for formal training. On the application she wrote, “I’d like to have my own series someday.” Because of her age, she wasn’t accepted to the class. Instead her father enrolled in an American River College writing class, re-teaching her lessons after he learned them. From then on, Singleton viewed writing as a business following the writer’s guidelines for submissions to the magazines she read, like American Girl. And because it was a business, she never let rejection stand in her way.
In fact, it was because of a personal rejection letter inviting her to submit more work that she sold her first of 28 novels, Almost Twins (Willowisp Press, 1991). Four years later, she achieved her childhood goal to someday write her own series with the sale of Twin Again,the first book in the My Sister, The Ghost series (Avon Camelot, 1995).
Series books are an important element in understanding Singleton. She is a fan of girls’ series like Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton, and Nancy Drew (although Nancy is a little too perfect for Singleton). According to Singleton, “When you read a series, the characters become your friends. . .It’s nice when a book doesn’t stop at the end.”
Singleton has amassed a library of over 4,000 girls’ series books, including treasured editions from the 1920s and 1930s. Her interests are historical as well as literary. Singleton has spoken in public about the differences between what girls have read throughout history and what the characters in those books have achieved. For instance, in a 1911 book titled The Girl Aviators on Golden Wings by Margaret Burnham, the female characters fly airplanes during a time when women didn’t even have the right to vote in the real world!
Many of Singleton’s books have a paranormal or science fiction twist, and her two most recent series are no exception. Book one of The Strange Encounters series for middle-grade readers chronicles the adventures of the Strange family as they chase a UFO. The idea for this book is straight from Singleton’s childhood. In 1967 her father and mother packed up the four kids and the dog and trekked to a campground hoping to spot a UFO that had been sighted in the area. “We found lizards and wild flowers,” says Singleton. “We never saw a UFO, but the campground became our favorite camping spot.” Singleton kicked off the writing process for Oh No! UFO (Llewellyn, 2004) with a question about her experience: What if there had been a flying saucer?
Book two, Shamrocked (Llewellyn, 2005) explores the magical world of the little people living near Mount Shasta. Singleton remembers driving by Mount Shasta on summer visits to her grandmother’s. Her parents told her about the little people, and Singleton used the legend to create a layered fairy community. Singleton is currently in the process of selecting additional stops on the Strange family itinerary. She looks for real stories in real places in the United States with magical or paranormal elements that tickle her fancy.
The Seer is Singleton’s current series for young adults in which the heroine is a reluctant psychic. Sixteen-year old Sabine gets psychic premonitions and uses them to investigate crimes, but she doesn’t want to advertise her abilities to friends, fearing rejection. The idea for Don’t Die Dragonfly (Llewellyn, 2004) actually occurred to Singleton in 1988. She attended psychic fairs and had her palm read to speak with psychics. Biographies of various psychics helped her develop specific details of Sabine’s personality—like her fear of the dark and her nightlight collection.
According to Singleton, a healthy dose of curiosity drives the books she writes. “I write the books I want to read.” She starts her workday with two to three hours of editing—polishing and refining chapters already written. Her goal is to add two new pages of text per day. She describes herself as “disciplined with procrastination breaks.” And just because Singleton is an adult doesn’t mean she’s forgotten her list of goals. Still on the list: wanting a doll based on one of her characters; attending the Hollywood premier of one of her books; and being selected as a finalist for the Edgar Mystery Award. Singleton is determined and dedicated. “Everything I think about is the next book and how to make it better.”