Linnea Tanner passionately reads about ancient civilizations and mythology which hold women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids. Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry.

Time to chat with Linnea!

What is your latest book? Is your recent book part of a series?

My debut book is Apollo’s Raven, was released on April 10th. It is a tale that follows two star-crossed lovers and weaves Celtic mythology into a backdrop of ancient Rome and Britannia. In a story of forbidden love and loyalty, the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is caught in a political web of deception when the emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren.

Catrin is drawn by the magnetic pull she feels for Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, who stands in the shadow of his scandalous forefathers. When King Amren takes Marcellus as a hostage, he demands that Catrin spy on him. As she falls in love, she discovers a cure that foretells a future she desperately wants to break. Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her people, Catrin urgently calls upon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that looms over her.

The historical fiction/epic fantasy is the first book in the Apollo’s Raven series. The series was inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. The epic series spans from 24 AD when Catrin and Marcellus first meet to 40 AD just prior to Emperor Claudius’ invasion.

Some authors always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I write scenes both in and out of order. I usually start with a broad outline, but as I write the story, other threads in the plot develop and I may need to write others scene to make everything connect in a logical manner. When I write in multiple points of views, there are times when I write scenes out of order, so I can stay in one character’s head to play the basic plot. Sometimes, I surprise myself and can go in a completely different direction from what I had first planned. This provides twists to the plot.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters sometimes surprise me as I discover more about them when I’m writing the story. At first, I was hesitant to explore the inner essence of the heroine, Catrin, in Apollo’s Raven. She has a darker side that broils to the surface whenever she must overcome life-threatening situations. Her biggest fear is that she could abuse her powers and transform into someone evil like her half-brother, Marrock. Conversely, I added more depth and back story to Marrock, so a reader could relate to him and understand his vile deeds.

Characters must ultimately act consistently according to their true natures and background. Nothing they do should come as a shock to the reader.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The title of my book was important to me, because it conveys an image taken from both Roman and Celtic mythology. In the writing process, I am open to changing any part of the story that I had originally planned. Twists in the plot come from moments when I ask myself, “What if I did this instead of that.” When a “wild idea” flashes in my mind, I usually go for it, as it comes from a deeper core of my creativity.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

In preparation for the series, I did extensive research on the history, mythology, and archeological findings of 1st Century Britain before the Roman invasion in 43 AD. A major challenge researching the Celts is they passed down their history and mythology through oral traditions. Most of my research had to be gleaned from the biased accounts of Greek and Roman historians, medieval writers who spun Celtic mythology to fit their Christian beliefs, and archaeological interpretation. I also visited many areas in the United Kingdom and France that are described in my series. I’ve hiked over 12 miles over the white cliffs of Dover so I could catch first-hand what my characters are experiencing when Apollo’s Raven first opens.

In the story, I wanted to capture the essence of the Celtic noble warrior society. The Greek historian Poseidonius writes, “The Celts engage in single combat at dinner. Assembling in arms, they engage in mock battle drill and mutual thrust and parry, sometimes inflicting wounds.”

In my research, I discovered southeast Britannia evolved differently than Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. After Julius Caesar’s military expeditions to the region in 55 – 54 BC, Rome strongly influenced the internal politics and trading of southeast Britannia. Many of the rulers were educated in Rome as hostages and adopted the empire’s taste for luxuries. Several powerful Celtic kings expanded their territories by conquering other tribes.

There are written accounts that Celtic rulers pleaded for Rome’s help to intervene on their behalf. Recent archaeological findings support a Roman military presence that protected areas of Britannia vital to trading with the empire before Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. Of note, Shakespeare’s play, Cymbeline, is based on the Celtic King Cunobelin whom the Romans referred as the King of Britannia. One of the plot points in the play is Roman forces invade to restore tribute that Britannia ceased to pay. The play was likely based on oral traditions or medieval accounts in which there were some historical accuracy.

My extensive research sets the stage for the Apollo’s Raven series which spans from 24 AD to 40 AD.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I work with a developmental editor and coach. His feedback gives me guidance on how to make the plot or characters’ motivations clearer. I then have a couple of trusted who provide further feedback. If there are any holes in the story, I have a chance to readjust or change sections of the plot as I proceed.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

It is my hope that I can write a book on how the Celtic tribal kingdoms evolved in southeast Britannia before the Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. I’ve written several posts on my blog regarding the research I’ve done on the Celts. I would like to use this as a backbone for the book.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My road to publication has had lots of twists and turns. After I retired from the pharmaceutical industry in 2010, I began writing the Apollo’s Raven series in earnest and drafted almost three books in two years. After receiving comments from agents and other writers on the first book, I realized that I needed to start the story earlier in Britannia and provide a more comprehensive background of the Celtic culture and mysticism. Thus, Apollo’s Raven is actually the fourth book that I wrote in the series.

With the dramatic changes in publishing, I decided to independently publish my series in 2016 instead of taking the traditional route. However, I wanted to make sure that the quality of my book would match that of traditional publishers. Thus, I worked with the AuthorU organization consisting of established authors and professionals in the publishing business dedicated to helping authors fulfill their dreams. On my journey, I’ve met wonderful writers, authors and other professionals who have generously provided advice and inspired me.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

The book cover design is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book. It needs to stand out from the other books and immediately draw a reader’s interest. Thus, I placed high priority on the design of my book, so it looks professionally done. I was very fortunate to work with a fabulous graphic designer who captured my vision of the book cover and designed the interior so it was easy to read.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

The qualities I most value are loyalty, honesty, sense of humor, compassion, and curiosity to learn more.

Care to brag about your family?

My greatest inspiration was my mother who raised five children after my father died. She held me to the highest standards, but allowed me to follow my dreams.

My husband, Tom, is my loyal and supportive soul-mate. He is the reason I believe in love at first sight and true love.

My daughter is the epitome of Catrin—tough-minded and athletic, but has a heart of gold.

My son demonstrated his loyalty and compassion by caring for his wife who died of cancer a few years back, but he gained new happiness by marrying again.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees after I married and had two children. I took lessons in flamenco dancing and crafted dried floral arrangements which I sold at an art market in Boulder, Colorado.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be respectful of other’s beliefs and cultures.

Be open to new ideas or opinions

Learn from history and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

I smile whenever I watch the wonderment on a baby’s face that a balloon can float while everything else falls on the ground.



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MargaretMargaret Mizushima is the author of Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery to be released December 8, 2015 by Crooked Lane Books. Her fiction has won contest awards, and her short story “Hayhook” was selected to appear in the 2014 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers anthology Crossing Colfax. She lives in Colorado with her husband and a multitude of animals.

Time to chat with Margaret!

What is your latest book?

My debut novel is Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. It’s about a K-9 Deputy, Mattie Cobb, whose dog Robo finds the body of a teenage girl buried in the mountains near her hometown of Timber Creek, Colorado. When she takes an injured dog that they found at the gravesite to local veterinarian Cole Walker, she learns that his daughter might know something to help solve the crime. Together they discover clues that set Mattie and Robo on the deadly trail of a killer.


Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes, Killing Trail is first in the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series, and release of hardback and paperback versions is scheduled for Dec. 8, 2015 with a Kindle version to be released soon after. Crooked Lane Books will release the second book in the series approximately one year after the first. These mysteries feature a K-9 Deputy, her dog, and a veterinarian who work together to solve crimes against animals and their humans.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

It’s important to write each book so that it stands alone. Each mystery must have a story arc while the characters in the story will have a character arc that spans the series. It’s a challenge to provide a tight mystery plot in each book while weaving in just the right amount of personal detail for the characters. A writer needs to offer bits of each character’s history but still focus on the character’s present goals and action. There seems to be a sweet spot where a character’s past influences his present, and that’s what the writer tries to hit.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I had written several novels prior to this mystery series, all mainstream or romance. Then I started reading wonderful mysteries by many different authors, and I became intrigued by crime fiction. I’m also fascinated with mysteries that contain two protagonists who work together to solve crimes, and I like the idea of developing a love interest between those two characters. I attended a workshop at a Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference on how to structure and write a mystery, and then I went home and got started on the first Timber Creek story. And yes, my two protagonists will eventually fall in love.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I finished the first draft of Killing Trail several years ago and found an agent for it shortly thereafter by pitching the story at the Pikes Peak Writers conference in Colorado Springs. We entered into a representation agreement, she provided some edits, and I revised the story. I had a few rejections right away and then didn’t hear from my agent for quite some time. Months later, my current agent, Terrie Wolf, contacted me with the news that she had purchased the literary agency from my first agent. Terrie was interested in the story, she offered representation, and we subsequently entered into an agreement as well. I continued to pitch my story to editors at various writers’ conferences while Terrie also shopped it around. We received some rejections, some near misses, and some “I’m thinking about its, but no one made an offer. I pitched the work to Matt Martz of Crooked Lane Books at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference in Sep. 2014, he asked to review the manuscript, and then passed it to another editor at his house, Nike Power. She loved the characters. She suggested some revisions in the plot, which I agreed to do, making sure I met her deadline for my revised draft. After reading it, she approved of the entire work, and made an offer for the first two books in the series. I enjoyed working with Nike on the book’s revisions, and I’m happy to say that she remains my editor. The process of finding a publisher took some time, but persistence finally paid off.

What else have you published?

Every few years, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization publishes a themed anthology, opening up submissions to its membership for short stories that match that year’s theme. I was thrilled to have one of my short stories, “Hay Hook,” selected for the 2014 anthology, Crossing Colfax. All fifteen of the stories are set on Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado, a street once described as “the longest and wickedest street in America.” Crossing Colfax is an eclectic collection offering history, mystery, science fiction, paranormal, and more from the street’s past, present, and future. “Hay Hook” is a mini-thriller about a veterinarian who makes a stable call to treat a colicky horse and discovers the owner’s dead body. He tries to save the life of the sick horse, but ends up risking his own when the killers follow him back to his clinic. As you can see, I like to include veterinarians in my writing. I’ve been married to one for over thirty years, have assisted him countless times in his practice, and have a ready consultant for research.

How much research was involved in your book? How did you go about it?

I did quite a bit of research for Killing Trail. In many ways, I felt better prepared to develop Cole Walker’s character—having observed my husband’s work over the years—than I did for developing the female character, Deputy Mattie Cobb. I was fortunate that two K-9 trainers let me shadow them and ask them questions. One trainer led a sort of “picnic table” discussion, asking several officers who’d come for training that day to tell me about mistakes a rookie handler might make. In a short span of a few minutes, they came up with more helpful ideas for challenging Mattie than I could have imagined on my own. Another time, I shadowed a retired female trainer who’d once worked the streets of Bellingham, WA with her police service dog Robo. After her clients left, we sat for a time while she told me tales of Robo’s prowess, fueling my imagination and inspiring me to ask permission to use her late partner’s name. (And no, he didn’t die in the line of duty. He became her pet after his retirement and died of old age.) My best ideas have come from these times in the field. In addition, I’ve attended programs presented by police officers at writing conferences, purchased countless reference books on police and crime scene procedures, and found consultants who will answer question as I write, invariably coming up against scenarios that I never intended to create. But when you’re writing, that’s just the way things happen.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

For me, I don’t need to know the title of the book before I start, although I think it’s very important to know the theme (and sometimes themes), and the title often evolves around theme. I wrote Killing Trail under a working title. I thought the title I came up with, Timber Creek K-9, was weak, but it felt like the best I could do at the time. I’ve never considered titles my forte. My agent provided input that publishers often change titles anyway, so not to worry too much about it.

Once Crooked Lane Books purchased the manuscript, my editor and her staff, my agent, and I held an email brainstorming session to come up with the title Killing Trail: A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery. It truly was a team effort. I thought it was fun and a great team-building experience.

Enough on title, let’s talk about knowing the ending. This brings to mind the question, are you a pantser or a plotter? I wrote my first mystery by the seat of my pants, but by the time it sold, I had revised it numerous times and then went on to make even more content revisions with my new editor. This revising activity took place over a series of several years prior to contract, and for several months after. I won’t have that kind of time to write my second book, so I’ve considered the value of becoming a plotter. Now, plotting is my plan, and I intend to stick to it. But time will tell if I can follow my outline as the story unfolds.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something that is totally unexpected?

This brings us to the reason why so many authors are pantsers. Fiction writing often strikes a mysterious course into the unknown. And we authors have no choice but to follow where our characters lead us. Well, there is the choice to rein them in and make them do things our way, but that’s not always so interesting. So off we go. Why does this happen? Fiction writing is like participating in a dream, or a movie with deep emotional nuances, that runs inside the author’s mind. And when we reach that dream state, our fingers often tap out unplanned things on the keyboard, a sort of Ouija board for storytelling. So as a mystery writer, it’s okay for me to follow that dream when it comes to subplots and character development, but I want to stick to my outline for the main plot of the story. Or at least I think I do—unless something more exciting takes over. And if it does, I guess I’ll burn the midnight oil and revise.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another state, where would it be?

I live in Colorado on a small acreage that we call a “ranchette.” My husband and I moved here over thirty years ago to establish our veterinary clinic and an Angus cattle business, although I commuted into the city to practice as a speech therapist for most of those years. We also raised two daughters here, both of whom live on the west coast now. I love Colorado, and I doubt if I ever move. During the nine months between March and December, I head to the high country every chance I can get to hike. Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite spots on earth. But another place that calls to me is Kauai so living there during the winter would be…well…paradise.





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