Belly of the Whale – Author Interview – Linda Merlino

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Paperback Writer is pleased to introduce Linda Merlino, author of the literary fiction/women’s fiction novel Belly of the Whale.  


About the Author:


Life is our daily teacher. One lesson begets another and then another.Once-upon-a-time life kicked me off my writer’s path and led me to pursue a more practical profession. My childhood dream of becoming a journalist was silenced.
Years later, I became a single parent, not by choice but by necessity, and my most trustworthy partner became a ballpoint. The fiction in my head turned into words on yellow legal pad. I wrote anywhere, any time, on my dining room table, and on my lunch hour. No place was my sacred space. I wrote in my car during soccer practices, under an umbrella on rain drenched sidelines, in fast food restaurants and in chain hotels. I wrote during championship after championship in cities and states, from Jersey to Phoenix.
The quieted yearning to be a writer reawakened onto the pages of a novel. My first was self-published after five years of juggling work, kids and day-to-day. A flawed but beautiful story emerged onto paper and “Swan Boat Souvenir” enjoyed local acclaim and success.

I knew there was more to do, more to write and that the next book would be published traditionally, that the next manuscript would have the benefit of an editor and the advice of professionals. After months of writing, Belly of the Whale went from paper, to computer, to draft after draft and finally into the arms of Kunati Publishers.

My children are grown. My passion to write remains a constant. Each book I complete is dedicated to the magic of believing in my dream, to my son and to my daughters.











About the Book:
Hudson Catalina has given up. Having lost both breasts to cancer, she is emotionally and physically exhausted, no longer willing to endure the nausea and crushing weakness that chemotherapy causes, until the wrecked-by-life young Buddy Baker arrives, bent on murder. A touching story of despair, abuse, murder and survival takes you on a journey through the darkest places of the human mind and spirit, and in the end leads you back out of “the belly of the whale” enriched by the experience.


 Hi Linda Merlino,


Welcome to Paperback Writer



Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book?


 The seed of this story was not about a young woman with breast cancer.  In fact, the bud of the story was centered on another character in the book, Willy Wu.  At the time I was putting my first words to paper I was rereading some of Joseph Campbell’s works and I was taken, once again, with his concept of heroes and this became coupled with a desire to write about a character that is challenged, mentally, physically and verbally.  I wondered how much a Willy Wu character actually processed and if he could transcend his stereotyping and be a hero.


Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as you write it?


In my head I have a string of thoughts but no specific outline.  For the most part, the story comes as I write.


Do you know the end of the story at the beginning?


 I know the beginning and I know the end, sort of like an Oreo without the filling. 


Do you have a process for developing your characters?


The process for developing characters comes from observation, plain old people watching and of course research.  If my character has breast cancer, as Hudson Catalina in belly of the Whale, then I must research all I can into the subject to develop this character.


It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be?


I do not see myself in my characters.  I know that I have a certain writer’s voice and that comes through, but I call that a signature style and not a “writing” myself into the characters fabric.


What is your most favorite part about this book?


The epilogue is my favorite chapter, the one part that I can’t discuss if you haven’t read the book.  The epilogue pulls all the pieces together.


When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher?


I had a finished manuscript before I began my queries.  I was told not to query without a clean manuscript.  This piece of advice I followed to the letter.


What struggles have you had on the road to being published? 


My struggles are the same as so many people eager to be published.  The first was writing the query letter.  This was my major hurdle, and will be again if I need to find a new agent.


What has been the best part about being published?


The high from being traditionally published leaves me without words.  A part of me remains awe struck by my own good fortune; a bit like winning lotto, being published is dreams come true.


What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel?


Belly of the Whale carries a message of hope and survival.  The story goes outside the boundaries of specific genre.  Its appeal is far reaching.  The message Belly of the Whale brings can be applied to everyone.  The journey into the fish’s belly is the descent into life’s darkness.  We have all been there or will eventually find our self there, some day. 

One premise in writing this book and using the twenty-four hour storyline was to emphasize the point that we never know what is going to happen from one minute to the next.  I would like the reader to be swept into Hudson Catalina’s life and when the last page is finished, long after, I would like each reader to still feel the impact of that day, still feel wrapped up in the lives of Hudson Catalina, Willy Wu and Ruby Desmond.


Do you have plans to write another book?


Yes, I am in the first year of what I call my three-year-book-plan.  The first year consists primarily of research, reading, thinking and working the story through my head. 


Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you?


Pump Up Your Book Promotion has opened so many portals into the cyberspace community.  Making connections to so many extraordinary people, their blogs, websites and beyond.  Dorothy Thompson has gone over the top to provide an amazing service for my book and for me as an author.  We are joining virtual forces again in October for Breast Cancer Awareness month.


Where can readers find a copy of your book?


Copies of Belly of the Whale are available through major bookstores, independent booksellers as well as online through Amazon, Borders and Barnes & Noble.


Do you have a website for readers to go to?



Thank you, Linda Merlino for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.



BELLY OF THE WHALE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 will officially begin on June 1, 2008 and continue all month. If you would like to follow Linda’s tour in progress, visit in June. Leave a comment on her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy of her book! One lucky winner will be announced on June 30!


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