Between the Lines: In the Context of Love

Sep 9, 2016

Linda K. Sienkiewicz
Credit Danielle Sienkiewicz

Michigan author Linda Sienkiewicz painted and wrote poetry. But it was a celebrity crush that inspired her to write a novel. “Years ago I had a crush on Russell Crowe,” Sienkiewicz laughs. “This was before he broke Meg Ryan’s heart. I was surfing the Internet when I stumbled across Russell Crowe fan fiction. Fan fiction is when you take characters from a movie or another book and you create a new story about them.”

Sienkiewicz thought she’d try her hand at fan fiction. It seemed easy enough. She developed her characters and a story line and shared it with a friend who worked as an editor. He encouraged her to keep at it but give the manuscript a more serious turn and develop it into a novel.

Sienkiewicz laughs again, “I had no clue how to write a novel, but he said, 'Oh no! it’s really easy! Fourteen chapters and a new character in every chapter…'”

Writing her debut novel was anything but easy. Sienkiewicz was hooked, though, and her characters and their story carried her along as she rose to the challenge of writing something more substantial.

“I even had an agent for what I call my starter novel,” she says. “But the agent wasn’t able to sell it. I wanted to learn more about novel writing, and I thought back to an article I’d read in the early 90's, called 'My Father was a Rapist.'”

Credit Buddhapuss Ink

Sienkiewicz was intrigued by the article, which related the stories of several women who learned that they were born out of the act of rape. Each deals with that knowledge in a different way. For Sienkiewicz, it became an important part of what would become her debut novel, In the Context of Love (Buddhapuss Ink, 2015). The novel has since become a 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist, a 2016 Reader’s Choice Women’s Fiction Finalist, and earned Great Midwest Book Festival honorable mention.

In the words of Kalamazoo’s own Bonnie Jo Campbell, “Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s powerful and richly detailed debut novel is at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey. In the Context of Love should be required reading for all wayward teenage girls — and their mothers, too.”

For Sienkiewicz, writing the novel also meant pushing herself through painful and unexpected loss. Sienkiewicz’s agent encouraged her to start writing a second book. Then Sienkiewicz's son took his own life. “I found that I could not write—at all.”

That block kept Sienkiewicz from writing for two years, until gradually she remembered the pride her son had taken in her work. Sienkiewicz is now working on her second novel, a sequel to the first, that tells the story of another main character.

Sienkiewicz’s short stories, poetry, essays, and art have been published in more than fifty literary journals. They include Prairie Schooner, Clackamas Literary Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Permafrost, CALYX, Rattle, Controlled Burn, The MacGuffin, and A Twist of Noir. Among her other awards are a poetry chapbook Heartlands (Bottom Dog Press) and a Pushcart Prize Nomination in poetry. She has three other chapbooks: Postcard of a Naked Man, Dear Jim, and Security.

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