The Belly of the Whale by Linda Merlino

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.

I was fortunate enough to be able to ask Linda some questions. Here are the answers she provided:

Could you please tell us a little about your book?

Belly of the Whale is a cautionary tale; the kind of story that starts off shaking-a-fist-at-God. No one seeks out cancer. No one invites the beast to take up residence in their breast, liver, brain or kidneys. Cancer just arrives, uninvited. Belly of the Whale is not a novel about breast cancer. It is a story about fear and survival. What happens when we face our fears? The main character, Hudson Catalina, has been running away from her fear of breast cancer since she was fourteen and as the story unfolds she faces this demon in the guise of a murderer.

I know the answer to this, but could you please tell us a cause that you are passionate about, and why.

My answer may not be what you think. I have written a story that has its main character a young woman with breast cancer. Since creating this character and researching this disease I have become very verbal about awareness and about fighting-the-fight. In a perfect world this disease would not exist, but sadly, breast cancer is real and its effects plow through individuals and their families like a tsunami.

My passion, my cause if you will goes beyond breast cancer. It reaches out to the heartbreak of this and other cancers, other diseases and other tragedies that can chip away at hope. This four letter word is at the core of my novel and I remain true to that; to give up hope is to give up life.

Do you have any rituals that you follow when finishing a book?

My one ritual is thanking God every morning when I wake up, aside from that I know I need to be flexible because life will deal its cards daily; reshuffle my plans. To finish a book requires from me a tremendous amount of discipline and concentration. In a few words I put on my “game face”, a term used frequently raising three athletic children, and I say NO to all outside requests until the last word is written.

Who has influenced you throughout your career as a writer?

The works of Joseph Campbell who died in 1987 have influenced my view of looking at life. Mr. Campbell had an understanding, a knowing about life and human nature that was brilliant. He used mythology and philosophy to form the basis for his writing. When I write I use metaphors and symbolism. I write a story into a story and many of the parallels have been inspired from direct experience, by my studies as a metaphysical counselor and from Mr. Campbell’s works.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently dividing my time between book promotion, short story/essay submissions and a new fiction project. This is in its research phase and since the nature of the subject is rather sensitive I prefer to continue my research before I offer insight into the project. One aspect of this story is again, the hero.

Who do you turn to for honest criticism of your work?
I am a member of a writer’s guild and the wisdom of the “elders” of this group has become very important to my work. I can honestly admit that through their support and honesty I was encouraged to query Belly of the Whale and be successful in attaining my goal.

What was the inspiration behind Belly of the Whale?

The original title of the manuscript was Willy Wu, named after one of the characters held hostage in the market with Hudson Catalina. In the early stages, the bud or seed of the story was Willy’s story, but later something happened, something changed. Willy is mentally and physically challenged, he is the person we nod at in the grocery store bagging our milk, bread and cat food and I wondered if someone like Willy could defy medical logic. Could he be a hero? With this in mind the shift began and the story evolved to where it is now.
What is the most important thing in your life right now?

The most important thing in my life is my family. Family has been, always will be and is the most significant part of my life. My dreams and aspirations have been realized because even on the darkest of days I keep them at my center, close to my heart.

Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

Every writer should have his or her own space to create; a desk, a special chair, a window to look out, music or silence, whatever inspires near by; this is an essential. Call it sacred space, christen it home or your tree house but find that space and go there to write. Once there, never be discouraged even after hours staring at a blank page. Keep the passions of your craft burning: keep writing and if you spend days in your jammies, who cares. Just remember to feed the dog and call your mother once-in-awhile.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

My one wish is that Belly of the Whale’s message of hope and survival be remembered long after the last page is read.
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.
You can visit her website at
Win Prizes!
BELLY OF THE WHALE VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR '08 will officially begin on October 1, 2008 and end on October 30. If you would like to follow Linda's tour in progress, visit in October.
As a special promotion for all our authors, Pump Up Your Book Promotion is giving away a FREE virtual book tour to a published author or a $50 Amazon gift certificate to those not published who comments on our authors' blog stops. More prizes will be announced as they become available. The winner(s) will be announced on our main blog at on October 30!



Cheryl said...

This book sounds powerful, Linda.
Best of luck with the tour.


Maryann Miller said...

What a wonderful story. I will definitely have to check it out. And if Linda would like to post on my blog, THe Many Faces of Grief, I would be happy to host her sometime.

On another note, Zensanity, I have tagged you from