Author SE Lynes Answers all our Questions
- Latest Book: The Proposal
- Can you give us the ‘elevator pitch’ version of your latest book.
An emotionally chaotic romance writer desperate for a new plot invites a sinister ex-con door-to-door salesman into her house to tell her his story …
- Tell us something about yourself that we likely don’t know! The more obscure the better!
I quite often impersonate Hilary Mantel discovering Thomas Cromwell when I’ve had a few drinks.
- Do you write in silence, or with music? If you write to music, give us the top three songs on your writers’ playlist this week.
Silence. If I listen for inspiration it is when I’ve stopped writing and the music will be something to do with the characters.
- Are you a Plotter or Pantser?
Both. I work outwards from a central ‘event’, which informs characterisation and plot. So for example I would be asking ‘who would this person need to be in order for them to react in this way to this event?’ and that gives me the early scenes and backstory and informs the action going forward. Once I have a loose plot, I ‘pants it’ so that there is latitude for surprises and new ideas to come in.
- Have your characters ever ‘gone off script’ – hijacked your story and taken it in a direction you didn’t expect?More so in my first ever novel (not published). A character committed murder and ended up in prison and I ended up spending a day inside. For research, obviously. And they let me out again, thank goodness.
- If you could spend time with any character from any of your books, who would it be and what would you do?There are a few of my characters that I’d spend time with but under different circumstances. If I wanted to go out on the lash, I’d probably go with Pippa Gates from The Proposal. She’s a nightmare but she made me laugh a lot.
- Which of your characters can you say you would least get along with in real life?
Pippa Gates. She would drive me absolutely bonkers.
- Do you read your reviews?
Yes. Every one. If people go to the trouble of reading my work and writing something about it, then I owe them that, I think. Obviously, the trolls are dreadful and I am always bewildered by the need to be gratuitously mean.
- What has been the toughest criticism you have been given since becoming a published author?
To be honest, I’ve been really lucky. The reviews have been fabulous. Usually the criticism has centred around the reader not quite getting something or not liking a more complicated narration, or not understanding my intentions, which is fair enough. For example, in VALENTINA, I put the reader ahead of the main character and some readers took this as perhaps a mistake on my part, when in fact it was intentional. Sometimes the tension comes from not knowing where something is going, sometimes it comes from knowing and having to watch through your fingers. If you write the latter, you have to then build on what the reader already knows so that there is still a surprise to add at the moment of the reversal.
- What is the best compliment you have received?
That my book has made it into someone’s list of favourite books ever. That came from Helen Boyce who is a member of TBC, a Facebook book club. Now when I write, she and a few other readers are in my mind and I try to give them my very best. Other than that, I like it when readers say my book has stayed with them for days and weeks afterwards, or that they’ve found themselves thinking about one of my characters and wondering how they’re getting on before remembering that they are, in fact, fictional. It is always interesting which one of my books is someone’s favourite, as all four are so different.
- Do you have a day job when you are not writing? If so, what do you do?
I used to teach creative writing. But I have taken some time out because my deadlines are quite intense and I still have kids at home. I still do occasional mentoring.
- Can you name three authors who have inspired your writing?
Pat Barker, Alice Munro, Patricia Highsmith.
- What was your favourite book as a child?
Winnie the Pooh.
- What scene in your latest book was the hardest scene to write (without giving away too many spoilers!)
There is a darkly comic Tinder date that took many passes to make it as funny as I wanted it. I have no experience in this world and my character’s merciless approach to it was so different than my own would be. Dating is not something I ever found easy, I am too self-conscious!
- Do you have any other author friends? If so, can you name a few and have any of them given you a piece of advice you would consider invaluable on your publishing journey?
Sara Bailey has to be first. She was my first writing tutor and the one who took me to one side and advised me to pursue writing. I am so delighted that we are now both published authors and her book, Dark Water, is a lyrical coming of age story with a touch of the psychological thriller to it and an exquisite sense of place. It is set in Orkney.Callie Langridge has been my writing buddy for over ten years and while we don’t really share work anymore, she and I often meet for pints and chat about writing and about life. Her debut, A Time to Change, is an impeccably researched and beautifully written time travel story and her follow up, Keep You By My Side, is again beautifully written but this time a multi-generational family novel taking in the second world war, the swinging sixties and modern day.I can’t answer this question without including my Bookouture buddy, Angela Marsons, who has read all my books and has cheered me on every step of the way. I am astonished that she has done this, and beyond delighted that she loves my work. I love the way she encourages her fellow authors behind the scenes with humour and kindness, all the while writing her DI Kim Stone series at a prolific rate. She is at the top of her game and is still sending the elevator down to the likes of me, which is awesome.
For Bonus Brownie Reader Points – Answer our five fabulous frivolous questions:
- What is your biggest fear?
That my perception of the world and myself bears little or no relation to reality. (Excellent for a psychological thriller writer.)
- If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?
I always dreamt I could fly. Now, I would settle for being less anxious.
- If you could write one line to be etched into your tombstone, what would it read?
I would want someone else to write it. And I would stand behind them and say: can you put that I was funny and kind please? It’s what I aim for at least.
- If you could give your younger self ONE piece of advice, what would it be?
Love is never wasted and never runs out so give as much away as you can.
- Finally – Who are your latest Cover Crushes?
Bitter by Francesca Jacobi, one of the best books I’ve read in a while.
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin.