A Look Behind The Book With Lynsey James.

me in jumperA school careers adviser once told Lynsey James that writing wasn’t a “good option”.

Six books later, I suspect she has something to say about that – and she’s still only in her 20s.

Her latest novel, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is a follow up to A Season Of Hopes And Dreams, which I was delighted about, as it marks a return of one of my favourite heroines of the year.

I was excited when Lynsey agreed to talk to me for my final Behind The Book post of 2017 as it was a chance to find out more about Cleo Jones and the inspiration behind her.

What a cracker to end on, as I hope you’ll agree.

Despite what the careers adviser told you, here you are a full time writer (yay!). Where did the confidence to follow your dreams come from? Has it been as you imagined?

Wow, what a brilliant first question to kick things off with. I think support from my family has definitely contributed to my confidence to follow my dreams. They’ve always believed I could do it, even when I didn’t. Apart from that, I genuinely couldn’t imagine loving anything as much as I love writing. It’s like oxygen to me. It’s been different to how I imagined, but in a good way. I’ve learned so much and made lots of amazing friends along the way.

What does your day look like? Do you treat it as a 9-5pm job? You’re still in your 20s, can you imagine doing anything else?

I get up, have breakfast, watch a bit of telly and then crack on with my writing. I don’t treat it as a 9-5 job as such, but I do structure my writing time and do some writing every day. If I don’t, things don’t feel right! I can’t imagine doing anything else, if I’m honest. Writing has always felt like the most natural thing in the world to me; I love it and I’ll do it forever if I can.

Can you talk about your path to publication? Did you submit your first book to agents or publishers? Was it an immediate hit?

I submitted my first book to agents first of all, and was lucky enough to get some amazing constructive feedback. Although they said no, I used the feedback to improve my draft and sent it off to Carina UK (now HQ Digital). A couple of weeks later, I got that wonderful email saying they’d like to publish me! It really was a dream come true. I signed with my awesome agent Sarah a year or so later. She’s a dynamo and truly the best in the business.

 

You now have an amazing SIX books under your belt, is there anything you know now that you wish you had known with your first novel? Are you ever tempted to go back and change something?

Wow, I know! Six books feels absolutely insane to think about. That’s a difficult question to answer because on the one hand, there are things I’d change if I was writing my first book now but on the other hand, I’m proud of how it turned out. And it’s kind of fun to see how my writing’s changed from book one to six.

I became a fan of your work after reading A Season Of Hopes And Dreams. I loved that your heroine had real struggles that she was still in the thick of. How much research did you do on the sensitive issues you tackle? What made you write her as still in the midst of them rather than having had them in the past?

A lot of the research actually came from my own experiences with body dysmorphia. It’s been in my life since I was teenager, but it got really bad a couple of years ago when I was trying to lose a significant amount of weight. I felt like I couldn’t trust my own self-perception and it really affected my confidence. It’s less severe now, but it really informed my decision to write Cleo as being in the midst of her struggles with it. I thought the journey would be an interesting one to write, and hoped it might help people going through similar things in their own lives. Body dysmorphia isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of in books, so to me it felt important to tell the story and to show how things can and do get better.

Your most recent book follows Cleo again. Can you talk about why you chose to continue her story (I’m thrilled you did).

In all honesty, I absolutely love Cleo. She’s one of my favourite characters I’ve ever written and I didn’t feel ready to say goodbye to her. I was talking to A L Michael, one of my best friends, and she told me to go for it and write a second part to Cleo’s story. I’m really glad I did!

I’m interested in the books you read – from your blog reviews you seem to have eclectic taste. Will there be a switch in writing genre for you in the future?

Never say never! I love to read a whole mix of books, so I’m really open to trying new things. As long as I’m creating stories for people to hopefully enjoy, I’m happy.

Did you ever consider using a pen name?

I haven’t so far, but if I decide to switch genres then I would.

Are you able to share what you working on at the moment?

I wish I could! All I’ll say is it’s top-secret and will be out next year. Watch this space for more announcements…

Do you have any writing tips you can pass on?

Read as many different books as you can. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.

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Thank you very much to Lynsey for answering my questions so honestly, I really appreciate her opening up about her own struggles – and I have no doubt that Cleo Jones is an inspiration to many people, myself included.

You can find out more about Lynsey via her website, on Twitter or buy her books via her Amazon page here. Her latest, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is currently £1.99.

I’m looking forward to posting some more Behind The Book interviews in the New Year but, just in case you have missed any, you can find the archive here.

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Sisterhood, motherhood and my fantasy travel destination.

fantasy
Old meets new (almost head on) in India.

Well, these Q&A posts seem to be like buses, I waited ages for one and now two more have come along.

I’ve been nominated by Clare who blogs brilliantly at Mud and Nettles for the Sisterhood of the World Award and the lovely Lisa (does that make it sound like she’s a quiz show contestant?) at Into The Glade for a Love/Hate post. I’m pretty sure a long, long time ago the wonderful Wide Ranging Ramblings also nominated me for an award but I’ve completely forgotten about it until now. So, so sorry! That one got away from me.

Anyway, today, Clare’s award.

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The rules:

Link to and thank the person nominating you.
Answer questions set by the person who nominates you.
Nominate 10 inspiring female voices.
Set 10 new questions.

My responses:
1. What is your favourite childhood memory? I’ve thought about this for days and I still can’t pin down just one. I was very lucky to have a really lovely childhood and my memory bank is full of happy times.

2. What do you do to unwind? I write. Or read. Or colour. Or Pinterest (hours lost scrolling).

IMG_33543. What is your fantasy travel destination? This is my favourite question and actually my answer fits in with the “sisterhood” nature of this post. You see, I have a fantasy about travelling through India with Freya when she’s a teenager.

I was lucky enough to spend a week in a very rural part of Andhra Pradesh for work and I thought it was the most beautiful place. We met some amazing women from the Deccan Development Society who challenged so many of my preconceived ideas.

Here’s a bit about the project:

“The 5,000 women members of the society represent the poorest of the poor in their village communities. Most of them are dalits, the lowest group in the Indian social hierarchy.”

The women are being empowered by being taught how to organically tend the land and grow their own food, which in turn gives them a new found dignity and standing within their villages. There are so many spin off projects associated too, like the video production above which helps them spread their message.

Anyway, I could talk/write for days about this grass roots project and how inspiring it is but that’s not what this post is about. I’d like to take Freya for six weeks, if they still have the long summer holiday then (and I have the time and money), and lend a hand at different projects along the way. This is part of me attempting show not tell parenting and letting her draw her own conclusions. Hopefully it will be a safer place for all women by then.
4. Where is your favourite place?
I quite like home.

5. If you press shuffle on your phone what song do you get?…Risky I know…
Oh, I got Thunderstorm: Out In the Fields. Not some obscure band but white noise I sometimes listen to to quieten my brain before bed. Because I work at night it’s often a case of writing up to the very last second before my head hits the pillow and then I just lay there thinking about how I should have used a different word there or said that here. A nice thunderstorm helps.

6. Gym or cake? I’ll say gym but it’s more likely to be cake at the mo.

7. Who is the most inspirational person in your life? My mum and dad. No idea what I would do without them.

8. What was the last thing you learnt? I had to look up the word apposite. It was used in an email but I always thought it meant something which wouldn’t make sense in that context. Now I know.

9. What was your favourite subject at school? I hated school but if pushed I would say English.

10. How did you meet your significant other? This probably deserves its own blog post. We were online gamers, living at opposite sides of the country. We met “in game” and over a period of a year or so became friends. At the start I was still “all people on the Internet are weird” and wouldn’t even give my real name but then we became Facebook friends and we’d instant message and text all the time.

When he became the first and last person I spoke to every day it was clear that we really liked each other but, of course, we hadn’t met. One night we started talking about meeting up and one of us said “let’s do it, let’s meet” and the other said “how about now?” So he drove from Birmingham and I drove from Norwich and we met roughly half way in Cambridge for chocolate cake. Nine months later he transferred his job and moved in.

So, I’m going to tag some people but if you don’t want to do it that’s fine (and if anyone else wants to tag themselves please do). Jenni at Odd Socks and Lollipops, Wide Ranging Ramblings (also by way of an apology) and my fellow journalist NewshoundNovelist, who is like me and loves answering questions.

This is mega cheating but I’m going to reuse some of Clare’s questions because I really enjoyed them.

1. If you could do any job what would it be?
2. What do you do to unwind?
3. What is your fantasy travel destination?
4. What is your favourite drink (alcoholic or otherwise)?
5. If you press shuffle on your phone what song do you get?…Risky I know…
6. What do you consider a luxury?
7. Who is the most inspirational person in your life?
8. What was the last thing you learnt?
9. Do you have a family tradition? If so what is it?
10. How did you meet your significant other?

I’ll do a love/hate post shortly.

A lesson in toy naming.

Speaking in that slightly shrill way when you know your toddler is about to kick-off and you are desperately trying to prevent that happening by being overly jolly and a bit too loud, I said: “Look! There’s Bear Grylls.”

The heads of three ladies nearby popped up like excited meerkats, whipping around to the direction I was pointing and then looking back at me in a slightly cross, slightly confused way when there was no rugged adventurer in the middle of Matalan.

“It’s her lovey,” I explained, apologetically, quickly pushing her pram towards the toy on the floor and scooping it up without stopping.

She has four loveys but we are terrified of losing them so she has one that is specifically for taking outdoors.

He is an outdoors bear.

It was my husband’s idea to call him Bear Grylls.

Here he is, sadly nothing like the real thing.
Here he is, sadly nothing like the real thing.

The others are called Mollie Rabbit (after a beloved rabbit I once had), Dog Dog (because it’s a dog) and Millie Rabbit (who we bought in a panic when Mollie went missing and we were looking for an exact replica but couldn’t find one and thought she wouldn’t notice it has different ears. It is probably her least favourite.)

It seems like it might have been less problematic to stick to simple names – although there is a naughty part of me that wonders whether there could be a bit of fun to be had…

What’s your favourite toy called? Any named after other famous people I could name drop in unlikely places?