Lyn G. Farrell – Q&A

Today on the blog I’d like to welcome another Leeds-based writer, Lyn G. Farrell, author of The Wacky Man.

The Wacky Man - Lyn G. Farrell

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’
It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone . . .

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

Lyn popped up on twitter after my chat with Ryan Tomlin and before long had agreed to a Q&A session too. And we all love a good Q&A, don’t we?

1. Hi Lyn. Thanks for agreeing to stop by the blog. Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your background. How did you come to write a book?

Books quite literally saved my life. They gave me such happiness as a small child, something desperately needed in the violent home life I was born into. When I became a chronic truant at around 12 years old, I found solace in facts and fiction, and in the worlds I escaped to through books. I learnt about the world through encyclopaedia and learned about story writing through voracious reading. I think the seed to write was planted with the first books I read, so long ago. However, I had to build a new life first – university, employment, settling down – before I could begin to write a book. Hence, in middle age, my debut novel!

2. Give us the sixty second pitch for your book, The Wacky Man.

Amanda is an intelligent, articulate teenager fighting to overcome the violence and abuse that has consumed her childhood. We join Amanda on her journey to freedom and watch her battle, against the odds, to pick up the pieces of her life. Children like Amanda are often silenced; it’s important that we listen to her.

3. The main character, Amanda, is fifteen. How hard was it to get inside the head of a teenager, especially one with such a harrowing story?

The novel is inspired by real events in my own childhood so Amanda is very close to my heart. I found it much easier to depict her and her battles that some of the other characters (Barbara or the ‘shrink’ for example) where I spent months and months thinking deeply about how they might speak or feel or behave. I always knew Amanda’s story would be harrowing but I never shied away from this. I wanted readers to feel how lives like Amanda’s are lived.

4. I loved the cover of The Wacky Man. Is it something you had much input into?

Everyone comments on the cover which isn’t surprising as it is absolutely fantastic. Legend press use a brilliant designer called Simon Levy and he mocked up three covers for me to choose from. I knew instantly that this was the best one for the story and asked for few tweaks to be made (e.g. the face had glasses at first which I didn’t want). I’m sure Simon and Legend Press would have been happy to negotiate other changes as I was given a lot of input into every stage of publication, but it was already perfect.

5. I note that you won the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary Award. Congratulations! How did winning the award feel and what did it mean for your writing life?

Thanks so much. The initial reaction was total shock and disbelief and it wasn’t until I was on the train home, after the award night, that it started to sink in. I am absolutely thrilled to have won. It’s marked the shift from someone who writes to being a writer. I’m so busy with post publication author events and it’s exciting and hardly feels like work at all. I’m loving every minute of it and without Luke and his mum Elaine, none of this would be possible. I owe them both so much.

6. Which writers inspire you? If you had to recommend me a book (other than yours!) which would it be, and why?

Ooh, this is so difficult – I’ve just bought a new bookcase to accommodate all my recent purchases! I love so many books, so many writers and my mood for reading material changes all the time. Today I want to recommend ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy. The sparse, bare prose style matches the story so brilliantly I have to bow down in awe. And it’s a rollercoaster ride of a novel. I found myself unable to breathe properly at times I was so caught up in the fear of the moment being described.

7. Finally, I see from your blog that your’re attempting to improve your Tibetan language skills. Tell me more!

I watched a film called Himalaya and the language spoken, a dialect of Tibetan, sounded like music to me. I fell in love with the film and watched it five times over a single weekend. I then found some Tibetan Buddhist penfriends, refugees in India, and went to stay with them a few years later. While I was there I was taught the alphabet (the basic 30 letters with 4 vowel sounds each, NOT any of the great many stacked letters!). Back home I had ten lessons by skype from a Tibetan guy in Canada until he went back to work on the oil rigs (!) and then studied on my own. My spoken Tibetan is very basic and I still can’t read sentences yet (Tibetan doesn’t have spaces between words as English does so you need to know ‘root’ letters so you can pick out the individual words). I have a Tibetan flat mate now and know quite a few UK Tibetans and am passionate about the Tibetan cause, so keep trying to learn more. Just lately it’s slipped (again) because I got a full time academic job a few months ago and now the writing job is taking up so much of my time.
Ngee Pho-kee ya po min dug L (My Tibetan isn’t good!).

It’s definitely better than mine! Thanks Lyn. 🙂

The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell is out in ebook and paperback now.

You can follow Lyn on twitter @FarrellWrites or find out more on her website , or on Facebook.

Lyn G Farrell

Viral, by Helen FitzGerald

Viral - Helen Fitzgerald

I’m delighted to host a guest post by Helen FitzGerald, author of Viral. Without further ado, over to Helen to talk about characters and adoption.

~~~

Years ago, when I worked in a café in Melbourne, a heavily pregnant woman came in for a coffee. She had a gorgeous black baby in her arms, and she was besotted. After years of trying to get pregnant, she and her husband had adopted from abroad (I can’t recall which country). As can happen, she fell pregnant as soon as she stopped trying, which was shortly after she brought her adopted baby back to Australia. The next time I saw this woman, she was on the television news. Social services had taken her baby away, arguing that she would not cope with two children so close in age, and that issues of race and cultural identity would be too complex to handle now she was the mother of two children with different coloured skin.

I don’t know what happened to this woman, and whether she got the baby back. For years I‘ve thought about her and have wanted to write about an Asian child who is adopted into a white family. But I was always too nervous to take the plunge. What do I know about adoption? What do I know about being Asian?

In the end, I decided my nervousness was a good thing. I had lots of questions, many of them uneasy. Having written ten other books, I’ve learned that unease is my friend. I decided to write Viral. South-Korean Su would be my main character.

I researched Su as I went along. In the early chapters, I spent hours on google earth and street view, wandering around the streets of Seoul. I talked to colleagues who work in fostering and adoption, pleased to hear that ethnicity remains a very important consideration when finding placements. If it is not possible to find a “match”, a loving white family is considered better for a baby than remaining in care, or at risk. I read and got involved in forums where adoptees from South Korea were talking to each other and looking for their birth families. I watched documentaries, read books and articles, and spoke to friends who were adopted. After years of being too worried to write about this, I was surprised at how easily it flowed. I think that’s because I let my characters ask the difficult questions.

Turns out they don’t know the all the answers either.

~~~
I love hearing about how authors have come up with their characters and settings for their books. Fascinating stuff!

Viral:

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?

Viral, by Helen FitzGerald is out now, published by Faber & Faber

Meet the Author – Meg Cowley

Something a little different for the blog today. I’m doing a Q&A with Meg Cowley, one of the lovely bunch of people in my writers’ group.
Meg Cowley

Meg is an indie author and illustrator. She’s written two YA fantasy novels in her Tales of Caledan series – The Tainted Crown and The Brooding Crown, and has recently published two colouring books (The Wild Colouring Book and The Calm Colouring Book) *and* a children’s book, The Diary of a Secret Witch. Phew. Busy!

Meg lives in Yorkshire with her partner and their two cats (aka overlords). Her favourite genre is fantasy and her illustrations are mainly inspired by nature. She’s a lover of margherita pizza, earl grey tea, sleep, and pro-dragons. Find out more at her website: www.megcowley.com

So, without further ado, onto the questions!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m a daydreamer through and through and fairly unsuited to the ‘real world’! I joke that if everyone was like me, the world would be screwed because we’d have no useful people like doctors or firefighters (etc).
I haven’t found a day job I like yet (I trained as an accountant and then a teacher). Writing and drawing – or creating in general – is really the only thing I’ve ever loved. It’s taken a while for me to realise and accept that… and decide to pursue it. Thanks to modern technology and the opportunities now available, I’m giving it my best shot to do that as my full time job.
My mantra for life is that you only have one shot, so you have to make it count: follow your dreams and have no regrets.

When did you start writing, what sort of things do you like writing?
I’ve written since I learnt to write. I wrote all sorts of terrible things back then, mainly poor rip offs of whatever I enjoyed at the time, from Beatrix Potter, to Tolkien, to Rowling, but I suppose that’s how we learn, by studying the masters of the craft.
These days I enjoy writing fantasy fiction after growing up reading the genre avidly. I’m working on a children’s fantasy series currently, but I personally enjoy YA fantasy fiction (think magic and dragons!) most of all.

What prompted the decision to move into colouring books?
Partly curiosity, partly the opportunity at the time! I saw the success others were having and thought to myself “I could do that”. So the first colouring book was a gamble – luckily, one that paid off.
I’ve also been quite ill in 2015, too ill to write much (I need a clear head to write, but illustration comes much more easily to me without needing clarity of thought). Therefore, illustrating colouring books was perfect to keep me occupied, and luckily it also pays the bills!

What else are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m working on my third colouring book, The Exotic Colouring Book. That will feature many endangered species from around the world and a significant amount of profits from the book will be donated to a conservation charity. Conservation of biodiversity is important to me because I believe that we have a moral responsibility to look after our planet, so this is one big way I can support that. It’ll be out in February 2016.
I’m also working on my children’s fiction series “Diary of a Secret Witch” for children aged 8 – 12. The second book should be out at the end of December! That’s quite fun to write – it’s a lot lighter in tone than my YA fiction!

What are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – enjoying it so far! It’s outside of my typical genre but I enjoyed the Da Vinci Code so I thought I’d try the third book.
Next up on my reading list is Clariel by Garth Nix.

Can you recommend a good book you’ve read recently?
Asking a bookworm to recommend just one book is impossible!!
I can particularly recommend:
Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, a fantasy series set in a Japanese feudal style society
The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix, a magical fantasy (great magic system here!)
The Didius Falco series by Lindsey Davis, a hilarious Roman mystery series,
and pretty much anything by Rachel Aaron who writes fantasy (The Eli Monpress Series), sci fi (the Paradox series under pen name Rachel Bach) and also urban fantasy (Heartstriker series).

Thanks Meg!

Interested in Meg’s work? Good news, as she has lots of free books and samples on her website. You can try her young adult fantasy novel The Tainted Crown for free, download her children’s fantasy fiction Diary of a Secret Witch: Wackiest Week (also for free), and try samples from her bestselling colouring books too. By downloading these freebies, you’ll be signing up to her newsletters where you’ll also have the chance to win new books and receive more free samples.