Firstly, thank you very much for agreeing to an Author Interview with me, Lynne. It is always lovely to have time with you and chat. Perhaps you could begin by telling my readers a little about yourself?
I am 49 and have been writing for 14 years. I am an English and Drama teacher and being a teacher has given me a great deal of inspiration, especially for YA novels. I live in Malvern with my husband, Tim, and sons, James and Alex, now 18 and 15 respectively. They, and my parents, are my biggest champions. When I have any spare time I tend to read these days, though I also like drawing and painting, doing jigsaws and knitting. I enjoy Pilates and walking, though struggle to fit these in alongside all the other things I like to do more! I write in all genres. I started with writing for children, as my sons were little at the time, and then have dabbled in YA fiction, short stories for women and am now working on my first women’s fiction novel.
What inspired you to become an author?
It was quite strange really, for while I have always written, my ambition when I was 5 was to be an English teacher, which did happen. The writing bug really struck when I was about 35 and it was quite literally like someone had flicked a ‘writing switch’ on. I haven’t looked back since then and it has become something that fills my soul with joy.
What is the best thing about being an author?
Getting those wonderful story ideas onto paper and hearing from readers how much they have enjoyed what you have written.
What is your writing routine like?
I would like to say I have one, but I tend to write in fits and starts and mostly in the school holidays. I did try to write 500 words a day during April and while I didn’t manage this every day, when I calculated my total for the month, it did come to 15,000 words. I tend to find that if I have a lot on at school, it dulls the creative edge somewhat, and this year has been particularly difficult. However, when I don’t write for a while, I feel quite miserable, like athletes probably feel when they don’t run. Writing lifts my spirits, so one of my aims is to try and implement a more regular writing routine in the coming months.
How much time do you spend on research?
For the children’s books I have written and also most of the short stories for The People’s Friend, I have not needed to do much research. However, for the novel I am writing at the moment, I have been making contact with experts and watching videos as I go along and incorporating what I have discovered into my story. Writing questions out doesn’t necessarily take that long. I am quite keen to get things right, so I imagine if I write historical novels in the future - and I would like to do this - then I would spend as long on research as I needed to.
How much of the book is planned out before you start writing it?
This tends to depend on the type of book. For my children’s stories I often got a couple of lines in my head, almost dropped in like pennies into a moneybox, and went from there, sometimes penning a picture book story in an afternoon. For the novels I drafted a few years ago, I started with a decent idea and a sense of how it could progress and then just wrote. This time I got the idea and have planned three chapters or so at a time. I am a planner in life but possibly more of a plantser when it comes to writing. I know there are people who plan their entire book out before writing, but I have not found myself to be one of those yet. Never say never, though!
What do you think is most important when writing a book?
I think the most important thing is to have a strong concept and a good hook. You want to get the readers into the story immediately. Plot is dependent on characters and vice versa. Characters must have something to do or work towards in a novel, after all. One thing that is important to me in the books that I read is to feel that I am rooting for the main character and that all will come good in the end, so that’s what I try to do in my writing. Where children’s fiction is concerned, I think the story is also very important and the choice of language. As I have primarily written rhyming stories, I think getting the scansion spot on has been especially important.
What is your latest book about?
I have two books on the go at the moment. One is a YA time slip novel, in which a teenage girl who is missing her deceased mother finds herself back in the 1980s after an accident and sets about getting to know the mum she lost. But will she like what she finds and what will she do when she find that her mum is hiding a BIG secret? That has ground to a halt – possibly because I need to plan it and partly because I had another idea which came in stronger and just had to be written. Novel two is a dual point of view supernatural romance for women in which a man killed in an accident comes back from the dead, but in a different body. The story revolves around whether he will be able to find his wife and reunite with her before she moves on. The snag is that he has no memory of who he was before.
What inspired it?
The YA novel was inspired by the loss of a friend several years ago. She died when her children were about 6 and 9 and it got me to thinking how it must feel to lose your mum before you’d really got to know her. I’m interested in time slip novels, I work in a boarding school and I had just finished watching Ashes to Ashes, so I started to put all these elements together and this is what I came up with. As for what I call my ‘walk-in’ novel, I watched a video about walk-ins and again got to thinking about why you might come back and what the difficulties would be. I am really enjoying writing it and hope to have a first draft completed by the end of the summer, or at least by the end of the year.
Any new books or plans for the future?
So many ideas and so little time! I definitely want to write YA and women’s fiction. I am interested in all things spiritual and supernatural, though not horror. I would love to write historical fiction, most likely Regency romances as I’m a Jane Austen fan, though a story I started set in WW1 looks as though it has the potential to be something much longer. I may squeeze out one more picture book. The story is written and came third in the Swanwick Children’s Writing Competition but I am just waiting for the right time to self-publish it. I just love to write!
What genres do you read most often?
All sorts of romance. I can cope with cosy crime, but thrillers play on my mind. I often dip into classic texts and anything on exam board reading lists for teaching purposes. This has been interesting as I have read books I might otherwise not have picked up, for example Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, which is quite a harrowing tale of domestic abuse within a religious family and its consequences.
Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?
Writing is a wonderful thing to do and it’s never too late to start. If you have a story in you, then get it down. I started my writing ‘career’ by doing courses, but I am a bit of a course addict. I love learning and I also think maybe they helped my self-confidence. But you don’t need to have multiple degrees and certificates to be a writer.
What I do know is that I couldn’t NOT write now. What I also like about writing is that it produces a very tangible end result. Having stories accepted by The People’s Friend has made me believe in myself and it’s great when you feel like that. I know that self-belief is the most important thing of all, but a little external validation along the way really helps.
Lynne Hallett lives in Malvern with her husband and two teenage sons. She is an English and Drama teacher at Malvern College and loves all things writing. She has independently published nine books for children and writes short stories and articles for The People’s Friend. She has two works in progress: a YA time slip novel and a women’s fiction supernatural romance. She has also taught Children’s Writing courses at Swanwick Summer Writing School.
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From my website: www.lynnehallett.co.uk
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