I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Lynette Fisher. Enjoy.
Hi Lynette. Can you introduce yourself please?
Hi, I'm Lynette Fisher and I'm based in Harlow, Essex.
One of my uncles lives there, but I don't think you're him! How long have you been writing?
I used to write a lot when I was in my early teens but then life got in the way and I stopped. I started again when a friend of mine gave me a journal for my 40th birthday and told me to wirite a novel - so I did! That was three years ago and I have been writing since.
I think we could all do with a friend like that! What first got you interested in writing?
I've never been any good at art and I found that words were the only way I could paint pictures. I love the feeling when you can capture a picture with words and have other people see it too. In my teens I wrote long, epic tales for myself, but shredded them. I would never have shown them to anyone. It has only been in my 40s that I have had the confidence to share anything.
Better late than never. Do you attend a writing group?
I attend the Harlow Writers Workshop - which is a weekly group. I started going in September 2011.
Why do you attend a writing group?
I'd seen in all the writing magazines that joining a writing group is a really good way to learn how to write, to get feedback, and to try things you haven't tried before.
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from your writing group?
To take time to pay attention to the presentation of the work, to take a risk and try something new.
From going to the conferences I've learned just how subjective this process is. Your work is judged in an entirely subjective way, based on people's personal preferences, how they are feeling on that particular day, etc. I had two agents say the complete polar opposite things about the same piece of work. What was too dramatic for one was not dramatic enough for the other.
So take heart when you do get rejections. They really are based on one person's opinion, so try another option.
What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I write novels for teen/young adult audience. One has a paranormal theme, one is more urban fantasy. I am also writing a novel aimed at 8-12 year olds; again, a fantasy adventure. I am drawn to this genre because it is what I like to read as well (part of the mid-life crisis thing, being drawn to hot boys with swords!).
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing? Why?
I have tried to get my head around science fiction - I just don't think my imagination can work that hard.
I'm with you there! My concept of sci-fi stretches to The Jetsons, but no further! What types of things do you write?
Novels, short stories and the odd poem. I'm not very good at literary poems. Mine all seem to have a comedy West Country accent!
Well, Pam Ayers made her fortune with that accent, so perhaps you should pursue it further! Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
It sounds a bit trite, but everywhere and anywhere. I usually have a random thought and the stories build from there. For example, what if you have psychic powers but don't know - would you just think you were mad? (That became The Other Side Of Light). Why do I always only see one shoe lying on the side of the road? (That has become Beautiful Evil).
I have a whole host of authors whose books I can read over and over; Cassandra Clare, Becca Fitzpatrick, Stephen King, to name a few.
I have always kept a little notebook of quotes and phrases and song lyrics that have inspired me or captured an image.
I have realised that my previous work with troubled teens and my current work with foster carers has influenced the themes that I write about. I wasn't conscious of it until someone pointed it out to me.
Ah, that brings up the age old debate of life imitating art, or vice versa. But we don't have time to discuss that now! What are some of your favourite quotes that you keep in your notebook?
"There’s nothing left to loseNothing to protestLearn to love your anger nowAnger here is all you possessWelcome to the edge" ~ Duran Duran (don't judge me!)
"Without willing it, I had gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware. And the worst part of my awareness was that I didn't know what I was aware of." ~ Maya Angelou.
There's nothing wrong with Duran Duran. How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
For The Other Side Of Light I wanted names for the main characters that all meant 'light', so I Googled a name meaning site and came up with Lucas, Evie, Nell and Alfie.
For Beautiful Evil I also looked at name meanings but wanted the 'Watcher' characters to all have Cornish surnames, so researched them as well.
In terms of personalities, they kind of come as I write. I've never planned specific personality traits. The thing I do after writing a few chapters is take each main character and ask them speed dating questions about themselves and see what comes up. They always seem to know who they are.
That's an interesting approach. I might have to give that a go next time I write a book. What is your writing routine?
I have a day job which gets horribly in the way! If I'm in the middle of a story I might write every day until certain scenes are done. I may then not write anything for a week or so. I've got three stories on the go at the moment and I tend to write the one that's shouting the loudest at the time. I have no problem flitting from one to the other. I do my most coherent writing at night.
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
With novels, I have several clear 'scenes' in my head that I work around. I wrote the first novel as these four or five scenes and then found a way to weave them together around the loose storyline.
Another I worked out beforehand what the plot would be, but still picked out several scenes and wrote them first.
The children's book I'm currently writing I plotted out properly and started at the beginning for the first time. I wrote three chapters, then the last three chapters and now I'm going back to fill in the middle.
I don't think that's a particularly good way to approach novel writing but it works for me.
Short stories and other pieces come from a set title usually, and tend to unfold from a nugget of an idea, seemingly without any input from me!
Do you have an editing process?
I tend to read over what I have written the previous time to tweak and correct grammar and spelling. I do tend to read it aloud to myself as it highlights the clumsy bits. Then once the story is complete I leave it a few weeks and then re-read and redraft it. I then have to print it out completely to read it with red pen in hand. I can't seem to do a proper edit unless I'm holding pages. I have a few friends who read my longer work and give their opinions. The short pieces I write for the writers' group, I read aloud to myself and make sure they are correct as much as possible in terms of spelling and grammar before reading it at the group.
Ah, the trusty red pen. That has helped me through a lot of my editing processes; I wouldn't be without it. Have you ever had anything published?
I won the "Page of Prose" competition at the Winchester Writers Conference this year and it will be published later in the year. I am going to have a short story published in the December '12 issue of Writers' Forum magazine, which won the short story competition. Our writers' group published their anthology this year and I have three poems in that. I really recommend entering competitions - you usually get some sort of feedback and if you are placed or win, it is something you can put on covering letters when submitting your work to agents or publishers, like writing a CV. I would love one of my novels to be published, obviously!
Speaking of agents and publishers; have you sent your writing to any?
PLENTY! I made the glorious mistake of finishing my first novel and marvelling at how clever I was and sending it out to agents, who all very politely rejected it. I had not learned how the process works, how to write a synopsis, how to write a covering letter that might actually be read. Since then I've learned a lot about how to write and have changed the novel beyond recognition as a result (little shudders of embarrassment!).
I have had 1:1 meetings with authors and agents at the Winchester Writers Conference in the last two years and have learned so much from their feedback. The only downside to postal rejections is that you have no sense of why it is being rejected.
I know exactly what you mean. Would you consider self-publishing or e-publishing?
I would totally consider self-publishing on Amazon Kindle. The only thing holding me back at the moment is having the time to sit down and work out exactly how to do it. I think my first novel will never be picked up by an agent or publisher because in this competative market, it's not likely to be a big seller. Everyone who has read it so far has liked it, and I think it is more likely to see the light of day if I self e-publish it.
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Any of Cassandra Clare's books, and Stephen Kings It.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy that I can sink into a world and let the characters take over. When the story is flowing or you sit back and look at something, amazed that it was you who wrote it; there's no better feeling.
The part I like the least is waiting for feedback, waiting for the letter to plop on the doormat with a 'thanks but no thanks' - I don't mind the actual rejection. It's the waiting for it I can't stand.
Ah, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only person who hates playing the waiting game! Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
No. I wouldn't mind watching one but I wouldn't perform. Apart from reading work out loud in the writers' group, I can't do it in public. I've tried once and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
How important is it for you to share your writing?
It's one of the hardest things to do at first. It's agonisingly embarrassing to start with, particularly sharing it with people you consider to be "proper" writers (as opposed to your family members). But if you are writing with a view to getting something published, it is crucial that you share it, blog it, tweet about it - talk to others, share with others, and essentially get feedback and consider it.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Just turn up to the page and write something every day, no matter what it is. As long as your writing makes you happy, keep doing it. The world may not love your stories and your characters as much as you do, but that does not mean they are not worth writing about.
What advice could you give to a new writer?
READ. Read everything you can. Extend your vocabulary. Write simply. Don't use ten words because they sound "literary", when three words would convey the same message. Accept rejections and keep trying.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies and interests?
Photography, making bunting and quilts, talking to the cats, reading, reading and reading, researching hot boys online - as inspiration for stories of course!
Of course! What types of things do you read? Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
When I am actively writing I can't read at all. My brain can't cope with both and I'm always scared I'll start copying what I'm reading.
I read as much fantasy/paranormal, and other young adult fiction as I can. However, I have avoided the plethora of vamp stuff. Not because I don't value it, but my imagination is active enough when the lights go out - I'd probably never sleep again!
I read so called 'chic lit' type novels as well and wish I could write about grown ups!
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm finishing my novel, Beautiful Evil, a modern twist on the Pandora set with the backdrop of the Olympics in London. I've got a historical story on the go called The Song Of The Winchester Geese about the life of a young man brought up in the brothels of Elizabethan Bankside. The children's novel I'm working on is The Curse Of The Screaming Yow Yows.
Your children's novel sounds interesting. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
If writing makes you happy, keep doing it!
Good advice! Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
I'm on Twitter @netty104, and I am putting together a blogspot but haven't got very far with it yet.
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is the piece that won the Winchester Writers Conference 'Page of Prose' competition this year. The title we were given was "So close" and I chose to write mine about a moment in time about a mother's thoughts when settling her autistic child to bed.
These are the moments that I treasure, the tiny window of time between wakefulness and sleep. Just me and you.
Your eyes have closed and your breathing starts to deepen. I have seconds to catch it. Sometimes I miss it in the exhaustion of being your mother. The isolation of your world fragments and meets the one in which I exist. My hand tentatively reaches for yours, resting on your duvet, fingers free at last of the frenetic fiddling of the day.
In the waking world my unwanted touch is met with a scream of rage, a wild snatching of your hand back into your world where I cannot touch you. In this moment, my moment, I can touch your sleeping hand, slip my finger into your palm and wait.
“I love you,” I whisper and for a second there is a tiny part of my heart that strains to hear your reply. But you don’t speak…you never speak. Your eyes look through me, around me, over me, never at me but I know you see me.
It’s lonely watching you, fingers in front of your face, flickering in a shield that keeps the sounds, sights and smells of the world I brought you into, at arm’s length. I wish, so often wish, I could see through your eyes, understand your world. What do I look like? Does your indifferent stare betray the child inside? Are you trying to contact me? Is the baby who could stare into my eyes for hours nestled in the crook of my arm still inside you? Is he locked up waiting for the moment when he can find a way out or is he gone? You babbled, you cooed, you smiled smiles that I ache for now, and then you stopped. The shutters came down and I felt you sink further away from me.
But here, here’s my moment, the memory of those heart-melting smiles. You squeeze my finger curled against your palm, you squeeze it so tight and I choose to believe it says, “I love you too.”
© Lynette Fisher 2012
Thank you Lynette. I'll let you get back to the hot boys on the internet!