Laura Lyndhurst is a fellow author at Black Rose Writing, and lives across the pond. She was born in North London almost sixty-seven years ago, and in her words, had a very full life to date. Laura states that she has been retired for a year in a couple of weeks, but no way does she feel like a retired person. She’s been a reader from an early age, and enjoyed school, but dropped out just before sixth-form studies for various reasons—most not of her own making—and at some point married an old school friend who’d taken up a mobile career. It took her until she was in her forties before she resumed study and went to university. She had my own career in teaching thereafter, and admits she wasn’t unhappy to give it all up and retire to the countryside.
Laura is a fascinating person and a talented author, and I hope you enjoy her interview.
What was it that made you decide you had a story to tell and to become an author?
I’ve never been one of those people with a dream, and even though I was an avid reader from a young age, it never occurred to me to write my own stories until I’d been to university. Writing essays was an art, one which I enjoyed, and I began doodling-around with snippets of ideas for stories. None of them developed into anything I could publish—most are still hidden in the depths of my laptop—but at some point I had the idea for a book, which is also hidden in my laptop and waiting for me to take it up again. The idea for what became my debut novel, Fairytales Don’t Come True, came to me when I was teaching at the university where I’d been a student, and met a student who was trying to pay for her studies, as is Mags in my story.
As an author or writer, what sets you apart from others?
That’s difficult to answer, and I’m not sure that I can. Certainly we all have our own stories to tell, and our own way of telling them, and I know lots of other indie authors whose books I’ve read and enjoyed, albeit they’re very different from my own. I think I dislike being bound by the idea of fitting into a genre of any kind. My Criminal Conversation trilogy, and the fourth book I’ve just published, which continues the story, I suppose comes close to being literary fiction. I’ve also written a couple of books which loosely fit the psychological suspense category, but they’re done in very much my own way. You Know What You Did came close to being taken up by a publisher, but ultimately they didn’t. The reader sent me quite a full email though, telling me why it didn’t work for them, and I was pleased to receive that, rather than the ‘Sorry, not for us’ message, which is more usual. I’d done it my own sweet way, rather than fitting it into the requirements of the genre, although I did read up on what those are. I don’t enjoy writing for the market, preferring to write what I like, I suppose you could say sets me apart—but I’m sure I’m not the only one.
What genre do you write, and why?
As I’ve partly said in the previous question, I don’t stick to one genre. Literary fiction is my main love, I guess because it allows me to put into practice the traits of good storytelling, which I studied and then taught at university. I have branched out into psychological suspense though, mainly because I had an idea and followed through with it, and then wrote a sequel. I’ve written some poetry too, again because the idea of a poem came to me—I never liked it at school.
I do enjoy writing blogs and reviews for the books I’ve written. It’s a way to practice writing, and it’s possible to be very creative in reviewing. I’ve been told that I could make money from reviewing, but I don’t agree with paid reviews: when money comes into the equation, honesty goes out of the window.
I have to admit that it’s a pet hate with me when other authors give perfunctory reviews. If you can write a book, you can write a halfway-decent review, and there’s no excuse for not doing so. I’m grateful for any reviews I receive, in terms of them helping make up the numbers on Amazon, but it’s disappointing to get one from a so-called author that amounts to no more than a rehash of the blurb with a bit of added gush, and which anybody could have written without reading the book. But that’s just me—rant over.
Besides writing and telling a good story, do you have any other talents?
I hope the stories I write are good, but that’s up to the readers to decide, of course. I don’t have any other creative talents; I wasn’t encouraged as a child, and I think that’s important. I always wanted to play the piano, but my mother said the ‘noise’ would upset the neighbors in our mid-terrace council house. What she really meant was that they couldn’t afford to buy me a piano, which wasn’t their fault. They did the absolute best they could. In the absence of that, I tried to play, at various times, the recorder, violin, ukulele and guitar—all badly. I love music, but I can’t make it myself for toffee. I did get the chance of piano lessons in my thirties, and wasn’t doing badly—but then I broke my left wrist and was in plaster for ten weeks. By the time I got my arm back, I was too disheartened to start from scratch with the piano, but never mind.
If you were to name one or two books that you deem unforgettable and that had a major impact on you, what would they be, and why?
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot is right up there. I read it at grammar school, aged fourteen, and it had a major impact on me. I had to write an essay about it and cried tears of grief and anger over the treatment of Maggie Tulliver. I realized the double-standard which still existed between women and men, even in the nineteen-sixties, and my eyes were opened to how women were still held back and judged differently for the same behavior that men got away unscathed for. It set me on my own path of individuality, and I never saw life in the same way again. I’ve read a lot of great books since, but nothing has come close in impact to that book.
What authors do you read regularly? Why?
I’ve read a great deal of Fay Weldon’s writing, having gained an interest in the TV dramatization of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. She was at the forefront of feminism, and I’ve enjoyed most everything I’ve read of hers. As she passed away recently, I’ve made it my aim to read whatever else she’s written—of the feminist writings, I’m not too enamored of the later books—and am currently reading the first book she wrote, The Fat Woman’s Joke. Other than that, I like the works of Salman Rushdie, the allusions and messages he writes into his stories. The description of Saleem Sinai’s face, which is clearly a map of India—is masterly. My favorite though is Shalimar the Clown, which is about Kashmir. I love analyzing the deeper meaning in texts, and Rushdie’s give such scope for that.
If you were to have dinner with 5 individuals living or dead, who would they be and why?
The problem would be that, if I was having dinner with five really interesting people, I’d never eat anything! I used to have to attend formal dinners for my husband’s work, and he could always tell how interesting or otherwise the people sitting on either side of me were by the amount left on my plate at the end of each course. If I’d eaten everything, it meant I’d got boring people who made the required small talk and a little more. If my plate went back untouched, however, it meant I’d struck gold and got someone with whom I could have a good, interesting conversation, for a change—but it was usually the former case.
So I think I’d rather sit around on sofas with loads of wine and nibbles, like an Ancient Greek symposium, or—as one of my university lecturers used to say—one big philosophy seminar which I guess amounts to the same thing. I’d love to get together with some of the indie author friends I’ve made since I started writing, Amanda Sheridan of the Rapid Eye Movement trilogy, for one. I’m sure we’d have a good craic, and it could be even better if we fed in Paul McMurrough, writer of the Reliance, Power and Dr. Death novels. For the rest, I guess I’d have to get Fay Weldon back from the dead, as well as George Eliot, and Salman could come from across the pond, of course.
What is your writing routine? When you write, do you plan or outline ahead or are you a “pantser”?
Total pantser, I’m afraid. I had a friend at one point who was the exact opposite, kept trying to get me to use brilliant new systems he’d discovered and which he used to plan and plot. He’d say things like ‘I’m going to kill a character in Chapter 7’, which is a concept totally alien to me. I never plan to kill anyone off. It just becomes clear at some point that their presence in the text is no longer required, or that their death would serve some other useful function. I begin with a general idea, which I allow to grow and develop in my head, with regular brain dumps onto the laptop. When I’ve got enough, I start to sort things out, and things usually grow as I go along.
As to a routine, it’s a very hit or miss thing. I see other people stressing-out if they don’t write something every day, or complaining that they’ve only written so many words, but it doesn’t work that way for me. I write when the inspiration hits, and if nothing comes for three months or even more—which happened last year—I’m not bothered. If I try to force it, I never write anything worthwhile. I don’t have a ‘sacred space’ for writing either—’Have laptop, will travel’ is my mantra, and I can be found equally happy tapping away on the sofa, at the kitchen island or on the bathroom floor at 3 a.m., so as not to disturb the man if I’d had one of those middle-of-the-night ideas. Since I got a smartphone, though, the bathroom floor has taken a back seat, as I can lie in bed and tap away on that.
When writing, how much do you read? Do you read in or out of your genre?
I read all the time, from many genres. I believe very much in supporting other indie authors like myself, and those I know write all kinds of things, so you name it and I’ll probably read it. I have my favorites, of course, and I’m not keen on horror or vampires, but I’ll give most things a go.
Is there something you set out to do, but somehow, it didn’t work out for you? (In writing, or something else you felt was important to you at the time?)
My life has gone in a direction which I never visualized, but I never had a grand plan, so I’m okay with how it’s gone. My vision of being an author didn’t work out, certainly. When I wrote my debut novel, I knew it would get an agent/publisher easily, and it was going to be a bestseller, with myself a multi-millionaire. It was a steep learning curve, and it’s been entertaining—how little I knew!
What tips would you give to new or even experienced writers?
I read a lot, mainly indies but some traditionally published books as well, and my biggest criticism is the lack of good editing, which doesn’t mean a professional editor has to be hired, at huge cost. The professionals have no excuse. I read a book by Fay Weldon, an early one which had obviously been taken on—with all her other works—by her latest publisher, and it was dire in editing terms. The publisher had clearly just uploaded the manuscript without checking for errors, and there were loads. Not Ms. Weldon’s grammar, but two words run together in many places, a common error which I’ve seen when the work hasn’t been checked for this, or for double-spaces, which aren’t always obvious in certain fonts.
As for indies, I tend to give good reviews for good stories, and forgive some errors in the light of that. Authors need to go through their work again and again though—to the point that they’re sick of doing so—in order to iron out as many errors as possible. Full stops at the end of sentences, speech marks missing at the end of a paragraph, apostrophes in the wrong place—the list goes on. If you’re not sure, google it—it’s so easy to look these things up, in these days of the internet. When you give your manuscript to beta readers, it ought to be as good as you feel it can be—these good people ought to be picking up the odd typo here and there, not altering half-a-dozen or more errors on each page. It’s your book, and the condition in which you put it out there says a lot about you to your readers.
How do you handle a negative critique?
Let’s say I handle it and get over it. I can cope with constructive criticism, but sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason. I had one great review recently, as good as many five-star reviews which I’ve received. The reader seemed to have really enjoyed the book—but only gave four stars, with no explanation why. If you don’t tell me why you removed a star, I can’t learn from your review. On the other hand, there are those critical reviews which seem to nitpick for not much reason. I had one that criticized the font size as being too small—but they were reading an eBook, so were able to make the print larger. They also criticized the layout saying nothing about the actual story go figure. I checked other reviews this person had given, and they appeared to do the same with every book they read. Clearly they have a thing about layout and font size—go figure.
I would never engage with somebody about their review, though. I had an author friend who took exception to the five-star review I’d given one of their books, because I’d criticized certain aspects. This person was clearly bothered, and I tried to explain the rationale behind my comments, but they weren’t having it, and that was the end of that association.
Is there a type of writing/genre that you find difficult to write? Why?
I’d never undertake to write a story with a massive cast of characters, and I shy away from reading such books. Having said which, I recently read such a book by way of support for the author, and nearly changed my mind when I saw the list of characters, places and maps at the beginning of the book. I persevered, though, and it became my best book of 2022. It was The Wolf in Winter, a retelling of the Tristan and Isolde story set in the British Isles of the Dark Ages, by Barbara Lennox, and I loved it. I followed it with The Swan in Summer, the second in what’s to be a trilogy, with the third, The Serpent in Spring, to be published in 2023. I’m full of respect for Barbara and others who write such epics, but I couldn’t do it.
How important are the elements of character, setting, and atmosphere to a story, and why?
It’s important that they all work together, I suppose, although I must admit that I’ve never thought about it that much. I just write what I write, and somehow it feels right, or it feels wrong and needs to be fixed. I think characters bring their own atmosphere, if that makes any sense. I’d have to give it more thought.
Do you see yourself in any of the characters you create? How/Why?
Absolutely. I’m not one character per se, but my books are peppered with lots of little incidents from my life as well as my own characteristics. There’s some wish-fulfillment going on in places, but I can’t be the only writer who does that. Some characters do for me the things that I’d like to do but can’t, others express beliefs and opinions for me. I can’t be sure, but I believe all writers put something of themselves into their characters.
Is there an unforgettable or memorable character that will not leave your head, either of your own creation or from a book you’ve read?
Not really. Various characters come and go, but nobody’s there all the time.
Tell us about your most recent book.
It’s a fourth book, Innocent, Guilty, which continues the story from my Criminal Conversation trilogy. I thought I’d finished the series, hence calling it a trilogy, but in June 2022, while I was on holiday in Italy, it just came to me that there was something else I could do with those characters.
How did you come up with the concept?
It had to do with topical issues of the time which were on the margins of my mind, as well as a personal matter which had occurred in the previous month. I can’t say much about it. I don’t want to give any kind of spoiler, but it seemed right to do it and highlight those issues.
How did you come up with the title?
The title was a problem, and my ideas went bouncing backwards and forwards between me and Amanda Sheridan, who was a great help in that regard and in beta-reading the final manuscript. I have a thing about finding an original title, but that’s so hard to do. Everything I came up with was entered into the search on Amazon, and so many found multiple other books with that title. When Innocent, Guiltycame to me, I didn’t even check it on there—although I just have, and although there are many variations of the words, mine is the only one formatted in that way: yay! Amanda liked it, not the least because it echoes the format of the title Degenerate, Regenerate, from the second book of the trilogy.
From your book, who is your favorite character? Who is your least favorite character? Why?
As for characters, I can’t pick a favorite, or a least favorite. I love them all, even the one deeply unpleasant character who has reasons for being that way. And that’s the point I try to make with all my characters, I think—they’re complex human beings, neither all good nor all bad, but a mixture of both.
I hope you enjoyed the interview. Her social media contacts and links to her books are below. Thank you for following along, and let me know what you thought in the comment section below.
Author/media contact information:
= Facebook Author Page
= Facebook personal profile
#lyndhurstlaura = Instagram account
= Amazon Author page (all 10 books are there, it’s easier than giving you links to all of them)
= Goodreads Author page
https://allauthor.com/author/laura38/= Allauthor page
= Innocent, Guilty, which I’ve just released. It’s a fourth book to follow a trilogy.