I have the pleasure of taking part in Lyn G. Farrell’s blog tour today. I have a really interesting Q&A with the author as well as a bit about her! Click here for MY REVIEW of The Wacky Man. It is a fantastic book.
Question and Answers with Lyn G. Farrell.
Q&A with the Author.
- What made you decide to do such a hard-hitting novel? I’ve read novels that broach these subjects, but they hold back in a way that you haven’t. What made you decide to do this?
The novel is based on my own childhood experiences (and those of my brothers and sisters). I knew from the start that it would have to be hard hitting to give a real sense of what life is like for the battered child. I wanted to write a novel that made readers feel how it is for children growing up in extremely violent homes.
- Was it hard for you to write such an emotional and traumatic story?
At times, it was very difficult, yes. I had to go away from the computer and walk to the allotment or watch TV until I felt peaceful again. Sometimes I needed those emotions and memories to write in a more powerful way. And it wasn’t always hard to do, playing with language and the beauty I found in words often balanced out the other feelings. Often I found myself completely immersed in the structure of a paragraph or sentence or in making links to other parts of the story and pushing my creativity until I felt I’d got what I wanted on the page was a real buzz.
- How did you get into the character of Amanda?
Amanda is based on me so I understood her more than any of the other characters. However, her experiences were an amalgamation of experiences (siblings, friends, children I’d read about) because I didn’t want to write a memoir but to have the complete freedom that fiction allows so that I could use those experiences to tell the story in the most effective, and literary way. For other characters, I sat and thought about it a lot. How would a boy/mother/ relate to this and how is this different to a daughter? I read a great blog post once (I wish I could remember who wrote it) about deeper thinking, rather than a stream of consciousness writing, as a way of drawing out characters. I used both of these methods with my characters.
- How long did it take you to write this novel?
It took ten years! I spend most of those ‘learning by doing’, which I’m not sure I recommend! I dived straight into the novel and wrote rubbish for about four years. I then progressed to writing pieces that were ok but still not what I wanted, still not quite right and then I finally, somehow, ‘got it’ and wrote the way I wanted to. I spent the last eighteen months or so working with the amazing novelist Clio Gray, who was my mentor. She taught me a vast amount about writing and gave me real confidence in The Wacky Man. She carried on helping me, all the way to publication and is now a very close friend.
I have done a lot more planning for my second novel, character CVs, plot outline, etc. I hope it won’t take anywhere near as long to finish. J
- Do you remember the first story that you ever wrote?
I must have written stories as a very young child – I imagine I wrote Mr. Men type stories as they were my favourite thing back then – but I can’t remember them much at all. I do remember a modern day fairy story we had to write at school – I called one of my fairies Fairy Liquid and her job was the pot washer. I think I was about 13 at this point though so obviously a late bloomer with writing!
- What do you think that you will tackle in your next book? Will it be as vivid and hard-hitting or something lighter?
My second novel is nowhere near as hard-hitting, it explores life from the other side of sorrow and loss, and is focused on the healing power of unusual friendship. I have in mind something much lighter for my third novel (‘farce’ keeping popping into my head whenever I think about it). However, I’m very much drawn to the people who find themselves outside dominant culture and society, and I might return to more difficult subjects in later novels.
- Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always liked writing, but I don’t think I ever thought of myself as a real writer until the book won the Luke Bitmead Bursary prize. I have returned to writing at various points in my life (for my A level English Language or writing leaflets for various groups I joined) so I’ve always had it on the back burner. It was more that The Wacky Man was always in my head, and I just knew that I needed to write this book. I’m now starting to think of myself as a writer and I like that ‘tag’ very much.
- Do you have a favourite author?
I have hundreds and hundreds of them. As a teenager, I was drawn to banned or controversial books. I read authors George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood and John Steinbeck. The Colour Purple had me in tears for weeks after reading it and is still one of my all-time favourite novels. I like to read translated novels so that I can inhabit spaces in parts of the world I’d otherwise not know; writers like Elif Shafak, Gabriel García Márquez, Honoré de Balzac, Italo Calvino and so many, many more. I love Japanese fiction (and movies), especially Haruki Murakami. And of course, Ireland and the UK have provided some astonishing writers too. Some of my favourites include Orwell (as mentioned) George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce’s short stories, Iris Murdoch, Ian Rankin and the amazing Hilary Mantel, one of my heroes.
One of my favourite things is discovering new writers through blogs, recommendations or bookshop and library browsing. I love it when you open a book, and the contents enthral you until you forget the outside world. Two of the most recent writers that have caused me such happiness are Yevgeny Zamyatin and Sandra Cisneros. I’m current reading House of Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata, recommended for its use of symbolism on my UEA writing course. That’s why my favourites list keeps growing at such an alarming rate. I have just bought a new bookcase to house all the recently bought books that I’ve still to read.
- Did you have to do a lot of research for your book?
I didn’t do that much research for my debut novel though I read up on life in the 50s for some of the characters. I’m researching much more for my second novel as both the main characters have lives very different to my own. So I’m aiming to read my way into authentic voices for them both. I think research is crucial if you want to write more than superficial accounts. I also think research is absorbing in itself (I think my love of research started with reading encyclopaedia as a child). I would love to visit all the great libraries across the world (especially in India and Tibet) and just lose whole weeks or months in there.
- What advice would you give to authors that want to write about difficult topics like you have?
One of the things I’ve found most heartening about The Wacky Man is that reviewers are saying the writing is concerned with brutality and terror but remains beautiful. So I would say never think that dealing with difficult topics means you can’t use beautiful language. But don’t think the writing is less important than the story. If anything, it needs to persuade reluctant writers to take on such subjects.
Most importantly, there are many ways to write about difficult topics and mine is only one of those approaches so go with your gut instinct and your own, unique, voice.
Thank you, Lyn, for answering my questions with such detail. They were so interesting to read. I can’t wait to read what you write next. If you would like to get your copy of The Wacky Man click here for Paperback UK or Paperback USA, or if you would prefer the e-book then click here Kindle UK or Kindle USA.
Click here for MY REVIEW of The Wacky Man.