Interview with Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn
Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn has just had her latest book, ‘The Broken Road’ published. I asked Lindsay a few questions.
Congratulations on the publication of your new book. Can you tell me a little bit about it please?
The novel is about the clash between personal ambition and family demands; between loyalty and betrayal; between the past and the present.
Ollie’s life is in crisis. Estranged from his father when he refuses to take over the family hotel, his artistic career is floundering, and his marriage is under strain. His wife, Jess, blames him, but is she as innocent as she appears?
Louise, Ollie’s sister, takes on the hotel in his absence, testing her emotional fragility to the limit. She knows her father considers her to be second best, and her husband is hostile to her new role.
As the action moves between London, Plymouth and Venice, the family implodes under the weight of past betrayals. Can Ollie heal the fault-lines before it’s too late? Above all, can he salvage his relationship with his young daughter, Flo, before tragedy strikes?
How long did it take you to write?
This novel took me nearly four years in total. After about eighteen months and 50,000 words, I realised I was stuck. The novel was too big and unwieldy. I went on a course called ‘Stuck in the Middle’, where someone said to me ‘You sound as if you’ve got two novels there.’ And she was right! It was like trying to fit two feet into one sock. I had to unpick the two stories and decide which one to go with first. It then took me another year to write the first draft, and a further nine months of rewriting before I got there.
Was any research involved?
The main character is an artist who is passionate about watercolours. Although I enjoy looking at art, I can’t paint at all. I read a lot about watercolours, studied some online videos about watercolour techniques, and went on a course called ‘Watercolours for Beginners’. I wasn’t totally ashamed of my efforts, although there were others in the class who produced much better work than I ever could.
The novel centres round a family-run hotel in Plymouth. I enjoy staying in hotels, but I certainly don’t know how one works, However, there is a lovely family-run hotel where I live, and the owners were very generous with their time and the information they gave me was extremely useful. I hope I’ve managed to create a realistic sense of the pressures involved in running a hotel.
Where do you get your ideas from?
I’m fascinated by people and how they react to things. Characters are usually the starting point for me. Then I put them in a difficult situation and see how they get on. I like to challenge characters, to strew their paths with problems. Conflict is an essential part of fiction, so there’s always plenty of that!
Can you relate to any of your characters?
Yes, I always feel a lot of empathy for my main characters, even if they do something I don’t agree with that. It’s a bit like a friend who you think is about to make a disastrous mistake. You don’t like what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean you don’t like them.
Are more books planned?
I’m hoping to start the other half of my two-in-one-novel in 2016. But it’s an ambitious topic, and I need a rest first. I will probably spend some time on short stories and flash fiction, and build up my stamina in order to start the next novel.
Where do you do the majority of your writing?
I’m lucky enough to have a study at the top of my house. It’s a lovely room with big skylights. If the writing won’t work, I certainly can’t blame the lack of somewhere to write!
What advice have you got for someone wanting to write their first novel?
- Have a strong sense of who your characters are. Find out what frightens them; what excites them; what keeps them awake at night.
- Study other writers and learn the craft of writing.
- Turn up at the desk every day. As Picasso said ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’
How long have you been teaching creative writing for?
For about fifteen years. I used to teach English full-time in a further education college. Because I was interested in writing, I was given some creative writing classes to teach. In 2005, I left full-time teaching to do an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University, and since then I’ve combined writing with teaching creative writing part-time.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I’m writing a novel it feels as if I don’t have any spare time! But when I manage it, I enjoy walking, theatre (especially Shakespeare), visiting interesting places – one of my favourites is Venice – and, of course, reading.
‘The Broken Road’ is Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s third novel. ‘Unravelling’ was published on 2010, and came second on The Rubery Book Award in 2011. ‘The Piano Player’s Son’ was published by Cinnamon Press in 2013, after winning their novel writing award. Lindsay also writes short stories and flash fiction. She has an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University, and combines writing with her work as a creative writing tutor.
Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn’s Website – www.lindsaystanberryflynn.co.uk
‘The Broken Road’ is available to buy in paperback and eBook from Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Broken-Road-Lindsay-Stanberry-Flynn/dp/0993418201/