Saturday, 19 July 2014

Author Interview: Annie Lyons

This afternoon I'm delighted to welcome Annie Lyons for a virtual hang out where we chat about anything and everything, book related of course :-)

What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Once the children are safely tucked up at school I come home, make a large pot of coffee, put on a load of washing (I find the noise conducive to writing) and start to write. I usually carry on until lunchtime (which can be anything between 12 and 2 depending on progress and hunger levels). After lunch, I answer e-mails and delve into the world of social media before the school run.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book Dear Lizzie?
It’s the story of two very different but devoted sisters, Bea and Lizzie Harris. Bea is the confident, accomplished one with a brilliant career, loving husband and young son. Lizzie is lonely and alone, estranged from the rest of her family but still in touch with her big sister, who acts as her guide and confidante through life. When Bea dies, Lizzie is devastated but her sister leaves her a parcel containing twelve letters to be opened, one a month, for the next year. They contain Bea’s final wishes for her sister; wishes which she hopes will make Lizzie happy but which will ultimately change her life forever.

Each letter to Lizzie has a mission for her to do, where did the inspiration come from?
Letters are fascinating for writers. They are windows to the soul and I think that nothing is more powerful than a letter left behind by someone who has died. However, I didn’t want them to be depressing. Bea is a lively, witty character and I hope that her humour (sometimes gallows) comes through along with the emotion.

Are you able to tell us what your favourite mission was for Lizzie to do or would that spoil it for us readers? 
Bea loves her sister very deeply and worries about how she will cope after she is gone. One of the first things she asks her to do is to make a new friend. I like this because it is a sweet and caring wish and I enjoyed writing about how Lizzie reacts to it. I also love the person she chooses. I would pick her as a friend!

Are you currently working on a new book? If so, can you tell us anything about it? 
Lizzie has been taking up most of my brain-space lately but I do have a new character who is starting to pre-occupy my thoughts. She’s a bit different to Lizzie but will be going on a similarly life-changing journey. I think we might be back moving back towards similar territory to Not Quite Perfect. I would love to tell you more but I’m still scoping it out in my mind so watch this space!

How long does it usually take you to write a first draft? 
I’m still relatively new to this (three novels written so far) but I would say I can produce a first draft in three to four months once I’ve got the characters and plot set in my mind.

Are you a plotter or do you just start writing and see where the writing takes you? 
I would love to be a plotter but I get very impatient to start the story so have a tendency to dive in and let the characters guide me. I do my best to get the characters fleshed out as fully as possible beforehand and have a skeleton synopsis. I like to think that I’m still learning and refining my style so let’s say that I’m a flexible plotter!

 If you were going to look back on your career in the future, what do you hope to have achieved? 
Looking back over the past twelve months is pretty amazing in itself. This time last year I was an unpublished author and if you had told me then that Not Quite Perfect would reach number 6 in the Kindle bestsellers, I would have feared for your health. However, last summer I was hanging out with John Grisham and JK Rowling in the bestsellers, loving the reviews where people told me how I’d made them laugh and cry and generally enjoying the best summer ever.

This year Not Quite Perfect is coming out in paperback, Dear Lizzie is due out as an eBook and I’m am enjoying every crazy, wonderful moment of it.

As for the future, I would love for one of my books to be made into a film but above all I want to keep writing stories that people enjoy. I don’t think there’s anything better than that.

Are there any authors who inspired you when you were starting out on your writing career?
Anne Tyler is a huge inspiration to me. She is the most remarkable writer. Her characters are portrayed with brilliant understatement and the way she conveys human emotion is astonishing. I have never read anyone else like her.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Find one person who you trust to tell you the truth and make them your first reader. Listen to their advice and heed their criticism.

When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
It’s usually a meal with my family, a couple of glasses of wine and a good sleep!

Where would be your idyllic location for a writing retreat? 
A cliff-top house with huge windows overlooking the Cornish coast but I would still need the washing machine in the corner to really help me focus.