As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.
Today I feature Northern Author
Lyn G Farrell
Today, Lyn is talking to me about what it means to her to live, work and write in the North of England..
Hi Lyn, tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?
I’m an online tutor in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University and part time author. I was born in Littleborough, right on the border with Yorkshire (it’s on the Halifax to Manchester train line) and go back quite often to see friends and family. I was there a few weeks ago, for a literature festival event in my home town, which was fantastic. I live in Leeds and have been here for about 25 years now so, as my Twitter account says, I’m very much a Lancs-Leeds lass
I always enjoyed reading and writing stories from being very young but was too busy trying to catch up on my education to do anything about it as an adult. I also had to find a career I liked after graduation. Despite having the idea for my novel buzzing around in my mind for many years, I didn’t start the actual writing for The Wacky Man until I was in my late thirties and it took me just over ten years to write! I ditched the first seven years’ or so worth of writing thought it wasn’t wasted as all that work taught me a lot about the craft of writing. In hindsight a creative writing course could have saved me a lot of time and I’ve enrolled on several of them, free and paid, since the novel was published. ☺
As a Lancashire-born author, how much do you think the north west, its people and its landscape have shaped your writing?
I see myself as being shaped by many events and many different places in later life but with firm roots in Lancashire. I’ve got a very strong accent which identifies me to other people as Lancashire born. I also have many stories and sayings, handed down by great aunts and uncles and my gran and granddad, that I hope to write about one day. And I think I’ve picked up from them a typically Lancashire dry sense of humour.
The landscape has very much shaped my writing though perhaps in a different way to how you might think. As a child I was a chronic truant and used to spend quite a lot of my time walking on the moors. I would take the dogs to the local reservoir and let my mind just drift. Sometimes I would imagine stories or a different life and hours would fly by with me just daydreaming and watching the landscape. It’s had a powerful effect on my imagination. If I need to think about characters or plot, I imagine I’m sitting there, listening to the water and the sheep and the dogs and I find I can focus better.
If you were pitching the North West/ North as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?
The Pennine scenery is just spectacular. My Tibetan friends think it looks like Tibet and they’re from the roof of the world, so it shows just how special the landscape of the North West is. When you walk on the moors you really feel that mix of beauty and bleakness. Everything about that beauty sets the imagination alight and that makes it a wonderful place to be creative.
Leeds is a great place as I have everything at my fingertips but now that I’m older I would love to move away from the city and closer to where I grew up. As an online tutor, with technology enabling me to connect to students and resources, I could live up on the hills as long as I have an internet connection! I think the pace of life is less frantic than in a city yet you’re still connected to places like Manchester or Leeds, and to London and beyond. Fresh air and peace and quiet without being cut off from the world – what’s not to love?
As a northern author, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your work?
I’m a relatively new author – published in May 2016 – so perhaps there are stumbling blocks I’ve just not realised yet, but I haven’t perceived any major problems yet. The publisher works at the national/international level for me regarding book fairs and similar promotions and I work in partnership with them regarding local events as authors are actually better placed to know how to market and promote in their own region. For example I approached Rochdale Literature and Arts Festival and told them I’m a local author. This then led to me getting a slot in the festival to give a talk. I’ve also done this for other local festivals close to Leeds.
I’m slowly building up networks that spread further from my local region and will be looking to my publishers to help me set up events in London or areas that I don’t know so well. I use technology to help promote my work which cuts across distance. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and the internet all help with making connections to others in the business. And Goodreads and Facebook groups have really helped me connect with book bloggers and reviewers who have done a sterling job of reviewing my book and promoting it via their social media networks. I think the important thing is to realise that you have to work very hard at this, it’s not going to fall into your lap. And take advice from the publisher on everything you can do to promote and market your work, either alone or in tandem with them.
Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?
Technology again comes into its own for this. I’m part of several Facebook groups, follow authors on Twitter and have connected with other Legend authors via social media and email. I’m currently trying to establish a group made up of women novelists so that we support each other in the world of publishing and writing and we’re using Facebook and Twitter for this. It’s never been easier in many ways to stay connected, you just need to ensure that you keep the momentum going.
How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?
I’ve had lots of support so far, both in Leeds and in Littleborough. I had a wonderful welcome in Littleborough for my event and it meant the world to me. I was reunited with school friends and my English teacher and it will stay in my memory as a glorious experience. In my home city Andrew Edwards at BBC Leeds radio invited me onto his show on the day my novel was published and it was great fun (he’s a wonderful and friendly host). I’ve since been back on his show as part of his ‘Big Yorkshire Book Club’. I’ve been to sign books in a few local bookshops already and will be looking to do many more events in bookshops in the new year. Finally, I’ve met a fantastic reading group in one of the libraries in Leeds and they’re reading my book as their November choice. Leeds Libraries are stocking a lot of copies of my novel and I will be doing reader groups events at libraries across the city in the near future. I’ve been extremely fortunate in the support I’ve received and can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.
And finally, if someone is new to your work, how would you describe The Wacky Man in five words??
Amanda’s story: heart-breaking, raw, compelling.
Blurb about the Book
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?
You can find out more about Lyn on her website by clicking here
Find her book on Amazon UK
Huge thanks to Lyn for taking the time to answer my questions about her impression of living and writing in the North.
I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home feature
Coming next week : Northern writer, Cath Cole