My book review this month, The Lies We Hide (which you can read here) is written by one of my favourite authors, Susie Lynes. It is both an emotional and moving story, exploring the fall-out of domestic abuse and the far-reaching effect it often has on all those involved. It is also, Susie explained, her sixth published novel, but was in fact the first book she ever wrote, making it very close to her heart. Here we find out why… and get to know her a little better…
Welcome Susie, thanks for chatting to me today. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself – I understand you used to work as a producer for the BBC?
I used to be a radio programme producer for the BBC in Scotland. I started by making five-minute features and progressed to producing a weekly magazine show. I left the BBC when I moved to Rome with my husband, Paul, and two kids, Alistair and Maddie. We lived there for five years before moving to Teddington. By this time we had our third child, Francesca. After settling the troops, I did a creative writing course at my local adult college then an MA in creative writing and went on to teach creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College. I wrote four novels before I broke through with my debut, Valentina.
Did you always want to be a writer, and if so what writers have inspired you?
Nothing in my working-class upbringing would have led me to aspire to writing novels; I would have felt embarrassed even mentioning it. Becoming an author is something that has happened on the side, while no one was looking. I just kept plugging away, returning always to the fact that I loved doing it. I have been inspired by many writers – Pat Barker, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Gillian Flynn, Patricia Highsmith, Hilary Mantel, Barbara Vine and Sarah Waters are but a few.
How does the discipline of writing compare to teaching it?
I used to get so nervous before teaching that all I could eat beforehand was cake but there was no choice as to whether or not I turned up. When I teach, the discipline required is more along the lines of keeping the classes focussed and varied. I do get nervous before I sit and write sometimes, particularly if it’s a new project. The discipline consists of making myself sit at the desk, even if I’m not in the mood. It can take over an hour to get in the zone. I work best in solitude because I am naturally quite gregarious. I leave my phone in another room!
Do you believe taking a Masters in Creative Writing helped you? Is it a path to writing you would recommend to others?
It helped me personally because I struggled with confidence, especially after having children and leaving my career to live in Italy. But the MA gave me more than validation. I learnt the craft and even now I am quite a technical writer. I would recommend an MA to anyone as a worthwhile journey to take for its own sake but not as a way of getting published. It’s not necessary.
I’ve now read three of your novels and I’ve loved them all! But for me, The Lies We Hide was particularly good. Why is this story so close to your heart?
Thank you! The Lies We Hide is my only non-thriller so perhaps there was more latitude, more depth. It is close to my heart because it is pulled from my roots. When I spent a day in Lancaster prison for research, I found I didn’t need to change anything about my character Graham because I went to school with boys like him. TLWH is the first book I ever wrote and I was grateful to Bookouture for publishing it for me. The final version benefitted from all the elements of craft I’d learnt over the years through writing thrillers.
And finally, the question I love to ask all writers! For anyone thinking of becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?
Write every day. Set yourself a time and don’t agree to anything else at that time. Write before you do your chores because they will always get done while your writing will not. Take it seriously. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re taking it seriously; this can be your secret. Only do it if, when you sit down to write, you ‘awake’ hours later with no awareness of time passing. If you never get around to doing it, it could be that writing is not for you. It’s not for everyone, and there is no shame in that. Try and hold onto the fact that being rubbish or thinking you’re rubbish is part of the process. Ask yourself: do I enjoy it? If the answer is yes, carry on. The rest is vanity, after all.
If you’d like to know more about Susie, you can find her and her books at the following: