I’m currently reading Lucy Dillon’s One Small Act of Kindness
published in paperback by Hodder
and I’m pleased to add Lucy to the Author’s Chat’s Strand of The Grey Book Worm
. Lucy agreed to answer a few questions about her own reading loves and some of her writing tips. Like many Lucy fell in love with Enid Blyton as a child –
“I read all the Enid Blytons on a rotational basis, particularly the school stories, then moved onto Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie by the time I was about eleven. I was also fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology. An armchair psychologist would probably diagnose a disturbing obsession with order and routine, and the need to see justice imposed on the unworthy, ideally by means of animal metamorphoses. Shortly after, I graduated to Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper, and the world of heaving bosoms and thrilling rogues, and have never really got much further…”
Who are your current favourite authors? and why?
“My favourite author is Kate Atkinson, for the way she writes as much as for her skilful plotting and distinctive characters. It’s hard to put your finger on why or how a particular author can sometimes slip inside your brain so the rhythms of their writing feel so much like the rhythms of your own thoughts that you forget you’re actually reading; I love the way Kate Atkinson plays with language and myth and literary styles, making box after box of puzzles which are so smoothly hidden that you only realise they were puzzles when they’re laid out later. I nearly always finish one of her novels and go back to the beginning and read over it again.”
I’ve just got back from Ross On Wye and Symond’s Yat so was especially pleased to read that Herefordshire was an inspiration behind some of Lucy’s novels. It’s such a pretty area of England with communities nestled into the Wye Valley that I can see why it inspires Lucy.
“I’ve always been inspired by the places I live (which used to be London and is now Herefordshire) and by the people who make up small communities. Their ambitions and secrets and families and pets, and the thousands of ways in which their lives intertwine and connect. I’m also intrigued by dogs and their relationships with their humans; it’s often a very simple but honest relationship, because you can’t really lie to a dog, and there’s a great deal of trust and dependency at the heart of it on both sides. I’m always getting ideas for novels from walking around the footpaths near my house with my boyfriend’s Border terrier.”
When you are writing do you have a set timetable and a special place to write?
“I have a study at home where I do most of my work: it’s painted a deep oxblood red, it looks out onto the orchards behind my house, and the walls are lined with bookcases. It also has a couple of big armchairs where my basset hounds used to nap while I was writing, and usually a big vase of lilies in the fireplace. I work during the day, sometimes through the night at the end of a book, and if I get stuck I often take my notebooks into town – a change of scenery can make a big difference to a brain that’s stuck in a rut.”
What are you working on at the moment?
“I’m writing a new story about a young woman who is both realising a dream and returning to the scene of her troubled adolescence by taking over the art gallery in Longhampton. Lorna develops a friendship with a very successful but now retired artist whose dog she walks as part of a local scheme; the elderly lady offers Lorna an unmissable chance to put the struggling gallery on the map, but what she has to promise in return forces Lorna to face all her fears about life, death, her past, the boy she left behind as a teenager, and her own hidden creativity.”
And lastly – Any tips for aspiring authors?
“Read as much as you can, even bad books, because you’ll slowly develop a sense of plot rhythm and timing – sometimes it’s easier to see why a book doesn’t work than why it does. Good books are pretty seamless and hard to unpick! When you’re writing, don’t obsess too much about perfection; it’s better to get to the end and then revise than to spend four years writing one perfect chapter. (Also, there is no such thing as the perfect chapter.) Read your dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds like human communication, rather than How People Talk in Books, and when you’ve finished a chapter, read that aloud too so you can pick up words or phrases you’ve subconsciously repeated. I’m terrible for repetitions; it can feel like a disturbing reflection of your inner brain to see certain words popping up again and again. And if you’re not the most confident writer, be very selective about who you show your work to before it’s finished – constructive advice can be helpful for seeing the bigger picture, but you’re writing the novel, and it should be your vision, not someone else’s. ”
Thank you to Lucy for sharing her thoughts.