Today I am so excited and honoured to be part of the Blog Tour for Lyn G Farrell's eviscerating debut novel, The Wacky Man. Award winning author Lyn has very kindly agreed to take part in an Author Q&A.
You can read my review here
What made you write this book?
Lyn: I couldn't write anything else until this novel was finished. There is a lot of research about violence to children looking at sociological, psychological, or economical aspects but I wanted, above all, to put the battered child at centre stage, something I've not seen much of before in fiction. I drew on my own experiences to show what the child thinks and feels, and how they carry consequences of abuse.
Despite her lack of schooling, Amanda is a very intelligent, articulate young woman. Your author bio suggests that you too did not attend school as much as you should - how did you develop your wonderful use of language?
Lyn: I was a chronic truant, due to trauma, by the age of 12. My mother taught us me and my siblings to read before we started school so by the time I was isolated from school I was a voracious reader. I worked my way through my brother’s set of encyclopaedia and my mother’s entire book collection as well as newspapers and magazines. I also used to borrow books off my oldest sister who was at university by then and read anything she left behind after a visit home. I even tried Bukharin and the Bolshevik revolution once though I gave up after the first two chapters went right over my head. My English teacher also allowed me to attend his classes twice a week despite my truanting. He encouraged me to write stories and I also got my hands on more reading material by doing this. When I went back into education and then started university I had the opportunity to keep growing my language use.
There are some harrowing scenes in the story. Was it difficult writing these or did you find the words flowed easily?
Lyn: The words flowed easily but at times I wanted to run away from the story. There is one part that I still can't read without breaking down but it had to be in the book, so I just worked through all the sadness until it was complete. At other times I took a break from it, to deal with the way I was feeling. I'd go watch TV or sit on my allotment until I felt at peace again. It's important to have a coping strategy so that you can switch off when you really need to.
In the book, you acknowledge that the authorities are trying to help Amanda (Mr Kramm, Mr Broeder etc.), but she considers herself beyond help. Do you think they could have done anything more to help her?
Lyn: I think they help as much as they could. Resources are limited, they both work with many children, not just Amanda and they make home visits, something that goes beyond the call of duty. If they hadn't helped Amanda I doubt she would have made it as far as she did. I think the book highlights how damaged children close off because they have learned not to trust, and how that creates barriers to accepting help from good people.
Which writers have influenced you? Is there one you'd consider to be a mentor?
Lyn: Clio Gray was, literally, my mentor. I didn't realise when I approached her just how good she was (she was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker and the Bailey's Prize with 'The Anatomist's Dream'). I asked her to mentor me and she taught so much about how to improve my writing. I learned from one of the masters.
Alice Walker's 'The Colour Purple' had a huge influence on me. I remember reading the book and thinking that I could write the story I had inside me because she had also tackled a tough (and taboo) subject. I was also blown away by the uniqueness of her writing style. And Marge Piercy's 'Woman on the Edge of Time', that I read when I was about 14, gave me hope that I could, one day, forge my own path in life.
Are you a disciplined writer? Do you set yourself word goals or a time you have to write?
Lyn: I do set goals, yes, though not for word counts (I've never tried that so perhaps I should). I write daily lists of things that I want to accomplish. I always put far more tasks on than I could realistically achieve so really it's a 'rolling task list' but every time I put a line through a finished task, I feel wonderful. Using lists mean that I always achieve some of my goals.
I have to write around my job so I'm used to my time for writing being very irregular. Sometimes I'm very driven. I won’t do anything but write in any spare time that I have. If I'm too shattered after the day job the energy for writing evaporates and I can't return to it for anywhere from a day to a week and I'll turn to other things instead. I'll read other novels too when my own writing has dipped and then I'll return to it refreshed and start the whole cycle again.
What are you writing next?
Lyn: My next novel is about the healing power of unusual friendship. I've written quite a lot of first draft pieces about my main two characters and researched at length for one of them. I've planned the outline and timeline for this novel – a complete departure from my first book where I just jumped in head first. I'm keen to see how the two writing methods compare.
Do you have any advice for writers?
Lyn: Everything you write will make you a better writer. If you having difficulty writing something the way you see it in your head, don’t be put off. You need to think about it to make it better. When I was writing The Wacky Man, I used to get really despondent when I couldn't solve a technical problem in the plot or when the words didn't convey what I had in my head. Now I know it’s just part and parcel of writing better stories. Never give up, just give your mind time to work it through. And make sure you have something to write on at all times, for when that breakthrough comes.
So there you go, my first Author Q&A. I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you to Lyn for answering questions on an riveting and amazing book that just simply HAS to be read.