Saturday, 19 May 2012

Interrogating Lynda Wilcox

For my 100th blog post I interrogate Lynda Wilcox.
"I swear that the answers I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You will remember that  I write fiction, though, won't you?"

How do you strike the balance between writing something you want to write and writing something that people want to read, in terms of the compromises you make, if any?

I don't know that I do. I write the story I want to tell, the story I have to write and then rely on my editor and beta readers to point out where and when I might have gone a little OTT. After that it's down to me whether I leave things unchanged or strip it out.

What excites, attracts or appeals to you about the genre(s) you write in.

Well, I write in two; children's fantasy and adult whodunits. I love the freedom that the former gives me. My imagination knows no boundaries when I'm writing for children, just as theirs is free to roam inventing imaginary friends, turning garden trees into giants and making the cupboard under the stairs into a time-portal.

When I'm writing my whodunits, however, I'm attracted by the idea of crafting a story that gives the reader the clues necessary to 'crack the case' and work it out for themselves, while at the same time not making the outcome so obvious that they know the guilty party by the end of page four! My job, my goal is to keep the reader guessing so that, by the end, the revelation of whodunit comes as a surprise but not totally out of thin air. A deus ex machina ending is an unsatisfying one and not something that lovers of the genre are likely to forgive. That's the challenge for me. That's what appeals.

Do you have a box, drawer, folder etc where you keep thoughts and ideas for future stories? Such as names you have come across, bits of dialogue, ideas, characters - even if you have no idea when you might use them? 

My computer desk is littered with tiny sheets of paper with names, places, snatches of dialogue, which I then lose when I need them! In an effort to be more organized, I bought a couple of A4 size spiral-bound notebooks - I have one for every project - and now jot things down in these, instead. I still lose things, of course, because I put them in the wrong book. I get a lot of my best ideas when I'm falling to sleep at night or when I'm out walking, so my husband bought me a small, hand-held voice recorder. Neighbours in our small town now think I'm totally mad as I walk the streets at all times, and in all weathers, apparently talking to myself.

How much of you is in your characters? Which of your characters is the you that you’d most like to be? Or be with ? 

There's a lot of me in Verity Long (the main character in Strictly Murder), for all that she's nearly thirty years younger than I am. I've given her a lot of my opinions, prejudices, likes and dislikes and then had to make her say that she's an anachronism, out of touch with the modern world. I'd rather be her employer, KD, a sensible older woman - and a famous and successful writer of crime stories! You can see why I've chosen her, can't you?

Do you become so wrapped up in your writing that your spouse wonders if they're married to you or one of your characters?

Well, I'd be a little worried if my husband thought he was married to a 13 year old boy! That's the age that Kel is in Chamaeleon: The Secret Spy. But, yes, I do get so engrossed in my characters - who all seem to lead wildly more interesting lives than I do - that I often become distracted and either don't answer him at all when he speaks to me or say something that's a total non-sequitur. Last Christmas, for example, when I was plotting the sequel to Chameleon, we had the following conversation:

Hubby: "Where's the Christmas wrapping paper, love?"

Me: "In the Royal Palace of Lasheen, where the young emperor is threatened by the ghost of his father."

Hubby: "Oh, right. I'll go there and get it, then, shall I?"

Me: "Umm? Behind the door in the back bedroom. Perhaps with booby-traps and a man-eating vine."

It's easier when I'm writing the Verity Long books - hubby often gives me ideas or I discuss some of Verity's 'rants' with him. There's a whole sequence in the second book Organized Murder, where Verity is in a bank complaining about the paucity of staff but the surfeit of cash machines, that was inspired by him. He is very supportive, as well as being my harshest critic, and is slowly getting used to the idea that his wife is a writer.

What type of book do you like reading? Is it the same genre as you write?

I enjoy reading whodunits but, these days, prefer mediaeval mysteries. I started with Ellis Peters' Cadfael books and then progressed to Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight and Paul Doherty's works. I find the period fascinating - all that muck, low life expectancy and religion - but have no desire, or knowledge, to write it myself.

I also read a lot of children's fantasy but prefer older books, Tom's Midnight Garden, Aquila and so on, to anything written by today's authors. But then, I'm old, and old fashioned  too, I suppose.

What lengths do you go to to convince us readers that your book has the X factor?

Aargh! I don't. If you've read Strictly Murder you'll know exactly what I think about fatuous TV  programmes like The X Factor.

Seriously, I simply try to write the best book that I can, in the hope that it will connect with someone, somewhere. I continue to learn as much as I can and to hone my craft so people enjoy my stories - none of which, I freely admit, will ever be classed as great literature - and come back for more. In the end, readers will decide for themselves if my work has the X, Y, or even, Z Factor. And that's the way it should be.

How do you feel when a reader points out the spelling mistake(s) you have made?

Well, it hasn't happened, yet, and besides, I don't make spelling mistakes, I only make typos. (And if you believe that ...)

However, when it does happen, there will be three possible answers:

1. I will call them rude names for being so nit-picky and not seeing the bigger picture, then I shall go to bed, pull the covers over my head, and cry myself to sleep.

2. I shall blame my husband, who proofreads everything for me.

3. I shall thank them for taking the time and trouble to point it out, groan at my own stupidity/fallibility and put it right ASAP. Then I shall go out and buy the latest edition of Chambers' Dictionary and throw my old (2003) copy away.

What do you like most about visiting KUF?

At last! An easy question. Without doubt, it is the warmth of the welcome and the friendly, helpful people who inhabit it. I don't visit all of the Forums on KUF and can usually be found hanging out in the Forum for Authors. Even so, that forum isn't ghettoized (is there such a word?) as it is in certain places I could mention and, now that Strictly Murder is published, I shall explore some of the other forums without the pressure to get on with my writing.

What is on your near horizon?

I'm currently revising and editing Chamaeleon 2: The Dragon Key and then I hope to write a short story for the KUF Summer Anthology. After that I need to finish Organized Murder before starting the third in the Chamaeleon series. So, busy times ahead.

Where can we find you for more information? 

My blog:

Twitter: @lyndawilcox

And by email:

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