Author Spotlight - Interview with Amy Lord
1) To start with, could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your book?
My name is Amy Lord and I’m an award-winning writer and blogger from the North East of England. My debut novel, The Disappeared, is currently crowdfunding with Unbound, which I’m very excited about. It’s a work of speculative fiction, think Margaret Atwood or George Orwell, set in a near-future version of the UK run by a military dictatorship.
It follows a woman called Clara who is haunted by the disappearance of her father when she was 11-years-old, after he was arrested by the Authorisation Bureau for the crime of teaching banned books to his students. Clara also becomes a teacher and decides that she wants to rebel against the regime, but the only weapons she has are the books her father left behind.
The story is told from two perspectives: that of Clara and her stepfather, an interrogator for the Authorisation Bureau and the man who arrested her father. When I first wrote the story, it was all told from Clara’s point of view, but that was restrictive and I ended up with two characters that were very stereotypically good and evil. By introducing the Major’s voice, I was able to get under his skin and understand his motivations and desires. I think his scenes are actually some of my favourites!
2) Would you mind sharing an excerpt with us, or a favourite quote?
“That last night with my father was like every other. He returned late from his job at the university, where he lectured in English Literature. Public transport was unreliable in those days, when the regime was still taking hold. He would walk the five miles home each day, carrying his bag, heavy with papers. I would watch from our sixth floor window as he made his way across the car park, past the burned out shells of old hatchbacks, where the braver children would sometimes play army, machine gunning each other with sticks or old bits of piping. His ragged hair would take on a life of its own in the breeze, his thin shoulders tensed beneath the weight of his students’ words, twitching uneasily at every fake bullet that came his way.”
3) What inspired you to write this story?
I first had the idea about a decade ago, after watching a film about the Dirty War in Argentina. I wanted to write a story set closer to home where ordinary people were affected by the actions of an authoritarian government. Over the last year or so, it’s become more topical than I ever intended.
4) What are you working on now?
Over the last nine months, I’ve been involved in a mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE where I’ve been working on a new novel. It’s about a young woman who is dissatisfied with her life and takes a drug that has the side effect of allowing her to see what her life might have been like if she’d made different decisions.
With the internet and social media, it’s so much easier to compare ourselves to other people and feel that we aren’t enough and that’s something I really wanted to explore. Although it’s still early days, this book feels like it will be more literary and character driven than The Disappeared, but just as dark.
5) What draws you to your genre? Have you always been drawn to it?
I don’t work in one genre as such: my work is caught somewhere in that murky place between literary and commercial fiction. But my work has always had a thread of fantasy or the unreal and magical realism appeals to me, as it can add an extra layer to a story that encourages the reader to see the world in a different way.
6) When and how did you start writing seriously?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old. I did well in a few writing competitions at primary school and that awakened my interest in storytelling. I wrote a lot as a teenager and after my undergraduate degree I went straight into an MA in Creative Writing. That was 11 years ago, and since then I’ve written on and off, but the last few years it’s a habit that has stuck. Although I’ve been writing most of my life, it’s only since my novel was accepted by Unbound that the idea of a writing career really became real for me.
7) Who/what is your writing inspiration?
I don’t really have one inspiration, but I love The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. If there was one book I wish I could have written, it would be that.
8) What do you do if inspiration just won't come?
Music is a big part of my writing process. I listen to a lot of melancholy guitar music as it helps me to find the right mood and clear my mind of other things.
9) Which part of the writing process is your favourite, and which part do you dread?
I prefer writing, when it’s going well. Editing in an organised, structured way is much harder.
10) What is your number one distraction?
Social media, without doubt. It’s so easy to be sucked into reading endless Twitter threads and with the current climate, that gets disheartening and frustrating pretty quickly.
11) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’d say somewhere in the middle, although – if I’m honest – I’m more of a pantser. I get frustrated with planning and want to start writing as soon as I can. It’s usually enough for me to have a vague idea of what each scene is about; even a sentence helps as it gives me an idea of where to go next.
12) Tea or coffee?
Neither, I’m afraid! Coke Zero is my vice.
13) What are the most important three things you've learned about writing, editing or publishing (or all of the above!) since you started your journey?
There are way more than three, but I think some of the most important things are about believing in your abilities and persevering.
One of the key things to remember is that writing can be very isolating and it’s so important to have a network of other writers and creatives around you. They’ll support you, talk through your ideas and even give feedback on your work. And being around other writers makes you realise that whatever problems you face, other people are going through the same thing. Just accepting that is a great way to boost your confidence and move forward with your work.
I also think it’s important to trust your own instincts. I spent a long time doubting my work and struggling with editing. But whenever I got feedback on my work, the reader would always identify things that I knew on some level were issues but hadn’t been sure about fixing. If you’re not sure something works, it probably doesn’t. Keep polishing it until it does.
And that brings me to my final point, which is perseverance. Rejection is a huge part of writing and it’s not fun for anyone. But it is inevitable. Don’t let one rejection stop you from writing or submitting. I had rejections from about a dozen agents before I got a publishing contract with Unbound and since then two have approached me, interested in my novel. If your work is good, you will find someone who loves it, even if you have to write more than one manuscript.
14) What's your favourite quote on writing?
You fail only if you stop writing, Ray Bradbury.
15) What is the best piece of advice you've received?
To go through your work sentence by sentence, or even word by word, and if it doesn’t add anything to the story, cut it.
16) Where can we connect with you?
I’m currently crowdfunding my debut novel, The Disappeared, with Unbound. I’d love it if you would check it out!