The Red Beach Hut: An Interview with Lynn Michell (Indie Extravaganza Day 25)

We're into the second half of the Indie Extravaganza now and if you've not been keeping up with the businesses and publishers featured then I'd really suggest going back and catching up because there have been some really amazing ones!

For anyone who has been getting daily emails from us that they didn't ask for, we apologise unreservedly. Our newsletter mailing list has somehow merged itself with our blog mailing list - we are working to sort the issue out but please be reassured that the daily blog posts will stop on November 8th and all will revert to its normal state!

Today we have an interview with Lynn Michell, author of The Red Beach Hut, which I reviewed the other day (read my review here), so grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy this excellent interview.

The Red Beach Hut is a novel that touches on a lot of difficult subjects and does so really sensitively. Did you find it hard to write? No, it wasn’t hard. I wrote this novel very quickly and with less effort, less ‘trying’ than my other two novels. Abbott and Neville arrived of their own accord and walked up and down the drab beach and into my heart. Their words and conversations came unexpectedly when I was washing up or walking the dog and I’d rush for my notepad and pencil before their voices faded. White Lies, based partly on my elderly father’s dictated memoirs of his time as a soldier in WWII and in Nairobi during the Mao Mao uprising, took longer as I knitted together his colonial story and the story of the native tribes during those bloody months of rebellion. Run, Alice, Run took five years because it started as one kind of novel and shifted into another so I had to sew the seams. I wrote the first draft of The Red Beach Hut in three months. The writing process is a mystery - even to the writer. writing-come- from/

What’s been the easiest and hardest of your books to write? The hardest book was Shattered: Life with ME. My two sons and I, and several others from the same academic department in Edinburgh, developed flu-like symptoms soon after my 40th birthday party which turned into full blown ME. After seven years of doing nothing, I went back to work in the Medical Sociology Unit in Glasgow with a Scottish Office grant. I lasted eighteen months, ignoring the returning symtoms. The relapse was worse than the original illness and I was still trying to take care of my younger son who has never regained his health. I wrote Shattered as I emerged from the ME ghetto for the second time. I didn’t feel well, but I knew I had the skills as a writer to portray this illness accurately and honestly. I interviewed 30 people of all ages from adolescents to seventy year olds, most of them severly, chronically ill. The interviews were draining but the people I met were brave and inspiring and I was determined to tell their stories. My own health crept up a notch. After I’d typed up dozens of hours of interview material, I put on my sociologist’s hat and worked out a scheme for classifying the themes and presenting them without bias as a piece of qualitative research. While writing the book, I wasn’t firing on all four cylinders and I still needed a lot of rest, but I was writing on behalf of many other ill people whose voices had not been heard and that gave me the motivation to see it through. It took a long five years but at the end I knew that writing would remain at the centre of the way I lived.

The easiest book was The Red Beach Hut in the sense that it seemed to write itself. I know that sounds glib but compared with my other two novels, it arrived almost ready made.

You run Linen Press and have published a couple of your books with them. How do you decide whether to publish with Linen Press or another publisher? Linen Press has published two of my books. White Lies had already been very quickly accepted for publication by Quartet Books as a hardback and we were part way through production when I pulled out. I had been promised an editor for my debut novel, but within weeks a glossy cover was made and then proofs arrived for me to check. ‘What about the editing?’ I asked. ‘It doesn’t need editing. It’s perfect.’ I was told. Well, that was rubbish. I knew there were flawed passages and structural bumps and I was looking forward to the kind of talented editing I had been given at The Women’s Press. This saga turned very sour. Quartet refused to budge and I refused to let my novel go to print without editing. It cost me dearly to be released from the contract. I put in a drawer for a year, re-wrote it and Linen Press published it in paperback Shooting Stars are the Flying Fish of the Night is such a niche book about three of us crossing the Atlantic that I decided to publish that myself. I didn’t expect to sell many copies. And I had a co-author who writes extremely well about nearly losing an arm in a wildly tangled genoa and about the navigation systems of the Puluwat islanders and about the wind. Always the wind. His narrative voice is the driving force of our account of crossing three thousand miles of water in a blue boat called Scarlet.

Child protagonists can be difficult to write convincingly but I found Neville completely believable and really loved him. What made you decide to have a child's voice in the story? I didn’t decide. He did. He turned up in his jelly sandals and anorak, counting his foot steps and grains of sand, and I too loved him. His voice came often and I tuned in to his anxieties, his doubts and his dreams. Avril Joy says the same of Aiyana, the naive, lyrical narrator who carries the story in Sometimes A River Song. Avril could hear her voice before she started writing. I could hear Neville, and I could see him standing on the beach with his rough tangle of brown hair and his serious grey eyes, ready to duck or to run if he unintentionally upset someone. That boy knew so much and so little. He was vulnerable and strong. When he first saw Abbott, he understood in his wise way that the man ‘had no anchor’. And so he made his first move and was not rebuffed.

What are some of your favourite books and authors? Here’s my list of recent favourite reads: Tin Man Sarah Winman All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr Midwinter Break Bernard Mc Laverty The Golem and the Djinni Helene Wecker The Miniaturist Jessie Burton

Thank you so much to Lynn for being interviewed for this series, and of course we have another raffle prize announcement...

Lynn has kindly donated a copy of The Red Beach Hut to our raffle, so if you were intrigued by this interview or by our review you can grab some raffle tickets and keep your fingers crossed on November 10th!

All the money raised from our raffle goes to literacy charity Give a Book and the prizes are amazing.

Get raffle tickets here


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