Q&As and a recommended YA/MG reading list

The Bristol Short Story Prize posted this interview with me on their site, which was really kind. Mainly it’s about why it’s worth entering competitions, but I also took the opportunity to try and mention as many brilliant writers as possible in a really short space. Did it off the top of my head, so hope all the people I forgot aren’t too offended….https://www.bristolprize.co.uk/news/debut-novel-for-lu-hersey/

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A guest post for Tales of Yesterday

The fabulous ‘best newcomer’ #UKYA book blogger Chelle (aka Michelle Toy) at Tales of Yesterday invited me to write a guest post about the magic and ‘old ways’ in my book, Deep Water. So kind of her – and a great opportunity for me to explain some background stuff about the story too! Anyway, here’s a link to the post: http://talesofyesterday.co.uk/2015/07/guest-post-magic-and-the-old-ways-of-the-west-country-in-deep-water-by-lu-hersey/

Deep Water by Lu Hersey

Such a lovely review of Deep Water from Sofia (aka The Reading Fangirl) – really appreciate her taking the time to write it. It means a lot.

The Reading Fangirl

Deep WaterGenre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 375
Publisher: Usborne
Format: Paperback
Source: Usborne
Rating: 5 stars
Buy the Book: Waterstones, Amazon, The Book Depository
Goodreads
Blurb:
When her mum vanishes, Danni moves to a tiny Cornish fishing village with Dad – where the locals treat her like a monster. As the village’s dark, disturbing past bubbles to the surface, Danni discovers that she’s not who – or what – she thought she was. And the only way to save her family from a bitter curse is to embrace her incredible new gift.

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The pointlessness of LinkedIn

Most days I get an email from LinkedIn. Content may vary, but often it’s to tell me I should congratulate people I don’t really know about work anniversaries in jobs I didn’t know they had. Then a few days ago I got one asking me to congratulate a work colleague on his 10th work anniversary. He died two years ago. That clinched it. I wondered if anyone EVER actually benefitted from being on LinkedIn. I decided I may as well delete my profile completely, but then somehow didn’t quite get round to it – instead I just ranted on about how ridiculous linkedin is to anyone who was prepared to listen at the time.

Then I got a few requests to join the LinkedIn network of a few fellow writers. And following the latest ‘if you add your school, viewings of your profile may rise by 25%’ email (which incidentally I find hard to believe – why would anyone be interested that I went to Devonport High School for girls in Plymouth for a few years some time last century?), I decided it was probably time to check my profile to see if it was remotely relevant to my current life.

God it was boring. People I hardly know, some of them semi-literate (no offence to my very elderly but well intentioned aunt) endorsed me as being able to proof read (seriously? I put proof reading as one of my skills? I can’t even spell for goodness sake!) Lots of people endorsed me as a copywriter, even though I hadn’t done any copywriting for them. How did they know? And okay, I spend a lot of time editing, both my own work and other people’s – but why would the second cousin I met once (yes, in my whole life) who now lives in the back end of the Bible Belt in America, want to endorse me for my editing skills? LinkedIn, I decided, is total bullshit.

I was about to delete my profile when I spotted the one saving grace on my page. A written testament from one of my lovely (possibly slightly more out there) friends, which described me as ‘a true shaman and warrior’.

I’m so proud of that. Seriously. It might not win me any business copywriting work, but who cares? It’s probably the best thing anyone has EVER written about me.

So instead of deleting my Linkedin profile, I decided to change it. It’s an ongoing project, and involves plenty of procrastination time – they encourage you to regularly update, and let your network know about your work changes. I’m planning on adding ‘world domination’, ‘training guinea pigs to break dance’ and ‘making it up as I go along’ to my key skills section. It’s a work in progress.

Talking of which, it’s time to get back to the one job I’m actually interested in pursuing. Writing my next novel. Meanwhile you’re welcome to join my linkedIn network anytime. My ability to train guinea pigs might need a few endorsements…

Break-dancing Guinea pig

A fishy tale

Down in Cornwall for the last few days of my annual leave, I planned to try and connect with the underwater world in my novel, Deep Water. I told myself I needed inspiration to help me finish the latest round of edits back from the publisher. I even took my mask and snorkel with me. I was feeling really optimistic.

Of course things didn’t go exactly to plan. October, England and I’d forgotten to take the wetsuit. It started blowing a gale and coastguards issued severe weather warnings to shipping. I figured the weather warning probably extended to include snorkelers, and I was unlikely to get a chance to go in the water without drowning or getting hypothermia. All of which should have been good for the editing process. In theory I could just stay in the cottage and work.

No chance. Obviously I risked the gale force winds and caught the ferry across the harbour to Fowey to browse in the bookshop instead. They sell a lot of Daphne Du Maurier books there – mainly because you can see her old house from the quayside – but they have other books too, and I love a good bookshop. It provided the perfect opportunity to avoid any edits for a few hours.

Heading back to the ferry clutching my latest book purchases in a fab new #booksaremybag limited edition Tracey Emin bookbag, I noticed the aquarium was open. Surprising, as the tourist season was definitely blowing to an end. Fowey aquarium is the old fashioned kind, housing only local fish and sea life, mostly provided by local fishermen. In fact exactly the kind of sea life I’d have seen if I’d have been able to go out snorkelling. (Okay, that’s a lie. The kind my protagonist would see, as unlike me, she isn’t terrified of encountering anything bigger than a goldfish.)

I’d visited the aquarium the year before, and particularly remembered the massive conger eel who came out of her submerged drainpipe especially to stare at me when no one was looking. There was an intelligent look in her eyes. Actually I think we really connected and it was a truly magical moment. Of course if I’d met her in the sea, the only magical thing would have been the speed at which I’d have got out of the water. But in this encounter, she was in her tank and I wasn’t. She was lovely, in a conger eel kind of way.

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Anyway, since the aquarium was open, I thought I’d revisit the place, do some sea life research and reconnect with the eel. It felt like destiny. There’s a conger eel in Deep Water, and a mythic eel features in my current WiP too.

I paid my £3 entrance fee and found I was the only person in the aquarium. I asked the proprietor if he still had the conger eel.

‘Oh no, I put her back, just a month ago,’ he said.

So much for destiny. I tried not to show my disappointment. ‘A month ago? Back where?’

‘The sea. She wanted to go back. I couldn’t keep her any longer.’

‘She was amazing,’ I said.

He agreed. ‘She was funny too.’

An eel with a sense of humour? Awesome. I thought she looked clever.

I sighed. ‘So where did you let her go?’

‘Just over there.’ He waved in the direction of the harbour wall. ‘I knew she had to go. I took her when it was dark and she was quieter than I expected. Didn’t even struggle. Weighed a ton mind. She’d put on a lot of weight.’

As he told me the story, I couldn’t help noticing his eyes were the translucent grey colour of aquarium water. Or maybe it was just the reflection from the massive fish tanks surrounding us. I tried not to stare.

‘I was sorry to lose the company, really,’ he said, shadows flitting across his eyes. For a second I wondered if he was upset – then realised the shadows were just reflections of the pollocks swimming past in the tank behind me.

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Our chat about the conger eel seemed to have created an unspoken understanding between us. I guess not many customers are that eel friendly. Anyway, as I moved from tank to tank looking at the inhabitants, he followed me round, trying not to be intrusive but desperate to share his love for his fish.

He pointed out a baby ray, born a month previously. Only a couple of centimetres long and buried in the sand, there was no way I’d have seen it if he hadn’t told me where it was. He proudly showed me a mermaid’s purse, the very eggcase the ray had hatched from. It was in his pocket. I couldn’t help wondering if it had been in there for the whole month.

He showed me baby spider crabs, already camouflaged so well with seaweed I wouldn’t have noticed them hiding in amongst the anemones. Starfish so tiny they’d fit on a baby’s fingernail. I could tell this man spent a lot of time with his fish. He darted back and forth like a guppy in a rock pool, telling me stories of sea cucumbers growing from plankton and sharing his excitement about his cuttlefish. I felt obliged to admire them for several minutes as they rested on the bottom, trying to blend with the gravel. Gravel with beautiful eyes.

In fact most of the aquarium dwellers had remarkable eyes, even those with eyes on stalks like Bluey the lobster. There’s no way I can eat a lobster now I’ve met Bluey.

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I reached a point when I realised I couldn’t avoid the book edits any longer. I said goodbye and left the peaceful, bubbling world of the aquarium to catch the ferry back to Polruan. As the ferry set off, I looked down in the depths of Fowey harbour, thinking about the conger eel. I wondered if she was down there still, or had long since swum out to find herself some sunken wreck deep in the ocean. If so, I hope she’s happy there. The aquarium man obviously misses her.

Maybe she misses him too. There probably aren’t so many opportunities to be funny at the bottom of the sea.

 

Neolithic ramblings

Sometimes I go outside to do some research. It’s an excuse to do something that doesn’t involve actually writing anything – preferably something that involves walking around. It’s essential to do this. No really. It is.

My current WIP is set in area that closely resembles the mythical landscape of Avebury and Silbury Hill. I tend to write about places I love, and this part of the country is an all time favourite. I only have to catch a glimpse of Silbury Hill to feel like I’ve come home – which is kind of strange as I live in Bristol.

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The feeling is so strong, it’s almost an obsession. A friend and fellow writer recently suggested I should start modelling the mound in mashed potato. For an entire morning I thought about uprooting the front garden and creating a Silbury Hill version of this:

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Truth is I’m obsessed with the neolithic, reading every theory from the sublime to the totally ridiculous about what our ancestors were really thinking when they scattered the land with enormous stone circles, avenues and man-made mounds.

Ancient monuments draw us in to the bigger picture of the landscape, offering a root to our ancestors’ stories of life and death, the myths of creation and the collective unconscious.  Or so I like to think. I usually while away a few hours soaking up the atmosphere of ancient sites, taking millions of identical photos of exactly the same bloody things (my daughter’s summary – and she does have a point…)

You could argue that rambling about the countryside searching for your inner neolithic woman can’t possibly help with story development. But I reckon it does. Walking gives you time to think, and you can think about anything you like. Plot untangling, character development, sub plots – whatever. The geography is an added bonus. I tend to choose the neolithic, but you might prefer the heart of the inner city. Sometimes it just feels good to not be stuck in front of your computer.

Anyway, enough rambling. Time to write something. Just as soon as I’ve finished recreating Stonehenge with this plate of chips…

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A degree of lunacy

The full moon a couple of days ago was the last of the ‘supermoons’ of 2014. That’s when the moon is as close as it gets to the earth, so it appears 14% bigger and up to 30% brighter. It happened to be a clear night and a very beautiful orangey Harvest Moon – in fact here’s a picture I nicked from the internet:

APTOPIX Missouri Daily LIfe

Anyway, something I read in an article in the Guardian about supermoons really got me thinking – apparently the moon originally appeared 17 x bigger in diameter than it does today. 17 x bigger? THAT’S MASSIVE! Here’s the diagram:

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According to scientist types that know about these things, the moon still moves away from the earth at the rate of about 3.8cms a year. That may not sound much, but think about it – even in my life time it’s moved well over a metre further away. That’s quite a lot. I can visualise that amount. It’s half the width of my desk.

To anything living 300 million years ago, the moon would have been 114,000 kilometres closer to the earth (allow for slightly dodgy maths) – so surely it must have appeared much bigger? The tides around Pangea would have been spectacular. And was it still perceptibly bigger to our distant moon gazing ancestors?

Thinking about all this (instead of writing or editing the novel of course) I realise I’m now old enough to have experienced some degree of geological time. By the time I die, the moon will be around 2 metres further away from the earth than it was when I was born. Already I feel some sense of loss. Even by the time I finish the next novel, the moon will be at least another 3.8cms away.

Guess I’d better stop faffing. Probably need to crack on before time ends and the universe falls apart…