I’ve managed to drag fellow Choc Lit author Lynda Stacey away from umpteen cakes as she celebrates the release of her debut novel House of Secrets. Lynda won the Choc Lit/Whole Audio Books Search for a Star Competition in 2015 and I’m going to pose a few questions to her about House of Secrets and her journey to Choc Lit Stardom:
Hello Lynda, and first of all, well done on winning the competition. How does it feel now you’ve finally reached the point of publication?
Nervous, excited, relieved and terrified all at once. I’ve waited for this day since I was 14 years old and most days I’m not sure whether to grin from ear to ear, or go hide and hope that everyone loves the book.
I wouldn’t hide – you need to run around screaming about it. It’s a fantastic achievement! Your book is set at the beautiful Wrea Head Hotel in North Yorkshire and I can tell it’s a place that’s close to your heart.
I wonder if you could describe how it felt the first time you walked in – whether you knew that you would set a story there straight away; whether you felt you were only passing through and had to keep apologising to the previous owners for sharing their space – that kind of thing. Oh – and whether there are any ghosts. I always like to hear about ghosts.
The first time I walked in, I fell in love. The house is amazing. It has a gothic, arts and crafts style, which I really like and the moment I walked in, I could feel the history seeping through the walls. It was as though the ghosts of the past were talking to me, screaming that there was a story to be told and to be honest, I couldn’t shut them up, so I had to write the book.
I love it when places do that to you! It’s so great when they inspire you to write, isn’t it? But what about Liam? Let’s talk about Liam, because Liam probably wants to talk about Liam. Liam is the bad-boy, isn’t he? I think a narcissist is the perfect way to describe him; so now I’m curious to know how you got into the character so well and how you decided that narcissism would be what drove him? Do you know any ‘Liam-types’ in real life?
Liam is very much a narcissist. He’s controlling and whatever he want’s he gets, even if he has to manipulate situations to get it. He’s a real bad boy, who I love to hate. His house is based on a house that I used to go to as a child. My uncle had an old Victorian home in Cleethorpes. It had a huge Victorian staircase that you could walk up three abreast, along with an old servants’ staircase, the door to which was always locked and it terrified me. I could imagine the servants still living down there, at the bottom of the stairs. Which is probably where my over active mind began.
I would love to visit a house like that. It sounds incredible. I always think baddies are such fun to write about, but as always we need a little balance. In House of Secrets, I think we manage to find that in a cute puppy! So, tell me about Buddy, the Springer spaniel who learns to talk!
Yes, we have Buddy. He’s a six month old Springer Spaniel. Liam (the bad boy) buys him as a gift for Madeleine’s three year old daughter, Poppy, one day after shouting at her. Poppy is terrified of Liam and begins using food as a tool, not eating when he’s around and Maddie teaches Buddy how to sit, speak and take food as a way to show her daughter that eating can be fun.
(I got this idea from my own Spaniel. My husband once taught her to bark for food. I cursed him for weeks, until one day I came home and he’d taught her how to whisper… which was not only a big improvement, but also hilarious to watch)
Ah that’s fantastic! I think spaniels are probably one of my favourite types of dog. They always look happy to see people, don’t they? So, Bandit, our hero, and Maddie discover an old diary in House of Secrets. What is the most exciting discovery you’ve ever made and, if you were to discover an old diary, whose diary would you most like to encounter?
The only thing I’ve ever found was an old dish that was in the garden when we bought our house. The old owner of my house used to be a famous cricketer and I’m sure the bowl was left by accident. It looks oriental and was probably bought while he was away playing for England. But, I love it and it’s now been cleaned up and sits in my kitchen, full of fruit.
I also did find a diary in this property, it was under the kitchen units and had obviously been hidden. It had been written by the wife of the Cricketer that had lived here, and of course, after I’d read what it said, I returned it to the family.
If I was to choose a diary. I think it would be one of our Queen, Queen Elizabeth. I love the royal family, but wouldn’t want her job. She’s in the public eye all the time and albeit, I’d love to think she was happy, I’d love to know what she really thinks to all the pomp and ceremony.
That’s so exciting. I’m not going to ask you to reveal what was in that diary, but what a gem. Now, did the characters in House of Secrets come alive for you? Did they tell you their stories or did you try to shoehorn them into a plot? (I ask you because my characters refuse to bend to anyone’s will but their own and I’m curious if yours do the same!)
No, my characters came to life. There was one night when I was writing the point of view of Liam. I actually threw the laptop down on the floor, and felt myself shaking. I had no idea where the chapter had come from and to be honest, I had to stop writing before I gave myself nightmares. It was so surreal. He literally did his own thing on the page.
If I go to Wrea Head now, I can even imagine the characters living there. I’d fully expect to walk up to the gatehouse, knock on the door and wait for them to come out and say ‘hello’.
Wow, it’s probably just as well you stopped when you did. If you’d wrecked the laptop and lost your work, we wouldn’t be here now! One final question before I let you return to cake – it’s an easy one though. What are you working on next? Can we look forward to more from Wrea Head or are you shooting off (excuse the pun, I know Bandit is a gamekeeper) in a completely different direction?
No. My novels are all stand-alone. I really don’t want to write a series. There’s nothing worse than reading a book and then finding out you’ve read the 3rd in a series of 4.
I’ve just finished writing my 3rd novel, which has a working title of Broken Hope. And I’m currently researching the next, which I would like to be a time-slip revolving around the mining community. I was a miners daughter and I grew up and lived through the miners strike, so it kind of feels like I’m going back to my roots, which can’t be a bad thing, can it?
Now… did you mention cake..??
I certainly did mention cake. Go off and enjoy it, you deserve it after all that excitement. Thanks for popping by today, and I look forward to seeing more of your books. Well done again!
Lynda’s details are below:
I’m the Sales Director for a stationery and office supplies company in Doncaster. I’ve also been a nurse, an emergency first response instructor and a PADI Staff Instructor (which is a Scuba diving instructor who can teach people to be instructors themselves).
I’ve always loved to read and from a very early age, decided that one day I’d be an author. I left school at 15, but before I left I went to my careers advice officer and he asked me what I’d like to do. When I said that I’d like to write or become a journalist, he asked me if I’d ever thought of working at Boots the Chemist, Littlewoods or BHS. My dream of becoming an author diminished and I carried on with life.
In 2008, I was involved in a car accident that damaged all the nerves in my shoulder. I couldn’t dive, or teach anymore and was left with many hours on my hands. It was then that I once again turned to my love of writing and found that I naturally steered towards creating stories of romantic suspense.
My own life story, along with varied career choices helps me create both unique heroes and heroines. I like to give them challenging back stories, unpredictable plots and eventually, (as in all romance) happy endings.
I joined the RNA in 2014 under the wonderful umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, my debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit & Wholestory Audio books, Search for a Star competition.
I happily live in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with my wonderful hero at home husband, Haydn.
And aren’t they just a gorgeous couple? You can buy Lynda’s book House of Secrets from Amazon by following the link below.