Saturday, September 27, 2014

Interview with author, Lucy Middlemass

Hi Lucy,
Thank you so much for agreeing to give me an interview. I have admired your work for a couple of years. 

Last month, I had a chance to speak with Evangeline Jennings about the exciting publications produced by the Pankhearst Group. In addition to being a senior editor at Pankhearst, you have contributed quite a few stories. Most recently Pankhearst has released two new projects: the single, CONVERTIBLE, an extension on the CARS AND GIRLS theme, and MOREMAIDS, a continuation of the flood theme from MERMAIDS.

CONVERTIBLE starts with a hair-raising tale of two young women on holiday and a rusted out "Mazda", written by Jane Bradley and is followed by your novella. "Volvo" is a quirky whodunit with a twist, as a girl from the bad part of town teams up with a self-absorbed doctor's daughter to thwart a band of car thieves. The best surprise in CONVERTIBLE is the freebie, "Taxi", a fast-paced thriller also written by you.

Your contribution to MOREMAIDS is the short story, "Bad Little Pirates". I must admit I was shocked and somewhat disgusted by the surprise at the end. Your stories always seem to include a wicked twist, which is why I like them. 
Tell me more about MOREMAIDS. In MERMAIDS, there was a clear societal progression over time from one story to another. Is there a unifying theme to MOREMAIDS as well? 
Moremaids follows a similar progression. In a world like our own, there’s a great flood. Everything gets wet. Society breaks down. Things dry off a bit for some people, and they survive on boats and islands. 

In addition to Pankhearst, you chair the Young Adult Reading Group on the writer's web site, One of my favorite stories shared on Authonomy was your novel, JINGER BARLEY AND THE MURKLE MOON. I am delighted to hear that it is soon to be released by Pankhearst. 
Tell us more about Jinger. 
It’s a friendly, gentle story with lots of cups of tea and whimsy. On Millennium Eve, The Murkle Moon wanders away from its hometown and hundred-year-old Arthur Oldham needs to find out why. He returns to his observatory at Murkle Manor School to look for answers. Thirteen years later, for the first time ever, a child not from Murkle starts at the school and no one but the Moon knows why.

Editing a full-length novel is one of the least-enjoyed aspects of being a novelist. You had the opportunity to receive a professional review of JINGER BARLEY AND THE MURKLE MOON from a Harper-Collins editor. Did their feedback help you in your editing process? 
Yes, it did help. It highlighted parts of the plot that didn’t work, and I changed them. I also received a lot of useful feedback from members of Authonomy.

The predominant advice to writers is "Write what you know." You're life must be quite robust if you have intimate knowledge of the lives of both an escaped Russian convict and a blind Pakistani immigrant college student as well as all of the English characters you've brought to life ranging from the financially advantaged to the abysmally destitute.
Where do you get your ideas for all these complex and diverse characters? 
They’re the right characters for their stories. Sana, the Pakistani girl, belongs in the world I put her in. Those are her experiences and it’s her voice. All the things make her who she is – where she’s from, how she lives as a student with a visual impairment – are the same things that make her story. Like lots of people who write, my ideas for characters come from different places. 

How much time do you spend developing backstory for your main characters? 
Their backstories develop as I write, and are what I need them to be for the story. In Our Russian Soldiers, Viktor, the escaped convict, has a very different backstory to Hannah, the narrator. When it floods and they’re brought together, it’s their backstories that shape their relationship and what happens to them.

Let’s talk about Pankhearst. What excites you most about being part of the Pankhearst group? Most of my readers are writers, so what grabs your attention when looking at submissions to Pankhearst?
It’s exciting to work with talented writers and brilliant stories. That’s the main thing. I like attention-grabbing original work, but also new ways of telling the same stories. Some stories are important enough to be told over and over – particularly those told by women, because they’re not heard enough.

What do you look for in a story and what do you look for in a writer?
Voice. Attitude. And potential. Also an actual story. I like writers who care about their work. I don’t mind writers whose work needs a lot of time spending on it, or who don’t make all of our suggested changes, but it’s important they care about it.

Describe Pankhearst’s production process for accepted work.
Accepted work goes through numerous rounds of editing and proofreading. It gets easier with experience – spotting errors, applying grammar rules, understanding what a writer wants to achieve. It’s important to us to publish work that’s as good as we can make it. Although it’s irritating in everyday life, it turns out proofreading is an excellent outlet for pedantry so I’m pretty happy with that. Any mistakes in this interview are, of course, deliberate.

What's next for Pankhearst?
Busy. Busy. Busy.

The Singles Club will continue. The next three will round 2014 off in style. October will be elegant and literary. Our Halloween single will be different again and exceptional. And the Christmas single may well blow up in our faces. In 2015 Ellie Mac will be picking up the pieces and shaping the year's singles. The Singles Club is permanently open for submissions.

Moving away from the singles, Halloween will be a big time for us because we will also publish our first standalone novel - Yuko Zen Is Somewhere Else by Simon Paul Wilson - and make our first attempt at some kind of Proper Book Launch. We're hoping people will be charmed by our shambling amateurism.

Following hot on Yuko's heels, November will see the release of Evangeline's Riding In Cars With Girls which is her personal sequel to the original Pankhearst Cars & Girls collection. It will feature six of her stories - all different and yet clearly hers - about ... um ... cars and girls and stuff.

Also in November, we launch our first Slim Volume - a collection of poetry and short fiction curated by the chart-topping poet Kate Garrett - complete with readings and other such larks in swinging Sheffield, England. Kate intends to publish two Slim Volumes a year. Submission for Slim Volume 2 (May 2015) will open in December and the theme will be travel and place.

Here's Lucy's author bio:
Lucy is a tidy and wise person living a 1970’s lifestyle in a 1980’s house. She's a parent of two cats, and she does have a favourite. Lucy doesn’t like travelling, or new experiences unless they are theoretical. Lucy edited and contributed to the YA collections HEATHERS, MERMAIDS, and MOREMAIDS. Her debut novel will be JINGER BARLEY AND THE MURKLE MOON.

Thank you for inviting me to contribute to your blog, Laura!

Follow the Pankhearst Group at
Get your own copy of MOREMAIDS at
Find a copy of CONVERTIBLE at
Follow Lucy on Twitter at @lucymiddlemass.

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