I’m delighted to welcome fellow author and friend, Lynne McVernon to my place today, to give us an insight into her life and her two novels, Terrible with Raisins and Jigsaw Island.
Grab a cuppa, put your feet up, and have a read.
Over to you Lynne…
One of my husband, Martyn’s, fondest claims is that he’s slept with a woman who hugged a man who slept with Marilyn Monroe. Quite a glamorous three degrees of separation but not strictly true. Reassuringly, the woman he refers to sleeping with is me. The other man is playwright Arthur Miller. And Arthur Miller, as you may know, was Miss Monroe’s third husband. But I didn’t so much hug him as run smack into him while lost in the backstage corridors at the National Theatre. He was a very tall man, I remember, and quite laid back about the collision.
It’s one of many theatrical anecdotes amassed over 25 years’ work encompassing a range of activities from sweeping the stage to directing. As the daughter of a playwright, writing and theatre were instilled in me from birth. So my career was one of director and writer, directing devised, co-written and self-penned material plus everything from Ayckbourn to Shakespeare in regional rep, the Young Vic and the National. I mounted a writers’ festival in Tayside, and founded a young people’s creative writing/performance company, Fable Productions, in Berkshire. With drama students, I devised/co-wrote a complex play, A Country Wedding, based on the life of Peter Breughel, which played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 1985. I also adapted three Dickens novels for Guildford School of Acting, possibly my favourite experiences.
So why am I not doing it these days? Why novels instead of plays? Theatre is a very demanding profession, with periods of unemployment, constantly changing conditions and steep challenges. To be honest, the 70s to 90s weren’t that welcoming to female directors. Very few survived. I’m glad to note women’s opportunities in the field have changed considerably. But for me, back then, it all became too much. Again, over that period, mental health was given comparatively short shrift. I struggled with bottomless bouts of despair for many years. Once, I took a rehearsal while convinced my head was changing shape. At least twice, I went down to a dress size 8 – and I’m 5’ 9”. All that, and a crumbled marriage, made me realise I couldn’t live with it any more.
Serial jobs supported me to write. Some, apart from teaching, which I love, could be fairly dispiriting as I felt like a ‘stranger in a strange land’. Publishing my first novel in 2013 was the first project I’d completed for years. A friend vanished for a long weekend on her fortieth birthday to ‘leave behind all the crap of the last forty years’ and start again. ‘Great idea’ I thought, and, being on the way to fifty myself, wrote about a woman who tries to escape her fiftieth birthday in Greece. Et voilá, Terrible With Raisins. It squeaked in just before I reached my sixtieth. It’s taken seven years to produce the second novel, ‘Jigsaw Island’.
I must be improving as a writer because I’ve had a couple of prizewinning short stories and may even publish an anthology. Still humming and hah-ing on that one. The next novel is probably halfway there. Three others are festering in drawers. Jenny Kane has been a great mentor and, as far as I’m concerned, friend. I am in awe of her output!
Martyn is a wonderful supporter of my writing, an exacting proofreader and has worked with me on the cover designs for the release of Jigsaw Island and the re-release of Terrible With Raisins.
Writing is my passion, a compulsion and a therapy. It’s also saved my life. I tend to have more good days than bad, but lockdown has been difficult for everyone and the gremlins surface. If you’ve been reticent about your depression or anxiety , or both – they’re fairly unpleasant companions – maybe it’s time to share. Do if you can. And if you’d like to talk to me – I’m here to listen – and I mean listen. firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Lynne McVernon – Author Twitter: @lynnemcvernon
One anecdote before I go. I was once ‘on the book’ (prompt book) for a production of Macbeth in Worthing. One night, Lady Macbeth walked on for the sleepwalking scene, stopped, then shuffled off backwards, candle and all. My heart stopped. Almost immediately, she reappeared and the scene went ahead as chillingly as it should. Afterwards, the actress confessed that she’d gone three paces on, remembered she was wearing flip flops, thought ‘Lady Macbeth wouldn’t wear flip flops’ went back to the wings and kicked them off. She was my dear friend, the late Shirley Stelfox, whom you may, perhaps, remember as (many years later) Edna Birch in Emmerdale.
The novels: Paperbacks are available mid-July 2020.
BLURB – TERRIBLE WITH RAISINS – Growing up at last?
Clair knew what was coming, ‘…something pretty terrible…Not just plain terrible. This was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in i.t’. From ‘The Middle or Blue Period’, Dorothy Parker
There’s a big birthday looming. Clair tries hiding from it on the Aegean island of Symi, Greece. Inevitably it catches up with her. But so do a couple of possibilities, interesting, attractive ones…Encouraged, she departs the Greek idyll to face the reality of her demanding daughter, her hypercritical mother, and the special person in Scotland who keeps her sane. But there’s a secret she keeps from them all. In the coming year, she will swallow a lot of raisins, sweet and sour, in England, Scotland and Florida. She will discover plenty – forget a few things (it was a BIG birthday), and, reluctantly, reveal her secret. Mother, daughter, niece, lover, reluctant teacher and neglected artist – will the real Clair Harkin please grow up?
BLURB JIGSAW ISLAND – Know who your friends are… (released 30 June 2020)
On a holiday escape to the Greek islands, Annie Buchanan discovers what – and then who – is missing from her life…
When single mother, Annie, and son Jude take a break away from Scotland to stay with her brother and friends on the Greek island of Symi, they find the warmth and support they need. As they ease into the relaxed rhythm of life there, old and new acquaintances change the course of their vacation. Whether it’s for better or worse, Annie will discover when she visits the island of Leros. There she may be able to put together some of the missing pieces in her life and learn who her friends really are. But she cannot be prepared for some uncomfortable truths about the past and the dramatic way in which they will change the present for her… and Jude.
Many thanks Lynne.
Happy reading everyone,