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Interviews

My Journey to Publication: Mother by S.E. Lynes

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S.E. Lynes © 23 November 2017.
Posted in the Magazine ( · Crime · Interviews ).

Writing is a funny business in that the very thing that makes you arguably and hopefully good at it is also the thing that will prevent you from ever becoming a writer.

I’ll explain. Writers, at least many writers I have met, exist in a place of constant doubt. It is our doubt about the world that makes us question it. And question it again. And then wonder whether the question was the right one, whether we should have asked a different one or whether we have any right to ask in the first place. And then… what if what the answer the world gave us isn’t true? Maybe we interpreted the answer incorrectly. Maybe it is not the world but us who have it wrong. Or do we?

Do you see where I’m going with that?

It is this doubt that pushes many writers to put pen to paper. We explore these doubts through books because books are long enough to present many arguments and counter-arguments, characters with contrasting opinions and ways of living. None of them are right. None of them are wrong. Nor should they be. Because human beings are as complex as the world. A writer doesn’t seek to propose answers. All a writer can do if offer up yet more questions.

And so, a writer writes a book to explore some of their doubts through the fantastical medium of story, a form of therapy and sense-making as old as language itself. The book may or may not be any good. And if there’s someone who doesn’t know which it is – good or bad – it is, yes, you’ve guessed it, the writer. But some deep kernel of self-belief must exist. Or not. Or maybe it’s just a strong desire to communicate with that complex world and the people who live in it, to say, hey, I don’t know anything really but I’ve written this story with these people in it. Because here’s the rub: in order to communicate, a writer must publish, and in order to publish, they must push aside the critical voice on the shoulder, the huge questions over the validity of the work – sometimes even to show it to one person close to them. Send it to an agent or publisher? Are you kidding me?

And yet, if you don’t send it out into the world, the world will never know it is there. The world will not knock at your door and ask to borrow a cup of sugar and say, oh, while I’m here, you haven’t written a novel by any chance have you? You have? Brilliant, can I publish it? To think that it will is a strange form of arrogance, even though it is not meant that way. So the choice for the writer is this: listen to all your doubts and never give your book the chance to communicate with the world OR send it out, send it to agents, publishers, whoever… let it stand naked under the strip light of other people’s judgement – people who don’t know you, who don’t care about you, who have no reason to like or even care about what you’ve written.

You send it out. After that, the rejections – writers talk about wallpapering their downstairs loo with them. Why should you be any different? You’re not. But each rejection is as painful as a sword in the chest, the pain accumulating until you are on your knees, until you end up like the Monty Python knight, just a head in a field still shouting, come back ‘ere, I can still fight!

There might be periods of hibernation, periods of destructive self-criticism where you weep and vow to eat worms, of useful self-criticism, where you look at your work and think, OK, I can write but am I writing what anyone actually wants to read? Could I write something else, something better? Study, more writing, another novel, another ten drafts, write more, write better, remember Malcolm Gladwell’s ten thousand hours…

And then one day one person reads what you have written and likes it. It is that simple. For me, this person came ten years down the road, my fourth novel, a psychological thriller called Valentina. I attended a talk by indie publisher, Stephanie Zia, speaking about her company, Blackbird Digital Books. I sent my first chapter the next day. That afternoon, their editor, Rosalie Love, asked for the rest. She had found it gripping. A week later, they asked to meet and signed me up. Valentina was a critical and commercial success.

Months later, Jenny Geras at Bookouture saw the reviews and read Valentina. She asked to read whatever I wrote next. I wrote Mother. I had nothing in my mind other than to write the best book I could, as quickly as I could, while my first book was still on the radar. Jenny read it, loved it, and offered me a three-book contract.

Have the doubts gone away? Of course they haven’t. I am as shaky and unsure as ever. The world and the people in it are as complex and difficult to fathom as they were before. But there is one certainty that no one can take away: I am a published author. This has happened. It has happened to me. For the rest? Well, I can sing when someone loves my book, suffer when someone criticises it. But now my job, my only job, is this: to carry on writing to the best of my ability, with my heart and head, until my back hurts and my brain aches and my eyes sting, and make my stories as involving and moving and dark and pleasurable as I possibly can. And it strikes me that maybe that’s all any of us can do: go out there and do what we do in the best and kindest way we can. At least I think that’s the case. Isn’t it? Hmm, not sure.

(c) S.E. Lynes

About Mother:

Christopher would never hurt anyone. Not intentionally. Even after everything that’s happened I still believe that…

Christopher Harris is a lonely boy. A boy who has never fitted in to his family. Who has always felt something was missing from his life.

Until one day, when he discovers a suitcase in his family’s attic. And a secret about his mother that changes everything…

Mother will hold you breathless until the very last page and leave you reeling. Perfect for fans of The Girl on the TrainThe Sister and Apple Tree Yard.

Order your copy online here.


After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington. Her first novel, Valentina, published by Blackbird Digital Books, came out in July 2016. Her follow up novel, Mother, is published by Bookouture.
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