Today i am talking to writer Lynn Stewart who is 27 and lives in Edinburgh, although she comes from the Isle of Islay originally, which lies just off the west coast of Scotland. She has a degree in Performing Arts and has spent the last four years since graduating working freelance in community theatre and role-playing and as a part-time lecturer in the University she graduated from. Last year Lynn had a bit of a career crisis when she realised she didn't want to teach, so she started writing stories, which she hadn't really done since she was a teenager and all of a sudden managed to find some passion again. So she kept writing, mainly flash fiction and short stories, entered some competitions and won a couple and had one accepted for a short story anthology, which made her think if she wasn't completely rubbish at it maybe she could keep developing and work towards one day making herself a career as a writer. So while she is not a full time writer at the moment she makes sure she takes her writing seriously by trying to give herself some structure and writing schedules so that she can make full use of the time she has while she is not working for money!
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Lynn Stewart: I have a very vivid memory of writing a story in primary school (I don't remember much about primary school but what I do remember seems to involve writing or reading, which I loved. I hated maths!), and this story was about my dog being abducted by pirates and me having to go and save her. I think I spent so much time on it and put so much detail in it that I ran out of lesson time and didn't get to finish it. I don't think I was allowed to take it home to finish. It probably stayed in my tray for months, unfinished. Maybe I should write it again, and finish it this time!
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Lynn Stewart: I got a new puppy and just imagined what it would be like if someone stole her. And living on an island and being surrounded by all that water seemed like the ideal place for a pirate ship to get to, steal a dog and then leave, with me swimming after it!
Nowadays I can find inspiration everywhere I go, in anything I see or hear. Snippets of conversations, the way a person looks, lines in a book, basically anything can spark an idea. Not everything does and not every spark works out, but it's still exciting when an idea starts to form.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing?
Lynn Stewart: The main thing I love about it is that I can do it without speaking to people! I love that I can sit down on my own with just a small idea and then work to make it grow. I love that I can take the ideas that come from those things I talked about previously and create something new out of them. I loved reading when I was a child, and I love reading now, and that's because I feel like I'm being absorbed into a different time, a different world and I always thought there was something very magical about this, and I love that I might be able to create that for other people. I love agonising and spending as much time as it takes to find the right word, the right phrase and the right rhythm of a sentence so that the story can leap off the page and just flow. Editing and sculpting is my favourite stage of writing a story.
Books & Writing: How do you overcome writer’s block(if you have that of course)?
Lynn Stewart: I'm not sure yet! As I've only recently started to allow myself to develop seriously as a writer I'm still trying to find tools and techniques that work best for me. From reading other advice it seems that just doing it is one of the most advised options, just writing, not worrying about whether it's any good, or even if it relates completely to what you're trying to unblock yourself to write. Sometimes it's just about getting your brain in that writing zone. I'm more inclined to give myself a bit of breathing space, or a bit of daydreaming space from what it is I'm writing. There are times when forcing the writing to come can work, but I also find that just letting my mind muse and wander can allow it to unlock without force, and then I can sit down and write something that very likely won't be any good but that I can work hard to sculpt into something better.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your Bookshop Stories?
Lynn Stewart: Bookshop stories is a website that put out a request for real stories from real people about physical books that had made a real impact on their lives and memories. They are collecting these stories for a project to highlight the importance of books. In this age of libraries closing down and the explosion of ebooks they wanted people to remember how important real books still are by getting people to write about how important they have been. I wrote them a story about how much books saved me as a child. I was a bit of a loner and used to find comfort and excitement by reading books. There are some excellent stories on the website, some lovely recollections from people and you really get the feeling that physical books have been so important to so many people, for a million different reasons. No two stories are the same.
Books & Writing: What attracts you in short stories?
Lynn Stewart: I love the immediacy of a short story. I tend to have quite a short attention span with most things in life, and while I love reading full novels, I enjoy the fact I can sit down and read a short story in minutes. I enjoy writing short stories for similar reasons. I have thought about ideas for novels and the possibility of starting one but at this stage of my writing I keep coming back to the idea of writing a collection of short stories. Maybe one day I'll advance to a novel, but for the moment I am really enjoying exploring the short story experience, with a few flash fictions in there as well.
Books & Writing: Where do you see yourself in a couple of years in relation to writing?
Lynn Stewart: While I would eventually like to be able to sustain a career in writing and writing alone I'm not under any illusion that this will happen as if by magic, so in a couple of years if I can be in a position where I have kept writing and developed even further, have had a few big short story projects that I have completed and just still be doing it then I'll be happy, even if I'm not at the stage of being a full time writer, if I can be happy in a job which provides security while being able to write and even be making some money from it then I'll know I have progressed a step further along the writing road.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Lynn Stewart: More than anything I would say give yourself time. As I said in the previous question, it doesn't happen by magic so it's important not to feel despondent or defeated if stories are rejected or you don't win that competition you entered, as long as you feel like you are taking realistic steps to keep improving and developing then that's what's really important. It's exciting when you're finally at a stage when you can start up a writer's CV and watch as it builds, slowly but surely. Give yourself aims too. If you're anything like me then you'll procrastinate for as long as possible over starting something but if I know I have got a competition or submission deadline to aim for then I'm far more likely to be disciplined and get the work done. I keep a spreadsheet of upcoming deadlines and this way I can prioritise what I work on. I have to keep myself even semi-organised, otherwise I would get very little done.
Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?
Lynn Stewart: Everytime I read something I'm inspired, so probably all of them! While I might not particularly like every author I read it inspires me that they have managed to achieve the finished product! In terms of authors I like reading there there really are so many as well that it's hard to pin point only one, so I will give you the name of two authors and short stories they have written that, depending on which day you ask me, could be two of my favourite short stories of all time - Iain Crichton Smith and his story Murdo and Bernard MacLaverty and A Time to Dance. I can't explain why they affect me so much, you'll just have to read them and see! I like Dickens and Mark Twain for a bit of classic reading.
Books & Writing: What is the last book you read?
Lynn Stewart: I can usually have two or three books on the go at once, which is a habit I'm trying to get out of, I'm trying to read one book and finish before moving onto the next, but it isn't working at the moment and I'm actually reading three just now. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, a clasically good read; The Roost, a collection of short stories by Scottish writer Neil Butler; and Peat Smoke and Spirit by Andrew Jefford, which is a factual account of Islay and her many whiskies. I'm reading this as research for a short story project I am at the very early stages of planning at the moment. So reading just one book at a time will have to wait until I finish these...
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Lynn Stewart: I have a blog where I document some of my writing thoughts and link to some samples of my writing. I also use it to link to other blogs or writing on the Internet that I have found helpful or interesting. I revamped my old blog a few weeks ago to concentrate solely on writing and writing issues: https://lynnstew.wordpress.com
And I can also be found on twitter @lynnstew1984.
Books & Writing: Thank you Lynn for being so kind to answer my questions!