Interview with Lucy English

Tell us about your publishing journey…

I chose to self-publish because I love the democracy of it. Technology has given us so many avenues to share creativity that may never have made it out into the world in the past. My approach to life is that I’ll work my hardest to put good work into the world.  I know it won’t be perfect, but I need to push past the vulnerability involved because I have one lifetime and when I die I want to be able to say “I tried really hard to make contributions that were good for the world.” Technology allows all of us to put our best thoughts and creations out to connect and share with others without gatekeepers.  I’ve found fantastic editors who totally get the mission behind what I write. I cherish my ability to keep my work close to my heart and to connect with readers. I also like being able to keep prices low because this is more about celebrating the heroism of social service professionals than about profit.

What do you love about being an author?

What I love most is the very stuff that makes me seem crazy.  I love when the story tells itself.  I started writing my second book, Penny Legend, without knowing who the murderer was. When I found out I was completely surprised and frankly devastated.  But I’d learned that when the story tells itself, I don’t get to change it (I tried that and ended up wasting time and needing to revert back to how the story wanted to be). When I learned the identity of the murderer in Penny Legend, it totally messed up the structure I thought the book should have because we found out the murderer too early for a traditional mystery.  But the story had its own way of carrying on the intrigue and momentum and it worked!  Every book has some of that magic where the story seems to come from some other place.

If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?

I would have George’s Bank Sea Scallops with Artichoke Puree, Yellowfoot Chanterelles, and Fennel Pollen at Bristol at the Boston Four Seasons with Robert B. Parker’s character Spenser.  And he would happen to be single.

If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the lead?

Amy Adams would be a great Penny Wade.  If she was able to communicate with those aliens in Arrival, she could do okay with some of Penny’s more difficult social work clients.

In Girl Ghosted, your protagonist has an unfortunate experience with online dating, have you ever tried online dating?

Oh, yes. Yes I have.  Some of Penny’s experiences are inspired by my own, others are inspired by stories from my friends.  Some are purely imagined.  I’ll never reveal which are which!  It can be harrowing and it can be wonderful.  I have several close male friends that started out as online dates.  No happily ever after yet….

If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?

I like modern comforts, so I hesitate to go back very far.  This would not be comfortable, but I’d like to travel South America in the 1950’s with Che Guevera.  Crazy to say especially since I dislike motorcycles, having been badly injured on one.  You didn’t say I needed a rational answer though.

What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?

Actually, it’s in Girl Ghosted. Here’s part of a scene where Penny is talking to her mentor about her failures in love:

“You know,” I said, “when I date a guy who meets some very basic qualifications, I feel like he should be good enough. Well, not only that, but friends, and my dead parents in my head, say ‘What’s wrong with him? He’s smart and handsome and has a good job.’ Maybe he even loves me, and I feel like that should be enough. You’re telling me it’s not.”

“Of course I am!” Nathan’s eyebrows went up and he leaned even more toward me, resting his forearms on his knees. “Do you really want to merge your life with someone who doesn’t deeply see and respect your approach to life? He has to really get why you do this very hard, intense, and dangerous job—the deep reasons you do this. And he has to have his own path where he’s developing things important to him, in himself, in his contribution to the world in this lifetime.”

I felt tears prick behind my eyes. It seemed so obvious when he said it, but also so impossible.

“People get divorced all the time because the basic criteria you stated aren’t enough. They’re enough for a while, especially coupled with lust, but they aren’t enough in the long term.”

“What are the chances of me finding him though?”

“There isn’t one him. Let go of that. You aren’t looking for a particular person so much as a particular relationship.”

“Huh?”

“There is more than one man who will be interested in and capable of having a healthy relationship with you. As you interact with men, remember how you want to be treated and how you want to enjoy a partner. It’s about finding someone who relates to you the way you want to relate.”

“Oh my God,” I said, suddenly glimpsing the shift of perspective he was suggesting. “I keep meeting men who I think are great because I like things about them that are really about them as a man and not about the way they relate to me. Then I hope they’ll learn to have the relationship I want because I like their looks, masculinity, intelligence or whatever.”

“What if you started with evaluating a man’s ability to see and love you for who you are, to communicate well, to practice give-and-take. If he doesn’t get gold stars on those, you move on, no matter how good-looking or otherwise compelling he is.”

“I’m looking for a particular relationship, not a specific man.”

“That’s right. In the end, of course, he’ll be a specific man, but you have to look for him differently than you think. If you focus first on how he relates to you, you’ll rule out bad ones sooner. You’ll stop getting stuck in thinking he’s so perfect despite his lack of relationship skills.”

What research did you do for Girl Ghosted?

I went on online dating sites to gather some of the typical stuff people put in profiles (nine out of ten men use the words “laid back” within their first two sentences), and examples of user names. I pulled some lines from messages men had sent me.  I did research on the MA Department of Children and Families regarding procedures for assigning and assessing child welfare cases. I researched crypto-currencies because one of the characters trades in them and it’s an interesting and intriguing world, about which many of us are unaware. I did a bit of research on sailing, but can’t say much about that without spoiling.

Where do you write best? 

I write well either sitting on my bed or in a little office I have in the back yard.  Sometimes I write onsite in Boston locations, but usually that’s more the place descriptions rather than dialogue or plot. I need to be in a quiet place write the story because I go into the world to see what’s happening.

What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?

Oh my gosh.  I just re-read a Nancy Drew mystery—The Mystery of the Old Clock.  When I was a kid I adored Nancy Drew. I read every single one over the course of a summer. That was my start into mysteries. I was excited for the nostalgia of summers in Michigan reading Nancy Drew, but I hated it!  It was terrible!  I feel like I’ll be struck by lightning for saying that so I’m gonna stop now.

If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?

I’m working on a middle grades magical realism series.  That’s fun. I’ve also thought about historical fiction because I love researching and being inspired by historical events.

Where can fans find you online?

http://www.pennywademysteries.com

and on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/pennywademysteries/

If readers want to join my launch team and get a free advanced Kindle copy of Girl Ghosted in return for posting an honest review, they can join the Girl Ghosted Launch team on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/416247958759509/

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