Fringe Box



Dragon Interview: Lynne McVernon on Getting Her First Novel Published

Published on: 17 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 17 Nov, 2013
Lynne McV with book 475

Lynne McVernon with her book Terrible with Raisins.

There are many aspiring authors among us and, as the old saying goes, we all have a book within us. That might be true but few get published.

Even if you have the self discipline to get over the first significant hurdle of writing a book, getting a publisher interested can be a bigger challenge. As an unknown author you are facing competition from hundreds, if not thousands, of others with the same ambition.

These days though there is an alternative, self publishing. It has been a successful route for many frustrated authors. There are numerous success stories of those who have been spotted and picked up by traditional publishers.

You might be surprised to find that one was actually Mark Twain, whose stay in Guildford was sadly truncated by news of his daughter’s death in America, self published Huckleberry Finn. So perhaps it is not such a new idea but companies like online bookstore Amazon make it far easier and cheaper these days.

Lynn McVernon decided it was worth trying and judging by the following reviews she could well be right:

“I loved this book! … I found it hard to put down the further I read, and still find myself caring about the characters and wondering what became of them.”

Terrible with Raisins is more a literary novel than a popular read. Having said that it is not high-brow. It’s cleverly crafted, well written, and witty. The characters are real and the relationships believable, which for me is a must. The descriptions of the beautiful resort of Symi made me want to book a holiday. I look forward to the next book by this author.”

The Guildford Dragon decided to find out more and ask Lynn a few questions:

What is your career background?

I went to Wimbledon School of Art while also working backstage at the Wimbledon and Savoy Theatres and got my Equity card stage managing Butlin’s Rep in Clacton – quite an amusing interlude. Then I won a 2 year directors’ training bursary starting at the Yvonne Arnaud here in Guildford after which I directed at the famous Citizens’ Theatre in Glasgow, ran a touring theatre company in Scotland and guest directed drama across the UK with two residencies at the Young Vic and National theatres in London.

I taught in several drama schools, mostly at Guildford School of Acting whose Principal at the time, Michael Gaunt, I first met at Dundee Rep. Throughout this I wrote, co-wrote and devised plays and adapted the classics for stage and radio. Latterly, I was Healing Arts Manager for Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. Currently I’m coaching English, largely for American University entrants, and, of course, writing.

How long have you lived in Guildford, how did you arrive here?

I’ve lived in Guildford on and off since 1975 when I was a trainee director at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre. My husband, Martyn Stead, and I moved here full-time in 2004. We love its urban/rural mix, its proximity both to the coast for the freedom of beaches and London for theatre. If only Guildford were by the sea it would be perfect.

The Greek island of Symi is the novel's setting.

The Greek island of Symi is the novel’s setting.

How long have you been writing novels and what motivated you to start?

Terrible With Raisins is my first novel. Turning fifty was the motivation but I’m not sure I believed I could actually write a whole book. But after starting, several significant life events got in the way. When I picked it up again after eleven years, technology had changed and I had to re-write to include iPhones and other technological advances.

The island where much of the book is set, Symi, is where Martyn and I spent our honeymoon; we loved the place so much that it seemed the ideal setting for that birthday. We went back this year for a holiday to publicise the book. It had changed quite a bit and although it was as beautiful as we remembered, we had, in the intervening years, lost our hearts to another Greek island, Leros.

Where did you get the idea for this novel from?

Fifty seems such a very big step. I wasn’t exactly dreading it, but I couldn’t come to grips to being that old. I think writing about it was therapeutic initially, but once I’d discovered where this story and these characters were going, they took me along with them. Sometimes they seemed to be running away with me and I had to rein them in. Now it’s finished, I miss them and sometimes, rather spookily, wonder what the people doing now. There could be a sequel in the offing…

How did you go about getting it published?

I sent innumerable synopses and sample chapters to literary agents and received either rejections or no reply at all. You have to be a good writer, but you also need a certain amount of luck even to get your manuscript picked out of the slush pile even if it is it might be read by someone who can’t relate to it at all.

I was tired of waiting. An actor friend, Madalyn Morgan, with whom I worked at the Young Vic, had published her first novel ‘Foxden Acres’ on Amazon earlier this year and had found it, generally, a very positive experience.

I did some research, picked her brains, had some help from another friend, Mark Arnold, a Guildford writer who wrote Turning Japanese and David 2, and, wonderfully, my stepdaughter, Sarah Stead a professional journalist in Wellington, New Zealand who edited the novel.

We communicated via Skype and email. It was a priceless experience. On 11 July, Terrible With Raisins was published on Kindle and on 10 October, in paperback.

Lynne communicates by Skype with her step-daughter in New Zealand

Lynne communicates by Skype with her step-daughter and editor in New Zealand.

Other reviews for Terrible With Raisins:

“Set mostly on a sunny Greek island, this book’s definitely more than just a holiday read. The characters are well-rounded and wholly believable – I found myself easily immersed – and the rock-solid writing and sharp dialogue raise it above the usual Kindle crowd. As the story progresses you begin to feel you’re actually there on the island with the cast, and the book keeps you wondering until the end how it will turn out. Quality.”

“This intricate and realistic examination of female relationships – seen through the eyes of a wonderful, trying-to-be-feisty heroine riddled with doubt – will strike a chord with all women readers. Not to mention a rocking love story and pure, delightful escapism in the book’s locations! McVernon has a clear and engaging voice, one we’re all hoping to hear again soon.”

TWR cover MA 475

Click the image for the relevant Amazon page

“Lynne McVernon has a sharp eye for characters, their conversations and observations and a witty style which fills out the situations and places vividly. The story is interesting, holds your attention and develops through the eyes of the main characters so different views of the same situations are presented.
It is an intriguing, observant and enjoyable read.”

“Well worth reading. Thoroughly enjoyable….so far. Not yet finished reading this unusual book but find it engrossing. Very well done.”

“An absolute ‘must’ for ladies of a certain age, especially if you have a teenage daughter … and even better if you are familiar with package holidays and Greek islands! Men will love it too, I’m sure; there is lots of humour.”

“Made me feel like I was back on the Greek Island of Simi where I have spent many wonderful holidays.”

“Refreshing new female voice – with a sense of humour! I loved this book! From the summary description I would never have picked it up, assuming it to be “chick lit” of the more amateur variety – but how wrong I was. Lynne McVernon has a wonderful style and uniquely dry sense of humour. I wish I’d written down some of her more pithy phrases to pass off as my own in conversation! I found it hard to put down the further I read, and still find myself caring about the characters and wondering what became of them.

I recommend this wholeheartedly.”

“Lynne McVernon has a lovely droll sense of humour and her main character’s pithy comments permeate this story and help to point up the characters well. I pictured everyone very clearly. Her descriptions of locations, all of which I know, are sharp. The story is very intriguing and I was drawn in. I will even recommend it to men, so they get a better idea of how women think about things – including us!”

“Terrible with Raisins shifts from funny to touching to sad. I couldn’t put it down once I had started to read it – a gripping read from beginning to end. I loaned my copy to a friend who thought I was giving her a cookery book – time to change the cover photo?”

“Very easy read with good dialogue and laugh out loud moments. Painful mirror reflections at times, which makes it very real as I would think a lot of people have had thoughts or situations similar as the characters. Sprinkled with some depth and allusions to other literature and culture trinkets set it apart from the normal ‘grab at the airport’ book. As a bloke it gives a good insight into how some females might think and act which, guys, is worth finding out and remembering. Hope to read more from this author at some point.”

“I loved the characters in Terrible with Raisins and felt completely in sync with Clair. I devoured the book over a weekend and just wanted to be on that Greek island.”

“Main characters are well-developed and believable. Although mainly narrated by the main character, Clair, shifting the narrative to other characters (Fraser, Howard, Maggie) and viewing the same events through their eyes deepens the story nicely. McVernon also creates for the reader a very appealing setting for the Greek island, Symi. If many read this novel, Symi should brace for an influx of visitors. Frequently funny, the novel contains enough emotional depth to keep it from being frivolous and unreal while making it very enjoyable and worthwhile. I’m looking forward to her next one!”

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *