Sometimes you find a niche where you know you just fit. That’s how I felt when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association and then the RNA Saga Writers group on Facebook. I was made very welcome and, in fact, was interviewed:on the Write Minds blog https://bit.ly/2VhEPg7, run by two of the members:Francesca Capaldi Burgess and Elaine Roberts
I wanted to discover how and why, like me, they wrote family sagas, with a little romance thrown in. So I asked if any of them would be interested in discussing that. I certainly received some fascinating answers
This is the tenth of my interviews with a Romantic Saga Author, and today I’m thrilled to be with Lynn Johnson – Interview for 16 February 2021
- When you started writing your book, did you intend to write a saga – or series of stories than one story?
No, I didn’t. Going back a few years, I enjoyed reading historical/saga novels set in various parts of the UK. Then, as the eldest child of my generation on my mother’s side, I started to research my family tree, and it fascinated me, particularly when I discovered that my grandma was herself, in the local workhouse. One of the first hobbies I took up after taking early retirement was to join a writing group with an idea of writing short stories. One of those first short stories developed into a novel involving snippets information from my research. One of the characters became insistent that she had something to say – and that’s where my short story became my debut novel, a saga called, The Girl from the Workhouse. During the writing of this book, one of my characters stood out as having a story she wanted to tell and that was when my saga started to grow. Constance became the focus of my latest book Wartime with the Tram Girls and we meet new friends and old. It is available of pre-order now and will be published 3 March 2021.
- Which do you think is more important, the family story or the romance?
The family story is most important in my mind. Sagas take the reader on a journey of discovery about an individual and their family and friends. We might find out what happened in the past to make them like they are and what will happen to turn them into the people they will become. We feel what they feel, and we encourage them, wanting them to succeed in life and in love.
- How important do you think it is to research the historical background, locations, features of the era your characters live in?
Research is very important. Ideally, if you are able to experience something or somewhere, you will be in a position to ‘paint a picture in words.’ For my first novel, The Girl from the Workhouse, I visited Southwell Workhouse, owned by the National Trust, and Gladstone Pottery Museum, in Stoke-on-Trent to discover more about potbanks. For my latest novel, I was prevented from visiting anywhere in person due to the pandemic but was able to communicate with Crich Tramway Museum in Derbyshire to get a feeling for what life as a ‘clippie’ was like. I have found people to be so helpful and would certainly recommend approaching people to point you in the right direction.
- How do you manage to keep track of all the characters in your book/s over a stretch of time?
- Ah, now that’s a difficult one. I am only on my second novel and am still learning and open to ideas. I was, what is known as a pantser for the first novel and it was difficult to keep track of everyone even though I used Scrivener software, which can manage my research and character profiles etc. I need something more to keep track of characters and plotlines over several books. I have just finished Julie Cohen’s excellent course – Novel-Gazing using Post-its and I am certainly going to try it out for my next novel. I think the important thing is to use something that is not too complicated that works for you AND to keep it updated as you work through your manuscript!
A saga demands change, both in characters and its world. How important is the time period to the development of your narrative?
I believe that the world and characters you build must change as the novel develops. Just as people change as things happen to them so characters and the world they inhabit, must change to add to the authenticity of it. A person who lives through a period of change, be it war, a pandemic or a change in family circumstances, will not be the same person at the end of the event and a novel must reflect that to make it real.
Lynn writes working-class family sagas set in The Potteries, an area of north Staffordshire famous for the likes of Josiah Wedgewood and Royal Doulton, and in the past, a skyline of bottle ovens.
She was born and brought up in The Potteries and spent much of her life there. She went to school in Burslem, the setting for her novels. She is proud call herself, ‘a Stokie’. All of her qualifications – O’levels, BA (Hons) in Humanities with Literature, and Diploma in Management Studies, were attained after she left school, and in her own time. She started to work as an unqualified Library Assistant and ended her career as a Human Resources Manager in a large County Council.
She took to writing after taking early retirement, working at first on short stories before graduating to novels. Her debut novel was inspired by her grandmother’s story and tells the story of workhouse kids Ginnie and Sam as they come to terms with a childhood spent during WW1. Her second novel will be out very soon and tells the story of their friend Connie who learns that there are two sides to everything in life and that wealth is not just about money. And there’s more about Ginnie and Sam too!
Lynn loves to read. She says tastes are varied, dependent upon her mood, including historical, romance, crime, fantasy and, of course, sagas. Although she has a liking for audio and e-books, she still enjoys the good old feel of holding the physical book in her hands.
She now lives in Orkney with her husband and six cats..
The Girl from the Workhouse links:
Amazon – amzn.to/2NQ7ZQ3
Kobo – bit.ly/38EMIAT
Wartime with the Tram Girls
Amazon – amzn.to/36zlzjX
Kobo – bit.ly/3tlMQQX
Apple – apple.co/3cuGmsV
Twitter – @lynnjohnsonjots
Facebook – Lynn Johnson Author
Website – www.lynnjohnsonauthor.com