*Apologises for delayed post, I have been in hospital and therefore unable to post on my designated date. Better late than never, here it is*
The Read Beach Hut by Lynn Michell
“Their eyes met and locked. Pulling his hand from his pocket, Neville waved. Once.”
Eight year old Neville is the first to notice that the red beach hut is occupied again.
Abbott, panicked by what he believes is a homophobic cyber attack, is on the run. The hut is his refuge and shelter.
Inevitably man and boy collide. Their fleeting friendship is poignant, honest and healing. But Abbot’s past threatens to tear him away, as others watch and self-interpret what they see.
An evocative portrayal of two outsiders who find companionship on a lonely beach, Lynn Michell’s novel is about the labels we give people who are different, and the harm that ensues.
Writing Different Characters
The question asked most frequently by readers in an audience in front of a writer who has read from her novel is: ‘Is X based on you and your life?’ or ‘Is Y based on someone you know?’. Well, Yes and No. We can only write about what we have experienced, in some way, at some level, but our skill as writers is to transform those experiences, thoughts and emotions so that they transition and settle naturally into a narrative that isn’t about us. Now that’s not easy. A fair number of novels that arrive as submissions to Linen Press are authors’ life stories thinly and poorly disguised as fiction. They are of little interest, except to the writer.
How to transition to literary fiction? I think of my memory as a great big Lucky Dip of postcard images, snatches of conversation, gut felt feelings, and other detritus from the past. When I write, I probably clothe my characters with some of this rag-bag of words and pictures and feelings, but I don’t deliberately put my hand in and rummage around.
That’s forcing the issue and trying too hard and that effort will show in the prose. No, it’s more that bits and pieces float up of their own accord as I write, and only afterwards will I perhaps understand some of the connections.
In terms of the progression from youthful to mature writing, I’d guess that most of us start with what we know and later develop the confidence to invent and create characters who are unlike any we’ve known. My debut novel White Lies began with my very elderly father dictaing his memoirs as a soldier. As the present faded, so his years of active service in World War II and in Nairobi during the Mao Mao uprising became increasingly vivid and real. These were the periods of his life when he was most fully alive, doing what he was trained to do. So yes, in that novel where I explore different kinds of war and
different kinds of loving, one of my protagoists, David, is like my father, telling the story of the bloody uprising of the Mao Mao through eyes that only understand the colonial perspective. His wife, Mary, who has a passionate, adulterous affair with another officer who understands Africa, is in some ways not unlike my mother, but she isn’t her. I’ve given Mary my mother’s fragility and looks because I couldn’t imagine my father/David married to anyone who wasn’t fair and gentle but that’s where the similarity ends. Mary is herself – bold and passionate with a steeliness that allows her to defy convention and risk everything for the man she loves.
In The Red Beach Hut, I shed all connections with myself and my past, at least
consciously and explicitly. Who knows what goes on in the subconscious depths? It happened like this: when I wrote White Lies, I thought a lot about the themes and characters and gradually sketched in the people who walk the pages and the plot line that tells their stories. Abbott and Neville, in contrast, came of their own accord, ready made. I’d be pulling out weeds or walking the dog when I’d hear them talking. I’d tune in to their thoughts. I could see their faces and what they wore. They walked along the beach and into my heart. Avril Joy says exactly the same about writing her second novel Sometimes A River Song. The voice of Aiyana, child of the river, illiterate but wise and finely tuned in to her river landscape, came to her first and she listened to her. The story came later.
I grew to love Neville and Abbott because although not perfect they represent much that is good – honesty, trust, compassion – when they are pitted against an explicit, bitter intolerance against people who are diferent, people who don’t fit society’s narrow norms and conventions. And during the time of the 2015 General Election when the novel is set, as now, sound bites of hatred were swilling around the political landscape and being aimed at immigrants, refugees and gays. Think of Nigel Farage’s Rivers of Blood poster. Abbott and Neville are outsiders in a society that has closed its doors on anyone who is not vanilla flavoured. I want others to warm to them as I did, and accept them.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35329869-the-red-beach-hut?ac=1&from_searc h=true http://www.inspired-quill.com/product/the-red-beach-hut/ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Red-Beach-Hut-Lynn-Michell/dp/1908600675/ref=sr_1_1?ie =UTF8&qid=1506877098&sr=8-1&keywords=the+red+beach+hut
I write, have always written, and I run Linen Press, a small indie press for women writers. It’s a fine balancing act but ever since I watched Elvira Madigan, I’ve secretly wanted to be a tight rope walker. My fourteen books are published by HarperCollins, Longman and The Women’s Press and include an illustrated writing scheme for schools, and Shattered, a book about living with ME. Those closest to my heart are fiction: Letters To My Semi-Detached Son, my debut novel set in Kenya, White Lies and my latest novel The Red Beach Hut. When not writing or editing, you’ll find me building a house and creating a landscape out of rocks in an oak clearing high above a small village in southern France. Hands on.