01 Feb Q&A with author Lindsey Barraclough
Critically acclaimed author Lindsey Barraclough weighs in on favourite books and gives top advice for aspiring writers.
What was your favourite book at 12?
At twelve, many moons ago, I was – amazingly when I think about it – still clinging on to Enid Blyton. In the universe of her books all was safe, constant and unchanging, the Famous Five remaining ever the same, never ageing – one-dimensional, predictable characters in their seemingly endlessly renewable holidays from school, up against a continuous succession of crooks who were never seriously going to threaten them.
Alongside Enid Blyton I read Hans Christian Andersen, especially The Snow Queen and The Little Mermaid, and began to understand that stories could be complex, their endings unexpected and disturbing in a way that Enid Blyton’s comfortable, satisfying conclusions never were.
My one absolute favourite book from this time, however, was The House with the Twisting Passage by Marion St John Webb, first published in 1922. A lonely little girl, Jenny, creates fantasy people who live behind the doors of a passage in the empty old house in which her aunt is caretaker. Jenny has to leave, but when she returns real people are occupying the rooms behind those same doors, and they tell her weird and wonderful stories-within-a-story. I still re-read and love this book today.
What was your favourite book at 16?
By the time I was sixteen I had discovered the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. Heathcliff, Mr Rochester and Mr Darcy were strong and attractive yet deeply ambivalent – dangerous, shifting and challenging. The characters grew and changed, and in Elizabeth Bennett, Jane Eyre and Cathy Earnshaw, I began to feel emotional connections with the person I was gradually becoming. Jane Eyre was my favourite book then and perhaps still is, although Pride and Prejudice is so outrageous and funny it’s a tough call.
Who’s your favourite author now?
As to my favourite author now, I really don’t have one because each book I begin opens up another world, another adventure. I enjoy the work of many different authors, and writers such as Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman demonstrate that books aimed at younger readers can be every bit as dark as adult novels.
When did you know that you would become a writer?
I only knew I would become a writer very late in the day when my first book was published. I had written all sorts of things for as long as I could remember, but being a writer was not an option in the world I inhabited then.
What’s your best piece of advice for budding writers?
My advice for budding writers would be to read, read and read – anything and everything. It’s easier to find your own voice if you have heard the voices of others, and anyway, reading is the best thing ever. By writing, it’s nice to think you might be contributing to the sort of happiness I experienced myself as a child – the joy that comes through reading.