Author Interview: Lindsay Littleson

If you know anyone moving up to high school after the summer you may well want to introduce them to the engaging, funny and slightly troubled Lily McLean. Here we catch up with her creator Lindsay Littleson.

Author Interview Lindsay Littleson

Lindsay Littleson

Hi Lindsay, thanks for talking to us today. Many of our authors have been avid readers and writers since they were children. Have you always been a writer?

When I was about nine I wrote stories in a ‘borrowed’ school jotter about a boy called Flipper and his exciting undersea adventures (I was probably inspired by the film Flipper). As a teenager I wrote reams of terrible poetry and I started writing short stories while I was at university. My life got so busy that I stopped writing altogether when I had four children and became a teacher. That was until three years ago, when it dawned on me that if I wanted to become a published author I ought to start writing again or it was never going to happen!

What have you learnt about writing since winning the Kelpies Prize in 2014?

I love writing and I wish I’d started years ago! Getting a book published was my childhood dream and I was absolutely over the moon when The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean won the Kelpies Prize. However, being a children’s author is not an easy job and initially I was surprised by how many events are required.

Self-promotion can be especially challenging for debut and unknown authors and, although I’ve had to become rather good at blowing my own trumpet, I’m still far more comfortable in my own home, sitting in my pyjamas with a laptop and cup of tea! However, I relish talking to children at events and love helping to inspire the budding young writers of the future.

Author Interview Lindsay Littleson

Lindsay Littleson is presented with her winnings by KelpiesEdge author Claire McFall, at the Kelpies Prize 2014

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

When I get an idea for a story I jot down my initial thoughts in a notebook with little doodles of the characters. My secret weapon is my daughter Emily who is brilliant at helping me to bounce ideas around. Because my books have a lot of plot twists it’s important to do the planning first. I begin with a rough outline of the chapters, often on post-it notes. By this stage, I’ll be desperate to dive in and start writing! My writing time is between 7pm and 10pm as I teach full-time. People sometimes ask me if I need peace and quiet to write. However, I’m happy to work in the living room while my partner and daughter are chatting or watching television, oblivious to background noise, until I hear the words, “Would you like a cup of tea?”

Author Interview Lindsay Littleson

Book cupcakes for the launch of The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean

Do you have any tricks in your bag for when you get writer’s block?

I haven’t had serious writer’s block yet, probably because I have thirty years worth of ideas for stories tumbling around in my head! If I have a week or two when my heart’s not really in it, I stop writing and read instead. After I won the Kelpies Prize I was so keen to write every night that I stopped reading for a while. I’ve always been an avid reader, it’s as important to me as writing. I’ve achieved a better balance now.

Author Interview Lindsay Littleson

Lindsay signs books at the launch of The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean

Where did you get the idea for the Lily McLean books?

I wanted to write books set on Cumbrae and Arran because I love both islands; small islands are such magical places. I wanted my stories to have some magic too but at the same time I wanted my characters to be realistic and relatable. The theme of transition seems to be one with which everyone could identify. I have vivid childhood memories of being horribly nervous about the prospect of leaving my tiny rural primary and going to secondary school. Like Lily, I was a child who liked making lists; aged eleven I had a list of worries a mile long.

In The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean, Lily is faced with the challenge of moving from primary to secondary school. What advice would you give to her?

I’d advise her not to worry about being ‘popular’. I think you only need one or two real, kind friends in order to be happy. Also avoid saying mean things about somebody just to make others laugh or to fit in.

As a teacher, you must have met thousands of pupils. Have any of them made their way into your books?

Not directly, but listening to children’s conversations really helps me when I’m writing dialogue. My pupils are only five and six, the same age as Bronx and Hudson. Their conversations are often hilarious, as is their writing. This is my favourite ever letter from a pupil.

“To Mrs Littleson, you are a fairy. From Kirstin. Thank you for being my teacher.” Lindsay’s favourite letter from a school pupil.

Are there any other authors who inspire you?

I adore The Family From One End Street by Eve Garnett, which I first read aged eleven. The Ruggles kids didn’t go to boarding school or own their own island. They were an ordinary working class family and as the eldest of five children I could really relate to bookish Kate Ruggles and her constant struggle to find some peace and quiet. It’s important that even when her life gets weird, Lily McLean should be as real to my readers as Kate Ruggles was to me.

Author Interview Lindsay Littleson

One of Lindsay Littleson’s favourite books.


More about Lindsay Littleson

For more news and updates about what Lindsay Littleson is up to, visit her website.

Lindsay Littleson’s Kelpies Prize-winning debut novel The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean and sequel The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean are both available now.

Are you a budding author with literary flair? We want you! Discover more about our Kelpies Prize here.

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A sneak peek into Lily McLean’s diary

Lily McLean had a Mixed-Up Summer. Now she’s (not) looking forward to an Awkward Autumn.

Telling people you hear voices doesn’t win you many friends. Especially when you’re starting high school. Especially when everyone thinks you’re just like your troublemaking big sister. What could possibly go wrong?

Before she starts school, we’ve managed to get a sneak peek into Lily’s diary. (Of course, you should never read someone else’s diary, but we couldn’t resist!)

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Dear Diary,

One week from now I’ll be putting on my second-hand uniform (including my hideous charity shop shoes) and heading for high school. It’s a scary prospect, scarier than taking Bronx and Hudson into a shop selling precious glass vases… or venturing uninvited into Jenna’s bedroom… or being cheeky to Gran. Those would all end in disaster, and I’ve a bad feeling that high school has disaster written all over it. Not literally. I didn’t see any vandalism when we went on the induction day.

There are two big problems.

1. I’m Jenna’s wee sister, and Jenna’s not known for being studious and well behaved, so the teachers are bound to hate me from Day 1.

2. Earlier this summer I was in the local papers. It wasn’t my fault I fell off Millport Pier, but people who don’t know me will have seen my photo, read the headline and will probably think I’m a total idiot.

Luckily nobody knows I was being haunted at the time. Well, nobody but my baby sister Summer and she can’t tell. It’s a secret I’m planning to keep, even from my friends.

I’m putting all the spooky stuff behind me. It’s going to be tricky enough making new friends at high school without anyone knowing I hear voices.

I’m not like Rowan, who’s popular with everyone. David thinks Rowan will find new friends and leave us behind, and that really worries me because Rowan has been my best friend since nursery. I want our friendship to stay the same, but I’ve got a bad feeling that David might be right. Rowan has been spending a lot of time with Georgia and Jade this summer, while I’ve been busy at home, helping Gran to look after the wee ones while Mum’s at work.

Speaking of home, our new house is bigger and better than the old one. Even if things go badly wrong at high school, I’ve got a better place than the downstairs hall cupboard to hide now. I’m writing this diary entry in my own room!!!

At the beginning of the holidays I made a chart, counting down the days until high school. Each time I cross one out, my heart thuds against my ribs and my hands feel clammy, as if something terrifying is about to happen.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.


Awkward Autumn of Lily Mclean jacket cover

The Awkward Autumn of Lily McLean is the sequel to the Kelpies Prize winner The Mixed Up Summer of Lily McLean.

Join author Lindsay Littleson as we launch this laugh-out-loud book at Waterstones Braehead on Thursday 29th March. Find out more.

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An inside look at Lily McLean’s diary!

With just under a week left until the publication of Lindsay Littleson’s The Mixed-Up Summer of Lily McLean, how is Lily feeling about it all? Take a sneak peek into Lily’s own personal diary and find out for yourself!

Dear Diary,

I am very, very excited about the book coming out next week, but my nerves are jangling.

Agggh! I can’t believe I just wrote that. If I’m going to be a famous author when I grow up then I’ll need to stop writing rubbish. Nerves don’t jangle. Tambourines jangle. Nerves carry messages to the brain. But the point is – I’m very, very nervous.

I don’t mind readers finding out about my family and how mixed up they are. I expect lots of kids have annoying brothers, though probably not quite as annoying as mine. And surely I’m not the only girl in the world with a bossy Gran and a moody teenage sister?

LittlesonMixedUpSummerLilyMcLean-3dI’m pleased that readers will get to come on holiday with Gran and me to Millport. It’s a lovely wee place and the marshmallow ice creams at the Ritz cafe are totally delicious. But the big, enormous problem is that my deepest, darkest secret is about to be revealed. The secret I can’t even tell my best friend, because if I do she’ll think I’m nuts. Because ghosts don’t exist, do they? And the trouble with the non-existence of ghosts is that either I’m being haunted or I’m going crazy.

Lots of love,
Lily

Uncover mysterious goings-on and discover Lily’s secret from Thursday 23rd April.