When we emailed Lucy Strange to ask if we could send her a few questions for her to answer, she responded really quickly. We were delighted! We devoured her two books: 'The Secret of Nightingale Wood' and 'Our Castle by the Sea'. We can't wait for her third to come out in October: 'The Ghost of Gosswater'!
Enjoy her answers!
Q: Have you always wanted to write books? Did you do anything else before being an author?
A: I have always loved books and I dreamt about being a writer, but I never really thought it was something you could actually do as a job! I’ve done lots of other jobs too – a secondary school English teacher, an actor…. A love of stories has always been at the heart of everything I’ve done. Q: Why did you choose to write books for children?
A: I was working as an English teacher when I started writing fiction, and it felt very natural to write for the age group I was teaching. Q: How do you come up with your ideas for books? Do you base your characters on people you know?
A: A lot of ideas just come to me – from daydreams or from things I read or find. I love discovering interesting little bits of history. I’m also frequently inspired by art. Our Castle by the Sea was inspired by an Eric Ravilious painting of the view from the Belle Tout lighthouse. I often use little details from people I've met, but I've never turned a whole real person into a character - I think that would be cheating Q: What were your favourite books when you were our age (11 year olds)?
A: I loved reading all sorts of things, but I think I was about 11 when I first discovered how much I love reading murder mysteries! I love being part of solving the puzzles in the story. All my own books contain elements of mystery – plot twists, red herrings and hidden clues… Q: Were you already writing stories when you were in primary/secondary school?
A: I did enjoy writing when I was at school, but I didn’t feel I was very good at it. I wrote a lot of poems and I kept a diary. It wasn’t until I was much older that I felt my brain was ‘ripe’ and ready to write a proper book. I had to fill it up with life experiences (and LOTS of reading) first! Q: When you write a book, do you carefully plan everything out that will happen or do you make some tweaks along the way? When do you usually decide on a title?
A: I usually have a clear plan but then do a fair bit of improvising along the way. Stories can change a great deal during the drafting and editing process as you work out what is really at the heart of the story you want to tell. I usually have a working title as I write the story, but this is often changed in discussion with my publisher as they work out a really tempting title for my readership. For example, my working title for The Secret of Nightingale Wood was Moth and the Nightingale. Q: How long does it usually take you to write a book? How many drafts do you have to do?
A: My first book took about three years from the first sentences to it being published. My most recent book, The Ghost of Gosswater (out in October 2020!), took about eighteen months – so I’m getting quicker! I usually write about three drafts and then do lots of detailed editing too – it’s quite a lengthy process, but it’s so important to get it right. Q: Your books are set in England, do those places actually exist? Have you ever been to any of them?
A: I always write about places I know, but I tend to place a fictional village within a real area. This means the story remains convincing whilst allowing me room for manoeuvre, both factually and artistically... The Ghost of Gosswater is set around a fictionalised version of Ullswater in the Lake District. Our Castle by the Sea is set on the coast of Kent, and I mention real places such as Dover near by, but Stonegate and Dragon Bay are fictional. The Wyrm is based on a real sandbank just off the cliffs of Dover called Goodwin Sands, and it really has swallowed up hundreds of ships over the centuries! Q: Your books are about family and relationships, why is this subject important to you?
A: I think this subject is important to everyone. I want to write exciting, gripping stories that have real heart. I think books that touch your emotions are the books you really remember. For a book to feel important and special, it has to have a lot more than plot. Q: ‘The secret of Nightingale wood’ is set in 1919 and ‘Our castle by the Sea’ during the second World War. Did you have to make a lot of research to make the settings and characters realistic? What is specific about writing an historical story?
A: Yes – there is always a lot of research involved when you write a story set in the past. It is always a really fascinating part of the process, and often real historical events can spark ideas for things that happen in the story. It can sometimes be difficult keeping the characters’ timeline in step with the things that actually happened; sometimes your characters want to pull you away in all sorts of different directions! Q: In ‘Our castle by the Sea’, is the story based on real events and characters, or is it completely fictional?
A: Petra and her family are fictional, but many of the things mentioned in Our Castle by the Sea actually happened – the internment of ‘enemy aliens’ for example, and the sinking of the Arandora Star. These real, terrible tragedies are the reason I wanted to write the book: discovering history through the eyes of a character your own age can be so much more powerful than just learning the facts of what happened. Q: Are you working on a new book at the moment? Are you planning to write a sequel to any of your books?
A: All my books are ‘stand alone’ titles, so I don’t intend to write any sequels (I often hint at the future that lies ahead for my characters though). Yes – more books are on their way! The Ghost of Gosswater – a spooky, fireside read set in the Lake District in 1899 – is coming out on 1st October (available to pre-order online now!). And I’m just starting work on Book 4 – I can’t tell you anything about it yet, other than the fact that a fair bit of dark magic is involved….
We can't wait to read your next books.