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Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Success at 23 The Strand!

Success has arrived in spades this summer for Devon author Linda Mitchelmore whose latest book Summer at 23 The Strand - her first with HarperCollins Digital -  is currently being read on beaches everywhere. Linda was one of the first people to encourage me when I was making the transition  from journalism to fiction and her determination to overcome adversity is what makes her such a great ally. Today I have asked her along to answer some questions about her career to far.

Paignton Harbour, a view enjoyed by each character in the book.
Welcome, Linda.
Already a well established and successful author, your first book with HarperCollins, Summer at 23 The Strand, is flying high in the Amazon charts. How does that feel?

I’m stunned, would be the honest answer. I admit to not being hugely ambitious and write because I want (have needed) to, so this is all a wonderful bonus.

How has your writing routine changed since Summer at 23 The Strand was published?
Another honest answer – there is so much PR to do/be part of that I’m actually doing a lot less, new creative writing at the moment. I don’t beat myself up about it though … I tell myself if it is writing-related then it counts as writing work!

Your new book is a series of short stories linked together by a common theme – the beach chalet where all the characters spend their holidays. Where did the idea come from?

We have a lot of beach huts around here. Huts are different from chalets (as 23 The Strand is) in that you can’t stop overnight and there is no electricity or water in them. When my children were small I used to share a beach hut with a friend, who owned hers, but the hut next door was a council-owned one and the tenants changed weekly or fortnightly. I was always fascinated by how different each lot of tenants were. Another prompt to write this book is the fact my mother cleaned holiday flats on Saturday mornings when I was younger and I used to help her when I was a teenager. Holidaymakers used to leave all sorts of stuff behind – clothes, shoes, books, jewellery, items of food – and my mother had to hand anything left behind to a supervisor, although it wasn’t unknown for her to slip something useful into her shopping bag! But one Saturday, there was a prettily-wrapped parcel on the kitchen table – ‘For the cleaner’. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look of sheer pleasure on her face that someone had left her a present and not their unwanted items. So, two ideas that have been fairly deep-rooted over a few decades, is the answer.

You have always been a prolific short story writer. Do you think a book like yours could aid the re-emergence of short stories in today’s magazines such as Woman and Woman’s Own?

I’d like to think so, but the short story market is shrinking as we speak and the cynic in me thinks it probably won’t be long before all magazines are on line. I very much hope I’m wrong. Better news is that novels in the printed-on-paper form are making a very healthy comeback.

You often say that you came to writing late in life. What advice would you give someone, young or not-so-young, keen to be published?

Research the market you want to write for and then just get on with it!

Which of your previous novels and novellas is your favourite?


Gosh, that’s a bit like being asked to choose between my children. But to answer the question, Red is for Rubies (Choc Lit) is the book I would say comes from my soul- the characters I created and the emotions I put down on paper. It’s the book that’s done least well for me, which is a bit sad, but maybe now that Summer at 23 The Strand is doing so well readers will look to see what else I’ve had published and buy Red is for Rubies. All that said, the way Summer at 23 The Strand is doing right now it is fast becoming my new favourite!


Tell us what your writing means to you and how your life would be without it.

Writing for me was (and still is) a safety net when I lost my hearing due to viral damage. In the fictional worlds I create I – through my characters – can still hear. I have auditory memory and also, now, a cochlear implant which has restored a level of hearing for which I will be eternally grateful. Thank you Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and Claire and Gemma in particular. I doubt I would have become a writer if not for the immediate above, but it’s been a surprise, and delight, to discover writing is something I’m not half bad at.

Is there any form of writing you haven’t tried yet but would like to in the future – e.g. scriptwriting?

No, I don’t think so. I would have to learn that craft and, possibly, start on the bottom rung of the ladder and there would probably be a lot of rejections along the way before I found my way to the top. I’ve had quite enough rejections, thank you!

Thank you for talking to me, Linda. If you could have one wish granted, personally or professionally, what would it be?

Thank you for inviting me to chat to you, Marilyn. My one wish? Can I only have one? Okay, so here goes  - the time, money, and staff to have fresh sheets on my bed every day!
Linda was born and brought up in Devon, just a stone’s throw from the sea. She is still within walking distance of the house she lived in as a child and the hospital where she was born. A world traveller she is not and it’s rare to go into town and not see someone she knows with whom to stop and have a chat.
Linda’s best subject at school was always English but becoming a writer never entered her head until she lost her hearing and decided to take a writing course for ‘something to do’ while the rest of her family watched TV or listened to music. She began with sending letters to magazines – the ones that gave monetary prizes or decent gifts like cameras and garden equipment and Schaeffer pens – mercenary little madam that she is! Short story submissions to magazines followed (she has had in excess of 300 short stories published, worldwide, now) and it seemed a natural step to have a bash at writing a novel, guided by her mentor who doesn’t wish to be named but who, for Linda, will always beummer at 23 The Strand is Linda’s seventh published novel.
Linda does get dragged from her keyboard now and then to ride pillion on her husband’s vintage motorbikes (yes, plural – he has six), and walking (preferably near water) remains a joy and a regular occurrence – pub lunches at the end of said walks are always a draw.
Family is very important to Linda and she now has two grandchildren, Alex and Emily, who are such a joy and huge fun – it seems easier watching grandchildren grow and develop than it did when she was a new and very inexperienced mum to her own children. There are also two adorable grand-dogs in the equation – Lola and Max – so family get-togethers are always rather full on with fun and noise! If she can find the time she might write a ‘family’ novel .... watch this space.

Linda at home in her garden



Elaineyross said...

I’m really pleased that you shared Linda’s thoughts Marilyn as they took me down memory lane in so many ways, in particular, prompting me to reflect on the long hot summers of our childhood. I admire her candid responses to your questions, although it’s dissapointing but inevitably true that Linda believes short stories, as we know them today, will eventually be sourced on line. I chuckled when she said that choosing her favourite novel was akin to naming your preferred offspring - almost impossible I think! A lovely piece, thank you.

Guernsey Girl said...

Thanks, Elaine. That's what I like about Linda - she says it like it is. Which is surely why she's a good storyteller! I, too, have been thinking of the long, hot summers of our childhood and wonder if we ever realised how lucky we were back then. We certainly do now!! I remember clearly being allowed to go to bed with just a cotton sheet as a cover - what a treat. As for this week - I've never been so happy to see rain!! All good things must come to an end, as mother used to say.

Linda Mitchelmore said...

I am thrilled that you asked me to feature on your blog, Marilyn ... a blog I dip into a lot because it is so very good. Thanks very much to Elainey for her lovely comment, too.

Guernsey Girl said...

It's great to have you here, Linda. I've had a sudden surge in pageviews on my blog over the last couple of days. I wonder why? ;)

Chloe said...

I don’t normally buy short stories but this has me intrigued how they will all be linked? One for the holiday reading list.....

Guernsey Girl said...

I've read that, in some European countries, you can buy short stories from vending machines. This is aimed a busy people who haven't got time to read more than a chunk at a time. Maybe we should try it here, Chloe?