What do you do when the past returns to haunt you? When no one around you tells the truth?
Ollie’s life is in crisis. Estranged from his father when he refuses to take over the family hotel, his artistic career is floundering, and his marriage is under strain. His wife, Jess, blames him, but is she as innocent as she appears?
Louise, Ollie’s sister, takes on the hotel in his absence, testing her emotional fragility to the limit. She knows her father considers her to be second best, and her husband is hostile to her new role.
As the action moves between London, Plymouth and Venice, the family implodes under the weight of past betrayals, leading to a nail-biting, fast-paced climax.
In another emotionally compelling novel from the award-winning Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, the complex ties that both bind us to family and drive us apart are laid bare. Can Ollie heal the fault-lines before it’s too late? Above all, can he salvage his relationship with his young daughter, Flo, before tragedy strikes?
I’m really delighted today to be featuring another author that it’s been my pleasure to meet through Book Connectors. The new novel by Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn – The Broken Road – was published on 6th December and I very much like the look of it. In fact, I plan to take a closer look at this one in due course, and I’ll also investigate Lindsay’s two earlier books, Unravelling (which has been on my Kindle since its release…) and The Piano Player’s Son. I’d like to welcome Lindsay to tell us more about herself and her writing…
Welcome to Being Anne – would you like to introduce yourself?
Hello, Anne, and thank you inviting me onto your blog. My name is Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn and I write novels, short stories and flash fiction. I’ve always loved writing, but it’s only since I left full-time teaching in a further education college in 2005 to do an MA in creative writing at Bath Spa University that I began to take it seriously.
I’ve been looking at your excellent website – we could have been separated at birth because I wanted to be a ballet dancer or writer too! Sadly, I became a civil servant instead, and write about books rather than having written any. I’d love to know more about how dreaming about writing became a reality for you.
I’m glad you like my website, and what a coincidence that we shared those childhood goals. I wrote stories when I was at primary school – in fact I’ve still a couple of exercise books with them in! Then homework, exams, and later, work, took over. When I was at home with young children, I wrote four novels – by hand, something I can hardly believe now. I almost got an agent for one. But then work and my personal life became challenging, and I gave up writing, thinking that was it. But when I was asked to teach creative writing at college, my interest was rekindled. My first success came when I had a three-minute thriller read on BBC Radio Nottingham, and then one of my short stories was a regional winner in a competition. I was hooked again!
So two novels already, and now a third – The Broken Road. Would you like to tell me a little more about it? Why should people read it?
The Broken Road explores the conflict between personal ambition and family expectations. Artist, Ollie Anderson, becomes estranged from his father when he rejects the idea of running the family hotel in favour of his passion for watercolours. His relationship with his wife, Jess, is also under strain. At first it seems as if Ollie’s art is to blame, but there is more to Jess’s story than meets the eye. Ollie’s father suffers a heart attack, and his sister, Louise, takes on the hotel, despite hostility from her husband. As secrets from the past emerge, placing extra strain on relationships, the family starts to unravel.
People should read the novel, not only because it tells a jolly good story, with a tense, faced-paced climax, but also because it examines the tensions and conflicts inherent in family relationships. The family can be a warm and supportive network, filled with love. It can also be destructive, with a negative effect on an individual’s well-being. I love exploring family dynamics; as one reviewer said about my second novel The Piano Player’s Son: ‘Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn is a writer who understands the complexity of family life as well as its fragility and handles her characters and their problems with sensitivity and insight.’
London, Plymouth and Venice – and running a hotel. Tell me more about your research.
I like to use places I know for the settings in my novels. I was born in London, so I’m very familiar with it, especially the area where Ollie lives. In fact, Ollie and Jess’s flat is in the building which was once my old school, but has now been converted into flats in real life.
I love Plymouth and visit it regularly. In particular, I like the area around The Hoe, and the view out across Plymouth Sound. This beautiful bay plays an integral role in the novel. For one of the main characters, Louise, it’s both a solace and a joy as we can see in this short extract:
The storm had left behind a canopy of clouds, puffy as pillows. Colour had leached from the sea, and waves rippled across its surface, scuffed up by the cool breeze. White foam, like soap suds, flared out from behind the ferry as it crossed the bay. Louise sat at the open-air café on the promenade and sipped her coffee. Her eyes reached for the Breakwater. This view was in her soul: her comfort, her security, her future.
And Venice is my all-time favourite destination. I love the light, the canals, the shimmering reflections in the water. I’ve visited lots of times since I first went there twenty years ago, and I spent four weeks there last September.
I don’t know anything about running a hotel(!), but there is a lovely family hotel where I live and the owners were very generous with their time and information.
The cover is quite beautiful – in fact, all your covers are beautiful. Are they your work – or if not, do you have a lot of input?
I’m so glad you like the cover, as the covers for my books are very important to me. They are not my work, but the work of some highly successful designers, although I did have a lot of input. I also wanted to create a similar feeling across all three, and I think that’s been achieved even though each one was designed by someone different.
What does a writing day look like for you?
When I’m writing a novel, I feel happy if I achieve 1,000 words in a day. More is a bonus, but any less is definitely a cause for misery! When I’m struggling for words, I have to sit at the computer until I have a breakthrough. This could take hours or days. But I know if I go away in the hope of inspiration arriving, it won’t. As Picasso said ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working’.
And what part of the process do you enjoy the most?
I think I like rewriting and editing the most. It’s satisfying to be able to sort out character blips, strengthen the structure, and generally discover what the novel’s about!
Tell me a little about your path to publication as an author…
When I finished my MA for which I wrote the first draft of Unravelling, I was ready to get the novel ‘out’ there. After lots of further writing, I began to send it to agents, and received some wonderfully positive comments. However, in the end, they all said ‘no’, so I decided to self-publish. I went through a company, Matador, as in 2010, it was nowhere near as easy to publish your own books as it is now. It was a bit scary, but when the novel won several awards, and lovely reviews from readers, I knew I’d done the right thing. The Piano Player’s Son was published by Cinnamon Press, after winning their novel writing award, so I was then what is known as ‘hybrid’ writer! With The Broken Road, I decided not to try agents and publishers, as I wanted to be completely independent. It’s been a lot of hard work, but I’m thrilled with the results.
What writers do you admire? if someone said “your writing reminds me of…”, who would you like them to mention?
One of my best moments was a review of The Piano Player’s Son, when the reviewer said on her blog readingwrites, ‘This is such a good read. The pages turn faster than an autumn leaf blowing in the wind. There are also some big shocks in here that I didn’t see coming at all. I would highly recommend this book, if I didn’t know who had written it I could have mistaken it for Anne Tyler and I can give it no higher commendation than that.’ My novels have also been compared with Anita Shreve.
Thank you Lindsay – I look forward to exploring your novels further…
After a career teaching English in further and higher education, Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn now works as a writer and creative writing tutor. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Her first novel, Unravelling, published in 2010, won Chapter One Promotions Book Award and The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Award for adult fiction and came second in the Rubery Book Award 2011. The judges said it is ‘an enjoyable and captivating read’, ‘well written and intricate’, and has ‘a compelling narrative and strong dialogue’. Readers say ‘I couldn’t put it down.’
Lindsay’s second novel, The Piano Player’s Son, was published by Cinnamon Press in 2013 after winning their Novel Writing Award. A frequent comment from readers: ‘I felt bereft when it finished.’ Her third novel, The Broken Road, was published on 6th December.
Lindsay lives in Worcestershire, where she enjoys walking, singing a cappella and staring into space!
To find out more about Lindsay and her writing, do take a look at her excellent website: you can also connect with her on Facebook.