Name Lesley Hayes
Where are you from Oxford
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
When I’m asked about education I always feel compelled to say: School of Life – because although I was lucky enough to be well educated, it’s only since I’ve been out in the real world, getting that pearl in my oyster polished by grit, that I’ve learned the most important things. Family: I have an adult son and daughter and between them 4 gorgeous grandsons. Not married. Been there, done that, moved on. Nuff said. Very happy with my single status. Well, you did ask.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’ve just sold the film rights for ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’ and ‘A Field Beyond Time’ while the bidding is still on for ‘Round Robin’…no, just kidding. I wish.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I think I was just getting the hang of standing upright when I first saw a pen and thought: “That looks like fun!” Seriously, though… I was writing almost as soon as I could talk, which clearly didn’t provide quite enough communication opportunities.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Well, it must have been prior to the age of 13, when I submitted a short story to a National Newspaper competition and won it. I think the incredible feedback I got about that story (subsequently published by the competition organizers in a book demonstrating how to write) put the seal on it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Oh, that would have been the infamous ‘Not here but in another place’ written when I was 14, and damned with faint praise by my English teacher who said it was good, but not as good as Elizabeth Bowen’s ‘Death of the Heart’. I really wish now I hadn’t destroyed that manuscript. What inspired it? Oh, falling in love with an older person and being too young to act on it. That sort of thing. Romantic in a scarred sort of way. I wrote several after that which went the same way, bypassing the English teacher’s scrutiny as I learned to be my own best critic and editor and be ruthless about binning failed efforts at the Magnum Opus. Time passed, and I honed my craft. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I have no idea. Do I? People who love my books and short stories say that they’d recognize my particular style anywhere, that it’s so like me. I write in a variety of ways – sometimes wittily, with a dark humorous edge; sometimes seriously, with an underlying message I want to put across that might at times seem shocking. I don’t write in a ‘flowery’ way but my prose has been described as ‘lyrical’. I write with honesty and with feeling. I think that comes across.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Now you really are referring to the first novel I published on kindle, aren’t you? That one is ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’. I took the title from a particular passage in T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ because it manages to encapsulate the image of someone who has died by drowning while also making a reference to a specific Tarot card. ‘Drowning’ is a strong metaphor in this novel and is also intrinsic to the story – the fact that there is a Tarot reading early on in the novel which points towards some of this just clinched the deal when it came to choosing the title.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
If I were to answer that fully I’d be giving away an important part of the plot of ‘The Drowned Phoenician Sailor’. I really like my readers to stumble upon important messages as if only they have discovered them. But I will say it demonstrates ultimately that letting go of what we don’t need to hold on to, and thereby finding happiness, is not nearly as complicated as we make it seem.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
That depends where you’re coming from when you read it and what your existing belief system is. There are two ghosts in it (or are they something else? Right to the very end, and beyond, it’s entirely a matter of choice how you interpret it.) Other than that it’s describing life pretty much as we know it, with people you are likely to recognize – or so I’ve been told by readers who say: “Oh, that’s exactly like someone I know….!”
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Wouldn’t you like to know! Maybe. Some of them, I guess. It’s what we do as writers. We are ruthless plunderers of the events and people we witness – some personal, some in the public domain. In the end it’s sometimes hard to remember which belonged to you.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
Countless books, so I’ll have to pass on that. I wouldn’t know where to start. The list would be far too long. And as for mentors, I’ve had a few. Perhaps one of the most influential because I found his books and recordings at a time of profound transformation in my own life was Ram Dass. (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Polishing-Mirror-Live-Spiritual-Heart/dp/1622033809) Back in the day he was not nearly as well known as he has since become. We were both much younger then. I didn’t entirely embrace all his religious teachings, but being who he is, he wouldn’t have expected or wanted me to. It was really through listening to him and enjoying the lightness and humor with which he spoke, that I realized I had been practicing Buddhism for quite a while without even knowing it. That shifted my perspective and began a journey that has lasted the rest of my life up to now. I think he has been a model for me in not taking spirituality too seriously, any more than any other aspect of being human. It is best, I’ve found, to tread lightly on this path and not be too attached to any identity, since they are all only masks we wear in the end.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
‘Henchmen’ by Eric Lahti
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Jim Murray; Max Power; Robert K. Swisher Jr.; Rebecca Bryn; Nicola McDonagh; Malla Duncan; Kory M. Shrum; Robin Chambers… these are just a few. There are a number of very talented new indie writers I’ve come across, whose books I’ve enjoyed enormously.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m about half way through the first draft of my next novel, called ‘Dangerous People’ – that’s keeping me occupied most of the time. I’m also editing a work in progress by another author. And I’ve just embarked on a short Open University Course, all about forensic psychology. Fascinating.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Entity? Interesting way of putting it. I guess my friendships are what sustain me, whatever I do. I have some really beautiful souls in my life, and we support one another. Can’t say there’s just one, any more than I can point to any religious figure. If Love is an entity, then it would be that. Is Love an entity? Good question. It’s what motivates and guides me, that’s for sure.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as an art – which is pretty much how I’ve always seen psychotherapy, too. (I’ve been in practice as a psychotherapist for over 25 years.) I guess if I saw it as a career I’d have perhaps gone in for journalism when I had the opportunity (it was handed to me on a plate while I was working on ‘Honey’ magazine, but I said thanks but no thanks.) Much like psychotherapy, it is a profession, and as such I act accordingly, i.e. I behave with integrity always. But it’s also a vocation, in that I’m not in it primarily to make money (although obviously I also want to sell my books). Hope that covers it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not one word. Unless someone found a spelling mistake of course.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
No. I think I just started observing things around me from a very early age, and loved hearing and reading stories. Being an only child, and a very curious one, I suspect I got bored with other people’s stories and wanted to invent my own.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
If you mean my work in progress, ‘Dangerous People’, then that’s difficult. I don’t want to give anything away until I’m closer to completion. Call it a superstition, if you like. I tell you what I’ll do. There’s a poem I quote at the beginning by a writer called John Ashbery. I’ll share the first verse with you here. Maybe that will give some kind of clue…
Somewhere someone is travelling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, travelling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?
…And that’s all you’re getting!
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Not so far. I’m pretty unflinching when it comes to subject matter.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favorite author – or at least, the spotlight continually shifts. I end up with ‘most memorable’ rather than ‘favorite’ and there are a good number on that list. For now I’ll choose Audrey Niffenegger, author of ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ (so much better than the film they made of it, which is usually the case) because despite being magical realism it retained the sense of ordinary reality throughout, and was so original and clever I wished I’d thought of it (a rare accolade for me to afford another writer), but more importantly I sobbed for half an hour after reading the end, because it touched me so deeply.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
In my imagination, far and wide and very deep… Otherwise, not so much.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Me. Good, aren’t they?
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Deciding after five scrupulously attentive edits that it really was ready to get published on kindle now.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I always learn something from every book I write. Often I don’t know entirely how I feel or think about an issue until I see the words there on the page. Sometimes I’m amazed at the philosophy that jumps out of my characters’ mouths, and sometimes I don’t know how angry I really feel about something until I see my characters expressing it. Writing is an alchemical process, and what comes out eventually in each book is a distillation of everything you’ve learned about life up to the point of writing. It’s quite magical, really.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write every day. Write for the sheer joy of it. Write because you have to. Write because it’s your truth and no one can take it from you. Write for yourself. Forget about anyone else but you the writer reading it until you come to the point of your first edit, then sit with your most thorough (but also kindest) imaginary critic inside you and let them tell you where to snip, change and sift through for obvious mistakes. Then edit again. And again. And again. Imagine your book is like a loaf that requires multiple kneading and a beautiful garden that must be free of weeds. Polish it like the gem that is, until you are bored with it, then release it – either to the place where you will self-publish then miraculously transform into your own publicist and agent, or to someone else who has (also miraculously, these days) agreed to represent and publish you. And then wait… But while you are waiting, go back to step one and repeat the process… Well, if you’re a real writer, you won’t need me to tell you that.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Bear in mind, when you read my books – or those of any writer – that I have poured my heart, soul and sweaty exhausted self into writing it, and that it has taken me at the very minimum a year to write it, and in some cases far longer (A Field Beyond Time took ten years from genesis to completion). It isn’t something that came off a production line. It is unique. And if it touches you, keeps you up late at night to find out how it finishes, and leaves you thinking of things in a way you hadn’t considered before, or you just feel really satisfied by the whole experience of reading it… please write a review and post it on Amazon, and anywhere else where you post reviews. We writers drink in those reviews like ambrosia. They give us the feedback that reassures us it isn’t just us in a room with a computer and a cat (there’s usually a cat) and there really is a real, live receptive audience out there. We will be so grateful to you we’ll go away and write another book.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not the very first. It would have been something by Enid Blyton, I expect. Possibly one of the ‘Famous Five’ stories… I was always acting out those adventures on my own, in the back yard, with just the dog and my extremely active imagination for company.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The things that make me laugh are very much to do with situational humor that arises in the moment. The witty things people say. Some people seem to have a natural flair for it – and life is packed with ridiculousness. I don’t take myself very seriously, and people who do always make me laugh. What makes me cry is usually observing some kindness that one person offers another. In a sometimes cruel, uncaring world those random acts of generosity and compassion towards a stranger invariably bring tears to my eyes. I’ve noticed that the moments in a film that have me welling up are usually to do with reconciliation of some kind. It’s a theme that often recurs in my writing, so touches me deeply.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Having recently watched a superb production of Wolf Hall on TV I’m tempted to say King Henry VIII – but I think I might end up with my head on the block, so scrub that idea. Actually, I think it would be Shakespeare – whoever he really was. I suspect it was really the Earl of Oxford who wrote the plays, and I’d just love to meet such a natural psychologist and ask him what personal experiences he drew his wisdom from. He must have had such a fascinating life, when you look at the broad spectrum of subjects he wrote about and the extent of his education and knowledge.
Fiona: What do you want written on your headstone and why?
That’s an interesting one! I recently spent some time planning the kind of funeral I’d like, and included a CD of the songs I’d want played, but a headstone…hadn’t considered that. Something that said I’d made a difference, I suppose, and that I was kind and loving. Those are the memories I hope to plant in other people who know me, so that when they remember me they do it with a smile that comes right from their heart.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Hanging out with friends… is that a hobby? I seem to do a lot of it. I’m lucky in that I have some really interesting friends and we never tire of conversation. On my own I spend time gardening (though I’m a fair weather gardener, I admit) reading – obviously! – listening to music, watching movies, and a certain amount of studying. I’m also a bit of a crossword fanatic – the more cryptic the better. I do love a mystery to solve!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Dramas mostly – especially anything that has a psychological component to it. If there’s a series with a box set I just plough on through it to the end: Orange is the new Black; The Sopranos; The L Word; In Treatment; Six Feet Under; The Thick of It; Big Love… that’s just a few examples. I love humorous TV shows too – so essential to our wellbeing, and too many to name here. Films… well, I could list hundreds. I like some sci-fi, like Limitless for example, but mostly dramas again. They must have good actors and be intelligently written and/or make me laugh. So absolutely anything by Woody Allen is high on my list, plus all Mike Leigh’s films, and all of Miranda July’s – I just love her quirky take on life. A few other recent ones I’ve enjoyed are: Before I go to Sleep; The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Great question, Fiona! My favorite food would be something involving pasta and cheese, and most inventive vegetarian dishes – and chocolate, of course. Who could live without that? My ‘signature color’ most people would tell you, is purple, and all the shades thereof in that part of the spectrum. I also love deep blues – even the words sapphire and indigo give me a kind of vibrational thrill…Now, music… I’m a real mix-up here. I’ve always loved folk music – especially the Bob Dylan and Joan Baez kind. (She was one of my early heroes.) And then there’s k.d. lang – what can I say? She’s just unsurpassable. I also get very excited still by new singers and bands on the music scene – and then I get every new album they produce. The ones that spring to mind that have delighted me most in recent years are Dido, Martha Tilston, Natalie Merchant, Iron and Wine, Sarah MacLachlan, Damien Rice… You’ll have to stop me here, or I’ll just go on for hours.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done
I’m lucky enough to have always followed the career I chose – initially, that was writing. I won a short story competition when I was only 13 and left school at 17 (much to my headmistress’s horror as she had me pegged to be a star pupil going on to university at either Oxford or Cambridge) having secured myself a job on ‘Honey’ magazine. I was snapped up by an agent (those were the days!) and had a successful career as a published writer until I decided in my late thirties to train as a psychotherapist. You can read more about this on my website, so I won’t say more – only to add that about 7 years ago I could no longer resist the call of the writer in me, so began the process of winding down my psychotherapy practice and focusing instead on writing the novels and short stories you can find on kindle at Amazon. There are links to all of them on my website.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is http://www.blog.lesleyhayes.co.uk