I am currently reading Lyndsay's second Timothy Wilde book 'Seven For A Secret', a novel tagged as 1846: KIDNAP, MURDER, LOVE AND BETRAYAL ON THE LAWLESS STREETS OF NEW YORK and I'm very lucky to be hosting the author herself at Tigerlily Books today. Lyndsay is going to share with us how she wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to her writing.
Lyndsay was born in 1980. She worked as an actor doing professional theatre for ten years before turning to writing. In the course of her acting career, she went to college in the Bay Area, learned how to sing, moved to NYC with her husband, and had a ferociously, indecently great time. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson and The Gods of Gotham and is a member of The Baker Street Babes, Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, and The Baker Street Irregulars. For more infomation on Lyndsay, go to www.lyndsayfaye.com.
The first book I ever penned (typed on a laptop, but let’s allow a little romantic leeway where verbs are concerned) was about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, a pair of characters I have unabashedly loved since my childhood. Dust and Shadow set them the herculean task of solving the Jack the Ripper murders, and I did terrible things to both my protagonists in order to heighten suspense both emotionally and physically: I stabbed Holmes, for starters, ruined his reputation, set an angry Whitechapel mob on him, and caused him to feel directly culpable for defenseless women being slaughtered. I did all of this because I love him to pieces, and thus—conversely, I grant—making the man suffer seemed like a brilliant plan.
The Timothy Wilde books (The Gods of Gotham and my latest, Seven for a Secret) were a trickier matter entirely, and a long time in coming. A gap of some two years divided my first book from my second. See, I got it into my head somehow that I should write serious historical novels about people with repressed, decorous feelings, and that these people and their feelings should be drawn obliquely, artfully, like a minimalist painting or a bonsai tree, and then I would have written an “important” book that got on “important” book lists made by people who thought that Nabokov’s works were a little pedestrian for their tastes.
Yes, absolutely, I was an idiot.
My work during that time period might well have included some super-great, shiny writing, and possibly similes as brilliant, pure, and cutting as the finest diamonds. Whatever. No one bought those books, and now I know exactly why no one bought those books; my heart might well have been in them, of course it was. But it wasn’t visible.
When I wrote Seven for a Secret, I was very angry. I was angry about complacent people in the United States telling me that racism under the Obama administration was over, and we could all go home, and get rid of voter protection laws. Racism is alive and well and living in our schools and our communities and our politics. Seven for a Secret is about vigilante African Americans fighting back against the system (yes, it was systematized) of white slave catchers simply grabbing a person of color by the collar in the middle of the road, declaring that person was an escaped slave, and hauling that helpless city dweller down South to be sold to a plantation. Twelve Years a Slave, an autobiography by Solomon Northrup before it was turned into an Oscar-winning film, tells the other side of the coin I wished to mint: I wanted to tell a true story, historically sourced, about people who escaped with their lives and their names.
Trying to write a book from a place of apathy or sadness is extremely difficult, but doable. Trying to write a book that is “art” is next door to impossible—you either write the best and truest book you can, or you don’t, and then it’s either good, or it isn’t. Trying to write a book from a place of anger is fairly simple, however, and anger is one of the more fiery human passions, so writing a book about something that made me incandescent with pique over modern dismissal of global race problems was not the most difficult challenge ever presented to me; words just kind of kept tumbling onto my laptop screen.
Anyone accusing me of caring a bit too ardently about politics and the consequences of poor administrative decisions would be correct, but alongside the anger I felt about a specific problem (racial injustice), I have other preoccupations I worked into the narrative, aspects of human nature that will never fail to fascinate me (courage and kindness and cruelty and unconditional love). When I realized after a couple of failed book attempts that I needed to put up or shut up, I looked in the mirror and admitted to myself that no one reads my fiction because it’s abstruse or postmodern. The lovely people who read my fiction do so because when I attempt to convey aspects of life I honestly find ugly or beautiful, and I force myself to do so with my heart on the tips of my fingers, some of those words end up in print.
Words along the heated lines of:
The space Mercy’s absence created in me was a voracious hole. Not a neutral erasure, but a gleaming black bonfire. Had I taken a keek in my chest, I’d have seen bluish flames skittering along ribbons of ebony pitch. The sensation was pretty specific.
Since moving to New York City ten years ago, I have seen every single production by the Public Theatre produced for their free Shakespeare in the Park program. Shakespeare is an early love of mine, and it’s Shakespeare who returned me to sanity when it comes to passionate writing. His characters rail, whimper, weep, laugh, bellow, plead, ache, mock, and love, and they perform many other verbs equally as telling. And while I ought to have stuck to the model I used in Dust and Shadow and caused my new characters to run the full gamut of visible emotional highs and lows from the outset, ultimately I’m glad of the journey. Because if I can expose my heart to my readers now, and express the struggles I faced, then anyone can take a stab at the same, and who knows what the marvelous results might be?
Write from your heart, for your heart. There is no better advice that I can deliver.