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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Children's writer - Lynne North with Gertie Gets it Right (eventually).

Gertie Grimthorpe comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn't really got the hang of it. Being blonde haired, blue eyed and free of warts isn't much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie's spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn't when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn't help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted...

Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills. She soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite. Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch's Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie's chances of success, and the story unfolds. Not to mention the demon...

A children’s sword and sorcery fantasy novel aimed at the nine years of age to mid teen market. Zac is a fifteen year old stable boy whose life is turned upside down when he finds himself in the midst of demons, magic and a perilous quest. The land around Albemerle castle is under attack, and the only hope of survival for Zac and the people he loves is to find the great wizard, Aldric. Men have already died trying. Strange dreams mark the beginning of Zac’s life changing events. Armed with a magic sword, ring and crystal, he sets out with a group of soldiers to find Aldric. Demon attack almost ends Zac’s quest as soon as it begins. Zac refuses to give up, and soon finds himself accompanied by unusual travelling companions. Many dangers bar their way. Only Zac’s determination and the unexpected help he receives can make it possible to find and free Aldric, and return for the final battle to save the land…
Lynne North lives in the north west of England and works as a data analyst for one of the local Health Authorities. She has been a prolific reader all through her life, and for many years has spent the majority of her free time writing. As well as being educated up to degree level, she has completed courses and received diplomas from ‘The Writing School Ltd’ and ‘The Academy of Children’s Writers.

Her aim in life has always been to write, and she's had a sideline of freelance writing for many years. This has mainly involved published articles in such magazines as ‘Prediction’. She has also completed two children’s novels published in December’08 and is currently working on a fantasy novel for adults, and another very different children’s humorous fantasy.

What is ‘Gertie Gets it Right (eventually)’ all about? Can you tell us a little more about its genre?
Gertie Gets it Right (eventually) is a children’s humorous fantasy novel aimed at the eight years of age to young teen market.

Gertie Grimthorpe comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn’t really got the hang of it. Being blonde haired, blue eyed and free of warts isn’t much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie’s spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn’t when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn’t help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted… Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills. She soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite. Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch’s Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie’s chances of success, and the story unfolds. Not to mention the demon...

What gave you the incentive to write this book?
I love humorous fantasy, and have read a lot of it. The master of this genre is of course, Terry Pratchett, and I would like to think that Terry has inspired my writing in many ways. Gertie began many years ago simply with an idea, and though the theme of a witch going to a witching school has been likened to Harry Potter, my book was in the process of being penned long before JK became famous. Once I began the book, the characters took over and worked their way through the rest of it. I love Gertie as a character, and I hope others feel the same about her! I would like her to return one day…

Can you sum the book up in one sentence?
A light hearted and very funny excursion into children’s fantasy

Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences?
I doubt if there are any writers out there who do not rely on at least some of their life’s experiences in their writing. Characters with Lancashire accents have a habit of creeping into my novels, especially when writing humour. I believe I have that off to a fine art…Then of course there’s the animated umbrella in ‘Gertie Gets it Right (eventually)’ inspired by a true incident that happened to my Mother with her wooden-headed umbrella, but that’s another story.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
It’s very difficult to pick out one favourite scene because there are so many I enjoyed writing. Since I mentioned this in an earlier question, I will choose one from the early chapters when Gertie learns how to animate her umbrella. It is an impressive black one with the head of a bat as the handle…

Gertie concentrated even harder, and tried again. She had no reason to wonder why it shouldn’t work, so she believed with all her heart.

This time, she felt sure she saw the bat’s little nose quiver. Encouraged by this, Gertie tried again. She wasn’t one to give up easily.

“A…a…Atishooooooooo!” sneezed the bat’s head. “Gor Blimey,” he continued, “I’ve got a blinking cold. No wonder mind, being out in all weathers. How would you like it? Being upside down with cold water pouring down your ears? Never think of me do you? Oh no, you don’t take me out on nice sunny days do you?”

Gertie tried to reply, but didn’t get a chance.

“No,” the umbrella continued. "I only see light of day when it’s pouring rain. What a life. Don’t interrupt,” he added, seeing Gertie about to speak. “At last, I can have my say, and no one is going to stop me. I HATE rain, do you hear me? I hate it. Why I was put on this Earth to be an umbrella I don’t know. I must have done something really evil in a past life to deserve this, that’s all I can say.”

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all he could say. Because he continued.

“Not only rain either, mind. You take me out when it’s snowing too, and blowing a gale. My ears get blooming freezing. And what do I get when we arrive home for all my hard work? Cocoa? Hot chocolate? Kind words and a nice warm fire? No, a blooming good shake. That’s what I get.”

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?
No, I don’t have an agent, but if there are any out there reading this with interest, please get in touch! I was simply lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time (which had to be a first for me) when the writers site ‘You Write On’ gave the opportunity for publication. I thought about it carefully for at least five seconds before I snatched their hands off!

I would perhaps use them again, because my only disappointment was a very plain cover for both my books. You can’t judge a book by its cover, and all that, but Gertie and Zac deserve much more interesting and colourful ones! I would initially try to gain the interest of an established publisher who would give me the necessary backing to promote my next book more. It is an arduous task!

What marketing have you been doing to help sales?
I will try almost anything to promote my books! I am always happy to do interviews like this, I have my own website and blog, an Author page on Amazon UK, and copies of my books are available in my local library. If anyone has any more promotion ideas, I will be pleased to hear them!

How long does it take you to write a book? Have your written other books (give titles)?
My first two published books were long in the writing, because my writing skills have improved considerably over time. The first draft of Gertie was written many years ago when I naively believed that if you write a good story, someone will want to publish it. I didn’t, at the time, know all the ‘rules’ involved in writing a good book, and that has come over many years. The published version of Gertie is many drafts away from that first completed story…

My other published book is a children’s sword and sorcery fantasy,‘Zac’s Destiny’, and I am currently writing a very different humorous children’s fantasy, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, and a fantasy for adults, ‘Dimensions’.

Which comes first for you – characters or plot?
I think I would have to say plot, though characters come a very close second. For me, the initial ideas for the book have to come first, but it doesn’t take long before the characters take over a lot of the writing. I get to the point where I will think, no, Gertie wouldn’t do or say that. At that point the characters determine what comes next in a way, but they still follow a meandering version of my original plot.

How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?
I began to write while I was temporarily out of work after completing a psychology degree. I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but a lot of the problem is making enough time to do it while holding down a full-time job. Writing is my life, and ultimately is all I want to do as a career. I just need to pen that best seller!

You mentioned other books that you are working on. Tell us a little more about them.
Yes, I am working on two books. Strangely, that is how I seem to write best. One is humorous, the other serious. If I am not feeling particularly humorous, I write the serious fantasy. If I feel inspired to humour, then I write that one. They are such very different books, fortunately I never get mixed up!

The humorous book is another children’s fantasy, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For.’ Here is a brief synopsis:

Finn is a bored young leprechaun. He wants something exciting to happen, but never having been blessed by the Good Luck Fairy, he soon gets far more than he bargained for. This is no fairy tale…

And here is an amusing anecdote from the opening chapters:

Neither was poor Finn the most fortunate leprechaun ever to grace the Dell. Contrary to popular belief, leprechauns are not born lucky. Fortune is a blessing bestowed by the Good Luck Fairy, providing she is in an agreeable mood, and more to the point, as long as she is there.

Many people wish on the name of the Good Luck Fairy, or even leave little offerings for her under their pillows as they sleep in the hope she will grant them some good fortune. Leprechauns go one better, they encourage her to visit in person to bless their newborns. Magical types have a habit of sticking together, so she was happy to visit Duntappin once every twelve months. The main reason being she enjoyed the donations of the grateful parents, if truth be told.

Finn’s parents hated queues, so when they knew the fairy was due to visit the village to bless all the children born in the vicinity since her last visit, they waited a while to give the crush time to dwindle.

“It’ll be much better,” decided Lorcan, Finn’s father. “Let all the others queue in the heat with their screaming bundles. When they’ve gone, we can just walk right up and have our boy blessed in peace.”

Riona smiled. Lorcan always had the best ideas.

They arrived late in the beautiful dell just outside the village. The sun still shone, the bees buzzed through the cloudless sky, but something was wrong. The fact was they were so late the long queue had built, been blessed, then decreased, and gone away. The Good Luck fairy had also clumped off back to wherever she hailed from with her grateful donations of cakes and sweets.

Lorcan didn’t want his good idea to be blamed, so he said “Never mind, my love. Place the lad on the ground there. It will work just as well.”

Ma O’Shea looked where her husband was pointing, then lay Finn on the spot where the fairy had trampled the grass down when she carried out her blessings. It was obvious where she had stood as she was quite a heavy fairy due to her sweet tooth, and she had a habit of stomping around while she chanted. They hoped some of the luck may have dropped off her while she blessed and stomped. The O’Shea’s couldn’t be sure how well it would work. Maybe Finn would at least have a lucky backside; it was the best they could hope for.

A brief synopsis for Dimensions follows:

When Leah first sees the old necklace in the window of an antique shop, little does she know what life has in store for her. Increasingly drawn to the pentacle on a silver chain, Leah finally buys it and soon finds herself having strange dreams about Stonehenge. Trying to put the dreams to rest, she visits the ancient site; only to be transported into another dimension.

Leah arrives in a besieged land of wizardry, magic and demon might. The land needs the help of an Outlander, and to Leah’s disbelief and shock, she has been called.

And a snippet from the early chapters:

It was then she heard the wet, snuffling sound. As she looked around herself, the approaching riders all but forgotten, Leah strained to hear the sound again. She caught movement from the corner of her eye. By the time she turned her head in its general direction, all she saw was a vague sense of something disappearing behind one of the huge stones. In a panic now, frozen to the monolith against which she clung, all Leah could do was wait for it to reappear.

When it did, Leah felt her heart stop. The creature looked vaguely human, but the similarity ended there. Even stooped, it stood taller than Leah’s five foot four. Sickly white skin hung from its bony frame in long, pendulous flaps. It gave the impression of its skeleton having shrunk, leaving nothing for the excess skin to hold on to. The head was bald, apart from a few tufts of hair here and there on the scabrous scalp. Pus oozed from sores all over its body. The creature’s bloodshot eyes stared about wildly, the holes in its face dilating to sniff the air, searching. Couldn’t it see her? Was it blind? Leah didn’t move, or make a sound. Her very soul wanted to scream out and run, but she knew her life could depend on her actions right now.

The creature came nearer, and the smell of rotting flesh was overwhelming. Leah gagged, trying to hold her breath. The monstrosity turned its head, quizzically, and let out a deep sigh of annoyance. Even where she stood, Leah was sickened by the stench that came from the creature’s cracked and bloodless mouth. Something must have crawled in there and died, she thought. It turned, listening again. The holes on the side of its head dilated, as did the nostrils again. The glazed eyes turned, and stared straight at her.

What mistakes do you see new writers make?
I think, like myself, it is easy to believe that a good book will be snatched up and published. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Writing does not just involve an inventive mind. If the tale, no matter how good, isn’t written to the agreed publishing format and standard, then publishers will not consider it. New writer’s need to face this and address it. The fantastic idea for a story is just the beginning.

What advice would you give aspiring authors.
Don’t give up. You are very unlikely to have your life’s work snatched up by the first publisher or agent you send it to. Be prepared for the long haul, but believe in yourself, and don’t lose hope. There could be someone out there just waiting for your book to drop on their desk. The hard part is finding them…

Contacts: Website: http://www.lynnenorth.co.uk/


  1. Excellent interview! Both books sound great, and I love Lynne's comments and advice. Thanks, ladies!

  2. Thank you Shannon. It was an intereting interview.

  3. does the book have illistrations?

  4. I just love the bat-headed umbrella- it is so important to have memorable images, and this is one of them. And well done on your marketing campaign Lynne- you are popping up all over the place!

  5. Hey! Thank you all so much. Especially you, Louise, for the promotion. No, I'm afraid the books don't have illustrations, I think they are for slightly older children than illustrated books. And Allan, praise indeed as you are the master of promotion!

  6. Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

    - Daniel

  7. Merci beaucoup, Daniel! Très apprécié.