We are delighted to welcome A. L. Lester to the blog today to chat to us about her latest release, Taking Stock.
Thank you so much for having me! I’m here today to talk about Taking Stock, which is out on the 19th of September. Taking Stock is a 38k word novella set in 1972, mostly in rural Somerset. It’s about Laurie and Phil, two men who are coping with huge changes in their lives and finding their way toward some sort of stability and healing.
What was the inspiration behind your book? What prompted you to tell this story?
Several things. Firstly, it’s set on Webber’s Farm, which is also the setting of a previous book, Inheritance of Shadows. Inheritance is set in 1919 and is part of my spooky paranormal universe. I based the farm on somewhere I used to know as a child on the Quantock Hills in Somerset and didn’t want to leave after Inheritance. Taking Stock is the result. Although it’s set in the same universe as my other books and some of the same background characters are there, there’s nothing paranormal or suspenseful.
Instead it’s a gentle story about two people who are hurt and angry and tired, who find their way toward each other and help each other heal.
Initially Laurie was going to have a similar chronic condition to me (I have fibromyalgia and functional neurological disorder) but then just before I actually sat down to get the words out of my head and on to the page, my Mama had a very severe stroke. She is in her eighties and has been more or less working her seven acre smallholding singlehandedly for years. Her frustration and anger at her situation translated directly into Laurie as I was writing. So he’s a combination of both my own feelings about my lack of agency through my disability, and hers.
What is your writing day like?
Stressful, currently! Over the summer, I’ve been getting up for 6am and writing fifteen minutes sprints for two hours with another couple of authors from the JMS Books stable. But since the new school term began this week, that slot is filled with young teenagers screaming that they can’t find clean knickers or a hair-brush and my writing slot is going to be 9am to 11am I think. I hope. I can get down about 1,200 words a day if I stick to that, sometimes a bit more, sometimes a bit less. Then I do my marketing…making graphics, facebook publicity, blog posts, etc.. And after lunch, I rest until the chaos returns with the school buses at four. I have to be really disciplined about resting, because if I get too tired I have long, non-epileptic seizures and it’s all very boring.
Without giving too much away, what was the hardest part of the book to write?
It was really emotional writing about Laurie’s physical difficulties. It mirrored so closely my own frustration about not being able to do my gardening and smallholding stuff. And that was all being amplified my Mama’s frustration during that period, too. I had to have a cry after I wrote certain scenes.
Where did your research for the book take you?
I grew up in a farming community. A lot of the farming stuff is just natural for me. I got sucked in to the minutiae of sheep dipping and shearing in the 1970s, when it was a legal requirement to dip against scab. It’s on the edge of memory for my peers now—I’m fifty—and I did a lot of asking older people what they remember. The answers were very vague! For the stockbroking bits, I have a friend who worked in the City in the 1980s. He graciously allowed me to turn his brain inside out. It was very different then, the cut-throat ‘greed-is-good’ mentality had kicked in, but he had recollections of gentlemen stockbrokers in bowler hats who still turned up every day until they were squeezed out by the young bloods. There are also several really interesting things on youtube that I have links to on a page on my website—sheep shearing, a documentary on the City from the 1960s. I am trying to set up a page for each book with the historical research.
When did you realise you wanted to be an author?
Same answer as everyone else who’s asked these questions, I think… from when I was tiny! I wrote bad poetry and short stories from my teens onwards and wanted to be Dorothy Parker. I realised that wasn’t going to happen quite early on and stopped for a bit, went off and worked in IT and then technical theatre and breeding chickens, in that order. Then I had kids and once they got a bit bigger my lovely husband kicked me to start writing again.
What was your journey to publication?
I was very lucky. I self-published Lost in Time in 2017 and it was disastrous. I had no idea what I was doing. So I stepped back from it all for a year and then again, after a kick from Mr AL, I submitted to JMS and I’ve been with them since then. Taking Stock is my fifth book.
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
I’m working on The Hunted and the Hind, which is the third, final book in the 1920s Lost in Time trilogy. I’m having a dreadful time with it. The first two are historical, paranormal suspense with gay romance. And now with the third one I have to tie up all these loose ends, make sure the time-line works, (because time travel, what was I thinking?) and I’ve also accidentally created a parallel world with not-quite-elves who do magic. It’s all very stressful, but it’s out with beta readers, who are hopefully going to shout at me a bit about it so I can make it less dreadful and confusing. I’m hoping to get it out in the spring. Or burn it. One or the other.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
Here’s where you can get a copy: https://books2read.com/takingstocklester
About the Author:
Writer of queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense. Lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, a badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat and some hens. Likes gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy. Not musical. Doesn’t much like telly. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has tedious fits.Her
Keep up with A.l. Lester here:
About the Interviewer:
Ruby Moone lives in the wilds of Lancashire with her husband and writes historical and contemporary romance. At school, her teachers said that she lived with her head in the clouds and if she didn’t stop daydreaming she would never get anywhere. She never did stop daydreaming, and after years of happily living in the clouds, decided to write the stories down.