Sandra’s first published story was in one of the UK Meet anthologies – I was lucky enough to be on the acquisitions team for that – so am delighted to welcome her here with her first full length book.
What inspired you to start writing?
Love of stories. Thinking back, my early education was very story-orientated – lots of “write a story about what’s happening in this picture” and suchlike in infant school. I don’t know if they do things the same these days, but it certainly left me with the impression that the whole point of learning to read & write was so that we could read & write stories! As an adult I find stories are a way to explore different ways of thinking, and understand other people: how they think, what their priorities might be, and how different life can be for them.
Do you have another job (paid or otherwise) apart from being an author? If so, how do you juggle your time?
Yes. I very recently changed to just having the one other job, which is part-time (I work there Mon-Thurs only). For the past 2.5 years I’ve also been helping my husband run a business – I was doing the majority of the admin & financial side of things, which is why I asked to reduce my hours at my dayjob. I haven’t officially told my dayjob that we’ve closed down the business, as I’m enjoying having my Fridays for writing and writing-related work!
I don’t keep all my writing-related work to Fridays though – I’d slow to the pace of a snail if I did. I use my breaks at work for keeping up with any reading I need to do for research, or for reading through drafts on my ereader (a technique I learned from Becky Black) and making notes on what to revise.
What did it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
Oh, a whole gamut of emotions! Relief that someone other than me thought this was a story worth telling; worry that someone might pick up on a detail I’ve got wrong; excitement that I finally get to share this story with others, and might at some point be able to chatter to someone about my characters!
I’ve also felt a certain amount of pride in how much I’ve grown as a writer. When my short story Shelter From Storms was accepted for the UK Meet anthology Lashings of Sauce in 2012, there was a lot of structural editing needed, and several places where I’d accidentally switched point of view. Although Under Leaden Skies is longer, I’d learned enough that I found and dealt with all of those kind of problems early on in the self-editing stage.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
Very definitely character-driven – both with writing and reading. Even now that I do outline before starting my first draft, it’s in a loose enough fashion that I can explore things off on a tangent. Sometimes I’ll keep writing & following the tangent in the same document, other times I’ll open a fresh document, or grab a notebook, and explore the tangent as a freewriting exercise. Very occasionally I’ve gone down the route of ‘interviewing’ my character to find out the root cause of the tangent. I usually find the reason for the diversion is an aspect of their character which I hadn’t previously considered, and whether or not I use the material I gather in the eventual draft, it all helps towards ensuring characters are fully rounded rather than two-dimensional.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
Oooh, tough question! It would depend on the situation as to which character would be best suited to helping me. Teddy is good at snap decisions, and has good instincts, but he doesn’t always remember the wider picture. Huw is great at thinking around a problem from all angles, but needs time to do that. Sylvia is utterly brilliant, provided she’s within her comfort zone. Her upbringing didn’t do a lot for her self-confidence, so although she does have a lot of strength and capability, she often seeks reassurance first.
All things considered, I think I might choose Grandfather. He’s seen a lot in his time, and dealt with a lot of tough situations. He’s also good at keeping his cards close to his chest. There were several times during the writing of Under Leaden Skies when I was surprised by how his character developed, and I think he’s got more secrets to share yet…
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
All of them!
Seriously, I’m one of those people who have a plan for when I win the lottery. Among other things, mine involves being able to shut myself away in a room and *write*. I hope I do manage to write all my ideas out at some point during my lifetime, but the two which I keep putting off due to the length of time needed for research are:
– cold war spy thriller (I have the plot, but it’s all the detail I need to research – not just about spycraft, but about life for adults in the 1980s as I was only a child then)
– massively epic fantasy story which draws on Welsh myths and history, but focuses on a small group of main characters rather than the huge casts you tend to find in epic fantasy (writing this would probably involve several years of preliminary research just finding and learning the amount of myths and history I’d need).
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn’t finish?
Most “classics” I don’t even get as far as starting – it would be quicker to list those I’ve finished.
I think it comes down to style: like I said above, I go for character-driven stories. I find older works are more plot driven, and also the prevalence of omniscient point of view creates distance between the character and reader.
I also have less patience these days – if a book doesn’t grab me within the first few pages I’ll probably put it down in favour of another.
What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?
I have to pick one?!
I hope you’ll forgive me for immediately choosing one of Alex Beecroft’s stories rather than your own, Charlie… It was Alex’s writing which pulled me into this genre all those years ago and whilst I love and adore virtually every word she’s written, it will be a long time before anything gets near to knocking her two Under the Hill books off the top of my list. I can’t really separate them, as they’re one story, and as I’ve said probably multiple times since I first read them, it’s like she looked into my head and pulled all my favourite things into one story. If the plot and the characters weren’t enough to make me love them, Alex’s beautiful prose is the icing on the metaphorical cake.
What’s your next project?
I’ve just finished working on a short story, Man of War, which has been accepted for Manifold Press’s Austen-verse anthology A Certain Persuasion, due for release in November. The story follows William Price (from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park) after he joins HMS Thrush, and follows his friendship with a young sailor who isn’t all he seems to be.
I’m currently in first draft stage of an m/m contemporary romance set in the area where I live. I have several ideas for stories set here, and a plan to have them all inter-link with main characters from one popping up as secondary characters in another. I really enjoy reading series like this, so I thought I’d have a go myself by linking up all the ideas I have for contemporary-set tales.
And I’m also in early-research stage of a sequel to Under Leaden Skies. I’ve got a lot of ground to cover for that, so I don’t expect to be drafting that until at least the end of the year.
Under Leaden Skies
Love. Loss. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Honour. Duty. Family.
In 1939, the arrival of war prompted ‘Teddy’ Maximilian Garston to confess his love to his childhood friend, Huw Roberts. Separated by duty – Teddy piloting Sunderland flying boats for RAF Coastal Command, and Huw deep underground in a South Wales coal mine – their relationship is frustrated by secrecy, distance, and the stress of war that tears into every aspect of their lives.
After endless months of dull patrols, a chance encounter over the Bay of Biscay will forever change the course of Teddy’s life. On returning to Britain, how will he face the consequences of choices made when far from home? Can he find a way to provide for everyone he loves, and build a family from the ashes of wartime grief?
Amazon UK (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Under-Leaden-Skies-Sandra-Lindsey-ebook/dp/B01HSCB4C0)
Amazon US (https://www.amazon.com/Under-Leaden-Skies-Sandra-Lindsey-ebook/dp/B01HSCB4C0)