Lorraine Wilson – Q&A

Lorraine Wilson
Lorraine Wilson
A conservation scientist and third culture Scot, Lorraine lives by the sea writing stories influenced by folklore and the wilderness. She has won the British Fantasy Award for her short fiction, and her debut novel, the dystopian thriller This Is Our Undoing, was a multi-award finalist. The Way The Light Bends, a dark folkloric mystery, was recently released, and her upcoming third book, Mother Sea, is an exploration of motherhood, climate change and belonging. She has been stalked by wolves and negotiated truces with tree frogs, runs the Rewriting The Margins mentorship scheme for marginalised writers, and can be found at https://linktr.ee/raine_clouds.

Lorraine can be found at:
Website – shadowsonwater.wordpress.com
Twitter – @raine_clouds
Instagram – @raine_clouds_writes
Mastodon – @raine_clouds
Book buying:
Luna Press – lunapresspublishing.com/novels
Fairlight Books – fairlightbooks.co.uk/Mother-Sea

Tell me what inspired you to write your latest novel?

The Way The Light Bends started with a very specific place & time – some empty arches in the cathedral ruins in St. Andrews in a thick haar (our east coast sea mist, destroyer of sunny days). I’ve been in the cathedral in a haar a couple of times, and highly recommend it for spooky vibes! There’s something incredibly liminal and otherworldly about it, and the image of the arches, the idea of someone looking through those arches searching for something lost stuck in my head for years before the rest of the story began to grow around it.

What came first the characters or the world?

Well, the world in-so-far as that scene above. But from there, the first parts of actual story to take shape were my sisters – Freya and Tamsin – the tension and distance between them, the sense of them both being lost in very different ways and trying to find a way back to one another.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

It was a long road! I was publishing short fiction in anthologies and magazines from fairly soon after starting writing, but it took me seven years from first starting writing to accepting the publication offer for my debut, This Is Our Undoing.

How long did it take to write?

I can’t remember exactly. The normal for my books is about five months for a first draft, then another few months of editing, interspersed amongst other projects, so about a year in total for a book to go from an idea to a fairly polished manuscript.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I don’t! I listen to a lot of indie folk though, so pick an indie or acoustic folk playlist on Spotify & it’s probably one I’ve listened to as well!

How many publishers turned you down?

The Way The Light Bends
The Way The Light Bends
For my debut, This Is Our Undoing, not very many because the first batch of indie presses I subbed to included Luna Press. My second book, The Way The Light Bends, went on a bit of a longer road – I wrote it before Undoing, and had more or less shelved it because it had two pub contracts fall through late-on, and I’d kind of lost faith in it. Then, after Undoing was published I showed it to my publisher to see what she thought & fortunately she loved it! It’s one of those fortuitous things – if Light hadn’t had a rocky road I might never have found Luna Press, and working with Francesca Barbini has been the biggest joy so I’m forever grateful that my books found their perfect home. It was worth the wait.

What kind of reactions have you had to The Way The Light Bends?

I’ve made people cry quite a bit, apparently! Which is a strange thing because I always feel like I should apologise but I’m also kind of delighted – it’s such a special thing to know that your words have connected with someone else so strongly. So I’m always saying, ‘I’m sorry, but also yay and thank you!’

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to The Way The Light Bends?

It was one of my beta readers, actually, who said that Light helped her understand her sister in a way she hadn’t before, and helped her with her own bereavement as well. That is something I treasure.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Mother Sea is out with Fairlight Books in May next year. It’s about a scientist in a remote island society under crisis, trying to reconcile her community’s grief with her hopes of saving their home and her own unborn child. We’ve just revealed the cover, which is just so beautiful and captures the feel of the book’s setting perfectly I think.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Ummm… I don’t generally go looking for them. If someone tags me in, then yes, or when it’s part of a blog tour that I’m expected to help boost. And I keep a vague eye on overall numbers and ratings because I know that matters for the evil algorithms. But I try not to check too often – publishing is hard enough on your self-esteem without going searching for the inevitable meh reviews.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I don’t really write within any one genre, so … yes! My writing style is very genre-blending – genre labels aren’t something I think about when writing, so my books are all quite different – so far, This Is Our Undoing is a speculative dystopian (clifi) thriller, The Way The Light Bends is a contemporary dark folkloric mystery, and Mother Sea is a lightly speculative literary novel.

What did you do before you became a writer?

I was a conservation research scientist at St. Andrews University. It’s a background that deeply influences my writing, both in the settings I use, and in the themes I often explore – climate change, our relationship with the wilds, etc.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Margaret Atwood, Kazuo Ishiguro and the much missed Ursula le Guin and Maya Angelou.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Almost everything! I will happily read any genre, although there are certain tropes that put me off where-ever they arise – mainly gratuitous violence or gore, or fridging of female characters.

What is your biggest motivator?

It depends on what kind of motivation – the drive to sit at the computer and write is mostly about me needing something to be working towards, to give me focus and challenge. The motivation to make my writing better is about wanting to connect with people, to make stories that resonate in some way, especially with people who don’t often get to see themselves or their stories on the page.

What will always distract you?

The cats. (also social media. Ugh I am weak)

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

It has varied – for Undoing, my publisher saw the artwork by Daniele Serra and knew that it suited the book perfectly, so checked that I agreed and snapped it up (I agreed immediately, it’s perfect); where-as for Light (with Luna Press again), and for Mother Sea (with Fairlight Books), I discussed themes, inspirations and comparative books with my editors before they then commissioned artists. I absolutely adore all three of my covers so consider myself very lucky.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Oh man, yes. I could read before I went to school, and have never stopped. I was lucky to grow up in a house full of books as my mum is an avid reader as well, so I read widely all the way through my childhood.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea books were my greatest love, alongside Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. Then when I was into my teens I discovered Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood and fell in love with both of them too. I also read a lot of mythology, folklore and traditional ghost story books as a kid (the scarier the better).

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I love my local Toppings in St. Andrews. Any bookshop that has ladders and offers you tea is impossible to resist!

What books can you not resist buying?

I mean….I buy a lot of books!! A few authors that are automatic don’t-even-stop-to-read-the-blurb pre-orders are Natasha Pulley, Kazuo Ishiguro & Emily St John Mandel.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Cup of tea & music, does that count?

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

I almost exclusively read ebooks as it’s kinder on both my bank balance and migrainous brain, but my kindle says I have 51 bought books in my tbr folder, and 111 in my wish-list samples folder.

What is your current or latest read?

Currently reading Small Favors by Erin A Craig and beta reading an upcoming book by my marvellous friend and thriller author Jane Jesmond.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I’ve recently read an ARC of Ascension by another friend, Nicholas Binge, so I’m really excited to see other people fall in love with that when it comes out. I’m also excited to get my hands on Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo, Ghost Girl Banana by Wiz Wharton, and Shauna Lawless’ sequel to her fabulous debut – The Words of Kings and Prophets.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

Well, I’ve already mentioned Mother Sea, which is coming out next year. This is a book that speaks about issues I care so, so deeply about (climate change, post-colonialism & motherhood), so I’m equal parts overjoyed and terrified to have it out in the world. I also have several other projects in the works, spanning a take on dark academia, a bit of Welsh gothic mystery and some Icelandic ghosts.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

Like I said, I don’t really write in one genre, so I’d say instead that I’m drawn to folklore and the wilderness, due mostly to the books I read as a child, and my experiences as a field biologist. I am fascinated by the way folklore intersects with the natural world and how different peoples’ relationships with their environment are shaped by their mythologic heritage, so even though my books range from deeply SFF to (almost) entirely real-world, contemporary, there is always a really strong thread of folklore within them, and the natural world is always a really powerful presence.

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