I am delighted to welcome Linda MacDonald to Jera’s Jamboree today.
Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, on the edge of the Lake District in Cumbria, England. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught secondary science and biology in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write, paint and make jewellery. In 1990 she was lured back into teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught health and social care and psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. Health issues in 2011 prompted Linda to retire from teaching in order to concentrate on her writing career.
How Meeting Lydia came to Be
If it wasn’t for a life changing event in 2009, Meeting Lydia would probably remain unpublished. This is the story of how it came to be.
When I was five, just like Marianne in Meeting Lydia, I was sent to a boys’ prep school. Sometimes I was the only girl in the class and looking back, it is no surprise that I was bullied.
As I grew up, I loved to write and I knew my early experiences could be used to inspire some unique scenes in a novel, but I didn’t have a plot. Instead, I pursued a teaching career, practised my writing skills on many different projects, and all the while in the background, behind a hazy curtain through which I couldn’t quite reach, the bullying theme still whispered.
In 2001, Friends Reunited appeared as the first of the major social networking sites. I found the only boy in the class who never bullied me and decided to write to him. We ended up exchanging emails and suddenly I thought that with a bit of spicing up of reality, and the creation of fictional lives for the adults, I might at last have found a plot for my novel, centred round internet relationships.
I started to write Meeting Lydia: hesitant at first, some emails – often inspired by things I’d heard on Radio 4, odd memories forming the back story about prep school and bullying, and a collection of thoughts about midlife issues. I was teaching psychology by this time and some of my students volunteered to do an extra-curricular session about internet relationships so that I could research their views. With the support of two enthusiastic friends, week by week, month by month, the novel grew. It took five years before it was ready for the world.
Over the next year or so, I pitched to publishers with my covering letter, synopsis and sample chapters, and I collected rejection slips, some with encouraging comments. I still believed in the book, confident that the messages within would resonate with many readers, but I was rapidly losing faith that I, as a non-celebrity and unproven author, would ever attract attention. Meanwhile I started to write a sequel, making it stand alone and slightly more commercial than Meeting Lydia.
Three years on and I had completed a draft. I intended to have it edited and then go through the same submission process as before. However, at the end of 2009 something happened that was to change the course of my life.
It was an ordinary Monday morning in mid-December and I left home in the usual bleary-eyed rush, fully expecting to return again in the darkness of a cold winter evening. During the lesson before lunch, my students were in the middle of doing group presentations and the tables and chairs had been arranged in clusters around the room. One of the students asked if she could use our mini whiteboards and I went to the office to get them and then returned to stand at the back of the class. I was making a manoeuvre between the wall and the back of the students’ chairs, trying not to damage some posters that were peeling slightly. A student shuffled her chair, being helpful, and the heel of my shoe caught the leg of the chair and I over-balanced. In a reflex action, I stuck out my arm as I hurtled towards a desk, and in a split second, my hand hit the edge and I collapsed to the floor in a heap. I couldn’t get up; the pain was almost unbearable.
I will spare you the gory details, suffice to say I had dislocated my elbow and smashed my wrist so badly I had to have a metal plate put in it. The whole business reminded me of the fragility of life and while in hospital I decided not to spend any more time chasing traditional publishers.
The independent publishing business was rapidly gaining respectability. After my recovery, I went back to polishing Meeting Lydia and then approached Troubador, whose Matador imprint is marketed at the quality end of self-publishing. They say they don’t accept everything and I remember the anxiety waiting for a decision, thinking that if they said ‘no’, then it might be the end of my dream. When the email came through saying they would be happy to proceed with the project, I was almost as ecstatic as if I had secured a publishing deal. But more hard work ensued. The publishing process is a story in itself; another story for another time.
Some ten years since its inception, Meeting Lydia hit the shelves in September 2011.
Not all life changing experiences are negative, even though they feel like it at the time …
Meeting Lydia is touring with Fiction Addiction Book Tours
|15th April 2013||The Little Reader Library|
|16th April 2013||Room for Reading|
|17th April 2013||Reading in the Sunshine|
|18th April 2013||Kim the Bookworm|
|19th April 2013||Brook Cottage Books|