"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
Coming next week - Carla Eatherington

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Who Dares Wins: Thriller author, Sheffield's E.L Lindley is....Around The Cauldron!

E.L Lindley, is, I am sure, familiar to many of you from her immensely supportive Twitter engagements and I met her recently through Rosie's Review Team, a popular and increasingly influential review and book blogging collective. 

For once, I didn't have to spend a fortune on phone calls as E lives just up the road from me in thriving Sheffield, the famous steel city of yore, where she writes accessible, funny and dramatic novels and short stories (of which one, linked here, is attracting rave reviews). A delight to talk to, I caught her by Wizphone as she wandered that remarkably nice new concourse just approaching Sheffield station. Here's what she had to say.

Tell us about yourself, E?
Well, where to start ... Hopefully, I’m a pretty nice person who happens to love stories. I love writing them, reading them, watching them on the big or small screen and listening to them in song form. I am a sucker for a story. 

Consequently, I spend most of my time either writing, reading or at the cinema. I try to allocate a bit of time for friends and reluctantly have to fit work in there as well, to fund my otherwise loafer-esque lifestyle. By trade I am a teacher although I ‘retired’ from the job proper in 2008 and now just do enough to keep the boat afloat so to speak.

You are a prolific author. Of your novels, which is the one that you recommend for new readers?
I suppose it depends on what you like as a reader. I love a good series to get my teeth into so, for me, I’d go straight to Business As Usual, which is the first story in the Georgie Connelly series. 

Buy EL Lindley's books HERE

Book Market

I know that for some readers though, a series is too much commitment and they prefer standalones, in which case Dare To Lose might be a good place to start. What I like about it is the fact that the protagonist, Nicola, is knocking on a bit. I know a lady’s not supposed to reveal her age but, when I wrote it I made her the same age as me – late 40s with 50 looming heavily on the horizon. I was fed up of only reading about young people having adventures and wanted to give a better representation of women. I know lots of fabulous women ranging from their 20s to their 70s and they are all more than capable of kicking a baddie’s arse.

When I read Dare to Lose, the face of Amanda Redman kept
appearing unbidden. in my consciousness

Can we have an extract?
Go on then, especially for you I’ve picked the bit where Valerie is introduced ...

"As Nicola ambled down her street, she had to admit she felt a little bit tipsy but life was definitely looking better than it had a few hours earlier. Even the thought of facing her mother didn’t seem so daunting. Pushing open the door, she immediately inhaled the tell-tale sign that her mother had been smoking although she had tried to mask the fact with liberal amounts of her cloying, cheap perfume.
“I’m home,” she called out, surprised that her mother wasn’t rooted in her usual spot at the kitchen table, reading a trashy women’s magazine or painting her nails. Nicola paused listening; she could hear faint sounds coming from upstairs her mother was obviously home. Sighing, she made her way to the kitchen, wondering what to make for supper.Gazing into the fridge for inspiration, she could hear voices and, at the same time she realised her mother wasn’t alone, Valerie appeared in the doorway wearing her robe. Nicola gaped at her confused, since when did her mother favour afternoon naps? Her mind was struggling to process what was actually going on when a silver haired man in his seventies suddenly appeared behind her mother, adjusting clothing which had obviously been hastily thrown on. He was sweating and looked uncomfortable as Nicola glared murderously at him. This was just too much.
“Get out of my house!” she shouted, surprising herself as much as the two pensioners, who were now staring at her like naughty children. “Go on, out!” She moved towards the man, who quickly made his way to the front door. Valerie glowered at her daughter petulantly before hurrying to see him out.
Standing in the middle of her kitchen, Nicola took a series of deep breaths. She could barely believe what had just happened. Her mother swept back into the kitchen, pouting in outraged umbrage. Nicola lifted a hand, silencing her before she could begin to speak.
“Do not say a word,” she ordered, “Not one word.” Valerie huffed and puffed before dropping her eyes away from Nicola’s blazing, accusatory gaze. “How dare you bring dirty old men back into my house for sex? You disgust me! In future, I recommend that you book a hotel room or better yet find yourself somewhere else to live and move out.” There she had said it. Valerie looked at her sadly.
“Oh Nicky, we were just having a bit of fun. Ron is not a dirty old man; he is a very nice gentleman from my dance club. We have been partnering up for a few weeks now, there is a lot of chemistry between us I don’t know if you noticed.”“For God’s sake, mother, you are seventy years old.”“So what? I am still alive and kicking aren’t I? We are a long time dead Nicky, you would be as well to remember that yourself.” With that, the other woman breezed out of the kitchen, stomping up the stairs back to her own room."

I am thoroughly enjoying “Dare to Lose”. Is that autobiographical in origin? The mother in the book is extremely funny.
Thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. It’s not strictly autobiographical but I suppose inevitably there are bits of me in there. I wrote Nicola as a disillusioned teacher because that’s what I know and I gave her the dream of owning her own cafe because that was my not so secret fantasy. I got to run my own cafe vicariously through Nicola and I have to say it put me right off – I was exhausted just writing about all that cooking and baking. In real life, I can barely cobble beans on toast together so I had to rely on my friend, who’s a terrific cook, for food ideas. 

David Kelly (RIP). Kitchen porter in seventies cafecom, Robin's Nest

As for the mother character, Valerie, I love the idea of a wild pensioner and Georgie Connelly has a larger than life mother as well. My own mother is nothing like that; she is very quiet and sensible, if anything the opposite of Valerie. Maybe exploring the idea of crazy mothers is a form of therapy or wish fulfilment. Strangely all of my protagonists seem to have had fractured childhoods, whereas my own was very stable and ordinary.

Why are Georgie’s thrillers set in the US? Is there a reason for that?
When I first started out, I decided to set the stories in the US for a number of reasons. Georgie is a film maker so it makes sense that she would be based in LA and, as a reader, the thrillers I like best are the ones set in America. I think I’ve watched too many films because, even though I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the US, it still holds that magical, exciting quality for me. I suppose it’s a form of escapism from the everyday familiar. The beauty of Google means, as story tellers, the whole world is quite literally at our finger tips.

Your novels are substantial beasts. Are you a fan of the long book? Is there a place for the long book in a world where a limited concentration span is apparently valued?
Again I think it’s horses for courses, there are lots of great shorter books available for people who prefer a quick read but I like something to get my teeth into. I have to confess when I’m writing I can’t bear to think about an audience, it would cripple me with anxiety, so I have to write for myself. I write the books that I want to read although it’s always a bonus if someone else likes them as well. I’ve written one shorter book, Family Ties. 

Initially I wrote it with the idea of submitting it to Mills and Boon who have a 50k word limit. I’d never attempted a straight romance before and the pesky thing kept trying to get away from me, straying into action/adventure territory. I did submit it to Mills and Boon and they said lots of nice things about it but ultimately it didn’t fit into any of their romantic sub-genres. It was because of their positive feedback that I published it myself anyway but I have to say, I found the shorter format a bit frustrating as I had to curtail so many ideas.

Of your novels, which is the one you would take to the Final Ball.
Ha ha – that’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. The last book I wrote was the fourth one in the Georgie Connelly series called False Allegiance and so I hope that’s the best one. 

Without sounding too hippy-dippy, I like to think that as writers on a life-long journey we evolve and improve so that the best writing is always whatever is in front of us. That being said, I’m really fond of Business As Usual because it was my first novel and the one that starts the ball rolling for Georgie. I’m prevaricating, aren’t I?

Indeed you are! You wrote a brilliant short story http://ellindley.weebly.com/blog/welcome-to-the-jungle-short-story
about being a teacher. How accurate is this? I was in physical pain reading it.
That’s very kind of you to say, thank you. I think the sentiment behind it is accurate but the protagonist is just made up. I started teaching in the mid 80s and it was the best job in the world but there’s a reason why we are now looking at a critical shortage of teachers. The constant scrutiny that teachers are under from all sides is unbearable. 

In terms of the catastrophic collision between the professional and the personal, that’s a danger that’s always been there especially when you’re young. 

My early teaching career was in Brighton and there was always the potential for bumping into an ex-student or sixth formers when you were out on the lash. 

Later in my career I came back to my home city of Sheffield and then, it became the horror of sitting across from parents who looked vaguely familiar, and worrying that you maybe snogged them behind the youth club as a teenager.

Sheffield's Finest, Heaven 17

How do we get kids off the PS 3 and back in their bedrooms with a book?
Getting kids reading is something I feel very strongly about and I applaud your Brilliant Books initiative. 


I think the problem lies with the way that over the last ten years or so, the respective governments have used education as a political football and one of the biggest casualties has been reading for pleasure. 

Education is now about passing exams and coaching students in the skills they need in order to do that. The pressure on schools to perform well in the league tables has created exam factories with no room on the curriculum for actually reading books. The sad thing is, the less affluent schools have the most pressure on them to drive exam results up and yet these are the kids who might not live in homes where reading is a priority. 

Given the current economic climate and proclivity for ‘zero hour contracts’ it’s not unusual for some parents to be working three jobs to make ends meet and so it’s understandable that they might not have time to read with their kids in the way we would all, in an ideal world, like to see. This is where schools should have a moral obligation to step in and bridge the gap. 

It’s ironic that exam results have never been so high but employers and universities are all complaining that young people don’t have independent thinking skills, good literacy or empathy and that’s because we no longer give our children a well-rounded education but simply train them to perform in exams. I told you I feel passionately about it and I’m not even done yet. I also think the problem is exacerbated by the poor role models that kids look up to. Boys in particular look up to footballers and, I’m sure there are some well-read ones, but sadly the whole football culture seems to me tarnished by testosterone fuelled thuggishness. Boys don’t want to be associated with reading as they think it makes them look weak. 

Joey Essex - a triumph of form over content

Likewise with all the reality shows that elevate stupidity, in the form of people like Joey Essex, to levels of entertainment and acceptability. It’s ironic that reading is often viewed by kids as something that will lessen their standing and reputation because it’s actually the most empowering thing in the world.

Three favourite books, two favourite CDs and favourite film
Well, in light of what I’ve just said, one of my favourite school memories is of my English teacher reading aloud to the class, purely for the joy of it, and my favourite was The Mayor of Casterbridge. 

The strange thing is, I’m not a massive fan of Thomas Hardy but I think it was the experience of being read to with a group of people that made it so enjoyable. As a teacher, one of the books I used to love reading with my classes was To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s a book that has the power to really change how kids see the world. 

I think it was a real surprise for most people when Harper Lee recently announced that she is to release the sequel after all these years. There must be an incredible amount of pressure on her though to live up to the success of To Kill a Mockingbird which is such a beloved book by so many readers. 

My third book would be Birdy by William Wharton, which I’ve read a couple of times and find really moving. It’s about two boys and how WW2 destroyed their lives. One is physically maimed and the other one mentally.

As for CDs, this is tricky. I’m going to refine my search by imagining I’m going down on a plane and only have time to listen to one CD so it will be the last thing I ever hear. Right, my top choice would have to be Meat is Murder by The Smiths, I’d want to go out with Morrissey and I think the songs on here are just timeless. 

I never get tired of listening to them – I mean who wouldn’t want to listen to Rusholme Ruffians in their final moments? 

My other choice would be The River by Bruce Springsteen, although it’s a double album so the plane would have to drop slowly. I think Bruce is king of the story telling song which is why I like him so much. My favourite song is Point Blank, it’s so poignantly beautiful.

I’m going to choose a film that I could literally watch on a loop. Whatever your ailment, this film is the cure for it and it is Guys and Dolls. 

They should actually prescribe this film on the NHS it’s so feel good – it’s got everything, style, great songs, it’s really funny and we get to see Marlon Brando singing and dancing. What’s not to love?

Invite a) one author b) one musician and c) one inspirational figure to dinner at your house. The cooker is on the blink again so you have to ring out. What would you choose?
The pressure, the pressure – right, I’d go for Sam Shepard because I think he is one of the best living playwrights. He really gets to the heart of what it is to be human and all the messy business that goes with it. Plus I quite fancy him, even though he’s in his 70s he’s still got it. 

My musician would be Morrissey for no other reason than I adore him to the point of borderline insanity. 

He has been my invisible friend for many years so it would be nice to actually meet him. As for inspirational figure, I’d go for Mae West (even though she’s dead), who I don’t think a lot of people realise was a woman before her time. 

She was a writer and staunch feminist long before the term had even been coined. Her writing was deemed so unsuitable for a woman because it dealt with issues such as sexuality, she was arrested. More importantly though, I imagine she’d be funny as hell and keep Sam and Morrissey on their toes.

The food would be tricky because of Morrissey’s rabid vegetarianism. He’d probably throw a strop if I served anything that had even looked sideways at a meat product so maybe a vegetarian curry. Or perhaps we’d just bypass the food and get straight to the wine.

What does 2015 have in store for readers and supporters of EL Lindley
I’m hoping that 2015 is going to see two novels published. I’ve almost finished the fifth in the Georgie Connelly series, which is set in London and sees Georgie making a rare visit to her home territory. It’s been a long time since my last novel was published, largely down to a combination of a stint spent working full-time, which made it hard to devote much time to writing and writer’s block. 

Before I started the Georgie one, I was about 70k words into a standalone when I suddenly became blighted with the dreaded block so I left it and switched to Georgie. Once this is up and running though I’m going to get back to it and finish it. Then, who knows?

E, thank you for joining me today. It's been an absolute pleasure. I adored Dare To Lose and am looking forward to reading your other work this year. I wish you the best of luck.

Thank you so much for having me around the cauldron. I’m a big fan and have really enjoyed answering the questions which, as always, were A+.


Twitter - @LindleyE
Review blog - http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Tears are Not Enough. ABC - more of
Sheffield's favourite sons...

Kids love to read -let's get them excited about it! #brilliantbooks


  1. Well said E! Brilliant interview guys and I agree with so many of your choices - Mae West - some of the best lines ever said - haha! And The River....one of my most favourite favourites :-) Totally with you on To Kill a Mockingbird too! Great to find out so much more about you E and I have The Righteous Path coming soon on my reading list and looking forward to getting to it :-) Gxx

    1. Thanks Georgia, I thought the questions were inspired and really gave me something to think about. I always knew you had good taste :D

  2. Thanks so much Wiz for inviting me to join you around the cauldren. I am such a fan and really loved the questions. You are spot on with Amanda Redman, she would be perfect as Nicola :D

  3. Great interview. Best of luck with sales, E.

    1. Thanks Mary - I'd love to take credit for the interview but it was all down to Wiz's wonderful questions :D

  4. "I think I’ve watched too many films because, even though I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the US, it still holds that magical, exciting quality for me."

    I couldn't help but giggle at this comment. I think the same sentiment holds true even for those of us who are permanent residents Stateside. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview.

  5. Thanks J.N. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I suppose the US is so big, diverse and steeped in popular culture it's inevitable that it holds us all in its thrall :D

  6. Lovely interview...and I learned a lot about you and your books!

  7. Thanks Carol, I'm glad you enjoyed it :D

  8. Excellent stuff, chaps! I have just added 'Birdy' to my to-read list, as I love owt about WW2, me. It sits up there with about 25 (I keep it current and revise as I cross off!), including FALSE ALLEGIANCE, which was already there! Now I feel even more 'yee-hah' about the fact that we are going to meet at some point soon .... and well done for mentioning our fellow lion, Mae West!!!

    Oh, and I totes agree with all the serious education stuff too, Mark and EL!

  9. ps, I'd just like to say that if you haven't read EL's story about a reluctant teacher, you should, it's dead good :)

  10. Thanks Terry. Birdy is great! I first read it in the 80s and then a couple of years ago recommended it to someone but instantly worried that it might not have stood the test of time so I re-read it and loved it all over again.


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