Showing posts with label Lynn Huggins-Cooper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lynn Huggins-Cooper. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Writing is Just Thinking 'Out Loud.' Lynn Huggins-Cooper

I am working on too many projects. This is a bad thing (tiredness, lack of social life; family forget what I look like). This is also a good thing (exciting; educational). The best thing though is the way I find my mind expands during this periods of 'feast.' I am constantly thinking, making connections, researching and discussing ideas for these projects, and I swear can almost feel the new pathways being created!

One of the reasons I became an author was because I like playing with ideas. Writing gives me a place to put them, before they fall out of my ears. I trust (hope?) that my writing has improved over the twenty one years I have been a published writer, but I am just about sure that my thinking has.

I started out writing when I was a teacher, and continued as a lecturer. I 'thought' a lot as part of my work: reflection, connections and exploration are a vital part of teaching. Yet it is the act of writing itself that I feel expands my mind the most - and I love it! Researching a new area (I LOVE the research phase of a project!); finding the right context for my writing; mapping out how characters act, think and behave - utter bliss.

The only thing is, sometimes - like last night - the thinking goes into overdrive and I snap awake in the darkness of the small, wee hours and then think until the sky brightens. Tiring; awkward (I don't want to wake my husband with my loud pondering) but somehow satisfying...but how do I turn it off? Perhaps better that I don't - or how would I write all of my books? Perhaps I should just content myself with the thought (there's another one) that writing is just 'thinking out loud.'

(Image by Cyril Rana

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Multi-tasking with Lynn Huggins-Cooper

Sometimes, I worry that I am writing too many things at once. I wonder if I would write better books if I stuck to one project at a time. The problem is, I’m not sure I know how to do that.

Currently, I am working on a craft book, a novel for adults, a YA coming of age story and a MG ghost story. I have always done this. I think it may be due to the way I started out as a writer – fitting it in around other things. Back in 1997 when I was first published, I was teaching full time and had young children. Writing was something I did after the marking and lesson planning was done; after dinner was eaten; everyone was bathed and in bed.

Eventually, writing took over as a job. I was earning enough money to pay my bills and so I wrote full time. Instead of doing one project at a time, I wrote strands of things – educational series, non-fiction books and picture books at the same time. It wasn’t confusing, because each project was different. Having different things to write at the same time meant I never got bored; I have never suffered from ‘writer’s block,’ and I think this is partly due to all the ‘changing gear’ that goes on in my head with the variety of projects that I do.

If I grind to a halt on one project, I slip into another. I think this helps me not to ‘over-think’ and force writing, and when I return to the first project I am usually refreshed and can start anew. I know that the ideas keep sifting and composting for each project and not looking at them directly – seeing them in my ‘peripheral writing vision’, if you like – helps problems evaporate. Sometimes one project is dominant in my head and I work furiously on that one for a while and the others fade into the background. It does make me fumble a little when people ask me what I am currently writing though!

Anyway – off to get writing. I have a needle felting craft book about woodland creatures, dryads and faeries to write. Oh – and a story about a Rom girl who is finding it hard to accept her heritage…and a funny book about a woman who accidentally falls in love with a much younger man…and a story about ghosts on the tube…which will bubble up to the surface first?

Friday, 27 November 2015

Christmas Reading Rituals by Lynn Huggins-Cooper

For my sister and I, our festive annuals were one of the great highlights of a visit from Father Christmas. I remember hissed whispers of 'I think he's been!' as the deliciously heavy stocking was felt for in the darkness, at the foot of the bed. Satsuma in one hand, selection box open at the ready, the reading would commence. 

I grew up in a reading rich household. Our Saturdays were spent truffling through Mr. Lane's second hand bookshop, and buying american comic books in Brighton (preferably blood-curdling supernatural titles); the whole family always had at least a book apiece on the go and a stack of 'to-reads.' Christmas was no different. Everyone got books for Christmas, and for us children the annual was the crowning glory. 

Teddy Bear, Twinkle and Pussy Cat Willum, then later Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips.  

My football mad sister also got football annuals - Shoot, I think - and I remember Roy of the Rovers.

As time passed, and we grew older, these made way for Bunty, Judy, Mandy and more - until we got to the closing act of Jackie Magazine's annual. Style bible; crush-fest (Marc Bolan, Bryan Ferry, since you ask) and more for the 1970s teen.

We read our own annuals, then swapped and read each other's. Those books were wise purchases on the part of my parents - over the years, they must have been worth their weight in gold in extra hours of sleep until we made them get up to look at our Christmas bounty. I cherish the memory of those companionable early Christmas morning reading-and-munching sessions. 

There were other Christmas reading rituals in the Huggins household though. The must-read Christmas Carol, which I continue to enjoy yearly and the message found inside still speaks to my heart. I still, at 51, have a childlike sense of anticipation about Christmas. I love the baking, the decorations, the singing and the get-togethers. As Dickens himself said, 

'It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.'

 A Christmas Carol

I have enjoyed boozy, student Christmases; those glorious years when the children were young and full of wonder and now, rather more grown-up celebrations once again as the wheel of life turns. Christmas Eve is still, and always will be my favourite, most magical night of the year - there's just something timeless about it. I look back and see all those fifty-odd Christmases, one inside another in a kaleidoscope of love and colour. I don't remember most of the toys I received as a child (although I remember the rather stunning picnic hamper with tiny girl-sized cups and saucers I received from Father Christmas one year - hard to forget, when Father Christmas arrives on a fire engine. To be fair, Dad was a fireman...) - but I do remember the books. I still have many of them, and have read them to my own children and grandchildren. My own children got a new 'Christmas book' apiece each year, so traditional continued. 

Then we come to planning the feast. I love Christmas cookery books. I still swear by Delia (old, battered, covered in sauce and wine splashes - the book, not the lovely Ms. Smith) and love Nigella's Christmas - and bringing out those books heralds the start of the season. I love pondering over what to make this year. 


I even buy myself a 'Christmas book' each year - just one, as a special treat. I am a sucker for silly, romantic Christmas stories myself - the one time of the year when I read 'soppy' books. It's a guilty secret - but you won't tell anyone, I'm sure. It's between us...ahem.

So - what are your Christmas reading rituals? (and if you don't have any, perhaps this is the year to start.) I'd love to hear them. The next time I write a blog entry here, the turkey will be a memory and the crackers will have been pulled. I'll not be in a post-Boxing Day slump though. I'll be propped up in front of the fire with a port; my nose buried in a book (hopefully brought by Father Christmas). I hope all of your Christmas gifts are book-shaped and that you have a wonderful festive season. See you next month!

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Confessions of a Book Hoarder: Lynn Huggins-Cooper

Until recently, I was drowning in a sea of books. A happy 'problem' - but a problem nevertheless. About four years ago, I moved from a large farmhouse into a small cottage. My book collection was huge but it didn't matter; whenever the piles of books started to topple from every surface, I just built more bookcases. Now, once I made the move into the cottage, I had to decant a gallon into a pint pot - and it didn't work. Books were piled three deep; there was no room for more bookcases. I even had boxes of books in the study. Trying to find books when I needed them was a nightmare and I wasted many frustrated hours searching for the books I needed. The house where I grew up was held up by books. It was a small three story town house, and every flight of stairs and each passage were flanked with book shelves. The bedrooms and my dad's study were crammed with books. So the child of book hoarders became a book hoarder, as you do. Again; a happy problem but a problem nevertheless. This year, I have felt the urge to 'downsize' and simplify even further. I have happily sorted through wardrobes and cupboards and taken bags of items to our local charity shop. I have even donated some items of furniture. But the real test came when I recognised the need to cull my book collection. A scary thought. Giving away some of my home library...shudder.

 The funny thing is, once I started it wasn't as alarming as I thought. I started with cookery books. I had far to many, stretcjing back to my student days. considering I am now fifty, some of those bedsitter-on-a-budget books didn't really fit my needs any more. Then I moved into the living room - more books than anything else. It gives the delicious feeling that one is watching television in a library. However, books were piled up higgledy-piggley and it did not look inviting. More books were collected for redistribution. I took two huge sacks of craft books to a women's project and they were delighted by their treasure. I took blue IKEA bags and boxes of books and donated them to the charity shop - they were very happy with their haul and will hopefully make some funds. I am delighted to think books that I haven't opened in several years will gain a new lease of life with new owners. I kept going - more and more books made that journey to the charity shop. I have given away piles of 'free' author copies of my books to charities and clubs. It has been lovely seeing the pleasure these rather neglected books are giving to new owners. Although the flood has now slowed to a trickle, I have kept donating. Apart from showing me rather embarrassingly that I buy several copies of favourites (handy when it is so hard to find what is needed - but who needs four copies of 'Food For Free'?), culling my collection has taught me some other things. I am ashamed to say some of the books had almost become wallpaper, and I didn't 'see' them any more. No book deserves that! However, with books now all safely and sensibly homed on shelves, I can see what I have more easily. I have rediscovered forgotten gems. It almost feels as though I have a new book collection, without spending any money! I have also moved some of my books into different rooms, and shaken up the mix a little. It is encouraging me to browse and graze happily on books I have not read for years. Give it a go - you may find it quite refreshing.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Secret Trysts

It's a balmy spring morning, and my old dog is happily trotting in and out of the garden in the sunshine as I write, but despite the sunshine I am feeling a bit feeble. The doctor said 'walking pneumonia;' I feel a bit more 'Walking Dead.' Working from home, there are no 'sick days' (cue maudlin violin music) so I am still at my desk, but can I let you into a secret? I am glad to be here. Don't tell my husband - he may stop providing the tea-on-tap that my enfeeblement has provoked.

I have annoying things, like proofs to go through today, and queries to answer for two different projects (again, don't let on to the editors - they need to know these projects only give me unbridled joy) - but I am happy to be here for a different reason. I am cheating on those projects with another love - a new story idea! As with any new romance, I can't stop thinking about my beloved. I fall asleep with a notebook by the bed and disturb my long-suffering hubby by suddenly erupting from the covers to scribble furiously when an idea strikes. The hypnagogic state as I slide into sleep helps me to solve plot problems, and I long ago abandoned the cosy-snuggle-down thought that 'I'll remember that in the morning' - bitter experience has shown that I won't!

I daydream of the story chopping onions for dinner; I woolgather around scenarios as I drive. I ponder WWPD (what would protagonist do) as I go about my daily business. I slip away from my commissioned work down dark corridors of the internet to meet my beloved for secret 'research' trysts and immerse myself in the guilty pleasure.

The thing is, I should probably wait until I have finished the other projects before starting this story, but it is too insistent; it pursues me seductively, wherever I go. So I shall continue to meet my beloved in secret until the time comes when we can declare our relationship to the world. Until then, my secret is safe with you, isn't it?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Remembering Dad by Lynn Huggins - Cooper

My Dad died on Boxing Day; my first grandson is due to be born in June. As you can imagine, moving up a generation like this, all of a sudden, has caused a welter of emotions. As I sat in front of a blank computer screen, trying to write a eulogy for my Dad, I realised the common theme streaking like a silver thread through my memories of Dad was books. He was an avid reader, and a prolific writer.
When I was very small, he made up stories for me and my sister. He used to come home, still in his fire brigade uniform, smelling of smoke (health and safety rules being somewhat relaxed forty years ago) and tell us outrageous tales of giants with broken noses who had been abused by horrid, thieving boys. He revelled in stories of dragons (complete with rasping voices) and effete-sounding monsters.
As we got older, he’d read books with us, finding new favourites as well as sharing stories from his own childhood. Every Saturday, he took us into the street market in Brighton. We’d buy deliciously scary American import comics with lurid titles: ‘Astounding Stories’ and ‘Tales from the Crypt’ being particular favourites. Armed with those and a huge bag of sherbet chews, we were nearly set for the day. On the way home, there was one more stop to make: Lanes Bookshop – a second hand emporium of delights. Mr. Lane himself was a dour man in general, but he patiently discussed with a little girl the merits of various books as I weighed them one against the other, trying to stretch my pocket money as far as it would go. He even put books by when the decision was too agonising. I still have copies of most of Ray Bradbury’s work with ‘8p’ written inside in Mr. Lanes neat lettering. The shop is long gone, as is Mr. Lane, and now sadly, my Dad. But the memories of those days come back to me in a heady rush as I open a second hand, yellowed treasure and breath in that spicy-musty smell.
It was experiences like those storytelling sessions and glorious Saturdays of my childhood that made me a writer. If the adults around a child have their noses pressed in books, the small child copies them. Nobody ever had to tell us to read; in fact, they had to tell us to stop. It was the same with writing. Dad called writing my ‘real job’ long before it paid enough to become my day job. He made me believe that what I did was valid and his absolute belief in me was worth more than I can ever say.
My father’s study lays empty, but I can still find him there in the pages of the books he read and we enjoyed together. He’s there in the pages of the local history he wrote for QueensPark Books, and for various websites. He’s there when I write. Who did I call first when I signed each new contract? Dad. There’s a shelf in his study that he added each new book of mine to as it was published.
Now I have a grandson on the way. I’m sorry he’ll never meet his great granddad in person. But he will know him. After all, I know where to look.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

How books shape people by Lynn Huggins - cooper

In the last few days, I have been Samhuinn - cleaning the house. It's like spring cleaning, but more thorough (Samhuinn is new year for pagans). That means I spent a *whole* day cleaning the dining room, and a *whole* day cleaning the living room. I have ten more rooms to clean so as they say, I may be some time...anyway, as a part of this effort I have been de-cluttering. My eldest daughter is nearly 20 and has decided to train as a primary teacher despite me (an old lag) telling her 'How Things Have Changed' through sucked teeth, on a regular basis...

My house is clogged with books. A feng shui expert would have a field day. So I asked my daughter if she would like all of the foundation stage and KS1 materials I still have (I home-edded my youngest - another story) and she said yes - so I have been piling up boxes of books - including picture books. I spent a gloriously happy and tearful day today sorting picture books. I saw my childrens' lives flash before my eyes. Favourite books - the hungry caterpillar (my son, now 22 with his own mortgage and business, could tell the story along with me at 18 months (and would startle waiters by asking in a lispy voice for ' a slice of swiss cheese' in restaurants) 'Maurice's Mum' by Roger Smith prepared them for a batty, witchy mum, 'The Big Big Sea' by Martin Waddell was my nearly -20-year-old daughter's favourite because the illustrations looked like her and I on our favourite beach...'The Tough Princess', 'Tarzanna' and 'Dulcie Dando: Football Player' prepared my girls to be everything they wanted to be (daughter number 1 is an FA football coach)...'Giant' and 'Dear Greenpeace'helped them to be green...the Dr. Xarges series helped them to develop an off-beat sense of humour...'Hello Sailor' by Ingrid Godon was a gift for children with a gay aunt and a gay uncle...'Elmer' helped them to learn about celebrating difference...Valerie Flournoy's 'The Patchwork Quilt' taught them about the value of their own history..all I hope is that one day, I write a book that helps to 'speak' to children and enables them to find a hook on which to hang their picture of who they are. Books have been *so* important in our house. I hope that one day I shall write a book that is important too.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

My Writing Life - By Lynn Huggins-Cooper

I love my writing life. Friends say to me they don’t know how I can bear it. They think I must get lonely. A house in the middle of a field, staying home all day in my study, scribbling away...but I love it. It’s not that I don’t like people – I just like silence. When I enter the internal world of my current story, I don’t take kindly to interruptions. Other writers recognise this. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t manage to find a million-and-one other things to do instead of write when I am in procrastination mode. Filling the bird table becomes imperative. Jam making eats up a whole day with its sumptuous smells and sticky surfaces. Then there’s my craft room calling to me, because I have that new silver clay to work with...and all that’s as well as the usual smallholder tasks of animal husbandry, DIY and digging. Oh yes, and the family to be taken care of.

I do see friends, but they are (fortunately) used to me disappearing for weeks on end when I have a work in progress. That’s where my virtual friends kick in! Now, I don’t mean I am addicted to The Sims or Petz – I mean the people I am connected to on the Net. I belong to several online writing groups, and they are a mine of information and advice. They listen when I cheer and when I moan, and support me when I’m feeling flat. I do reciprocate, of course! Now, without my virtual friends, I would be lost. They are writers too, and they understand the things I feel. They are unerringly generous with help and advice and keep me going when things are tough and the editors bite. About a week ago, I took the plunge and went to a lunch with some of my online friends (some on this very blog!) and had a wonderful time! This could get addictive...

Now, it’s not just lunch that pries me out of the house. By a strange quirk of fate and the vagaries of the publishing world, I have three new books coming out in the next couple of months. That means a couple of parties, lots of events in schools and libraries, at an appearance at the wonderful Northern Children’s Book Festival ( It’s like a totally different life. For a few weeks there are interviews and events and I have to smile a lot and actually dress in nice clothes (most of my wardrobe is muddy and covered in ahem, varying types of manure). Here’s a weird frenzy and then it all goes quiet again and I’m alone in the study. The two different facets of my writing life complement each other – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Monday, 1 September 2008

A horror story, by Lynn Huggins - Cooper

As writers, we all no doubt find that our 'real lives' leach into our writing. If that is the case, expect a story from me soon about a horse needing daily will be a horror story, because I'm scared of horses at the best of times, and once you get to the 'stick the stabby thing in the big kicky thing' scenario, I'm in a cold sweat. Tonight (day three) ended with me taking four attempts as the poor horse bucked and kicked. Once I had successfully injected the horse, I promptly vomited in a handy hedgerow - only to have to gear myself up to do it all over again tomorrow. A horror story indeed.

Actually, I'm not kidding about it ending up in a story. I find so many fragments of my life end up in my writing that sometimes it's all a bit embarrassing when I read it back to myself. Take the novel I am writing for adults. It's about the diet industry. For those who don't know me, I'm fairly well-upholstered. Cuddly, even. As such, I have read all manner of ridiculous books about dieting and weight loss. Tried lots of them too. The only thing that has worked is eating less and doing more. It's not rocket science. But that doesn't stop me, like so many other people, wishing that their was a magic pill to fix things. I've taken all that angst and poured the feelings into my book. Hopefully, it is working.

The problem though is when you write about something that hasn't happened to you...and people read about it and look at you sideways. I've written about everything from World War One to infidelity. Of course, I've also written about vampires and ghost hunters. It doesn't mean I have pointy teeth or a penchant for EMF detectors. To be honest, though, I think i'll leave it to my readers to decide for themselves what parts of my books hold fragments of my life and which are inventions.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

My Secret Life - Lynn Huggins - Cooper

I have a secret life. There – it’s out. Now, I don’t mean I am actually a man (although if you have ever arm wrestled with me you may question that); I don’t mean that I am a closet libertine or a have a covert taste for leather and chains. But I do have another life, outside my usual description as ‘prolific writer of books for children’ (I think they mean ‘Her again? Ho hum...’): I write books for adults.
I have had several non-fiction ‘self-help’ books published including subjects as diverse as self-sufficiency and organic living, pregnancy and parenting teenagers. I enjoyed writing them; they were quite lucrative. The weird thing is, many people seem to think these books are somehow worthier or more valid than my writing for children. Mind you, these people are the type who sidle up to you at drinks parties and say either a. (in jokey voice) ‘Are you that JK Rowling, then?’ Or b. ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book...’ Personally, I get the urge to stab them with a cocktail stick at that point.
Guess what? It’s much easier to write for adults. You don’t have to worry about word levels, or references to rude things, and it’s a good job – my new organics book includes a section on phthalate-free erotic toys. That was great fun to research! I love writing for adults; I am currently writing (slowly) an adult horror story. But I love writing for kids more. I think writing for children is more challenging than any other writing I have done, including my forays into journalism. I suppose the reason for that can be found in my farts, bogies and poo blog earlier – my inner child has a very big gob and shouts incessantly about the stories I should write. I’d better go - think I hear her calling...and she’s a bad tempered beast if I don’t just give in and write.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Research - why bother? Lynn Huggins - Cooper

Many of my stories are set in the past. One Boy’s War (Frances Lincoln, 2008) and Walking with Witches (Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2008) have both entailed hundreds of hours of deeply satisfying research.
With the former book, set during WW1, this included trawling through original journals, war records and secondary sources of historical records. I also visited Belgium and France to trace the steps of the boy soldier and see his resting place in a small war cemetery on farmland. With the latter, set in the 1650s, I spent weeks reading contemporary accounts of life in Newcastle as well as harrowing accounts of witch trials and executions. I found that library staff and local historians alike were generous in the extreme when they knew what I was looking for; they were keen to see the stories come to fruition. But is all this research really necessary? The books are only made up, right? Wrong actually. The stories may be fiction, but the settings – and many of the characters – were real people. I feel I would be doing them (and myself) a disservice to neglect my research, as it is the facts we bring to our stories that help to give them the ring of truth. Some of my favourite books are historic fiction, and I have learned a great deal from them in both terms of history and storytelling. If a reader is reading a story set in the past, and the facts underpinning the story are inaccurate, the world constructed by the author crumbles and the reader is yanked out of the story.
Readers offer us a great compliment when they choose to read our books and enter our worlds. They will suspend their disbelief only for as long as our stories captivate them. Methodical research helps to create a multi-faceted, believable story – and it’s fun! I even surround myself with objects that relate to my chosen time period to help me. For Walking with Witches, I have a fragment of a Seventeenth Century signet ring, for example – and somehow, holding this helps me to connect with my story. I’ve read a lot of manuscripts and books about the period, and the treatment of witches – or those accused of being witches. I’ve enjoyed it so much, and it’s given me so many ideas, I think I feel another book coming on...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Bogies, Farts and Poo! by Lynn Huggins - Cooper

I really look quite refined, to the casual observer. I have a lovely home in the country; I wear Barbours and have been known to attend WI meetings and enthuse about jam and crochet. But how do I make a living? Well, I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time writing about bogies, farts and poo! I'd like to say I only discovered a penchant for poop when I started writing as 'B. Strange' in the Too Ghoul for School' series - it would be a good cover story, as I was asked to write about terrors in a toilet. But I soon found I was waaay too into it; I had stories about Dump Demons suffocating children with stinking gas and ghoulish goings-on in the toilets that according to my characters saved anyone from suffering from constipation...sigh. I have to accept it. I might look and sound like Margot Leadbetter on the outside, but I am worked from the inside, like a darlek, by a tiny monster. Mine is, I think, a scatological 10 year old.

But you know, I don't think the 10 year old lives alone in there. I'm currently writing Walking with Witches, a supernatural story about young teens, and the heroine of that story lives inside me too. She's a little more sophisticated than the farty 10 year old, but she still likes a joke. Then there's my older teenage protagonist who is currently wrestling with her sense of self...she's in there too. The point is, they are all me. If I didn't still keenly remember the person I was then, I couldn't write for children and young people now. So if you want to write stories for children, spend some time with the child inside. Mine's in there, alive and well - and lurking with a whoopee cushion and fart powder - you have been warned!