Spotlight 011: Hannah Lynn
Mark Dawson: I’m Mark Dawson from The Self Publishing Show and this is Self Publishing Spotlight, where we shine a light on the indie authors who are changing the world of publishing one book at a time.
Tom Ashford: Hello and welcome to The Self Publishing Spotlight. We meet indie authors at all stages of their careers and ask them a series of five questions. Five questions about their process, their mistakes, and their successes. Five answers that will help you level up your own author career. My name’s Tom Ashford and I’m part of The Self Publishing Formula. Don’t forget that you can get your self publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit.
This week’s guest is Hannah Lynn. She’s written five books in the Contemporary Fiction and Sci-Fi genres and she lives in Austria, soon to be Jordan. Welcome, Hannah.
Hannah Lynn: Hello. Welcome.
Tom Ashford: How are you doing?
Hannah Lynn: No, welcome? Why am I saying welcome? I’m sorry, I get… You know what I mean? Thank you. Thank you. That’s what I meant. There we go.
Tom Ashford: It’s all good. It’s all good. Here’s a little secret, I’ve actually read one of your books.
Hannah Lynn: Have you?
Tom Ashford: Yes.
Hannah Lynn: Which one did you read?
Tom Ashford: The Afterlife of Walter Augustus.
Hannah Lynn: I thought it might be that one. Did you enjoy it? I don’t want to go down that route. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll leave it at that, shall I?
Tom Ashford: I did enjoy it. I did enjoy it very much so.
Hannah Lynn: I’m very glad. Thank you.
Tom Ashford: It was very good. So, yeah, you’ve got two different genres there. You’ve got Contemporary Fiction and sort of Sci-Fi dystopian, you mentioned. Do you want to go into your books a little bit before we start with the five questions?
Hannah Lynn: Yeah, that would be great. I’ve got a range out there at the minute as I said. Amendments was the first book I wrote, which is the dystopian, when I was just starting out there. Since then I’ve moved into more of a contemporary and humorous angle. Last year I released The Afterlife of Walter Augustus along with the first three in my Peas and Carrots series. Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin, Peas, Carrots and a Feather Boa, Peas, Carrots, and Six More Feet.
The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, I’m not really surprised that that’s the one that you’ve read, because that was the one that won the Kindle Storyteller Award last year, which was really rather exciting.
Tom Ashford: I imagine. Cool. Well, if we jump into the first question, it’s why do you write?
Hannah Lynn: I just have an awful lot of stories that I want to tell. I’m always working on more than one book. I always have two, quite often three books on the go at the same time. I just never have a moment where I don’t have an idea of something I want to be writing. I’ll get to the point like, “Oh, what will I write when I finish this one?” And there’s another idea already there and waiting. So, yes, I just have lots of ideas pinging up the whole time and distracting me from finishing one. That’s pretty much why I write.
Tom Ashford: Fair enough. When did you start writing?
Hannah Lynn: I wrote a lot when I was younger in my twenties, and I sort of tried with various ideas and I started novels and got three quarters of the way through or did a first draft, but it was when I had the idea for Amendments and the concept, that I was like, “Actually, I really want to make something of this. I think it’s a really great idea.” At that point I started taking writing courses wherever I could, learning what I was doing and trying to improve it as opposed to just writing. That was when I lived in Thailand, just before I moved to Malaysia, which probably about 2011, around then.
Tom Ashford: How many places have you lived?
Hannah Lynn: Quite a few. Yes, I lived in the UK initially and then moved to Thailand for four years. Spent five years in Malaysia, have spent two years in Austria, and as you said, I’ll be moving to Jordan in a month’s time. Although, I’m in complete denial about that in the minute. Nothing is packed. You would not think we are moving anywhere by the state of our house.
Tom Ashford: Well, that sounds very exciting. In terms of your publishing history, so are you indie?
Hannah Lynn: I am self-published, yes.
Tom Ashford: Okay. Would you switch to traditional publishing if that was offered?
Hannah Lynn: I don’t know. One thing with the genre that I write, and I use genre in a really loose term with books like the Afterlife of Walter Augustus and my new book that’s coming out later this year, Fiona and The Whale, is I don’t fit very well into a particular genre and therefore it can be quite tricky to market it. I think that’s an issue with both indie self-publishing and with traditional publishing.
It’s easier to market if you can be put in a box and go, “This is a Thriller, this is a Romance.” This is a book about a dead guy, an alive girl, and it’s kind of, well, no, it’s not paranormal in a paranormal sense, he’s just dead. It’s not easy to sell it itself. But with that, I also like the fact that I can do these cross-genres, however you like to call them, books, because I’m not being restrained to, “Okay, I’m now a this author.”
For the books I’ve got planned coming out over the next 18 months, I have got more of this humorous fiction, but then I’ve also got a YA series that I’m planning on putting out there and I’ve got a mythological piece, because the self-publishing gives me the freedom to do that. Then again, I also want to be able to afford to do it full time. At the minute I’m happy where I am, I just have to wait and see.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, fair enough.
Hannah Lynn: That’s not a very clear answer for you. Sorry.
Tom Ashford: No, that’s good. That’s good. There’s a lot of elaboration there, it was good.
Hannah Lynn: Sorry.
Tom Ashford: No, that’s great. Question number two is a bit of an easier one. It’s how do you write? Are you the sort of person that sits down and plots out the whole story, or do you just take an idea and run with it?
Hannah Lynn: No, I can see you think it’s an easier one. I didn’t feel like I fit into either, because I have to know where I’m going, and the end is just so important to me. I like to plot down the key points and sometimes do like a chapter summary, but then as I start to write it, it goes down its own route. I’m a several draft person, so I am not someone who will immaculately plot a whole book so that their first draft is good to go. I need several reviews to get me there, but I still like to have some structure when I start.
Tom Ashford: Fair enough, yeah. Do you have a particular time and place that you enjoy writing?
Hannah Lynn: Time wise, I get time where I can, so normally it’s in the morning. I’m up early and try and get at least an hour in before the the day job begins. I’m pretty lucky with where I live at the minute, I’m actually sat on the terrace looking out at a lake, which is where I-
Tom Ashford: It’s not too bad.
Hannah Lynn: It’s not too shabby at all, which is where I do like to write, but at the minute I try and grab whatever I can whenever I can, but morning and evening around the other work.
Tom Ashford: Well, that leads us into question three, which is are you a full time author? If you are, how did you get there and if you aren’t, what steps are you taking to make it happen?
Hannah Lynn: No, no I am not. I’m still a full time teacher. I am trying to get as much written as possible, really. The steps I’m taking, I’ve got the Peas and Carrots series, I’ve already mentioned. Book four of that is out at the beginning of August, and then I plan on releasing another two in that series next year in 2020. I’ve got another three stand-alones, two of which I want to publish this year, one next year, and for 2021 I have the YA series that I mentioned, that I hope to release all of those in 2021.
Tom Ashford: Nice. So you’re still quite busy?
Hannah Lynn: So still quite busy. Yeah.
Tom Ashford: Cool. Well, question four is what mistakes do you think you’ve made and what have you got right?
Hannah Lynn: I think with Amendments, my first, now I look at it, it should have been a series and it clearly is a series, but it wasn’t when I went into writing it. I didn’t think enough about the larger arc of it, and because of that, it’s taken a lot of reworking and a lot of drafting to get into a position where in a few years time, hopefully I’ll be able to to re-look at that and get the rest of the books out. But as my first one, I was like, “Oh, these small things don’t matter.” Yes, the small things do matter, because they form little plot holes that get bigger and bigger the more you sort of prod them.
That’s something I got wrong. In terms of getting it right, I know I’m not very good at the whole genres and writing to market necessarily, but I always have a lot of passion about what I’m writing. While it’s difficult for my husband in particular to market anything at all, I feel strongly that that’s the best way for me. To make the most honest books that I can, to be proud of what I’m doing, I have to be able to write like that and skip between types of books, stories. I feel that I’ve got that right for me. I don’t know if that’s a right thing in terms of if you want to do this full time, but yeah, for me, that’s the way I have to do it.
Tom Ashford: Yeah, and if you enjoy the books then I think you’re more likely for the readers to enjoy it as well.
Hannah Lynn: Yeah, I hope so.
Tom Ashford: I think obviously a really good writer could probably write in any genre, and if they know enough about it and make it really good, even if they’re not a big fan of it themselves. But I feel like usually the best books are from people who are enthusiastic about those stories in the first place.
Hannah Lynn: Yes, I agree. I think you can tell, to some extent.
Tom Ashford: So just to jump back to the last question a little bit. You’re a full time teacher. Would you be looking to transition from being a full time teacher to a full time author if possible, or are you quite happy having both worlds?
Hannah Lynn: I would look at transitioning, yes. I don’t know, I love teaching and part-time would be fantastic. I think there’s a lot of enjoyment out of the job. You know, I’ve been doing it for 15 years now, so I obviously really enjoy it. 14 years. I also know that in times when I am writing a lot in the holidays, like now, it’s very easy for me to become sort of reclusive and not see anybody. I know I’ve spoken to other people who’ve made that transition actually from teaching into full time writing, and it’s quite a shock to go from being surrounded by so many people every day to being on your own.
Then the other thing is inspiration. Just day to day inspiration, being out there with other people is what gives me ideas. Not necessarily the job, but you know, just general conversations and people you’re talking to. I am aware that myself, as I said, I’m likely to become slightly reclusive if I was full time. I would like to be in a position where I am not scraping for time for the writing, because at the minute it’s a 5:30 get up every morning to make sure I can get the hour. Then of course if my daughter wakes up as well, then you know, it’s just a normal, real life. You have to fit it in around other things. It would be lovely if I was in a position where I could go, “Okay, this day, these days, I know I will have this amount of time.”
Tom Ashford: Yeah.
Hannah Lynn: Yeah.
Tom Ashford: Cool.
Hannah Lynn: That is where I’d like to be at.
Tom Ashford: Okay, and last but not least, question number five is what’s your final piece of advice for authors starting out in indie publishing?
Hannah Lynn: I think you have to put in the hours, you have to put in the hours and you have to be prepared that a lot of the time, most of the time, it won’t happen overnight. You read all these stories and I get emails from people who you’ve read this and this, and how much do I make? It’s like, no, that’s not how it works. It is a lot of hours. It’s a lot of investment in your time, and sometimes financially and socially. Either you want it enough that you keep going even when you’re not seeing the results that you hope for, or you quit.
If it is what you want, if you have a story to tell, tell it. Don’t let people or yourself say you can’t do it. In my family we have a joke that it’s a good job my name’s spelled the same forwards and backwards, because I can’t spell anything. I’ve always suffered, only mildly, but from difficulties.
Tom Ashford: That’s what editors are for though, isn’t it?
Hannah Lynn: That’s what editors are for. Yeah, I think I’m quite hard work, but it just takes a bit more. I’m not going to stop just because it takes more drafts for me to get something right or I don’t see my own mistakes, you know? I want to keep writing, so I’m going to keep writing, and that’s my thing for people who are just starting out, is if you want this, then really understand it’s a commitment. If you want to commit, go for it, or if you just want to write for fun, you know.
Tom Ashford: Just write whatever you want.
Hannah Lynn: Yeah, that’s amazing too. But if you are thinking of doing this as a career as, like I said, I’m hoping to, it takes time. It takes time that you have to put it in and there’s no shortcut for that.
Tom Ashford: Okay. Well, that was fantastic. Those are your five questions. Thank you very much for coming on.
Hannah Lynn: Thank you. Yeah, thank you very much for having me and for your time today.
Tom Ashford: That’s it for this week’s Self Publishing Spotlight. Don’t forget that you can get your free self-publishing resource kit at selfpublishingformula.com/starterkit, and if you want to appear as a guest on this show, send us brief details about yourself and your writing at selfpublishingformula.com/spotlight-guest. I’m Tom Ashford, and I’ll see you again next week.
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