Author Lynne Christensen On The 5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author
Always be open to learning. I watch a ton of travel documentaries, period dramas, and historical shows to expand my knowledge. I also read a lot. Share what your senses are bringing you — and don’t forget taste, sound, and touch — it’s not all about seeing things.
As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynne Christensen. Lynne Christensen is a world traveler who enjoys visiting museums and archives. She grew up roaming around graveyards in Europe with her genealogy-loving parents in search of elusive ancestors. A lifelong learner, she earned both Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Commerce degrees plus has over twenty-five years of experience in marketing and corporate communications. Her writing is published in numerous magazine articles, case studies, advertisements, and technical manuals. She lives on the West Coast of Canada in a house full of fascinating books.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I grew up in a very academic household and both my parents are published, authors. Dinnertime conversations ranged from family history, electrical power stations, microbiology, farming, gifted children, computers, and laboratory research protocol. Naturally, we’ve always had a large home library. One day I was standing in the midst of all our wonderful books and it dawned on me: more use should be made of all this knowledge! The Aunt Edwina series was developed using our geography, (social) history, genealogy and family history books collection, as well as drawing inspiration from many (pre-pandemic) travel experiences.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
The most interesting thing that occurred to me in the course of my writing career was doing field research on a drizzly day in England. We were at a café in London, reflecting on the wonderful monuments and architecture we’d seen that day. Next thing I know, a man sits with another in the center of the café and after a bit of small talk, proceeds to get fired! I was stunned. To witness that, in the middle of a busy café while taking a family vacation, was quite surreal. Number one it’s inappropriate to fire someone in public and number two I felt so badly for the employee. Imagine that, sitting in a café on holiday and drama unfolds beside you at the next table, completely unexpected. I’ve always remembered it because there were so many emotions packed into that one conversation.
From a more humorous perspective, my mother (a retired professional genealogist) and I were in the United States one year, driving through a small town. As we slowed to navigate a winding street, we both saw a community center. Right outside the open door was a sandwich board sign that read “Seniors Drop Off.” Quick as a wink, my mother turned to me and said, “Don’t you dare.” Oh my, it was hilarious. Years later we’re still getting mileage out of that one.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming an author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
Every writer I know fights imposter syndrome, also known as, “Am I good enough?” or, “Can I really call myself a good writer?” doubts. I think recognizing that imposter syndrome exists is the first step. Next improve your craft by practicing, taking courses and reading a lot. One day you’ll complete a great article, essay or novel and think “I did it!” Imposter syndrome never fully goes away but it is greatly tempered by these techniques.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’m a plotter (as opposed to pantser), meaning I prepare a formal story outline before starting to write a book. I’m also super organized, so these outlines can get 20+ pages long. When I caught myself starting to write screeds of dialogue within the story outline, I said to myself, “Okay, just start writing the book!” It was pretty hilarious because I was trying to cram dialogue within a spreadsheet — the formatting was horrific and made it much harder to write than it had to be!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Book number two is already in production (Aunt Edwina’s Wonderful Legacy) and Book 3 is in draft stage. The clean read Aunt Edwina series comprises of a large group of characters who have many more family history adventures and hijinks ahead of them.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
I think the most interesting storyline is about the intricate treasure hunt my main character, Julie Fincher, has to perform all over Southern England. The adventure is courtesy of her beloved Aunt Edwina’s will. Julie learns a lot about the family history along the way, meets some outlandish yet good-hearted characters, and in the end realizes that good people (especially seniors at Family History Societies) bind a community together.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book? Family history is important. Document it. Share it. Discuss it. Interview your relatives. Label your photos. Donate artefacts and documents to archives and museums. Preserve history. Value community.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need to Know to Become a Great Author”? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Realize that you need an honest, talented and experienced editor. Full stop. Writers aren’t in a solitary sport — editors catch awkward phrases, plot holes and punctuation issues. I’ve even had full chapters rearranged by a talented editor and the book was better for it.
2) Do your homework so you can write authentically. At least know the basic facts about sword fights, riding a horse, general weather pattern of location, etc. Fiction involves suspending disbelief, but it’s a bit much to expect a reader to believe it only takes 15 minutes to get from Cornwall to London via train (unless you’re time travelling). I write family history fiction and in order for it to read authentic, I’ve immersed myself in the family history and genealogy worlds since I was a teenager.
3) Always be open to learning. I watch a ton of travel documentaries, period dramas and historical shows to expand my knowledge. I also read a lot. Share what your senses are bringing you — and don’t forget taste, sound and touch — it’s not all about seeing things.
4) Carve out time to write — For every thousand people who say they want to write a book, maybe one person finishes their writing project. You only become better at writing through practice. Writing is a game of choices; are you willing to give up something else in order to pursue it? You only have 24 hours in the day and a lot is taken up with sleeping, eating, and (likely) a day job. The precious other hours are what you must carefully manage.
5) Focus to write, and focus on your genre. Don’t write a book for everyone. Write a book for someone specific, a niche audience. Know how to tune out distractions so you can focus on the screen. I use my national-level dressage sports competition experience to help me focus.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study). Can you share a story or example?
Early on I realized I had a talent and was drawn to writing. My ability to focus has got me to where I am today. This ability was developed from my years of training in the sport of dressage (I once rode at a national level). When one is performing intricate movements while riding a living, breathing horse, one needs to be an expert at blocking out everything else around them while competing. I use this sport skill every time I sit down at the computer to write.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Charles Dickens: to inspire empathy.
Jane Austen: to inspire romance and question societal expectations.
James Herriot: to inspire humor.
I’m widely read and enjoy an eclectic mix of non-fiction and fiction. My current coffee table book read is The Library: A World History by James W.P. Campbell, Photographs by Will Pryce. It’s an amazing book with full color photos of treasured libraries found all over the world.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
There are two:
1) Show empathy. Think how your words and actions will be seen, heard and felt by others.
2) Be a friend to seniors. They have a lot to contribute and their life experience helps people in so many ways, both at home and in the workplace. Appreciate and document their family history stories because they teach so much to the next generations.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!