Well, yes. It's only fair to warn you from the start (though you were probably guessing) that Lindsay Lanto is a pseudonym, and therefore of no further interest. But wait a minute. No further interest? If you write fiction – and if you don't, you surely should – then you know that a name can bring a character to life. There's a lot of difference between a working name like Midwife and the final character name Mrs Gamp. So it is with a pseudonym. From <authorname> to Lindsay Lanto may not seem a long way, but it's an act that creates a character. And a character can answer questions. So let's give it a try.
What gender are you, Lindsay? I mean, isn't Lindsay a girl's name?
Not necessarily. And the author photo seems to designate me as a "he". That's OK, I can live with it.
How old are you?
I was wondering about that. Do I have to give you an answer right now?
Well, people do like to know about this kind of thing.
I should think I just about fit into the baby-boom generation.
Can you tell us a bit about your family life?
I'm not married. Nor divorced, either.
I was going to ask you if you have children, but...
But I haven't been married? Well, I have children anyway. But I can't tell you how many.
You know, you're not being very helpful.
I don't know how many. I haven't put much thought into it yet. I suppose I can choose, so I'm going to have two or three. Three, in fact. Two daughters and a son. And grandchildren too - four, five, a sixth on the way. We have wonderful family get-togethers. Long meals round the farmhouse table, barbecues outdoors in summer, you know, that kind of thing.
I think you're making this up as you go along.
Of course I am, I'm a pseudonym.
Oh, come on. Can you get over being a pseudonym for a moment? Your readers want to know things about you.
So, instead of thinking "Who's this nosy parker asking me questions?", I should be talking to my readers?
OK. Please bear in mind that I'm learning this job as I go along. But I'll do my best.
Thank you. Where are you from?
I'm British. But I've spent a great deal of my life outside Britain.
Where, for instance?
Well, I was born in Hong-Kong. Not that I can remember anything about it. My father was a diplomat, and we moved around quite a bit when I was a child. The thing is, diplomatic circles are protected. You live in a bubble. We diplomats' children were schooled together, in the English language. Then my parents sent me to boarding school in England, and from there I went to Oxford.
Quite a privileged education.
Definitely. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it either. I didn't really choose it. And I didn't use it.
What do you mean?
With a background like that, I could have gone straight into an elite career.
And you didn't?
No, to my parents' dismay.
So what did you do?
A couple of things happened. I felt stifled in that privileged bubble we've been talking about. I didn't enjoy being with people who were on a fast track to an entitled future. I got a job with a house-painting company. While we were repainting an annex at the hospital, I met a girl, a nurse. She was going to Africa with an NGO. I went with her.
And then I was out of the bubble. I never went back.
So you stayed in Africa?
For a time. Then Asia and Europe, later America.
You were a drifter?
Not if a drifter is someone who floats in and out again without really touching ground. I liked to stay for a while and get to know the place I was in. I could usually find some work to do to make sure I had food and shelter. People can be amazingly hospitable, which is a good reason for not behaving like a parasite towards them.
So you never went back to England?
Oh, often. But I never settled there again.
What about writing in all this? When did you start?
I suppose I've always written bits and pieces. But my first shot at writing a novel came when I was already in my thirties. As I said, I was in America for a time. I got a job in New York as a menial copy-editor with a publishing house that shall remain nameless. I started a road novel that took itself very seriously.
Was it published?
I was surrounded by such disparaging opinions of writing and writers that I never showed it to anyone. I lost the manuscript later on, along with a bagful of other stuff that was stolen from me in Mexico. It was no great loss.
In your travels, did you pick up languages, like Hab Parton, the hero of The Deep Blue series?
Well, he can only really speak French and some Spanish. That's about my limit too, beyond a few words in other languages here and there.
Are you still travelling?
Not so much. I settled down in the end.
What are you doing now?
Apart from writing? Trying to build a house.
(Laughs) I'd have to be a millionaire. In Southern France, but not Provence.
To get back to writing, why do you write?
To be frank, I don't write because it satisfies some inner need. I don't write because it's good therapy for me. I write because part of my head has always been in the fictional world of novels, from the high-brow to the low-brow. I think novels, I think characters, I think stories, I think dialogues. At some point, it only seems reasonable to try to write them. I say "seems".
Why, isn't it reasonable?
I suspect anyone who has ever tried to write a novel knows the feeling that they must have been crazy to even start.
How many have you written?
Several. Draw your own conclusions...
But Dark Gem is the first you've published?
Yes. To be followed by others in The Deep Blue series.
Why write about history?
First of all, because that's where we live. If you write about today, you're setting your story in history. History isn't just the distant past chopped into sections, however much we may have got that impression from school. It's a continuum. We're part of it.
The Deep Blue is set in the early part of the eighteenth century. Why that particular choice?
Because it was a time when a great deal of the world we live in now was taking shape. It may seem far-off and exotic, with the New World and piracy and so on, but the Atlantic world that still dominates the planet was powering up back then. But you know, I told you I had part of my head in novels. When I was a boy I was fascinated by Robinson Crusoe, which was published in 1719. That has something to do with the choice too
That was enough to set you going?
Not quite. Later, I learned there was a suspicion Daniel Defoe was a spy. I also came across a suggestion that Samuel Pepys had founded an unofficial Intelligence Department within the British Admiralty. That sparked something off.
So you're a spy author?
Not only. I'm really interested in the way people lived, in what was happening at the time. There's the colonial reality, and the murderous torture that was slavery. The imperial rivalry of European nations is a far cry from that. James Bond, Hab Parton is not.
He's poor, he fights to survive, and he has a heart.
How much does it matter that he has a heart?
A great deal.
Does that in its turn mean that the female characters are important in what you write?
Can we call you a romance author, then?
Romance is a euphemism. I hope I write about life and love.
Thank you, Lindsay Lanto. Oh, and just one last thing... What happened to the girl?
The nurse. Africa.
We spent a good year together, then our relationship, let's say, died a natural death. She went back to England, I moved on.
Yes, fortunately or unfortunately, that's life.
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