May 2014


Lucy Robinson’s blog about internet dating for marie claire magazine led to her first novel, The Greatest Love Story of All Time. She had previously worked in theatre and television and lives in Bristol, England. Her third novel, The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me, is out in June. (Interview by Swati Sharma)

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  1. 1. How would you describe your upcoming novel The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me?

    It’s a cracker! I don’t normally feel like that about my books but I love this one. It’s a story about love, loss, grief, courage and renewal, all bound together by the theme of opera. In fact, the plot of Pucinni’s La Boheme runs through the whole thing, although you don’t need to know that story to appreciate the book. It’s more just a hidden bonus for opera lovers. The novel is about Sally Howlett, a girl from a council estate in the Midlands, who has been born with a wonderful singing voice but without the confidence to use it. After a very unexpected summer of love and loss in New York she finally finds the courage to step into the limelight and sing . . . but her journey is threatened every step of the way by a handsome and quite dangerous man from her past.

  2. 2. How you come up with the idea?

    I used to play in London Medical Orchestra, where I used to sit next to a really awesome dude called Julian who was ten years younger and ten times wilder than I was. He told me a story about something mad that had happened to him at a party. I put down my violin and ran off to find a piece of paper to scribble it all down because I knew it would make a brilliant opening scene for a novel. So for a while I had an opening scene and nothing else. Then I found myself thinking about opera one day - my great-grandparents were both singers - and I felt that I wanted to somehow bring opera into the book. I am such a great lover of classical music, in any form. So, after that, there was a LOT of brainstorming, reading, research, months of failed ideas and re-writes and then, eventually, I arrived at the story as it is today. It’s definitely the most complex story I’ve written.

  3. 3. Which is your favourite musical?

    I used to work in musicals! I love them. I worked on Les Mis which is, in my opinion, the best by a country mile. However I’m also a huge fan of West Side Story and Chorus Line. All three make me cry and scream quite a lot.

  4. 4. Do you ever use real-life experience or characters in your stories?

    Never. At least not consciously. Sometimes I wonder if this makes me an inferior writer, but readers often comment on how much they loved the characters so I guess I’ll just carry on as I am for now.

  5. 5. What is the biggest myth about being a writer?

    That it’s a really cool job! It’s a good job, of course, but it’s not cool. You spend most of your time alone in a freezing cold room, wearing ten jumpers and a hat, panicking about what you’re writing because it’s either not working, not as good as your last book or not as good as your mate’s book. Yes, there’s launch parties from time to time, yes, it’s fabulous to get paid to be creative, and yes it is an indescribably wonderful thing to see your book there on a shelf in the shop but is it a cool, exciting job? Absolutely not!

  6. 6. Have you ever experience writers’ block? How you overcome it?

    Writers’ block, for me, is a sign that I’m trying to pursue a storyline that is not working, or a character who isn’t rounded. I’ve written quite a few blogs about the importance of listening to that voice of doubt and addressing the problem sooner rather than later. Otherwise it’s just like dry rot. The problem gets bigger and bigger and you spend more and more time paralysed by your problem. Cut loose! Delete! Rewrite! Stop trying to make it work!

  7. 7. Tell us about a day in the life of Lucy Robinson.

    I get up and do lots of stretches. Since becoming a writer my entire body has gone wrong and I’m now a mass of spasming muscles, sore backs, dislocated coccyxes and dodgy hips. Breakfast and shower, then up to an hour of procrastination. I really must do something about this. I write in forty-five minutes blocks with proper breaks in between and never write longer than three hours a day, even though I will probably be doing other writerly things on top. I love writing my daily blog, which is a record of the Life I Love – a naff but wonderful concept I learned when I got better from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2013. I can easily get lonely and stiff so I try to keep moving, take a walk, go and meet someone for lunch, have a coffee in my local café, anything other than spend the day on my own. It’s rubbish for productivity. Recently I’ve started a Work Group one day a week with friends, and I also rent a desk in a fabulous creative co-operative in Bristol another day of the week.

  8. 8. What are you working on next?

    My fourth novel, which is going badly. They always do at the beginning. I’m also writing something else for a couple of hours per week, but that’s a very long-term project and not yet worth discussing! This year I’ll probably do a TV job too, as I like to keep my hand in.

  9. 9. What advice you would like to give to the aspiring writers?

    Write a book. Write a book. Write a book. Don’t spend time trying to ‘perfect’ your writing by practising in other media – it’s great to blog and write articles and critique others’ work, but it’s not going to advance you as a fiction writer. Just write a book. It’s the only advice I ever got, and it worked - so it’s all I can offer! It’s scary to write a book. Trust me, I am mad with fear every time I start a new one, but once it’s done you can edit it until it’s perfect. You can’t edit a blank document. My other piece of advice is get an agent. A good one. One who’ll act not just as your agent but as your mentor, editor, sounding board and advisor. At the beginning you’ll really need that support, however accomplished a writer you are. I’d like to think I don’t lean on my agent quite like I did at the beginning but back then I leaned on her badly! She was so wonderful and clever and supportive; I couldn’t and wouldn’t have done it without her.

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