Clubhouse Chat Guest: Barry Lillie

Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.

Today I’m welcoming Barry to the tearoom. Welcome.

Thank you Paula for the invite. I loved the blacked out windows in the limousine, was that just so that I cannot divulge the clubhouse address?

Yes, we like to protect our member’s privacy especially as the drink flows freely here. 😉 Now my first question is what would you like to drink?

A watermelon juice, please as it reminds me of the hot summers I enjoyed living in Italy when I’d make it fresh each morning.

That sound lovely, Barry. Right, let’s start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?

To be honest it sort of chose me I think. My roots are in education and playwriting. I soon realised that children learn without fear if you dress their education up in humour. This sort of progressed into my fiction writing. All of my work is humourous despite my attraction to tackling humourless topics like suicide, cancer and death.

What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?

Oh, I’m a chatterbox. I’ve never had an on/off switch and people tell me my strongest points are my dialogue, I use it to drive the story forward. My downfall though is, I’d like to be able to get my tenses right during the first draft, I write in a frenzy and when I come to edit I have to double check my tenses as they can often go awry initially.

Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?

I’m currently five chapters away from completing my current novel. It’s a story about the friendship between two men covering subjects such as secrets, love and suicide. It started life as an idea whilst sitting in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house last year and so has been roaming around my consciousness for a while now. I’m glad that I stuck with it now.

Super Barry Lillie

How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?

Two, one is a novel I started about 20 years ago and haven’t looked at for years, the other is a thriller set in Italy where I was living at the time but it just didn’t work out. Snatches of it have appeared in other work so it wasn’t a complete waste of energy.

Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you only write short stories, do you plan your story or let the characters lead you?

I’m a planner. Having worked as a feature writer at a magazine you have to plan at least six-months ahead and it’s a trait that has stuck with me. I plot my work first then set out on the task of writing – I liken it to the Jack Poggi method of learning a monologue from the end to the start – if you know where you’re heading it’s easier to stay on track. That said I often write chapters out of sequence.

Were any of your characters inspired by real people?

In my novella Willow and the Motorway Horses, there’s one character based directly upon a person I know, who I’m guessing would never notice themselves in the text. The main character in my novel, 52 (re-named now as One More Week after advice from a respected agent) is based upon a lady I worked alongside in the 1980’s, everything from her speech patterns to her personality, only her name has been changed.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

At the magazine it was Monday to Friday 08:30 to 16:00, but now I’m freelance and working from home, I tend to write most days with my cut off time being 15:00. I never write at night and I do give myself at least one whole day with no writing or planning.

How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?

This is a real bugbear for me, only last week I was reading a piece out at my writers’ group and someone pointed out that in the chapter, I had three characters who had names beginning with a K. I do like to make sure any names I choose are suited to the character and the period in time where the narrative is set. I write simple character cards that include, birthdate, hair and eye colours and always the character’s musical tastes.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Just yesterday I had to write about the funeral for a character that I have loved creating. I found the experience quite emotional and had to have several pauses throughout the session.

How long on average does it take you to write a book, play or story?

How long do you have? If I’m working on a non-fiction commission then I’ll have a deadline to work to. Other things can be random. Currently I’m working on three projects. My novel is three months behind my self-imposed schedule of six-months to complete. My radio play has currently no deadline due to Covid and my monologue collection, 25 Voices will be finished when it’s finished, there’s no hurry.

Thank you so much for join me, Barry. When you’re ready to leave, please let Brutus know and he’ll run you home as we don’t allow taxis to pickup or drop off here. 😉

If you want to find out more about Barry check out his blog: https://barrylillie.wordpress.com/

It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops.

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