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Interview with Lindsey Kinsella

He is a Scottish writer. While a qualified and experienced naval architect and an avid car enthusiast, he always reserved space in his life for a deep fascination with paleontology. This drove his writing process as he strove to write tales of the rich and complex history of life on Earth.”

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
In addition to being an author and paleontology nerd, I am a huge petrol head and spend much of my free time restoring classic cars. My current pride and joy is a bright yellow 1980 MG B-GT.

Q.2 What inspired you to write The Lazarus Taxa?
The primary inspiration stemmed from my love of natural history. I felt there was a lack of diversity in how dinosaurs are portrayed in popular media, and I wanted to bring a different, more up-to-date perspective to the world.

Q. 3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Indeed! I am currently working on a fantasy novel titled The Heart of Pangaea. This draws on similar source material as before and features all manner of prehistoric creatures but in a very different way.

Subject material aside, it’s a very different book from The Lazarus Taxa, it’s quirky, funny, and family-friendly, but with strong emotional themes.

I do also have plans for a follow-up to The Lazarus Taxa where I will explore new time periods and follow up on how the newfound technology of time travel begins to impact the world.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
As a man writing female characters, there is probably more scope for failure than vice versa-we all know the stereotypes about how men write women! That being said, it’s not something I found especially difficult.

I find the trick is not to focus on writing a “female” character-I simply write characters who happen to be female. Their gender is definitely part of who they are and can’t be ignored, but it’s not a defining trait. I like to think I write complex and interesting female characters-they have their own strengths, drives, and flaws.

Q.5 Do you plan out your book before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
The Lazarus Taxa was my first book and, as such, I was still very much honing my style. I definitely “pantsed” this one. However, I planned out my current project more carefully and, while I think the end result is of similar quality, the time taken to write it has been greatly reduced. I reckon I’ll stick with being a plotter going forward.

Q.6 How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A. The Lazarus Taxa
took me around two years, whereas I’m on course to finish my second book in half that. So, an eighteen-month average, I guess? I suspect around a year will be the norm going forward now that I have nailed down my process.

Q.7 What was your hardest scene to write?
The second chapter “Virgin Peak”. I started this chapter completely from scratch on at least three occasions, and I think it probably aged me by a few years! The reason it was so difficult to write is that it’s such an important chapter. This is where we first meet the main protagonist and I had to communicate so much information about who this man was but in an interesting and exciting way. 

In the end, I settled for a short tale of illegal mountaineering, conflict with the authorities, and the testing of a friendship. I think the extra work was well worth it, the story as a whole benefit from this chapter being stronger.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’m both blessed and cursed with a wide variety of interests, so I’d find something. I think I’d like to get my racing license and become an amateur racing driver-something I might well do in the future regardless of whether I’m still a writer!

Q.9 If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
The lead character of The Lazarus Taxa, Sid Starley, is a slight Scotsman with a bad attitude. I think James McAvoy would do an excellent job and he’d get to do it in his real accent!

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
This is something I actually started doing very early on in the writing process. I started up a Facebook page, created and shared content relating to topics I thought my ideal reader would like to see, and built a following. By the time the book was released, I already had a decent-sized following of potential readers who enjoyed paleontology and literature.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
Hobbits. Is there any other answer? I’m fully on board with the concept of seven meals a day!

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your book at home, who would it be and why?
I would invite Professor Dian Buckland. To be honest, she’s one of the few characters I think I would actually enjoy spending time with-it’s a pretty dysfunctional cast of characters!

Dian is a paleontologist and has a strong moral compass-particularly when it comes to the treatment of animals. She’s also funny, optimistic, and has an almost child-like enthusiasm for life.

Q.13 What three things a reader can expect from your book?
You can expect to be surprised. The plot is very much a mystery, so the book is full of twists, turns, and shocks. It makes it a fun read, even if it makes it very difficult for me to discuss without giving away any spoilers!

You can also expect to be frightened! I grew up reading horror and this definitely seeps through into my writing-it’s one thing that repeatedly crops up in feedback from readers. It comes in waves, but I do very much enjoy building tension and eliciting a fear response from the reader.

One thing to expect which may surprise a potential reader is that you’re likely to learn a thing or two. The original inspiration for this book was to bring the wonders of paleontology to people, and that remained a focus throughout the writing process. Short, Segway chapters explore evolution, extinction, and a number of fascinating scientific concepts.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your book, who is dear to you and why?
There is a character called Jean who I found rather endearing and I hope to explore his character more in future stories. I can’t give too much away as who and what he is is somewhat of a surprise for the reader, but he is a conflicted soul.

He is a man who was dealt a bad hand in life and, when faced with some difficult decision, committed some objectively terrible crimes. Yet, he is riddled with guilt and longs for retribution. He makes a start in The Lazarus Taxa, but Jean’s character arc will definitely be more central in future books.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
I found my paperback cover designer on Fivver. I hear mixed reviews on the site but I think I got lucky with mine. The hardback cover I designed myself! I think it needs an update, but it’s nice that I’m able to do that on my own.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
I have a mixture of sources of inspiration for names, but they tend to revolve around that character’s qualities. For example, Dian is named after Dian Fossey, the late conservationist. I felt the character had a lot in common with the real person.

Sid, on the other hand, is named after a video game character-the Final Fantasy series always has a mechanic named “Sid” or “Cid”. His surname “Starley” is a reference to John Kemp Starley, an inventor, and founder of what would become Land Rover.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I do, I think it’s important to see what my readers liked and didn’t like that kind of feedback is how anyone gets better at pretty much anything. I’ve been fortunate enough to only receive one bad review, and as any artist would be, I was pretty gutted. 

But, no piece of fiction can ever please everyone and I’m grateful for all the amazingly positive reviews I’ve had-apparently The Lazarus Taxa inspired one reader to take up writing herself which is about the highest praise I could imagine.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
The famous paleontologist Robert Bakker has been one of my heroes for about as long as I can remember. The Lazarus Taxa opens with a quote of his and a character in my current project is named after him. He is one of the architects of the “dinosaur renaissance”, a real push forward in paleontological understanding. I’d love to pick his brains and geek out about dinosaurs.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) have you excited about? What are you reading right now?
Between writing, parenting, working as an architect, restoring cars, and running an events business, finding time to read is tricky! But I am currently working my way through Dinosaur by Stephen Llewelyn. He kindly posted me a copy in return for a copy of The Lazarus Taxa, and it’s excellent. I was drawn in by the dinosaurs, but it’s really more of a murder mystery in space-I’m loving it!

Also, Donna Marie West is very exciting at the moment. Her new book The Mud Man just about brought me to tears, and I’m not usually one for shedding a tear over a book! I found out about Donna as she was the editor on The Lazarus Taxa, turns out she’s as good an author as she is an editor.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
I only started writing in 2020 during the first round of COVID-19 lockdowns. With many of my usual activities briefly outlawed, I finally had time to sit down and write, something I had aspired to do for a long time.

It has been quite the learning curve! I spent almost two years on The Lazarus Taxa, honing my craft and figuring out my style. Now, on my new project, I’m almost starting from scratch with a new genre, aimed at a different audience, with a very different tone. But, learning new skills can only be a good thing.

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