It’s a pleasure today to welcome author Lisa Thompson to find out about her Middle Grade book The Goldfish Boy (which has fabulous illustrations from Mike Lowery, by the way), and to hear about her personal writing process.
Hi Lisa! Tell us about The Goldfish Boy!
The Goldfish Boy is about a 12 year old boy called Matthew who suffers with debilitating OCD. He spends a lot of his time watching his neighbours on the cul-de-sac where he lives. One day a toddler who is staying next door goes missing – and Matthew finds himself at the centre of the mystery.
What kind of kid is Matthew? How did he come to you?
It was very important to me that Matthew was a kind, funny, clever kid who just happens to have OCD. I didn’t want him to all just be about the condition. In the book we join him at a moment where he is completely overwhelmed with his fear of germs – but I hope we also see his dry sense of humour, his love for his family and his intelligence. The book started out originally as a short story and as soon as began, his voice was incredibly clear. I have no idea how I’ve written from a 12 year old boy’s perspective but it seemed to work!
What was the seed of thought that inspired the story?
You know when you’re poorly, and you’re lying in bed looking at the room around you and you begin to notice things? Like a face in the wood of the door, or a lightbulb covered in dust? That was my seed – the idea of writing from a restricted point of view where ordinary things can appear quite extraordinary to a particular person (a piece of wallpaper that appears to resemble a lion, the old lady across the road who runs inside whenever anyone else is around.)
Did you have any conscious plans before you wrote it about what you wanted the main themes/elements to be?
I don’t think I did have any conscious plans for the books themes/elements – they completely evolved as it went along. I am fascinated when you can look back and can spot various themes (water plays a big part in The Goldfish Boy) and then you can pretend you intended that all along…! I think the sub-conscious can be a great tool in writing – the secret is to let go and trust it’s going somewhere. Oh, and I’m a 100% pantser. I really don’t like planning – for me it sucks the life out my writing, however this does mean I *occasionally get in a bit of a muddle. (*very often)
How much research did you do about OCD? What was the main thing you wanted to come through about it from the story?
I did a lot of research! Having a main character with OCD came about after seeing a documentary about the condition on Channel 4 (presented by the comedian Jon Richardson). It completely opened my eyes as to how debilitating the condition can be and how it can wreck lives. I met with a psychologist who specialises in the condition and asked her lots of questions and she read some early drafts. I also read a lot and followed some OCD forums and spoke to sufferers. The more I learnt, the more I wanted my readers to realise how awful OCD is, rather than it being seen as a ‘quirk’.
Any tips on writing mysteries?
My biggest tip is don’t worry if you don’t know the ending! Not just for mysteries, but for any book. When Stephen King said that in his book ‘On Writing’ that was a lightbulb moment for me. I presumed you had to have the whole thing in your head before you even started. And regarding mysteries, I had an idea of where Teddy was (my missing toddler) but it changed as I went along so don’t worry if you’re not sure where you are going. Starting is the key!
What was your journey to publication like?
I’ve had a few ups and downs but, looking back, I think my biggest hurdle was finding the confidence to get my work out there. I’d read so much stuff about how difficult it is to get an agent/published that I put off trying for years, even though I’d been writing since I was a child and it was a lifelong dream. When I was approaching 40 I decided that it was now or never and I paid for a critique of some short stories I’d written (using a literary consultancy). I wanted a professional opinion to see if I could take it to the next stage. After some positive feedback I approached some agents and signed with one quite quickly. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out and after a year or so we amicably parted ways. The very next day I approached my current agent (Adam Gauntlett at Peters, Fraser & Dunlop) and he turned things around for me!
What’s next for you, writing wise?
I’m currently editing my second book. It’s a standalone about an eleven year old boy and his mum who run away from a troubled home and the boy’s imaginary friend (who he hasn’t seen since he was 4) comes back… It’s out in 2018.
Many thanks to Lisa for taking the time to visit us! We’ll be eagerly awaiting the next book 🙂
Find out more at www.lisathompsonauthor.com
Find Lisa on social media on Twitter as @lthompsonwrites and on Facebook as lisathompsonwrites and Instagram @lisathompsonwrites
Happy reading and writing 🙂