5 June 2013

Author Interview and Review: The Heir by Lynne Stringer

Author Interview

This week sees the release of Lynne Stringer's debut novel. Lynne is an Australian author and sci-fi fan, and I'm exciting to introduce her to you.

Thank you, Lynne, for sharing with our readers today. You can find out more about Lynne Stringer at her website.

What was your motivation for writing The Heir?

I have always been interested in science fiction and fantasy, and I love romances that have a fantasy element to them, so this story was one that fascinated me once I had thought of it.

Where did the characters and story come from? What were your influences?

I thought of the idea one day when I was talking to my husband. He is fascinated by cheesy pick-up lines (not that he uses them, then he'd be in trouble!) and he was talking about some of his favourites. I started thinking about some myself, and I thought of the one that says, 'You are the only reason I was put on this planet.' It made me think, what if someone said that to you and they meant it literally? What would be the implications of that? The story grew out of that.

Sarah is very similar to myself, so the writing was a bit vicarious. Dan was someone who seemed to suit Sarah well, and he came out of that. Jillian was born because I needed someone who was a bit pushy in Sarah's life, and Mr Hatchet was originally intended to be the heavy so that he could hit someone if it was required, but he took on a life of his own once I started to write him down.

Who is your favourite character and why?

Probably Dan. He's going through so much during the course of the story, but unfortunately, the reader misses out on a lot of it because the story's told from Sarah's point of view (which was necessary so you don't find out what's happening too soon!). Knowing him and what goes on in his head makes me adore him, but I like Sarah and Mr Hatchet almost as much.

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but we find out that Dan has had a very different upbringing to Sarah, and that’s affected a lot of his beliefs and values. How do you see that relating to teens?

I think it can help them see that other people can have different upbringings and experiences from ourselves and this can lead to different ideas about all sorts of things from the things they eat to more significant issues like morality. Learning that people have these differences can be a helpful lesson especially when we're young.

When I read The Heir, there were a lot of things that I didn’t quite ‘get’, but looking back from the end I can see they were all clues (very clever). One thing I didn’t get is why Sarah continues to trust Dan when he acts very strangely at times. Why does Sarah continue to trust him even when she finds him over-controlling?

Sarah realises that there's something special about Dan and Jillian that she can relate to. Dan, in particular, since she fancies him, receives a lot of trust from her, although she never pauses to assess exactly why she places such a trust in him. She's motivated by her subconscious to trust him in this way.

You post a lot of science-fiction images on Facebook. What’s your favourite Sci-fi show?

I love a lot of sci-fi. I'm a fan of Star Wars, and I have been watching and enjoying Doctor Who since I was young enough to sit in front of a television. Another TV show I loved is a little known show called Roswell.

Do you believe there is life on other planets? Why? Why not?

I think it's likely that there is some kind of life, but sentient life? I'm not so sure about that. I think we would have heard from them in a significant way if there was. I try to be open minded about it, though.

The Heir is aimed at the Young Adult market, reflected by the fact that your main characters are in their senior year at high school. What made you decide to write for this age group?

I didn't want Sarah to be an adult. I thought it was more appropriate for her to be on the cusp of adulthood as she discovers all these things about herself, especially as the teenage years are a fertile ground for angst anyway. Lots of teenagers have trouble finding their niche, so I thought it was a good place for Sarah to begin experiencing the things that make her different from everyone else.

The Heir has been published by Wombat Books, a general market publisher who also has a Christian imprint, Even Before Publishing. Why is The Heir with Wombat, not Even Before?

I couldn't think of a Christian angle for The Heir, and I wasn't interested in forcing it into the story just to make it suit the Christian market. I'd like to think that The Heir is a book everyone can enjoy, and Christian teens can tell their non-Christian friends about it and they can enjoy a book without the explicit content that does tend to go with many books in this genre.

How does your faith influence your writing? How would that be different if you were writing for the Christian market?

I have tried to keep The Heir within a reasonable Christian framework of morality. I wasn't interested in writing something filled with sex or bad language, but I didn't want to make it deliberately Christian, not because I had an aversion to writing a Christian book, but just because the story didn't go that way, and I wasn't going to turn it into something it wasn't. I think my faith has influenced its morality, but not in an overt way.

What can you tell us about the next book in the series?

The next book is called The Crown and should be out either at the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014. It is the continuing adventures of Sarah and Dan, but I can't say too much more or I'll spoil it for people who haven't yet read The Heir!

My Review

Sarah is a normal American teenager. Well, mostly normal. She goes to a fancy private school where all the other kids are rich, her dad is an inventor who never quite seems to get it right, she’s being stalked at school by a creepy boy, and her English teacher is always picking her for class debates even though she hates them. Apart from that, she’s just a normal kid who loves art, tries to survive high school and has a secret crush on Dan, her best friend’s kind-of boyfriend.

But things are not what they seem, and when tragedy strikes and Sarah’s life changes overnight, things start to get even stranger. Melting tables, windows that don’t open, eyes in the bushes … and then things get even stranger.

The story started slowly but there was a growing sense of foreboding and rising suspense that made me realise it wasn’t the predictable Young Adult coming-of-age kind of story it started out as (but I’m not going to spoil the surprise by saying too much). Strange things started to happen and there were a few left-field comments from Sarah’s friends that made me think I was missing something. I was. So was Sarah. And when we got the big reveal it was both a huge surprise and not, because it answered all those niggles.

The Heir is told entirely in the first person, from Sarah’s point of view (which I know some readers don’t like). But she’s a strong character who can carry the story without being so perfect as to be annoying. She’s a realistic teen, with strong likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, a secret crush, and a secret history even she doesn’t know about…

I really enjoyed The Heir. It was well-plotted with good foreshadowing (but without making it obvious), good characters, and an ending that was both satisfying in the way it completed the current story, but left me wanting more (fortunately, the sequel is expected out at the end of the year). An excellent debut novel, recommended for those who like authors such as Kathy Tyers, or those who enjoy YA dystopian or science fiction.

Thanks to Wombat Books for providing a free ebook for review.

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