Lucy van Smit won the Bath Children's Novel Award in 2015 with Nordic Noir YA Thriller, The Hurting. There are some books that captivate you from the beginning and The Hurting is one.
I couldn't wait until it was published so that I could read the whole story and it certainly lived up to the suspense-filled opening chapters. So it's with the greatest pleasure that we welcome Lucy van Smit to WritingNV.com
Lucy explains below what The Hurting is about:
I started just in the nick of time; on my fiftieth birthday. And my present to myself was a week-long writing course at City Lit. Sophie Mackenzie gave us a writing prompt, I chose a headline on bullying and wrote my first novel about a boy being made an outcast for unrequited love.
It flew off my pen and I’d have to set my alarm clock to remember to collect my son at 3pm from school.
Thank you for that compliment, I love poetry and being a wordsmith! You’ve made me think… my Fine Art degree was very political. Leeds Uni Art dept back then was run by Marxists like Tim Clarke, and feminist art historian Griselda Pollock, if anything Fine Art taught me to be more cerebral. I spent all my time down in the library reading, reading, reading; the classics, history, sociology, stuff like eugenics. In the end, I blagged a place to read Law, but they wanted me to restart the year, so I stuck with art.
I’m a Colourist by nature, I used my love of colour and bold, simple lines in The Hurting. I was thinking of Vladminck and Norwegian painter, Harald Sohlberg. Nell's Norway is an intense bold landscape; greens so bright they hurt her eyes.
Harald Sohlberg, Norwegian
Absolutely, I made documentaries on literary authors like Nadine Gordimer, Ian McEwan, and in TV there's a saying in the edit-suite that you get to say one thing… and one thing only in each part, or paragraph, if you like. It’s the hardest thing to pull off, the clarity to tell a powerful story and move your audience. As an artist and a dyslexic, I think in pictures, and that naturally lends itself to think in scenes and watch them play out in your head.
Part of my family is Finnish and lives in New Zealand, but I didn’t want a flat Finnish landscape with lakes and forests, I wanted more drama. I loved Iceland, but felt the Norwegian fjords have the majesty of New Zealand…with wolves!!
My son dreams of living in the wild so we stayed in this hut in the middle of a forest and traced Nell and Lukas’s footsteps. I was thrilled to see a rogue wolf on the front page of the local newspaper and farmers up in arms about wolf conservation.
It fed into Lukas’s fears that his wolves would be shot. I did do a lot of research on wolves, Norway shot 42 wolves this past winter. Like Nell, I had been badly bitten by a dog and the idea of singing to a wolf was my worst nightmare. I learned so much about wolves in the course of writing The Hurting I came to love them and respect the vital role a predator plays in balancing ecology.
I enjoy Nordic Noir on TV! The Bridge and The Killing, as a kid I used to watch mysteries with my dad and could always guess the plot before him. Screenwriting techniques are great for plot twists and pace, and novels are brilliant for world building which is why so many are adapted for the screen.
The Hurting started with Steve Voake's MA writing exercise at Bath Spa, how to show character through dialogue and action. As a rookie, I thought I had to do something extreme, but don't like violence. We’d had lost our first baby, and kidnapping a child was the worse, worst thing I could imagine, so The Hurting started with a scene of Lukas persuading Nell to take the baby from the Oslo supermarket and then I had to find out what would make a kind girl kidnap a baby. I’d also fallen in love at first sight and wanted love to be the motivation... and the solution. I really wanted that intense emotion where you are totally enthralled by love and would do anything to keep the boy. My German publisher is very much marketing The Hurting as a Nordic Noir Wuthering Heights.
I wrote 75,000 words of my first novel, a revenge adventure story. I thought of it as a kind of Alex Rider meets The Maze Runner. I’m in the process of dusting it off and taking a good look at it - I’ve always loved its story.
I am indebted to Imogen Cooper at GEA, because my little brother died, unexpectedly, a few months before the end of the MA and I hadn’t realised what a mess my head was in. I had 12 agents come after my MS after the MA anthology launch and it wasn’t ready to send out, but the MA support was over. I felt quite lost and Imogen put me in touch with Maurice Lyons for a manuscript review on what I’d written since the MA. I found that support very useful.
The MA was great fun, but went it’s over, it’s over. I'm lucky to have a gang of MA buddies, authors Chris Vick, Rowena House, Jak Harrison, Eden Endfield, Sarah Henderson and Philippa Forestier, but I feel there is only so much you can ask a fellow writer to read. Ironically, I sent it into the Bath Novel and The Caledonia Award to check if I’d got the opening right and it won the BCNA and was shortlisted for The Caledonia, so I had my answer anyway. It’s all about confidence and trusting your own judgement.
It certainly helped my agent to find me, Sallyanne Sweeney was the award judge. It’s an immensely supportive award, and founder Caroline Ambrose is one of my heroes.
Entering her Bath Novel Award changed my life and she still supports me and all the writers and fights to save Bath Libraries!! She a literary dragon.
Lucy van Smit with Founder of the Bath Novel Award, Caroline Ambrose and Editor Rachel Leyshon
December 2015 was when I won, and I spent most of 2016 in edits with my agent. Then my MS was sent out in September and I had an agonising three week wait before Chicken House said yes. Their phone call is still one of my favourite life moments. Barry Cunningham and Rachel Leyshon make authors feel awesome, and the editing process with them became a delight, we were on the same page and we all wanted to take The Hurting up a whole new level.
I love to write in solitude in the mountains and have someone take my phone and social media away… in my dreams…. My hardest challenge is to sit down, stop farting around and actually write. Once I start, I can’t stop, and will work around the clock and don't sleep... but starting is hard. I’m writing a new story for Chicken House and Ian McEwan’s last comment comes back to me when we were filming, I'd asked him about his new book and McEwan said, “to speak it is to kill it.” So, I’m in that dreamlike state of calling the story to me. Fearful. Hopeful. Blissful. Ignorant.
Hilarious. I envy prolific writers! I’m a big fan of Milton, I've adored Satan in Paradise Lost since I was a kid. I once fan-girled Michelle Paver at a librarian’s conference, I’d love to have written Wolf Brother. Meg Rossof, of course. A Swift Pure Cry by Siobhan Dowd and I Captured the Castle by Dodie Smith.
For thrillers I like the Irish writer, Tana French. In fact, I envy pretty much every Irish writer. Oh, Sylvia Plath if I could write like her... and not top myself… I’d love to be a great poet, or just Emily Bronte really.
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