Spotlight Interview: Lyndsey Croal

Your short story (Un)censored is published in this issue. What do you hope readers take from that story?


The story is about a young woman struggling to come to terms with her current reality. In one sense it’s a story of isolation but also of the difficult choices she has to make to try and break out of that isolation. I hope readers can sympathise with the decisions she makes, even when they might not seem to make sense.


The story presents the terrifying impact of humans becoming overly reliant on technology. Are you worried about our relationship with technology and where it might lead us?


This is something that inspires a lot of my writing and I’m a big fan of Black Mirror type stories for that reason. In this piece, I wanted to write something that was a reflection of the impact technology can have on mental health and wellbeing, which is definitely something I’ve felt personally. I worry about this over-reliance and how it could also affect – or is already affecting – relationships in future.


What did you edit out of (Un)censored and why?


I initially wrote this piece in third person, but then with different drafts I wanted to get more into the character’s head, so I rewrote it in first person. I also had some early feedback on a draft from an Editor that the start was too slow – I originally had the character spend more time in her thoughts and in her apartment at the start. So based on the feedback I cut out an initial first scene and tried to start it more in a moment of action. This is definitely something I try to do consciously now with new stories!


Do you hide any secrets in your stories that only a few (if any) people will find?


If you’ve read the story, you might have made the connection already that technology isn’t 100% what the story is about. I wanted the futuristic treatment to be an exaggerated representation of some health treatment, something that when I wrote it, I’d had mixed experiences with. For example, issues with prescription side effects or misdiagnoses of conditions. So it may resonate more with readers who might have been through something similar, though fully appreciate this is very personal and won’t be everyone’s experience at all.


What’s the hardest part of taking a story from an idea to something that’s ready to publish?


For me, it’s during the editing stage and making sure the story has a clear through line – that from beginning to end, each section links up well and is serving the plot or themes running through the narrative. I often have to thread in some extra details or be confident enough to just cut parts out that don’t progress the story. Having beta readers in a critique group has been helpful for that – getting regular feedback has really improved my craft. I’m part of Edinburgh SFF Writers for any writer that might be interested – we have a Twitter (@EdinburghSFF) and a friendly Discord group!


Do you have any annoying writing habits?


This question made me think! Annoying to me – probably starting ideas and not finishing them. I’ve so many little paragraph drafts (usually of story ideas I’ve not quite formulated fully in my head) that get pushed to the side when a shiny new idea comes along. Occasionally I go back to them, but often these are the stories that might take a long time to be finished, if at all, and in the meantime the file titles linger there and give me writer guilt. Though, I try to tell myself it’s all part of the process! Annoying to others – sometimes when I get a new story idea that I’m really excited about I probably annoy writer friends or family with it by talking about it too much as I work out the details.


Have you ever written a character that scares you?


I recently wrote a horror story with a creepy child central character that freaked me out a bit and made me wonder what was going on in my head when I wrote it. It was slightly weird as I wrote the initial draft on my phone notes while in half-asleep mode at 1am and could only vaguely remember writing it when I found it the next day. This happens often to me with ideas, though usually I wake up and find nonsense. Somehow this one was almost coherent, and I’m working on editing it at the moment.


If you could spend a day with any character from your stories, who would it be and what would you do?


There’s a character in my latest drafted novel, Talia Eden, who I mostly just want to be friends with. She’s a runaway Martian princess turned stunt director who is confident, unafraid, fun, and really knows who she is. I won’t say too much to avoid spoilers, but she’s definitely my favourite person in that book – especially as it’s a novel of mostly unlikeable characters. Hopefully I’ll be able to talk more about it one day soon!


What was the last short story that stuck in your head and why?


I’m going to cheat and mention two! Windsinger by Angie Spoto, published in Crow & Cross Keys really stuck with me when published, and I re-read it again recently. It may be as I have a soft spot for Scottish folklore, but this one was particularly beautifully written with a fairytale-esque style. It’s also dark and atmospheric, which are two of my favourite things.


I want to also mention a flash fiction I just read today from Flash Fiction Online called Instructions for Bottling Tornadoes: Please Read Before you Leave by Marie Croke – the title alone drew me in, but the story itself was so original and had a lot of beauty and emotion throughout. I’d recommend it for any flash fiction fans!


Have you ever had a surprising reaction to one of your stories?


I wrote an odd wee flash fiction called Never Gone last year about a slightly annoying ghost called Gertrude, and at the time I wrote it I thought it was mostly just a fun experiment and didn’t think of it as one of my stronger stories. But it got picked up on a couple of review lists and has since been reprinted. So I think I was surprised by the idea that we as writers don’t always have a full sense of what stories readers might connect most with. Meanwhile some of my own favourite pieces have really struggled to find homes!


What can readers expect to see from you soon?


My sci-fi horror novel set in space is soon to go out on submission to publishers so I’m excited about where that might lead! I also have some other dark sci-fi short stories forthcoming in different markets. Patchwork Girls posing a dark future for the film industry, will be out in Dark Matter Magazine in November, and The Bee Bearer about a girl who recommissions bees in a dystopian future, will be out with Shoreline of Infinity at some point over the next 6 months. I’m also currently working on some pitches for a few new audio drama ideas, after my debut came out last year, so watch this space.


What’s the easiest way for our readers to keep up to date with your writing?


Most updates or new stories can be found on my website www.lyndseycroal.co.uk and I’m fairly active on Twitter as @writerlynds.


Thank you for having me and for such an interesting Q&A!